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First Fully Civilian Flight To Space Station Moves Forward With NASA Contract

Slashdot - Science - Hace 8 horas 52 mins
NASA and Houston-based Axiom Space have signed a "mission order" setting the stage for four civilians to visit the International Space Station early next year, the first fully commercial flight to the orbiting lab complex, agency managers said Monday. CBS News reports: Axiom's "AX-1" mission and an upcoming charity-driven flight to low-Earth orbit, both aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules, represent "a renaissance in U.S. human spaceflight," said Phil McAlister, NASA's director of commercial spaceflight development. "I think that's the perfect word for what we're experiencing," he said of the growing commercial space market, which includes the anticipated certification of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and upcoming sub-orbital flights by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. "This is a real inflection point, I think, with human spaceflight." Axiom Space, led by Mike Suffredini, NASA's former space station program manager, announced last year that it plans to launch a four-man crew to the space station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The launch is currently targeted for a January timeframe. Axiom Vice President Mike Lopez-Alegria, a former NASA astronaut and space station commander, will serve as commander of the AX-1 mission, which is expected to last about 10 days. Joining him will be Larry Connor, an American entrepreneur, Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy and Israeli investor Eytan Stibbe, a former fighter pilot. Lopez-Alegria on Monday told reporters that the crew will participate in centrifuge training and flights to simulate weightlessness starting next week, followed by a camping trip to Alaska in July for "bonding and leadership training." Lopez-Alegria and Connor, the mission pilot, will begin SpaceX flight training shortly thereafter before the entire crew begins space station familiarization at the Johnson Space Center in October. [...] Axiom is not paying list price for the AX-1 mission, in part because planning began before the new price guidelines were determined and because the company will be providing services to NASA that the agency would otherwise have to pay for. The mission order announced Monday covers just $1.69 million. Additional agreements remain to be negotiated.

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Neural Implant Lets Paralyzed Person Type By Imaging Writing

Slashdot - Science - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: This week, the academic community provided a rather impressive example of the promise of neural implants. Using an implant, a paralyzed individual managed to type out roughly 90 characters per minute simply by imagining that he was writing those characters out by hand. Somewhere in our writing thought process, we form the intention of using a specific character, and using an implant to track this intention could potentially work. Unfortunately, the process is not especially well understood. Downstream of that intention, a decision is transmitted to the motor cortex, where it's translated into actions. Again, there's an intent stage, where the motor cortex determines it will form the letter (by typing or writing, for example), which is then translated into the specific muscle motions required to perform the action. These processes are much better understood, and they're what the research team targeted for their new work. Specifically, the researchers placed two implants in the premotor cortex of a paralyzed person. This area is thought to be involved in forming the intentions to perform movements. Catching these intentions is much more likely to produce a clear signal than catching the movements themselves, which are likely to be complex (any movement involves multiple muscles) and depend on context (where your hand is relative to the page you're writing on, etc.). With the implants in the right place, the researchers asked the participant to imagine writing letters on a page and recorded the neural activity as he did so. Altogether, there were roughly 200 electrodes in the participant's premotor cortex. Not all of them were informative for letter-writing. But for those that were, the authors performed a principal component analysis, which identified the features of the neural recordings that differed the most when various letters were imagined. Converting these recordings into a two-dimensional plot, it was obvious that the activity seen when writing a single character always clustered together. And physically similar characters -- p and b, for example, or h, n, and r -- formed clusters near each other. (The researchers also asked the participant to do punctuation marks like a comma and question mark and used a > to indicate a space and a tilde for a period.) Overall, the researchers found they could decipher the appropriate character with an accuracy of a bit over 94 percent, but the system required a relatively slow analysis after the neural data was recorded. To get things working in real time, the researchers trained a recurrent neural network to estimate the probability of a signal corresponding to each letter. Despite working with a relatively small amount of data (only 242 sentences' worth of characters), the system worked remarkably well. The lag between the thought and a character appearing on screen was only about half a second, and the participant was able to produce about 90 characters per minute, easily topping the previous record for implant-driven typing, which was about 25 characters per minute. The raw error rate was only about 5 percent, and applying a system like a typing autocorrect could drop the error rate down to only 1 percent. The tests were all done with prepared sentences. Once the system was validated, however, the researchers asked the participant to type out free-form answers to questions. Here, the speed went down a bit (to 75 characters a minute) and errors went up to 2 percent after autocorrection, but the system still worked. The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

China launches more classified Yaogan satellites into orbit

Live Science - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 15:02
China conducted two launches of classified Yaogan satellites in the last week while much of the world waited to see where and when the Long March 5B would fall.

40 tombs with humans buried in pots discovered in Corsica

Live Science - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 14:42
An ancient necropolis with 40 tombs, including cylindrical jars filled with human remains, has been discovered on the French island of Corsica.

Isotope study hints ancient Greeks used foreign fighters in key battle

New Scientist - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 14:00
Some 2500 years ago the Greeks fought many battles – and isotopic analysis of skeletons from one conflict suggests victory may have been made possible with the help of non-Greek mercenaries

Study reveals structure of key receptors involved in memory and learning

Science Daily - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 13:36
Scientists have for the first time revealed the structure surrounding important receptors in the brain's hippocampus, the seat of memory and learning. The new study focuses on the organization and function of glutamate receptors, a type of neurotransmitter receptor involved in sensing signals between nerve cells in the hippocampus region of the brain. The study reveals the molecular structure of three major complexes of glutamate receptors in the hippocampus.

Bears that mark more trees may be more successful in mating

Science Daily - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 13:36
Brown bears that are more inclined to grate and rub against trees have more offspring and more mates, according to a new study. The results suggest there might be a fitness component to the poorly understood behavior.

Study finds six degrees celsius cooling on land during the last Ice Age

Science Daily - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 13:36
Researchers show that prior studies have underestimated the cooling in the last glacial period, which has low-balled estimates of the Earth's climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases. The rather high climate sensitivity is not good news regarding future global warming, which may be stronger than expected using previous best estimates.

Interactive typeface for digital text

Science Daily - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 13:35
Researchers have developed a computer font that adapts its appearance based on the user's interaction with the text. ''AdaptiFont'' measures a user's reading speed and interactively changes the font's shape seamlessly and continuously to allow the user to read text more easily. By employing an artificial intelligence algorithm, new personalized fonts are generated on the fly in such a way that they increase an individual reader's reading speed.

Scientists design new drug compound to stop malaria in its tracks

Science Daily - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 13:35
Researchers have designed a drug-like compound which effectively blocks a critical step in the malaria parasite life cycle and are working to develop this compound into a potential first of its kind malaria treatment.

Is everything predetermined? Why physicists are reviving a taboo idea

New Scientist - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 13:16
Superdeterminism makes sense of the quantum world by suggesting it is not as random as it seems, but critics says it undermines the whole premise of science. Does the idea deserve its terrible reputation?

Covid-19 news: Pandemic should drive global health reform, says report

New Scientist - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 13:02
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic

A mysterious 'hum' vibrates interstellar space. Voyager 1 has a recording of it.

Live Science - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 12:39
The Voyager 1 spacecraft has captured the gentle 'hum' of interstellar space.

Brain research gets a boost from mosquitoes

Science Daily - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 12:29
Scientists took a light-sensitive protein derived from mosquitoes and used it to devise an improved method for investigating the messages that are passed from neuron to neuron in the brains of mice.

Premature ageing of the immune system may be one cause of long covid

New Scientist - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 12:00
Three studies suggest that covid-19 can age different parts of the immune system, possibly triggering symptoms of long covid – but the effects may be reversible

'Folded' iron sword found in a Roman soldier's grave was part of a pagan ritual

Live Science - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 11:30
A "killed," or folded iron sword was discovered in the grave of a Roman mercenary who had been buried in an early Christian basilica.

AI lets man with paralysis type by just thinking about handwriting

New Scientist - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 11:00
A brain-computer interface uses AI to interpret brain signals from the movements used in handwriting, converting them to text at a rate of 90 characters per minute

Covid-19 booster shots: Will we need them and how would they work?

New Scientist - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 11:00
The UK and Israel are already considering booster vaccine programmes and are buying up doses, but topping up on covid-19 vaccines isn't as straightforward as it sounds

Peptide could allow medical marijuana to relieve pain without side effects

Science Daily - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 10:57
Many people live with chronic pain, and in some cases, cannabis can provide relief. But the drug also can significantly impact memory and other cognitive functions. Now, researchers have developed a peptide that, in mice, allowed THC, the main component of Cannabis sativa, to fight pain without the side effects.

Prehistoric horses, bison shared diet

Science Daily - Mié, 12/05/2021 - 10:56
Researchers found that a broader diversity of plants in the Arctic 40,000 years ago supported both more -- and more diverse -- big animals like horses, bison and ground sloths. The research could inform conservation of wood bison in Alaska.

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