GaS news — what happened next: September 2013

Continuing our look back at later developments to stories we brought you on Geeks Are Sexy this year, we turn our attention to September. Verizon took the Federal Communications Commission to court in a battle over the legality of the net neutrality concept. The FCC issued rules in 2010 which said internet carriers must treat all traffic equally, with the only exception being to allow “reasonable network management.” Verizon argued that the FCC doesn’t have the power to make such rules because broadband is legally classed as an information service (similar to broadcasting) rather than a communication service, over which the FCC has more authority. Verizon also argued that the way it transmits information is protected by the first amendment.

The hearing into the case has now concluded, with a ruling expected at some point in the next three months. As things stand, it appears most likely the three judge panel will rule 2-1 in favor of Verizon. However, if and when President Obama completes the process of appointing new judges to fill vacancies on the DC Circuit court (which may be simpler thanks to a recent Congressional procedural change), it’s possible the new and enlarged panel might vote to have the case reheard by all 11 judges. That may in turn deliver a verdict in favor of the FCC, though it’s by no means guaranteed judges will rule on party lines.

NASA officially confirmed that the Voyager 1 had “crossed the heliopause into the nearby interstellar plasma,” a threshold widely, but not unanimously, considered to be the point at which the craft left the solar system. NASA has since noted that electron waves detected by Voyager in its surroundings have changed from around 300 Hz to between 2 and 3 KHz. Both sets of waves are vibrations resulting from coronal mass ejections. Although famously there’s no sound in space, NASA has demonstrated the effect by programming the relevant data into loudspeakers.

Two US researchers concluded that in the same way as we can break down the light spectrum into a few basic colors, its possible to classify all smells as consisting of one or more of 10 basic factors including “popcorn” and “woody.” Vanilla smells have since come to public attention in two stories. TIME detailed the way some food manufacturers are using castoreum in place of vanilla, an unappetising prospect given castoreum must be milked from a gland located just besides a beaver’s anus. Meanwhile the New York Times drew attention to genetic modification of yeast to produce spices and fragrances that are virtually identical to vanilla and saffron. It’s raised questions over whether such ingredients can be labelled as natural.





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