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Newly Discovered Virus Widespread in Human Gut

timothy posted 5 hours ago | from the right-under-their-noses-and-stomachs dept.

Medicine 59

A newly discovered virus has been found by a San Diego State University team to live inside more than half of all human gut cells sampled. Exploring genetic material found in intestinal samples, the international team uncovered the CrAssphage virus. They say the virus could influence the behaviour of some of the most common bacteria in our gut. Researchers say the virus has the genetic fingerprint of a bacteriophage - a type of virus known to infect bacteria. Phages may work to control the behaviour of bacteria they infect - some make it easier for bacteria to inhabit in their environments while others allow bacteria to become more potent. [Study lead Dr. Robert] Edwards said: "In some way phages are like wolves in the wild, surrounded by hares and deer. "They are critical components of our gut ecosystems, helping control the growth of bacterial populations and allowing a diversity of species." According to the team, CrAssphage infects one of the most common types of bacteria in our guts. National Geographic gives some idea why a virus so common in our gut should have evaded discovery for so long, but at least CrAssphage finally has a Wikipedia page of its own.

Off the Florida Coast, Astronauts Train For Asteroid Mission

timothy posted 7 hours ago | from the in-space-no-one-can-hear-you-access-facebook dept.

NASA 50

Space.com gives an overview of the training that four astronauts are undergoing over 9 days submerged off the coast of Florida near Key Largo. The training mission, dubbed NEEMO 18, is one step toward a proposed (mid-2020s) mission to actually visit a captured asteroid in lunar orbit. In addition to the complications of working outside their school-bus sized habitat while awkwardly suited up in a low-gravity (or at least high buoyancy) environment, their mission also includes a 10-minute communications delay, to simulate the high-latency communications with mission control that would be inevitable for an actual asteroid mission. The experiments astronauts are doing during the mission, which began Monday (July 21), range from the physical to the behavioral. For example, each of the crew members sports a sensor that records how close the crew members work with each other inside the school-bus-size habitat. ... Communications with NEEMO Mission Control is usually constant, and there is the ability to send items to and from the habitat as needed. Also living inside the habitat are two support staff who are assisting with Aquarius maintenance and systems, as required. The crew members also have Internet and phone service to talk with family and friends.

SpaceX Executive Calls For $22-25 Billion NASA Budget

timothy posted 12 hours ago | from the only-tax-dollars-after-all dept.

NASA 80

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "While participating in a panel called "The US Space Enterprise Partnership" at the NewSpace Conference that was held by the Space Frontier Foundation on Saturday, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell opined that NASA's budget should be raised to $22-25 billion, according to a tweet by Space Policy Online's Marcia Smith. The theory is that a lot of political rancor has taken place in the aerospace community because of the space agency's limited budget. If the budget were to be increased to pay for everything on the space wish list, the rancor will cease.

The statement represents something of a departure of the usual mutual antagonism that exists between some in the commercial space community and some at NASA. Indeed Space Politics' Jeff Foust added a tweet, "Thought: a panel at a Space Frontier Foundation conf is talking about how to increase NASA budget. Imagine that in late 90s." The Space Frontier Foundation has been a leading voice for commercializing space, sometimes at the expense of NASA programs."

Amputee Is German Long Jump Champion

timothy posted yesterday | from the we-are-all-augmented dept.

Medicine 141

hweimer (709734) writes "German long jumper Markus Rehm has written sports history yesterday, becoming the first disabled athlete to win a national able-bodied championship. His jump to 8.24 meters put him on the 9th place of the current season rankings and make him egligible to compete in the upcoming European championships, further sparking the debate whether his prosthetic leg provides him with an unfair advantage."

Two South African Cancer Patients Receive 3D Printed Titanium Jaw Implants

timothy posted yesterday | from the ok-but-they-did-already-need-them dept.

Medicine 68

jigmypig (3675225) writes "Two patients in South Africa that have had their lives and more specifically their jaws severely affected by cancer, have just received 3D printed jaw implants. The jaws were 3D printed using a laser sintering process that melts powdered titanium, one layer at a time. The process saves a ton of money, and unlike traditional manufacturing of titanium jaws, it doesn't waste any materials. Traditional manufacturing wastes up to 80% of the titanium block used in the process, whereas with 3D printing there is little to no waste at all. This new process also allows for a fully customizable solution. The models are drawn up in CAD software, and then printed out to precisely fit the patient."

Nightfall: Can Kalgash Exist?

timothy posted yesterday | from the burning-questions dept.

Books 80

First time accepted submitter jIyajbe (662197) writes Two researchers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics investigate the imaginary world of Kalgash, a planetary system based on the novel 'Nightfall' (Asimov & Silverberg, 1991). From the arXiv paper: "The system consists of a planet, a moon and an astonishing six suns. The six stars cause the wider universe to be invisible to the inhabitants of the planet. The author explores the consequences of an eclipse and the resulting darkness which the Kalgash people experience for the first time. Our task is to verify if this system is feasible, from the duration of the eclipse, the 'invisibility' of the universe to the complex orbital dynamics." Their conclusion? "We have explored several aspects of Asimov's novel. We have found that the suns, especially Dovim are bright enough to blot out the stars. Kalgash 2 can eclipse Dovim for a period of 9 hours. We also tested one possible star configuration and after running some simulations, we found that the system is possible for short periods of time."

Soccer Superstar Plays With Very Low Brain Activity

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the one-hemisphere-tied-behind-his-back dept.

Science 143

jones_supa (887896) writes "Brazilian superstar Neymar's (Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior) brain activity while dancing past opponents is less than 10 per cent the level of amateur players, suggesting he plays as if on "auto-pilot", according to Japanese neurologists Eiichi Naito and Satoshi Hirose. The findings were published in the Swiss journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience following a series of motor skills tests carried out on the 22-year-old Neymar and several other athletes in Barcelona in February this year. Three Spanish second-division footballers and two top-level swimmers were also subjected to the same tests. Researcher Naito told Japan's Mainichi Shimbun newspaper: "Reduced brain activity means less burden which allows [the player] to perform many complex movements at once. We believe this gives him the ability to execute his various shimmies." In the research paper Naito concluded that the test results "provide valuable evidence that the football brain of Neymar recruits very limited neural resources in the motor-cortical foot regions during foot movements"."

The Truth About Solar Storms

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the deepen-the-basement dept.

Communications 89

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes On Wednesday, The Washington Post ran a story about a very large solar flare two years ago that missed Earth, but not by too much. From a scientific point of view, what is it that happens when a solar flare interacts with Earth, and what are the potential dangers to both humans and humanities infrastructure? A very good overview, complete with what you can do — as both an individual and a power company — to minimize the risk and the damage when the big one comes. Unlike asteroids, these events happen every few centuries, and in our age of electronics, would now create a legitimate disaster.

Google Looking To Define a Healthy Human

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the bet-this-one's-going-to-get-Godwinned-quick dept.

Medicine 120

rtoz writes: Google's moonshot research division, "Google X," has started "Baseline Study," a project designed to collect anonymous genetic and molecular information from 175 people (and later thousands more) to create a complete picture of what a healthy human being should be. The blueprint will help researchers detect health problems such as heart disease and cancer far earlier, focusing medicine on prevention rather than treatment. According to Google, the information from Baseline will be anonymous, and its use will be limited to medical and health purposes. Data won't be shared with insurance companies.

SLS Project Coming Up $400 Million Short

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the opportunity-for-real-life-iron-man dept.

NASA 129

schwit1 writes: A GAO report finds that the Space Launch System is over budget and NASA will need an additional $400 million to complete its first orbital launch in 2017. From the article: "NASA isn't meeting its own requirements for matching cost and schedule resources with the congressional requirement to launch the first SLS in December 2017. NASA usually uses a calculation it calls the 'joint cost and schedule confidence level' to decide the odds a program will come in on time and on budget. 'NASA policy usually requires a 70 percent confidence level for a program to proceed with final design and fabrication,' the GAO report says, and the SLS is not at that level. The report adds that government programs that can't match requirements to resources 'are at increased risk of cost and schedule growth.'

In other words, the GAO says SLS is at risk of costing more than the current estimate of $12 billion to reach the first launch or taking longer to get there. Similar cost and schedule problems – although of a larger magnitude – led President Obama to cancel SLS's predecessor rocket system called Constellation shortly after taking office." The current $12 billion estimate is for the program's cost to achieve one unmanned launch. That's four times what it is costing NASA to get SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to build their three spaceships, all scheduled for their first manned launches before 2017.

Siberian Discovery Suggests Almost All Dinosaurs Were Feathered

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the tyrannosaurus-big-bird dept.

Science 136

A new study published in Science (abstract) suggests that most dinosaurs were covered with feathers. This conclusion was drawn after the discovery of fossils belonging to a 1.5-meter-long, two-legged dinosaur called Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus. "The fossils, which included six skulls and many more bones, greatly broaden the number of families of dinosaurs sporting feathers—downy, ribboned, and thin ones in this case—indicating that plumes evolved from the scales that covered earlier reptiles, probably as insulation." Its distinctiveness from earlier theropod fossil discoveries suggests that feathered dinosaurs appeared much further back in history than previously thought. Paleontologist Stephen Brusatte said, "This does mean that we can now be very confident that feathers weren't just an invention of birds and their closest relatives, but evolved much deeper in dinosaur history. I think that the common ancestor of dinosaurs probably had feathers, and that all dinosaurs had some type of feather, just like all mammals have some type of hair."

Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation'

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the i-blame-the-schools dept.

Earth 298

mspohr writes: A special issue of Science magazine devoted to 'Vanishing Fauna' publishes a series of articles about the man-caused extinction of species and the implications for ecosystems and the climate. Quoting: "During the Pleistocene epoch, only tens of thousands of years ago, our planet supported large, spectacular animals. Mammoths, terror birds, giant tortoises, and saber-toothed cats, as well as many less familiar species such as giant ground sloths (some of which reached 7 meters in height) and glyptodonts (which resembled car-sized armadillos), roamed freely. Since then, however, the number and diversity of animal species on Earth have consistently and steadily declined. Today we are left with a relatively depauperate fauna, and we continue to lose animal species to extinction rapidly. Although some debate persists, most of the evidence suggests that humans were responsible for extinction of this Pleistocene fauna, and we continue to drive animal extinctions today through the destruction of wild lands, consumption of animals as a resource or a luxury, and persecution of species we see as threats or competitors." Unfortunately, most of the detail is behind a paywall, but the summary should be enough to get the point across.

How a Solar Storm Two Years Ago Nearly Caused a Catastrophe On Earth

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the call-ahead-before-dropping-by dept.

Space 210

schwit1 writes: On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth's atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. "If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA. Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

"Analysts believe that a direct hit could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn't even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps. ... According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion, or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair." Steve Tracton put it this way in his frightening overview of the risks of a severe solar storm: "The consequences could be devastating for commerce, transportation, agriculture and food stocks, fuel and water supplies, human health and medical facilities, national security, and daily life in general."

Comet To Make Close Call With Mars

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the skin-of-your-teeth dept.

Mars 43

sciencehabit writes In mid-October, a comet sweeping through our inner solar system for the first time will pass near Mars—so close, in fact, that if it were buzzing Earth at the same distance it would fly by well inside our moon's orbit. While material spewing from the icy visitor probably won't trigger the colossal meteor showers on the Red Planet that some scientists predicted, dust and water vapor may still slam into Mars, briefly heating up its atmosphere and threatening orbiting spacecraft. However it affects the planet, the comet should give scientists their closest view yet of a near-pristine visitor from the outer edges of our solar system.

Metamason: Revolutionizing CPAP Masks With 3D Scanning and 3D Printing

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the breathing-easy dept.

Medicine 59

First time accepted submitter Leslie Oliver Karpas writes As millions of Americans with Obstructive Sleep Apnea struggle to get a good night's sleep, one company has harnessed 3D technology to revolutionize CPAP therapy. As 3ders.org reported today, "Metamason is working on custom CPAP masks for sleep apnea patients via 3D scanning, smart geometry, and 3D printing." "We're at the crossroads of 3D technology and personalized medicine," says Metamason's founder and CEO. "There are many medical products that would be infinitely more comfortable and effective with a customized fit. CPAP therapy is the perfect example—it's a very effective treatment with a 50% quit rate, because mass-produced masks are uncomfortable and don't fit properly." CPAP is a respiratory device worn during sleep to treat OSA, which affects 1 in 4 men and 1 in 9 women in the US alone. Metamason's "ScanFitPrint" process for creating their custom Respere masks translates a 3D scan of the patient's face into a 3D printed custom mask that is a perfect individual fit. To print the masks in soft, biocompatible silicone, Metamason invented a proprietary 3D printing process called Investment Molding, which creates wholly integrated products that were previously considered "unmoldable."

Lawrence Krauss: Congress Is Trying To Defund Scientists At Energy Department

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the let-the-science-flow dept.

United States 285

Lasrick writes Physicist Lawrence Krauss blasts Congress for their passage of the 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations bill that cut funding for renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency, and even worse, had amendments that targeted scientists at the Department of Energy: He writes that this action from the US Congress is worse even than the Australian government's move to cancel their carbon tax, because the action of Congress is far more insidious: "Each (amendment) would, in its own way, specifically prohibit scientists at the Energy Department from doing precisely what Congress should mandate them to do—namely perform the best possible scientific research to illuminate, for policymakers, the likelihood and possible consequences of climate change." Although the bill isn't likely to become law, Krauss is fed up with Congress burying its head in the sand: The fact that those amendments "...could pass a house of Congress, should concern everyone interested in the appropriate support of scientific research as a basis for sound public policy."

Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

Unknown Lamer posted 3 days ago | from the waiting-for-the-laser-vision-option dept.

Medicine 532

gunner_von_diamond (3461783) happened upon Ask Slashdot: Experiences with Laser Eye Surgery from ten years ago, and asks: I was just reading a story on /. from 10 years ago about Lasik Eye Surgery. Personally, I've had Lasik done and loved every single part of the surgery. I went from wearing contacts/glasses every day to having 20/15 vision! In the older post, everyone seemed to be cautious about it, waiting for technical advances before having the surgery. Today, the surgery is fairly inexpensive [even for a programmer :) ], takes about 10-15 minutes, and I recovered from the surgery that same day. So my question is: what is holding everyone else back from freeing themselves from contacts and glasses?

Black Holes Not Black After All, Theorize Physicists

Unknown Lamer posted 3 days ago | from the lemon-chiffon-hole dept.

Space 223

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes Black holes are singularities in spacetime formed by stars that have collapsed at the end of their lives. But while black holes are one of the best known ideas in cosmology, physicists have never been entirely comfortable with the idea that regions of the universe can become infinitely dense. Indeed, they only accept this because they can't think of any reason why it shouldn't happen. But in the last few months, just such a reason has emerged as a result of intense debate about one of cosmology's greatest problems — the information paradox. This is the fundamental tenet in quantum mechanics that all the information about a system is encoded in its wave function and this always evolves in a way that conserves information. The paradox arises when this system falls into a black hole causing the information to devolve into a single state. So information must be lost.

Earlier this year, Stephen Hawking proposed a solution. His idea is that gravitational collapse can never continue beyond the so-called event horizon of a black hole beyond which information is lost. Gravitational collapse would approach the boundary but never go beyond it. That solves the information paradox but raises another question instead: if not a black hole, then what? Now one physicist has worked out the answer. His conclusion is that the collapsed star should end up about twice the radius of a conventional black hole but would not be dense enough to trap light forever and therefore would not be black. Indeed, to all intents and purposes, it would look like a large neutron star.

Empathy For Virtual Characters Studied With FMRI Brain Imaging

Unknown Lamer posted 3 days ago | from the little-billy-loved-hearing-virtual-screams dept.

Science 51

vrml (3027321) writes "A novel brain imaging study published by the prestigious Neuroimage journal sheds light on different reactions that players' brains display when they meet a virtual character in a game world. While their head was inside a fMRI machine, participants played an interactive virtual experience in which they had to survive a serious fire emergency in a building by reaching an exit as soon as possible. However, when they finally arrived at the exit, they also found a virtual character trapped under an heavy cabinet, begging them for help. Some participants chose not to help the character and took the exit, while others stopped to help although the fire became more and more serious and moving away the cabinet required considerable time. Functional brain imaging showed activation of very different brain areas in players when they met the character. When there was an increased functional connectivity of the brain salience network, which suggests an enhanced sensitivity to the threatening situation and potential danger, players ignored the character screams and went for the exit. In those players who helped the character, there was an engagement of the medial prefrontal and temporo-parietal cortices, which in the neuroscience literature are associated with the human ability of taking the perspective of other individuals and making altruistic choices. The paper concludes by emphasizing how virtual worlds can be a salient and ecologically valid stimulus for modern social neuroscience."

Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the mask-and-gloves dept.

Medicine 167

symbolset writes in with the latest about an ebola outbreak spreading across West Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to monitor the evolution of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. The current epidemic trend of EVD outbreak in Sierra Leone and Liberia remains serious, with 67 new cases and 19 deaths reported July 15-17, 2014. These include suspect, probable, and laboratory-confirmed cases. The EVD outbreak in Guinea continues to show a declining trend, with no new cases reported during this period. Critical analyses and review of the current outbreak response is being undertaken to inform the process of developing prioritized national operational plans. Effective implementation of the prioritized plans will be vital in reversing the current trend of EVD outbreak, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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