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Friday, May 22nd

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Shrinking funds pull plug on alien search devices

Alien search deviceIn the mountains of Northern California, a field of radio dishes that look like giant dinner plates waited for years for the first call from intelligent life among the stars. But they're not listening anymore.

Cash-strapped governments, it seems, can no longer pay the interstellar phone bill. Astronomers at the SETI Institute said a steep drop in state and federal funds has forced the shutdown of the Allen Telescope Array, a powerful tool in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, an effort scientists refer to as SETI.

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Dry ice lake suggests Mars once had a ‘Dust Bowl’

Mars dry ice lakeMars today has a brutal environment — frigid, arid and, because of its very thin atmosphere, constantly bombarded by lethal radiation. But it was worse 600,000 years ago, according to new research that suggests the planet had a far dustier, stormier atmosphere.

“It was an unpleasant place to hang out,” said lead researcher Roger Phillips of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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Plans For World's Most Powerful Rocket Unveiled

World's most powerful rocket planned

The private rocket company SpaceX says its next rocket will be the most powerful in the world. The new rocket, called the Falcon Heavy, is designed to carry up to about twice as much weight as a NASA space shuttle can take to orbit. It's expected to be at the launchpad at the end of next year for its first flight, with the launch likely coming in 2013.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described his company's new rocket during a press conference in Washington, D.C. He says it will be able to take about 117,000 pounds to orbit.

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Gravity satellite yields 'Potato Earth' view

Potato earthIt  looks like a giant potato in space. And yet, the information in this model is the sharpest view we have of how gravity varies across the Earth. The globe has been released by the team working on Europe's Goce satellite.

It is a highly exaggerated rendering, but it neatly illustrates how the tug we feel from the mass of rock under our feet is not the same in every location.

Gravity is strongest in yellow areas; it is weakest in blue ones.

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Power Plant: One Small Leaf Could Electrify an Entire Home

Power Plant: One Small Leaf Could Electrify an Entire Home

A team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed what it describes as the first practical artificial leaf. The device, made from silicon, electronics and catalysts, is the same size and shape as a playing card, but thinner.

It splits water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. These are then stored in a fuel cell and used later to generate electricity. "It's really cool stuff -- they're taking a solar cell and turning it into a battery," Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld.

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U.S. develops "panic button" for democracy activists

U.S. develops "panic button" for democracy activists

Some day soon, when pro-democracy campaigners have their cellphones confiscated by police, they'll be able to hit the "panic button" -- a special app that will both wipe out the phone's address book and emit emergency alerts to other activists.

The panic button is one of the new technologies the U.S. State Department is promoting to equip pro-democracy activists in countries ranging from the Middle East to China with the tools to fight back against repressive governments.

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Lack of data from Japan distresses nuclear experts

Nuclear scientists and policy experts say the quality and quantity of information coming out of Fukushima has left gaping holes in their understanding of the nuclear disaster nearly two weeks after it began.

At the same time, they say, the depth of the crisis has clearly been growing, judging by releases of radioactivity that by some measures have reached half the level of those released in the Chernobyl accident of 1986, according to new analysis by European and American scientists.

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