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Astrophysicists Identify the Habitable Regions of the Entire Universe

samzenpus posted about half an hour ago | from the good-neighborhood dept.

Space 8

KentuckyFC writes It's not just star systems and galaxies that have habitable zones--regions where conditions are suitable for life to evolve. Astrophysicists have now identified the entire universe's habitable zones. Their approach starts by considering the radiation produced by gamma ray bursts in events such as the death of stars and the collisions between black holes and so on. Astrobiologists have long known that these events are capable of causing mass extinctions by stripping a planet of its ozone layer and exposing the surface to lethal levels of radiation. The likelihood of being hit depends on the density of stars, which is why the center of galaxies are thought to be inhospitable to life. The new work focuses on the threat galaxies pose to each other, which turns out to be considerable when they are densely packed together. Astronomers know that the distribution of galaxies is a kind of web-like structure with dense knots of them connected by filaments interspersed with voids where galaxies are rare. The team says that life-friendly galaxies are most likely to exist in the low density regions of the universe in the voids and filaments of the cosmic web. The Milky Way is in one of these low density regions with Andromeda too far away to pose any threat. But conditions might not be so life friendly in our nearest knot of galaxies called the Virgo supercluster."

How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

samzenpus posted 1 hour ago | from the you-keep-using-that-word-I-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means dept.

Education 216

An anonymous reader writes "Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes at The Week, "If you ask most people what science is, they will give you an answer that looks a lot like Aristotelian 'science' — i.e., the exact opposite of what modern science actually is. Capital-S Science is the pursuit of capital-T Truth. And science is something that cannot possibly be understood by mere mortals. It delivers wonders. It has high priests. It has an ideology that must be obeyed. This leads us astray. ... Countless academic disciplines have been wrecked by professors' urges to look 'more scientific' by, like a cargo cult, adopting the externals of Baconian science (math, impenetrable jargon, peer-reviewed journals) without the substance and hoping it will produce better knowledge. ... This is how you get people asserting that 'science' commands this or that public policy decision, even though with very few exceptions, almost none of the policy options we as a polity have have been tested through experiment (or can be). People think that a study that uses statistical wizardry to show correlations between two things is 'scientific' because it uses high school math and was done by someone in a university building, except that, correctly speaking, it is not. ... This is how you get the phenomenon ... thinking science has made God irrelevant, even though, by definition, religion concerns the ultimate causes of things and, again, by definition, science cannot tell you about them. ... It also means that for all our bleating about 'science' we live in an astonishingly unscientific and anti-scientific society. We have plenty of anti-science people, but most of our 'pro-science' people are really pro-magic (and therefore anti-science). "

Update: Mangalyaan's Main Engine Test Fired, Maven In Orbit

samzenpus posted 2 hours ago | from the all-systems-are-go dept.

Mars 14

William Robinson writes Before the spacecraft is scheduled to enter Mars orbit, Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) scientists reignited the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft's main engine for four seconds as a trial. The liquid apogee motor (LAM) engine has been idle for about 300 days since the spacecraft left the Earth's orbit on a Martian trajectory on December 1, 2013. The short-duration test was to ensure that the engine is in good shape for the 24-minute crucial maneuver on Wednesday." In other Mars mission updates, NASA's Maven spacecraft arrived at Mars late Sunday after a 442 million-mile journey that began nearly a year ago.

Hundreds of Thousands Turn Out For People's Climate March In New York City

samzenpus posted 3 hours ago | from the cooling-things-off dept.

Earth 127

mdsolar writes with an update on the People's Climate March. More than 400,000 people turned out for the People's Climate March in New York City on Sunday, just days before many of the world's leaders are expected to debate environmental action at the United Nations climate summit. Early reports from event organizers are hailing the turnout as the largest climate march in history, far bigger than the Forward on Climate rally held in Washington, D.C., last year. High-profile environmentalists including Bill McKibben, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva marched alongside policymakers such as Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Vice President Al Gore were also there, and more than 550 buses carried in people from around the country.

Researchers Propose a Revocable Identity-Based Encryption Scheme

timothy posted 10 hours ago | from the now-who-was-I? dept.

Encryption 64

jd writes Identity-based public key encryption works on the idea of using something well-known (like an e-mail address) as the public key and having a private key generator do some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff to generate a secure private key out if it. A private key I can understand, secure is another matter. In fact, the paper notes that security has been a big hassle in IBE-type encryption, as has revocation of keys. The authors claim, however, that they have accomplished both. Which implies the public key can't be an arbitrary string like an e-mail, since presumably you would still want messages going to said e-mail address, otherwise why bother revoking when you could just change address?

Anyways, this is not the only cool new crypto concept in town, but it is certainly one of the most intriguing as it would be a very simple platform for building mostly-transparent encryption into typical consumer apps. If it works as advertised. I present it to Slashdot readers to engender discussion on the method, RIBE in general and whether (in light of what's known) default strong encryption for everything is something users should just get whether they like it or not.

2 Mars Missions Set For Arrival, Both Prepare for Orbital Maneuvers

timothy posted yesterday | from the you-can-collude-but-don't-collide dept.

Mars 62

As reported by the BBC, NASA's Maven Mars orbiter has nearly reached the red planet, and will undergo a 33-minute rocket burn to slow its course. Monday's big manoeuvre on Maven's engines will place the satellite in a high, elliptical, 35-hour orbit around the planet. Confirmation of capture should be received on Earth shortly after 0220 GMT (2220 EDT Sunday; 0320 BST). "We should have a preliminary answer within just a few minutes after the end of the burn," said [principal investigator professor Bruce] Jakosky. In the coming weeks, engineers will then work to bring Maven into a regular 4.5-hour, operational orbit that takes the probe as close as 150km to Mars but also sends it out to 6,200km. India's first mission to Mars faces a critical test as it does a similar maneuver -- firing of a rocket to slow its travel as it approaches Mars orbit.

New MRI Studies Show SSRIs Bring Rapid Changes to Brain Function

timothy posted yesterday | from the depressing-thought-or-perhaps-not dept.

Medicine 104

A story at the Los Angeles Times reports that researchers at the Max Planck Institute have found that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, various of which are widely used in anti-depressant medications, cause changes in healthy subjects' brain architecture just hours after ingestion. As the article mentions, one reason that this rapid change is surprising is that patients taking SSRIs to treat depression typically take considerably longer (weeks) to perceive a change in mood. A slice from the story: When more serotonin was available, this resting state functional connectivity decreased on a broad scale, the study found. This finding was not particularly surprising -- other studies have shown a similar effect in brain regions strongly associated with mood regulation. But there was a two-fold shock: Some areas of the brain appeared to buck the trend and become more interdependent. And all the changes were evident only three hours after the single dosage. ... The rapid connectivity shifts noted by the study might therefore be precursors to longer-term changes, perhaps starting with remodeling of synapses, the microscopic gaps where chemical neurotransmitters such as serotonin flood across to an adjacent brain cell, the study suggests. But this type of brain scanning can’t pick up changes at such a scale, so the hypothesis will have to be tested other ways[.] ... Study subjects did not have diagnoses of depression, so researchers will need to generate similar maps among those diagnosed with depression, and re-map them during and after depressive episodes, as well as after treatment, Sacher said. Comparisons might then show whether a certain initial architecture predicts treatment success.

Trouble In Branson-Land, As Would-Be Space Tourists Get Antsy Over Delays

timothy posted yesterday | from the that's-only-a-few-months dept.

Transportation 75

schwit1 (797399) writes "Rumors are flying that some of the individuals who gave Virgin Galactic deposits for space tourism flights on SpaceShipTwo are demanding their money back. It appears that the most recent delay, revealed by Branson on David Letterman, is the cause." How much would you pay to go to space, if the ticket was only good starting 10 years from now? How about 20? How about, as Branson claims, if it was early next year?

SpaceX Launches Supplies to ISS, Including Its First 3D Printer

timothy posted yesterday | from the from-fantasy-to-routine dept.

ISS 119

A "flawless" launch early Sunday from Cape Canaveral has sent a load of supplies on its way to the International Space Station aboard a Falcon 9-lofted SpaceX Dragon capsule. Food, care packages and provisions for NASA's astronauts make up more than a third of the cargo onboard Dragon. But the spacecraft also has experiments and equipment that will eventually help scientists complete 255 research projects in total, according to NASA. In Dragon's trunk, there's an instrument dubbed RapidScat, which will be installed outside the space station to measure the speed and direction of ocean winds on Earth. Among the commercially funded experiments onboard Dragon is a materials-science test from the sports company Cobra Puma Golf designed to build a stronger golf club. Dragon is also hauling the first space-grade 3D printer, built by Made in Space, which will test whether the on-the-spot manufacturing technology is viable without gravity.

Researchers Report Largest DNA Origami To Date

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the never-date-origami-it-won't-respect-you dept.

Biotech 34

MTorrice (2611475) writes Bioengineers can harness DNA's remarkable ability to self-assemble to build two- and three-dimensional nanostructures through DNA origami. Until now, researchers using this approach have been limited to building structures that are tens of square nanometers in size. Now a team reports the largest individual DNA origami structures to date, which reach sizes of hundreds of square nanometers. What's more, they have developed a less expensive way to synthesize the DNA strands needed, overcoming a tremendous obstacle to scaling up the technology.

Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Rollout

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the wanna-be-absolutely-clear dept.

Democrats 369

An anonymous reader writes with this report from The Verge linking to and excerpting from a newly released report created for a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, including portions of eight "damning emails" that offer an unflattering look at the rollout of the Obamacare website. The Government Office of Accountability released a report earlier this week detailing the security flaws in the site, but a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released yesterday is even more damning. Titled, "Behind the Curtain of the Rollout," the report fingers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the development of the site, and its parent Department of Health and Human Services. "Officials at CMS and HHS refused to admit to the public that the website was not on track to launch without significant functionality problems and substantial security risks," the report says. "There is also evidence that the Administration, to this day, is continuing its efforts to shield ongoing problems with the website from public view." Writes the submitter: "The evidence includes emails that show Obamacare officials more interested in keeping their problems from leaking to the press than working to fix them. This is both both a coverup and incompetence."

Boeing To Take Space Tourists On Its CST-100 Spacecraft To the ISS

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the it's-a-free-world-baby dept.

Transportation 47

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "According to a Thursday story in Investment Business Daily, Boeing, whose CST-100 spacecraft was one of the two winners of NASA's commercial crew competition, will reserve one seat per flight for a paying tourist. For a price comparable to what space tourists now pay for trips on the Russian Soyuz, anyone will be able to take a jaunt to the International Space Station. The move places Boeing in direct competition with the Russians, who are working through a company called Space Adventures for their tourist space jaunts."

Science Has a Sexual Assault Problem

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the not-immune dept.

Crime 447

cold fjord writes: reports, "The life sciences have come under fire recently with a study published in PLOS ONE that investigated the level of sexual harassment and sexual assault of trainees in academic fieldwork environments. The study found 71% of women and 41% of men respondents experienced sexual harassment, while 26% of women and 6% of men reported experiencing sexual assault. The research team also found that within the hierarchy of academic field sites surveyed, the majority of incidents were perpetrated by peers and supervisors. The New York Times notes, "Most of these women encountered this abuse very early in their careers, as trainees. The travel inherent to scientific fieldwork increases vulnerability as one struggles to work within unfamiliar and unpredictable conditions."

'Why Banana Skins Are Slippery' Wins IgNobel

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the congratulations-to-all dept.

Science 126

gbjbaanb writes: This year's Ig Nobel prize was won by Japanese researchers investigating why banana skins produced a frictionless surface compared to apple and orange peels. (Apparently, "The polysaccharide follicular gels that give banana skins their slippery properties are also found in the membranes where our bones meet," so its not all fun and jollity). Other prizes were awarded for noting that dogs only defecate when aligned with north-south magnetic fields, and that "night owl" people are more likely to be psychopaths than early risers. Yes, that probably includes you.

The Myths and Realities of Synthetic Bioweapons

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the microwave-safe-anthrax dept.

Biotech 36

Lasrick writes Three researchers from King's College, London, walk through the security threats posed by synthetic and do-it-yourself biology, assessing whether changes in technology and associated costs make it any easier for would-be terrorists to pursue biological weapons for high-consequence, mass- casualty attacks (and even whether they would want to). "Those who have overemphasized the bioterrorism threat typically portray it as an imminent concern, with emphasis placed on high-consequence, mass-casualty attacks, performed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is a myth with two dimensions."

Europeans Came From Three Ancestry Groupings

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the back-in-the-day dept.

Science 85

Taco Cowboy writes A recent study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Tübingen in Germany has found that present day Europeans are descendants of three different groups of people — A near east farmer group, an indigenous hunter gatherer group, and an ancient North Eurasian group from Siberia. "Nearly all Europeans have ancestry from all three ancestral groups," said Iosif Lazaridis, a research fellow in genetics in Reich's lab and first author of the paper. "Differences between them are due to the relative proportions of ancestry. Northern Europeans have more hunter-gatherer ancestry — up to about 50 percent in Lithuanians — and Southern Europeans have more farmer ancestry." The most surprising part of the project, however, was the discovery of the Basal Eurasians. Before Australian Aborigines, New Guineans, South Indians, Native Americans and other indigenous hunter-gatherers split, they split from Basal Eurasians. The study also found that Mediterranean groups such as the Maltese, as well as Ashkenazi Jews, had more Near East ancestry than anticipated, while far northeastern Europeans such as Finns and the Saami, as well as some northern Russians, had more East Asian ancestry in the mix.

Study: Chimpanzees Have Evolved To Kill Each Other

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the battle-of-the-apes dept.

Science 218

sciencehabit writes A major new study of warfare in chimpanzees finds that lethal aggression can be evolutionarily beneficial in that species, rewarding the winners with food, mates, and the opportunity to pass along their genes. The findings run contrary to recent claims that chimps fight only if they are stressed by the impact of nearby human activity—and could help explain the origins of human conflict as well.

Mystery Signal Could Be Dark Matter Hint In ISS Detector

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the filling-in-space dept.

Space 55

astroengine writes Analysis of 41 billion cosmic rays striking the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector aboard the International Space Station shows an unknown phenomena that is "consistent with a dark matter particle" known as a neutralino, researchers announced Thursday. Key to the hunt is the ratio of positrons to electrons and so far the evidence from AMS points in the direction of dark matter. The smoking gun scientists look for is a rise in the ratio of positrons to electrons, followed by a dramatic fall — the telltale sign of dark matter annihilating the Milky Way's halo, which lies beyond its central disk of stars and dust. However, "we have not found the definitive proof of dark matter," AMS lead researcher Samuel Ting, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CERN in Switzerland, wrote in an email to Discovery News. "Whereas all the AMS results point in the right direction, we still need to measure how quickly the positron fraction falls off at the highest energies in order to rule out astrophysical sources such as pulsars." But still, this new finding is a tantalizing step in the dark matter direction.

New Study Projects World Population of 11B by 2100

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the ok-but-only-one-of-me dept.

Math 319

vinces99 (2792707) writes Using modern statistical tools, a new study led by the University of Washington and the United Nations finds that world population is likely to keep growing throughout the 21st century. The number of people on Earth is likely to reach 11 billion by 2100, the study concludes, about 2 billion higher than widely cited previous estimates. The paper published online Sept. 18 in the journal Science includes the most up-to-date numbers for future world population, and describes a new method for creating such estimates. "The consensus over the past 20 years or so was that world population, which is currently around 7 billion, would go up to 9 billion and level off or probably decline," said corresponding author Adrian Raftery, a UW professor of statistics and of sociology. ... The paper explains the most recent United Nations population data released in July. This is the first U.N. population report to use modern statistics, known as Bayesian statistics, that combines all available information to generate better predictions.

Most of the anticipated growth is in Africa, where population is projected to quadruple from around 1 billion today to 4 billion by the end of the century. The main reason is that birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa have not been going down as fast as had been expected. There is an 80 percent chance that the population in Africa at the end of the century will be between 3.5 billion and 5.1 billion people.

The 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes Will Be Awarded Tonight

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the as-they-should-be dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 30

alphadogg (971356) writes At Harvard University's Sanders Theater this evening, a collection of the most off-the-wall, bizarre and lurid scientific efforts of the past year will be dubiously honored with an Ig Nobel Prize. The Ig Nobels are awarded annually by Improbable Research, an organization devoted to scientific education that publishes the Annals of Improbable Research magazine six times a year. Past honorees have included:*A study about homosexual necrophilia in ducks; Competitive analysis of breakfast cereal sogginess; The discovery that dung beetles can navigate using the Milky Way galaxy. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. EST, and can be viewed online for free here.

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