Short Science, April 5, 2015

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 April, 2015, 7:45am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 April, 2015, 8:19am

Catastrophic asteroid hunter app released

Nasa has released desktop software that lets "citizen scientists" identify asteroids that might be careening towards earth. Using the Asteroid Data Hunter app - which is free and can be used on any desktop or laptop computer - amateur astronomers can analyse images from their backyard telescopes. If something unexpected shows up, the app offers a way to report it to the Minor Planet Centre at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The centre confirms and archives new discoveries … and we hope will alert the appropriate authorities. The app is based on an algorithm developed in partnership with Planetary Resources of Redmond as part of Nasa's Asteroid Grand Challenge. Washington Post


Mice woo females with song

Scientists have discovered that male mice can sing, using the technique to woo females. The study shows for the first time that mouse song varies depending on the context and that male mice have a specific style of vocalisation reserved for when they smell a female. In turn, females appear to be more interested in this specific style of serenade than other types of squeak that male mice produce. "It is clear that the mouse's ability to vocalise is a lot more limited than a songbird's or human's, and yet it's remarkable that we can find these differences in song complexity," said Erich Jarvis, who led the research, published in the journal Frontiers of Behavioural Neuroscience. The Guardian


'Big bang' collider problem resolved

CERN engineers have resolved a problem that had delayed the relaunch after a two-year refit of the Large Hadron Collider particle smasher, which is probing the mysteries of the universe. The research centre just outside Geneva said a metal fragment that caused an intermittent short circuit in one of the giant magnets in the vast underground complex had been successfully removed. The relaunch of the so-called "Big Bang" machine had to be postponed because of the problem. CERN said that after new tests on all the circuits in the area where the fault appeared, the way would be clear for proton particles to be sent in opposite directions right around the machine's 27km underground tubes. However, proton particle collisions at twice the power of the first runs, which brought the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson, will not begin until May, physicists say. These collisions, at almost the speed of light, create the chaotic conditions close to those that followed the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, from which the universe eventually emerged. Among the aims of scientists at the revamped collider is to establish the existence of the unseen dark matter that makes up around 96 per cent of the stuff of the universe. Reuters