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Posted by John Timmer

(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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Thanks to a secret vaccine ingredient as well as a net of worldwide researchers and successful vaccination campaigns, smallpox was finally eradicated in 1977. A new study provides an in-depth investigation of the mysteries associated with the development of smallpox vaccine and is a rich and interesting account of how the vaccine lymph was spread worldwide.
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A new approach to optical imaging makes it possible to quickly and economically monitor multiple molecular interactions in a large area of living tissue -- such as an organ or a small animal; technology that could have applications in medical diagnosis, guided surgery, or pre-clinical drug testing.
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While much of the research around the eclipse on Monday will focus on the effects of the Sun's brief, daytime disappearance on Earth and its atmosphere, a group of solar physicists will be leveraging the rare event to capture a better glimpse of the star itself.
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Posted by John Timmer

Enlarge / A sticky situation. (credit: University of Washington)

When engineers look at mussels, they're typically looking in awe at how they anchor themselves to nearly every surface imaginable, all while under water. The fibers they use to attach themselves are incredibly strong, and the adhesive works wet or dry on all sorts of materials. For the most part, engineers are looking to create a substance with similar properties.

This week, however, brings an exception: engineers who want to try to keep mussels from sticking to everything. Zebra mussels, a species that has invaded the Great Lakes, is estimated to cost utilities hundreds of millions of dollars each year due to clogged pipes and intakes. Ships, buoys, and pretty much anything else we put in the water also ends up needing to have mussels cleared off.

The international team behind the new work has designed a material that mussels can't seem to get a grip on. It's not because the mussel's adhesive fail; instead, the mussel itself doesn't seem to know what it's touching when it's set down on the material.

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A new preclinical study found that a brief period of extended wakefulness before surgery enhances pain and prolongs recovery time after surgery. Caffeine administration helped to reduce the harmful effects of sleep loss on subsequent surgical pain.
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Astrophysicists have discovered two detached, eclipsing double white dwarf binaries with orbital periods of 40 and 46 minutes, respectively. White dwarfs are the remnants of Sun-like stars, many of which are found in pairs, or binaries.
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Brazilian free-tailed bats are expert flyers, capable of migrating hundreds of miles and regularly traveling more than 30 miles a night. But they pull up short at a narrow ocean channel that cuts across the Bahamas, dividing bat populations that last shared an ancestor hundreds of thousands of years ago.
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With over 500 million tweets sent every single day, new research is investigating innovative ways to use that data to help communities respond during unexpected catastrophes.
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A drug that is blocked by the EU regulatory system has now been found to improve the quality of life of people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study.
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A study of kidney cancer incidence in California over 25 years is the first report to demonstrate that the rising rate of kidney cancer seen in the US over the past two decades may have ended.
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Scientists have discovered a remarkably simple way to suppress a common instability that can halt fusion reactions and damage the walls of reactors built to create a "star in a jar."

Hot spot at Hawaii? Not so fast

Aug. 18th, 2017 11:58 am
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Geophysicists use a new model to conclude that volcanic hot spots around the globe aren't moving as fast as recently thought.
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Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early. Yet recent research finds parents are split almost down the middle on whether they support delays in school start times that might permit their 13- to 17-year-olds to sleep later on school days.
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Smokers were found to be 20 percent more likely to quit smoking when packs of cigarettes cost just one dollar more, according to a new public health study.
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Patients at risk of heart attacks and strokes may be spotted earlier thanks to a diagnosis tool that uses near-infrared light to identify high-risk arterial plaques.
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Researchers have identified the mechanism behind red blood cell specialization and revealed that it is controlled by an enzyme called UBE2O. This finding could spark the development of new treatments for blood disorders and cancers.
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Climate change and habitat conversion to agriculture are working together to homogenize nature. In other words, the more things change, the more they are the same.
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Society's ability to solve environmental problems is tied to how different actors collaborate and the shape and form of the networks they create, says a new study.
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Medical researchers have identified the likely origin of the cross-reactivity between cypress pollen, peaches and citrus fruits. Their work has shown that these sources contain allergens belonging to a new family of proteins involved in pollen food associated syndrome. This discovery paves the way for the development of novel allergy diagnostic tests.

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