Following is a summary of current science news briefs.
U.S. Air Force mini shuttle back in orbit for secret mission
An unmanned Atlas 5 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Wednesday to put a mostly classified experimental space plane into orbit for the U.S. military. The 206-foot (63-meter) tall rocket, built and flown by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, soared off its seaside launch pad at 11:05 a.m. EDT to deliver an X-37B drone ship into orbit for a fourth mission.
Human ancestors made stone tools earlier than previously known
Our ancient ancestors made stone tools, a milestone achievement along the path of human progress, much earlier than previously thought and far before the appearance of the first known member of our genus Homo. Scientists on Wednesday announced the discovery of 3.3-million-year-old stone tools in desert badlands near Lake Turkana in northwestern Kenya, including sharp-edged flakes that could have been used for cutting meat from animal carcasses and rudimentary hammers perhaps used to pound open nuts or tubers.
Eye-tracking tech makes virtual reality hands-free
An advanced virtual reality headset could be a game-changer for the entertainment industry and give people with certain disabilities new powers of communication and interaction, according to the developers. The FOVE headset uses eye-tracking technology to give the wearer an immersive and completely hands-free virtual reality, where all of their actions can be controlled by their eye movements. Virtual reality technology has been touted as the next social and communications platform, with companies like Oculus VR one of the market leaders with their "Oculus Rift" virtual-reality glasses. But FOVE's co-developer and chief technology officer Lochlainn Wilson says their unique technology offers an immersive experience like no other.
How to build the universe from Lego, over a pint of beer
In a central London pub, a young bearded physicist is demonstrating how to build a model of the universe from plastic Lego bricks. Clue: you need a lot of them. Across town, in different bars, other experts are probing the mysteries of cancer and dementia, life on other planets, and how to win a Nobel prize.
Amputees control bionic legs with their thoughts
Amputees can control their bionic prosthetic limbs with their minds, thanks to tiny implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES) developed by Icelandic orthopedics company Ossur and surgically placed in a patient's residual muscle tissue. Ossur implanted tiny sensors in the residual muscle tissue of two amputees that they say trigger movement in the prosthesis via a receiver. Ossur President & CEO Jon Sigurdsson was due to announce in Copenhagen on Wednesday (May 20) that the two amputees are the first world-wide to be able to control their lower-limb prostheses subconsciously.
Bullied kids have higher risk of adult obesity and heart disease
Victims of childhood bullying are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults and have a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses, according to a study by British psychiatrists. Researchers found that just over a quarter of women who were occasionally or frequently bullied as children were obese at age 45, compared to 19 percent of those who had never been bullied.