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Next shuttle launch delayed by at least a week

NASA announced yesterday that the launch of space shuttle Discovery, which had been slated for February 12, will be delayed for at least a week.* The space agency said it needs more time to ensure that the valves controlling the flow of hydrogen gas into the external fuel tank do not pose a hazard...

February 4, 2009 — John Matson

Singularity University: You, too, can study the future

Just how special is your intelligence? If you're a unique kind of smarty-pants, you can go to Singularity University, a program launched this week with the lofty intention of tackling "humanity's grand challenges."

Peter Diamandis, a promoter of personal space flight, got the idea while reading Raymond Kurzweil's 2005 book The Singularity Is Near , which discusses the merging and rapidly advancing areas of bio, nano and information technology...

February 4, 2009 — Jordan Lite

Heading home

Editor's note: Marine geophysicist Robin Bell is leading an expedition to Antarctica to explore a mysterious mountain range beneath the ice sheet. Following is the 20th of her updates on the effort as part of ScientificAmerican.com's In-Depth Report on the "Future of the Poles." The entire camp let out a sigh when the last survey flight landed.  Together we had sent the plane t on 52 missions, a distance equivalent to flying twice around the globe.  The survey data now fills two large aluminum boxes that will be shipped back to the U.S...

February 4, 2009 — Robin Bell

Great China earthquake may have been man-made

Was last year's devastating China earthquake, which killed 80,000 people and left more than 5 million homeless, really just a tragic natural event? Speculation is growing that the magnitude-7.9 quake may have actually been triggered by the tremendous water weight behind a nearby dam...

February 3, 2009 — Jordan Lite

How your mother might affect your memory

A new study in mice suggests that a mother's childhood experiences may affect the brain function of her offspring. Researchers found that mouse moms who were physically active, stimulated and changed their living arrangements frequently as youngsters gave birth to babies with better memory than those born to mothers raised in dull environments...

February 3, 2009 — Coco Ballantyne

Astronomers turn up smallest exoplanet yet

The exoplanet express just keeps on rolling: The European Space Agency (ESA) today announced the discovery of the smallest known planet orbiting a normal star other than the sun.

February 3, 2009 — John Matson

It's raining hydrocarbons on Saturn's mysterious moon

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, has a curious abundance of methane, both in its atmosphere and in massive liquid pools on the surface. As with Mars, the presence of the relatively short-lived compound on Titan raises questions about its origin...

February 3, 2009 — John Matson

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