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StartsWithABang writes The US Senate just voted on whether climate change is a hoax, knowing full well that debates or votes don't change what is or isn't scientifically true or valid. Nevertheless, debates have always been a thing in science, and they do have their place: in raising what points would be needed to validate, robustly confirm or refute competing explanations, theories or ideas. The greatest scientific debate in all of history — along with its conclusions — illustrates exactly this.
459 comments | 5 days ago
KentuckyFC writes Revolutions in science often come from the study of seemingly unresolvable paradoxes. So an interesting exercise is to list the paradoxes associated with current ideas in science. One cosmologist has done just that by exploring the paradoxes associated with well-established ideas and observations about the structure and origin of the universe. Perhaps the most dramatic of these paradoxes comes from the idea that the universe must be expanding. What's curious about this expansion is that space, and the vacuum associated with it, must somehow be created in this process. And yet nobody knows how this can occur. What's more, there is an energy associated with any given volume of the universe. If that volume increases, the inescapable conclusion is that the energy must increase as well. So much for conservation of energy. And even the amount of energy associated with the vacuum is a puzzle with different calculations contradicting each other by 120 orders of magnitude. Clearly, anybody who can resolve these problems has a bright future in science but may also end up tearing modern cosmology apart.
230 comments | 5 days ago
sciencehabit writes The U.S. Senate's simmering debate over climate science has come to a full boil today, as lawmakers prepare to vote on measures offered by Democrats that affirm that climate change is real—with one also noting that global warming is not "a hoax." In an effort to highlight their differences with some Republicans on climate policy, several Democrats have filed largely symbolic amendments to a bill that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. They are designed to put senators on the record on whether climate change is real and human-caused.
663 comments | 5 days ago
Zothecula writes: Researchers working at the University of California, San Diego have claimed a world first in proving that artificial, microscopic machines can travel inside a living creature and deliver their medicinal load without any detrimental effects. Using micro-motor powered robots propelled by gas bubbles made from a reaction with the contents of the stomach in which they were deposited, these miniature machines have been successfully deployed in the body of a live mouse.
41 comments | about a week ago
theodp writes: Coding got a couple of shout-outs from the White House in Tuesday's State of the Union Address. "Thanks to Vice President Biden's great work to update our job training system," said President Obama (YouTube), "we're connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics." And among the so-called "boats" in the new "River of Content" that the White House social media folks came up with to enhance the State of the Union is a card intended to be shared on Twitter & Facebook which reads, "Let's teach more Americans to code. (Even the President is learning!)." President Obama briefly addressed human spaceflight, saying, "I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs – converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay." He also called once more for action on climate change. Politifact has an annotated version of the transcript for more background information on Obama's statements, and FiveThirtyEight has a similar cheat sheet.
200 comments | about a week ago
New submitter Solandri writes: When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, it destroyed a library of classical works in Herculaneum. The papyrus scrolls weren't incinerated, but were instead carbonized by the hot gases. The resulting black carbon cylinders have mostly withstood attempts to read their contents since their discovery. Earlier attempts to unfurl the scrolls yielded some readable material, but were judged too destructive. Researchers decided to wait for newer technology to be invented that could read the scrolls without unrolling them.
Now, a team led by Dr. Vito Mocella from the National Research Council's Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems (CNR-IMM) in Naples, Italy has managed to read individual letters inside one of the scrolls. Using a form of x-ray phase contrast tomography (abstract), they were able to ascertain the height difference (about 0.1mm) between the ink of the letters and the papyrus fibers which they sat upon. Due to the fibrous nature of the papyrus and the carbon-based ink, regular spectral and chemical analysis had thus far been unable to distinguish the ink from the paper. Further complicating the work, the scrolls are not in neat cylinders, but squashed and ruffled as the hot gases vaporized water in the papyrus and distorted the paper.
66 comments | about a week ago
evanak writes TIROS was NASA's Television Infrared Observation Satellite. It launched in April 1960. One of the ground tracking stations was located at the U.S. Army's secret "Camps Evans" Signals Corps electronics R&D laboratory. That laboratory (originally a Marconi wireless telegraph lab) became the InfoAge Science Center in the 2000s. [Monday], after many years of restoration, InfoAge volunteers (led by Princeton U. professor Dan Marlowe) successfully received data from space. The dish is now operating for the first time in 40 years! The received data are in very raw form, but there is a clear peak riding on top of the noise background at 0.4 MHz (actually 1420.4 MHz), which is the well-known 21 cm radiation from the Milky Way. The dish was pointing south at an elevation of 45 degrees above the horizon.
28 comments | about a week ago
An anonymous reader writes: Toronto researchers have found the amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of disease and death, regardless of regular exercise. The paper, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine (abstract), found that prolonged sedentary behavior was associated with a 15 to 20 per cent higher risk of death from any cause; a 15 to 20 per cent higher risk of heart disease, death from heart disease, cancer, death from cancer; and as much as a 90 per cent increased risk of developing diabetes, said Alter. And that was after adjusting for the effects of regular exercise. ... Engaging in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily exercise does not mean it's OK to then "sit on your rear" for the rest of the day.
348 comments | about a week ago
mpicpp writes with a report that Google is close to finalizing an investment in SpaceX to fund the rocket company's vision for satellite-based, low-cost internet access. According to The Information (paywalled), Google is one of many investors for this round of fundraising. The Wall Street Journal (also paywalled) reports Google's investment at $1 billion. They add, "It is likely to take years to establish designs and potentially set up a specialized satellite-making facility. But SpaceX already has some important building blocks. Industry officials said the company builds its own navigation and flight-control systems for spacecraft, which could provide some elements for satellites. There also are synergies between parts SpaceX makes today for solar arrays on spacecraft and such devices intended for satellites."
100 comments | about a week ago
jones_supa writes: The next game from the mind of veteran strategy and simulation game designer Sid Meier has been revealed. 2K and Firaxis Games have announced Sid Meier's Starships, a turn-based interstellar strategy game scheduled to arrive in early 2015 for Windows, OS X, and iOS (iPad). In the game, you control a fleet of starships as you journey through the galaxy to complete missions, protect planets and their inhabitants, and build a planetary federation. As you trek through the stars, you will be challenged to expand your federation's influence and reach. You shall also amass futuristic technology and take part in combat using a deep roster of customizable ships. When designing Starships, Meier was intrigued by the idea of exploring the next chapter in the story of Civilization: Beyond Earth. "What happens after we colonize our new home and eventually build starships to take to the stars? What has become of our long-lost brothers and sisters from the planet Earth," Meier asks. "My goal was to create an experience that focuses on starship design and combat within a universe filled with interstellar adventure, diplomacy, and exploration."
227 comments | about a week ago
sarahnaomi writes For the first time ever, astronomers have captured an enormous radio wave burst in real time, bringing us one step closer to understanding their origins. These fleeting eruptions, called blitzars or FRBs (Fast Radio Bursts), are truly bizarre cosmic phenomena. In the span of a millisecond, they emit as much radiation as the Sun does over a million years. But unlike other super-luminous events that span multiple wavelengths—gamma ray bursts or supernovae, for example—blitzars emit all that energy in a tiny band of the radio light spectrum. Adding to the mystery is the rarity of blitzar sightings. Since these bursts were first discovered in 2007 with Australia's Parkes Telescope, ten have been identified, the latest of which was the first to be imaged in real time.
121 comments | about a week ago
BarbaraHudson writes Times Live is reporting that while doctors have usually been blamed for bacterial resistance because of over-prescribing, Karl Rotthier, chief executive of the Dutch DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals, claims lax procedures at drugs companies are the real cause. "Most antibiotics are now produced in China and India and I do not think it is unjust to say that the environmental conditions have been quite different in these regions. Poor controls mean that antibiotics are leaking out and getting into drinking water. They are in the fish and cattle that we eat, and global travel and exports mean bacteria are traveling. That is making a greater contribution to the growth of antibiotic resistance than over-prescribing", Rothier said. "We cannot have companies discharging untreated waste water into our environment, contributing to illness and, worse, antibacterial resistance. We cannot accept that rivers in India show higher concentrations of active antibiotic than the blood of someone undergoing treatment."
136 comments | about a week ago
MarkWhittington writes The War is Boring blog reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been obliged to cancel its nascent space program. This development means that former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's dream of being the first astronaut to be launched into space by Iran have been dashed. Ironically, Anousheh Ansari, who was obliged to flee to the United States from Iran to avoid religious oppression, remains the only Iranian-born space traveler. She did it by going to Texas, making her fortune in the electronics business, and paying for her trip to the International Space Station.
141 comments | about a week ago
An anonymous reader writes with news of a breakthrough in brain imaging thanks to a compound found in diapers. "A team of researchers has discovered that a compound used in baby diapers to absorb the liquids can help enlarge the size of the brain cells for a better imaging. The scientists work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and were experimenting with new ways that could help them enlarge the brain cells for a better resolution photos. They discovered by accident that sodium polyacrylate, a compound in baby diapers can enlarge brain cells and can be used in their research. The scientists termed the new technique of enlarging the brain cells 'expansion microscopy.' This new technique will help the scientists increase the brain cells tissue samples and see it in a better image resolution."
75 comments | about a week ago
HughPickens.com writes Everyone who is part of an organization — a company, a nonprofit, a condo board — has experienced the pathologies that can occur when human beings try to work together in groups. Now the NYT reports on recent research on why some groups, like some people, are reliably smarter than others. In one study, researchers grouped 697 volunteer participants into teams of two to five members. Each team worked together to complete a series of short tasks, which were selected to represent the varied kinds of problems that groups are called upon to solve in the real world. One task involved logical analysis, another brainstorming; others emphasized coordination, planning and moral reasoning. Teams with higher average I.Q.s didn't score much higher on collective intelligence tasks than did teams with lower average I.Q.s. Nor did teams with more extroverted people, or teams whose members reported feeling more motivated to contribute to their group's success. Instead, the smartest teams were distinguished by three characteristics (PDF). First, their members contributed more equally to the team's discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group. Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible. Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. It appeared that it was not "diversity" (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team's intelligence, but simply having more women. This last effect, however, was partly explained by the fact that women, on average, were better at "mindreading" than men.
Interestingly enough, a second study has now replicated the these findings for teams that worked together online communicating purely by typing messages into a browser . "Emotion-reading mattered just as much for the online teams whose members could not see one another as for the teams that worked face to face. What makes teams smart must be not just the ability to read facial expressions, but a more general ability, known as "Theory of Mind," to consider and keep track of what other people feel, know and believe."
219 comments | about a week ago
The L.A. Times reports that for the first time since 2007, the FDA has approved a weight loss device (as opposed to a weight-loss drug), an implantable device called the Maestro Rechargeable System. Using electrical leads implanted just above the stomach and a regulator carried under the skin near the ribcage, the device suppresses signals carried by the vagus nerve. ... The device adopts a variant of a "neuromodulation" technique long used in the treatment of epilepsy: by applying intermittent bursts of electrical current to the vagus nerve, it disrupts the signals that prompt the stomach to relax, expand and prepare for an influx of food. ... The FDA approved the use of the device in adult patients with a body mass index, or BMI, between 35 and 45, who have at least one other obesity-related condition, such as type 2 diabetes.
167 comments | about a week ago
MojoKid writes You have to hand it to Elon Musk, who has occasionally been referred to as a real life "Tony Stark." The man helped to co-found PayPal and Tesla Motors. Musk also helms SpaceX, which just recently made its fifth successful trip the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver supplies via the Dragon capsule. The secondary mission of the latest ISS launch resulted in the "successful failure" of the Falcon 9 rocket, which Musk described as a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) event. In addition to his Hyperloop transit side project, Musk is eyeing a space-based Internet network that would be comprised of hundred of micro satellites orbiting roughly 750 miles above Earth. The so-called "Space Internet" would provide faster data speeds than traditional communications satellites that have a geosynchronous orbit of roughly 22,000 miles. Musk hopes that the service will eventually grow to become "a giant global Internet service provider," reaching over three billion people who are currently either without Internet service or only have access to low-speed connections. And this wouldn't be a Musk venture without reaching for some overly ambitious goal. The satellite network would truly become a "Space Internet" platform, as it would form the basis for a direct communications link between Earth and Mars. It's the coming thing.
105 comments | about a week ago
BarbaraHudson writes The BBC is reporting that tests show a protein called RBM3, involved in hibernation, may hold the key to regenerating synapses. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, and other neurodegenerative disorders, synapses are lost. This inevitably progresses to whole brain cells dying. But during hibernation, 20-30% of the connections in the brain — synapses — are culled as the body preserves resources over winter, and are reformed in the spring, with no loss of memory. Memories can be restored after hibernation as only the receiving end of the synapse shuts down. In a further set of tests, the team showed the brain cell deaths from prion disease and Alzheimer's could be prevented by artificially boosting RBM3 levels. Prof Mallucci was asked if memories could be restored in people if their synapses could be restored: "Absolutely, because a lot of memory decline is correlated with synapse loss, which is the early stage of dementia, so you might get back some of the synapse you've lost."
Further reading: here, here, and here"
79 comments | about a week ago
HughPickens.com writes Nicola Davis writes at The Guardian that a new exhibition at London's Science Museum tiitled Churchill's Scientists aims to explore how a climate that mingled necessity with ambition spurred British scientists to forge ahead in fields as diverse as drug-discovery and operational research, paving the way for a further flurry of postwar progress in disciplines from neurology to radio astronomy. Churchill "was very unusual in that he was a politician from a grand Victorian family who was also interested in new technology and science," says Andrew Nahum. "That was quite remarkable at the time." An avid reader of Charles Darwin and HG Wells, Churchill also wrote science-inspired articles himself and fostered an environment where the brightest scientists could build ground-breaking machines, such as the Bernard Lovell telescope, and make world-changing discoveries, in molecular genetics, radio astronomy, nuclear power, nerve and brain function and robotics. "During the war the question was never, 'How much will it cost?' It was, 'Can we do it and how soon can we have it?' This left a heritage of extreme ambition and a lot of talented people who were keen to see what it could provide." (More, below.)
75 comments | about two weeks ago
binarstu (720435) writes "Research recently published [link is to abstract only; full text requires subscription] in Psychological Science quantifies how easy it is to convince innocent, "normal" adults that they committed a crime. The Association for Psychological Science (APS) has posted a nice summary of the research. From the APS summary: "Evidence from some wrongful-conviction cases suggests that suspects can be questioned in ways that lead them to falsely believe in and confess to committing crimes they didn't actually commit. New research provides lab-based evidence for this phenomenon, showing that innocent adult participants can be convinced, over the course of a few hours, that they had perpetrated crimes as serious as assault with a weapon in their teenage years."
291 comments | about two weeks ago