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Robots Will Pave the Way To Mars

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the leading-the-way dept.

Robotics 95

szotz (2505808) writes "There's a lot of skepticism swirling around NASA's plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030's, not to mention all those private missions. If we want to have sustainable (read: not bank-breaking) space exploration, the argument goes, there's no way we can do it the way we've been going to the moon and low-Earth orbit. We have to find a way to exploit space resources and cut down on the amount of stuff we need to launch from Earth. That's not a new idea. But this article in IEEE Spectrum suggests research on resource extraction and fabrication in low and zero gravity might actually be making progress...and that we could take these technologies quite far if we get our act together."

Hunt Intensifies For Aliens On Kepler's Planets

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the there-you-are dept.

Space 93

astroengine (1577233) writes "Could ET be chatting with colleagues or robots on sister planets in its solar system? Maybe so, say scientists who last year launched a new type of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, project to eavesdrop on aliens. Using data collected by NASA's Kepler space telescope, a team of scientists spent 36 hours listening in when planets in targeted solar systems lined up, relative to Earth's perspective, in hopes of detecting alien interplanetary radio signals. "We think the right strategy in SETI is a variety of strategies. It's really hard to predict what other civilizations might be doing," Dan Werthimer, director of SETI research at the University of California Berkeley, told Discovery News. So far the search hasn't turned up any artificial signals yet, but this marks a change in strategy for radio searches for ETI with Kepler data taking a focused lead."

Can Cyborg Tech End Human Disability By 2064?

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the sweet-robot-arm dept.

Medicine 121

the_newsbeagle (2532562) writes "As part of a 50th anniversary celebration, IEEE Spectrum magazine tries to peer into the technological future 50 years out. Its biomedical article foresees the integration of electronic parts into our human bodies, making up for physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities. The article spotlights the visionaries Hugh Herr, an MIT professor (and double amputee) who wants to build prosthetic limbs that are wired directly into the nervous system; Helen Mayberg, who has developed brain pacemakers to cure depression; and Ted Berger, who's working on neural implants that can restore memory function."

The Earliest Bird To Sip a Flower

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the not-just-for-bees dept.

Science 21

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Researchers have unearthed the earliest evidence of a bird sipping nectar from a flower. The stomach contents of the 47-million-year-old fossil flyer — a long-extinct species of perching bird — include hundreds of grains of pollen. The ancient pollen grains are large and apparently clumped together readily, a clue that the plant that bore the flowers was pollinated by creatures and not by the wind."

The Andromeda Galaxy Just Had a Bright Gamma Ray Event

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the alien-super-weapon dept.

Space 129

First time accepted submitter SpaceMika (867804) writes "We just saw something bright in the Andromeda Galaxy, and we don't know what it was. A Gamma Ray Burst or an Ultraluminous X-Ray Object, either way it will be the closest of its type we've ever observed at just over 2 million light years away. It's the perfect distance: close enough to observe in unprecedented detail, and far enough to not kill us all."

Belief In Evolution Doesn't Measure Science Literacy

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the also-doesn't-measure-temperature-or-blood-pressure dept.

Education 772

cold fjord writes: "Dan Kahan at the Yale Law School Cultural Cognition Project says, 'Because imparting basic comprehension of science in citizens is so critical to enlightened democracy, it is essential that we develop valid measures of it, so that we can assess and improve the profession of teaching science to people. ... The National Science Foundation has been engaged in the project of trying to formulate and promote such a measure for quite some time. A few years ago it came to the conclusion that the item "human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals," shouldn't be included when computing "science literacy." The reason was simple: the answer people give to this question doesn't measure their comprehension of science. People who score at or near the top on the remaining portions of the test aren't any more likely to get this item "correct" than those who do poorly on the remaining portions. What the NSF's evolution item does measure, researchers have concluded, is test takers' cultural identities, and in particular the centrality of religion in their lives.' Kahan also had a previous, related post on the interaction between religiosity and scientific literacy."

The Rule of Three Proved By Physicists

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the omne-trium-perfectum dept.

Science 80

An anonymous reader writes "In 1970, Russian physicist Vitaly Efimov developed mathematical proof (PDF) that any three-particle substance, referred to as a trimer, will scale up or down in size by a factor of 22.7 and that if the particles are not all of the same type, 'the scaling factor of 22.7 decreases according to the particles' relative masses.' In 2006, physicists in Austria proved that Efimov's trimers can be created in laser-cooled environments. And now, in 2014, physicists in Austria, Germany, and the U.S. have physical proof that Efimov's trimers do indeed scale by a factor of 22.7 if they are comprised of the same particles or a lower ratio relative to their particles' masses if they are comprised of a mixture of different particles (abstract 1, abstract 2, abstract 3). 22.7 — a.k.a., the rule of three — now appears to be as significant as pi."

Parenting Rewires the Male Brain

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the swearing-circuits-rerouted-and-patience-circuits-bolstered dept.

Science 291

sciencehabit writes: "Cultures around the world have long assumed that women are hardwired to be mothers. But a new study (abstract) suggests that caring for children awakens a parenting network in the brain—even turning on some of the same circuits in men as it does in women. The research implies that the neural underpinnings of the so-called maternal instinct aren't unique to women, or activated solely by hormones, but can be developed by anyone who chooses to be a parent."

Why You Shouldn't Use Spreadsheets For Important Work

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the they'll-throw-you-in-a-cell dept.

Math 422

An anonymous reader writes "Computer science professor Daniel Lemire explains why spreadsheets shouldn't be used for important work, especially where dedicated software could do a better job. His post comes in response to evaluations of a new economics tome by Thomas Piketty, a book that is likely to be influential for years to come. Lemire writes, 'Unfortunately, like too many people, Piketty used spreadsheets instead of writing sane software. On the plus side, he published his code ... on the negative side, it appears that Piketty's code contains mistakes, fudging and other problems. ... Simply put, spreadsheets are good for quick and dirty work, but they are not designed for serious and reliable work. ... Spreadsheets make code review difficult. The code is hidden away in dozens if not hundreds of little cells If you are not reviewing your code carefully and if you make it difficult for others to review it, how do expect it to be reliable?'"

Wikipedia Medical Articles Found To Have High Error Rate

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the frequently-transpose-black-and-yellow-bile dept.

Wikipedia 200

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "A group of researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that 90% of the Wikipedia articles they sampled contained errors regarding common medical conditions. Unsurprisingly, they recommend your General Practitioner as a more reliable source, while noting, '47% to 70% of physicians and medical students admitting to using [Wikipedia] as a reference.' At issue in the study is the small sample size the researchers used: 10 medical conditions. There are also ongoing efforts to improve the quality of Wikipedia's articles. According to a Wikipedia spokesman, '... especially in relation to health and medicine.' The BBC has more approachable coverage."

Samsung S5 Reports Stress Levels Through Heart Rate Variability Measure

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the just-happy-to-see-you dept.

Cellphones 62

oztechmuse (2323576) writes "Samsung has just released an updated version of its health software for the Samsung Galaxy S5 that measures stress levels. Using the heart rate sensor on the back of the phone, the S5 will calculate a measure of stress from low to high. Although this may seem far-fetched to some, the phone is actually using a measure of the heart rate to calculate something called 'heart rate variability' or HRV. HRV has been shown to be related to a range of clinical conditions that include problems with the heart but also mental issues of stress and anxiety. Athletes have also used HRV as a measure of over-training and so use heart rate monitors to check if they need rest days. Samsung seems to be claiming the ground in terms of innovation in health-related sensor technology. In addition to the built-in pulse oximeter sensor used for the HRV measurements, Samsung phones now support direct connections to heart rate straps using the Ant+ protocol as well as through Bluetooth. Apple and others have a long way to go to catch up."

Organic Cat Litter May Have Caused Nuclear Waste Accident

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the that's-a-bad-kitty dept.

Earth 174

mdsolar (1045926) writes in with a story about how important buying the right kind of kitty litter can be. "In February, a 55-gallon drum of radioactive waste burst open inside America's only nuclear dump, in New Mexico. Now investigators believe the cause may have been a pet store purchase gone bad. 'It was the wrong kitty litter,' says James Conca, a geochemist in Richland, Wash., who has spent decades in the nuclear waste business. It turns out there's more to cat litter than you think. It can soak up urine, but it's just as good at absorbing radioactive material. 'It actually works well both in the home litter box as well as the radiochemistry laboratory,' says Conca, who is not directly involved in the current investigation. Cat litter has been used for years to dispose of nuclear waste. Dump it into a drum of sludge and it will stabilize volatile radioactive chemicals. The litter prevents it from reacting with the environment. And this is what contractors at Los Alamos National Laboratory were doing as they packed Cold War-era waste for shipment to the dump. But at some point, they decided to make a switch, from clay to organic. 'Now that might sound nice, you're trying to be green and all that, but the organic kitty litters are organic,' says Conca. Organic litter is made of plant material, which is full of chemical compounds that can react with the nuclear waste. 'They actually are just fuel, and so they're the wrong thing to add,' he says. Investigators now believe the litter and waste caused the drum to slowly heat up 'sort of like a slow burn charcoal briquette instead of an actual bomb.' After it arrived at the dump, it burst."

Human "Suspended Animation" Trials To Start This Month

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the buck-rogers dept.

Medicine 104

An anonymous reader writes in with news about a UPMC Presbyterian Hospital trial starting this month which brings us one step closer to suspended animation. "The researchers behind it don't want to call it suspended animation, but it's the most conventional way to explain it. The world's first humans trials will start at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, with 10 patients whose injuries would otherwise be fatal to operate on. A team of surgeons will remove the patient's blood, replacing it with a chilled saline solution that would cool the body, slowing down bodily functions and delaying death from blood loss. According to Dr. Samuel Tisherman, talking to New Scientist: 'We are suspending life, but we don't like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction... we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation.'" We covered this story a few months ago when it was announced.

The Major Theoretical Blunders That Held Back Progress In Modern Astronomy

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the more-you-don't-know dept.

Space 129

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The history of astronomy is littered with ideas that once seemed incontrovertibly right and yet later proved to be bizarrely wrong. Not least among these are the ancient ideas that the Earth is flat and at the center of the universe. But there is no shortage of others from the modern era. Now one astronomer has compiled a list of examples of wrong-thinking that have significantly held back progress in astronomy. These include the idea put forward in 1909 that telescopes had reached optimal size and that little would be gained by making them any bigger. Then there was the NASA committee that concluded that an orbiting x-ray telescope would be of little value. This delayed the eventual launch of the first x-ray telescope by half a decade, which went on to discover the first black hole candidate among other things. And perhaps most spectacularly wrong was the idea that other solar systems must be like our own, with Jupiter-like planets orbiting at vast distances from their parent stars. This view probably delayed the discovery of the first exoplanet by 30 years. Indeed, when astronomers did find the first exo-Jupiter, the community failed to recognize it as a planet for six years. As Mark Twain once put it: 'It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.'"

Mental Illness Reduces Lifespan As Much as Smoking

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the both-at-once-is-just-asking-for-it dept.

Medicine 192

That smoking is bad for your health is a commonplace; cancer, lung disease, and other possible consequences can all shorten smokers' lifespans. A new meta study from researchers at Oxford concludes that mental illness is just as big a factor in shortening lives, and not only because depression is a contributing factor to suicide. From the story at NPR: "We know that smoking boosts the risk of cancer and heart disease, says Dr. Seena Fazel, a psychiatrist at Oxford University who led the study. But aside from the obvious fact that people with mental illnesses are more likely to commit suicide, it's not clear how mental disorders could be causing early deaths. The researchers looked at data on 1.7 million patients, drawing from 20 recent scientific reviews and studies from mostly wealthy countries. Comparing the effects of mental illness and smoking helps put the stats in context, Fazel tells Shots. 'It was useful to benchmark against something that has a very high mortality rate.'" [Press release from Oxford.]

Quad Lasers Deliver Fast, Earth-Based Internet To the Moon

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the but-the-latency dept.

Communications 131

A joint project involving NASA and MIT researchers had demonstrated technology last year that could supply a lunar colony with broadband via lasers ("faster Internet access than many U.S. homes get") and has already demonstrated its worth in communications with spacecraft. From ComputerWorld's article: "The Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) kicked off last September with the launch of NASA's LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer), a research satellite [formerly] orbiting the moon. NASA built a laser communications module into LADEE for use in the high-speed wireless experiment. LLCD has already proved itself, transmitting data from LADEE to Earth at 622Mbps (bits per second) and in the other direction at 19.44Mbps, according to MIT. It beat the fastest-ever radio communication to the moon by a factor of 4,800." Communicating at such distances means overcoming various challenges; one of the biggest is the variability in Earth's atmosphere. The LLCD didn't try to power through the atmosphere at only one spot, therefore, but used four separate beams in the New Mexico desert, each aimed "through a different column of air, where the light-bending effects of the atmosphere are slightly different. That increased the chance that at least one of the beams would reach the receiver on the LADEE. Test results [were] promising, according to MIT, with the 384,633-kilometer optical link providing error-free performance in both darkness and bright sunlight, through partly transparent thin clouds, and through atmospheric turbulence that affected signal power." At the CLEO: 2014 conference in June, researchers will provide a comprehensive explanation of how it worked.

Should We Eat Invasive Species?

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the will-ponder-this-over-some-nutria-mousse dept.

Earth 290

The Washington Post's Energy & Environment section raises today the question of whether the best way to control certain invasive species is to eat them. The biggest success story on this front in the U.S. has been the lionfish; it destroys the habitat of some other fish in the areas where it's been introduced, but it turns out to be a palatable food fish, too. Its population has gone down since the start of a concerted effort to encourage it as a food, rather than just a nuisance. The article touches on invasive species of fish and crustaceans, but also land animals and plants. I know that garlic mustard (widespread in eastern U.S. forests) is tasty, and so are the blackberries all over Seattle.

R Throwdown Challenge

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the if-you-pirate-it-so-much-the-better dept.

Programming 185

theodp (442580) writes "'R beats Python!' screams the headline at Prof. Norm Matloff's Mad (Data) Scientist blog. 'R beats Julia! Anyone else wanna challenge R?' Not that he has anything against Python, Matloff adds, but he just doesn't believe that Python or Julia will become 'the new R' anytime soon, or ever. Why? 'R is written by statisticians, for statisticians,' explains Matloff. 'It matters. An Argentinian chef, say, who wants to make Japanese sushi may get all the ingredients right, but likely it just won't work out quite the same. Similarly, a Pythonista could certainly cook up some code for some statistical procedure by reading a statistics book, but it wouldn't be quite same. It would likely be missing some things of interest to the practicing statistician. And R is Statistically Correct.'"

Kiwi Genetically Closer to Extinct Elephant Birds Than to the Emu

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the but-it's-totally-ok-for-them-to-mate dept.

Earth 46

"A new study by the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), has solved a 150-year-old evolutionary mystery about the origins of the giant flightless 'ratite' birds, such as the emu and ostrich, which are found across the southern continents. This group contains some of the world's largest birds - such as the extinct giant moa of New Zealand and elephant birds of Madagascar. ... [A]ncient DNA extracted from bones of two elephant birds held by the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, has revealed a close genetic connection with the kiwi, despite the striking differences in geography, morphology and ecology between the two." Which means that the emu is not, as conventional wisdom has long held, the kiwi's closest link. Here's more on the research from the University of Adelaide.

NASA Money Crunch Means Trouble For Spitzer Space Telescope

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the infinite-desires-finite-resources dept.

Space 107

Scientific American reports that an ongoing budget crunch at NASA may spell doom for the Spitzer Space Telescope, the agency having "taken stock of its fleet of orbiting astrophysics telescopes and decided which to save and which to shutter. Among the winners were the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Kepler planet-hunting telescope, which will begin a modified mission designed to compensate for the recent failure of two of its four stabilizing reaction wheels." Also from the SciAm article: "Until JWST comes online, no other telescope can approach Spitzer’s sensitivity in the range of infrared light it sees. The Senior Review report noted that Spitzer had the largest oversubscription of any NASA mission from 2013 to 2014, meaning that it gets about seven times more applications for observing time from scientists than it can accommodate. ...'The guest observing programs were very powerful because you get people from all over the world proposing ideas that maybe the people on the team wouldn’t have come up with,' [senior review panel chair Ben R.] Oppenheimer says. 'But it’s got to be paid for.'"

Hawaii's Oahu Used To Be a Bigger Island

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the back-in-my-day-we-called-it-Oooooaaahhhuuu dept.

Earth 44

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The two volcanoes long thought to have formed the Hawaiian island of Oahu had a head start: They grew on top of an older volcano that's now submerged northwest of the island and partially covered by it, new research suggests. Tests indicate that the long-lost peak—now dubbed Kaena volcano—grew from the sea floor and broke through the ocean's surface about 3.5 million years ago, eventually reaching a height of about 1000 meters above sea level before it began sinking back into the sea. At its largest, ancient Oahu would have measured about 1900 square kilometers (about 20% larger than modern-day Oahu) or larger. Over the course of its lifetime, Kaena volcano spilled between 20,000 and 27,000 cubic kilometers of molten rock, the researchers estimate. When Kaena volcano became largely extinct isn't clear."

Botched Executions Put Lethal Injections Under New Scrutiny

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the terrible-systems-generate-terrible-problems dept.

Medicine 483

carmendrahl writes: "Lethal injections are typically regarded as far more humane methods for execution compared to predecessors such as hanging and firing squads. But the truth about the procedure's humane-ness is unclear. Major medical associations have declared involvement of their member physicians in executions to be unethical, so that means that relatively inexperienced people administer the injections. Mounting supply challenges for the lethal drug cocktails involved are forcing execution teams to change procedures on the fly. This and other problems have contributed to recent crises in Oklahoma and Missouri. As a new story and interactive graphic explains, states are turning to a number of compound cocktails to get around the supply problems."

Ask Slashdot: Communication With Locked-in Syndrome Patient?

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the our-thoughts-are-with-you dept.

Communications 552

cablepokerface writes "We've had a significant family catastrophe last weekend. My sister-in-law (my wife's sister) is 28 years old and was 30 weeks pregnant till last Saturday. She also had a tumor — it was a benign, slow growing tumor close to her brain-stem. Naturally we were very worried about that condition, but several neurologists assessed the situation earlier and found the tumor to be a problem, but not big enough for her to require immediate surgery, so we decided to give the baby more time. She was symptomatic, but it was primarily pain in her neck area and that was controlled with acceptable levels of morphine.

Then, last Saturday, our lives changed. Probably forever. In the hospital, where she was admitted earlier that week to keep an eye on the baby, the tumor ruptured a small vessel and started leaking blood into the tumor, which swelled up to twice its size. Then she, effectively, had a stroke from the excess blood in the brain stem. In a hurry, the baby was born through C-section (30 weeks and it's a boy — he's doing fine). Saturday night she had complex brain surgery, which lasted nine hours. They removed the blood and tumor that was pressing on the brain.

Last Sunday/Monday they slowly tried to wake her up. The CT scan shows all higher brain functions to work, but a small part of the brain stem shows no activity. She is locked-in, which is a terrible thing to witness since she has virtually no control of any part of her body. She can't breathe on her own, and the only things she can move, ever so slightly, are her lips, eyelids and eyes. And even that's not very steady. Blinking her eyes to answer questions tires her out enormously, as she seems to have to work hard to control those. The crowd on Slashdot is a group of people who have in-depth knowledge of a wide range of topics. I'm certainly not asking for pity here, but maybe you can help me with the following questions: Does anyone have any ideas on how to communicate better with her? Is there technology that could help? Like brain-wave readers or something? Does anyone have any ideas I haven't thought of regarding communication with her, or maybe even experience with it?"

Four Weeks Without Soap Or Shampoo

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the or-as-frankie-calls-it,-february dept.

Biotech 250

An anonymous reader writes "A biotech start-up from Massachusetts has an unusual product: a bottle full of bacteria you're supposed to spray onto your face. The bacteria is Nitrosomonas eutropha, and it's generally harmless. Its main use is that it oxidizes ammonia, and the start-up's researchers suspect it used to commonly live on human skin before we began washing it away with soaps and other cleaners. Such bacteria are an area of heavy research in biology right now. Scientists know that the gut microbiome is important to proper digestion, and they're trying to figure out if an external microbiome can be similarly beneficial to skin. A journalist for the NY Times volunteered to test the product, which involved four straight weeks of no showers, no soap, no shampoo, and no deodorant. The sprayed-on bacteria quickly colonized her skin, along with other known types of bacteria — and hundreds of unknown (but apparently harmless) strains. She reported improvements to her skin and complexion, and described how the bacteria worked to curtail (but not eliminate) the body odor caused by not washing. At the end of the experiment, all of the N. eutropha vanished within three showers."

Yelp Reviews Help NYC Health Department Find and Close Dirty Restaurants

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the bad-dates dept.

Government 64

An anonymous reader writes with news about a study that investigated the effectiveness of Yelp reviews in pinpointing the source of foodborne illnesses. "In 2012, New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) found that residents weren't turning to the city's free 311 service to make such complaints, but rather they were reporting their experiences in Yelp reviews. So the CDC, in collaboration with the New York City DOHMH, Yelp, and Columbia University, conducted a nine-month long research into the effectiveness of using online reviews to identify sources of foodborne illnesses. The study discovered 468 actionable complaints, 97% of which hadn't been officially reported to the city, and analyzed roughly 294,000 Yelp restaurant reviews. Subsequent investigations on suspected restaurants turned up evidence of bare-handed food handling, cross-contamination, or even the presence of mice and cockroaches. The study concluded that providing the public with more options for reporting complaints about restaurants, particularly in the social media sphere, would help in the identification and possible closure of sources of foodborne illnesses."

Trillions of Plastic Pieces May Be Trapped In Arctic Ice

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the plastic-ice dept.

Earth 136

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Humans produced nearly 300 million tons of plastic in 2012, but where does it end up? A new study has found plastic debris in a surprising location: trapped in Arctic sea ice. As the ice melts, it could release a flood of floating plastic onto the world. From the article: 'Scientists already knew that microplastics—polymer beads, fibers, or fragments less than 5 millimeters long—can wind up in the ocean, near coastlines, or in swirling eddies such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But Rachel Obbard, a materials scientist at Dartmouth College, was shocked to find that currents had carried the stuff to the Arctic.'"

The Big Bang's Last Great Prediction

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the in-the-beginning dept.

Space 80

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Even with the add-ons of dark matter, dark energy and inflation, the Big Bang still thrives as the most successful scientific model of the Universe ever constructed. It not only accounting for phenomena like the abundance of the light elements, the cosmic microwave background, and the Universe's large-scale structure, but it's led to observable predictions about their details that have since been verified. But there's one thing the Big Bang has generically predicted that we haven't been able to test: a cosmic background of low-energy, relic neutrinos."

New Mars Crater Spotted In Before-and-After Pictures

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the take-another-look dept.

Mars 41

The Bad Astronomer (563217) writes "The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted a new crater on the surface of Mars, and, using before-and-after pictures, the impact date has been nailed down to less than a day — it happened on or about March 27, 2012. The crater is 50 meters or so in size, and surrounded by smaller craters that may have been caused by smaller impacts due to the incoming meteoroid breaking up. Several landslides were spotted in the area as well, possibly due to the shock wave of the impact."

Why Not Every New "Like the Brain" System Will Prove Important

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the you-keep-using-that-word-I-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means dept.

Biotech 47

An anonymous reader writes "There is certainly no shortage of stories about AI systems that include the saying, 'like the brain'. This article takes a critical look at those claims and just what 'like the brain' means. The conclusion: while not a lie, the catch-phrase isn't very informative and may not mean much given our lack of understanding on how the brain works. From the article: 'Surely these claims can't all be true? After all, the brain is an incredibly complex and specific structure, forged in the relentless pressure of millions of years of evolution to be organized just so. We may have a lot of outstanding questions about how it works, but work a certain way it must. But here's the thing: this "like the brain" label usually isn't a lie — it's just not very informative. There are many ways a system can be like the brain, but only a fraction of these will prove important. We know so much that is true about the brain, but the defining issue in theoretical neuroscience today is, simply put, we don't know what matters when it comes to understanding how the brain computes. The debate is wide open, with plausible guesses about the fundamental unit, ranging from quantum phenomena all the way to regions spanning millimeters of brain tissue.'"

Russian Meteor: Chelyabinsk Asteroid Had Violent Past

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the use-your-words dept.

Space 24

astroengine (1577233) writes "The asteroid that hit Earth last year and exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, had a prior crash record. Fragments of the asteroid recovered after the powerful Feb. 15, 2013, airburst show it contained an unusual form of the mineral jadeite embedded in glassy structures known as shock veins. Shock veins typically form when the parent body of a meteor or asteroid collides with a larger object in space. Heat and pressure from the impact cause rock to melt. It later reforms bearing vein-shaped patterns. 'Impact-induced jadeite has been found from other shocked meteorites. However, a unique point of the Chelyabinsk jadeite is that it seems to have crystallized from melt. To my knowledge, previously reported jadeite in other meteorites is considered to have formed (by solid-state reaction) without melting,' graduate student Shin Ozawa, with Japan's Tohoku University, wrote in an email to Discovery News."

CERN's Particle Smashers List Their Toughest Tech Challenges

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the this-is-hard dept.

Science 31

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at CERN have detailed some of the big technology problems they need to solve to help the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) solve some of the fundamental questions about the nature of the universe. 'You make it, we break it' is the CERN openlab motto which looks at emerging tech: data acquisition, computing platforms, data storage architectures, compute management and provisioning and more are on the to do list."

Swiss Space Systems Announces Plan To Offer World's Cheapest Zero-G Flights

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the discount-vomit-rocket dept.

Space 64

Zothecula (1870348) writes "Although you'll probably never make it to outer space, Swiss Space Systems (S3) is at least trying to move the zero-gravity experience a little closer to reality for the average person. This week, the company announced its plans to start offering what it claims will be the world's cheapest weightlessness-inducing flights, from 15 international locations."

World's Smallest Nanomotor Could Power Cell-Sized Nanobots For Drug Delivery

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the getting-small dept.

Medicine 20

Zothecula (1870348) writes "Scientists at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas have built and tested what appears to be the world's smallest, fastest, and longest-running nanomotor yet – so small that it could fit inside a single cell. The advance could be used to power nanobots that would deliver specific drugs to individual living cells inside the human body."

Professors: US "In Denial" Over Poor Maths Standards

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the one-plus-one-equals-spoon dept.

Education 688

thephydes (727739) writes "The maths skills of teenagers in parts of the deep south of the United States are worse than in countries such as Turkey and barely above South American countries such as Chile and Mexico. From the article: '"There is a denial phenomenon," says Prof Peterson. He said the tendency to make internal comparisons between different groups within the US had shielded the country from recognising how much they are being overtaken by international rivals. "The American public has been trained to think about white versus minority, urban versus suburban, rich versus poor," he said.'"

Efforts To Turn Elephants Into Woolly Mammoths Are Already Underway

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the still-waiting-on-a-mammoth-steak dept.

Science 147

Jason Koebler writes: "Researchers are working to hybridize existing animals with extinct ones in order to create a '2.0' version of the animal. Using a genome editing technique known as CRISPR, Harvard synthetic biologist George Church has successfully migrated three genes, which gave the woolly mammoth its furry appearance, extra layer of fat, and cold-resistant blood, into the cells of Asian elephants, with the idea of eventually making a hybrid embryo. In theory, given what we know about both the woolly mammoth genome and the Asian elephant genome, the final product will be something that more closely resembles the former than the latter."

Researchers Experiment With Explosives To Fight Wildfires

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the my-kind-of-stupid dept.

Earth 80

aesoteric writes: "Australian researchers are a step closer to demonstrating whether explosives — rather than water — can be used to extinguish an out-of-control wildfire. The research uses a blast of air to knock the flame off its fuel source — a technique used in the oil & gas industry for decades. The latest tests were conducted in New Mexico. Firefighters are reported to be quietly optimistic about the research's potential."

Even In the Wild Mice Run In Wheels

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the gym-for-field-mice dept.

Science 122

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Scientists have found that if they place a running wheel outside, wild animals will flock to it. The researchers observed more than 200,000 mice, rats, and even frogs using the apparatus over a three year period. The findings suggest that like (some) humans, mice and other animals may simply exercise because they like to. Figuring out why certain strains of mice are more sedentary than others could help shed light on genetic differences between more active and sedentary people."

Witness the Birth of a Meteor Shower

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the pretty-lights-in-the-sky dept.

Space 28

StartsWithABang writes: "Here on Earth, we think of shooting stars and meteor showers as things that happen periodically; sometimes they're spectacular, sometimes they're rare. But in all cases, they're caused by comet debris, and they should flare up each time the Earth crosses the comet's path. But as it turns out, every meteor shower had a point in its past where it happened for the very first time. In all of human history, we've never recorded one that occurred for the very first time where none happened before. Well, for those of you who want to take the chance to be a part of it, this coming Friday night/Saturday morning, look for the Camelopardalids, making their Earthly debut this year!"

How the Emerging Science of Proteotronics Will Change Electronics

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the peanut-butter-in-your-chocolate dept.

Biotech 29

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The study of proteins has become one of the hottest topics in science in the last 20 years, and not just for biologists. Researchers have been measuring the electrical properties of proteins for some time, discovering that some of them act like switches in certain circumstances. That's potentially useful but without a robust theoretical model of how these properties arise, nobody has been able to incorporate proteins into real devices. Now electronics engineers have developed the first model that reliably describes the real electrical behaviour of proteins and how it changes when they bond to other molecules. It even predicts the behaviour in new situations. That should make it possible to use proteins in the same way as other electronic components such as transistors, diodes and so on. That's leading to an entirely new field of science called proteotronics in which proteins work seamlessly with other components in electronic devices. First up, an electronic nose based on the olfactory receptor OR-17, a protein found in rats, which behaves like an electronic switch when it detects the presence of aldehydes such as octanal."

Curiosity Rover May Have Brought Dozens of Microbes To Mars

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the spreading-life-probably-just-as-interesting dept.

Mars 97

bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Despite rigorous pre-flight cleaning, swabbing of the Curiosity Rover just prior to liftoff revealed some 377 strains of bacteria. 'In the lab, scientists exposed the microbes to desiccation, UV exposure, cold and pH extremes. Nearly 11% of the 377 strains survived more than one of these severe conditions. Thirty-one per cent of the resistant bacteria did not form tough, protective spore coats; the researchers suspect that they used other biochemical means of protection, such as metabolic changes.' While the risk of contaminating the red planet are unknown, knowing the types of strains that may have survived pre-flight cleaning may help rule out biological 'discoveries' if and when NASA carries out its plans to return a soil sample from Mars."

NASA's Plan To Block Light From Distant Stars To Find 'Earth 2.0'

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the starshader-glides-in-front-of-a-star dept.

Space 92

Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "Over the last five years, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has found dozens of potentially habitable planets. The only problem is that we can't actually see them, because the glare from those planets' stars makes it impossible to image them directly. A new, audacious plan to completely block out the light from those stars, however, could change all of that. The plan calls for a satellite to be sent out several tens of thousands of miles from Earth. The satellite will unfold a huge, flower-shaped metal shade that will literally block the light of some far-out star to the point where a space telescope, which will directly communicate with Starshade, will be able to image whatever planets are orbiting it directly. It's called Starshade, and, given the name, it works exactly how you might expect it to. If you look directly at the sun, you're not going to be able to see anything in the sky around it. Hold up something between your eyes and the sun to block it, however, and you'll be able to see much better."

Spanish Conquest May Have Altered Peru's Shoreline

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the accidental-retaining-wall dept.

Earth 94

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The Spanish conquest of the Inca had a profound effect on Peru's indigenous people, but a new study reveals that it also had an unexpected impact on the land itself. Before the Spaniards arrived, inhabitants of the arid northern Peruvian coast clad massive sand dune-like ridges with an accidental form of 'armor': millions of discarded mollusk shells, which protected the ridges from erosion for nearly 4700 years and produced a vast corrugated landscape that is visible from space. This incidental landscape protection came to a swift end, however, after diseases brought by Spanish colonists decimated the local population and after colonial officials resettled the survivors inland. Without humans to create the protective covering, newly formed beach ridges simply eroded and vanished."

Mysterious Disease May Be Carried by the Wind

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the blowing-in-the-wind dept.

Japan 72

bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Kawasaki disease is a mysterious condition that results in alarming rashes, inflammation and sometimes early death. It sickens 12,000 children a year in Japan and is suspected to arrive there and elsewhere by the wind. Now, researchers have narrowed the source to croplands in northern China and offered some possible explanations as to its cause."

As NASA Seeks Next Mission, Russia Holds the Trump Card

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the catbird-seat dept.

NASA 250

Geoffrey.landis (926948) writes "After the space shuttle retired in 2011, Russia has hiked the price of a trip to the International Space Station, to $71 million per seat. Less well recognized is the disparity in station crews. Before the shuttle stopped flying, an equal number of American and Russian crew members lived on board. But afterwards the bear began squeezing. For every two NASA astronauts that have flown to the station, three Russians have gone. Eric Burger asks, how did it come to this?"

ESA's Cryosat Mission Sees Antarctic Ice Losses Double

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.

Earth 162

An anonymous reader writes in with news that seems to confirm the alarming reports last week about Antarctic ice melting. "The new assessment comes from Europe's Cryosat spacecraft, which has a radar instrument specifically designed to measure the shape of the ice sheet. The melt loss from the White Continent is sufficient to push up global sea levels by around 0.43mm per year. Scientists report the data in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (abstract). The new study incorporates three years of measurements from 2010 to 2013, and updates a synthesis of observations made by other satellites over the period 2005 to 2010. Cryosat has been using its altimeter to trace changes in the height of the ice sheet — as it gains mass through snowfall, and loses mass through melting."

NASA Looks To Volcanic Rocks As Target For Next Mars Rover

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the get-cracking dept.

Mars 33

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "At a 3-day workshop, planetary scientists advocated for igneous rock–bearing landing sites as high-priority targets for NASA's next Mars rover mission, scheduled to launch in 2020. The $1.5 billion rover, a near-copy of the Curiosity rover, will collect about 30 samples of rock and soil for eventual return to Earth. Mineralized fracture zones at such sties may have been home at one time hydrothermal systems, with hot, fluid-filled fractures. Hydrothermal sites on Earth harbor ecosystems with extremophilic microbes."

Scientists Propose Collider That Could Turn Light Into Matter

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the give-me-my-holodeck dept.

Science 223

An anonymous reader writes "Imperial College London physicists have discovered how to create matter from light — a feat thought impossible when the idea was first theorized 80 years ago. From the article: 'A pair of researchers predicted a method for turning light into matter 80 years ago, and now a new team of scientists are proposing a technique that could make that method happen in the purest way yet. The proposed method involves colliding two photons — the massless particles of light — that have extremely high energies to transform them into two particles with mass, and researchers in the past have been able to prove that it works. But in replicating that old method, known as Breit–Wheeler pair production, they had to introduce particles that did have mass into the process. Imperial College London researchers, however, say that it's now possible to create a collider that only includes photons.'"

James Cameron and Eric Schmidt's SOI Grieve Loss of Nereus ROV

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the so-long-farewell dept.

Science 72

theodp (442580) writes "Wealthy guys love extreme submarines, observed Billionaire in 2012. And the Washington Post reported that deep sea exploration is getting to be a rich man's game in 2013. The NY Times also covered the privatization of American science earlier this year. So, it's not too surprising to see the [Google Chair Eric] Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) post filmmaker James Cameron's eulogy-of-sorts for the loss of the Nereus ROV, the hybrid remotely operated vehicle that's believed to have imploded under 16,000 PSI of pressure at a depth of 9,990 meters as it explored the Kermadec Trench. 'I feel like I've lost a friend,' wrote Cameron. 'I always dreamed of making a joint dive with Nereus and [Cameron's] Deepsea Challenger at hadal depth.' Also feeling Cameron's pain is SOI, which used the Nereus to explore the Mid-Cayman Rise in 2013 and had plans to use the $6 million HROV again to explore the Mariana Trench in two missions later this year. SOI is currently working with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to build the world's most advanced deep-diving robotic vehicle for use on SOI's ship R/V Falkor, which Wendy Schmidt indicated provides ship time that enables researchers to tap into available funding."

Radioactivity Cleanup At Hanford Nuclear Reservation, 25 Years On

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the get-scrubbing dept.

Earth 123

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "The cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington was supposed to be entering its final stages by now. The reality is far from that. The cleanup was to be managed under the 'Tri-Party Agreement', signed on May 15, 1989, which was supposed to facilitate cooperation between the agencies involved. Today, underfunded and overwhelmed by technical problems, the effort is decades behind schedule. Adding to the frustrations for stakeholders and watchdogs is a bureaucratic slipperiness on the part of the Federal Department of Energy. As one watchdog put it, 'We are constantly frustrated by how easily the Department of Energy slips out of agreements in the Tri-Party Agreement.'"

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