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Gaia Mission To Launch In November – On Science

October 22, 2013

Snapping and mapping the stars.

Flickr for research.

Looking for love online.

And we’re taking a lot of pictures, today…On Science!

Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.

Stars are getting ready for their close-up. The European Space Agency announced it will launch its Gaia mission on November 20. What’s Gaia’s goal? To create a highly accurate 3D map of the Milky Way like never before. The spacecraft sports two telescopes that feed into a nearly billion-pixel digital camera – the largest camera ever flown in space. Gaia will be observing a billion stars to determine their positions in space and their movement through it. It will also use additional instruments to access certain star properties such as temperature, luminosity, and composition. This info will allow astronomers to determine the origin and evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy. The story is in the stars…that sounds nice. ESA says they’re anxiously going through their final checklist and getting ready for the launch. Stars say cheese! That one’s going in my Flickr album.

In fact, a few scientists are finding Flickr helpful in their research. A group of researchers at Stanford University have launched the Natural Capital Project, aimed at figuring out how tourists are using natural areas for recreation and tourism. Using vacation photos from the social media site Flickr, they are looking for a variety of useful information including where people were going, when they were going and where they were coming from in 1.4 million geo-tagged images on the site. That’s a lot of pics to sift through. Researchers said they already have a grasp on how manmade tourist attractions affect the local economy, but they wanted to see how natural areas like parks and beaches contribute. Usually conducting research like this would involve on-site studies, but researchers say that this study shows how social media can revolutionize the way we study people making it faster, less expensive, and better for looking at changes over time and space.

Speaking of pictures…What do you think of this one for my online dating profile? Sometimes online dating gets a bad rap but a new report says love may be waiting online. The Pew Research Center reports that nearly 25 percent of online daters find a long-term relationship or spouse. They report that 1 in 10 Americans have used online dating. Of those, sixty-six percent went out on a date with someone they met online. The survey also found that attitudes are shifting more toward the positive for online dating. Fifty-nine percent of internet users polled agreed that “online dating is a good way to meet people.” That’s up 15 points from 2005. And 53% agreed people find a better match because they get to know people better. But ladies you still have to watch out for creepers. Forty-two percent of women reported an uncomfortable online dating encounter as opposed to 17% of men. Maybe it’s worth giving a shot! Don’t knock it until you try it, right?

There’s hope for love, and now, hope for hair loss. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have outlined a revolutionary new hair restoration method that uses a patient’s own cells to generate new human hair. This new method is particularly good news for women with hair loss, as well as men in the early stages of baldness. Hair transplant surgery often doesn’t work for women due to lack of donor hair. The method involves cloning the cells from dermal papillae in tissue culture then transplanting them back into the dermis and epidermis of human skin. Lab tests successfully resulted in hair growth that lasted at least six weeks. These tests were done on lab rats and researchers say there still needs to be human testing before it can be a viable method for humans.

And it’s a robotic revolution today On Science. A spin-off from Willow Garage called Unbounded Robotics has developed a more affordable robot. The UBR-1 is a human scale, one-armed robot with a mobile-manipulation platform and at $35,000 is 1/10th the cost of its predecessor the PR2 by Willow Garage. It has a 3Dsensor in its head, can pick objects up off the floor with its arm that boasts 7 degrees of rotation, and it has stereo microphones and a stereo speaker. He’s a smooth operator, no? Unbounded Robotics said yeah duh, the robot is going to be compared to the PR2 since they are Willow Garage alumni, but when you compare the specs “PR2 has two arms and costs almost $400,000 and UBR-1 has one arm and costs $35,000.” Well, I guess there’s not much more to be said.

And with that we’ll close today’s episode of On Science! Have a great one, science geeks ;)



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