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NASA to test sugary bacteria as space-based power source

Following its successful harvest of red leaf lettuce, NASA has announced plans to launch genetically engineered bacteria into orbit to see if they can be harnessed by future astronauts as potent survival resource. The experiment is scheduled to take place in 2017 and will study the genus Anabaena. The sugars that these cyanobacterium photosynthesize can be fed to other genetically-modified bacteria in a system the agency calls PowerCell. These second-stage bacteria would, in turn, generate chemicals, food, fuel and even medicine for far-flung astronauts. "The first pilgrims who came to the Americas didn't bring all their food for the rest of their lives," Lynn Rothschild of NASA's Ames Research Center, said in a statement. "You need to live off the land."

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Mozilla says it doesn't need Google's cash to survive

For many years, Firefox's survival was tied into how generous the folks over at Google were feeling, since the company effectively bankrolled the browser. Times have changed, and in an interview with CNET, Mozilla's Denelle Dixon-Thayer said that its financial future is looking better than ever. Back in the day, Google paid to be the search engine of choice within Firefox, but Mozilla now prefers not to put all of its cash-based eggs in a single basket. That's why it's signed separate deals with Yahoo, Baidu and Yandex so that each one gets prominence in the US, China and Russia, respectively.

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The biggest data center in Russia will be nuclear powered

According to the news agency Telecom Daily, the Rosenergoatom power company is building what will be the largest data center in Russia -- and they're plopping it right on top of the Kalinin power station. Located about 120 miles northwest of Moscow, the station will provide the 80 MW that engineers estimate will be needed to power the data center's 10,000 or so server racks. The construction is projected to cost $975 million, not including the IT buildout.

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Tarantino explains why he thinks 70mm is better than digital Famed film director Quentin Tarantino is well-known for his purist cinematic tastes and revelry of antique movie production techniques. His fondness for old-school cinema is on full display in his upcoming release, The Hateful Eight, which is being captured only in 70mm and shown as glamorous "roadshows". While the rest of the industry films almost exclusively in digital these days (not to mention that movie houses have long since mothballed their 70mm projectors) Tarantino has been dead set to make this movie on film. In the Fandango featurette below, he explains his reasoning for this insistence and why it's good for the fans.

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Scientists use 'spooky action' to mail electron messages a mile

Researchers at Stanford University announced Tuesday that they had successfully leveraged the "spooky" interaction of entangled electrons to send a message between them over a span of 1.2 miles. This is by far the longest distance that scientists have managed to send entangled particles and provides the strongest evidence to date that quantum computing can have practical applications.

Quantum computers exploit the phenomenon known as quantum entanglement, what Einstein famously referred to as "spooky action over distance", wherein two particles are connected regardless of the distance between them. That is, as in this case, if two electrons are entangled, the direction of their spin will always be the same. If one electron is spinning clockwise, the other will be too. If one reverses the direction of its spin, the other will as well. Doesn't matter if they're on the opposite sides of a molecule or on opposite sides of the galaxy, the two particles and their behaviors are inextricably linked.

"Electron spin is the basic unit of a quantum computer," Stanford physicist Leo Yu said in a statement. "This work can pave the way for future quantum networks that can send highly secure data around the world." The problem is that electrons are confined to atoms. And in order to get two electrons to entangle over long distances (and allow their quantum computer networks to communicate with one another) they need photons to act as the messengers.

This is accomplished by "pairing" the photon and electron, a process called "quantum correlation". But that runs into another issue: photons love to change the direction of their spin while travelling through fiber optic lines. So while you can get the first electron and the photon to correlate pretty easily, keeping the photon on task as it travels to the second electron is way more difficult. To overcome this, the Stanford team created "time-stamps" for the photons that act as reference points for the photons, allowing them to confirm that they arrived with the same spin orientation that they left with.

Using this method, the team successfully entangled a pair of electrons over 2 kilometers of fiber optic line. Their research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

[Image Credit: L.A. Cicero]

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Stretchable square of rubber doubles as a keyboard

There's a whole branch of science that's dedicated to turning flexible surfaces into sensors that can be used as an artificial substitute for skin. These materials could then be used to give robots a sense of touch, or even to restore feeling for people with artificial prostheses. Researchers at the University of Auckland have taken the concept in a slightly different direction after building a square of soft, stretchable rubber that pulls double-duty as a keyboard. It's hoped that the technology can be used to create foldable, rollable input devices, which reminds us of Nokia's twisty-stretchy phone concept from way back when.

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By Cat DiStasio

Fuel efficiency is one rating that can really set a car apart from the pack. Although you can't yet walk into just any dealership and drive away in a vehicle that gets more than 100 miles a gallon, there are some sweet rides out there that demonstrate just how incredibly efficient a car can be. To get a better idea of what the uber-efficient car of tomorrow looks like, we've compiled some of the most efficient vehicles on the planet, all of which exceed that 100-mpg marker. In fact, most of the cars featured here leave that rating in the dust, and several break into the quadruple digits.

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Watch ESA explain how it plans to find gravitational waves

In just under a week the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch its LISA Pathfinder spacecraft on a Vega rocket. Buried within the vessel are two cubes made of gold-platinum which, scientists hope, can lay the groundwork for measuring gravitational waves in space. The theories and testing procedures can be tricky to wrap your head around, but thankfully the ESA has made some explainer videos (below) to help you out.

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Lenovo's Yoga laptops hardly need an introduction at this point: The company's iconic 2-in-1s are so popular that its competitors have been copying them right and left. Last year's edition, the Yoga 3 Pro, was especially notable for how thin and light it was: just 2.6 pounds and half an inch thick, and that was with a folding touchscreen, too. The problem, we found, was that as easy as it was to hold, that compact design came with significant compromises, including lackluster performance and mediocre battery life. Enter this year's model, the new Yoga 900 ($1,199 and up). Like its predecessor, it has a 13-inch, 3,200 x 1,800 screen and a slim build, but this time it claims faster performance, longer battery life and a sturdier hinge. It is, essentially, an improvement in almost every way.

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OnePlus won't replace the 2's flawed USB Type-C cable

Google engineer Benson Leung recently tested the OnePlus 2's USB Type-C cable and said it "may cause damage to your charger, hub or PC USB port" if used on a fast-charging device. OnePlus has now admitted that it doesn't conform to the USB Type-C 1.1 spec, and has agreed to give refunds to its customers. There's one large caveat, however. Since the cable can't cause problems with the OnePlus 2 itself (it's not a fast-charging phone), the company won't give refunds or replacement cables to buyers of the handset. Instead, it will only refund customers who purchased the cable separately.

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