I, for one, welcome our new ant overlords

I couldn’t read this without thinking of the Simpsons episode where Homer goes to space.

Eight colonies of common ants were flown up to the ISS by Nasa in 2014 in order that researchers might study the effects of microgravity on their behaviour and movements. A study published this week in Frontiers of Ecology and Evolution details the results of these experiments.

The researchers say that despite struggling, the ants demonstrated an “impressive ability” to walk on surfaces aboard the ISS. More remarkable, however, was their ability to regain contact with the surface when they started to tumble about in the air. “Sometimes an ant attached itself to another ant to climb back down to the surface. Once back at the surface an ant appeared to hold on to it by flattening its body toward the surface,” the study reads.

via Ants in space prove adept at battling microgravity (Wired UK).

Fossil Galaxy May Be One of First Ever Formed

A fossil galaxy sounds like the sort of thing Doctor Who would visit.

A tiny galaxy circling the Milky Way may be a fossil left over from the early universe, astronomers say. A recent study found that the stars in the galaxy, called Segue 1, contain fewer heavy elements than those of any other galaxy known, implying that the object may have stopped evolving almost 13 billion years ago. If true, Segue 1 could offer a window into the conditions of the early universe and reveal how some of the first galaxies came to be.

via RDFRS: Fossil Galaxy May Be One of First Ever Formed.

Robots with human-like brains to take on Mars unaided – New Scientist

It’s hard not to read articles like this without seeing lots of Wall-E like robots roaming around the red planet.

So how do we make robot brains more like ours? One way might be to change the type of processor they use. Until now, robots have always been fitted with central processing units (CPUs), just like most PCs. Such units are very good at crunching small streams of data fast, but they can only do one thing at a time.

In contrast, graphics processing units (GPUs), which are heavily used in supercomputers and gaming, can handle larger data sets more quickly, and deal with several of them at once. This is how the human brain works, and even though we process some tasks millions of times more slowly than does a computer, the amount of information our brains can handle is vast. But until quite recently, GPUs have been too big and expensive to use in robots.

Robots with human-like brains to take on Mars unaided – tech – 19 February 2014 – New Scientist.

Let’s all move to a different planet

10 Most Habitable Alien Worlds by alltime10s
Video via Geeks Are Sexy

The Earth Similarity Index, ESI or “easy scale” is a measure of how physically similar a planetary mass object is to Earth. It is a scale from zero to one, with Earth having a value of one. The ESI was designed to measure planets, however the formula can also be applied to large natural satellites and other objects. The ESI is a function of the planet’s radius, density, escape velocity, and surface temperature. These parameters are often estimated based on one or more known variables. Such variables depend greatly on the method of observation used. For example, surface temperatures is influenced by a variety of factors including irradiance, tidal heating, albedo, insolation and greenhouse warming. Where these are not known, planetary equilibrium temperature is frequently used, or the variable is inferred from other known attributes.

Earth Similarity Index – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Let’s go asteroid mining!

I’m looking forward to the release of Elite:Dangerous sometime next year and, eventually, having a computer powerful enough to run it. I just hope it’s not so realistic that I have to run this version of the Drake equation whenever I want to go pulverise some asteroids with a laser and scoop up the debris for profit.

Alien-hunting equation revamped for mining asteroids – space – 04 December 2013 – New Scientist.

It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it

Gizmodo has high resolution images of Earth. Really nice. Sadly, neither of the ones they’ve got is quite right as photo reference for one of my favourite lines from part 1 of Point of Contact (I’m not going to give it away).

NASA have more images. And there’s a Goddard Space Flight Centre Flickr account.

Soyuz on the train

io9 has pictures of a Soyuz rocket being hauled across the desert to its launch site by a diesel train. It might be hard to scale match a model of the rocket (or even find one, I couldn’t get a match for “Soyuz” at Hannants) and a Russian train, but think of the diorama possibilities.

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Jerry wants to be a rockette

Lady take a ride on a Zeke 64, Jerry wants to be a rockette
That’s a popular misconception, says we haven’t seen anything yet
Laying down the lifeless corpse of President 35
The lady crying by his side is the most beautiful woman alive

Saturn 5 – Inspiral Carpets
It was only a matter of time before this was the tune stuck in my head in the morning.  Synchronicity provides me with this-
US Navy Captain Lisa Nowak, astronaut, has been charged with attempting to kidnap a woman she saw as a rival for the love of a Space Shuttle pilot.  She drove a thousand miles from Houston to Orlando International Airport- allegedly wearing a nappy to avoid toilet breaks- and pepper sprayed the woman after confronting her in the car park.