November 6th, 2012
10:46 AM ET

Where the candidates stand on America’s future in space

Zaina Adamu, CNN

Both President Obama and Mitt Romney remained mostly silent when it came to discussing concrete space-related plans while on their political campaign trails this year. But both candidates did release space policy papers, which outline their vision for the future of NASA and space exploration.

They both agree that partnering with private sectors is good for U.S. space programs. In other issues, though, there are clear distinctions.

Here’s a look at each candidate’s position on space exploration.
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Filed under: News • Politics and Policy
What Obama’s and Romney’s hands can tell us about the future of our country
June 25th, 2012
05:15 PM ET

What Obama’s and Romney’s hands can tell us about the future of our country

Editor’s Note: Dario Maestripieri is professor of comparative human development, evolutionary biology, neurobiology, and psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago. He is the author of "Games Primates Play: An Undercover Investigation of the Evolution and Economics of Human Relationships."

What can biology tell us about human behavior? This question can be answered in many different ways depending on what we mean by biology and what aspect of human behavior we are interested in. For example, in my recent book "Games Primates Play: An Undercover Investigation of the Evolution and Economics of Human Relationships," I discuss how our evolutionary history, our genes and our close relatedness to other species of primates can explain the way we behave in our social relationships with our relatives and friends, with business and romantic partners, and even with a stranger we’ve just met in an elevator.

On April 3, the day of the Republican primaries in Wisconsin and Maryland, I was interviewed on a radio show in Chicago and asked what biology can tell us about the behavior of the candidates for the next presidential elections. The theme of the show was “trust,” always an important issue in politics. When politicians run for office, they make promises to people about what they will do when they are elected. The problem for us, the people, is to try to predict whether the politicians will actually do what they say they will do. Trust is about trying to predict the future, and that’s not a trivial problem. Are politicians truthful when they make promises in a campaign speech, or do they lie? How can we tell?

It’s been suggested that when people lie, their anxiety and fear of getting caught makes their lies “leak” through their nonverbal behavior. For example, when people are lying to someone, they might avoid direct eye contact with this person or show signs of nervousness, such as scratching their heads or playing with their keychain. People who are highly trained to give verbal performances in front of audiences, such as actors or politicians, however, have learned to make eye contact with others and to suppress any fidgeting. So, if they lie, they don’t give it away with these signs. But, as I told the host of the radio show, even the bodies of the best liars give away some clues as to what their minds are actually thinking.
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June 23rd, 2012
11:27 AM ET

Indian science: Why you should care

The world snapped to attention two months ago when India announced the successful test of its long-range missile, Agni V.

The BBC declared India had joined the “elite nuclear club.” It was a major historic moment that was telling of India’s technological prowess. But for those aware of advancements made by Indian science, Agni V was not totally out of the blue. India has been making innovations in the fields of space research, nuclear power and neglected diseases.

Indian science has consistently had major political backing. This was apparent earlier this month when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became president of a professional science body. He announced plans to formulate a new science and technology policy at his inauguration ceremony at the 100th session of the Indian Science Congress Association.

“The journey of our development is marked by glittering scientific achievements whether in the field of atomic energy, space, agriculture or information technology,” he said at the ceremony. “The burden on science in the future will only increase. Our problems are overwhelming and need scientific solutions.”

This fervent belief in and respect for science and the push to reap its societal benefits has always been part and parcel of the Indian psyche. It is one of the topics explored in “Geek Nation: How Indian Science is Taking Over the World,” (out now in the United States) by British science journalist Angela Saini.

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Filed under: In Space • News • Politics and Policy
May 28th, 2012
03:10 PM ET

Low levels of Fukushima cesium found in West Coast tuna

Scientists hope to test new samples of Pacific bluefin tuna after low levels of radioactive cesium from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident turned up in fish caught off California in 2011, researchers reported Monday.

The bluefin spawn off Japan, and many migrate across the Pacific Ocean. Tissue samples taken from 15 bluefin caught in August, five months after the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, all contained reactor byproducts cesium-134 and cesium-137 at levels that produced radiation about 3% higher than natural background sources - but well below levels considered dangerous for human consumption, the researchers say.

Cesium-137 has a radioactive half-life of about 30 years, and traces of the isotope still persist from above-ground nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s and '60s. But cesium-134, which has a half-life of only two years, "is inarguably from Fukushima Daiichi," Stanford University marine ecologist Dan Madigan told CNN.

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Filed under: News • On Earth • Politics and Policy
Rocket maker enters spaceflight race
ATK joined a European company called Astrium to create a launch vehicle called Liberty, illustrated above.
May 9th, 2012
07:45 PM ET

Rocket maker enters spaceflight race

If this were a horse race - and in many ways it is - you would say the field just got a little more crowded.

ATK, the company that built the space shuttle solid rocket boosters, has announced it is jumping into the competition to build a spacecraft to take astronauts to the International Space Station. It’s called the Liberty system.

Kent Rominger, a former NASA astronaut who now heads ATK’s Liberty program, said, “It’s more capable than any other option out there.”

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Filed under: In Space • News • Politics and Policy
North Korea's rocket...gone in 81 seconds
April 13th, 2012
12:42 PM ET

North Korea's rocket...gone in 81 seconds

New details emerged Friday about the failed launch of the North Korean rocket. The rocket failed in the second stage of its flight, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Friday.

A different U.S. official told Security Clearance that the rocket failure happened 81 seconds into the flight, based on preliminary U.S. analysis.

The first stage successfully separated from the rocket before the failure, the U.S. official said. That first stage fell into the Yellow Sea approximately 165 kilometers (about 100 miles) west of Seoul, South Korea, according to a statement from U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Based on the U.S. government information, it appears the first stage dropped "well east of the intended path," according to analyst David Wright from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The U.S. are analyzing "precisely what happened along the trajectory," Little told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.

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Politics may be partly genetic, now what?
There are rampant misconceptions attached to the notion that there might be a role for genes in politics, says the author.
April 7th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Politics may be partly genetic, now what?

Editor's Note: Chris Mooney is the author of "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science–and Reality."

Is it possible that, as children, we’re already either “liberal” or “conservative”? Do we actually have at least some elements of a nascent ideology well before we even know what that means?

In the 1882 comic opera Iolanthe, Gilbert and Sullivan planted precisely this idea - long before there was any science to back it up. Here’s their verse – which is, admittedly set in a humorous context:

Nature always does contrive

That every boy and every gal

Who’s born into this world alive

Is either a little liberal

Or else a little conservative!
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NEW LOOK: North Korea's launch pad
GeoEye satellite image of North Korea's rocket launch pad taken on March 20, 2012
March 27th, 2012
10:31 AM ET

NEW LOOK: North Korea's launch pad

A new satellite image of the launch pad expected to be used by North Korea next month shows no sign yet of any launch activity.

Satellite imagery company GeoEye provided CNN a new image of the site from where North Korea's controversial rocket launch will take place.

The image of the Tongch'ang-dong facility was taken on March 20 by GeoEye. It shows no missile or launch vehicle visible, according to an analysis by GlobalSecurity.org's Tim Brown.

"Since we are about three weeks away, and based on previous DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) missile launch preparations, I would not expect to see any noticeable activity at the site until about one week prior to the launch," Brown told Security Clearance.

The imagery obtained from GeoEye, taken on March 20, shows a completed launch pad, and the extension of a 15-mile rail spur that ends at the missile checkout building.

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Filed under: In Space • Politics and Policy
Chinese space program advancing quickly
A Long March 2F rocket carrying a Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in China in October 2011.
March 16th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Chinese space program advancing quickly

The Chinese space program is advancing, and fast, to the point that the country's ambition has become a campaign issue in the United States.

China plans to establish its own space lab around 2016 and assemble a 60-ton manned space station around 2020, when the current International Space Station is estimated to likely retire, the official Xinhua News Agency reported in November. China has also begun efforts to explore the moon using space robotics. The eventual goal: a manned lunar landing.

This exploration comes as the United States has been scaling back its plans and funding for space exploration.

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Nuclear safety lessons explored post-Fukushima
March 9th, 2012
09:14 AM ET

Nuclear safety lessons explored post-Fukushima

As the world reflects a year after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, nuclear energy experts are reevaluating safety issues in the United States.

lengthy report released Thursday for the American Nuclear Society details lessons from Fukushima. The earthquake and tsunami that hit the facility in March of last year lead to the widespread release of radioactive contamination, forcing more than 100,000 people from their homes.

The report recommends a more "risk-informed approach" to emergency planning so that evacuation zone distances wouldn't be preassigned, says Michael Corradini, professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Wisconsin.

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