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David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

Soulskill posted 1 hour ago | from the cripple-their-minds-while-they're-young dept.

United Kingdom 70

00_NOP writes: Children in the U.K. have been taught in metric measures in school since (at least) 1972, but yesterday British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that they should actually be taught in Imperial measures (which are still in use officially to measure road distances and speeds, but not really anywhere else). Is this because he hasn't a clue about science or because he is catering to a particular political base?

Mysterious Feature Appears and Disappears In a Sea On Titan

Soulskill posted 7 hours ago | from the interplanetary-game-of-battleship dept.

Space 36

schwit1 writes: Cassini images taken in 2007, 2013, and 2014 of one of Titan's largest hydrocarbon seas find that a mysterious feature there keeps appearing and disappearing. Quoting: "The mysterious feature, which appears bright in radar images against the dark background of the liquid sea, was first spotted during Cassini's July 2013 Titan flyby. Previous observations showed no sign of bright features in that part of Ligeia Mare. Scientists were perplexed to find the feature had vanished when they looked again, over several months, with low-resolution radar and Cassini's infrared imager. This led some team members to suggest it might have been a transient feature. But during Cassini's flyby on August 21, 2014, the feature was again visible, and its appearance had changed during the 11 months since it was last seen.

Scientists on the radar team are confident that the feature is not an artifact, or flaw, in their data, which would have been one of the simplest explanations. They also do not see evidence that its appearance results from evaporation in the sea, as the overall shoreline of Ligeia Mare has not changed noticeably. The team has suggested the feature could be surface waves, rising bubbles, floating solids, solids suspended just below the surface, or perhaps something more exotic." That the seasons are slowly changing on Titan is probably contributing to the transient nature of this feature.

Are the World's Religions Ready For ET?

Soulskill posted 8 hours ago | from the Alf-as-messiah dept.

Space 276

Science_afficionado writes: At the current rate of discovery, astronomers will have identified more than a million exoplanets by the year 2045. That means, if life is at all common in the Milky Way, astronomers could soon detect it. Realization that the nature of the debate about life on other worlds is about to fundamentally change, lead Vanderbilt astronomer David Weintraub to begin thinking seriously about how people will react to such a discovery. He realized that people's reactions will be heavily influenced by their religious beliefs, so he decided to find out what theologians and leaders from the world's major religions have to say about the matter. The result is a book titled Religions and Extraterrestrial Life, published by Springer this month. He discovered that from Baptists to Buddhists, from Catholics to Mormons, from Islam to the Anglican Communion, religious views on alien life differ widely.

Arducorder, Next Open Source Science Tricorder-like Device, Nears Completion

Soulskill posted 10 hours ago | from the scanning-for-life-forms dept.

Hardware Hacking 41

upontheturtlesback writes: The Arducorder Mini, an Arduino-compatible pocket-sized handheld sensing tool and the next in line of open source science tricorder-like devices designed by Dr. Peter Jansen, is nearing completion. Where the previous models have included about a dozen sensors spanning atmospheric, electromagnetic, and spatial readings, an exciting video of the new prototype shows this model includes sensors for spectroscopy, low-resolution thermal imaging, and radiation sensing. The development is open with the project build logs and most recent source schematics, board layouts, and firmware available on github. This project is an entry in the Hack a Day Prize for a trip to space.

Ebola Has Made It To the United States

Soulskill posted 12 hours ago | from the cdc-recommends-chaos-and-panic dept.

Medicine 340

An anonymous reader sends news that the CDC has confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed on U.S. soil. An unnamed patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas was placed in isolation while awaiting test results for the dreaded virus. Apparently, the patient had traveled recently to a West African country, where the disease is spreading, and later developed symptoms that suggested Ebola. A blood specimen from the patient was sent to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, a testing process that can take 24 to 48 hours to confirm an Ebola infection — or not. The results came back about 3:32 p.m. In other Ebola news, outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal appear to be completely contained.

New Research Casts Doubt On the "10,000 Hour Rule" of Expertise

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the some-amount-of-practice-makes-perfect dept.

Science 181

First time accepted submitter Scroatzilla writes What makes someone rise to the top in music, games, sports, business, or science? This question is the subject of one of psychology's oldest debates. Malcolm Gladwell's '10,000 hours' rule probably isn't the answer. Recent research has demonstrated that deliberate practice, while undeniably important, is only one piece of the expertise puzzle—and not necessarily the biggest piece.

Statistician Creates Mathematical Model To Predict the Future of Game of Thrones

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the math-is-coming dept.

Math 123

KentuckyFC writes One way of predicting the future is to study data about events in the past and build a statistical model that generates the same pattern of data. Statisticians can then use the model to generate data about the future. Now one statistician has taken this art to new heights by predicting the content of the soon-to-be published novels in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin. The existing five novels are the basis of the hit TV series Game of Thrones. Each chapter in the existing books is told from the point of view of one of the characters. So far, 24 characters have starred in this way. The statistical approach uses the distribution of characters in chapters in the first five books to predict the distribution in the forthcoming novels. The results suggest that several characters will not appear at all and also throw light on whether one important character is dead or not, following an ambiguous story line in the existing novels. However, the model also serves to highlight the shortcomings of purely statistical approaches. For example, it does not "know" that characters who have already been killed off are unlikely to appear in future chapters. Neither does it allow for new characters that might appear. Nevertheless, this statistical approach to literature could introduce the process of mathematical modelling to more people than any textbook.

Medical Records Worth More To Hackers Than Credit Cards

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the pills-please dept.

Privacy 77

HughPickens.com writes Reuters reports that your medical information, including names, birth dates, policy numbers, diagnosis codes and billing information, is worth 10 times more than your credit card number on the black market. Fraudsters use this data to create fake IDs to buy medical equipment or drugs that can be resold, or they combine a patient number with a false provider number and file made-up claims with insurers, according to experts who have investigated cyber attacks on healthcare organizations. Medical identity theft is often not immediately identified by a patient or their provider, giving criminals years to milk such credentials. That makes medical data more valuable than credit cards, which tend to be quickly canceled by banks once fraud is detected. Stolen health credentials can go for $10 each, about 10 or 20 times the value of a U.S. credit card number, says Don Jackson, director of threat intelligence at PhishLabs, a cyber crime protection company. He obtained the data by monitoring underground exchanges where hackers sell the information. Plus "healthcare providers and hospitals are just some of the easiest networks to break into," says Jeff Horne. "When I've looked at hospitals, and when I've talked to other people inside of a breach, they are using very old legacy systems — Windows systems that are 10 plus years old that have not seen a patch."

Study: An Evolutionary "Arms Race" Shaped the Human Genome

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the cell-wars dept.

Biotech 33

An anonymous reader writes "An evolutionary race between rival elements within the genomes of primates drove the evolution of complex regulatory networks that orchestrate the activity of genes in every cell of our bodies, reveals new research. The race was between mobile DNA sequences known as 'retrotransposons' (jumping genes) and the genes that have evolved to control them. Scientists at the University of California Santa Cruz, identified genes in humans that make repressor proteins to shut down specific jumping genes. "We have basically the same 20,000 protein-coding genes as a frog, yet our genome is much more complicated, with more layers of gene regulation. This study helps explain how that came about," said Sofie Salama, a research associate at the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute who led the study."

Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the hug-a-scientist-today dept.

Science 445

cold fjord writes The Woodrow Wilson School reports, "If scientists want the public to trust their research suggestions, they may want to appear a bit 'warmer,' according to a new review published by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The review, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), shows that while Americans view scientists as competent, they are not entirely trusted. This may be because they are not perceived to be friendly or warm. In particular, Americans seem wary of researchers seeking grant funding and do not trust scientists pushing persuasive agendas. Instead, the public leans toward impartiality. 'Scientists have earned the respect of Americans but not necessarily their trust,' said lead author Susan Fiske, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and professor of public affairs. 'But this gap can be filled by showing concern for humanity and the environment. Rather than persuading, scientists may better serve citizens by discussing, teaching and sharing information to convey trustworthy intentions.'"

The Physics of Space Battles

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the dodging-the-laser dept.

Sci-Fi 442

An anonymous reader writes PBS' It's OK to be Smart made this interesting video showing us what is and isn't physically realistic or possible in the space battles we've watched on TV and the movies. From the article: "You're probably aware that most sci-fi space battles aren't realistic. The original Star Wars' Death Star scene was based on a World War II movie, for example. But have you wondered what it would really be like to duke it out in the void? PBS is more than happy to explain in its latest It's Okay To Be Smart video. As you'll see below, Newtonian physics would dictate battles that are more like Asteroids than the latest summer blockbuster. You'd need to thrust every time you wanted to change direction, and projectiles would trump lasers (which can't focus at long distances); you wouldn't hear any sound, either."

Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the what-does-roe-v-wade-say-about-this? dept.

Mars 258

StartsWithABang writes: The next great leap in human spaceflight is a manned mission to a world within our Solar System: most likely Mars. But if something went wrong along the journey — at launch, close to Earth, or en route — whether biological or mechanical, would there be any way to return to Earth? This article is a fun (and sobering) look at what the limits of physics and technology allow at present. If you're interested in a hard sci-fi, near-future look at how a catastrophic Mars mission might go, you should read an excellent novel called The Martian by Andy Weir.

The Odd Effects of Being Struck By Lightning

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the really-bad-hair-day dept.

Medicine 188

HughPickens.com writes: "Ferris Jabr reports in Outside Magazine that every year, more than 500 Americans are struck by lightning. Roughly 90 percent of them will survive, but those survivors will be instantly, fundamentally altered in ways that still leave scientists scratching their heads. For example, Michael Utley was a successful stockbroker who often went skiing and windsurfing before he was struck by lightning. Today, at 62, he lives on disability insurance. "I don't work. I can't work. My memory's fried, and I don't have energy like I used to. I aged 30 years in a second." Lightning also dramatically altered Utley's personality. "It made me a mean, ornery son of a b****." Utley created a website devoted to educating people about preventing lightning injury and started regularly speaking at schools and doing guest spots on televised weather reports.

Mary Ann Cooper, professor emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is one of the few medical doctors who have attempted to investigate how lightning alters the brain's circuitry. According to Cooper, the evidence suggests lightning injuries are, for the most part, injuries to the brain, the nervous system, and the muscles. Lightning can ravage or kill cells, but it can also leave a trail of much subtler damage and Cooper and other researchers speculate that chronic issues are the result of lightning scrambling each individual survivor's unique internal circuitry (PDF). "Those who attempt to return to work often find they are unable to carry out their former functions and after a few weeks, when coworkers get weary of 'covering' for them, they either are put on disability (if they are lucky) or fired," she writes.

Sierra Nevada Corp. Files Legal Challenge Against NASA Commercial Contracts

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the i-demand-a-recount dept.

NASA 125

New submitter Raymondware sends an update to last week's news that NASA had awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to provide rockets for future manned spaceflight. Now, one of their competitors, Sierra Nevada Corp, has announced it will launch a legal challenge to the contracts. The company claims the government is spending $900 million more than it needs to for equivalent fulfillment, and they're demanding a review. They add, Importantly, the official NASA solicitation for the CCtCap contract prioritized price as the primary evaluation criteria for the proposals, setting it equal to the combined value of the other two primary evaluation criteria: mission suitability and past performance. SNC’s Dream Chaser proposal was the second lowest priced proposal in the CCtCap competition. SNC’s proposal also achieved mission suitability scores comparable to the other two proposals. In fact, out of a possible 1,000 total points, the highest ranked and lowest ranked offerors were separated by a minor amount of total points and other factors were equally comparable.

Researchers Develop Purely Optical Cloaking

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the still-cannot-fire-while-cloaked dept.

Science 59

Rambo Tribble writes: Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed a remarkably effective visual cloak using a relatively simple arrangement of optical lenses. The method is unique in that it uses off-the-shelf components and provides cloaking through the visible spectrum. Also, it works in 3-D. As one researcher put it, "This is the first device that we know of that can do three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking, which works for transmitting rays in the visible spectrum." Bonus: The article includes instructions to build your own.

Astrophysicists Use Apollo Seismic Array To Hunt For Gravitational Waves

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the where-in-the-moon-is-carmen-sandiego dept.

Moon 25

KentuckyFC writes: Back in the 1970s, the astronauts from Apollos 12, 14, 15, and 16 set up an array of seismometers on the lunar surface to listen for moonquakes. This array sent back data until 1977, when NASA switched it off. Now astrophysicists are using this lunar seismic data in the hunt for gravitational waves. The idea is that gravitational waves must squeeze and stretch the Moon as they pass by and that at certain resonant frequencies, this could trigger the kind of seismic groans that the array ought to have picked up. However, the data shows no evidence of activity at the relevant frequencies.

That's important because it has allowed astronomers to put the strongest limits yet on the strength of gravitational waves in this part of the universe. Earlier this year, the same team used a similar approach with terrestrial seismic data to strengthen the existing limits by 9 orders of magnitude. The lunar data betters this by yet another order of magnitude because there is no noise from sources such as oceans, the atmosphere and plate tectonics. The work shows that good science on gravitational waves can be done without spending the hundreds of millions of dollars for bespoke gravitational wave detectors, such as LIGO, which have yet to find any evidence of the waves either.

Expedition 42 ISS Crew Embraces Douglas Adams

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the then,-after-a-second-or-so,-nothing-continued-to-happen dept.

ISS 39

SchrodingerZ writes: In November of this year, the 42nd Expedition to the International Space Station will launch, and the crew has decided to embrace their infamous number. NASA has released an image of the crew mimicking the movie poster for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a film released in 2005, based on a book with the same name by Douglas Adams. Commander Butch Wilmore stands in the center as protagonist Arthur Dent, flight engineer Elena Serova as hitchhiker Ford Prefect, flight engineer Alexander Samokutyayev as antagonist Humma Kavula, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti as Trillian, and flight engineers Terry Virts and Anton Shkaplerov as two-headed galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox. The robotic "Robonaut 2" also stands in the picture as Marvin the depressed android. Cristoforetti, ecstatic to be part of this mission stated, "Enjoy, don't panic and always know where your towel is!" Wilmore, Serova and Samokutyayev blasted off September 25th for Expedition 41, the rest of Expedition 42 will launch November 23rd.

Underwater Landslide May Have Doubled 2011 Japanese Tsunami

timothy posted 4 days ago | from the earth-hates-us dept.

Japan 27

sciencehabit writes An underwater landslide the size of the Paris may have triggered the worst of the tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March 2011, a new study claims. In the new study, researchers worked back from details of the ocean surface motion recorded by gauges along the Japanese shore on the day of the earthquake. Much as sound waves can help the ear pinpoint the source of a gunshot and whether a small pistol or a large cannon fired it, tsunami waves carry the imprint of the ocean floor disturbance that created them. The team concludes that during the earthquake a slab of sediment 20 km by 40 km and up to 2 km thick slid about 300 meters down the steep slope of Japan Trench, 'acting like a piston.'

Breakthrough In LED Construction Increases Efficiency By 57 Percent

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the more-bright-ideas dept.

Technology 181

Zothecula writes: With LEDs being the preferred long-lasting, low-energy method for replacing less efficient forms of lighting, their uptake has dramatically increased over the past few years. However, despite their luminous outputs having increased steadily over that time, they still fall behind more conventional forms of lighting in terms of brightness. Researchers at Princeton University claim to have come up with a way to change all that by using nanotechnology to increase the output of organic LEDs by 57 percent.

NASA Expands Commercial Space Program

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the powered-by-capitalism dept.

NASA 24

An anonymous reader writes: Just 10 days after NASA awarded multi-billion-dollar contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for future manned rocket launches, the agency announced today it is expanding its commercial space program to include contracts for delivery missions to the International Space Station. "Under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 RFP, NASA intends to award contracts with one or more companies for six or more flights per contract. As with current resupply flights, these missions would launch from U.S. spaceports, and the contracted services would include logistical and research cargo delivery and return to and from the space station through fiscal year 2020, with the option to purchase additional launches through 2024."

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