Categories
GeekWire

NASA puts Pluto and its heart on a valentine

Image: Pluto valentine
Pluto is all smiles in NASA’s valentine. (Credit: NASA)

Say it with Pluto? After NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft spotted a heart-shaped region on Pluto, you had to know it was just a matter of time before the dwarf planet made its appearance on a valentine.

Sure enough, this year’s crop of printable Valentine’s Day cards from NASA’s educational Space Place website includes a stylized Pluto.

“You’ll always be in my heart!” the card reads.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Editas raises $94 million in gene-editing IPO

Image: CRISPR-Cas9 at work
CRISPR-Cas9 technology uses “molecular scissors” to cut and splice DNA, as shown in this computer animation. (Credit: McGovern Institute for Brain Research, MIT)

Editas Medicine’s entry into the stock market with a $94.4 million initial public offering appears to be sparking positive signals for the company as well as the nascent gene-editing industry.

That’s not only because the Massachusetts-based startup, which lists Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates among its investors, was able to sell 5.9 million shares handily at a price of $16 a share. It’s also because the stock’s price trended upward during the company’s first hours of public trading on the NASDAQ exchange Feb. 3.

There have been lots of questions surrounding Editas, the biotech industry and the IPO market as a whole: Editas’ offering was the first IPO of the year, ending a drought sparked by concerns about stock market volatility.

What’s more, biotech stocks have been caught up in a riptide over the past few months. And on top of all that, Editas is heading into a dispute over patents relating to the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Blue Origin reveals the rocket road ahead

Image: Blue Origin blastoff
Blue Origin’s New Shepard prototype spaceship blasts off in January. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, is lifting the curtain just a bit on its future plans for rocket engines and spaceflights.

One of the revelations relates to progress on its methane-fueled BE-4 rocket engine, which is on track to provide propulsion for United Launch Alliance’s next-generation Vulcan rocket. Blue Origin tweeted out a picture of the engine’s bell, most likely taken at the company’s production facility in Kent, Wash.:

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Giant rocket will carry tiny high-tech satellites

Image: Lunar Flashlight
An artist’s conception shows Lunar Flashlight flying above a crater on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

NASA says it’ll send 13 miniaturized satellites – including a pop-up solar sail and a “lunar flashlight” – beyond Earth orbit when it flies its heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket for the first time in 2018.

The main payload for the test flight, known as Exploration Mission-1 or EM-1, is an uncrewed prototype for NASA’s Orion spaceship. The SLS will send Orion into a highly eccentric orbit that ranges beyond the moon and back.

But there’s also room inside the rocket’s adapter ring for a baker’s dozen of CubeSats, boxy spacecraft of a standard size that are becoming increasingly popular for low-cost space missions.

“They’re really on the cutting edge of technology,” NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman said today during a news conference at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

White House backs quake warning system

Image: Tsunami
A computer simulation shows how a tsunami wave is thought to have spread across the Pacific two and a half hours after a magnitude-9.2 earthquake that occurred in the Cascadia subduction zone in the year 1700. (Credit: NOAA / NWS / Pacific Tsunami Warning Center)

A public-private campaign to improve America’s resilience to future earthquakes, like the “Really Big One” that’s expected to hit the Pacific Northwest someday, received a multimillion-dollar boost today.

The new initiatives are aimed at minimizing the multibillion-dollar impact of large-scale seismic shocks: They range from a White House drive to upgrade federal facilities throughout the country, to a $100,000 grant from Puget Sound Energy Foundation to install seismometers throughout Washington state.

“We do need to make sure, for the next ‘Big One,’ no matter what it is … that a natural phenomenon doesn’t become a human tragedy,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who grew up in Seattle, said during today’s webcast of the White House Earthquake Resilience Summit.

White House science adviser John Holdren noted that more than 74 million Americans in 39 states are at risk from the effects of seismic shaking. However, three-quarters of the risk is concentrated on the West Coast, primarily in California, Washington and Oregon, he said.

Californians are familiar with the quake risk, thanks to temblors ranging from San Francisco’s “Big One” in 1906 to the 2014 South Napa earthquake. The Pacific Northwest risk came into the spotlight last July when The New Yorker published a scary article about the potential for a mega-quake in the Cascadia subduction zone.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Iowa caucuses throw predictions into a tizzy

Image: Ted Cruz and family
Sen. Ted Cruz scores a victory in the Iowa GOP caucuses. (Credit: TedCruz.org)

The Iowans have spoken, and the GOP presidential caucuses confounded the prediction markets by giving Ted Cruz the edge over Donald Trump.

Trump had been favored by the markets – but when tonight’s results became clear, his stock tumbled to near zero while Cruz’s spiked to the top of the chart. What’s really interesting is what happened to the prognostication for the GOP nomination. The current favorite, according to Predictwise’s aggregation of prediction markets, is neither Trump nor Cruz: It’s Marco Rubio, who put in a strong third-place showing.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was running neck-and-neck with Bernie Sanders in the caucus tally, but the market forecasters were putting their money on Clinton to prevail. Literally.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

‘Age of Aerospace’ recaps 100 years of flight

Image: "The Age of Aerospace"
“The Age of Aerospace” traces 100 years of history. (Credit: Science Channel)

This year marks the Boeing Co’s 100th anniversary, and the company is using the centennial as an opportunity not only to celebrate its own history, but the history of aerospace as well.

That celebration takes the TV spotlight starting Feb. 1, in the form of “The Age of Aerospace,” a five-part documentary series that’s airing on the Science Channel on Mondays. The series, sponsored by Boeing, will be shown on Saturdays on theDiscovery Channel. Eventually it’ll be available for online streaming as well.

Check your local listings and/or search engines, and check out a preview as well.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

 

Categories
GeekWire

Check out real X-Files from the CIA and FBI

Sheffield UFOs
A grainy photo shows what appear to be flying saucers over Sheffield, England, in 1962. (Credit: CIA)

The FBI denies having a secret collection of X-Files like the ones that Mulder and Scully are investigating in “The X-Files” TV series – but you’d expect the alien conspiracy to say that, wouldn’t you?

Whether or not the truth is out there, both the FBI and the CIA have capitalized on the X-Files buzz to rehash some of their, um, more unusual cases. The FBI’s online vault features nine cases having to do with unexplained phenomena, including flying saucer reports, cattle mutilations, ESP and the purported Majestic-12 conspiracy.

The CIA took its turn just in time for this season’s “X-Files” reboot, which continues tonight with what’s said to be the best episode to date. The spooks offered up five flying-saucer surveys from 1952 that would warm the heart of Fox Mulder, the true believer on the fictional FBI’s X-Files team. Five more files, dating from 1949 to 1952, take a skeptical view that’s in keeping with the usual attitude of Mulder’s partner, Dana Scully.

The CIA also threw in its top 10 tips for investigating unidentified flying objects.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Scientists read minds at the speed of thought

Brain monitoring
Subjects viewed a random sequence of images of faces and houses and were asked to look for an inverted house like the one at bottom left. “That was a distractor,” Jeff Ojemann said. “We were interested in what the brain was doing at the other times.” (Credit: Kai Miller / Brian Donohue / UW)

University of Washington neuroscientists and their colleagues have developed a system that uses electrodes implanted in the human brain’s temporal lobe to decode brain signals at nearly the speed of perception.

“Clinically, you could think of our result as a proof of concept toward building a communication mechanism for patients who are paralyzed or have had a stroke and are completely locked-in,” Rajesh Rao, a UW professor who directs the Center for Sensorimotor Engineering, said in a news release.

The study was published Jan. 28 in PLOS Computational Biology.

Rao and his colleagues inserted the electrodes into the brains of epilepsy patients undergoing care at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. The patients’ seizures couldn’t be relieved by medication alone, so they were given the implants temporarily in an attempt to locate the seizures’ focal points.

“They were going to get the electrodes no matter what,” said Jeff Ojemann, a neurosurgeon at UW Medicine. “We were just giving them additional tasks to do during their hospital stay while they are otherwise just waiting around.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Elon Musk wows students at Hyperloop contest

Image: Elon Musk
Elon Musk, the originator of the Hyperloop concept, addresses students. (Texas A&M photo)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology won the top rating in the design phase of a SpaceX-sponsored contest to develop levitating cars for a Hyperloop rapid-transit test track. More than 20 other teams, including a student group from the University of Washington, were also cleared for this year’s big race.

The design weekend, conducted at Texas A&M University, marked the first winnowing of the field for the competition. More than 115 student engineering teams, representing 27 U.S. states and 20 countries, participated in the event.

The highlights included a talk by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx – and a surprise appearance by Elon Musk, the billionaire who heads SpaceX as well as the Tesla electric-car company.

Get the full story on GeekWire.