News for Nerds - The 'Platinum Asteroid' Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 1/25/2013 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The 'Platinum Asteroid' Edition

Welcome back! This week we unveil new facial recognition technology, uncover a weird fact about scientific fraud, and try to understand why someone would build a life-size train car in their basement. But first, here are your headlines.

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Believe it or not, the next big frontier in space exploration may not be other galaxies, or even other planets. It might be asteroids.

This week, a company called Deep Space Industries (DSI) announced plans to survey, and eventually mine, asteroids. And they're not the first. Last year another company announced similar ambitions. If all goes well, prospecting missions could start as soon as 2015, with actual excavation beginning the following year.

So why is this a big deal? For a few reasons. First, there's the simple issue of mining valuable resources, like platinum and silicon. There are about 1,700 asteroids that come close enough to the Earth that reaching them wouldn't take any more effort than a trip to the moon.

Beyond that, there's a more immediately useful resource that astronomers would like to tap into -- water ice. It currently costs about $10,000 for every pound of water that NASA sends into space. If we could tap into extraterrestrial sources of water, it would be a huge money saver. It would also potentially allow for the production (in space) of rocket fuel, which could extend the lives of communications satellites or allow deep space explorers to travel even greater distances.

Here's astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talking with Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning:

- story from The Christian Science Monitor

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Speaking of valuable resources, here's another one we can't seem to get enough of: sleep.

It's a bit of an old wives' tale that drinking alcohol in the evening can help lead to a good night's sleep. Well, according to new research from the London Sleep Centre, following that strategy will do more harm than good.

Drawing on various studies involving more than 500 people, scientists found that regardless of how much people drank, alcohol reduced the amount of time it took to fall asleep. However, sleep disruption (i.e. waking up after initially falling asleep) increased during the second half of the night.

Moreover, drinking moderate to high doses of alcohol reduced overall Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which is thought to be important for memory. You've been warned.

- from LiveScience

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Here are a few other cool science stories you might enjoy:

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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!

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