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An anonymous reader writes A new study suggests that large dinosaurs shrunk to small birds to survive over a period of around 50 million years. Aside from a few large species, most modern birds are predominantly tiny and look nothing at all like their prehistoric meat-eating ancestors. The evolutionary process that governed this transformation has not been well understood, but now researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia have put together a detailed family tree mapping the evolution of therapod dinosaurs to the agile flying birds we see today. Their results indicated that meat-eating dinosaurs underwent several distinct periods of miniaturization over the last 50 million years which took them down from an average weight of 163kg to just 0.8kg before finally becoming modern birds.
An anonymous reader writes Even though modern humans started appearing around 200,000 years ago, it was only about 50,000 years ago that artistry and tool making became popular. New research shows that society bloomed when testosterone levels in humans started dropping. A paper published in the journal Current Anthropology, suggests that a testosterone deficit facilitated the friendliness and cooperation between humans, which lead to modern society. "Whatever the cause, reduced testosterone levels enabled increasingly social people to better learn from and cooperate with each other, allowing the acceleration of cultural and technological innovation that is the hallmark of modern human success," says University of Utah biology graduate student Robert Cieri.
Milo_Mindbender writes I'm trying to find a bulletproof near zero maintenance video conferencing client for shared use in an Alzheimers living facility. It's used so the patients can regularly see their relatives who are often out of town. Most everything I've tried on PC or Mac requires tweeks/updates from time to time to keep it working, not good in a place where there are no computer savvy people. It looks like most of the low cost dedicated boxes have died out too. The ideal setup will be turnkey with little-to-no maintenance and if possible support auto-answering calls from approved users. It needs to be compatible with video conferencing apps the relatives can easily get on phone/tablet/pc such as Skype, Facetime, Hangouts...etc. Any suggestions?
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Slate: Psychologists are up in arms over, of all things, the editorial process that led to the recent publication of a special issue of the journal Social Psychology. This may seem like a classic case of ivory tower navel gazing, but its impact extends far beyond academia. ... Those who oppose funding for behavioral science make a fundamental mistake: They assume that valuable science is limited to the "hard sciences." Social science can be just as valuable, but it's difficult to demonstrate that an experiment is valuable when you can't even demonstrate that it's replicable. ...Given the stakes involved and its centrality to the scientific method, it may seem perplexing that replication is the exception rather than the rule. The reasons why are varied, but most come down to the perverse incentives driving research. Scientific journals typically view "positive" findings that announce a novel relationship or support a theoretical claim as more interesting than "negative" findings that say that things are unrelated or that a theory is not supported. The more surprising the positive finding, the better, even though surprising findings are statistically less likely to be accurate."
Zothecula writes: In an ambitious attempt to break every wing-borne sustained flight height record for a manned aircraft, the Perlan ll project intends to construct and fly a glider higher than any sailplane has gone before. Riding on the colossal stratospheric air waves generated over mountains, the team plans to fly their craft to more than 90,000 ft (27,000 m), which will shatter their own existing glider altitude record of 50,671 ft (15,400 m) set by Perlan l in 2008.
mrspoonsi (2955715) writes A project aiming to revolutionise medicine by unlocking the secrets of DNA is under way in centres across England. Prime Minister David Cameron has said it "will see the UK lead the world in genetic research within years". The first genetic codes of people with cancer or rare diseases, out of a target of 100,000, have been sequenced. Experts believe it will lead to targeted therapies and could make chemotherapy "a thing of the past". Just one human genome contains more than three billion base pairs — the building blocks of DNA. Prof Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "I can see a future where genetics is going to come into every bit of medicine from cardiology to oncology to infectious diseases." "Twenty years from now there's going to be a plethora of those, we will have a series of mutations which academics and industry will have developed therapies for, which will be targeted at you and specific for that cancer." He said chemotherapy, which attacks all dividing cells in the body, would be replaced with such therapies. "We will look back in 20 years' time and think of blockbuster chemotherapy [as] a thing of the past and we'll think 'Gosh, what an era that was'." David Cameron has announced a series of investments across government, industry and charities totalling £300m ($500m).
acidradio (659704) writes American air charter specialist Phoenix Air has been contracted by the U.S. Army to haul an American physician afflicted with Ebola from Liberia to the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. This will be the first 'purposeful' transport of an Ebola victim to the U.S. The patient will be flown in a special Gulfstream III (formerly owned by the Danish Air Force) outfitted for very specialized medical transports such as this. I dunno. I know there are brilliant doctors and scientists in Atlanta who handle highly-communicable diseases, but is this such a brilliant idea? theodp (442580) writes with related news In response to the Ebola outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued Interim Guidance about Ebola Virus Infection for Airline Flight Crews, Cleaning Personnel, and Cargo Personnel. "Ebola virus is transmitted by close contact with a person who has symptoms of Ebola," the CDC explains. "Close contact is defined as having cared for or lived with a person with Ebola or having a high likelihood of direct contact with blood or body fluids of an Ebola patient. Examples of close contact include kissing or embracing, sharing eating or drinking utensils, close conversation (3 feet), physical examination, and any other direct physical contact between people. Close contact does not include walking by a person or briefly sitting across a room from a person."
An anonymous reader writes with news that the Mars 2020 experiments have been chosen: In short, the 2020 rover will cary 7 instruments, out of 58 proposals in total, and the rover itself will be based on the current Curiosity rover. The selected instruments are: Mastcam-Z, an advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom. SuperCam, an instrument that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy. The instrument will also be able to detect the presence of organic compounds in rocks and regolith from a distance. Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer that will also contain an imager with high resolution to determine the fine scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials. Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) — This one will have a UV laser! The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), an exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide. Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA). This one is basically a weather station. The Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX), a ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.
Can't decide if the UV laser or the ground radar is the coolest of the lot.
schwit1 (797399) writes with news that NASA scientists have tested the EmDrive, which claims to use quantum vacuum plasma for propulsion. Theoretically improbable, but perhaps possible after all. If it does work, it would eliminate the need for expendable fuel (just add electricity). From the article:Either the results are completely wrong, or NASA has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion. A working microwave thruster would radically cut the cost of satellites and space stations and extend their working life, drive deep-space missions, and take astronauts to Mars in weeks rather than months. ... [According to the researchers] "Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma." Skepticism is certainly warranted: NASA researchers were only able to produce about 1/1000th of the force the Chinese researchers reported. But they were careful to avoid false sensor readings, so something is going on. The paper declined to comment on what that could be, leaving the physics of the system an open problem.
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes To help people overcome drug addiction, researchers at the University of Houston's Graduate School of Social Work are building hyper-realistic virtual worlds to recreate situations that trigger cravings for nicotine, alcohol, weed, and now, hard drugs like heroin. Traditional relapse therapy usually involves roleplaying: Therapists often pretend to be a friend or some other familiar person and offer the patient their drug of choice in order to teach them avoidance strategies. By strapping patients into a virtual reality headset and running them through a familiar scenario where they commonly use the drug, like a party, the treatment can be much more realistic and effective, researchers say (video).
yyzmcleod (1534129) writes The technology to 3D print a single part from multiple materials has been around for years, but only for polymer-based additive manufacturing processes. For metals, jobs are typically confined to a single powdered base metal or alloy per object. However, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory say they have developed a 3D printing technique that allows for print jobs to transition from one metal to another in a single object. From the article: In JPL’s technique, the build material’s composition is gradually transitioned as the print progresses. For example, the powdered build material might contain 97 percent titanium alloy and 3 percent stainless steel at the beginning of the transition. Then, in 1 percent increments between layers, the gradient progresses to 97 percent stainless steel and 3 percent Ti alloy by some defined point in the overall 3D printing process.
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has waged a constant battle with publishers over the price of ebooks. They've now publicly laid out their argument and the business math behind it. "We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000." They argue that capping most ebooks at $9.99 would be better for everyone, with the money split out 35% to the author, 35% to the publisher, and 30% to Amazon.
Author John Scalzi says Amazon's reasoning and assumptions are a bit suspect. He disagrees that "books are interchangeable units of entertainment, each equally as salable as the next, and that pricing is the only thing consumers react to." Scalzi also points out that Amazon asserts itself as the only revenue stream for authors, which is not remotely true. "Amazon's assumptions don't include, for example, that publishers and authors might have a legitimate reason for not wanting the gulf between eBook and physical hardcover pricing to be so large that brick and mortar retailers suffer, narrowing the number of venues into which books can sell. Killing off Amazon's competitors is good for Amazon; there's rather less of an argument that it's good for anyone else."
gallifreyan99 writes: Every drug you take will have been tested on people before it—but that testing process is meant to be tightly controlled, for the safety of everyone involved. Two investigations document the questionable methods used in many studies, and the lack of oversight the FDA seems to have over the process. First, drugs are increasingly being tested on homeless, destitute and mentally ill people. Second, it turns out many human trials are being run by doctors who have had their licenses revoked for drug addiction, malpractice and worse.
Dupple sends word of new quantum mechanical research in which a neutron is sent along a different path from one of its characteristics.
First, a neutron beam is split into two parts in a neutron interferometer. Then the spins of the two beams are shifted into different directions: The upper neutron beam has a spin parallel to the neutrons’ trajectory, the spin of the lower beam points into the opposite direction. After the two beams have been recombined, only those neutrons are chosen which have a spin parallel to their direction of motion. All the others are just ignored. ... These neutrons, which are found to have a spin parallel to its direction of motion, must clearly have travelled along the upper path — only there do the neutrons have this spin state. This can be shown in the experiment. If the lower beam is sent through a filter which absorbs some of the neutrons, then the number of the neutrons with spin parallel to their trajectory stays the same. If the upper beam is sent through a filter, than the number of these neutrons is reduced.
Things get tricky when the system is used to measure where the neutron spin is located: the spin can be slightly changed using a magnetic field. When the two beams are recombined appropriately, they can amplify or cancel each other. This is exactly what can be seen in the measurement, if the magnetic field is applied at the lower beam – but that is the path which the neutrons considered in the experiment are actually never supposed to take. A magnetic field applied to the upper beam, on the other hand, does not have any effect.
schwit1 writes: New research by astronomers suggests that the Milky Way is about half as massive as previously estimated. It was thought to be roughly the same mass as Andromeda, weighing in at approximately 1.26 x 10^12 solar masses (PDF). This new research indicates its mass is around half the mass of Andromeda. "Galaxies in the Local Group are bound together by their collective gravity. As a result, while most galaxies, including those on the outskirts of the Local Group, are moving farther apart due to expansion, the galaxies in the Local Group are moving closer together because of gravity. For the first time, researchers were able to combine the available information about gravity and expansion to complete precise calculations of the masses of both the Milky Way and Andromeda. ... Andromeda had twice as much mass as the Milky Way, and in both galaxies 90 percent of the mass was made up of dark matter."
schwit1 writes: "With a drive of 157 feet on Sunday, the Mars rover Opportunity broke the Soviet record, set by Lunokhod 2 in 1973, for the longest distance traveled by a vehicle on another planet. "If the rover can continue to operate the distance of a marathon — 26.2 miles (about 42.2 kilometers) — it will approach the next major investigation site mission scientists have dubbed "Marathon Valley." Observations from spacecraft orbiting Mars suggest several clay minerals are exposed close together at this valley site, surrounded by steep slopes where the relationships among different layers may be evident. The Russian Lunokhod 2 rover, a successor to the first Lunokhod mission in 1970, landed on Earth's moon on Jan. 15, 1973, where it drove about 24.2 miles (39 kilometers) in less than five months, according to calculations recently made using images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) cameras that reveal Lunokhod 2's tracks."
astroengine writes: New observations from NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft have revealed at least 101 individual geysers erupting from Enceladus' crust and, through careful analysis, planetary scientists have uncovered their origin. From the cracked ice in this region, fissures blast out water vapor mixed with organic compounds as huge geysers. Associated with these geysers are surface "hotspots" but until now there has been some ambiguity as to whether the hotspots are creating the geysers or whether the geysers are creating the hotspots. "Once we had these results in hand, we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa," said Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of one of the research papers. "It also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much deeper roots." And those roots point to a large subsurface source of liquid water — adding Enceladus as one of the few tantalizing destinations for future astrobiology missions.
An anonymous reader writes UK researchers say they've devised a simple blood test that can be used to diagnose whether people have cancer or not. The Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) test looks at white blood cells and measures the damage caused to their DNA when subjected to different intensities of ultraviolet light (UVA), which is known to damage DNA. The results of the empirical study show a distinction between the damage to the white blood cells from patients with cancer, with pre-cancerous conditions and from healthy patients. "Whilst the numbers of people we tested are, in epidemiological terms, quite small (208), in molecular epidemiological terms, the results are powerful," said the team's lead researcher. "We've identified significant differences between the healthy volunteers, suspected cancer patients and confirmed cancer patients of mixed ages at a statistically significant level .... This means that the possibility of these results happening by chance is 1 in 1000." The research is published online in the FASEB Journal, the U.S. Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Pregnant women who smoke don't just harm the health of their baby—they may actually impair their child's DNA, according to new research. A genetic analysis shows that the children of mothers who smoke harbor far more chemical modifications of their genome — known as epigenetic changes — than kids of non-smoking mothers. Many of these are on genes tied to addiction and fetal development. The finding may explain why the children of smokers continue to suffer health complications later in life.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A flock of starlings flies as one, a spectacular display in which each bird flits about as if in a well-choreographed dance. Everyone seems to know exactly when and where to turn. Now, for the first time, researchers have measured how that knowledge moves through the flock—a behavior that mirrors certain quantum phenomena of liquid helium. Some of the more interesting findings: Tracking data showed that the message for a flock to turn started from a handful of birds and swept through the flock at a constant speed between 20 and 40 meters per second. That means that for a group of 400 birds, it takes just a little more than a half-second for the whole flock to turn."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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"."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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?
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.
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."
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.
coondoggie writes: If what we know as advanced life exists anywhere other than Earth, then perhaps they are dirtying their atmosphere as much as we are. We could use such pollution components to perhaps more easily spot such planets. That's the basis of new research published this week by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. They say that if we could spot the fingerprints of certain pollutants under ideal conditions (PDF), it would offer a new approach in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence."
Dave Knott writes: Scientists from the University of Maryland say they have turned thin air into an "optical fiber" that can transmit and amplify light signals without the need for any cables. As described in the research, this was accomplished by generating a laser with its light split into a ring of multiple beams forming a pipe. Very short and powerful pulses from the laser are used to heat the air molecules along the beam extremely quickly. Such rapid heating produces sound waves that take about a microsecond to converge to the center of the pipe, creating a high-density area surrounded by a low-density area left behind in the wake of the laser beams. The lower density region of air surrounding the center of the air waveguide has a lower refractive index, keeping the light focused, and allowing the higher-density region (with its correspondingly higher index of refraction) to act like an optical fiber. The findings, reported in the journal Optica, have applications in long range laser communications, high-resolution topographic mapping, air pollution and climate change research, and could also be used by the military to make laser weapons.
First time accepted submitter cowdung (702933) writes In spite of Elon Musk's characterization of the landing as a KABOOM event. Judging by this video SpaceX has managed to land the first stage rocket booster nicely on the ocean after their Orbcomm launch on July 14th. It seems we're one step closer to a landing on dry land. Both this and the previous landing seem to have gone well. Hopefully the next landing test camera has something to deice the camera lens.
ananyo (2519492) writes Scientists at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing, working with international collaborators, are planning to build a "Higgs factory" by 2028 — a 52-kilometer underground ring that would smash together electrons and positrons. Collisions of these fundamental particles would allow the Higgs boson to be studied with greater precision than at the much smaller (27 km) Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Europe's particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. Physicists say that the proposed US$3-billion machine is within technological grasp and is considered conservative in scope and cost. But China hopes that it would also be a stepping stone to a next-generation collider — a super proton-proton collider — in the same tunnel. The machine would be a big leap for China. The country's biggest current collider is just 240 meters in circumference.
vinces99 writes: The disastrous March 22 landslide that killed 43 people in the rural Washington state community of Oso involved the "remobilization" of a 2006 landslide on the same hillside, a new federally sponsored geological study concludes. The research indicates the landslide, the deadliest in U.S. history, happened in two major stages. The first stage remobilized the 2006 slide, including part of an adjacent forested slope from an ancient slide, and was made up largely or entirely of deposits from previous landslides. The first stage ultimately moved more than six-tenths of a mile across the north fork of the Stillaguamish River and caused nearly all the destruction in the Steelhead Haven neighborhood. The second stage started several minutes later and consisted of ancient landslide and glacial deposits. That material moved into the space vacated by the first stage and moved rapidly until it reached the trailing edge of the first stage, the study found. "Perhaps the most striking finding is that, while the Oso landslide was a rare geologic occurrence, it was not extraordinary," said Joseph Wartman, a University of Washington associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and a team leader for the study.
mrspoonsi sends word that researchers from Temple University have managed to eliminate the HIV-1 virus from human cells for the first time. "When deployed, a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA) hunt down the viral genome and excise the HIV-1 DNA (abstract). From there, the cell's gene repair machinery takes over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together – resulting in virus-free cells." While antiretroviral therapy can treat people who are infected with HIV, the immune system is incapable of actually removing the virus, so this is an important step in fighting it. The researchers still have to overcome the problem of delivering the the genetic "toolkit" to each affected cell in a patient's body, and also HIV's high mutation rate.
Lasrick writes: MIT's Jeanne Guillemin looks at the recent blunders with smallpox and H5N1 at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health to chronicle the fascinating history of smallpox eradication efforts and the attempts (thwarted by Western scientists) to destroy lab collections of the virus in order to make it truly extinct. "In 1986, with no new smallpox cases reported, the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, resolved to destroy the strain collections and make the virus extinct. But there was resistance to this; American scientists in particular wanted to continue their research." Within a few years, secret biological warfare programs were discovered in Moscow and in Iraq, and a new flurry of defensive research was funded. Nevertheless, Guillemin and others believe that changes in research methods, which no longer require the use of live viruses, mean that stocks of the live smallpox virus can and should finally be destroyed.
rjmarvin writes: Microsoft Research is testing a new method for predicting errors and bugs while developers write code: biometrics. By measuring a developer's eye movements, physical and mental characteristics as they code, the researchers tracked alertness and stress levels to predict the difficulty of a given task with respect to the coder's abilities. In a paper entitled "Using Psycho-Physiological Measures to Assess Task Difficulty in Software Development," the researchers summarized how they strapped an eye tracker, an electrodermal sensor and an EEG sensor to 15 developers as they programmed for various tasks. Biometrics predicted task difficulty for a new developer 64.99% of the time. For a subsequent tasks with the same developer, the researchers found biometrics to be 84.38% accurate. They suggest using the information to mark places in code that developers find particularly difficult, and then reviewing or refactoring those sections later.
An anonymous reader writes The Economist reports, "'UNDER capitalism', ran the old Soviet-era joke, 'man exploits man. Under communism it is just the opposite.' In fact new research suggests that the Soviet system inspired not just sarcasm but cheating too: in East Germany, at least, communism appears to have inculcated moral laxity. Lars Hornuf of the University of Munich and Dan Ariely, Ximena García-Rada and Heather Mann of Duke University ran an experiment last year to test Germans' willingness to lie for personal gain. Some 250 Berliners were randomly selected to take part in a game where they could win up to €6 ($8). ... The authors found that, on average, those who had East German roots cheated twice as much as those who had grown up in West Germany under capitalism. They also looked at how much time people had spent in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The longer the participants had been exposed to socialism, the greater the likelihood that they would claim improbable numbers ... when it comes to ethics, a capitalist upbringing appears to trump a socialist one."
rtoz (2530056) writes A special class of tiny gold particles can easily slip through cell membranes, making them good candidates to deliver drugs directly to target cells. A new study from MIT materials scientists reveals that these nanoparticles enter cells by taking advantage of a route normally used in vesicle-vesicle fusion, a crucial process that allows signal transmission between neurons. MIT engineers created simulations of how a gold nanoparticle coated with special molecules can penetrate a membrane. Paper (abstract; full text paywalled).