Science & Technology

Reports focusing on the latest science and technology news and trends along California's Central Coast.

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The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, located beneath the border of France and Switzerland, was restarted this spring with a goal of making scientific history—once again.

The facility achieved that goal a few years ago when researchers found evidence that the Higgs boson, or “god particle", exists.

United Launch Alliance video still

Lompoc City Council members are expected to vote Tuesday, May 19, on a proposed multi-million dollar space center near Vandenberg Air Force Base. Vandenberg sits adjacent to the City of Lompoc. If approved and completed, the facility could dramatically alter Lompoc's future.

The city council is set to vote on whether to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with the California Space Consortium. The consortium hopes to build a space center there that would include a museum, hotel, restaurant and a viewing area for rocket launches.

Flickr member Dave Nakayama

The international awards are piling up for the UC Santa Barbara professor who helped create energy-saving LED lighting.

UCSB's Shuji Nakamura was named this year's Global Energy Prize Laureate, announced Thursday in Moscow. Nakamura is being recognized for his lighting invention that's helping to save billions of dollars in energy costs worldwide.

LEDs had been around for decades, but not the white light versions that are currently replacing incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite, launched from Vandenberg on January 31, 2015, has already sent back its first global maps.

The satellite focuses on soil moisture—liquid or solid—and will likely help develop more accurate long-term forecasts. The images could also help California track the state's ongoing drought conditions.

The SMAP mission is designed to help scientists understand the links between the Earth's water, energy and carbon cycles.

Flickr member Liz Foreman

Statistics show the most Americans are extremely lazy when it comes to creating secure, unique passwords. According to SplashData's annual list for 2014, these are the five most popular passwords found on the Internet:

  1. 12345
  2. password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123

Easy-to-break passwords like these—and many other variations—are a weak link in your overall web security.

Transit Unlimited Wiki

A smartphone app that makes it easier for thousands of Central Coast residents to use public transportation will officially be around for four more years.

The "Bus Tracker" app gives users real time information of bus locations throughout San Luis Obispo. Its creators and the city announced this week that they have entered into a formal, four-year agreement.

John Osumi is the CEO of Bishop Peak Technologies and said their agreement will allow them to deliver the mobile app and it's expanded administrative applications.

Adrian Jaeggi, PhD

Anthropologists at UC Santa Barbara say they've found evidence that the old expression, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," is actually true.

The scientists studied the hormonal reactions hunters in the Bolivian Amazon encountered when leaving home for a day of hunting, during conditions while hunting, and then returning to their families.

The research showed elevated levels of oxytocin—known as the "love hormone"—when the Tsimane men were reunited with their loved ones.

The oxytocin levels also increased the longer the men were away.

NASA

A former Cal Poly professor is among the lead team members as NASA prepares to enter a historic orbit Friday morning of a dwarf planet. 

The Dawn spacecraft launched in 2007 is studying the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists believe Ceres was on its way to becoming a full-sized planet... but had its development interrupted by Jupiter's gravity.

The Mars 100 YouTube video

A Cal Poly graduate is among the 100 finalists of more than 200,000 applicants that were in the running to be one of the first humans to colonize the planet Mars.

They're part of the Mars One mission that's being organized by a private, non-profit out of the Netherlands.

Kay Radzik Warren, 54, graduated from Cal Poly's Architecture Department back in the mid-1990s. She says she hopes the mission succeeds and that she's part of it when it does. 

City of Lompoc hopes new plans for California Space Center can move forward

Feb 6, 2015
California Space Center Consortium

The City of Lompoc is excited about an updated plan to build a local space center that city leaders hope will draw tourists globally. 

The multi-million dollar California Space Center facility is proposed for 82 acres of city-owned land near the Allan Hancock College Lompoc campus.

Economic development director Teresa Gallavan says this $300 million proposal could provide more than 3000 jobs.

Jay Thompson, Cal Poly

The launch of a soil moisture monitoring satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base was in a 24-hour delay cycle on Thursday afternoon because of a problem with upper level winds Thursday morning.

The SMAP satellite (Soil Moisture Active Passive) is now scheduled to launch Friday morning at 6:20.

Three other nano-satellites—or CubeSats—are also onboard the Delta II rocket sitting on the Vandenberg launchpad, and they're what scientists and students from Cal Poly will be watching.

NASA

Scientists are looking forward to using a new satellite that will help them track California's ongoing drought and create more accurate and longer-term forecasts.

It's known as SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) and is scheduled to launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base Thursday morning at 6:20 a.m.

It's main purpose is to observe the entire surface of the Earth with a focus on soil moisture and the world's freeze and thaw zones.

USGS

An omnibus federal funding bill that is headed to President Obama's desk after passing in both the US Senate and House of Representatives includes $5 million to develop a West Coast earthquake early warning system.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says the funding is just a down payment and she wants to see the program fast-tracked before the next major quake strikes.

NASA

An Atlas V rocket—unlike any other launched on the West Coast—is scheduled for lift-off this Thursday at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

It's called an Atlas V 541, and it's the same type of rocket used to launch the Mars rover Curiosity back in 2011.

The rocket is larger than the most recent Atlas V to launch at Vandenberg because it has booster rockets.

Thursday's mission, named NROL-35, is in cooperation with the National Reconnaissance Office and is highly secretive.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Scientists at UCSB will soon begin studying how people around the world have responded to the Ebola threat, psychologically. The University's Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences is getting more $128,202 from the National Science Foundation for the project.

Professor David Sherman is working with lead researcher Dr. Heejung Kim on the project and says the goal is to help us understand how and why we respond the way we do.

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