Science

How a Thanksgiving Day gag ruffled feathers in Mission Control

Enlarge / Flight Director James M. (Milt) Heflin, in Mission Control during the flight of STS-26 in 1988. NASA The phone call from the “Mountain” to Mission Control in Houston came at just about the worst possible time. It was the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning in 1991. Up in space, the crew members on …

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Robots invade the construction site

</figure>Theresa Arevalo was in high school when she first tried finishing drywall at her brother’s construction company. “It’s a fine art,” she says of mudding—applying and smoothing drywall. “Like frosting a cake, you have to give the illusion that the wall is flat.” Fast-forward a few decades: Arevalo now works at Canvas, a company that’s …

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Why are nuclear plants so expensive? Safety’s only part of the story

Enlarge US DOE Should any discussion of nuclear power go on for long enough, it becomes inevitable that someone will rant that the only reason they’ve become unaffordable is a proliferation of safety regulations. The argument is rarely (if ever) fleshed out—no specific regulation is ever identified as problematic, and there seems to be no …

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A solar-powered rocket might be our ticket to interstellar space

Enlarge Haitong Yu | Getty Images If Jason Benkoski is right, the path to interstellar space begins in a shipping container tucked behind a laboratory high bay in Maryland. The setup looks like something out of a low-budget sci-fi film: one wall of the container is lined with thousands of LEDs, an inscrutable metal trellis …

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When AI sees a man, it thinks “official.” A woman? “Smile”

Enlarge Sam Whitney (illustration), Getty Images Men often judge women by their appearance. Turns out, computers do too. When US and European researchers fed pictures of members of Congress to Google’s cloud image recognition service, the service applied three times as many annotations related to physical appearance to photos of women as it did to …

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College undergrads find hidden text on medieval manuscript via UV imaging

Rochester Institute of Technology students discovered lost text on 15th-century manuscript leaves using an imaging system they developed as freshmen. A page from a 15th-century medieval manuscript turns out to contain hidden text that is only visible under UV light. The discovery is due to the efforts of a team of undergraduate students at Rochester …

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Mask up! How to choose and maintain the best masks for use against COVID-19

Enlarge Hello Africa / Getty As the United States enters into the colder months and record-high daily cases of COVID-19 continue to be broken on successive days, finding the best mask for your needs is more important than ever. Wearing something is always better than nothing, but unfortunately, finding masks that meet WHO and CDC …

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CDC Thanksgiving guidance: No traveling, no outside-household members

Enlarge / Good luck not getting COVID! GraphicaArtis/Getty Images In a rare press briefing Thursday, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving or gather with people outside of their “households”—defined as only the people actively living together in the 14 days prior to a gathering. …

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New “targeted healing” approach rejuvenates run-down battery materials

Enlarge Peter Miller / Flickr As electric vehicle adoption grows, the need for battery recycling is growing along with it. Typically, recycling involves breaking the battery down into pure chemical components that can be reconstituted for brand-new battery materials. But what if—at least for some battery chemistries—that’s overkill? A new study led by Panpan Xu …

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Caribbean cruise COVID outbreak expands; Cruise line cancels voyages

Enlarge / A SeaDream cruise liner sailing into the sunset. Courtesy of SeaDream Yacht Club Plans for luxury cruises have quickly—and perhaps predictably—run aground in the Caribbean. Cruise ship-operator SeaDream Yacht Club this week canceled all voyages for the rest of the year after one of its ships—the first to resume sailing in the region …

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