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Scientists: There are one hundred million small, Earth-like planets in the Milky Way alone

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Image via NASA

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A co-investigarore on the Kepler satellite insitute surprised NASA this month with a major, unplanned announcement on data from the Kepler satellite. Eight minutes in to a speech at the TED global conference in Oxford, Sassanov announced that researchers believe the galaxy likely holds about 100 million “small, Earth-like planets,” and have actually identified over 100 of those planets.

Of course, “small, Earth-like” planet doesn’t mean the same thing as “small, life-supporting” planet. Sasselov’s speech created a fair bit of confusion, and numerous articles implied that the Kepler scientists had already found found 100s of “earths.” The confusion likely arose because the reporters did not listen to the entire speech, or even very much past the initial announcement. Sasselov made quite clear that the 100 or so planets the team had already identified, and the 100 million or so it estimated existed in the galaxy, need further study. Thankfully, Space.com was there to correct the sloppy journalism:

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Dyson balloon porn

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In other science news, it appears some Dyson engineers with a video camera may have stumbled up the fabled Tube Transport System of Futurama.

Watch the above video. Now, granted, the technology isn’t perfect, yet. The balloon bangs into the edges of the fans, is fairly slow moving and, you know, is a helium-filled balloon and not a water-and-gas-and-excrement-filled human. But the idea is there. I swear it.

Here’s more on Fututrama’s futurey transport system (although, let’s not forget, the Jetsons did it first):

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Robot Monday: The Darmstadt Dribblers

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The Darmstadt Dribblers, a robot soccer team hailing from err, Darmstadt, are the Lionel Messis of the robot soccer world. Or, considering how early robot soccer is in it’s development, perhaps it’s more accurate to say they are that-one-guy-from-medieval-England-who-was-really-good-at-kicking-the-sheep-bladder-arounds of the robot soccer world.

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Microsoft and NASA’s interactive Mars tour

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If you plan on using Mars in your next science fiction masterpiece, Microsoft just made your life a whole lot easier.

Microsoft Research’s Earth, Energy and Environment program, working with NASA, crunched three years of data to produce an interactive Mars map. To view the map, you can download a stand-alone program for Microsoft OS, or you can use a web-client if you have a Mac (sorry Linux users, you are screwed).

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Science poos all over Nature

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Image via the Centers for Disease Control

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In respective articles on the discovery that human bodies and, in particular, human guts, “harbor viruses as unique as the people they inhabit,” Nature and Science faced off today in a clash that displayed vast ideological differences. The battle ground? The correct representation of the word “shit” in scholarly context.

From Nature

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Robot Monday: Willow Garage’s beer-fetching robot

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Alright, alright, we know that beer is funny. Whenever you mention beer or alcohol of any kind everyone snickers and gets far too excited and then some frat boy makes some weird cheering/groaning noise and suddenly you’re far more popular than you were two seconds ago.

So, let’s get the stupid beer snickers (HAHA BEER) out of the way right now and focus on the fact that the above robot is astonishing. Willow Garage’s PR2 robot uses a combination of technologies I don’t understand to open a fridge, choose the beer you want, and then bring it to you.

Anyway, here’s how the folks at Willow Garage (great name, by the way)  describe the robot’s functions:

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G1.R1 Gripper Demo from Meka Robotics on Vimeo.

Robot Monday: G1.R1 Gripper Demo from Meka robotics

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I don’t know much about the G1.R1 Gripper, but I do know it is very good at gripping. And that, someday, in some galaxy far away, its streamlined descendant will attach to the hand of Luke Skywalker and become the most famous cyborg robot hand in George Lucas’ fatty brain.

Meka like most robotics companies, is pretty freaking awesome. And also pretty damn mysterious. Their robots, apart from looking cool and doing interesting things, don’t perform specific, marketable tasks. It appears that Meka’s researchers create robots for other researchers.

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The Planck satellite captures the sexiest image of white noise ever

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In 2009, the European Space Agency launched a satellite to search for “gravitational waves” in space/time. The hypothetical waves should be observable in the luminous, radioactive afterglow of the Big Bang known as cosmic microwave background — aka CMB, aka that stuff that helps make the white noise on your TV. The discovery of these waves would prove that, after the Big Bang, the universe expanded at speeds faster than light. Which is fast.

According to Science, the project may not be finished until 2012. But, in the meantime, we can revel in the beauty of universe-wide CMB pictures.

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New Feature: Some Powerful Shit

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Image via Megan Swann

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Handshake‘s Matt Millham, Ajay Nanavati and Megan Swann ventured to Morrisville State College in upstate New York to get an eyefull of the school’s biogas operation. Check out this video to see how it works. And check out Millham’s poo power story in the September issue of Handshake magazine.

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Romantic Tunes Increase Chances of Getting Dates

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Photograph by Anthony Citrano via Flickr

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That playlist of ballads and sappy love songs reserved for self pity days could be your biggest asset when looking for love.  Well, if you can manage to get it pumped into a public space. A recent study released by the Psychology of Music Journal found that women who listened to romantic music and lyrics […]

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