Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Meta-analysis shows psychotherapy leads to long-term personality change

August 23rd, 2017

Enlarge / Even Lego clowns need therapy sometimes. (credit: Pascal / Flickr)

If you’ve ever wondered whether psychotherapy achieves meaningful, long-term change in a person’s life, wonder no more: combined evidence from multiple studies suggest that it does. A meta-analysis published recently in Psychological Bulletin reports that a variety of different therapeutic techniques results in positive changes to personality, especially when it comes to neuroticism, that last over a considerable period of time.

Personality is, as your intuition might tell you, relatively stable—people who start out gregarious and adventurous tend to stay gregarious and adventurous throughout their lives. Assessments of people’s personality traits taken at different times tend to agree pretty well with each other. But that doesn’t mean personality is static: personal growth, life experiences, and age all play their part, and people’s personalities do change somewhat throughout their lives—usually for the better.

An OCEAN of change

But it can be tricky to work out precisely what is being evaluated in measures of personality like the “Big Five” of Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (“OCEAN”). Any personality questionnaire will come up with metrics that capture both someone’s stable, long-term tendencies (their traits), as well as how they are feeling in a given moment or phase in their life (their state). So, it’s not enough to find that therapy brings about personality changes—it’s also necessary to figure out how deep those changes go.

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Posted in Behavioral science, Biology, Psychology, science | Comments (0)

Satellites that can image Earth at night, and through clouds, near launch

August 23rd, 2017

Enlarge / A rendering of ICEYE’s SAR micro satellite deployed in space. (credit: ICEYE)

The biggest thing in aerospace these days is the trend toward small things, from small satellites to small satellite launch vehicles like those under development by Rocket Lab, Virgin Galactic, and Vector Space Systems. Now a new microsatellite company, ICEYE, says it is moving forward with development and deployment of its synthetic-aperture radar technology.

On Wednesday morning, the Finland-based company will announce that it has raised $13 million in a new round of funding, including investments from space capital firms such as True Ventures, Lifeline Ventures, Space Angels, and Draper Associates. Since its founding in 2015, the company has raised $18.7 million.

In an interview with Ars, the company’s chief executive and cofounder, Rafal Modrzewski, said ICEYE plans to launch its technology within the next 12 months. It intends to begin the launch of a full constellation by 2019. “For the first two years we were mainly a technology company, and we were working with customers to find their needs,” he said. “Now we have matured the idea.”

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The solar eclipse produced some fantastic photos—here are our favorites

August 22nd, 2017

NASA/Bill Ingalls

On Monday, Ars writers shared some thoughts about the total solar eclipse that spanned the United States with readers and took some backyard photographs of the event. But let’s be honest, none of us are professional photographers, and didn’t possess the right equipment to do the celestial event justice.

Fortunately, there’s a space agency for that. Two, even. And on Monday NASA and the European Space Agency deployed their resources on the ground and in space to capture the eclipse, doing so in stunning fashion. This gallery highlights everything from the International Space Station transiting the Sun during the eclipse, to astronauts on board the station itself taking pictures of the event back on Earth.

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The solar eclipse produced some fantastic photos—here are our favorites

August 22nd, 2017

NASA/Bill Ingalls

On Monday, Ars writers shared some thoughts about the total solar eclipse that spanned the United States with readers and took some backyard photographs of the event. But let’s be honest, none of us are professional photographers, and didn’t possess the right equipment to do the celestial event justice.

Fortunately, there’s a space agency for that. Two, even. And on Monday NASA and the European Space Agency deployed their resources on the ground and in space to capture the eclipse, doing so in stunning fashion. This gallery highlights everything from the International Space Station transiting the Sun during the eclipse, to astronauts on board the station itself taking pictures of the event back on Earth.

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I was one of the first humans to see a solar eclipse in virtual reality

August 21st, 2017

Enlarge / Look all you want… in VR, this kind of view of the Sun is completely safe to stare at.

I’ve been told that being present for a total eclipse of the Sun is a life-changing experience. But I wasn’t able to get my act together to travel to the path of totality for today’s event. Luckily, I am part of the first generation to be able to experience an eclipse vicariously through the magic of virtual reality. While seeing a total eclipse in VR wasn’t exactly a life-changing experience, it was one of the best examples I’ve seen of the power and promise of live, 360-degree video.

I first tried to view CNN’s 360-degree Facebook Live video coverage of the eclipse on my Oculus Rift. Despite numerous tries, though, the livestream never showed up as a choice on the list of “New” or “Top Pick” videos available on the Oculus Video app. Without a built-in search function or any way to navigate to a specific URL or some such, viewing the eclipse on the Rift was a bust.

As a backup, I dug out the latest Samsung Gear VR headset and a Galaxy S7 Edge. While I waited for some necessary updates to download, I was able to watch CNN’s “VR” coverage in a simple Web browser window. I used the mouse to tilt the virtual camera between the people on the ground and the Sun in the sky. Having control of the viewpoint was nice, but watching through a small window on a laptop screen didn’t really feel all that different from watching similar coverage on TV.

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Total eclipse of the Ars

August 21st, 2017

Enlarge (credit: John Timmer)

Our staff is sharing its eclipse stories and photos from today. The post will be updated as more come in.

OAKLAND, Calif.—Oakland  and the surrounding Bay Area are well-known for morning fog, particularly in the summertime. So despite having two telescopes and the helpful staff at the Chabot Space & Science Center, the clouds unfortunately didn’t cooperate. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop hundreds of people from gathering along the observation deck, near the historic telescopes named Leah and Rachel. Most people had brought protective eyewear or had made pinhole boxes, but with the cloud cover blocking the Sun anyway, they quickly figured out that they wouldn’t be able to see the Sun with them on. Attendees squealed and yelped with joy as they attempted to view what was left of the Sun peeking out from behind the Moon and the thick white cloud cover. Your correspondent caught a few glimpses of the partially-eclipsed and cloud-covered Sun for just a few moments.

Meanwhile, my sister-in-law, Kelly Guyon, 28, who traveled north from Oakland, California, to Madras, Oregon, to observe totality, has declared herself an “eclipse chaser” now.

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So, you’re not seeing the eclipse today …

August 21st, 2017

Enlarge / Path of a solar eclipse totality in April, 2024. (credit: EclipseWise.com)

Despite all the hype surrounding Monday’s solar eclipse—and it has become nearly inescapable—most Americans will not see the totality. This is unfortunate, because the Sun disappearing during the middle of the day is truly a moving experience. But if you’re not seeing it today, don’t feel too bad—you’re not alone.

Only about 12 million people live within the 110km-wide path of totality that runs across the United States, from Oregon through South Carolina. By various estimates, an additional 1.8 to 7.4 million people will travel into the path of totality to view the eclipse. This means only about 6 percent of the United States population will see a total eclipse on Monday.

So if you’re missing out, rest assured that most other Americans are, too. Also, you should start planning ahead. Because while it has been nearly a century since a total eclipse spanned the continental United States, we won’t wait that long again. Here’s a look at what lies ahead.

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Get out of the office, see the eclipse

August 20th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: NASA)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that August 21 will treat much of the United States to a partial or total solar eclipse. The total eclipse will be visible along a path that stretches from the Oregon-Washington border to South Carolina.

But even if you’re not on the path of totality, you’d have to be in northern Maine to see more than half the Sun during the eclipse. New York City is over 1,000 kilometers from South Carolina, but we’re still going to have over 70 percent of the Sun hidden.

Rather than rehash all the details—or warning you again not to look at the Sun without protection—we here at Ars are simply going to urge you to stop what you’re doing and step outside if you’re anywhere in North America. Even if it’s cloudy. Even if you haven’t gotten organized enough to obtain eclipse glasses.

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A gallery of Voyagers greatest hits—and they are truly great

August 20th, 2017

NASA

Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2 which, at the time, confused the heck out of the press and public because it actually launched before Voyager 1. Why did they launch the second probe first? Because Voyager 2 was going to follow a longer trajectory to reach the Jupiter system, allowing it to fly by Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Voyager 1 launched 16 days later on a faster track optimized to fly by Jupiter, Saturn, and make a relatively close pass of Saturn’s intriguing moon Titan.

The missions, of course, were smashing successes. Voyager 1 reached Jupiter on March 5, 1979, about four months before its twin. Scientists weren’t sure what they would find out there. Pioneer 10 and 11 had given them some insights about Jupiter and Saturn as gas giants, but little information was known about the many moons of these worlds. Most scientists thought they would probably be a lot like the cold, dark, and lifeless moons of Earth and Mars.

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NASA’s Voyagers: 35 years of inspiration [Update: Now it’s 40]

August 19th, 2017

(credit: National Geographic)

This weekend, NASA’s historic Voyager spacecrafts celebrate their 40th year in space. The missions have given humanity many awe-inspiring discoveries in those four decades, and Voyager 1 and 2 have inspired infinite further initiatives or related works, too (such as a great new documentary debuting this week). To celebrate the occasion, we’re resurfacing this appreciation from 2012 that details another thing Voyager forever inspired: our science editor.

August 20, 1977 turned out to be a before-and-after moment for me—and probably a lot of other people as well. None of us knew it at the time, though, since the launch of Voyager 2 (followed a few weeks later by Voyager 1) wasn’t obviously a big deal to most people. In fact, I wouldn’t fully appreciate the change until sometime in 1980.

To understand why, a bit of history is in order. NASA had been sending probes to other planets, like the Mariner and Pioneer series, since the 1960s. However, even the best technology of the time was pretty limited in terms of what it could do remotely. And for most of that time, they were badly overshadowed by manned exploration, first the Apollo missions and Skylab, and later the planning for the space shuttle. In fact, even as the Voyagers flew past Jupiter, I seem to recall more attention being paid to the impending de-orbit of Skylab, which scattered charred pieces of itself over Australia later that year.

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