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As summer gives way to fall, one young illegal immigrant's hopes of a college education and a stable, prosperous future are clouded by anxieties of deportation and other obstacles.

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Fifty one years ago this week, a microwave transmission from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California was received at Bell Laboratories in Homdel, New Jersey, after bouncing off a giant silver balloon floating in space. It was Echo calling – our first passive space satellite, capable of relaying a message from one point on Earth to another.

It also provided the astronomical reference points needed to locate the city of Moscow more accurately than ever before, bringing the world one crucial step closer to all out nuclear war.

“If it works, it will be the first time voice has traveled from the Earth, up to a man-made moon, and back to earth again,” intones the narrator in NASA’s documentary about Echo, produced that year (see below). The film begins with the feel of a Twilight Zone episode, and doesn’t veer far. Which makes total sense, given just how sci-fi the satellite was.

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Above is what happens when a water droplet, like from rain, smashes into a mosquito mid-air. How does the insect handle the collision? New research shows that the mosquito actually "rides the drop" down. From Science News:

The trick is breaking away from that drop before it and the insect splash into the ground. Mosquitoes that separate themselves in time easily survive a raindrop strike, Hu and his colleagues report online June 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Such studies help reveal how animals evolved to take advantage of flight, says biologist Tyson Hedrick of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mosquito tricks may also inspire engineers designing swarms of tiny flying robots, or interest physicists and mathematicians studying complex fluid dynamics at this scale.

"How a mosquito survives a raindrop hit"

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While former Senator John Edwards faced trial, photographers faced their own challenges. Barred from the courthouse, they kept vigil outside, waiting for fleeting moments each day. Kim Severson recounts their travails.

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From "A Wearable Sensor for Unobtrusive, Long-term Assessment of Electrodermal Activity" (by Poh, M.Z., Swenson, N.C., Picard, R.W. in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, vol.57, no.5), a chart showing a single student's electrodermal activity over the course of a week. Note the neural flatlining during classtime. As Joi Ito notes, "Note that the activity is higher during sleep than during class." He also adds, "Obviously, this is just one student and doesn't necessarily generalize."

A week of a student's electrodermal activity

(Thanks, Joi!)

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