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Fukushima Radiation Still Poisoning Insects

Soulskill posted 2 hours ago | from the still-waiting-on-mothra dept.

Japan 38

sciencehabit writes: Eating food contaminated with radioactive particles may be more perilous than previously thought — at least for insects. Butterfly larvae fed even slightly tainted leaves collected near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were more likely to suffer physical abnormalities and low survival rates than those fed uncontaminated foliage, a new study finds. The research suggests that the environment in the Fukushima region, particularly in areas off-limits to humans because of safety concerns, will remain dangerous for wildlife for some time. In other lingering radiation news, reader Rambo Tribble writes: Forest detritus, contaminated in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster (abstract), is decaying at a much slower rate than normal, building up and creating a significant fire risk. This, in turn, is creating a real potential for the residual radioactive material to be distributed, through smoke, over a broad area of Europe and Russia. Looking at different possible fire intensities, researchers speculate, "20 to 240 people would likely develop cancer, of which 10 to 170 cases may be fatal." These figures are similar to those hypothesized for Fukushima.

Study Links Pacific Coastal Warming To Changing Winds

Soulskill posted 7 hours ago | from the any-way-the-wind-blows dept.

Earth 118

tranquilidad writes: In a paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, two authors ascribe the majority of northeast pacific coastal warming to natural atmospheric circulation and not to anthropogenic forcing. In AP's reporting, Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist with the Carnegie Institution for Science, says the paper's authors, "...have not established the causes of these atmospheric pressure variations. Thus, claims that the observed temperature increases are due primarily to 'natural' processes are suspect and premature, at best." The paper's authors, on the other hand, state, "...clearly, there are other factors stronger than the greenhouse forcing that is affecting...temperatures," and that there is a "surprising degree to which the winds can explain all the wiggles in the temperature curve."

CDC: Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million In 4 Months

Soulskill posted 9 hours ago | from the time-to-seal-myself-inside-a-plastic-bubble dept.

Medicine 194

mdsolar sends this report from the NY Times: Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling. In the worst-case scenario, Liberia and Sierra Leone could have 21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported. ... In the best-case model — which assumes that the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission — the epidemic in both countries would be 'almost ended' by Jan. 20, the report said.

Elon Musk Hints 1st Person To Mars May Go Via New Brownsville Spaceport

timothy posted yesterday | from the good-seats-not-yet-available dept.

Mars 87

MarkWhittington writes If SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has his way, the first astronaut to set foot on Mars may begin his or her journey from the new commercial spaceport being built at Boca Chica Beach, just outside Brownsville, Texas. The Texas Tribune reported on Monday that Musk made the suggestion at the ground breaking ceremony of the commercial spaceport. The ceremony was also attended by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and various other Texas politicians and dignitaries, Musk's desire to establish a Mars colony and even retire to the Red Planet himself is not a secret.

Anonymous Peer-review Comments May Spark Legal Battle

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the jig-is-up dept.

The Courts 162

sciencehabit writes: The power of anonymous comments — and the liability of those who make them — is at the heart of a possible legal battle embroiling PubPeer, an online forum launched in October 2012 for anonymous, postpublication peer review. A researcher who claims that comments on PubPeer caused him to lose a tenured faculty job offer now intends to press legal charges against the person or people behind these posts — provided he can uncover their identities, his lawyer says.

Ancient Campfires Led To the Rise of Storytelling

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the pull-up-a-stump dept.

Science 88

sciencehabit writes A study of evening campfire conversations by the Ju/'hoan people of Namibia and Botswana suggests that by extending the day, fire allowed people to unleash their imaginations and tell stories, rather than merely focus on mundane topics. As scientists report, whereas daytime talk was focused almost entirely on economic issues, land rights, and complaints about other people, 81% of the firelight conversation was devoted to telling stories, including tales about people from other Ju/'hoan communities. The team suggests that campfires allowed human ancestors to expand their minds in a similar way and also solidified social networks.

Nvidia Sinks Moon Landing Hoax Using Virtual Light

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the this-proves-nothing dept.

Moon 266

schwit1 writes Using its new top-shelf graphics processing unit, Nvidia tackles one of the most persistent conspiracy theories in American history: the veracity of the 1969 to 1972 Apollo moon landings. From the article: "'Global illumination is the hardest task to solve as a game company,' Scott Herkelman, Nvidia's GeForce general manager, said in an interview. 'Virtual point lights don't do a bad job when the environment stays the same, but a game developer has to fake shadows, fake reflections...it's a labor-intensive process.' So when a Nvidia research engineer used the company's new dynamic lighting techniques to show off a side-by-side comparison between an Apollo 11 photo and a GeForce-powered re-creation, the company knew it had a novel demo on its hands. 'We're going to debunk one of the biggest conspiracies in the world,' Herkelman said."

"Big Bang Signal" Could All Be Dust

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the not-so-fast dept.

Space 124

An anonymous reader writes Scientists have shown that the swirl pattern touted as evidence of primordial gravitational waves — ripples in space and time dating to the universe's explosive birth — could instead all come from magnetically aligned dust. A new analysis of data from the Planck space telescope has concluded that the tiny silicate and carbonate particles spewed into interstellar space by dying stars could account for as much as 100 percent of the signal detected by the BICEP2 telescope and announced to great fanfare this spring. The Planck analysis is "relatively definitive in that we can't exclude that the entirety of our signal is from dust," said Brian Keating, an astrophysicist at the University of California, San Diego, and a member of the BICEP2 collaboration.

Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the end-of-the-line dept.

Medicine 459

HughPickens.com writes Ezekiel J. Emanuel, director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the US National Institutes of Health, writes at The Atlantic that there is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. "It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic." Emanuel says that he is isn't asking for more time than is likely nor foreshortening his life but is talking about the kind and amount of health care he will consent to after 75. "Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won't actively end my life. But I won't try to prolong it, either." Emanuel says that Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. "I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop."

Astrophysicists Identify the Habitable Regions of the Entire Universe

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the good-neighborhood dept.

Space 80

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 yesterday | from the you-keep-using-that-word-I-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means dept.

Education 743

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 days ago | from the all-systems-are-go dept.

Mars 25

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 2 days ago | from the cooling-things-off dept.

Earth 196

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 2 days ago | from the now-who-was-I? dept.

Encryption 76

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 2 days ago | from the you-can-collude-but-don't-collide dept.

Mars 65

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 2 days ago | from the depressing-thought-or-perhaps-not dept.

Medicine 135

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 2 days ago | from the that's-only-a-few-months dept.

Transportation 77

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 2 days ago | from the from-fantasy-to-routine dept.

ISS 129

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

Biotech 36

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 Healthcare.gov Rollout

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the wanna-be-absolutely-clear dept.

Democrats 390

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 HealthCare.gov 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."

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