JG0LD writes "Students at a tiny Appalachian public school can't use Wi-Fi because any such network can throw the radio equivalent of a monkey wrench into a gigantic super-sensitive radio telescope just up the road. GBT's extraordinary sensitivity means that it's very susceptible to human-generated radio interference, according to site interference protection engineer Carla Beaudet. 'If there was no dirt between us and the transmitter, a typical access point ... would have to be on the order of 1,000,000 km [more than 620,000 miles, or about two and a half times the distance from the Earth to the Moon] distant to not interfere. Fortunately, we have mountains around us which provide lots of attenuation, so we're not seeing everything from everywhere,' she said. A standard Wi-Fi access point would wipe out a significant range of usable frequencies for the observatory. 'It simply ruins the spectrum for observations from 2400-2483.5MHz and from 5725-5875MHz for observational purposes,' wrote Beaudet."
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ewenc writes "Mercenary computer coders are helping scientists cope with the deluge of data pouring out of research labs. A contest to write software to analyze immune-system genes garnered more than 100 entries, including many that vastly outperformed existing programs. The US$6,000 contest was launched by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School, both in Boston, Massachusetts. TopCoder.com, a community of more than 400,000 coders who compete in programming competitions, hosted the contest. The results are described in a letter published this week in Nature Biotechnology."
An anonymous reader writes "[Ars Technica] recently reviewed the documentary The Revisionaries, which chronicles the actions of the Texas state school board as it attempted to rewrite the science and history standards that had been prepared by experts in education and the relevant subjects. For biology, the board's revisions meant that textbook publishers were instructed to help teachers and students 'analyze all sides of scientific information' about evolution. Given that ideas only reach the status of theory if they have overwhelming evidence supporting them, it isn't at all clear what 'all sides' would involve."
sciencehabit writes "A new study shows that ant pupae—a stage between larvae and adult—can communicate via sound, and that this communication can be crucial to their survival. The young insects have a specialized spike along their abdomen that they stroke with one of their hind legs, similar to dragging the teeth of a comb along the edge of a table. This noise serves primarily as an emergency beacon, allowing the ants to shout for help when being threatened by a predator."
First time accepted submitter Noctis-Kaban writes "Scientists in China have built and tested a radical new space drive. Although the thrust it produces may not be enough to lift your mobile phone, it looks like it could radically change the satellite industry. Satellites are just the start: with superconducting components, this technology could generate the thrust to drive everything from deep space probes to flying cars. And it all started with a British engineer whose invention was ignored and ridiculed in his home country."
sciencehabit writes "The ancestor of all placental mammals—the diverse lineage that includes almost all species of mammals living today, including humans—was a tiny, furry-tailed creature that evolved shortly after the dinosaurs disappeared, a new study suggests. The hypothetical creature, not found in the fossil record but inferred from it, probably was a tree-climbing, insect-eating mammal that weighed between 6 and 245 grams—somewhere between a small shrew and a mid-sized rat. It was furry, had a long tail, gave birth to a single young, and had a complex brain with a large lobe for interpreting smells and a corpus callosum, the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The period following the dinosaur die-offs could be considered a 'big bang' of mammalian diversification, with species representing as many as 10 major groups of placentals appearing within a 200,000-year interval."
astroengine writes "The Earth has one permanent moon — you know, 'The Moon' — but at any given time there are thought to be two temporary interlopers that were once asteroids, but get captured by our planet's gravity to become mini-moons for a few months or even years. They eventually get flung back out into interplanetary space. This ultimate 'catch and release' provides an interesting opportunity for any future asteroid mission. So now astronomers want to find them, possibly using the newly-minted Hubble-class spy telescopes donated to NASA by the National Reconnaissance Office."
astroengine writes "By focusing the Green Bank radio telescope on stars hosting (candidate) exoplanets identified by NASA's Kepler space telescope, it is hoped that one of those star systems may also play host to a sufficiently evolved alien race capable of transmitting radio signals into space. But in a study headed by ex-SETI chief Jill Tarter, the conclusion of this first attempt is blunt: 'No signals of extraterrestrial origin were found.' But this is the just first of the 'directed' SETI searches that has put some very important limits on the probability of finding sufficiently advanced alien civilizations in our galaxy."
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has announced plans to launch the nation's first ever bachelor's degree in Commercial Space Operations to supply the commercial spaceflight industry with skilled graduates in the areas of space policy, operations, regulation and certification, as well as space flight safety, and space program training, management and planning. The rapid expansion of commercial spaceflight operations is fostered by NASA's commercial cargo and crew development programs and by entrepreneurs developing capabilities for suborbital spaceflight, orbital space habitats, space resource prospecting and other commercial ventures. 'Embry-Riddle's new Commercial Space Operations degree is one of the most innovative non-engineering degrees in the aerospace industry,' says program coordinator Lance Erickson, a professor of applied aviation sciences at Embry-Riddle. 'When we were planning this degree, our advisers from the commercial space industry said they couldn't wait to hire our graduates.'"
ananyo writes "How open do researchers want open-access papers to be? Apparently, not that open — when given a choice of licenses, most opt to limit the use of data and words in their open-access publications, according to figures released by the open-access journal Scientific Reports. Since July 2012 the journal has been offering researchers a choice of three types of license. The first, most liberal license, CC-BY, allows anyone, even commercial organizations, to re-use it. A more restrictive version, CC-BY-NC-SA, lets others remix, tweak and build on work if they give credit to the original author, but only for non-commercial (NC) purposes, and only if they license what they produce under the same terms (SA, or 'share-alike'). A third licence, CC-BY-NC-ND, is the most restrictive, allowing others to download and share work, but not to change it in any way (ND, 'no derivative works'), or use it commercially. The results from Scientific Reports shows that, for the 685 papers accepted by the journal, authors chose either of the more restrictive licences 95% of the time — and the most restrictive, CC-BY-NC-ND, 68% of the time."
sciencehabit writes "Left to its own devices, a bubble will weaken and pop as the fluid sandwiched between two thin layers of soap succumbs to gravity and drains toward the floor. But when researchers trapped a bubble between two platinum electrodes and cranked up the voltage, the fluid reversed direction and actually flowed up, against the force of gravity. The newly strong and stable bubbles could live for hours, and even visibly change colors as their walls grew fatter. Because soap film is naturally only nanometers thick, this whimsical experiment could help scientists create more efficient labs-on-chips, the mazes of nanotunnels that can diagnose disease based on the movements of a miniscule drop of blood."
judgecorp writes "Fears that mobile phones cause cancer have never had strong backing from scientific research, but Israeli startup Tawkon is using those fears for an interesting business model. Its free app (banned from Apple's App Store, but on Android, BlackBerry and unlocked iPhones) tracks how much radiation your phone is emitting. This lets concerned users hold their phones away from their heads or whatever — but it also gives Tawkon a useful map of cellphone coverage around the world, which is the real asset it is monetizing — for the benefit of everyone, it says."
An anonymous reader writes "In a move likely to have major political implications, the University of Düsseldorf has revoked the doctoral degree of Germany's science and education minister, Annette Schavan. The committee investigating allegations of plagiarism came to the conclusion that she 'systematically and deliberately claimed as her own intellectual achievements which she had in fact not produced herself.' Schavan wants to appeal the decision in court and has not resigned from her post so far."
astroengine writes "Extrapolating from findings by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope, scientists on Wednesday said roughly six percent of so-called red dwarf stars have Earth-sized planets properly positioned around their parent stars so that liquid water could exist on their surfaces. The team looked at 95 candidate planets circling red dwarf stars observed by Kepler and found that at least 60 percent have planets smaller than Neptune. Most were not the right size or temperature to be Earth-like, but three were found to be both warm and approximately Earth-sized. Statistically that would mean six percent of all red dwarf stars should have a Earth-sized planet. Since 75 percent of the closest stars are red dwarfs, the nearest Earth-like world may be just 13 light-years away."
First time accepted submitter ios and web coder writes "From the article: 'A dizzying story that involves falsified medical research, plagiarism, and legal threats came to light via a DMCA takedown notice today. Retraction Watch, a site that followed (among many other issues) the implosion of a Duke cancer researcher's career, found all of its articles on the topic pulled by WordPress, its host. The reason? A small site based in India apparently copied all of the posts, claimed them as their own, then filed a DMCA takedown notice to get the originals pulled from their source. As of now, the originals are still missing as their actual owners seek to have them restored.' This is extremely worrying. Even though the original story is careful not to make accusations, I will. This sure smells like a 'Reputation Defense' dirty trick."
Layzej writes "Last summer a paper investigating the link between conspiratorial thinking and the rejection of climate science provoked a response on blogs skeptical of the scientific consensus that appeared to illustrate the very cognitive processes at the center of the research. This generated data for a new paper titled 'Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation (PDF).' The researchers reviewed the reactions for evidence of conspiratorial thinking, including the presumption of nefarious intent, perception of persecution, the tendency to detect meaning in random events, and the ability to interpret contrary evidence as evidence that the conspiracy is even greater in scope that was originally believed. Some of the hypotheses promoted to dismiss the findings of the original paper ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. It is not clear whether the response to this paper will itself provide data for further research, or how far down this recursion could progress. I fear the answer may be 'all the way.'"
An anonymous reader writes "In decades and centuries past, scientific genius was easy to quantify. Those scientists who were able to throw off the yoke of established knowledge and break new ground on their own are revered and respected. But as humanity, as a species, has gotten better at science, and the basics of most fields have been refined over and over, it's become much harder for any one scientist to make a mark on the field. There's still plenty we don't know, but so much of it is highly specialized that many breakthroughs are understood by only a handful. Even now, the latest generation is more likely to be familiar with the great popularizers of science, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Carl Sagan, than of the researchers at the forefront of any particular field. "...most scientific fields aren't in the type of crisis that would enable paradigm shifts, according to Thomas Kuhn's classic view of scientific revolutions. Simonton argues that instead of finding big new ideas, scientists currently work on the details in increasingly specialized and precise ways." Will we ever again see a scientist get recognition like Einstein did?"
With his trademark hat and beard, Dr. Robert Bakker is one of the most recognized paleontologists working today. Bakker was among the advisers for the movie Jurassic Park, and the character Dr. Robert Burke in the film The Lost World: Jurassic Park is based on him. He was one of the first to put forth the idea that some dinosaurs had feathers and were warm-blooded, and is credited with initiating the ongoing "dinosaur renaissance" in paleontology. Bakker is currently the curator of paleontology for the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Director of the Morrison Natural History Museum in Colorado. He is also a Christian minister, who contends that there is no real conflict between religion and science, citing the writings and views of Saint Augustine as a guide on melding the two. Dr. Bakker has agreed to take some time from his writing and digging in order to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
An anonymous reader writes with news from Mersenne.org, home of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search: "On January 25th at 23:30:26 UTC, the largest known prime number, 257,885,161-1, was discovered on GIMPS volunteer Curtis Cooper's computer. The new prime number, 2 multiplied by itself 57,885,161 times, less one, has 17,425,170 digits. With 360,000 CPUs peaking at 150 trillion calculations per second, GIMPS — now in its 17th year — is the longest continuously-running global 'grassroots supercomputing' project in Internet history."
MTorrice writes "To make light-weight, inexpensive electronics using renewable materials, scientists have turned to a technology that is almost 2,000 years old: paper. Researchers fabricated organic transistors on a transparent, exceptionally smooth type of paper called nanopaper. This material has cellulose fibers that are only 10 nm in diameter. The nanopaper transistors are about 84% transparent, and their performance decreases only slightly when bent."
MatthewVD writes "In 2006, researcher Mark Changizi came up with a novel theory for why humans evolved with color vision: to detect social cues and emotions in others. He built glasses called 02Amps to enhance perception of blood pooling. Some hospitals have tried using the glasses to see bruising that's not visible unaided, or help nurses find veins. But it turns out now that the glasses might be able to fix some forms of colorblindness, too."
cylonlover writes with news of an update to the model used for calculating the habitable zone around stars shifting things out a bit. From the article: "Researchers at Penn state have developed a new method for calculating the habitable zone (original paper, PDF) around stars. The computer model based on new greenhouse gas databases provides a tool to better estimate which extrasolar planets with sufficient atmospheric pressure might be able to maintain liquid water on their surface. The new model indicates that some of the nearly 300 possible Earth-like planets previously identified might be too close to their stars to to be habitable. It also places the Solar System's habitable zone between 0.99 AU (92 million mi, 148 million km) and 1.70 AU (158 million mi, 254 million km) from the Sun. Since the Earth orbits the Sun at an average distance of one AU, this puts us at the very edge of the habitable zone."
carmendrahl writes "Emergency-room visits linked to caffeine-laden energy drinks are on the rise. This gives scientists who'd like to see caffeine regulated the jitters. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seems to be dragging its feet on regulating caffeine content in food and drink, because people have different sensitivities to it (abstract). Currently, caffeine-rich products like Monster Energy get around the rules because they're marketed as dietary supplements. 'Caffeine gets cleared from the body at different rates because of genetic variations, gender, and even whether a person is a smoker. For this reason, it’s difficult to set a safe limit of daily consumption on the compound. Physiological differences, as well as differences in the way people consume caffeine, have tied FDA in knots as it has debated how to regulate the substance. ... The toxic level in humans, about 10 g, is roughly the equivalent of imbibing 75 cups of brewed coffee (in 8-oz mugs) or 120 cans of Red Bull over a few hours. But that lethal limit can vary widely from person to person, experts say."
An anonymous reader writes "It turns out that the remains found in a parking lot in Leicester, England belong to none other than King Richard III, one of the most reviled monarchs of English history. Scientists announced on Monday that they were able to confirm the identity of the skeleton through DNA testing."
An anonymous reader writes "Iran has unveiled a new home-made combat aircraft, which officials say can evade radar. The single-seat Qaher F313 (Dominant F313) is the latest design produced by Iran's military since it launched the Azarakhsh (Lightning), in 2007. President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said it had 'almost all the positive features' of the world's most sophisticated jets.Footage from state TV showed the jet in flight, but not its take-off or landing."
First time accepted submitter ras writes "The Reserve Bank of Australia did some investigation into the accuracy of their economic predictions — the ones they use to run the country — with less than flattering results. '70 per cent of the RBA's forecasts for underlying inflation for the year ahead were close to the mark, but its predictions of economic growth were less accurate, and its unemployment rate estimates no better than [chance] ... The Reserve Bank employs numbers of people on very high pay and what they're admitting now is that their — all of this so-called science — has produced nothing more than what a roll of the dice could produce.'"
An anonymous reader writes "NASA is trying to measure the air pollution by flying a plane at various altitudes over the bay area. The tests are a part of a larger effort led by the DISCOVER-AQ campaign — a multi-year program launched across the United States in 2011 by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. DISCOVER-AQ stands for Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality. NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., is the lead center for the mission."
Shipud writes "We live in the post-genomic era, when DNA sequence data is growing exponentially. However, for most of the genes that we identify, we have no idea of their biological functions. They are like words in a foreign language, waiting to be deciphered. The Critical Assessment of Function Annotation, or CAFA, is a new experiment to assess the performance of the multitude of computational methods developed by research groups worldwide and help channel the flood of data from genome research to deduce the function of proteins. Thirty research groups participated in the first CAFA, presenting a total of 54 algorithms. The researchers participated in blind-test experiments in which they predicted the function of protein sequences for which the functions are already known but haven't yet been made publicly available. Independent assessors then judged their performance. The challenge organizers explain that: 'The accurate annotation of protein function is key to understanding life at the molecular level and has great biochemical and pharmaceutical implications, explain the study authors; however, with its inherent difficulty and expense, experimental characterization of function cannot scale up to accommodate the vast amount of sequence data already available. The computational annotation of protein function has therefore emerged as a problem at the forefront of computational and molecular biology.'"
hypnosec writes "Microsoft Research has teamed up with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to develop software that can predict events like outbreaks of disease or violence by mining data from old news and the web. The project, if successful, will result into a tool that would provide information that is more than just educated guesses or intuition. The team consisting of Eric Horvitz from Microsoft Research and Kira Radinsky from Technion-Israel Institute tested the program with articles from New York Times spanning over 20 years from 1986-2007."
FatLittleMonkey writes "My mind to your mind... my thoughts to your thoughts... Researchers at the University of Essex have shown that combining the output from two non-invasive 'brain-computer interfaces,' computer-interpreted EEG signals, led to a much clearer signal of the subjects' intention than the output from a single subject. To test this idea, they had two subjects try to steer a simulated space-ship at a target planet, by thinking of one of eight possible directions. While a single user could achieve 67% accuracy, this jumped to 90% when two minds were combined. Researchers believe the technique also compensates for individual lapses in attention, and thus may have applications in real-world space missions."
littlesparkvt writes "One of two official packages of photos of Iran's famed simian space traveler depicted the wrong monkey, but a primate really did fly into space and return safely to Earth, a senior Iranian space official confirmed Saturday. The two different monkeys shown in the photos released by Iran’s state media caused some international observers to wonder whether the monkey had died in space or that the launch didn’t go well."
ananyo writes "Transistors, the simple switches at the heart of all modern electronics, generally use a tiny voltage to toggle between 'on' and 'off.' The voltage approach is highly reliable and easy to miniaturize, but has its disadvantages. First, keeping the voltage on requires power, which drives up the energy consumption of the microchip. Second, transistors must be hard-wired into the chips and can't be reconfigured, which means computers need dedicated circuitry for all their functions. Now, researchers have made a type of transistor that can be switched with magnetism. The device could cut the power consumption of computers, cell phones and other electronics — and allow chips themselves to be 'reprogrammed' (abstract)."
djl4570 writes "xkcd's 'What If' series consists of humorous takes on highly implausible but oddly interesting hypothetical physics questions, like how to cook a steak with heat from atmospheric re-entry. The most recent entry dealt with flying a Cessna on other planets and moons in the solar system. Mars: 'The tricky thing is that with so little atmosphere, to get any lift, you have to go fast. You need to approach Mach 1 just to get off the ground, and once you get moving, you have so much inertia that it’s hard to change course—if you turn, your plane rotates, but keeps moving in the original direction.' Venus: 'Unfortunately, X-Plane is not capable of simulating the hellish environment near the surface of Venus. But physics calculations give us an idea of what flight there would be like. The upshot is: Your plane would fly pretty well, except it would be on fire the whole time, and then it would stop flying, and then stop being a plane.' There are also a bunch of illustrations for flightpaths on various moons (crashpaths might be more apt), which drew the attention of physics professor Rhett Allain, who explained the math in further detail and provided more accurate paths."
Nerval's Lobster writes "To give the Mars Rover Curiosity the brains she needs to operate took 5 million lines of code. And while the Mars Science Laboratory team froze the code a year before the roaming laboratory landed on August 5, they kept sending software updates to the spacecraft during its 253-day, 352 million-mile flight. In its belly, Curiosity has two computers, a primary and a backup. Fun fact: Apple's iPhone 5 has more processing power than this one-eyed explorer. 'You're carrying more processing power in your pocket than Curiosity,' Ben Cichy, chief flight software engineer, told an audience at this year's MacWorld."
redletterdave points out work from Japanese researchers who produced an incredible visualization of how a brain perceives its environment. Studying zebrafish larvae, the scientists were able to observe neuronal signals in real time as the zebrafish saw and identified is prey, a paramecium. The results are illustrated in a brief video posted to YouTube, and in a longer video abstract hosted at Current Biology. (Direct download). The work is important because it demonstrates direct mapping of external stimuli to internal neuron activity in the optic tectum.
the_newsbeagle writes "Chinese aerospace engineers have revealed, for the first time, details about their Chang'e-2 spacecraft's encounter with the asteroid Toutatis last month. They have plenty to boast: The asteroid flyby wasn't part of the original flight plan, but engineers adapted the mission and navigated the satellite through deep space (PDF). Exactly how close Chang'e-2 came to Toutatis is still unclear. The article states that the first reports 'placed the flyby range at 3.2 km, which was astonishingly—even recklessly—tight. Passing within a few kilometers of an asteroid only 2 to 3 km in diameter at a speed of 10,730 meters per second could be described as either superb shooting or a near disaster.' If the Chinese spacecraft did pass that near, it could provide a "scientific bonanza" with data about the asteroid's mass and composition."
sciencehabit writes "You don't have to be Superman to help those in need, but you might be more willing to do so if you get a taste of his powers. When subjects in a new study strapped on virtual reality helmets, half of them were given the ability to fly around a simulated city, while the others sat passively in helicopters. Some were allowed to merely explore the city from their aerial vantage points; others were told they needed to find a missing diabetic child and deliver his lifesaving insulin. Regardless of which task they performed, the subjects granted the superpower of flight were more likely to help a researcher pick up spilled pens after the experiment was. The results have researchers wondering if our brains might react to the memory of a virtual experience as though it had really happened. If so, we may be able to use virtual reality and gaming to effectively treat psychological disorders such as PTSD."
An anonymous reader writes "Since the 1960s until the present day, missile defense has been a hot topic. Ronald Reagan popularized the concept with his 'Star Wars' multi-billion dollar plan to use lasers and various technologies to destroy incoming Soviet warheads. Today, America has a sizable sea-based system, dubbed AEGIS, that has been deployed to defend against rogue states missiles, both conventional and nuclear. However, there is one thing missile defense can't beat: simple math. 'Think about it — could we someday see a scenario where American forces at sea with a fixed amount of defensive countermeasures face an enemy with large numbers of cruise and ballistic weapons that have the potential to simply overwhelm them? Could a potential adversary fire off older weapons that are not as accurate (PDF), causing a defensive response that exhausts all available missile interceptors so more advanced weapons with better accuracy can deliver the crushing blow? Simply put: does math win?'"
Zothecula writes "A major obstruction to the development of practical 3D microchips is moving data and logic signals from one layer of circuitry to another. This can be done with conventional circuitry, but is quite cumbersome and generates a good deal of heat inside the 3D circuit. Physicists at the University of Cambridge have now developed a spintronic shift register that allows information to be passed between different layers of a 3D microchip. 'To create the microchip, the researchers used an experimental technique called ‘sputtering’. They effectively made a club-sandwich on a silicon chip of cobalt, platinum and ruthenium atoms (abstract). The cobalt and platinum atoms store the digital information in a similar way to how a hard disk drive stores data. The ruthenium atoms act as messengers, communicating that information between neighbouring layers of cobalt and platinum. Each of the layers is only a few atoms thick. They then used a laser technique called MOKE to probe the data content of the different layers. As they switched a magnetic field on and off they saw in the MOKE signal the data climbing layer by layer from the bottom of the chip to the top.'"
anavictoriasaavedra writes "A unique show is taking place on Kamchatka these days: Four separate but nearby volcanoes are erupting simultaneously on the Russian peninsula. A Moscow film crew has produced an awe-inspiring 360-degree video of the natural fireworks." The video is well worth watching and panning around in. There are also a bunch of high-res still photo panoramas.
New submitter Zeussy writes "While looking around Thingiverse for something to 3D-print, I found this awesome public domain prosthetic hand designed for a 5-year-old child called Liam, who was born without any fingers on his right hand. The design is based on parts either 3D-printed or bought from your local hardware store. It's body powered via cables and bungees; see it in action in this video. They are currently running a Fundly Fundraiser."
An anonymous reader writes "Internationally acclaimed architecture firm Foster + Partners built the Hearst Tower, the Millennium Bridge, and the Gherkin here on earth — and now they're setting their sights on outer space with plans to produce a 3D printed building on the moon. Today the firm announced that it has partnered with the European Space Agency to develop a lunar base for four people that can withstand the threat of meteorites, gamma radiation and temperature fluctuations. Since transporting building materials to space is a challenge, the team is considering using on-site 3D printing as a solution."
coondoggie writes "NASA says an asteroid about half the size of a football field will blow past Earth on Feb 15 closer than many man-made satellites. NASA added that while the asteroid, designated 2012 DA14, has no chance of striking Earth. Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, astronomers have never seen an object so big come so close to our planet."
sciencehabit writes "A quick visit to Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks shows just how many ways humans (or at least British comedians) can think of to travel from point A to point B. So why don't we high kick our way to the bus stop or skip to the grocery store? New research suggests that there may be a deep biomechanical reason governing the gaits we choose in different situations. In short, people consistently choose to walk when they need to travel slower than 2 m/s to reach their goal in the given time; when they needed to move about 3 m/s or faster, they ran. But in between—in 'the twilight zone between walking and running'—people tended to mix the two gaits, minimizing their energy expenditure. The findings could help scientists design better prosthetic limbs and even build more human-like robots"
Lasrick writes "Dawn Stover has another great piece detailing why renewable energy will never provide us with all our energy needs. She deconstructs the unrealistic World Wildlife Fund report (co-written by several solar companies) that claims renewables will be able to provide 100% of the energy needs of several countries by 2050. From the article: 'When renewable energy experts get together, they tend to rhapsodize about the possibilities, believing that this will somehow inspire others to make their visions come true. But ambitious plans to power entire countries on solar energy (or wind or nuclear power, for that matter) don't have a snowball's chance in Australia. Such schemes are doomed to fail, and not because of the economic "reality" or the political "reality" -- however daunting those may be. They are doomed because of the physical reality: It's simply not physically possible for the world's human population to continue growing in numbers, affluence, and energy consumption without trashing the planet.'"
MTorrice writes "For decades, scientists studying oil spills have relied on the same analytical methods when tracking the movement of oil and assessing a spill's environmental impact. But these techniques miss an entire class of compounds that could account for about half of the total oil in some samples, according to research presented last week at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference, in New Orleans. These chemicals could explain the fate of some of the oil released in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident and other spills, the researchers say."
astroengine writes "With the help of Europe's Herschel Space Observatory and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, a team of astronomers have made a lucky discovery about TW Hydrae, the nearest star to the solar system that plays host to a protoplanetary disk. Not only have they gained a more precise estimate of the mass of the material inside the protoplanetary disk, they've also found that it may produce a system of worlds similar to that of the solar system. TW Hydrae may look like the solar system did over 4 billion years ago (abstract). Interestingly, TW Hydrae is also a star that would normally be considered too mature to host a protoplanetary disk. "If there's no chance your project can fail, you're probably not doing very interesting science. TW Hydrae is a good example of how a calculated scientific gamble can pay off," said Thomas Henning, of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg."
Better known by his stage name "The Amazing Randi", James Randi has made it his quest to "debunk psychic nonsense, disprove paranormal fakers, and squash claims of pseudoscience in order to bring the truth to the forefront." Randi worked as a popular magician most of his life and earned international fame in 1972 when he accused the famous psychic Uri Geller of being a fraud and challenged him to prove otherwise. In 1996 Randi founded The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) a non-profit organization whose mission includes "educating the public and the media on the dangers of accepting unproven claims, and to support research into paranormal claims in controlled scientific experimental conditions." He began offering $1000 in 1964 to anyone who could demonstrate proof of the paranormal. That amount has grown over the years, and the foundation's prize for such proof is now $1M. Around 1000 people have tried to claim the prize so far without success. Randi has agreed to take a break from busting ghostbusters and giving psychic healers a taste of their own medicine in order to answer your questions. As usual, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please divide them, one question per post.
Zothecula writes "Taking a two-month-old in for vaccination shots and watching them get stuck with six needles in rapid succession can be painful for child and parent alike. If the work of an MIT team of researchers pans out, those needles may be thing of the past thanks to a new dissolvable polymer film that allows the vaccination needle to be replaced with a patch. This development will not only make vaccinations less harrowing, but also allow for developing and delivering vaccines for diseases too dangerous for conventional techniques." The patch was designed with delivering DNA-based vaccines in mind. Thus far efforts to use DNA to generate more robust and safe vaccines has failed thanks to the immune system destroying them; the polymer film embeds itself in your skin and slowly dissolves, protecting the DNA in the process.
Lasrick writes "This article starts with an interesting anecdote: 'In 1998, President Bill Clinton read a novel about biological warfare that deeply disturbed him. In fact, the story reportedly kept him up all night. It’s one of the reasons that Clinton became personally invested in protecting the United States from bioterrorism threats. The book was The Cobra Event (Preston, 1998), a sci-fi thriller by journalist and novelist Richard Preston that told of a mad scientist who brewed a lethal, genetically engineered virus in his New York City apartment. Preston’s tale highlighted the potential ease with which individuals or small groups with access to advanced bioweapons capabilities could launch attacks on major US cities.1 After reading The Cobra Event, Clinton called several advisory meetings and ordered classified assessments and simulation exercises to examine the threat depicted in the story. As a result of these deliberations, by the end of his administration Clinton had increased funding for biodefense preparedness efforts fourfold, to more than $400 million per year.' The article goes on to describe the two trajectories of bioweapons threats, and puts them both in perspective. It may or may not calm everyone who's ever spent a sleepless night after reading one of the many bioterrorism novels"