TIME Science

Russia’s Zero-G Sex Geckos Died Before Returning to Earth

Gecko
Getty Images

Russia's attempt to find out how organisms reproduce in space did not end with a bang

Russia’s troubled experiment to study how geckos, fruit flies and other organisms reproduce in weightlessness ended with a huge downer: When the Foton M-4 satellite containing the creatures returned to Earth on Monday and the hatch was opened, researchers found that all five geckos had died.

“We can’t say yet at which stage of Foton’s space flight it happened,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted a source at the Russian Academy of Sciences as saying. Interfax quoted an unnamed source as saying the geckos were mummified and may have frozen to death.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME technology

Watch NASA Test These 3D-Printed Rocket Parts

3-D printers can bring rockets to space.

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If you thought the coolest application of a 3-D printer was creating a miniature model of yourself to show to your friends, then NASA has just proven you wrong.

Two 3-D printed rocket injectors were recently successfully tested by NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. These powerful injectors mix liquid nitrogen and hydrogen to produce a combustion that can reach temperatures over 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit and generate over 20,000 pounds of thrust.

It sounds simple enough — the injectors’ design was entered into a 3-D printer’s computer, and the printer then built each part through a process known as selective laser melting.

“We wanted to go a step beyond just testing an injector and demonstrate how 3-D printing could revolutionize rocket designs,” said Chris Singer, director of Marshall’s Engineering Directorate.

With conventional manufacturing methods, the rocket injectors would require the creation and assembly of 163 individual pieces; with the 3-D printer, only 2 pieces were necessary. This unique method not only saved scientists and engineers time and money, it is also less likely to fail than the traditionally-built piece.

TIME Science

This Is the Coolest Vine From Space We’ve Seen Yet

Reid Wiseman, a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS), shared a timelapse video on Vine of the moment when the Cygnus cargo carrier spacecraft, which carried supplies to the ISS, was released via robotic arm.

Wiseman sent the first Vine from space in June, a glimpse of the terminator line “separating the sunlit side of the Earth from the nighttime areas,” according to NASA.

“We’re just lucky to live in this day where, when I take a photograph with a camera… we can email it straight into our Twitter feeds, and it just makes it so much easier to share this experience,” he told TIME last month. “It’s almost just become a little collateral duty of ours, so you don’t even think about it through the day, it’s so easy.”

WATCH: Around The World in 90 Minutes with Reid Wiseman

TIME Books

See an Exclusive ‘Self-Portrait’ From the Creator of XKCD

XKCD Creator Randall Munroe
Munroe has fun with the formulas for angular momentum of a spinning object (top) and centripetal force (bottom). Randall Munroe for TIME

The webcomic's science series, What If?, is now a book

For the past two years, xkcd creator Randall Munroe has been answering fantastical science questions for his popular webcomic’s sister site, What If?. In the new issue of TIME, Munroe talks about turning the project into a book (What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, hitting shelves Sept. 2) and how he conducts his investigations into topics like jetpacks and dinosaur nutrition.

“I try to be entertaining in the way I share them, but my real motivation with each question is that I want to know the answer,” Munroe says. “Once a question gets into my head, it will keep bugging me until I figure out the answer, whether I’m writing an article about it or not.”

Though Munroe says he uses stick-figures for xkcd and What If? because he’s “not very good at drawing,” we asked him to draw a self-portrait anyway — at least, as much of a self-portrait as you can get using only stick-figures. In the exclusive illustration above, also on newsstands now, Munroe has fun with the formulas for angular momentum of a spinning object (top) and centripetal force (bottom).

TIME Science

European Navigation Satellites Get Lost In Orbit

It's unclear if the system, a rival to GPS, will be good to go on schedule

The European Space Agency and the European Union want to provide an alternate to GPS—Global Positioning System, the space-based satellite navigation system operated by the United States—called Galileo, named after the astronomer who gave us the precursor of Newtonian physics. Galileo is a €5 billion project intended for civilian use scheduled to be completed and operational by 2019, with 27 satellites and 3 spares orbiting 14,600 miles above Earth.

The system suffered a setback on Saturday, though, when two satellites launched from French Guiana failed to attain their intended orbit, Phys.Org reports. It’s not immediately clear why there was a malfunction, and the agencies involved are investigating. In the meantime, however, Galileo’s French coordinator spoke to Agence France-Presse (AFP) and said it will be be complicated to correct the satellites’ orbits.

The latest pair of satellites had suffered more than a year of delays due to “technical difficulties in the setting up of the production line and test tools.” Meanwhile, two more satellites are supposed to be launched by the end of the year—which is also when Galileo was intended to reach its initial operational capacity.

As of now, it’s unclear whether Saturday’s malfunction will affect the system’s launch schedule.

[Phys.Org]

TIME Environment

Climate Change Could Happen Slower for the Next Decade, Study Says

California's Drought Becomes Critical
One of two major water storage lakes on the Russian River is lake Mendocino, which is nearly empty on January 24, 2014, near Ukiah, California. George Rose—Getty Images

Atmospheric temperatures are expected to rise slowly in the next decade

Temperatures have risen more slowly in the past decade than in the previous 50 years and will continue to rise at a somewhat slower rate in the next decade, according to a new study, even as climate change continues to raise temperatures to unprecedented levels worldwide.

The study, published in the journal Science, explained the temporary slowdown in rising temperatures as a potential consequence of the end of a 30-year current cycle in the Atlantic Ocean that pushes heat into the ocean.

“In the 21st century, surface warming slowed as more heat moved into deeper oceans,” the study says.

Despite this brief respite, the study says temperatures will begin to rise more quickly after the cycle is complete.

“Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850,” according to a different study published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends,” the IPCC study said, cautioning that the slowdown in global warming does not mean the atmosphere will not continue to heat at a faster rate.

TIME Science

Mesmerizing Six-Second Timelapse Video Shows How the Earth Changed Over Six Months

Created by NASA using images from January to July

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According to NASA, no planets have “matched the dynamic complexity of our own.” This video by the NASA Earth Observatory, which will take you just six seconds to watch — unless you keep hitting refresh like we did — showcases that dynamic complexity over the course of six months.

You see the eastern hemisphere, from January 18 to July 25, and its subtle changes in weather systems and vegetation. The best part is the clouds — swirling, lovely, mesmerizing clouds. Good job, Earth. You’re pretty awesome.

WATCH: Breath-taking NASA Timelapse Video Shows a Star Exploding

TIME Environment

Check Out the Freezing Cold Place Where Scientists Found Life

There are close to 4,000 organisms living in the lake, which hasn’t seen sunlight for millions of years

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A subglacial lake 800 meters beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet has been discovered to contain “viable microbial ecosystems,” according to the National Science Foundation, which funded the project. The findings are the result of a 2013 drilling expedition in which researchers used a sterile, hot water drill to reach and collect samples from Lake Whillans, in the west part of the continent.

Researchers for project Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) found organisms that feed off of rocks for energy and use Carbon Dioxide as a carbon source in water and sediment samples from the lake.

TIME Environment

Scientists Discover Microbes in a Subglacial Antarctic Lake

Ice floes floating on water
Ice floating in Ross Sea, Antarctica on June 15, 2014. De Agostini—Getty Images

It could help point to the possibilities of life on other planets

The frozen desert of Antarctica is challenging enough for life — never mind conditions beneath that ice-bound mass. But NBC News reports that a recent discovery by scientists reveals the water beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to be swarming with microbes.

The findings, published in Nature, reveal that a diverse microbe ecosystem of 4,000 distinct species exists in subglacial Lake Whillans, which lies beneath 800 m of ice. The chemoautotrophs — organisms that gain sustenance from minerals found in the water instead of from sunlight — could also hint to the possibility of life on other planets, National Geographic reports. Scientists say that the conditions that the microbes live in could be similar to those in frozen lakes found on Europa or Enceladus, Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons respectively.

“The report is a landmark for the polar sciences,” Martyn Tranter, a professor at the University of Bristol (who was not involved in the study), wrote in a commentary in Nature.

Tranter added that the discovery also raised “the question of whether microbes could eat rock beneath ice sheets on extraterrestrial bodies such as Mars.”

The researchers will continue to survey Lake Whillan next winter in search of other organisms that could further point to the varying possibilities of life.

TIME Science

Here’s What a Jellyfish Sting Looks Like in Slow-Motion

Microscope shows a close-up of the tiny, venom-filled barbs penetrating your skin

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If you’re afraid of getting stung by a jellyfish, just wait until you know what’s actually happening.

Going viral now is a video by the YouTube channel SmarterEveryDay that shows scientists at James Cook University in Australia using a high-speed camera to capture microscopic footage of the stinging process — in which small barbs on the jellyfishes’ tentacles called nematocysts thrust out as the victim brushes by. In other words, when you get stung by a jellyfish, you’re basically getting stabbed by hundreds of venom-filled, hypodermic needles.

Even better? It all happens within 11 milliseconds.

MORE: Can We Learn to Love The Jellyfish?

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