NASA studies solar flare dangers to Earth-based technology

 The National Academy of Sciences, under direction by NASA, has concluded the first economic data study on solar activity and the Earth. The report quantifies the effects fluctuations in the Sun's magnetic field have on our planet and is looking for ways to prevent damage from this "extreme space weather."

Secure World Foundation looks to future of smooth collaboration

Many may be unaware there's an organization called Secure World Foundation (SWF). It's a private entity fostering cooperative and effective use of space exploration by all States to the benefit of the Earth, its security and mankind in general. In June 2008, SWF was granted permanent observer status to the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). They also chair the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). Primarily a research body, SWF is now looking to 2009 and the Obama administration and growing relationships with all member states.

IE falls below 69% market share, Firefox climbs above 21%

Microsoft was not able to slow the market share loss of its Internet Explorer (IE) web browser in December. IE surrendered more than 1.5 points in December, according to Net Applications, while Firefox, Chrome and Safari posted substantial gains. Over the past 12 months, IE has lost almost 8 points, leaving the browser with the least amount of market share since 1999.

Obama wants Pentagon and NASA to play nice for moon race

 NASA's chief Michael Griffin, rumored in December by four witnesses to have had a red faced meeting with Obama's transition team leader, Lori Garver, is again resisting what may turn out to be standard policy in the Obama administration. Obama seeks a type of merger between the civilian space agency and the military. Under Obama's vision, NASA and The Pentagon will join forces, sharing expenses, to foster our return to the moon by the year 2020, a date competing with China's effort.

IBM's Jack Kuehler dies, 76

 Following a long illness, Jack Kuehler who led IBM to major worldwide successes in the 1980s, essentially re-inventing the company, has died. He is survived by his wife, five children and 12 grandchildren.

Flash growth to slow, SSDs not selling as well as expected

DRAMeXchange has revised its Flash bit growth forecast once again, from 108.2% in September to only 81%, which is less than half the growth rate the sector posted just two years ago. The market research firm said that the new number reflects a declining demand of consumer electronics.

Update - China: New $659 million wind farm will pay for itself in 2 years

 The National Energy Administration has approved a plan allowing China Datang Corp, the nation's second biggest power producer, to construct a $659 million wind farm facility that will generate 400 megawatts. At $0.10/kWh, it will pay for itself in about two years.

New reports concludes Columbia crew had no chance for survival

A new 400-page report written by the Spacecraft Crew Survival Integrated Investigation Team (SCSIIT) formed by NASA details the circumstances of the explosion of space shuttle Columbia. The report concludes that the crew had no chance of survival and died quickly. However, the report also suggests 30 improvements to make future spaceflight safer.

2009 forecast to be fifth warmest on record

 The Met Office and the University of East Anglia are forecasting that global temperatures for 2009 will be 0.4 degrees Celsius above the long-term average, making 2009 the 5th warmest year on record.

NASA: Pictures of a job well done in 2008

 On July 29, 1958, with the stroke of a pen, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law, creating NASA. Since then, man has set foot on the moon, launched probes throughout our solar system, has found evidence of water on Mars (suggesting it may have supported life) and now our own planet's satellite communication system allows us to speak with any person literally anywhere on the Earth. All of this in the organization's first 50 years. Imagine what the next 50 will bring.

Update: Mars Rovers approaching five years of service, still kicking

 The two Mars rovers operating right now on the surface of Mars, Spirit and Opportunity, will turn five the 3rd and 24th respectively. Their original 90-days of service has been surpassed by more than 20x as both rovers still carry out missions even today on the red planet - weather permitting, of course. See the slideshow.

How does NORAD track Santa's journey?

Each year children all over the globe patiently await the images of Santa on the television screen via satellite radar. Each year, the question is posed - how do they track Santa? This year, you’ll be able to explain.

How serious is the market share loss of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer?

Analysis – Last month, Microsoft’s market share in the browser dropped below 70% for the first time in eight years, while Mozilla broke the 20% barrier for the first time in its history. Initial data sets provided by Net Applications suggest that the Internet Explorer will drop once again significantly in December to below 69% and Mozilla will climb above 21%. IE8 is just around the corner, but current market share data suggests that Microsoft has no effective tool to stop the bleeding at this time - and Mozilla can pick up two out of every three users Microsoft surrenders.

Artificial bone marrow created, can grow blood keeping supplies high

 In a University of Michigan laboratory, scientists have created artificial bone marrow that's capable of creating a continuous supply of red and white blood cells. Such technology could enable a neverending supply of blood for transfusions, as well as better studies of pharmaceutical drugs and their interactions, as well as advanced studies on immune system defects.

New laser discovery shines unexpected light on laser research

 A research team led by Princeton University has discovered a new type of double-beam laser that is not explained by existing theories. The findings were most unexpected and have now proven the second laser beam is actually more powerful and more efficient than the primary. Research is continuing at a feverish pace to bring this quantum cascade laser into reality, as it would require less power, be far more powerful while operating in a way less suceptible to temperature changes (compared to conventional lasers).

Maiden flight of Burt Rutan's WhiteKnightTwo at Mojave

 Following low-speed maneuvers earlier this month at the Mojave air and spaceport yesterday, Burt Rutan's next generation privately funded spaceship, called SpaceShipTwo, has been brought one step closer to reality. It's mother ship, called WhiteKnightTwo, which will carry SpaceShipTwo, took off yesterday on her maiden flight.

Opinion: A look at television history, from analog to digital

 In 1927 a man by the name of Philo Farnsworth patented an early version of the cathode receptor, a device which would change mankind forever. It allowed television signals to be encoded, broadcast through the air, and reassembled on a display. While similar competing inventions existed, Farnsworth's "Image dissector" patent was upheld in court, and he is largely credited as the man responsible for giving us television. That was just over 81 years ago, meaning many of our (great) grandparents will remember the days before TV.

Gesture recognition sought as alternative input mechanism for disabled

 The Virtual and Interactive Simulations department at Macquarie University in Sydney is looking to help handicapped computer users by incorporating gesture recognition. The system involves body position analysis as well as assisted input, such as data gloves.

MIT's "Next Giant Leap" team announced, will try to claim Google's Lunar X-Prize

 MIT announced today their "mystery team." It's a group of of engineers from MIT, an aerospace company and various small businesses with one goal in mind: to win the Google Lunar X-Prize competition and claim its $30 million award. The "Next Giant Leap" team, as it is being called - a play on Armstrong's famous "...one giant leap for mankind" speech, is comprised of MicroSat Systems, Draper Laboratory, Aurora Flight Sciences and Busek - a propulsion company.

Study: YouTube watching excessive at work, companies looking to curtail

 It happens all over the country. Individuals take a quick break from their normal work duties to surf the web and check out a couple YouTube videos, or send a message on Facebook. But is this trend causing a backlash for employers? Companies have long frowned on the time required for workers to step outside for a smoke. And now those same workers don’t even have to step outside to waste far more time. Companies are beginning to seek out ways to respond.