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New Horizons fly-by will shed light on Pluto's mysteries

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After more than nine years in transit, NASA's New Horizons probe is finally ready to fly past Pluto and give us the best glimpse ever of the dwarf planet. And if the last few days leading up to the flyby are any indication, we're about to see some pretty wild stuff. 

Up until now, we had no idea what the surface of Pluto actually looks like; the icy dwarf planet is too far away for conventional telescopes to make out clearly. But the increasingly clear pictures New Horizons has been sending back have revealed dark spots and polygonal shapes on Pluto's surface — evidence of complex geology. 

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We'll learn more about what Pluto looks like on Tuesday, when New Horizons passes within 8,000 miles of the planet's surface. The probe is scheduled to take a series of observations which should tell us, among other things, the chemical composition of Pluto's surface and atmosphere. 

New Horizon's mission doesn't end after Pluto; the spacecraft is slated to study one or two other objects in the Kuiper Belt – the region of small asteroid-like objects surrounding the edge of the solar system. 

It will take months for New Horizons to send back all of the data it will gather during its flyby, and the information will probably keep astronomers busy even longer. But if you want to see what the flyby might look like for yourself, you can check out NASA's animated preview app.

This video includes images from NASA, ESA and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute) and NASA / Johns Hopkins University / Southwest Research Institute.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); = id;  js.src = "//;version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>As New Horizons gets even closer to Pluto and its large moon, Charon, we are able to capture intriguing fine details on...Posted by NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Thursday, July 9, 2015

This latest image from New Horizons allows us to better see the four dark spots on the side of Pluto that always faces...Posted by NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Saturday, July 11, 2015

Intern, 15, discovers new planet third day on the job

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A 15-year-old British student may have set a record for the most awesome first week on the job.

Tom Wagg, a student and Keele University intern, noticed a slight dip in a star’s light emission, and apparently discovered a brand new planet on just his third day on the job.

Wagg was part of the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) project, which scans millions of stars and looks for any anomalies in light patterns. It took researchers another two years to verify his findings.

“I’m hugely excited to have found a new planet, and I’m very impressed that we can find them so far away,” Tom said in a statement from the university.

The new planet is as big as Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is invisible to the naked eye and is 1,000 light years away.

The university is planning to hold a competition to come up with a name for the planet, currently referred to as WASP-142b.

We recommend “Tom.”

These apps are a real drain on your phone

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There are a host of apps on your phone that could be draining battery faster than you initially thought.

CBS News reports that online security company AVG Technologies released their quarterly report on what apps are draining the most life out of your phone. They found that some of the culprits weren't surprising -- including Facebook.

The company looked at more than a million Android users to identify the offenders -- not just the obvious ones but the ones taking up memory and data without being seen.

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According to the report, the five apps that affect overall performance most are Spotify, Amazon Kindle, Line (a phone app), Samsung WatchON, and Snapchat. When AVG looked at apps that drain the most life without being opened, Facebook led the group that also included the Weather Channel app, Yahoo Weather, and WeatherBug.

Tumblr beat Snapchat, Netflix, and Spotify for the highest data usage among user-run apps, with the dating app, Tinder, coming in at number 10.

Spotify also takes up the most storage on devices with the music streaming app allowing 3,333 songs to be stored locally, which can eat up storage. It also drains battery thanks to the data-heavy music, and now video, service that it offers.

"Many of us take everyday practical apps like weather and chat for granted and despite spending little time on them, the impact on our devices is actually quite significant," Tony Anscombe, Senior Security Evangelist at AVG Technologies, said.

 "A number of unexpected apps such as these are consuming battery, storage, and data traffic without users' knowledge -- and, in many cases, for no good reason. So if you're wondering why you're not getting the best performance out of your device, this could well be why."

If you are having Skype issues, try this simple fix.

The report also adds that people are more likely to play card or casino games than casual strategy games on their phones.

Read more at CBS News.

Mobile Apps Offered By Cox Media

This text message can crash your iPhone - without you even opening it

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This may be a good reason not to give out your phone number.

A certain string of characters – including Arabic characters – sent through a text message can crash your iPhone’s messaging app or even shut down your phone, CBS News reports.

If you text the code to another iPhone, it can block the user from sending or receiving any text messages. If the text message is received while the person’s phone is on the lock screen, the phone will reboot.

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Reddit users have reported that this text can also affect the messaging app WhatsApp and Apple Watches, according to CBS News.

Jeff Bakalar, senior editor of CNET, told CBS News that only someone who has your phone number can perform this "popular prank." There is also a way to undo the damage.

“If you have a Mac, you can log into your computer and have Siri send you a text message to wake it up,” Bakalar said to CBS News.

Some Reddit users posted that the prank can also be avoided by disabling notification alerts. Apple said it is working on a solution to the problem.

Read more here.

Hubble Space Telescope still dazzles 25 years later

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If walking on the moon was one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind, then NASA's achievement with the Hubble Space Telescope should be seen as one huge grin.

On April 24, 1990, space shuttle Discovery launched the telescope into orbit, and NASA scientists and people around the globe have been amazed ever since.

The telescope has tallied more than 1.2 million observations of more than 38,000 celestial objects since its launch, according to the Associated Press.

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It is occasionally pampered with maintenace work, most recently in 2009, the wire service reports.

Hubble's unobstructed view of the universe has provided spectacular images for two and a half decades and is one of the many reasons it is one of NASA's greatest achievements. 

What are some of your fondest Hubble memories?

Pi Day: Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and other stars celebrate 'holiday'

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"Science Guy" Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, William Shatner and other celebrities took to Twitter this weekend to celebrate this year's once-in-a-century Pi Day.

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Click here or scroll down to see what they had to say.

<iframe src="//;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//;border=false"></script>[View the story "Pi Day: Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and other stars celebrate 'holiday'" on Storify]

Apple's latest MacBook has a new USB port – but only one

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The all-new, ultra-thin MacBook. Just 2 pounds light and 13.1 mm thin. A gorgeous 12-inch Retina display, with — wait, what is that? 

Yes, in their quest to produce the most svelte notebook on the market, Apple has cut off some of the old familiar ports we know and trust. There's just one port on the new MacBook, and it's for a new format you've probably never heard of.

"The technology behind this is a brand new standard called USB-C," Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller told the crowd.

Apple's new MacBook will be an early adopter of the USB Type-C port, a format designed to improve upon the old USB connectors of yesterday.

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USB-C boasts a top transfer speed of 10 Gbps and supports a power output of up to 20 volts. It's also more versatile than the old USB, able to send power through both ends of the cable. And it's reversible, which means no more fumbling with upside-down cables. (Video via CNETCypress Semiconductors)

But all early adoption comes at a price. In this case, Apple's shiny new port is going to need a lot of adapters.

The MacBook port will support a variety of inputs, but obviously you can't just jam a VGA cable into that tiny slot, or hook up more than one device at a time without some external help.

To solve this, Apple's offering two adapters — one for VGA cables, one for HDMI — which also come with two different USB ports. These adapters will add on $79 each to the cost of your shiny new $1,300+ MacBook.

And since USB-C isn't backwards compatible with all past USB iterations, there's also a USB-C-to-USB cord for $19.

Plus, if Apple's cables are too pricey, there's still hope: since USB-C is an open standard, cheaper third-party adapters could be on the way soon. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

Apple Watch prices, new MacBook revealed

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Apple's big Spring Forward event came and went, and, like everyone expected, the Apple Watch was the big highlight of the show.

CEO Tim Cook and company waxed poetic about how we can use the Apple Watch, finally letting us in on the big secret: How in the world the watch can fit into our daily lives. (Video via Apple)

But the big reveal — the one we've all been waiting for — was the final pricing for the device.


  • The aluminum Sport starts at $349 for the smaller size; add 50 bucks for the larger model.
  • The stainless steel Apple Watch starts at $549 and can cost up to $1,099.
  • And then there was the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition, which will run you — at the very least — $10,000.


The event also answered the last, big lingering question about Apple Watch: battery life. All models of the device will have what Apple calls "all-day battery life," which apparently translates to 18 hours.

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Pre-orders for the Apple Watch start April 10, and the device will go on sale April 24.

The next big thing was Apple's all-new MacBook. It's Apple's thinnest version yet and weighs just 2 pounds.

The device sports an upgraded and redesigned keyboard and trackpad and ships in three familiar colors — think iPhone. Apple's new MacBook starts at $1,299 and goes on sale April 10.

Last but not least, Apple surprised us all with a bit of news that admittedly started out kind of dull but ended up being one of the most exciting announcements.

The company went into great detail about ResearchKit, an open-source framework that helps connect volunteers to research studies. Apple featured several apps using ResearchKit to track health data.

And although we would’ve loved to get a look at the rumored iPad Pro the company's supposedly working on, we were happy to settle for a $14.99 a month HBO subscription on a newly discounted $69 Apple TV.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

Mars One's mission looks a lot like reality TV

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It plays more like a movie trailer than anything else: This is how Mars One announced the 100 finalists for its 2024 mission to Mars.

Of these 100 people, as many as 40 will ultimately be selected for the privately funded mission, and their bios on the website read something like those of participants in a reality TV show.

There's a reason for that. Mars One wants to make the entire process of the mission, from selecting its astronauts to landing on the red planet, an "on-going global media event" in order to draw in funds for the project.

And the cast of characters it's selected for the final 100 is very, very broad: The group includes representatives from 36 different countries, with ages spanning from 19 to 60 and occupations ranging from stand-up comedy to astrophysics.

A quick look at the final 100 reveals the U.S. provided the most candidates with 33, followed by Australia, with seven; South Africa, with six; and the United Kingdom and Russia tied with five each. 

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The diversity is partly down to the fact Mars One issued an open invitation to anyone in the world who met its base criteria, including this man from Poland, who says he is a Martian. (Video via YouTube / Mikolaj Zielinski)

Of all 100, only four have ever worked with a space program, and all four of those have worked with NASA in some capacity. (Video via RTEManifest Motion PicturesNASAYouTube / oskirrii)

On top of that, seven members of Mars One's 24-member advisory board have worked with NASA in the past.

But NASA as a whole hasn't really gotten involved directly in Mars One's mission, and it seems the agency thinks the project is, at the very least, harmless.

NASA officials said last year that although the agency doesn't really have any regulatory power, it would speak out if it saw a company doing something it saw as risky. (Video via The Royal Institution)

Still, a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate students put out a paper last October saying the project wasn't only risky, but with current technologies, it would also be deadly. 

The paper found without supplementary oxygen, astronauts would suffocate just 68 days into the mission, but Mars One's plan to counterbalance that using crops to provide both food and oxygen for the colony would create unsafe levels of oxygen within the colony. (Video via Mars One)

Despite this, Mars One's timeline currently has the project beating NASA to Mars by at least 10 years, although that's subject to change. (Video via NASA)

The project originally aimed to reach Mars by 2023, instead of 2024, and not only planned to select its 40 final astronauts by 2013 but also planned to have them in training by 2014.

What to expect from the Large Hadron Collider's second run

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By finding the Higgs boson in 2012, CERN's Large Hadron Collider made the discovery it was built to make.

But with a machine capable of simulating what the universe looked like less than a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, physicists have plenty left to discover.

Tara Shears, a physicist working on experiments at the LHC, told New Scientist, "We're doing this because we've got unfinished business when it comes to understanding the universe."

The Higgs boson was the last missing piece of the Standard Model of particle physics, a theory that's been making accurate predictions about the subatomic world for decades.

"It explains how the atoms that make up the world around us — this table, these chairs, the fruit in this bowl — how they're held together and interact," says a BBC science reporter.

But there are problems the Standard Model doesn't address, like gravity or dark matter. So what's beyond the Standard Model?

The LHC went offline in early 2013, so it could be upgraded. Workers spent nearly two years refitting the powerful magnets that control the particle beams and testing the new equipment. 

The upgrades mean the LHC's second round of experiments, beginning in spring 2015, will be able to smash protons together with around 60 percent more energy than before. Higher energy means more opportunities for CERN physicists to discover something new.

CERN spokesperson Dave Charlton told the BBC: "We don't know, really, what new physics we're going to find when we switch on again. It's really a pure science endeavor."

One of the more important things the LHC could discover this time around is evidence for supersymmetry, a popular idea that expands the Standard Model and makes some interesting predictions. (Video via CERN)

The main prediction is that all of the particles we know of from the Standard Model should have nearly identical twins out there somewhere. When physicists assume supersymmetry is true, some of the toughest problems in physics work themselves out. That makes the idea really attractive.

Stephen Hawking said at a 2013 conference, "I think the discovery of supersymmetric partners for the known particles would revolutionize our understanding of the universe." (Video via The Guardian)

There's just one problem: To date, not a single supersymmetric particle has ever been detected, either in the LHC or any other particle accelerator, and many physicists are starting to abandon the idea in search of a better one. (Video via CERN)

In a way, the LHC's second run puts supersymmetry on trial. If no evidence of it turns up, a majority of physicists might move on to something else. And even if evidence is found, it's likely supersymmetry doesn't work the way physicists first thought.

CERN physicist John Ellis said, "I believe that whether we discover supersymmetry or not, there is potential for a rich new spectrum of particles to be discovered at the LHC."

This video includes images from CERNFrank Weber / CC BY SA 2.0NASAHeiko S / CC BY 2.0Nuno Castro / CC BY NC SA 2.0Luigi Selmi / CC BY 2.0 and Getty Images and music from Broke For Free / CC BY NC 3.0 and Lee Rosevere / CC BY NC 4.0


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