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Celebrating the National Dog Days of Summer – Links: 27/08

Big news this week: An Earth-like planet was spotted in our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, raising hopes of glowing aliens. Sci-fi author Stephen Baxter speculated on the prospect on life.

See also: the BBC with five (well, four) reasons to get excited about the find, and a cool graphic from Science.

In unconnected news, a Russian billionaire’s plan to send a fleet of iPhone-sized spaceships to the system may be derailed by space dust.

Pioneers and the new space race

Oliver Morton thinks space is getting exciting again, as does the Washington Post with its feature on the billionaires racing to get us into space.

Meanwhile, the first-ever commercial moon landing was approved by the US government, and China unveiled a Mars probe for an ambitious 2020 mission.

When they get there, i09 reports on a study on terraforming Mars by giving it clouds.

Life: Redesigned

Are we on the brink of creating manmade life? Scientists have ‘radically rewritten’ the genetic code of Ecoli bacteria, paving the way for manmade lifeforms resistant to all known viruses.

Humans may one day regenerate our limbs by taking tips from Mexican salamanders, according to this cool-but-creepy science vid:

Our robot overlords

Awwww. People will lie to robots to avoid hurting their feelings, according to a study on a robochef with a sad face and a habit of breaking eggs. Regretful robots, say the researchers, could become the norm – to lessen human anger at their mistakes.

The Israeli Army has deployed what may be the world’s first fully-autonomous military robots.

My fictional ‘squidbots’ took a step towards reality with the creation of a totally soft wireless robot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do very much…

Pure fiction

Hyper-intelligent spiders (in space) won the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award for British science fiction.

#Improvedbytheparticipantsgettingalife: The Hugo Award winners were also announced after the now-annual furore whereby alt-right games designer Vox Day gets ~300 of his blog readers to troll Worldcon, and the <2,000 long-time voters pretend they’re important (yep, I’m biased).

Author of gay comic erotica Chuck Tingle, who’s been trolling both sides after his spoof Hugo nomination for short story Space Raptor Butt Invasion, celebrated his award defeat with  Pounded in the Butt by my Hugo Award Loss.

Andy Weir, author of The Martian, is launching a short story collection on a new mobile appi09 have an excerpt.

Is Flowers for Algernon a sci-fi touchstone for the ethics of experimental biology? Ananyo Bhattacharya looks back in journal Nature.

Erm, and dogs…

Motherboard Vice has the incredible story of Strelka, one of the doggie duo who became the first Earthlings to orbit the Earth and live to wag the tail. Strelka went on to have a daughter, Pushinka who, after being gifted to US President John F. Kennedy, had pups with one of his dogs.

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