New Gadget Detects Lifeforms From Long Distances

A new tool called the TreePol spectropolarimeter could someday scan for extraterrestrial life without picking up any false positives.

Upgrading SETI

A new scientific instrument with the extraordinary name “TreePol spectropolarimeter” can be used to detect the presence of lifeforms from several kilometers away.

And while right now the device is best used for spotting faraway plants, a high-powered version of the tool could someday serve as the most reliable means of searching for extraterrestrial life to date, according to a press release published Tuesday by The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

Advanced Search

Often, when scientists talk about which exoplanets or moons might harbor life, they weigh factors like water, atmospheric oxygen, and the presence of organic molecules. But that opens the door to all kinds of false positives — there’s an underwater lake on Mars, for instance, but that doesn’t mean anything lives there.

But TreePol detects light that’s been rotated after bouncing off molecules found only in living things. The tool was specifically built to detect foliage, but can also detect light that bounced off of most living things on Earth, according to the press release.

Long Shot

It’s possible that the molecules that make up whatever extraterrestrial life might exist out there doesn’t interact with light in the same way as life on Earth. But the important distinction here is that nothing else on Earth does — nothing will trigger TreePol’s sensors except for living things.

Right now, the team is preparing to test whether TreePol could be used to analyze crops from a plane or satellite, slowly ramping up the distance over which TreePol scans. If those tests work, the scientists will investigate whether they can use it to scan the cosmos, perhaps by sending TreePol up to the International Space Station.

READ MORE: Reliable method for detecting extraterrestrial life is used on Earth for the first time [NWO Newsroom]

More on extraterrestrial life: Scientists Need to Solve These Two Mysteries to Find Life on Mars

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New Gadget Detects Lifeforms From Long Distances

Scientists Found a “River of Stars” Flowing Through the Milky Way

New research has uncovered a stellar stream comprising 4,000 stars flowing through the Milky Way remarkably close to the Earth.

Flow On

The Milky Way is home to a variety of star clusters. Most of the time, its gravity quickly pulls these clusters apart, but some clusters have enough mass to remain stuck together, and sometimes the clusters form stellar streams, which are river-like stretches of stars that orbit the galaxy.

Now, researchers have identified a billion-year-old stellar stream comprising nearly 4,000 stars — and it’s remarkably close to our Sun.

Close Encounter

In a study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics on Thursday, a team from the University of Vienna details its discovery of this new stellar stream, which is approximately 1,300 light-years long and 160 light-years wide.

The team discovered the stream using data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, and according to researcher João Alves, it’s been hiding in plain sight.

“Astronomers have been looking at, and through, this new stream for a long time, as it covers most of the night sky, but only now realize it is there,” he explained in a press release.

“As soon as we investigated this particular group of stars in more detail, we knew that we had found what we were looking for: A coeval, stream-like structure, stretching for hundreds of parsecs across a third of the entire sky,” researcher Verena Fürnkranz said. “It was so thrilling to be part of a new discovery.”

Down River

The researchers are already looking ahead to what new insights they may be able to glean from this river of stars, positing that it could lead to new information on how galaxies gain their stars, the discovery of new exoplanets, and an improved understanding of the Milky Way’s mass and gravitational field.

“Finding things close to home is very useful,” Alves said. “It means they are not too faint nor too blurred for further detailed exploration, as astronomers dream.”

READ MORE: Astronomers Have Detected a Previously Unnoticed ‘River of Stars’ Flowing Past Earth [Science Alert]

More on stellar streams: Dark Energy Survey Discovers Remnants of Other Galaxies Within Our Own

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Scientists Found a “River of Stars” Flowing Through the Milky Way

Japan Sends Robot Into the Nuclear Hell of the Fukushima Reactor

A robot just physically examined the radioactive fuel at the damaged Fukushima Nuclear Reactor. It's the first step toward an ongoing cleanup mission.

Nuclear Probe

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) just sent a robot into one of the reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was destroyed by a tsunami back in 2011.

The robot made contact with the melted fuel, picking it up and putting it back down to determine whether it was solid enough to cart away during a future mission, according to Ars Technica.

Image Credit: TEPCO

The Claw

Fukushima won’t be fully decommissioned for another 30 to 40 years. But this robotic mission is the first step toward determining how other robots will go about cleaning it up.

In this case, the robot was able to pick up small chunks of the radioactive fuel at five of the six test sites, all of which were located inside one of the power plant’s three damaged reactors. TEPCO published a video of the process taken by the robot’s built-in camera, in which you can see a robotic claw position itself around and pick up small pieces of fuel.

Catch and Release

None of the radioactive fuel left the reactor along with the robot when the mission was over. But that wasn’t the plan. Rather, this mission marks the first time that a robot has been able to physically examine Fukushima’s fuel.

The team hopes to start retrieving some of the deadly fuel in 2021, now that they know it can be physically lifted.

READ MORE: Japanese utility makes first contact with melted Fukushima fuel [Ars Technica]

More on Fukushima: A $320 Million Ice Wall Still Can’t Contain Radioactive Water Near Fukushima

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Japan Sends Robot Into the Nuclear Hell of the Fukushima Reactor

Elon Musk: Bitcoin Is “Brilliant” And “Paper Money Is Going Away”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared his thoughts on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies during a podcast interview with ARK Invest.


Elon Musk is talking cryptocurrency. The real Elon Musk, not one of those Twitter scammers.

On Tuesday, Tesla’s CEO sat down for a podcast interview with ARK Invest, a tech investment firm. In addition to chatting about electric vehicles and self-driving cars, the interviewers decided to throw Musk an “off-topic” question about cryptocurrencies.

After an initially incredulous response — “Crypto, seriously?” — Musk went on to elaborate on his thoughts about crypto and Bitcoin in particular — and while he sees the value in both, don’t expect Tesla to get involved in the space any time soon.

Pros and Cons

During the interview, Musk admitted that he thinks “the Bitcoin structure is quite brilliant” and that there might be “some merit to Ethereum as well and maybe some others.”

He went on to discuss the uses of the cryptocurrency with ARK Invest founder Cathie Wood, who noted that “there were $1.3 trillion worth of transactions in bitcoin, and we don’t see it here because it’s not for pizza or Coke.”

“It might be for coke,” Musk deadpanned, in an apparent drug joke, prompting laughs from his interviewers.

“We figure it’s business-to-business in Africa where it is prohibitively expensive to convert from one nation’s currency to another,” Wood continued. “It really is very important. It’s money over IP for them. It’s free transmission of money, and that’s really important to opening up the world.”

“It bypasses currency controls,” Musk said. “Paper money is going away, and crypto is a far better way to transfer value than pieces of paper, that’s for sure. That has its pros and cons.”

Tesla Coin

As for whether Tesla would ever get involved in crypto, Musk doesn’t see that happening any time soon.

His company’s primary goal is to “accelerate the advent of sustainable energy,” according to Musk, and as he noted during the interview, mining cryptocurrencies is computationally energy intensive.

“I’m not sure it would be a good use for Tesla resources to get involved in crypto,” he concluded.

“Just to clarify,” ARK Invest analyst Tasha Keeney asked later, “Tesla’s not going to start selling bitcoin anytime soon?”

“No, we’re not,” Musk replied.

READ MORE: Elon Musk Calls Bitcoin ‘Brilliant,’ Better Than Paper Money for Value Transfer [CoinDesk]

More on crypto: Fake Elon Musks Clutter Twitter With Crypto Scams

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Elon Musk: Bitcoin Is “Brilliant” And “Paper Money Is Going Away”

Australian License Plates Can Now Include Emoji

As of March 1, drivers in Queensland, Australia will be able to include one of five emoji in their license plates — a startling break from tradition.

License to Emoji

It’s the natural evolution of the vanity license plate: emoji.

As of March 1, drivers in Queensland, Australia will be able to include one of five emoji in their license plates: laughing out loud, winking face, sunglasses, heart eyes, and the classic smiley face.

“For quite some time we’ve seen that you can support your favourite team or your favourite town with a symbol on your number plate,” Royal Automobile Club of Queensland spokeswoman Rebecca Michael told 7News Brisbane. “And using an emoji is no different.”

Cool Sunglasses Face

If you drive a vehicle in Queensland, you can pre-order your own customized plate right now on the website of government-approved plate vendor Personalised Plates Queensland (PPQ.)

Drivers will like need to pay a fee somewhere between $160 to $500 in Australian dollars to get the new emoji, according to 7News.

Mo’ ‘Mojis, Mo’ Problems

One problem remains: police could be thrown off by the unusual new plates.

“How do you write down the emoji in your number plate after an accident?” Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts asked the Brisbane Times.

READ MORE: Queensland drivers set to get emoji number plates [new.com.au]

More on license plates: A “Smart” License Plate: To Buy or Not to Buy?

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Australian License Plates Can Now Include Emoji

Google: Secret Nest Microphone “Never Intended to Be a Secret”

Earlier this month, Google inadvertently revealed that its home security device, Nest, contained a secret microphone. Now it says secrecy was a

End of an Error

People who use Google’s home security device, Nest Guard, got some surprising news earlier this month when the company announced that the device could now be used as a smart assistant.

That was startling because Google Assistant devices use voice recognition, and the company had never disclosed that Nests had built-in microphones. Now the search giant is admitting they do — and saying its failure to mention the microphone was an “error.”


According to the spokesperson, the microphones were never enabled and had been added to Nest devices in case the company decided to implement sound-based features. The spokesperson described a hypothetical use to Business Insider in which a Nest Guard might detect the sound of broken glass during a break-in.

“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs,” a Google spokesperson told Business Insider on Tuesday. “That was an error on our part.”

Ministry of Search

Google has a fraught history with privacy advocates. In 2010, for instance, it got busted sweeping up Wi-Fi data with its Street View cars. And earlier this year, France fined the tech giant $57 million for privacy violations. And now, framing a secret microphone hidden in customers’ homes as an “error,” whether or not the microphone was active, doesn’t click.

Google acknowledging wrongdoing is a nice start, but there are no brownie points to be had for framing the company’s decision as an error only after it came to light anyway.

READ MORE: Google says the built-in microphone it never told Nest users about was ‘never supposed to be a secret’ [Business Insider]

More on Google: Google Wins Lawsuit Over Facial Recognition Technology

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Google: Secret Nest Microphone “Never Intended to Be a Secret”

Vampire Clinic That Sold Young Blood to the Wealthy Closes Shop

Bad Blood

Ambrosia Health, the controversial clinic that sold transfusions of young, healthy people’s blood, has “ceased patient treatments,” according to the company’s website.

The decision to stop taking patients comes after an official statement from FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb this week, which described the company’s practices as a dangerous scam.

Dr. Acula

Ambrosia claimed its transfusions of a younger person’s blood could reverse health problems and extend a person’s life — a controversial and unproven notion.

The company never published the results of its self-funded clinical experiments, and recent evidence suggests that these transfusions could have been dangerous from the start.

Vampire Empire

It’s unclear whether Ambrosia plans to resume operations in the future or if the FDA’s warning rang the company’s death toll. Futurism reached out to the company with questions, and this article will be updated if we hear back.

Either way, the wealthy will need to get their controversial medical treatments somewhere else for the time being.

READ MORE: ‘Young blood’ company Ambrosia halts patient treatments after FDA warning [NBC]

More on Ambrosia Health: The FDA Warns: Transfusions of Young Blood Are a Dangerous Scam

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Vampire Clinic That Sold Young Blood to the Wealthy Closes Shop

India Just Swore in Its First Robot Police Officer

Indian police just swore in KP-Bot as a sub-inspector. The robot police officer will work behind the front desk and direct visitors as needed.


India just swore in its first robotic police officer, which is named KP-Bot.

The animatronic-looking machine was granted the rank of sub-inspector on Tuesday, and it will operate the front desk of Thiruvananthapuram police headquarters, according to India Today.

Action Figure

The robot was welcomed aboard with a salute from Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala. India Today reports that the robot “responded with a perfect salute,” which presumably just means that it didn’t karate chop its own head off in the process.

Aside from the symbolic gesture of integrating robotics into the police force, KP-Bot doesn’t do much. At the moment, it can sit behind a police station’s front desk, recording complaints and directing visitors to the correct department as needed.

It can also salute at higher-ranked officers, according to India Today. In the future, it may be integrated with facial recognition software or the capability to detect bombs.

Quit While Ahead

KP-Bot is also for some reason gendered, with Assistant Deputy of police Manoj Abraham explicitly declaring that the inanimate object is a woman.

“Women empowerment and gender equality were kept in mind while deciding on the gender of the first robot,” said Loknath Behra, the Director General of Police. “Also, the fact that most front office jobs are managed by women was considered.”

READ MORE: India’s first RoboCop: Kerala Police inducts robot, gives it SI rank [India Today]

More on police robots: Dubai Wants Robots to Make up 25% of Its Police Force by 2030

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India Just Swore in Its First Robot Police Officer

EPA: Low Doses of Toxins, Radiation Could Actually Be Healthy

The EPA has proposed a rule change that would trade a cautious approach to regulating low-doses of chemicals for one that's far more flexible. 

Toxic Changes

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards for how it studies the health impacts of low doses of chemicals, trading in a previously cautious approach for one that’s far more flexible.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times published a deep dive into the work that went on behind the scenes to get this proposed rule change added to the Federal Register — and the damage it could do to public health if adopted.

Current Standard

For decades, according to the LA Times’ excellent explainer, U.S. federal agencies have adhered to what’s known as the linear no-threshold model when regulating and studying toxic chemicals and radiation. This model assumes that if a substance is harmful at any level, it’s harmful at all levels, with the level of harm increasing or decreasing depending on the level of exposure.

This model ensured that the public wouldn’t be exposed to potentially harmful substances even if research didn’t conclusively prove that a low level of exposure would, in fact, be harmful.

That was important because, in some cases, various studies of the same chemical at the same low dose have reached different conclusions. One might assert that the low dose is harmful, another that it has no effect, and still another that the dose is actually beneficial to the human body, a phenomenon known as hormesis.

Hormesis D’oeuvre

It’s true that some dangerous substances really are beneficial at low doses. Small doses of tamoxifen, for example, can help treat breast cancer, but at higher doses, the chemical can actually cause uterine cancer.

However, while hormesis might be useful in a clinical setting, it’s not an effective way to regulate chemicals that could reach the public at large, according to David Jacobs, a public health professor at the University of Minnesota.

“There is no way to control the dose a person gets from an industrial or agricultural chemical,” Jacobs told the LA Times. “It’s not being doled out in pills and monitored by a physician who can lower it if the patient isn’t responding well.”

The Holy Grail

On April 30, the EPA posted a proposed rule titled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” for comment in the Federal Register. It removes linear no-threshold as the default model for estimating low-dose impacts, instead giving the EPA the authority to test other models, including hormesis.

Ten months later, the EPA has yet to announce a final date for deciding on the proposed rule. But if it’s adopted, public health experts told the LA Times they expect it to “tie the EPA up in knots” and possibly even result in new standards for everything from our air to our drinking water.

“Industry has been pushing for this for a long time,” David Michaels, a professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, told the newspaper. “Not just the chemical industry, but the radiation and tobacco industries, too.”

“This is industry’s holy grail,” he concluded.

READ MORE: Scientist Says Some Pollution Is Good for You — a Disputed Claim Trump’s EPA Has Embraced [Los Angeles Times]

More on the EPA: The EPA Just Removed Climate Change From Their Climate Change Website

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EPA: Low Doses of Toxins, Radiation Could Actually Be Healthy

Elon Musk: Teslas Will Be Fully Self-Driving By Next Year

Full Autonomy

According to Elon Musk, Tesla’s cars are nearly ready for fully autonomous driving.

“I think we will be feature complete — full self-driving — this year,” Musk told Cathie Wood and Tasha Keeney of ARK Invest in a podcast on Tuesday. “Meaning the car will be able to find you in a parking lot, pick you up and take you all the way to your destination without an intervention, this year.”

Car Naps

By next year, you’ll be able to take a nap behind the wheel, Musk claimed in the same interview.

“My guess as to when we would think it is safe for somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at their destination? Probably towards the end of next year,” he said.

And he’s willing to stand by his words: “I would say I am of certain of that,” he said. “That is not a question mark.”

Big Promises

Musk is no stranger to making big promises. As it stands right now, Tesla’s Autopilot can make lane changes, and navigate highway ramps — but it still can’t handle most other roads.

In October, Tesla dropped the “full self-driving” mode from the Model 3, with Musk claiming it was “causing too much confusion” in a tweet.

The race to have cars take over all driving functions is on. Alphabet’s Waymo launched a robo-taxi service in Arizona in December.

But even Waymo’s cars require human safety drivers to take control on multiple occasions throughout a single ride.

READ MORE: Elon Musk Promises a Really Truly Self-Driving Tesla in 2020 [Wired]

More on Tesla: Teslas Are Getting a “Party and Camping Mode”

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Elon Musk: Teslas Will Be Fully Self-Driving By Next Year

Automakers Could Give Police Control Over Your Self-Driving Car

The relationship between law enforcement and self-driving cars is still in flux, but some are suggesting we give let police control self-driving cars.

More Q’s Than A’s

We still have a lot of questions to answer before autonomous vehicles can go mainstream: Who’s at fault if an AV has an accident? Should people need licenses to ride in a self-driving car? How should an AV decide between running over a dog or a cat?

On Wednesday, Bloomberg published a story focused on yet another question — how should AVs interact with law enforcement? — and the solution might involving ceding control of your car to cops.

Police Power

The Bloomberg story notes the Dec. 2018 incident in which an intoxicated driver fell asleep behind the wheel of a Tesla with Autopilot engaged. The vehicle led police on a seven-minute chase down a freeway before officers were able to compel the Tesla to stop by essentially boxing it in.

This is the kind of problem AV manufactures and law enforcement want to avoid, and that could mean programming AVs to pull over as soon as they detect flashing police lights behind them, a protocol already adopted by Waymo.

Bloomberg even suggests that officers forced to exit their vehicles might be able to instruct other AVs to reroute away from an area “with a couple of taps on a handheld device.”

Driver Rights

Letting law enforcement control a car presumably owned by a citizen seems like murky legal territory.

Even if legal, it would be easy to see how some people might be opposed to police being able to give instructions to their car — especially if the car is programmed to follow police orders over that of the driver and the driver isn’t doing anything illegal.

Some critics have also noted how hackers might be able to exploit any ability for police to control AVs.

It’s still too early to say whether any of the measures proposed in the Bloomberg piece will become the standard for navigating interactions between AVs and law enforcement. But given that we could have fully autonomous vehicles as soon as next year, we have no time to waste figuring out an answer to this lingering question.

READ MORE: Someday Your Self-Driving Car Will Pull Over for Police [Bloomberg]

More on driverless cars: It Took Seven Minutes to Pull Over a Drunk and “Unresponsive” Tesla Driver

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Automakers Could Give Police Control Over Your Self-Driving Car

Samsung Just Revealed a $1,980 Folding Smartphone

Galaxy Fold

Korean tech giant Samsung officially announced its take on the growing foldable smartphone trend at its Galaxy Unpacked event today in San Francisco: the Samsung Galaxy Fold. The device will go on sale for $1,980 on April 26.

We first got a glimpse of the device in November, but the brand has likely been working on the concept for almost half a decade.

Serious About Multitasking

The Galaxy Fold will unsurprisingly pack some serious power, with a high resolution 7.3-inch Infinity Flex Display. When it’s folded in half — Samsung referred to that as “phone mode” — the display size is reduced to only 4.6 inches.

It’ll also pack an impressive 12 GB of RAM and 512 GB of on-board flash storage.

Foldable Future

Competitors include Royole and Chinese phone maker Xiaomi. The latter is developing a smartphone that folds on both sides, like a birthday card.

The device seems to be a little awkward to use in phone mode, but when unfolded, the Galaxy Fold could be a worthy replacement for a seven-inch tablet.

READ MORE: Samsung’s foldable phone is the Galaxy Fold, available April 26th starting at $1,980 [The Verge]

More on foldable smartphones: Xiaomi Teases Flexible Smartphone That Folds Like a Card

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Samsung Just Revealed a $1,980 Folding Smartphone

Scientists Used Gene Therapy to Cure Deafness in Mice

A new gene therapy tested on mice can treat a specific kind of congenital deafness by repairing a faulty inner-ear protein.

Three Deaf Mice

About half of the time someone is born totally deaf, it’s because of their genetic makeup. Those people are typically treated with cochlear implants, but now researchers from Europe and the U.S. are looking at gene-based treatments as well.

Deaf mice treated with a new kind of gene therapy developed the ability to hear almost as well as healthy mice, according to research published Tuesday in the journal PNAS — findings that suggest gene therapies may someday help with previously-untreatable conditions.

Ear Genes

The mice had what’s called DFNB9 deafness, the type that accounts for between two and eight percent of gene-related cases of human deafness. In DFNB9 deafness, a protein called otoferlin can’t perform its usual role of transmitting sound information gathered by the fine hairs in the inner ear.

But after altering the deaf mice’s genomes with specially-crafted viruses, the mice were able to hear almost as well as mice that were born with functioning otoferlin.

Step One

Even after altering the same specific gene in mice as what causes DFNB9 deafness in humans, it’s too soon to say that these gene-editing viruses can be used to treat people. There’s a long road between animal experiments and human clinics.

There’s more reason to be wary of this treatment. According to a conflict of interest statement in the PNAS article, one researcher from the University of Florida stands to profit if this virus-based technology takes off — so it’s worth waiting to see if the work holds up in further studies.

READ MORE: Gene therapy durably reverses congenital deafness in mice [Pasteur Institute Newsroom via MedicalXPress]

More on gene therapy: New CRISPR Gene Editing Experiment Slows Down Hearing Loss

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Scientists Used Gene Therapy to Cure Deafness in Mice

New Research: Earth’s Atmosphere Extends Well Beyond the Moon

Data collected by NASA and ESA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory reveals that Earth's gaseous layer extends up to 391,000 miles away from Earth.

The Geocorona

A light layer of hydrogen atoms called the geocorona separates Earth’s atmosphere from outer space. And it extends far beyond Earth — much farther than previously believed.

Data collected by NASA and the European space agency’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a spacecraft that launched in 1995 to study the Sun, suggests that this gaseous layer extends up to 391,000 miles (630,000 km) from Earth — which, strikingly, is 50 times Earth’s diameter and almost twice the distance to the Moon.

Water Vapor

And that’s a big deal, because planets with traces of hydrogen in their atmospheres have a much higher chance of containing water on the surface.

“This is especially interesting when looking for planets with potential reservoirs of water beyond our Solar System,” explained Jean-Loup Bertaux, co-author of the paper on the new research and former principal investigator at ESA, in an official press release.

Empty Space

Unfortunately, those extra hydrogen atoms won’t be particularly useful for future missions to the Moon.

“On Earth we would call it vacuum, so this extra source of hydrogen is not significant enough to facilitate space exploration,” said Igor Baliukin of Russia’s Space Research Institute and lead author of the paper.

But they could make future astronomical observations more accurate by allowing astronomers to take the hydrogen atoms and their associated ultraviolet wavelengths into account.

The revelation symbolizes a big win for the SOHO team. “This discovery highlights the value of data collected over 20 years ago and the exceptional performance of SOHO,” said Bernhard Fleck, SOHO project scientist at ESA.

READ MORE: Earth’s atmosphere stretches out to the Moon — and beyond [ESA]

More on Earth’s atmosphere: The European Space Agency’s New Ion Thruster “Breathes” Air

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New Research: Earth’s Atmosphere Extends Well Beyond the Moon

Lawyer: People Could Try to Sell the Apollo Moon Footprints

Air and Space Law professor Michelle Hanlon argues that if we don't draft new laws, the destruction of landmarks that happens on Earth will repeat in space.

Interplanetary Heritage

Right now, there’s no legal framework preventing people from destroying or selling culturally-important landmarks in space.

For instance, as space travel becomes more common, an opportunistic someone could find a way to steal and auction off the first bootprints left on the moon by Neil Armstrong, warns University of Mississippi Air and Space Law professor Michelle Hanlon in an essay published Friday in The Conversation.

Earthly Precedent

Hanlon cites damage to landmarks like the Pyramids of Gaza or Terracotta Army by tourists who break off pieces to take home as evidence that people can’t be trusted to preserve landmarks of their own volition.

“There is no law against running over the first bootprints imprinted on the moon,” Hanlon wrote. “Or erasing them. Or carving them out of the moon’s regolith and selling them to the highest bidder.”

Rising Chorus

Places like Stonehenge and ancient cave paintings are protected as part of the U.N.’s World Heritage List. If landmarks in space are to survive as more nations and companies develop the capacity to leave the planet, Hanlon believes that leaders need to be proactive and protect those landmarks before anything goes wrong.

Hanlon is just one of many to recently call for more comprehensive or updated space laws. Right now, the various laws and treaties that pertain to outer space are a bit of a mess. Hopefully, before trips to the moon become commonplace, someone can sort them out.

READ MORE: Protecting human heritage on the moon: Don’t let ‘one small step’ become one giant mistake [The Conversation]

More on space law: Four Legal Challenges to Resolve Before Settling on Mars

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Lawyer: People Could Try to Sell the Apollo Moon Footprints

Freedom – Wikipedia

Concept in philosophy

Freedom, generally, is having an ability to act or change without constraint. A thing is "free" if it can change its state easily and is not constrained in its present state. In philosophy and religion, it is associated with having free will and being without undue or unjust constraints, or enslavement, and is an idea closely related to the concept of liberty. A person has the freedom to do things that will not, in theory or in practice, be prevented by other forces. Outside of the human realm, freedom generally does not have this political or psychological dimension. A rusty lock might be oiled so that the key has freedom to turn, undergrowth may be hacked away to give a newly planted sapling freedom to grow, or a mathematician may study an equation having many degrees of freedom. In mechanical engineering, "freedom" describes the number of independent motions that are allowed to a body or system, which is generally referred to as degrees of freedom."

In philosophical discourse, freedom is discussed in the context of free will and self-determination, balanced by moral responsibility.

Advocates of free will regard freedom of thought as innate to the human mind, while opponents regard the mind as thinking only the thoughts that a purely deterministic brain happens to be engaged in at the time.

In political discourse, political freedom is often associated with liberty and autonomy in the sense of "giving oneself their own laws", and with having rights and the civil liberties with which to exercise them without undue interference by the state. Frequently discussed kinds of political freedom include freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of choice, and freedom of speech.

In some circumstances, particularly when discussion is limited to political freedoms, the terms "freedom" and "liberty" tend to be used interchangeably.[1][2] Elsewhere, however, subtle distinctions between freedom and liberty have been noted.[3] JohnStuartMill, differentiated liberty from freedom in that freedom is primarily, if not exclusively, the ability to do as one wills and what one has the power to do; whereas liberty concerns the absence of arbitrary restraints and takes into account the rights of all involved. As such, the exercise of liberty is subject to capability and limited by the rights of others.[4]

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun explains the differences in terms of their relation to institutions:

Liberty is linked to human subjectivity; freedom is not. The Declaration of Independence, for example, describes men as having liberty and the nation as being free. Free willthe quality of being free from the control of fate or necessitymay first have been attributed to human will, but Newtonian physics attributes freedomdegrees of freedom, free bodiesto objects.[5]

Freedom differs from liberty as control differs from discipline. Liberty, like discipline, is linked to institutions and political parties, whether liberal or libertarian; freedom is not. Although freedom can work for or against institutions, it is not bound to themit travels through unofficial networks. To have liberty is to be liberated from something; to be free is to be self-determining, autonomous. Freedom can or cannot exist within a state of liberty: one can be liberated yet unfree, or free yet enslaved (Orlando Patterson has argued in Freedom: Freedom in the Making of Western Culture that freedom arose from the yearnings of slaves).[5]

Another distinction that some political theorists have deemed important is that people may aspire to have freedom from limiting forces (such as freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom from discrimination), but descriptions of freedom and liberty generally do not invoke having liberty from anything.[2] To the contrary, the concept of negative liberty refers to the liberty one person may have to restrict the rights of others.[2]

Other important fields in which freedom is an issue include economic freedom, academic freedom, intellectual freedom, and scientific freedom.

In purely physical terms, freedom is used much more broadly to describe the limits to which physical movement or other physical processes are possible. This relates to the philosophical concept to the extent that people may be considered to have as much freedom as they are physically able to exercise. The number of independent variables or parameters for a system is described as its number of degrees of freedom. For example the movement of a vehicle along a road has two degrees of freedom; to go fast or slow, or to change direction by turning left or right. The movement of a ship sailing on the waves has four degrees of freedom, since it can also pitch nose-to-tail and roll side-to-side. An aeroplane can also climb and sideslip, giving it six degrees of freedom.

Degrees of freedom in mechanics describes the number of independent motions that are allowed to a body, or, in case of a mechanism made of several bodies, the number of possible independent relative motions between the pieces of the mechanism. In the study of complex motor control, there may be so many degrees of freedom that a given action can be achieved in different ways by combining movements with different degrees of freedom. This issue is sometimes called the degrees of freedom problem.

In mathematics freedom is the ability of a variable to change in value.

Some equations have many such variables. This notion is formalized as the dimension of a manifold or an algebraic variety. When degrees of freedom is used instead of dimension, this usually means that the manifold or variety that models the system is only implicitly defined. Such degrees of freedom appear in many mathematical and related disciplines, including degrees of freedom as used in physics and chemistry to explain dependence on parameters, or the dimensions of a phase space; and degrees of freedom in statistics, the number of values in the final calculation of a statistic that are free to vary.

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Freedom - Wikipedia

Freedom | Define Freedom at Dictionary.com

the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint: He won his freedom after a retrial.

exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.

the power to determine action without restraint.

political or national independence.

personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery: a slave who bought his freedom.

exemption from the presence of anything specified (usually followed by from): freedom from fear.

the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc.

ease or facility of movement or action: to enjoy the freedom of living in the country.

frankness of manner or speech.

general exemption or immunity: freedom from taxation.

the absence of ceremony or reserve.

a liberty taken.

a particular immunity or privilege enjoyed, as by a city or corporation: freedom to levy taxes.

civil liberty, as opposed to subjection to an arbitrary or despotic government.

the right to enjoy all the privileges or special rights of citizenship, membership, etc., in a community or the like.

the right to frequent, enjoy, or use at will: to have the freedom of a friend's library.

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Freedom | Define Freedom at Dictionary.com