SciTech Briefs

International Space Station finds signs of dark matter

A cosmic ray detector aboard the International Space Station has found significant signs of dark matter.

Dark matter is a form of matter that is both invisible and hard to detect. In fact, aside from these signs, no evidence has yet been found of its existence. Scientists believe that dark matter must fill space, because they have no other way to account for various phenomena, including gravitational tugs on galaxies. Scientists surmise that the total mass of dark matter throughout the universe is five times more than the total mass of ordinary matter.

There is still doubt that the detected signs point to the existence of dark matter. Experiment chief Samuel Ting, a Nobel Laureate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes that the experiment involving the cosmic ray detector is proceeding smoothly and will be able to produce enough data to settle the dark matter mystery.

“[These are] beautiful results, but we are not there yet in terms of identifying the dark matter,” said Michael Turner, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago.

Source: USA Today

Scientists use 3-D printer to make tissue-like material

Scientists at Oxford University have used a custom-made 3-D printer to make a material that resembles living tissue. The material consists of thousands of water droplets encapsulated within lipid films that are able to perform some functions of human cells.

These droplet networks are completely synthetic, so they don’t have a genome and don’t replicate. As a result, they are immune to problems that plague other types of artificial tissues, like those from stem cells.

Currently, the droplets are five times the size of living cells, but the researchers believe the size can be reduced. The synthetic material can also be molded into different shapes after printing.

Source: The Sunday Morning Herald

Apple’s iMessage causes federal surveillance problems

Apple’s iMessage is so securely encrypted that federal agencies have problems conducting court-authorized surveillance of suspects.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that over 300 billion messages have been sent since iMessage was announced in mid 2011. Apple stresses that the messages were not intended to be impossible for the government to decrypt. All Apple’s software does is allow for encrypted communication between Apple users and ensure the privacy of their messages. On the contrary, Federal agents are able to intercept the telephone calls or text messages that phone companies generally deliver as unencrypted audio. However, this lack of encryption also does not stop unauthorized entities from intercepting communication.

Moving away from encryption will be a step backward for user privacy, but officials with the FBI are pushing for legislation regarding more efficient surveillance facilities. Apple maintaining a duplicate set of messages for use by law enforcement is a feasible alternative.

Source: CNET news

NASA plans to tow asteroid into Earth’s orbit

NASA plans to launch a robotic spaceship that will drag a small asteroid toward Earth so astronauts can explore it.

After identifying an appropriate asteroid, NASA will send a specially designed spaceship to bring it closer to Earth. This mission will help NASA develop the capability to modify the orbit of asteroids and will be useful in ensuring that no major asteroid hits Earth in the future. The fears of an asteroid hitting the earth have heightened since an asteroid exploded over the Chelyabinsk region in Russia earlier this year, causing widespread damage and injury.

According to researchers, the plans include not only learning how to deflect an asteroid, but also develop ways to go to Mars.

Source: New York Daily News