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  • CERN Tests First Artificial Retina Capable of Looking For High Energy Particles

    KentuckyFC writes: Pattern recognition is one of the few areas where humans regularly outperform even the most powerful computers. Our extraordinary ability is a result of the way our bodies process visual information. But surprisingly, our brains only do part of the work. The most basic pattern recognition—edge detection, line detection and the detection of certain shapes—is performed by the complex circuitry of neurons in the retina. Now particle physicists are copying this trick to hunt for new particles. A team at CERN has built and tested an artificial retina capable of identifying particle tracks in the debris from particle collisions. The retina can do this at the same rate the LHC smashes particles together: about 800 million collisions per second. In other words, it can sift through the data in real time. The team says the retina outperforms any other particle-detecting device by a factor of 400v.

    60 comments | 4 days ago

  • Liquid Sponges Extract Hydrogen From Water

    New submitter gaelfx writes: Researchers at Glasglow University have an interesting method for separating the hydrogen out of water: Liquid Sponges. Most methods of extracting the hydrogen involve some form electrolysis, but these generally require some pretty expensive materials. The researchers claim that they can accomplish this using less electricity, cheaper materials and 30 times faster to boot. With both Honda and Toyota promising hydrogen fuel cell cars in Japan within the next few years (other manufacturers must be considering it as well, if not as publicly), does this spell a new future for transportation technology?

    113 comments | 5 days ago

  • Scientists Capture the Sound Made By a Single Atom

    Jason Koebler writes Researchers at Columbia University and Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology say that they have, for the first time, "captured" the sound a single atom makes when it is excited—a single "phonon," as it were. So, why do this? For one, the team wanted to simply see if it could capture the softest sound ever made, which is certainly a noble goal. But, secondly, the researchers wanted to explore the quantum nature of sound. Photons have always been used in quantum experiments, but they're pretty hard to manipulate because they're so fast. Phonons move 10^5 slower and thus could make quantum communication easier.

    100 comments | 5 days ago

  • Ozone Layer Recovering But Remains Threatened

    First time accepted submitter i kan reed writes in with some good news from the ozone report of the United Nations. The Earth’s protective ozone layer is on track to recover by the middle of the century, the United Nations today reported, urging unified action to tackle climate change and curb continued fluctuations to the composition of the atmosphere. That is according to the assessment of 300 scientists in the summary document of the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2014, published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “International action on the ozone layer is a major environmental success story,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a news release. “This should encourage us to display the same level of urgency and unity to tackle the even greater challenge of climate change.”

    59 comments | 5 days ago

  • Researchers Working On Crystallizing Light

    An anonymous reader writes Researchers at Princeton University have begun crystallizing light as part of an effort to answer fundamental questions about the physics of matter. The researchers are not shining light through crystal – they are transforming light into crystal. As part of an effort to develop exotic materials such as room-temperature superconductors, the researchers have locked together photons, the basic element of light, so that they become fixed in place. "It's something that we have never seen before," said Andrew Houck, one of the researchers. "This is a new behavior for light."

    129 comments | 5 days ago

  • Journal Published Flawed Stem Cell Papers Despite Serious Misgivings About Work

    sciencehabit writes: As two discredited, and now retracted, stem cell papers have produced an almost unimaginable fallout — a national hero accused of scientific fraud, the revamping of one of Japan's major research institutes, and the suicide of a respected cell biologist — researchers have privately and publicly asked how Nature could have published work that, in retrospect, seems so obviously flawed. Another piece of the puzzle has now come to light. The Science news team received a copy of email correspondence between a Nature editor and Haruko Obokata, the lead author of the papers, which indicates the work initially received as rocky a reception there as at two other journals, Cell and Science, that had rejected the work previously. The email, dated 4 April 2013, includes detailed separate criticisms of the two papers and suggestions for new data to support the authors' claims of a simple and novel way to make stem cells that could form the myriad cell types within a body. The Nature editor rejected the papers, but left open a window, writing, "Should further experimental data allow you to address these criticisms, we would be happy to look at a revised manuscript." The two papers were published 10 months later.

    35 comments | about a week ago

  • Link Between Salt and High Blood Pressure 'Overstated'

    An anonymous reader writes: Diagnosed with high blood pressure? If so, you were probably told to moderate or avoid the use salt in your food. Well, a new study (abstract found that salt is not associated with systolic blood pressure after controlling for other factors. The study found that BMI, age, and alcohol consumption all strongly influenced blood pressure, and concluded that maintaining a healthy body weight was the best way to counteract it. The publication of this research follows a CDC report from Tuesday decrying the amount of salt in children's diets — a report that lists high blood pressure as one of its main concerns. The debate on this issue is far from over, and it'll take years to sort out all the contradictory evidence.

    291 comments | about a week ago

  • Massive Study Searching For Genes Behind Intelligence Finds Little

    An anonymous reader writes: It's been taken for granted that science would, one day, figure out what parts of our DNA make us smart (or not). But a huge new study done by a group of almost 60 researchers using genome data on over 100,000 people has come up empty-handed. The scientists first looked for differences in the genome that correlated with academic achievement. After narrowing it down to 69 individual sites, they gave cognitive tests to separate group of 24,000 people and looked for evidence of difference at those same locations (abstract). Most of the sites weren't significantly different from chance — the (already weak) genetic influence of genes on height has an effect 20 times greater. On top of that, the three gene locations that did seem to have a stronger correlation weren't involved in development of the nervous system.

    269 comments | about a week ago

  • China Targets 2022 For Space Station Completion

    Taco Cowboy writes: According to Reuters, China is aiming for 2022 to get its first space station operational. "China's leaders have set a priority on advancing its space program, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power." After Chinese astronauts docked with the country's experimental space lab last year, they're planning the launch of another laboratory in 2016. Launch and construction of the new space station's core is planned for 2018, and their goal is to complete it by 2022. China insists that its space program is for peaceful purposes.

    100 comments | about a week ago

  • Universal Big Bang Lithium Deficit Confirmed

    An anonymous reader writes New observations of the star cluster Messier 54 show that it is just as deficient in lithium as our own galaxy, furthering a mystery about the element's big bang origins. "Most of the light chemical element lithium now present in the Universe was produced during the Big Bang, along with hydrogen and helium, but in much smaller quantities. Astronomers can calculate quite accurately how much lithium they expect to find in the early Universe, and from this work out how much they should see in old stars. But the numbers don't match — there is about three times less lithium in stars than expected. This mystery remains unsolved, despite several decades of work."

    170 comments | about a week ago

  • Who Is Buried In the Largest Tomb Ever Found In Northern Greece?

    schwit1 writes Excitement continues to build as archaeologists dig deeper into a massive tomb discovered two years ago in northern Greece. "This past weekend the excavation team, led by Greek archaeologist Katerina Peristeri, announced the discovery of two elegant caryatids—large marble columns sculpted in the shape of women with outstretched arms—that may have been intended to bar intruders from entering the tomb's main room. "I don't know of anything quite like them," says Philip Freeman, a professor of classics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. The curly-haired caryatids are just part of the tomb's remarkable furnishings. Guarding the door as sentinels were a pair of carved stone sphinxes, mythological creatures with the body of a lion and the head of a human. And when archaeologists finally entered the antechamber, they discovered faded remnants of frescoes as well as a mosaic floor made of white marble pieces inlaid in a red background." Archaeologists believe this tomb is connected somehow to Alexander the Great and could very well be the burial site of one of his relatives or close allies.

    92 comments | about a week ago

  • X-Class Solar Flare Coming Friday

    First time accepted submitter kit_triforce writes Satellites have just detected a powerful X1.6-class solar flare. The source was active sunspot AR2158, which is directly facing Earth. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash. Ionizing radiation from the flare could cause HF radio blackouts and other communications disturbances, especially on the day-lit side of Earth. In the next few hours, when coronagraph data from SOHO and STEREO become available, we will see if a coronal mass ejection (CME) emerges from the blast site. If so, the cloud would likely be aimed directly at Earth and could reach our planet in 2 to 3 days.

    145 comments | about a week ago

  • The Exoplanets That Never Were

    StartsWithABang writes In 1992, scientists discovered the first planets orbiting a star other than our Sun. The pulsar PSR B1257+12 was discovered to have its own planetary system, and since then, exoplanet discoveries have exploded. But before that, in 1963, decades of research led to the much-anticipated publication and announcement of an exoplanet discovered around Barnard's star, the second-closest star system to Earth. Unfortunately, it turned out to be spurious, and it took years to uncover, an amazing story which is only now fully coming to light.

    31 comments | about a week ago

  • Researcher Fired At NSF After Government Questions Her Role As 1980s Activist

    sciencehabit writes Valerie Barr was a tenured professor of computer science at Union College in Schenectady, New York, with a national reputation for her work improving computing education and attracting more women and minorities into the field. But federal investigators say that Barr lied during a routine background check about her affiliations with a domestic terrorist group that had ties to the two organizations to which she had belonged in the early 1980s. On 27 August, NSF said that her 'dishonest conduct' compelled them to cancel her temporary assignment immediately, at the end of the first of what was expected to be a 2-year stint. Colleagues who decry Barr's fate worry that the incident could make other scientists think twice about coming to work for NSF. In addition, Barr's case offers a rare glimpse into the practices of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an obscure agency within the White House that wields vast power over the entire federal bureaucracy through its authority to vet recently hired workers.

    499 comments | about a week ago

  • Hidden Archeology of Stonehenge Revealed In New Geophysical Map

    An anonymous reader writes Utilizing a comprehensive array of remote sensing technology and non-invasive geophysical survey equipment, researchers working on the site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England have revealed hundreds of previously unknown features buried deep beneath the ground as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. The finds include images of dwellings from the Bronze and Iron Ages as well as details of buried Roman settlements never before seen."

    28 comments | about a week ago

  • Rosetta Hunts For Comet Touch Down Site For Philae Lander

    astroengine writes Attached to the European Space Agency's comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta, the Philae lander opened one of its robotic eyes when the mission was orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko at a distance of only 50 kilometers (31 miles) on Sunday. With two high-contrast exposures, the lander captured one of Rosetta's solar panels in the foreground with the comet behind. ESA says the choice of landing sites will be narrowed down from five to two on Monday -- a primary target and a backup -- before a final decision is made in October.

    17 comments | about a week ago

  • The Grassroots Future of Biohacking

    An anonymous reader writes Forget about some kid engineering a virulent microbe in their bedroom. As the assistant director of the Maurice Kanbar Center for Biomedical Engineering, Oliver Medvedik, puts it, "It's extremely difficult to 'improve' on the lethality of nature. The pathogens that already exist are more legitimate cause for worry.” If anything, you're better off putting energy into wrenching away your desire for McDonalds, and making sure the government doesn't impose draconian laws about DIY-bio. Here's a look at the grassroots future of biohacking and the problems with government overreach.

    63 comments | about a week ago

  • When Scientists Give Up

    New submitter ferespo sends a report from All Things Considered about the struggle for scientific funding in today's political and economic environment. "Federal funding for biomedical research has declined by more than 20 percent in the past decade. There are far more scientists competing for grants than there is money to support them." It's a tough situation for new scientists trying to set up labs. In addition to all of the scientific work they do, it's essentially a full-time job in addition to that to maintain funding. The reviewers who decide which projects receive funding are risk-averse to the point where innovative research is all but off the table. The consequences of this are two-fold: not only are we giving up on the types of research that led to so many of today's marvels, but many promising young scientists are giving up on the field altogether.

    347 comments | about a week ago

  • SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts

    An anonymous reader writes: $3 billion in funding is on the line as private space companies duke it out for contracts to end U.S. reliance on Russian rockets for manned spaceflight. The two biggest contenders are SpaceX and Boeing, described as "the exciting choice" and "the safe choice," respectively. "NASA is charting a new direction 45 years after sending humans to the Moon, looking to private industry for missions near Earth, such as commuting to and from the space station. Commercial operators would develop space tourism while the space agency focuses on distant trips to Mars or asteroids." It's possible the contracts would be split, giving some tasks to each company. It's also possible that the much smaller Sierra Nevada Corp. could grab a bit of government funding as well for launches using its unique winged-shuttle design.

    123 comments | about a week ago

  • Information Theory Places New Limits On Origin of Life

    KentuckyFC writes: Most research into the origin of life focuses on the messy business of chemistry, on the nature of self-replicating molecules and on the behavior of autocatalytic reactions. Now one theorist says the properties of information also place important limits on how life must have evolved, without getting bogged down in the biochemical details. The new approach uses information theory to highlight a key property that distinguishes living from non-living systems: their ability to store information and replicate it almost indefinitely. A measure of this how much these systems differ from a state of maximum entropy or thermodynamic equilibrium. The new approach is to create a mathematical model of these informational differences and use it to make predictions about how likely it is to find self-replicating molecules in an artificial life system called Avida. And interestingly, the predictions closely match what researchers have found in practice. The bottom line is that according to information theory, environments favorable to life are unlikely to be unusual.

    211 comments | about a week ago

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