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Tag: Scientific Method (Page 1 of 288)

Senators buck Sessions, move to protect state medical marijuana laws

Enlarge / U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (credit: Getty | Chip Somodevilla)

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a budget amendment that would prevent the Department of Justice from cracking down on state-legal medical marijuana—likely to the consternation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The amendment prevents the Department of Justice from using any of its funds to prevent states from “implementing a law that authorizes the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” It was added by a voice vote to the 2018 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill.

The amendment is similar to the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was present in an appropriations bill covering fiscal 2017 and has been around for years. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) is also moving a similar amendment through the House.

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Almost time for a “major pucker factor,” as Falcon Heavy readies for launch

Enlarge / Rendering of a Falcon Heavy on the launch pad. (credit: SpaceX)

Thursday night, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted that the Falcon Heavy rocket would make its maiden launch in November from Launch Complex-39A in Florida. Although this event has been long promised by the company, with real hardware being tested and moved across the country, this date finally feels real.

Musk has recently attempted to set expectations for the maiden launch, which will carry a dummy payload because the rocket is so experimental. "I encourage people to come down to the Cape to see the first Falcon Heavy mission," Musk said earlier this month during a talk at the International Space Station Research & Development Conference. "It's guaranteed to be exciting."

The Falcon Heavy is powered by a modified Falcon 9 rocket as its center core, with two Falcon 9 first stages as side boosters. To work, its 27 orbital-class engines must ignite simultaneously, and SpaceX has been conducting tests on the ground. But the challenges don't end there. The company isn't sure about the airflow around the rocket as it goes through the sound barrier, nor how it will handle loads at MaxQ, when the vehicle is under maximum dynamic pressure.

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A brief history of quantum alternatives

Enlarge (credit: Central Press/Getty Images)

In 1915, Albert Einstein, with a ee pittle help from his friends, developed a theory of gravity that overturned what we’d thought were the very foundations of physical reality. The idea that the space that we inhabit was not perfectly described by Euclidean geometry had been inconceivable—so much so that the philosopher Immanuel Kant, a radical thinker in so many ways, proclaimed that it was not possible for any theory of physics to dispense with it.

The physicist Werner Heisenberg later pointed out the implications of Kant’s mistake. The great philosopher had posited that our intuitions about the ancient geometry of Euclid meant that it was the necessary foundation for physical reality. The fact that this turned out to be false called the integrity of Kant’s entire philosophical edifice into question.

Despite their radical break with past ideas of space and time, Einstein’s theories would soon end up lumped in with Newton’s as part of “classical physics.” We needed to do so because there was a revolution in scientific thought so profound that it created a bright line in the history of science: the development of quantum physics.

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Specific area of the brain helps keep the body young

Enlarge (credit: Daniele Meli)

Age may not be a state of mind, but the brain is definitely involved. That's the conclusion of a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, which provides compelling evidence that a specific structure in the brain, called the hypothalamus, plays a significant role in controlling the entire body's aging. The results suggest stem cells play a critical role, but only in part via their ability to generate new neurons.

The results come from researchers at the Bronx's Albert Einstein College of Medicine. They, along with several other labs, have generated evidence that suggested the hypothalamus played a key role in aging. That makes a certain amount of sense: aging is a systemic process, and the hypothalamus contains structures like the pituitary that release hormones that influence the entire body. And there's already been some indications that factors that control the dynamics of aging end up circulating through the blood.

Aging and stem cells

But what controls the timing of aging? One intriguing possibility is that neural stem cells are involved. These stem cells continue to divide and produce new neurons even after the brain is fully developed, but their numbers appear to go down over time (possibly because more of them produce new neurons than are replaced by cell divisions). If the key factors are produced by neural stem cells, then their levels should go down over time, allowing aging to proceed.

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As dominance of launch market looms, SpaceX now valued at $21 billion

Enlarge / Maye Musk and Elon Musk attend the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills. (credit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

After two serious accidents in 2015 and 2016, SpaceX has been on a tear in 2017 with 10 successful launches, including the historic re-flight of two used boosters and a used Dragon spacecraft. These achievements suggest the company is well on its way toward developing low-cost, reusable boosters, and therefore the rocket company founded by Elon Musk may be on the cusp of capturing much of the global launch market.

A new valuation appears to back up this optimism. According to the New York Times, SpaceX recently raised $350 million in additional funding, and during this process the company was valued at $21 billion. This represents a significant increase from 2015, when Google and Fidelity invested $1 billion in SpaceX, valuing the company at $12 billion.

The new report notes that the updated value of SpaceX places the company in rarefied air, as just six other venture-backed companies are valued at $20 billion or more around the world. These companies include US-based companies Uber, Airbnb, Palantir, and WeWork, as well as Chinese firms Didi Chuxing and Xiaomi.

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