Russian Anton Shkaplerov celebrating as he is greeted by other members of the International Space Station (ISS) crew  (AP Photo/NASA TV)

Russian Anton Shkaplerov is greeted by other ISS crew members (AP Photo/NASA TV)

Putting recent technical setbacks and the subsequent grounding of its spacecraft fleet behind it, the Russian space program resumed shuttling personnel and supplies to the International Space Station.

A Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft carrying the three newest members of the ISS crew launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 14, at 0414 UTC.

The spacecraft, with NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin aboard, docked to the International Space Station’s Poisk mini-research module.

The trio joins the rest of the current ISS Expedition crew, including Commander Mike Fossum of NASA and flight engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov.

The six station crew members have less than a week together before Fossum, Furukawa and Volkov head home on Monday, Nov. 21 aboard the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft, which brought them to the station on June 9. Their departure will mark the end of Mission 29 and the beginning of ISS Expedition 30.

Three more people will soon join the Expedition 30 crew. NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers are scheduled to launch to the station Dec. 21.

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Nice guys can finish first after all

Back in September,  we blogged about a  study which found that nice guys make less money than their meaner counterparts.  Today, we get word of another study that concludes nice guys can finish first after all.

David Rand, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard and lead author of  the study, found that dynamic, complex social networks  encourage their members to be friendlier and more cooperative.

The possible payoff is an expanded social sphere, while selfish behavior can lead to an individual being shunned from the group and left to fend for themselves.

“Although people sometimes do nasty things to each other, for the most part, we are fantastically cooperative,” Rand says. “We do an amazing job of having thousands, or even millions, of people living in very close quarters in cities all over the world. In a functioning society, things like trade, friendship, even democracy itself, require high levels of cooperation, and when everyone does it, you get good collective outcomes.”

This study is one of  the first to examine social interaction as a fluid, ever-changing process. Rand describes this new approach as the closest scientists have been able to describe the way our planet’s six billion inhabitants interact with each other on a daily basis.

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Batteries that last longer and charge faster

Cell phone battery (Photo: Vaky z (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Cell phone battery (Photo: Vaky z via Wikimedia Commons

For those who rely on the latest technological gadgets to get through a busy work day, nothing can be more frustrating, or irritating, than a dead or dying battery in your cell phone, laptop or PDA.

Those days might soon be over.

Research engineers from Northwestern University say they’re close to developing a battery that stays charged for more than a week and can be recharged in just 15 minutes.

They’ve created an electrode for lithium-ion batteries – rechargeable batteries  found in a number of portable electronic devices – that allows batteries to hold a charge up to 10 times greater than current technology. Batteries with the new electrode also can charge 10 times faster than current batteries.

Along with providing more efficient batteries for devices such as cellphones and MP3 players, the technology behind this potential “super battery” could also pave the way for more efficient, smaller batteries for electric cars.

The researchers predict the technology could hit the marketplace in the next three-to-five years.

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Pollution makes drought, flooding worse

(Graphic: University of Maryland)

(Graphic: University of Maryland)

Rising air pollution can worsen droughts and floods, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Maryland.

The study finds increased air pollution and other particulate matter in the atmosphere can strongly affect cloud development in ways that reduce precipitation in dry regions or seasons, while increasing rain, snowfall and the intensity of severe storms in wet regions or seasons.

The researchers say their study provides the first clear evidence of how aerosols – including soot, dust and other small particles in the atmosphere – can affect weather and climate.

“We have uncovered, for the first time, the long-term, net impact of aerosols on cloud height and thickness, and the resultant changes in precipitation frequency and intensity,” says Zhanqing Li, lead author of the study.

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