Month: August 2017

NASA Is Now Accepting Applications For New Astronauts

Its time to dust off your space boots. NASA hasopened the application processfor new astronauts, meaning you could one day soon join the hundreds who have ventured beyond Earths atmosphere to date. And, if selected, you could be among the people who take the first steps towards or on Mars.

Unfortunately for the rest of the world, only U.S. citizens are allowed to apply. Submissions must be made on USAJobs.govby February 18, 2016, while a Reddit AMA today at 4 p.m. EST (9 p.m. GMT) by NASA will seek to answer questions anyone might have.

If you think you dont have what it takes to become an astronaut, fret not. The requirements are not as strict as you might think. First, you need to have a bachelors degree preferably an advanced degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics.

Next, youll need to be of an average height, and youll also need to be able to pass a NASA physical. Youll also need 1,000 hoursof experience either as a pilot, or three years of work in a relevant field.

NASA said that 3 million U.S. citizens on LinkedIn met its criteria to be an astronaut.They aren’t clear on what the age limit is, though.

Astronauts selected in this batch will be picked in mid-2017, and will be chosen to fly on any of four U.S. vehicles: the International Space Station (ISS), NASAs Orion capsule, or two commercial crew spacecraft, SpaceXs Dragon and Boeings CST-100 Starliner.

NASA is on an ambitious journey to Mars and were looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to help get us there, said NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden in a statement.

Today, we opened the application process for our next class of astronauts, extraordinary Americans who will take the next giant leap in exploration. This group will launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft and blaze the trail on our journey to the Red Planet.

So, what are you waiting for? Apply now, and one day you too could join the prestigious and exclusive club of people who have left this planet behind.

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Ivy League Academic Removed From Plane And Questioned After Passenger Spotted His Equations

Finally, the world is safe from Italian economists doing mathematics on a plane.

Alarm bells were rung last Thursday on a flight from Philadelphia to Ontario, after a passenger saw aman suspiciously writing down a complicated looking formula on a piece of paper and notified cabin crew. The passenger told flight attendants she was feeling ill, causing the flight to turnaround on the runway.

After some confusion, the mysterious mathematicsenthusiastwas taken off the flight and questioned by security agents.

Fortunately for international security, the man was actually Guido Menzio, an Italian-born associate professor in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, who also happened to be a young, dark-haired, bearded, and slightly tanned male with a foreign accent on a plane.

Menzio told theAssociated Press: “I thought they were trying to get clues about her illness. Instead, they tell me that the woman was concerned that I was a terrorist because I was writing strange things on a pad of paper.”

His scrawlings were actually some last minute work on a differential equation that he was preparing for a lecture on Search Theory in Canada.

Aftertwo hours of questioning,Menzio,who said he was treated with respect,was able to explain himself to the security officials andwas allowed back onto the flight. The passenger who complained, however, did not return to the flight.

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Maryam Mirzakhani, only woman to take math’s highest award, dies at 40

(CNN)Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford University professor who became the only woman to receive the highest honor in mathematics, died Saturday after a long battle with cancer, the school said.

She was 40.
The Iran native thrived in study of curved surfaces such as doughnut shapes and amoebas — to a degree that other bright minds in the field dared not explore, her colleagues have said.
In 2014, she became the first woman to receive the Fields Medal, the highest honor in mathematics and equivalent in reputation to a Nobel Prize.
The International Mathematical Union established the award in 1936 and has presented it to at least two people every four years since 1950. All 52 recipients before Mirazkhani were men.
“Maryam is gone far too soon, but her impact will live on for the thousands of women she inspired to pursue math and science,” Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said.

Like finding a way out of a jungle

When she won in 2014, the IMU called Mirzakhani’s accomplishments in complex geometric forms such as Riemann surfaces and moduli spaces “stunning.”
“Because of its complexities and inhomogeneity, moduli space has often seemed impossible to work on directly,” the IMU said. “But not to Mirzakhani.”
She was happy to take it on.
“It is like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck you might find a way out,” she said once.
Her work could help advance understanding in physics, quantum mechanics and areas outside math, Stanford said in an online news article about her death.
She said the 2014 award was a great honor.
“I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians,” Mirzakhani said at the time.

From Iran to California

Mirzakhani was drawn to mathematics while in high school in Iran’s capital, Tehran, where she grew up.
As a teenager, she gained international attention when she won gold medals in two International Mathematical Olympiads, achieving a perfect score in one.
Mirzakhani got her undergraduate degree at Sharif University of Technology, then moved to the United States, where she went to work on her doctorate at Harvard University.
She was an assistant professor at Princeton University before moving to Stanford.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saluted Mirzakhani in a message in Farsi, posted to Twitter.
“Maryam Mirzakhani was a creative scientist and a gracious human being who lifted Iran’s name in the global scientific community,” Rouhani’s account reads. “May she Rest In Peace.”

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Betsy DeVos Picked As President-Elect Donald Trump’s Education Secretary

After a few weeks of speculation, it looks like President-electTrump has finally picked the education secretary for his incoming administration: Betsy DeVos.

Two weeks ago, bets were on Dr Ben Carsonto be picked, a highly qualified neurosurgeon who simultaneously believedthe Earth was no older than 10,000 years old. He also once said the Biblical figure Joseph built the Egyptian pyramids to store grain.As you can imagine, the scientific community was pretty stressed about the idea of this guy setting education policy.

However, it looks like he’s been trumped. This week its been officially announced the lesser-known figure of Betsy DeVoshas taken the post.

Whoever is in the hot seat for the Education Secretary plays a very important role for scientific education and science as a whole, as they have a strong say in what schools receive funding and which subjects receive attention. This can also have a subtle effect of setting the climate where science can either thrive or shrink away.

For a bit of background, DeVos is a billionaire philanthropist, known to be a generous donor to the Republican Party. She has served onnumerous education philanthropy boards, although she has never professionally worked in the public education system.

She grew up as a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and was educated at Calvin College, the educational institution of the same church.

This is a protestant denomination that believes that all scientific theories be subject to Scripture and the confessions. It also claims that humanity is created in the image of God; all theorizing that minimizes this fact and all theories of evolution that deny the creative activity of God are rejected.

Most commentators say she is not expected to apply hardline religious beliefs to the curriculum, according to Washington Post.

It would be a mistake to put her in the Religious Right camp. Thats not who she is, Doug Koopman, a political scientist at Calvin College, told Washington Post.

Nevertheless, she is well known for her philanthropic efforts in Christian causes. Along with her hardenedbelief in the free-market, this has led people to believe she will favor privately owned and religious schools over public schools.

The US National Education Association released a statement in response to the appointment, saying:

Her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers which take away funding and local control from our public schools to fund private schools at taxpayers expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education.”

Much of Trumps stance on education during his campaign was rallying to abolish the Common Core, the educational guidelines of mathematics and reading adopted by most states. DeVos previously riled conservatives because of her ties to groups that supported these guidelines, although she has since claimed she is not a supporter of Common Core.

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Can You Solve This Math Problem That Went Viral In Japan?


If mathematics isn’t your strong suit, this equation that went viral in Japan may just trip you up. According to the YouTube channel MindYourDecisions, a study found that only 60 percent of individuals in their 20s could get the right answer. This is significantly lower than the 90 percent success rate in the 1980s.

To learn which common mistake people are making, check out the video below.

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Bees Are The First Insects Found To Understand The Concept Of Zero

For the first time ever, the humble bee with its tiny brain has been found to understand the concept of zero.

For most of us, the ideaof zero may seem like a fairly easy and unchallenging thing to get our head around. But in actual fact, the ability to accept the absence of something, which is what zero is after all, as a quantity is a hard fought accomplishment. Children will often learn other numbers before understanding the concept of zero, and even then it has been shown that they can find difficulty in identifying whether or not zero is higher or lower than one.

So it is little wonder that in the animal world, very few species are known to understand the concept of zero. Chimpanzeesand some monkeyscan be trained to comprehend the concept, but apart from these, very few animals are able to do it, and until now it wasnt thought that any insect at all was capable of mastering the notion.

But scientists from the RMIT University in Melbourne have presented their research at the current Behaviour 2017 meeting in Portugal, reporting that they have been able to demonstrate that bees treat zero just like another number.

To start with, the researchers set up two platforms with varying numbers of shapes on them. They then trained bees to associate the platform with the fewest number of shapes on it with a sweet reward, and the platform with the most number a horrible taste. After being certain the bees were responding to the number of shapes and nothing else, the researchers then tested the insects by offering them one platform with two or three shapes, and another with zero shapes. The insects most frequently chose the latter.

Finally, the researchers then trained the bees to decide whether or not to land on a platform with zero objects, one object, or six objects. They found that once again, most of the time the insects could correctly identify the platform with nothing on it, but took more time over the decision if they were having to choose between a platform that had nothing and another that had just one object.

The fact that it took the bees longer to decide which one was zero when the numbers were numerically closer, suggests that the insects do indeed see the absence of objects as a number, the authors argue.

This would imply that the insects ability to count is similar to that of humans and some primates, and is strangely advanced for the animal world, not just for insects. The reason why bees should have such highly developed cognitive capability in the realm of mathematics, however, is a little tricky to deduce.

[H/T:New Scientist]

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Gene Drives Could Wipe Out Whole Populations of Pests in One Fell Swoop

The Conversation

What if there was a humane, targeted way to wipe out alien pest species such as mice, rats and rabbits, by turning their own genes on themselves so they can no longer reproduce and their population collapses?

Gene drives a technique that involves deliberately spreading a faulty gene throughout a population promises to do exactly that.

Conservationists are understandably excited about the possibility of using gene drives to clear islands of invasive species and allow native species to flourish.

Hype surrounding the technique continues to build, despite serious biosecurity, regulatory and ethical questions surrounding this emerging technology.

Our study, published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggests that under certain circumstances, genome editing could work.

The penguins on Antipodes Island currently live alongside a 200,000-strong invasive mouse population. Public Domain

Good and bad genes

The simplest way to construct a gene drive aimed at suppressing a pest population is to identify a gene that is essential for the pest species reproduction or embryonic development. A new DNA sequence the gene-drive cassette is then inserted into that gene to disrupt its function, creating a faulty version (or allele) of that gene.

Typically, faulty alleles would not spread through populations, because the evolutionary fitness of individuals carrying them is reduced, meaning they will be less likely than non-faulty alleles to be passed on to the next generation. But the newly developed CRISPR gene-editing technology can cheat natural selection by creating gene-drive sequences that are much more likely to be passed on to the next generation.

Heres how the trick works. The gene-drive cassette contains the genetic information to make two new products: an enzyme that cuts DNA, and a molecule called a guide RNA. These products act together as a tiny pair of molecular scissors that cuts the second (normal) copy of the target gene.

To fix the cut, the cell uses the gene drive sequence as a repair template. This results in a copy of the gene drive (and therefore the faulty gene) on both chromosomes.

This process is called homing and, when switched on in the egg- or sperm-producing cells of an animal, it should guarantee that almost all of their offspring inherit the gene-drive sequence.

As the gene-drive sequence spreads, mating between carriers becomes more likely, producing offspring that possess two faulty alleles and are therefore sterile or fail to develop past the embryonic stage.

Will it work?

Initial attempts to develop suppression drives will likely focus on invasive species with rapid life cycles that allow gene drives to spread rapidly. House mice are an obvious candidate because they have lots of offspring, they have been studied in great detail by biologists, and have colonised vast areas of the world, including islands.

In our study we developed a mathematical model to predict whether gene drives can realistically be used to eradicate invasive mice from islands.

Our results show that this strategy can work. We predict that a single introduction of just 100 mice carrying a gene drive could eradicate a population of 50,000 mice within four to five years.

But it will only work if the process of genetic homing which acts to overcome natural selection functions as planned.

Evolution fights back

Just as European rabbits in Australia have developed resistance to the viruses introduced to control them, evolution could thwart attempts to use gene drives for biocontrol.

Experiments with non-vertebrate species show that homing can fail in some circumstances. For example, the DNA break can be repaired by an alternative mechanism that stitches the broken DNA sequence back together without copying the gene-drive template. This also destroys the DNA sequence targeted by the guide RNA, producing a resistance allele that can never receive the gene drive.

A recent study in mosquitos estimated that resistance alleles were formed in at least 2% of homing attempts. Our simulation experiments for mice confirm this presents a serious problem.

After accounting for low failure rates during homing, the creation and spread of resistance alleles allowed the modelled populations to rebound after an initial decline in abundance. Imperfect homing therefore threatens the ability of gene drives to eradicate or even suppress pest populations.

One potential solution to this problem is to encode multiple guide RNAs within the gene-drive cassette, each targeting a different DNA sequence. This should reduce homing failure rates by allowing multiple shots on goal, and avoiding the creation of resistance alleles in more cases.

To wipe out a population of 200,000 mice living on an island, we calculate that the gene-drive sequences would need to contain at least three different guide RNA sequences, to avoid the mice ultimately getting the better of our attempts to eradicate them.

From hype to reality

Are gene drives a hyperdrive to pest control, or just hype? Part of the answer will come from experiments with gene drives on laboratory mice (with appropriate containment). That will help to provide crucial data to inform the debate about their possible deployment.

The ConversationWe also need more sophisticated computer modelling to predict the impacts on non-target populations if introduced gene drives were to spread beyond the populations targeted for management. Using simulation, it will be possible to test the performance and safety of different gene-drive strategies, including strategies that involve multiple drives operating on multiple genes.

Thomas Prowse, Postdoctoral research fellow, School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Adelaide; Joshua Ross, Associate Professor in Applied Mathematics, University of Adelaide; Paul Thomas, , University of Adelaide, and Phill Cassey, Assoc Prof in Invasion Biogeography and Biosecurity, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Neutrinos Continue To Show A Preference For Matter And This Has Big Consequences

The international T2K neutrino experiment has found more evidence that neutrino oscillations appear to violate the symmetry between matter and antimatter. While its still too early to claim this as a discovery, the research strengthens the hints that had already been seen with the experiment last year.

The preliminary analysis presented at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Tsukuba, Japan, revealed the teamfrom theTokai to Kamioka (T2K) neutrino experiment a particle physicsexperiment collaboration between several countries obtained twice the neutrino detections compared to the previous results.

This new research has a 95 percent confidence level in rejecting the so called charge-parity (CP) symmetry hypothesis that neutrinos and antineutrinos behave in the same way. While 95 might seem good, a discovery is only accepted when researchers have a 99.99994 percent confidence from the data.

“By doubling our neutrino mode data and making analysis improvements, T2K has made the most sensitive search for CP violation in neutrino oscillations yet, Professor Mark Hartz from the University of Tokyo Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, said in a statement.

This data shows an intriguing hint of CP violation. To make a definitive measurement, T2K will need to collect additional neutrino mode and antineutrino mode data.

This new data goes towards supporting other interesting violations of CP, like the discovery of a newpear-shaped atom. Researchers are at looking at these types of violation to explain why theres more matter than antimatter in the universe. The charge-parity symmetry requires that if we switch every particle for its antiparticle, and mirrored the set-up of the space, physics is expected to behave in the same way. But if it doesnt then we can justify why the universe is made of matter.

And in the T2K experiment antimatter is not behaving as it should. The experiment has detected 89 electron neutrinos when about 67 were detected with no CP violation, and detected seven electron neutrinos were theories stated nine should have been observed. Neutrinos are tiny and they hardly interact so even such a small number of detection is important. Every neutrino counts.

As a T2K collaborator, I am excited to continue our long-term program to search for CP violation in neutrino oscillations and make precision neutrino oscillation parameter measurements,” Professor Hartz, who presented the new data, added.

The T2K experiment has a curious setup compared to other standard labs. The neutrinos are shot from a research center in Tokai to the Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector 295 kilometers (183 miles) away, hence the name T2K. It will continue to look for potential violations of CP symmetry and maybe soon it will have enough evidence to confirm it.

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Is There Life On Mars? NASA Sure Seems To Think So

or as long as man has walked the Earth, one of the biggest questions that he has ever faced is: Are we alone in the universe?

Opinions on that question have varied from generation to generation, but a recent strange job posting seems to indicate that those in the upper levels of intelligence are trying to give us a hint.

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