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The Chronic Scientist
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Fifty years ago, Henry Rogers stepped off an elevator into an inferno.

A quality control inspector at NASA, Rogers had been working during a routine launch simulation test for Apollo 1, the first manned Apollo mission, at Cape Canaveral in Florida. But while he was in the elevator, a fire had broken out in the spacecraft cabin. By the time Rogers stepped out into the white room—the area of the shuttle tower that connects with the cabin—flames were erupting and black smoke filled the room.

“He could have gotten back on the elevator and escaped to safety, knowing the dangers involved, but he didn't hesitate,” the late Stephen Clemmons, a spacecraft mechanical technician who was also there that night, wrote in a 2004 essay. “Instead he made his way through the smoke and fire and began to help any way he could. He had not been trained on how to get the hatches off, but he tried.”

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Normal crystals, likes diamond, are an atomic lattice that repeats in space, but physicists recently suggested making materials that repeat in time. Last year, UC Berkeley's Norman Yao sketched out the phases surrounding a time crystal and what to measure in order to confirm that this new material is actually a stable phase of matter. This stimulated two teams to build a time crystal, the first examples of a non-equilibrium form of matter.

To most people, crystals mean diamond bling, semiprecious gems or perhaps the jagged amethyst or quartz crystals beloved by collectors.

To Norman Yao, these inert crystals are the tip of the iceberg.

If crystals have an atomic structure that repeats in space, like the carbon lattice of a diamond, why can't crystals also have a structure that repeats in time? That is, a time crystal?

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Squeezed between two pieces of diamond, hydrogen has been transformed into a metallic form believed to exist inside giant planets like Jupiter, scientists reported on Thursday.

“You can see it becomes a lustrous, shiny material, which is what you expect for a metal,” said Isaac F. Silvera, a professor of physics at Harvard.

If some theoretical predictions turn out to be true, the new state of hydrogen could even be a solid metal that is metastable — remaining solid even after the crushing pressure is removed — and a superconductor, able to conduct electricity without resistance, Dr. Silvera said.

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During his first few years on the air, talk show host Dick Cavett might have imagined his worst moment as a broadcaster would remain the night when actors Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, and John Cassavetes showed up for a taping drunk and incoherent. Things got so bad that at one point Cavett walked off his own show.

That was September 18, 1970. Less than a year later, Cavett would outdo himself. Interviewing New York Post columnist Pete Hamill, Cavett and his guest stopped momentarily to regard the odd behavior of the man sitting a few feet away. Jerome Rodale, who had just spent 30 minutes talking to Cavett about the organic food lifestyle he promoted, was snoring loudly.

That was funny only during the brief time it took for Cavett to realize Rodale’s color was pallid and that his head was slumped listlessly against his shoulder. Moments after the 72-year-old had declared he “never felt better in my life,” Rodale was dead, having expired in full view of ABC's cameras.

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NASA just announced that any published research funded by the space agency will now be available at no cost, launching a new public web portal that anybody can access.

The free online archive comes in response to a new NASA policy, which requires that any NASA-funded research articles in peer-reviewed journals be publicly accessible within one year of publication.

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And then there were five.

Five privately funded teams have secured verified launch contracts to blast their robotic spacecraft toward the moon, keeping them eligible for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP), contest organizers announced today (Jan. 24).

The remaining teams are Florida-based Moon Express, Israel's SpaceIL, India's Team Indus, Hakuto of Japan and the international outfit Synergy Moon. Eleven other teams had been in the running, but they failed to lock up a verified launch deal by the deadline of Dec. 31, 2016.

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We are now in a day and age where cyborg insects no longer even raise an eyebrow. Hell, you can order kits! But this particular cyborg insect is especially interesting: a dragonfly that has been modified inside and out to follow the path programmed into a solar-powered electronic backpack the size of a fingernail.

Previous experiments in this area have generally taken one of two approaches. One is to create a higher-level drive in the organism to move in a given direction otherwise in its own fashion — the other is to activate the movements directly by tapping into the muscles or neural interfaces in the legs themselves. In the first case, the insect can get used to those urges and eventually ignore them; in the second, efficient natural movement is replaced with clumsy artificial stumbling.

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Inspired by the success of Women's Marches held worldwide in support of women's rights and other causes, and in light of numerous moves apparently aimed at silencing, minimizing, defunding, or discrediting the work of scientists during President Trump's first week in office, numerous groups and individuals have proposed holding a "March for Science" or "Scientists' March on Washington".

As reported by the Washington Post, the idea went viral almost immediately after it was conceived:

In short order, the march had a Facebook page (whose membership swelled [overnight] from 200 people to more than 150,000 by ]the following afternoon]), a Twitter handle, a web site, two co-chairs, [postdoc Jonathan] Berman and science writer and public health researcher Caroline Weinberg, and a Google form through which interested researchers could sign up to help.

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News reports have suggested that the Trump administration is placing communication "gags" on science agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but at the country's space agency, things seem to be "business as usual."

That's according to a statement made at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Seattle this week. According to industry watchdog SpaceNews, the director of NASA's Earth science division, Michael Freilich said: "Nobody has told us to change anything we are doing. Keep doing your work, keep making advances, keep building credibility."

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