NASA's Robonaut 2 offers a helping hand (Photo: NASA)

NASA's Robonaut 2 offers a helping hand (Photo: NASA)

After snoozing for a couple of months in a storage bag aboard the International Space Station, Robonaut 2 (R2) finally woke up in space for the first time this past Monday.

Back in February, when the space shuttle Discovery took off on its final mission, we had a piece on our radio show about some of the equipment it was hauling up to the International Space Station.

What caught our eye was NASA’s R2, which was developed by General Motors. The humanoid robot has a head that looks like a sleek metallic-looking helmet, a torso, two arms and two hands with fingers which operate a lot like human fingers.

But, while it has no legs, R2 can and will carry out a number of tasks aboard the ISS with its fully functional arms and fingers.

Mission specialists Mike Fossum and Satoshi Furukawa hooked R2 up inside the space station’s Destiny laboratory while NASA teams on the ground powered up the robot.

NASA kept R2’s power on for a couple of hours so that those aboard the space station and on the ground could check the humanoid robot out.

NASA engineers here on Earth verified that all of the circuits, wiring and connections inside R2 checked out after its trip into space and after being in “rest mode” for the months since.

The engineers also wanted to see how everything on R2 would work in the station’s microgravity environment.  NASA says that R2 passed the check-up and that the diagnosis was positive.

The ISS crew and the Earth-bound engineers have more tests planned for R2 and, if all continues to go well, Robonaut 2 could begin helping out with simple station tasks in 2012.

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Counting All of Earth’s Living Creatures

Planet Earth by the Crew of Apollo 17 (Photo: Apollo 17 Crew/NASA)

(Photo: Apollo 17 Crew/NASA)

If you’ve ever wondered how many species call planet Earth home, a new study has come up with an answer.  Turns out there are some 8.7 million species sharing our world – plus or minus 1.3 million if you take the margin of error into account.

Scientists from the Census of Marine Life – a network of researchers from more than 80 nations – which has been working to explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans came up with the estimate.

Using an innovative and validated analytical technique, they were able to narrow down the total number of species. Previous estimates had put the number of species at somewhere between 3 million and 100 million.

Of the 8.7 million species, the study finds that 6.5 million of them are found on land, while the other 2.2 million live in the ocean.

But there’s still much more to learn.

According to the study, published by PLoS Biology, 86 percent of all species found on land and 91 percent of those in the seas, have yet to be discovered, described and cataloged.

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Existence of the “God Particle” Now in Doubt

The mysterious and elusive “God Particle,” if it exists, is running out of places to hide, according to scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva .

The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERN (Photo: CERN)

The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERN (Photo: CERN)

Members of the scientific community are gathered for the 25th Symposium on Lepton Photon Interactions at High Energies in Mumbai, India.   They’re getting the latest results of research done with the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN in Geneva.

The latest news regarding the search for the so-called “God Particle,” known as Higgs boson, has long been a popular subject at these biennial meetings.

The Higgs boson is the theoretical particle thought to be responsible for turning energy into matter following the big bang.

For years, scientists have worked to either prove or disprove the existence of this hypothetical and, so far, very elusive fundamental particle.

You can learn more about Higgs boson here.

Researchers familiar with the CERN project say that, if Higgs boson does turn out to be just a mirage, an area of physics called “new physics” would emerge as scientists to try to answer one of the great mysteries of the universe.

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Exercise Medication for Depression

Instructor Taking Exercise Class At Gym (Photo: Stephanie Richard via Flickr)

Instructor Taking Exercise Class At Gym (Photo: Stephanie Richard via Flickr)

Doing jumping jacks or a round of push-ups can be as effective as taking additional  medication for depression, according to researchers in Texas.

Their study is one of the first controlled investigations in the U.S. to suggest that adding a regular exercise routine, along with specialized anti-depressant medications, can fully relieve the symptoms of major depressive disorder.

According to the World Health Organization, the mental disorder known as depression is quite common, with about 121 million affected worldwide.  The WHO says depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and that it can be reliably diagnosed and treated in primary care.

For those diagnosed with chronic depression, doctors normally prescribe anti-depressants such as Prozac, Zoloft and Wellbutrin.  Along with the medication, psychotherapy if often recommended as an effective treatment for the disease.

Unfortunately, when all of that doesn’t work for a patient, doctors might prescribe a second anti-depression medication to supplement treatment.

But researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that engaging in both moderate and intense levels of daily exercise can work as well as taking that second antidepressant drug.

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