A private rocket company says an overheated engine nozzle is responsible for last year's failed launch. Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin said Friday its quick trips to space from West Texas have been grounded since the accident and flights should resume later this year. The New Shepard rocket was carrying experiments but no passengers when its engine nozzle broke apart due to excessive temperatures. The escape system kicked in, and the capsule parachuted to safety. But the rocket came crashing down. Blue Origin says a design change led to the problem, which is being fixed.
Utah has become the first state to sign into law legislation that attempts to limit teenagers’ access to social media apps. Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed a pair of measures Thursday requiring parental consent before kids can sign up for sites like TikTok and Instagram. The two bills Cox signed into law also prohibit kids under 18 from using social media between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. They also require age verification for anyone who wants to use social media in the state and seek to prevent tech companies from luring kids to their apps using addictive features. Other states, such as Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and Louisiana have similar bills in the works.
An asteroid big enough to wipe out a city will zip harmlessly between Earth and the moon's orbit this weekend. Saturday’s close encounter will offer astronomers the chance to study a space rock from just over 100,000 miles away. That’s less than half the distance from here to the moon. While asteroid flybys are common, NASA says a big one like this comes this close only once a decade. Scientists estimate its size somewhere between 130 feet and 300 feet. It won't be back this way again until 2026.
New research suggests our capacity to care about others might have very ancient roots. Scientists are usually reluctant to attribute humanlike feelings to animals, but it’s generally accepted that many animals have moods, including fish. A study published Thursday shows that fish can detect fear in other fish, and then become afraid too – and that this ability is regulated by oxytocin, the same brain chemical that underlies the capacity for empathy in humans. This raises the possibility that our ability to care for others was deep-rooted in prehistoric animals, before fish and mammals like us diverged on the tree of life.
California state Sen. Aisha Wahab has introduced legislation adding caste as a protected category under the state's anti-discrimination laws. If this legislation passes, California could become the first U.S. state to outlaw caste-based bias. Caste is a division of people related to birth or descent. Calls to outlaw caste bias have grown louder among South Asian diaspora communities in the United States. Proponents of the bill say this bias is prevalent and it manifests in the form of social alienation and discrimination in housing, education and the tech sector where South Asians hold key roles. Opponents argue such measures will hurt a community that already faces discrimination.
There's a pesky problem in a wide stretch of the Atlantic Ocean that's likely to wash up on some beaches later this year: Seaweed. Lots of it. The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt is a biomass of thick, brown seaweed in patches scattered across a 5,000-mile belt of the Sargasso Sea well off the southeastern U.S. coastline. The sargassum is expected to wash ashore in coming months on some Florida beaches, in the Caribbean islands and Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Sargassum blooms aren't new, but this year's appearance in February was an early start for such a large algae mass. On shore, sargassum is a nuisance — carpeting beaches and releasing a pungent smell as it decays. For hotels and resorts, clearing the stuff off beaches can amount to a round-the-clock operation.
A magnitude 6.5 earthquake has rattled much of Pakistan and Afghanistan, sending panicked residents fleeing from their homes and offices. At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in northwest Pakistan from Tuesday's quake, which was centered in Afghanistan and also felt in bordering Tajikistan. The tremors sent many people fleeing their homes and offices in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, some reciting verses from the Quran, Islam’s holy book. The scene was repeated in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan. The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was in Afghanistan’s mountainous Hindukush region, bordering Pakistan and Tajikistan. It struck more than 100 miles below the Earth's surface, causing it to be widely felt.
Residents of a Louisiana parish located in the heart of a cluster of polluting petrochemical factories filed a lawsuit in federal court raising allegations of civil rights, environmental justice and religious liberty violations. In the lawsuit, filed against the St. James Parish, residents and environmental organizations claim that the parish council approved the construction of several factories in two Black districts of the parish that emit harmful amounts of toxic chemicals that negatively affected the health of the areas Black residents. The lawsuit calls for a moratorium on the construction of new petrochemical plants like one under construction by Formosa Plastics, which was approved by the council in 2019.
A relentless winter at Lake Tahoe has now etched its way into the history books as the Sierra's second-snowiest on record. No one really knows how much snow fell on the infamous Donner Party when the pioneers were trapped atop the Sierra for months and dozens died in the winter of 1846-47. But 56.4 feet has now fallen this season at the Central Sierra Snow Lab at Soda Springs, California. That tops the 55.9 feet in 1982-83. The biggest winter in its 77 years of official record-keeping was nearly 68 feet in 1951-52 when more than 200 passengers on a luxury train were stranded for three days near Donner Pass.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to test for radioactive contamination at a suburban St. Louis park that sits along a notoriously toxic creek. The Corps of Engineers is seeking permission from St. Louis County to test soil and water at Fort Belle Fontaine Park, a popular spot for hikers with high bluffs and panoramic views. The park sits near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Coldwater Creek runs through the park. The notoriously contaminated creek has been a headache for decades, since radioactive waste got into the waterway in the 1950s. Residents who lived along the creek as children in the 1960s and later have blamed illnesses, including rare cancers, on playing in the creek.
Spring has sprung: Monday marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. But what does that actually mean? The Earth sits on a tilted axis as it travels around the sun. So usually, sunlight falls differently on the northern and southern halves of the planet. During the equinox, though, the Earth isn't tilted toward or away from the sun. Both hemispheres get equal amounts of sunlight, and day and night are about the same length. For those north of the equator, the spring days will keep stretching longer until the summer solstice in June.
Archaeologists say they have found the oldest pearling town in the Persian Gulf on an island off one of the northern sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates. The discovery further expands this young nation’s understanding of its pre-Islamic history. Archaeologists announced Monday that artifacts found in this town on Siniyah Island in Umm al-Quwain date as far back as the late 6th century. While older pearling towns have been mentioned in historical texts, this represents the first time archaeologists say they have physically found one from this ancient era across the nations of the Persian Gulf.
Millions of fish have washed up dead in southeastern Australia in a die-off that authorities and scientists say is caused by depleted oxygen levels in the river after recent floods and hot weather. Residents of the Outback town of Menindee in New South Wales state complained of a terrible smell from the dead fish. The Department of Primary Industries says the fish deaths were likely caused by low oxygen levels as floods recede, a situation made worse by fish needing more oxygen because of the warmer weather. Police have established an emergency operations centre in Menindee to coordinate a massive cleanup this week. State Emergency Operations Controller Peter Thurtell says the immediate focus was to provide a clean water supply to residents.
Scientists have created baby mice with two fathers for the first time by turning male mouse stem cells into female cells in a lab. They described their research in a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The work raises the distant possibility of doing the same for people. But experts caution that very few mouse embryos were born alive. Only 1% of mouse embryos implanted into female mice survived. Scientists also cautioned that no one knows whether the same scientific technique would work in human stem cells at all.
Microsoft is infusing artificial intelligence tools into its suite of office software, including Word, Excel and Outlook emails. The company says the new feature, named Copilot, is a processing engine that will allow users to do things like summarize long emails, draft stories in Word and animate slides in PowerPoint. It will also add a chat function called Business Chat, which takes commands from users. The announcement came two days after OpenAI rolled out its latest artificial intelligence model, GPT-4. OpenAI powers the generative AI technology Microsoft is relying on. Microsoft rival Google has also been integrating generative AI tools into its own Workspace applications.
Record snowfall and rain have helped to loosen drought’s grip on parts of the western U.S., even pushing it out altogether in California after consecutive dry years. National forecasters and climate experts detailed their spring outlook Thursday, warning that some areas should expect more flooding as the snow begins to melt. Flooding already has inundated parts of California, Nevada and now Arizona. In the upper Midwest, above average snowpack has forecasters warning of elevated flood risks along the Mississippi River from Minnesota south to Missouri. Still, for a West that has struggled with long-term drought, forecasters say all the moisture isn't enough to make a noticeable dent in the nation's largest reservoirs on the Colorado River.
A potential casualty of the powerful rainstorms that drenched coastal California and flooded rivers is hundreds of acres of strawberries. Industry experts estimate about a fifth of strawberry farms in the Watsonville and Salinas areas have been flooded since a levee ruptured last week and another river overflowed. For years, California’s farmers have been plagued by drought and battles over water. So far this winter, the nation’s most populous state has been battered by atmospheric rivers and powerful storms. Farmers say it's too soon to know the extent of the damage but strawberries slated for sale in the summer are likely affected.
The Webb Space Telescope has captured the rare and fleeting phase of a star on the cusp of death. NASA released the picture Tuesday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. The observation was among the first made by Webb following its launch in late 2021. Its infrared eyes observed all the gas and dust flung into space by a huge, hot star 15,000 light-years away. Such a transformation occurs only with some stars and normally is the last step before they explode, going supernova. Astrophysicists say they've never seen this phase before in such detail.
Arctic sea ice is in trouble. A new study Wednesday says its thickness dropped sharply in two sudden events about 15 years ago. Sea ice is now less than half as thick as it was before 2007 and it's much younger, too. That makes it weaker and more prone to melting. Scientists also say it's more likely that the ice will continue to diminish than it will recover to what it once was. The research in the journal Nature cited the impact of climate change. It found that almost 20% of the Arctic sea ice was at least 13 feet thick before 2007. Now only about 10% is at least that thick.
America’s consumers trimmed their spending in February after a buying burst in January, underscoring the volatility of the economic environment. The government said Wednesday that retail sales slipped 0.4% after jumping a revised 3.2 % in January, helped by an increase in auto sales. Retail sales were down in November and December, the critical holiday period. Excluding gas and autos, retail sales were unchanged from January, according to the Commerce Department. Sales at furniture sores fell 2.5%, while business at restaurants slipped 2.2%. Sales at department stores declined 4%.
The Biden administration’s approval of a massive oil development in northern Alaska commits the U.S. to yet another decadeslong crude project. That's raising alarm as scientists urge a halt on more fossil fuels to stem devastating climate change. ConocoPhillips’ Willow project was approved Monday and would result in at least 263 million tons of planet-warming gases over 30 years. Scientists say it's moving the world in the wrong direction at a time when emission reductions are needed. But for Alaska, the project promises an economic boost. A bitter political dispute over the Alaska project has underscored Biden's struggle to balance economic pressures against his pledges to curb fossil fuels.
Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle flooded New Zealand with gigantic amounts of rain last month and scientists say they are sure that climate change is a factor. But researchers are unable to say just how big a role global warming played in one of the worst disasters in the country's history. A new flash study found that climate change did intensify the rainfall. But because New Zealand weather records don't go back that far and the area affected was relatively small, normal methods to quantify climate change's fingerprints in the disaster are not conclusive.
Scientists can now see the big picture on water globally — which areas are repeatedly drying and which are getting hammered by extra-strong rainstorms, thanks to new analysis of satellite data. A study published Monday in the journal Nature Water says the link between greenhouse gases generated by burning fuels and other human activities is definitely making these droughts and storms more intense. One researcher called the study new and important for understanding the planet as a whole.
Scientists say Hawaii’s second-largest volcano is not erupting. The U.S. Geological Survey released a statement late Saturday saying seismic activity beneath the summit of Kilauea “has returned to background levels, ground deformation has stabilized, and no lava has been observed at the surface.” The agency previously said a shallow earthquake storm signaled “resumption of eruptive activity at Kilauea summit is likely imminent.” Scientists said Tuesday that lava had stopped flowing after 61 days of volcanic activity. Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanos, erupted from September 2021 to last December. A 2018 Kilauea eruption destroyed more than 700 residences. For about two weeks last December, Hawaii’s biggest volcano, Mauna Loa, was also erupting on Hawaii’s Big Island.
A rocket made almost completely of 3D-printed parts remains grounded after back-to-back launch aborts. Relativity Space's rocket came within a half-second of blasting off Saturday on its debut flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The engines ignited, but abruptly shut down, leaving the rocket standing on its pad. Launch controllers reset the countdown clocks and tried again. But once more, on-board flight computers halted the countdown, this time with 45 seconds remaining. Wednesday's launch attempt got down to the final minute.
Oregon lawmakers are deciding whether to make the state the second in the nation to mandate climate change curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade. Dozens of high schoolers have submitted support for the bill, describing climate change as an issue they care about deeply. Parents and teachers are divided. Some say schools should focus on reading, writing and math test scores that plummeted after the pandemic, while others say it's critical that students learn about one of the world’s most pressing issues. Only one other state, Connecticut, has set such a requirement in state law.
Indonesia’s Mount Merapi has erupted with avalanches of searing gas clouds and lava, forcing authorities to halt tourism and mining activities on the slopes of the country’s most active volcano. Merapi, on the densely populated island of Java, unleashed clouds of hot ash and a mixture of rock, lava and gas that traveled up to 4 miles down its slopes. The eruption on Saturday blocked out the sun and blanketed several villages with falling ash. No casualties have been reported. It was Merapi’s biggest lava flow since authorities raised the alert level to the second-highest in November 2020.
A swarm of earthquakes have been recorded below the summit of a remote Alaska volcano, a possible indication of an impending eruption. Tanaga Volcano is about 1,250 miles west of Anchorage in the western Aleutian islands. There have been a series of quakes the past few weeks, but those picked up in intensity Tuesday. John Power with the U.S. Geological Survey says there were hundreds of quakes, sometime several per minute, but none larger than magnitude 2.75. While that signals unrest, it's not clear it will mean an eruption. Many times, these quakes will drop off with no eruption. This volcano is on an uninhabited island and last erupted in 1914.
China has condemned a plan by Japan to release treated radioactive wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, demanding that Tokyo first receive the approval of neighboring countries. China has made similar complaints on a regular basis in the past, but has not said how it would respond if Japan goes ahead with the planned release. China, which Japan invaded in the first half of the last century, has been a constant critic of Tokyo and its security alliance with the U.S., with the ruling Communist Party frequently invoking historical wrongs to rally domestic support and undermine Japan’s global standing. On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning called Japan's behavior “extremely irresponsible."
The natural temporary weather phenomenon La Nina is gone and that's good news for a disaster-weary Southeast. Weather disasters generally but not specifically connected to La Nina repeatedly smacked the region during the three years it lasted. Hundreds of tornadoes have hit and they are more frequent in the Southeast during La Nina. Louisiana has been hit by flooding, tornadoes and lots of hurricanes since September 2020. Hurricanes Ida, Delta, Zeta and Nicholas raked Louisiana while Ian and Nicole damaged Florida. The weather service counts 44 different weather disasters that cost $1 billion or more since La Nina formed.
Scientists say the La Nina weather phenomenon that increases Atlantic hurricane activity and worsens western drought is gone after three troublesome years. La Nina is a natural and temporary cooling of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday that the globe is now in what's considered a neutral condition and probably trending to an El Nino in late summer or fall. And that's usually good news for the United States. Experts say La Nina is connected to more Atlantic storms and deeper droughts and wildfires in the West, making a La Nina often more damaging and expensive than the more famous El Nino.
A woman born to a severely disabled resident of a New York state facility in 1986 has filed a lawsuit saying her mother was raped by an employee whose abuse was covered up by those in charge. Magdalena Cruz used records requests, genetics testing and searched online photos to find the man who impregnated her mother at a now-closed residential facility in Rochester, New York. But she also discovered administrators of the facility never filed a police report about the rape that led to the pregnancy. The lawsuit was brought under the state’s Adult Survivors Act.
LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne’s endorsement of an artificial intelligence essay-writing tool is raising questions about whether college athletic programs should provide clearer ethical guidelines for athletes earning money from name, image and likeness contracts. LSU has declined comment on Dunne's Caktus.AI promotion. But the university has warned of academic misconduct charges for students passing off AI-produced essays as their own. Northeastern University professor John Basl says "it would be appropriate for LSU to say it would not approve of its athletes endorsing the unethical use of these tools.” Basl specializes in AI and data ethics. Dunne declined an Associated Press request to discuss her Caktus.AI deal.
Still recovering from the effects of the first battering, the southeastern African nation of Mozambique is bracing for a rare second hit by long-living Tropical Cyclone Freddy late on Friday night, a regional weather center said Tuesday. The United Nations’ monitoring station on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion warned that Freddy will “gradually intensify to the stage of a tropical cyclone or even an intense tropical cyclone” over the Mozambique Channel before making landfall overnight on Friday into Saturday.
Japan’s space agency has intentionally destroyed an H3 rocket moments after launch because the ignition for the second stage failed. No damages or injuries were reported. An earlier H3 launch was aborted due to a separate glitch. Tuesday's failure was a setback for Japan’s space program and possibly for its missile detection program. The rocket was carrying an Earth observation satellite and an infrared sensor developed to monitor missile activity. The H3 rocket soared into the sky from the launch center in southern Japan as fans cheered. But it was later destroyed because the glitch meant it couldn't complete its mission. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said the rocket was unsafe and had to be destroyed.
Tribal leaders, scientists and conservation advocates have buried Southern California’s most famous mountain lion in the mountains where the big cat once roamed. After making his home in the urban Griffith Park — home of the Hollywood Sign — for the past decade, P-22 became a symbol for California’s endangered mountain lions and their decreasing genetic diversity. The death of the cougar late last year set off a debate between the tribes in the Los Angeles area and wildlife officials over whether scientists could keep samples of the mountain lion’s remains for future testing and research.
Researchers have uncovered a network of tens of thousands of fake Twitter accounts created to support former President Donald Trump and attack his critics and potential rivals. Those targeted by the bot network include a Republican candidate for president, Nikki Haley, and potential Trump rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The network was discovered by an Israeli tech firm, Cyabra, which shared its findings with The Associated Press. While the network's creator remains unknown, its existence is a reminder that online manipulation techniques pioneered by Russia are becoming increasingly common in the U.S.
For the first time, United Nations members have agreed on a unified treaty to protect biodiversity in the high seas, concluding two weeks of talks in New York. The high seas encompass nearly two-thirds of the ocean and half the planet's surface. The treaty will create a new body to manage ocean life conservation and establish marine protected areas in ocean regions outside national boundary waters. The treaty also establishes ground rules for conducting environmental impact assessments for commercial activities at sea. Several marine species — including dolphins, whales, sea turtles and many fish — make long annual migrations, crossing national borders and the high seas.
BGI Group, one of the world’s biggest genetics analysis companies, has said it never would be involved in human rights abuses after the U.S. government said there was a danger some of its units might contribute to Chinese surveillance. Three BGI units were among Chinese companies added to an “entity list” last week that limits access to U.S. technology on security or human rights grounds. The Chinese government accused Washington on Friday of improperly attacking China’s companies. BGI said its services are only for civilian and scientific purposes. In a written statement, the company said it “does not condone and would never be involved in any human-rights abuses.”
Scientists are studying hundreds of dogs at the Chernobyl disaster site that have managed to survive in extremely harsh conditions. They hope that examining the animals' genetics will give them insight into how humans can live in the most brutal of environments. They published their initial study on Friday in the journal Science Advances. They say the work sets the stage for future studies that can answer questions such as: What types of genetic changes help dogs and other mammals survive? And what might hurt their survival chances?
Archaeologists have found the first direct evidence for horseback riding in 5,000 year old skeletons in central Europe. The advent of horseback riding transformed human history by accelerating trade, communications and warfare. These early riders belonged to a people called the Yamnaya, who originated in parts of what is today Ukraine and western Russia. The researchers identified them as riders based on six tell-tale markers that indicate a person was likely riding an animal, including characteristic wear marks on the hip sockets and pelvis. The Yamnaya expanded across Eurasia, from Hungary to Mongolia, and their relationship with horses may have enabled these great migrations.
The European Space Agency said Friday that an investigation into the failure of a rocket carrying two Earth observation satellites last year indicated the cause was a faulty part procured from Ukraine. The Vega C rocket ditched in the sea less than three minutes after liftoff from a spaceport in French Guiana in December. Arianespace, which provided the launch service, said at the time that a decrease in pressure was observed in the nozzle of the rocket’s Zefiro 40 second stage. ESA said an investigation determined that it suffered “an unexpected thermo-mechanical over-erosion” of a carbon component procured in Ukraine. The launch was meant to take two Earth observation satellites made by Airbus, Pleiades Neo 5 and 6, into orbit.
The head of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant says details of the damage inside its reactors are only beginning to be known 12 years after it was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami, making it difficult to foresee when or how its decommissioning will be completed. The most pressing immediate task is to safely start releasing large amounts of treated but still radioactive water from the plant into the sea, Akira Ono said in an interview with The Associated Press. The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami damaged cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing three reactors to melt and release large amounts of radiation. The plant has been stabilized to the point where the operator can better plan a decommissioning strategy.
Officials say a Lufthansa flight that experienced “significant turbulence” was diverted to Washington Dulles International Airport and seven people on board were taken to area hospitals. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Michael Cabbage said flight 469 from Austin, Texas, had been headed to Frankfurt, Germany, but landed safely Wednesday evening at the airport in Virginia. He said crews responded to the flight and took seven people to local hospitals with injuries that were believed to be minor. The Federal Aviation Administration said the Airbus A330 reported severe turbulence at an altitude of 37,000 feet while flying over Tennessee. The agency is investigating.
New research reveals that the hunter-gatherer people who dominated Europe 30,000 years ago sought refuge from the last Ice Age in warmer climes, but only those who sheltered in the southwest of the continent appear to have survived. Using new genetic analysis of prehistoric human remains, scientists were able to trace the fate of the Gravettian people who once roamed Europe and produced distinctive ‘Venus’ figurines found across the continent. The study, published Wednesday in Nature, highlights the impact that climate change and migration had on the early inhabitants of Europe. It suggests that those who lived in what is now Italy when the ice expanded southward some 25,000 years ago found themselves in a dead end compared to their cousins who lived in Spain.