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sciencehabit (1205606) writes When the last passenger pigeon died at a zoo in 1914, the species became a cautionary tale of the dramatic impact humans can have on the world. But a new study finds that the bird experienced multiple population booms and crashes over the million years before its final demise. The sensitivity of the population to natural fluctuations, the authors argue, could have been what made it so vulnerable to extinction.
An anonymous reader writes A cure for Type 1 diabetes is still far from sight, but new research suggests an artificial "bionic pancreas" holds promise for making it much more easily manageable. From the article: "Currently about one-third of people with Type 1 diabetes rely on insulin pumps to regulate blood sugar. They eliminate the need for injections and can be programmed to mimic the natural release of insulin by dispensing small doses regularly. But these pumps do not automatically adjust to the patient's variable insulin needs, and they do not dispense glucagon. The new device, described in a report in The New England Journal of Medicine, dispenses both hormones, and it does so with little intervention from the patient."
Zothecula (1870348) writes According to the CDC, around 48 million people in the US get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die as a result of foodborne illnesses every year. One of the main culprits is listeriosis (or listeria), which is responsible for approximately 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths. Now researchers at the University of Southampton are using a device designed to detect the most common cause of listeriosis directly on food preparation surfaces, without the need to send samples away for laboratory testing.
schwit1 (797399) writes "A super-enriched genetically engineered banana will soon go through its first human trial, which will test its effect on vitamin A levels, Australian researchers said Monday. The project plans to have the special banana varieties — enriched with alpha and beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A — growing in Uganda by 2020. The bananas are now being sent to the United States, and it is expected that the six-week trial measuring how well they lift vitamin A levels in humans will begin soon."
An anonymous reader writes NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is moving towards Pluto to explore Charon, one of Pluto's moons. The aim of the mission is to search of evidence of an ancient underground ocean on the moon. "Our model predicts different fracture patterns on the surface of Charon depending on the thickness of its surface ice, the structure of the moon's interior and how easily it deforms, and how its orbit evolved," said Alyssa Rhoden of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "By comparing the actual New Horizons observations of Charon to the various predictions, we can see what fits best and discover if Charon could have had a subsurface ocean in its past, driven by high eccentricity."
Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes You're likely familiar with the theory of how the Moon formed: a stray body smashed into our young Earth, heating the planet and flinging debris into its orbit. That debris coalesced and formed the Moon. The impact theory still holds, but a team of geochemists from the University of Lorraine in Nancy, France has refined the date, finding that the Moon is about 60 million years older than we thought. As it turns out, that also means the Earth is 60 million years older than previously thought, which is a particularly cool finding considering just how hard it is to estimate the age of our planet.
An anonymous reader writes Ars Technica reports that for the first time in Bitcoin's five-year history, a single entity has repeatedly provided more than half of the total computational power required to mine new digital coins, in some cases for sustained periods of time. It's an event that, if it persists, signals the end of crypto currency's decentralized structure."
In a story that's sure to bring to the surface the long-debunked myth of an over-elaborate NASA quest to create a pen to operate in space, Wired reports that the coffee situation aboard the International Space Station is about to improve: the station will be getting a 20kg, custom designed Lavazza espresso machine, to be delivered along with Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Among other differences from terrestrial espresso machines: the resulting beverage must be pumped into a straw-friendly bag rather than a demitasse. I wonder if there could be some way to adapt a (much lighter) Aeropress for space purposes, as a backup.
A New York Times piece (as carried by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) outlines a fascinating project operating in unlikely circumstances for a quixotic goal. They want to control, and return to earth, the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3, launched in 1978 but which "appears to be in good working order." Engineer Dennis Wingo, along with like minded folks (of whom he says "We call ourselves techno-archaeologists") has established a business called Skycorp that "has its offices in the McDonald's that used to serve the Navy's Moffett air station, 15 minutes northwest of San Jose, Calif. After the base closed, NASA converted it to a research campus for small technology companies, academia and nonprofits. ... The race to revive the craft, ISEE-3, began in earnest in April. At the end of May, using the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico, the team succeeded in talking to the spacecraft, a moment Mr. Wingo described as "way cool." This made Skycorp the first private organization to command a spacecraft outside Earth orbit, he said. The most disheartening part: "No one has the full operating manual anymore, and the fragments are sometimes contradictory." The most exciting? "Despite the obstacles, progress has been steady, and Mr. Wingo said the team should be ready to fire the engines within weeks."
MarkWhittington (1084047) writes According to a Saturday story in the Los Angeles Times, the recent revival of tensions between the United States and Russia, not seen since the end of the Cold War, may provide a shot in the arm for the American rocket engine industry. Due in part in retaliation for economic sanctions that were enacted in response to Russian aggression in the Ukraine, Russia announced that it would no longer sell its own RD-180 rocket engines for American military launches. This has had American aerospace experts scrambling to find a replacement. The stakes for weaning American rockets off of dependency on Russian engines could not be starker, according to Space News. If the United States actually loses the RD-180, the Atlas V would be temporarily grounded, as many as 31 missions could be delayed, costing the United States as much as $5 billion. However SpaceX, whose Falcon family of launch vehicles has a made in the USA rocket engine, could benefit tremendously if the U.S. military switches its business from ULA while it refurbishes its own launch vehicles with new American made engines.
As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, the state of California is "in the throes of a whooping cough epidemic, state health department officials announced Friday. Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said 3,458 cases of whooping cough have been reported since Jan. 1 -- including 800 in the past two weeks. That total is more than all the cases reported in 2013." Public broadcaster KPBS notes that of the 621 people known to have come down with whooping cough in San Diego county, the vast majority (85 percent) were up to date on their immunizations.
On June 8th, with a radio source beamed at the asteroid designated 2014 HQ124 (less formally, "the beast") while two other telescopes tracked that beam's reflections, NASA was able to gather high-quality images of the object as it zipped by a mere 776,000 miles from Earth. (Some asteroids are closer, and a vast number of them could soon be better known, but none have allowed as good an opportunity for radar obvservation.) Astronomy Magazine's account adds a bit more detail: To obtain the new views, researchers paired the 230-foot (70m) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, with two other radio telescopes, one at a time. Using this technique, the Goldstone antenna beams a radar signal at an asteroid and the other antenna receives the reflections. The technique dramatically improves the amount of detail that can be seen in radar images. To image 2014 HQ124, the researchers first paired the large Goldstone antenna with the 1,000-foot (305m) Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. They later paired the large Goldstone dish with a smaller companion, a 112-foot (34m) antenna, located about 20 miles (32km) away. ... The first five images in the new sequence — the top row in the collage — represent the data collected by Arecibo and are 30 times brighter than what Goldstone can produce observing on its own.
Dimetrodon (2714071) writes British consultancy Plextek has just announced the world's first immersive medical training system for the military using the Oculus Rift. The virtual reality technology will be used to simulate pre-hospital care on the battlefield, requiring trainees to "negotiate and prioritise" clinical needs while under virtual fire.
jones_supa (887896) writes Monthly Prescribing Reference reports that the "Eskimo diet" hypothesis, suggested as a factor in the alleged low incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) in Greenland Eskimos, seems not to be supported in the literature, according to a metastudy published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology (abstract). Researchers found that only one study directly assessed the prevalence of CAD or CAD risk factors, and that study showed that CAD morbidity was similar among Inuit and American and European populations. In most studies, the prevalence of CAD was similar for Greenland Eskimos and Canadian and Alaskan Inuit and for non-Eskimo populations. The original studies from the 1970s that formed the basis of the supposed cardioprotective effect of the Eskimo diet did not examine the prevalence of CAD. "The totality of reviewed evidence leads us to the conclusion that Eskimos have a similar prevalence of CAD as non-Eskimo populations," the authors write. "To date, more than 5,000 papers have been published studying the alleged beneficial properties of omega-3 fatty acids not to mention the billion dollar industry producing and selling fish oil capsules based on a hypothesis that was questionable from the beginning."
think_nix (1467471) writes The EU Parliament is paving the way for EU Nation States to decide on banning or allowing GMO foods within their respective territories. An further article at Der Spiegel (German) (Google translation) quotes the German Health Minister's claim that if countries cannot specifically, scientifically argue for a ban, this would allow GMO companies to initiate legal actions against the banning ruling states. Furthermore it was noted, given EU Parliaments current stance on not reintroducing border and customs controls between member states, this will make checks and controls of GMO foods between member states even more difficult.
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes Adding to the well-known fish-killing effects deforestation has in increasing turbidity and temperature in streams, a study published in Nature Communications, (abstract, PDF access), demonstrates deforestation causes a depletion of nutrients in associated lake aquatic ecosystems and, as a consequence, impacted fish stocks. Lead author Andrew Tanentzap is quoted as saying, 'We found fish that had almost 70% of their biomass made from carbon that came from trees and leaves instead of aquatic food chain sources.' This has troubling implications, as 'It's estimated that freshwater fishes make up more than 6% of the world's annual animal protein supplies for humans ...' Additionally, this may have significance in regard to anadromous species, such as salmon, which help power ocean ecosystems. The BBC offers more approachable coverage.
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Google is planning to release a new product called Google Fit that will aggregate health data from various devices and apps, according to a report Thursday from Forbes. Fit will use available APIs to pull biometric information together into one place, but it's unclear whether it will be a standalone app or part of the Android OS. Reports of Fit come on the heels of Apple's announcement of HealthKit in iOS 8, a system that also interacts with apps and APIs to curate and present health data like steps walked, calories consumed, and heart rates logged. Fit also follows the announcement of Sami, Samsung's health platform for culling health-related info."
New submitter meghan elizabeth (3689911) writes Why stop at just mimicking biology when you can biomanufacture technologically improved humans? 3D-printed enhanced "superorgans"—or artificial ones that don't exist in nature—could be engineered to perform specific functions beyond what exists in nature, like treating disease. Already, a bioprinted artificial pancreas that can regulate glucose levels in diabetes patients is being developed. Bioprinting could also be used to create an enhanced organ that can generate electricity to power electronic implants, like pacemakers.
An anonymous reader writes An article published in Science (abstract) points to the possibility that dinosaurs were mesotherms more akin to modern Tuna. Their internal temperature would have been warmer than their surrounding environment, conferring on them the ability to move more quickly than any ectotherm ("cold blooded" animal), but wouldn't have been constant or as warm as any endoderm ("warm blooded" animal). Their energy use and thus their necessary food intake would have been greater than an ectotherm, but much less than an endotherm. In order to arrive at this possibility, bone growth rings in fossilized bone were used to establish growth rates and then compared to modern ectotherms and endotherms.
the_newsbeagle (2532562) writes "The equipment that neuroscientists use to record brain signals is plenty expensive, with a single system costing upward of $60,000. But it turns out that it's not too complicated to build your own, for the cost of about $3000. Two MIT grad students figured out how to do just that, and are distributing both manufactured systems and their designs through their website, Open Ephys. Their goal is to launch an open-source hardware movement in neuroscience, so researchers can spend less time worrying about the gear they need and more time doing experiments."
mrspoonsi (2955715) writes The EU's top court is considering a test case which could oblige employers to treat obesity as a disability. Denmark has asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the case of a male childminder who says he was sacked for being too fat. The court's final ruling will be binding across the EU. It is seen as especially significant because of rising obesity levels in Europe and elsewhere, including the US. If the judges decide it is a disability then employers could face new obligations. Employers might in future have a duty to create reserved car parking spaces for obese staff, or adjust the office furniture for them, she said.
techtech (2016646) writes Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of New Mexico report evidence for potentially oceans worth of water deep beneath the United States. Though not in the familiar liquid form—the ingredients for water are bound up in rock deep in the Earth's mantle—the discovery may represent the planet's largest water reservoir. This research was published in Science.
coondoggie (973519) writes NASA took the next step in forming a large-scale, $3 million competition to build advanced propulsion and communications technologies for small, inexpensive satellite systems known as cubesats. The Cubesat Lunar Challenge will be broken up into two areas: propulsion and communication while in orbit around the moon. In Request For Information published this week, NASA said the two challenges would provide competitive opportunities for a variety of competition teams to deploy cubesats on a NASA or third-party provided launch.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes Shutting down the research center at the heart of an unfolding scientific scandal may be necessary to prevent a recurrence of research misconduct, according to a report released at a press conference in Tokyo today. A committee reviewing conduct at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, Japan, found lax oversight and a failure on the part of senior authors of two papers in Nature outlining a surprisingly simple way of reprogramming mature cells into stem cells. The committee surmised that a drive to produce groundbreaking results led to publishing results prematurely. "It seems that RIKEN CDB had a strong desire to produce major breakthrough results that would surpass iPS cell research," the report concludes, referring to another type of pluripotent stem cell. "One of our conclusions is that the CDB organization is part of the problem," said committee chair Teruo Kishi Kishi. He recommends a complete overhaul of CDB, including perhaps restructuring it into a new institute. "This has to be more than just changing the nameplate."
Zothecula (1870348) writes According to the World Health Organization, over 107 million blood donations are collected around the globe every year, most of which goes on to help save lives. However, while the need for blood is global, much of that which is donated is not accessible to many who need it, such as those in developing countries. And of the blood donated in industrialized countries, the amount often falls short of requirements. To help address this imbalance, scientists at the University of Essex are developing an artificial blood substitute. It would be able to be stored at room temperatures for up to two years, which would allow it to be distributed worldwide without the need for refrigeration and make it immediately accessible at the site of natural disasters.
First time accepted submitter sayhem (1842674) writes Various explanations for why we don't see aliens have been proposed—perhaps interstellar travel is impossible or maybe civilizations are always self-destructive. But with every new discovery of a potentially habitable planet, the Fermi Paradox becomes increasingly mysterious. There could be hundreds of millions of potentially habitable worlds in the Milky Way alone. This impression is only reinforced by the recent discovery of a "Mega-Earth," a rocky planet 17 times more massive than the Earth but with only a thin atmosphere. Previously, it was thought that worlds this large would hold onto an atmosphere so thick that their surfaces would experience uninhabitable temperatures and pressures. But if this isn't true, there is a whole new category of potentially habitable real estate in the cosmos.
Jason Koebler writes: For those of us without a green thumb, growing even the most hardy plants in perfect conditions can seem impossible. How about trying to grow plants on a meteorite? Well, at least one scientist is doing it, with moderate levels of success. "People have been talking about terraforming, but what I'm trying to do is give some concrete evidence that it's possible to do this, that it's possible to grow in extraterrestrial materials," Michael Mautner, one of the world's only "astroecologists" said. "What I've found is that a range of microorganisms—bacteria, fungi, and even asparagus and potato plants—can survive with the nutrients that are in extraterrestrial materials."
sciencehabit writes: Even though daytime temperatures in the tropics of Mars can be about –20C, a summer afternoon there might feel about the same as an average winter day in southern England or Minneapolis. That's because there's virtually no wind chill on the Red Planet, according to a new study — the first to give an accurate sense of what it might feel like to spend a day walking about on our celestial neighbor. "I hadn't really thought about this before, but I'm not surprised," says Maurice Bluestein, a biomedical engineer and wind chill expert recently retired from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. The new findings, he says, "will be useful, as people planning to colonize Mars need to know what they're getting themselves into."
bricko sends this news from The University of Texas at Austin: Thwaites Glacier, the large, rapidly changing outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is not only being eroded by the ocean, it's being melted from below by geothermal heat, researchers at the Institute for Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin (UTIG) report in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings significantly change the understanding of conditions beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where accurate information has previously been unobtainable. The Thwaites Glacier has been the focus of considerable attention in recent weeks as other groups of researchers found the glacier is on the way to collapse, but more data and computer modeling are needed to determine when the collapse will begin in earnest and at what rate the sea level will increase as it proceeds. The new observations by UTIG will greatly inform these ice sheet modeling efforts.
Zothecula writes "A team of researchers working at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology claim to have developed a way to make cellulose fibers stronger than steel on a strength-to-weight basis. In what is touted as a world first, the team from the institute's Wallenberg Wood Science Center claim that the new fiber could be used as a biodegradable replacement for many filament materials made today from imperishable substances such as fiberglass, plastic, and metal. And all this from a substance that requires only water, wood cellulose, and common table salt to create it. The full academic paper is available from Nature Communications."
bmahersciwriter writes: NASA administrators are strategizing a push to do more science on the International Space Station in the coming years. The pressure is on, given the rapidly cooling relations between the U.S. and Russia, whose deputy prime minister recently suggested that U.S. astronauts use a trampoline if they want to get into orbit. Aiding in the push for more research is the development of two-way cargo ships by SpaceX, which should allow for return of research materials (formerly a hurdle to doing useful experiments). NASA soon aims to send new earth-monitoring equipment to the station and expanded rodent facilities. And geneLAB will send a range of model organisms like fruit flies and nematodes into space for months at a time.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes 'One curious feature on the Moon's surface are "lunar swirls", wisp-like regions that are whiter than surrounding areas and that, until recently, astronomers could not explain. But one team of physicists recently showed that these areas are protected by weak magnetic fields that deflect high energy particles from the Sun and so prevent the darkening effect this radiation has. The problem they had to solve was how a weak field could offer so much protection, when numerous studies of long duration spaceflight have shown that only very powerful fields can act like radiation shields. The team now says that these previous studies have failed to take into account an important factor: the low density plasma that exists in space. It turns out that this plasma is swept up by a weak magnetic field moving through space, creating a layer of higher density plasma. That's important because the separation of charge within this layer creates an electric field. And it is this field that deflects the high energy particles from the Sun. That explains the lunar swirls but it also suggests that the same effect could be exploited to protect astronauts on long duration missions to the moon, to nearby asteroids and beyond. This team has now produced the first study of such a shield and how it might work. Their shield would use superconducting coils to create a relatively weak field only when it is needed, during solar storms, for example. And it would create a plasma by pumping xenon into the vacuum around the vehicle, where it would be ionised by UV light. The entire device would weigh around 1.5 tonnes and use about 20 KW of power. That's probably more than mission planners could currently accommodate but it is significantly less than the science fiction-type power requirements of previous designs. And who knows what other tricks of plasma physics engineers might be able to exploit to refine this design. All of a sudden, long duration space flight looks a little more feasible.'
New submitter turning in circles (2882659) writes 'Carbon based fuel cells require carbon doped with other elements, normally platinum, for oxygen reduction reactions. Urine contains carbon with an exciting splash of nitrogen, sulfur, potassium, silicon, and so on, and you don't have to manufacture it: the stuff just comes out by itself. In an article published this week in an open journal, researchers from Korea reported a new nanomaterial for fuel cells, which they dub "Urine Carbon." Upon drying, and then heating at 1000C, and rinsing of salts, the resulting Urine Carbon porous nanostructures outperformed Carbon/platinum in electrodes.'
First time accepted submitter LordFlower (606949) writes "In a study, published today in Neuropsycopharmacology, exposure to general anesthesia in both human and rat infants was associated with long-term episodic memory deficits. Children aged 6 to 11 years exposed to general anesthesia during infancy had poorer episodic memory than age/gender matched controls. This deficit was replicated in rats using an analogous paradigm with full experimental control of pre-existing conditions could be exercised, suggesting a causal relation rather than correlational one. Prior research in rats suggests a mechanism of disrupted developmental synaptogenesis and apoptosis.
While a growing literature has demonstrated the presence of memory deficits and neurodegeneration in rats after general anesthesia exposure in infancy, this is the first to demonstrate a long-term deficit after exposure during human infancy. Given that each year 1.5 million infants undergo a surgery requiring general anesthesia, these findings are particularly alarming."
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "When hunter-gatherers in the Middle East began to settle down and cultivate crops about 10,500 years ago, they became the world's first farmers. But two new papers suggest that they were at home on both the land and the sea: Studies of ancient and modern human DNA, including the first reported ancient DNA from early Middle Eastern farmers, indicate that agriculture spread to Europe via a coastal route, probably by farmers using boats to island hop across the Aegean and Mediterranean seas."
Last month, at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014, Timothy Lord spotted a guy wearing a very large piece of headgear that included two crossed wrenches. The guy turned out to be Mike Szczys, Managing Editor of hackaday.com, which says, "The Hackaday Prize will send one person into space for building the next evolution of hardware." That's certainly of interest to the hardware hacker/maker crowd. How they're going to arrange the space flight (probably one of those "just above the atmosphere" hops) isn't specified, but even so the contest is an interesting idea, and the Hack A Day site seems to have some interest hacks and tutorials on it. So go ahead and enter the contest -- and don't forget to take your camera with you on your flight into space, because we'll want to see pictures! (Alternate Video Link)
First time accepted submitter Graculus (3653645) writes "NASA has named Gavin A. Schmidt to head the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, a leading Earth climate research laboratory. Currently deputy director of the institute, Schmidt steps into the position left vacant after the retirement of long-time director James E. Hansen and becomes only the third person to hold the post."
First time accepted submitter Joe_NoOne (48818) writes "A new theory suggests that our male ancestors evolved beefy facial features as a defense against fist fights. The bones most commonly broken in human punch-ups also gained the most strength in early hominin evolution. They are also the bones that show most divergence between males and females. From the article: 'Fossil records show that the australopiths, immediate predecessors of the human genus Homo, had strikingly robust facial structures. For many years, this extra strength was seen as an adaptation to a tough diet including nuts, seeds and grasses. But more recent findings, examining the wear pattern and carbon isotopes in australopith teeth, have cast some doubt on this "feeding hypothesis". "In fact, [the australopith] boisei, the 'nutcracker man', was probably eating fruit," said Prof David Carrier, the new theory's lead author and an evolutionary biologist at the University of Utah. Instead of diet, Prof Carrier and his co-author, physician Dr Michael Morgan, propose that violent competition demanded the development of these facial fortifications: what they call the "protective buttressing hypothesis".'"
A while ago you had the chance to ask amateur scientist, and author of the Getting Started in Electronics and the Engineer's Mini-Notebook series, Forrest Mims, a number of questions about science, engineering, and a lifetime of educating and experimenting. Below you'll find his detailed answers to those questions.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Greenland's white snow is getting darker. Scientists have generally attributed that darkening to larger, slightly less white snow grains caused by warmer temperatures. But researchers have found a new source of darkening taking hold: impurities in the snow. The new darkening effect could easily add 2 centimeters to the projections of 20 cm sea level rise by 2100—and perhaps more if impurity levels grow with time."
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered that rats in a decision making experiment showed three behaviors consistent with regret. David Redish and his graduate student Adam Steiner '...trained rats to do a task they call "restaurant row." The rat ran around a circle past a series of four spokes, each leading to a different flavor of food. As the rat came to the entrance of each spoke, a tone sounded that indicated how long it would have to wait to receive that specific flavor of food. The rat could choose whether to stay or go, depending on how much it liked that food and how long it would have to wait...The rats showed three behaviors consistent with regret. First, the rats only looked backwards in the regret conditions, and not in the disappointment conditions. Second, they were more likely to take a bad deal if they had just passed up a good deal. And third, instead of taking their time eating and then grooming themselves afterwards, the rats in the regret conditions wolfed down the food and immediately took off to the next restaurant.'"
Taco Cowboy (5327) writes "A few ancient ticks, some 15-million to 20-million years old, trapped inside a piece of amber were bought by a researcher some 25 years ago, in the Dominican Republic. Upon examination, he found ancient spirochetes bacterium, a group of rotini-shaped bacteria responsible for many human diseases, in one of the ticks. Although Lyme disease did not exist back then, the spirochetes in the fossil tick probably contributed to the genetic diversity of the 12 or more species of Borrelia that cause Lyme and similar diseases today, says George Poinar. 'Parasites represent at least half of all modern animal species, and that distribution probably held true millions of years ago, too. “In a sense, this [finding] is not surprising since virtually every species on the planet is parasitized,” says Armand Kuris, a parasitologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the study. Evidence of those ancient parasite–host associations is difficult to come by, however. “In terms of finding any kind of physical documentation in the fossil record, that’s really rare — especially for a microbial pathogen,” Kuris says. “That’s what makes this paper just plain interesting.”'"
MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "It turns out that the recent FAA environmental impact statement that seemed to give a stamp of approval for the proposed SpaceX space port in south Texas is not the end of the regulatory process, but the end of the beginning. A story in the Brownsville Herald reminds us that the report has kicked off a 30 day review period after which the FAA can allow SpaceX to apply for a launch license to start work on the Brownsville area launch facility. And that in turn kicks off a 180 day process during which the FAA makes the decision whether or not to grant the required licensing and permits.
But even that is not the end of the regulatory hurdles that SpaceX must face before the first Falcon rocket roars into the skies over the Gulf of Mexico. The Longview News-Journal reports that a number of state and federal agencies must give their approval for various aspects of the space port before it becomes operational. For instance, the Texas Department of Transportation must give approval for the movement of utility lines. Environment Texas still opposes the space port since it is close to a wild life reserve and a state park. SpaceX has already agreed to enact measures to minimize the impact the space port would have on the environment, 'such as containing waste materials from the construction and enforcing a speed limit in the control center area.' Environment Texas is not impressed, however. Whether it is disposed to make trouble in the courts is an open question."
An anonymous reader writes "Miami scientists are scrambling to rescue a crop of coral at the bottom of one of the world's busiest shipping channels that they say could hold clues about climate change. 'The coral, which may hold clues about how sea life adapts to climate change, is growing in Government Cut. The channel, created more than a century ago, leads to PortMiami and is undergoing a $205 million dredging project — scheduled to begin Saturday — to deepen the sea floor by about 10 feet in time for a wave of new monster cargo ships cruising through an expanded Panama Canal starting in 2015. Endangered coral and larger coral have already been removed by a team hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the dredging work. But the remaining coral, deemed "corals of opportunity" in Corps lingo, can be retrieved with a permit. The problem, scientists say, is they only had 12 days between when the permits were issued last month and the start of dredging, not nearly enough time to save the unusual colonies thriving in Government Cut.'"
An anonymous reader writes "NASA successfully beamed a high-definition video 260 miles from the International Space Station to Earth Thursday using a new laser communications instrument. Transmission of 'Hello, World!' as a video message was the first 175-megabit communication for the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS), a technology demonstration that allows NASA to test methods for communication with future spacecraft using higher bandwidth than radio waves." Last September, NASA's LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) showed that they could supply a lunar colony with broadband via lasers.
An anonymous reader writes "MakerBot, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), is hosting a competition for the design of a future Mars base. The competition is open to any Thingiverse account holder regardless of professional or educational background. Winners will be chosen by a subjective panel of JPL and MakerBot employees based on scientific feasibility, creativity, and printability. Contest ends June 12, and contestants have to be at least 13 years old. The first place winner will receive a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D printer and three spools of MakerBot Filament. The second place winner will receive two spools, and the third place winner will receive one spool. All three will have their design featured on Thingiverse." You can also browse the entries so far.
Lucas123 writes: 'Scientists developing smart robotic prosthetics say the lines between robots and humans is beginning to blur and that someday soon people will be able to improve their body. For example, robotic prosthetics, using a built-in computer, 100 sensors, and 17 motors, can take natural cues from a user's residual limb, giving him or her the dexterity and grace to play a piano. Robotic exoskeletons have helped people suffering from paralysis walk again and the U.S. military is just weeks away from testing a new exoskeleton. And, more than six years ago, a University of Arizona researcher who had successfully connected a moth's brain to a robot predicted that by 2022 we'll be using "hybrid" computers that run a combination of technology and living organic tissue. "By utilizing technology, you're able to improve your body beyond anything you could do in the past," said Daniel Wilson, an engineer with degrees in machine learning and robotics from Carnegie Mellon University.'
garyebickford writes 'Space Finance Group (in which I'm a partner) has launched a Kickstarter to fund updating the "famous Integrated Space Plan", created by Ron Jones at Rockwell International in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and can be found on walls in the industry even today. The new Plan will be a poster, but also will provide the initial core data for a new website. The permanent link will be thespaceplan.com. As additional resources become available the website will be able to contain much more information, with (eventually) advanced data management (possibly including sources like Linked Data) and visualization tools to become a resource for education, research, entertainment, and business analytics. The group also hopes to support curated crowdsourcing of some data, and is talking to Space Development companies about providing data about themselves. They hope to be able to construct new timelines and show the relations between events and entities — companies, agencies, people, etc.'
KentuckyFC writes: 'In 1978, the American researcher Michael Hart published The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, a book that became an international best seller. Since then, various others have published similar lists. But all suffer the same drawback: they are subjective list ultimately influenced by numerous cultural factors. Now data scientists have come up with a way to extract an objective list of the 100 most influential people in history using the network of links between biographical articles on Wikipedia and how they vary between 24 different language editions, including English, Chinese, Russian Arabic and so on. The researchers assume that people who are highly ranked in different language editions are influential across both language cultures and that the more appearances they make in different language editions, the more influential they are. But the actual ranking is done by PageRank-like algorithms that consider a biographical article important if it is pointed to by other important articles.
The resulting lists of the most influential men and women might surprise. The top PageRanked individual is Carl Linnaeus, the 18th century Swedish botanist who developed the modern naming scheme for plants and animals, followed by Jesus. The top PageRanked women are: Elizabeth II followed by Mary (mother of Jesus). For comparison, just under half of the top 100 most influential also appear in Hart's 1978 book. But this is just the beginning. By counting the individuals from one culture that influence other cultures, the team is able to work out which cultures have dominated others. And by looking only at people born before certain dates, they can see how the influence of different cultures has waxed and waned throughout 35 centuries of recorded history.'
schwit1 sends word of research showing that cycles of prolonged fasting can both protect the immune system from harm and also induce regeneration by causing stem cells to start renewing themselves. 'In both mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial (abstract), long periods of not eating significantly lowered white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles then "flipped a regenerative switch," changing the signaling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems, the research showed. "PKA is the key gene that needs to shut down in order for these stem cells to switch into regenerative mode. It gives the OK for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system," explained [study author Valter Longo], noting the potential of clinical applications that mimic the effects of prolonged fasting to rejuvenate the immune system. "And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting. Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."'