sciencehabit writes "Cliff swallows that build nests that dangle precariously from highway overpasses have a lower chance of becoming roadkill than in years past thanks to a shorter wingspan that lets them dodge oncoming traffic. That's the conclusion of a new study based on 3 decades of data collected on one population of the birds. The results suggest that shorter wingspan has been selected for over this time period because of the evolutionary pressure put on the population by cars."
Zothecula writes "The race to build a manned research station on the moon has been slowly picking up steam in recent years, with several developed nations actively studying a variety of construction methods. In just the past few months, the European Space Agency revealed a design involving 3D-printed structures and the Russian Federal Space Agency announced plans for a moon base by 2037. Now international design agency, Architecture Et Cetera (A-ETC), has thrown its hat into the ring with a proposal for SinterHab, a moon base consisting of bubble-like compartments coated in a protective layer of melted lunar dust."
cylonlover writes "Australian scientists have successfully revived and reactivated the genome of an extinct frog. The 'Lazarus Project' team implanted cell nuclei from tissues collected in the 1970s and kept in a conventional deep freezer for 40 years into donor eggs from a distantly-related frog. Some of the eggs spontaneously began to divide and grow to early embryo stage with tests confirming the dividing cells contained genetic material from the extinct frog. The extinct frog in question is the Rheobatrachus silus, one of only two species of gastric-brooding frogs, or Platypus frogs, native to Queensland, Australia. Both species became extinct in the mid-1980s and were unique amongst frog species for the way in which they incubated their offspring."
RocketAcademy writes "Actress/singer Sarah Brightman's trip to the International Space Station may not happen in 2015 as scheduled. Space Adventures works with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to fly private citizens like Brightman on Soyuz taxi flights. Those taxi missions normally last eight days, but NASA and Roscosmos are considering a plan to extend the 2015 taxi flight to one month, so it can carry a scientist to perform some additional research aboard ISS. If that happens, Brightman will lose her seat. This situation points to the need for more flexible transportation options and new orbital facilities which are not subject to the same operational restrictions as ISS. SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada are working on the transportation problem, while Bigelow Aerospace expects to begin launching its Space Station Alpha in 2015. So, the era of citizen astronauts visiting ISS may be drawing to a close."
An anonymous reader writes "Bigger eyes and a corresponding greater allocation of the brain to process visual information is the most recent theory about the reasons that led to the extinction of Neanderthals, our closest relatives. Neanderthals split from the primate line that gave rise to modern humans about 400,000 years ago. This group then moved to Eurasia and completely disappeared from the world about 30,000 years back. Other studies have shown that Neanderthals might have lived near the Arctic Circle around 31,000 to 34,000 years ago."
kkleiner writes "Now the field of 3D printing has advanced so far that a company called Nanoscribe is offering one of the first commercially available 3D printers for the nanoscale. Nanoscribe's machine can produce tiny 3D printed objects that are only the width of a single human hair. Amazingly this includes 3D printed objects such as spaceships, micro needles, or even the empire state building."
Physicist Chris Lee explains one of the toughest judgment calls scientists have to make: figuring out if their crazy ideas are worth pursuing. He says: "Research takes resources. I don't mean money—all right, I do mean money—but it also requires time and people and lab space and support. There is a human and physical infrastructure that I have to make use of. I may be part of a research organization, but I have no automatic right of access to any of this infrastructure. ... This also has implications for scale. A PhD student has the right to expect a project that generates a decent body of work within those four years. A project that is going to take eight years of construction work before it produces any scientific results cannot and should not be built by a PhD student. On the other hand, a project that dries up in two years is equally bad. ... the core idea also needs to be structured so, should certain experiments not work, they still build something that can lead to experiments which do work. Or, if the cool new instrument we want to build can't measure exactly what I intended, there are other things it can measure. One of those other things must be fairly certain of success. To put it bluntly: all paths must lead to results of some form."
An anonymous reader writes "The Obama Administration has put forth a proposal to collect $2 billion over the next 10 years from revenues generated by oil and gas development to fund scientific research into clean energy technologies. The administration hopes the research would help 'protect American families from spikes in gas prices and allow us to run our cars and trucks on electricity or homegrown fuels.' In a speech at Argonne National Laboratory, Obama said the private sector couldn't afford such research, which puts the onus on government to keep it going. Of course, it'll still be difficult to get everyone on board: 'The notion of funding alternative energy research with fossil fuel revenues has been endorsed in different forms by Republican politicians, including Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowsi. But the president still faces an uphill battle passing any major energy law, given how politicized programs to promote clean energy have become in the wake of high-profile failures of government-backed companies.'"
RocketAcademy writes "The Federal Communications Commission has issued a Public Notice to help commercial space companies obtain use of communications frequencies for launch, operations, and reentry. Commercial space companies can obtain the use of government frequencies on a temporary, non-interference basis through the FCC's Experimental Authorization process. Experimental Authorizations are valid for a six-month period from the date of grant and are renewable, but applicants must obtain a new authorization for each launch and must apply 90 days in advance. Unfortunately, this requirement does not meet the needs of suborbital launch providers who expect to fly several times per day and schedule launches as needed, on very short notice."
Hugh Pickens writes "The Web is a place for unlimited exchange of ideas. But according to an NPR report, researchers have found that rude comments on articles can change the way we interpret the news. 'It's a little bit like the Wild West. The trolls are winning,' says Dominique Brossard, co-author of the study on the so-called 'Nasty Effect.' Researchers worked with a science writer to construct a balanced news story on the pros and cons of nanotechnology, a topic chosen so that readers would have to make sense of a complicated issue with low familiarity. They then asked 1,183 subjects to review the blog post from a Canadian newspaper that discussed the water contamination risks of nanosilver particles and the antibacterial benefits. Half saw the story with polite comments, and the other half saw rude comments, like: 'If you don't see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you're an idiot.' People that were exposed to the polite comments didn't change their views really about the issue covering the story, while the people that did see the rude comments became polarized — they became more against the technology that was covered in the story. Brossard says we need to have an anchor to make sense of complicated issues. 'And it seems that rudeness and incivility is used as a mental shortcut to make sense of those complicated issues.' Brossard says there's no quick fix for this issue (PDF), and while she thinks it's important to foster conversation through comments sections, every media organization has to figure out where to draw the line when comments get out of control. 'It's possible that the social norms in this brave new domain will change once more — with users shunning meanspirited attacks from posters hiding behind pseudonyms and cultivating civil debate instead,' writes Brossard. 'Until then, beware the nasty effect.'"
astroengine writes "Although there appears to be a mysterious dearth of exoplanets smaller than Earth, astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope have estimated that nearly a quarter of all sun-like stars in our galaxy play host to worlds 1-3 times the size of our planet. These astonishing results were discussed by Geoff Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, during a talk the W. M. Keck Observatory 20th Anniversary Science Meeting on Thursday. '23 percent of sun-like stars have a planet within (1-2.8 Earth radii) just within Mercury's orbit,' said Marcy. 'I'll say that again, because that number really surprised me: 23 percent of sun-like stars have a nearly-Earth-sized planet orbiting in tight orbits within 0.25 AU of the host stars.'"
New submitter Spinnakker writes "Lockheed Martin, traditionally known for its development of military systems and aircraft, has developed a process for perforating graphene (carbon sheets only one atom thick) that could potentially reduce the energy required for desalination by two orders of magnitude. The process tailors the hole size to the molecules being separated. In the case of desalination, one would create holes in the graphene large enough to allow water to pass but small enough to block the salt molecules. The advantage to using graphene comes from how extremely thin the material is compared to traditional filters. The thinner the filter, the less energy is required to facilitate reverse osmosis."
ananyo writes "The research world's most famous human cell has had its genome decoded, and it's a mess. German researchers this week report the genome sequence of the HeLa cell line, which originates from a deadly cervical tumor taken from a patient named Henrietta Lacks (Slashdot has previously noted a film made about the cells and there's a recent mutli-award winning book on Lacks). Established the same year that Lacks died in 1951, HeLa cells were the first human cells to grow well in the laboratory. The cells have contributed to more than 60,000 research papers, the development of a polio vaccine in the 1950s and, most recently, an international effort to characterize the genome, known as ENCODE. The team's work shows that HeLa cells contain one extra version of most chromosomes, with up to five copies of some, and raises further questions over the widespread use of HeLa cells as models for human cell biology."
phenopticon writes "Researchers at Berkeley are attempting to revive the extinct passenger pigeon in order to set up a remote island theme park full of resurrected semi-modern extinct animals. (Well, maybe not that last part.) Quoting: 'About 1,500 passenger pigeons inhabit museum collections. They are all that's left of a species once perceived as a limitless resource. The birds were shipped in boxcars by the tons, sold as meat for 31 cents per dozen, and plucked for mattress feathers. But in a mere 25 years, the population shrank from billions to thousands as commercial hunters decimated nesting flocks. Martha, the last living bird, took her place under museum glass in 1914. ... Ben Novak doesn't believe the story should end there. The 26-year-old genetics student is convinced that new technology can bring the passenger pigeon back to life. "This whole idea that extinction is forever is just nonsense," he says. Novak spent the last five years working to decipher the bird's genes, and now he has put his graduate studies on hold to pursue a goal he'd once described in a junior high school fair presentation: de-extinction. ... Using next-generation sequencing, scientists identified the passenger pigeon's closest living relative: Patagioenas fasciata, the ubiquitous band-tailed pigeon of the American west. This was an important step. The short, mangled DNA fragments from the museums' passenger pigeons don't overlap enough for a computer to reassemble them, but the modern band-tailed pigeon genome could serve as a scaffold. Mapping passenger pigeon fragments onto the band-tailed sequence would suggest their original order."
eldavojohn writes "Just like the many stories surrounding alleged 'Wi-Fi sickness,' research is now showing that windfarm sickness spreads by word of mouth instead of applying universally to windfarms. Areas that had never had any noise or health complaints were suddenly experiencing them after 2009 when anti-wind groups targeted populations surrounding windfarms. From the article, 'Eighteen reviews of the research literature on wind turbines and health published since 2003 had all reached the broad conclusion that there was very little evidence they were directly harmful to health.' While there's unfortunately no way to prove that someone is lying about how they feel, it's likely a mixture of confirmation bias, psychosomatic response, hypochondria, greed and hatred of seeing windmills on the horizon that drives this phenomenon."
sciencehabit writes "Samples drilled from 3.5-million-year-old seafloor rocks have yielded the strongest evidence yet that a variety of microorganisms live deeply buried within the ocean's crust. These microbes make their living by consuming methane and sulfate compounds dissolved in the mineral-rich waters flowing through the immense networks of fractures in the crust. The new find confirms that the ancient lavas formed at midocean ridges and found throughout deep ocean basins are by volume the largest ecosystem on Earth, scientists say."
It's a long, slow road from tentative discovery, to various forms of peer review, to wide acceptance, never mind theory and experimental design, but recent years' work to pin down the Higgs Boson seem to be bearing fruit in the form of cautious announcements. FBeans writes with excerpts from both the New York Times ("Physicists announced Thursday they believe they have discovered the subatomic particle predicted nearly a half-century ago, which will go a long way toward explaining what gives electrons and all matter in the universe size and shape.") and from The Independent ("Cern says that confirming what type of boson the particle is could take years and that the scientists would need to return to the Large Hadron Collider — the world's largest 'atom smasher' — to carry out further tests. This will measure at what rate the particle decays and compare it with the results of predictions, as theorised by Edinburgh professor Peter Higgs 50 years ago.")
We'd like to wish you a happy Pi Day. It may be just as arbitrary as some other holidays (though perhaps easier to schedule than some), but any excuse for some delicious food is one I'll take. Reader alphadogg writes with a few suggestions of ways to take part in this convenient celebration of both rationality and irrationality. (And lead your comment with the number of digits you can recite offhand ...)
Celarent Darii writes "In what looks like good news for the American Space program, NASA has restarted production of plutonium. According to the article, after the closure of Savannah Rivers reactor NASA purchased plutonium from Russia, but since 2010 this was no longer possible. The native production of plutonium is a step forward for the space program to achieve the energy density for long term space exploration."
An anonymous reader writes "Being able to diagnose people with Alzheimer's disease years before debilitating symptoms appear is now a step closer to reality. Researchers behind Neurotrack, the technology startup that took the first place health prize at this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) startup accelerator in Austin. The company says their new technology can diagnose Alzheimer's disease up to six years before symptoms appear with 100% accuracy."
First time accepted submitter Dario Izzo writes "The European Space Agency is giving the opportunity to try innovative software algorithms on board of one of its planned orbiting platform. The core architecture includes processors of unprecedented power (for space platforms) and it is fully reconfigurable even down to the operating system and firmware levels. Peripherals include cameras, GPS and attitude control. The full technical specifications are available via the European Space Agency web pages."
coondoggie writes "The bottom line for NASA as well as any number of government agencies in this new era of sequestration is money — and NASA in this case has too many programs chasing too few dollars. That is just one of a number of bleak conclusions NASA's Inspector General Paul Martin laid out to a Congressional hearing adding that 'declining budgets and fiscal uncertainties present the most significant external challenges to NASA's ability to successfully move forward on its many projects and programs. For the first 6 months of this year, NASA has operated under a continuing resolution that funds the Agency at last year's level of $17.8 billion. Moreover, NASA's share of the Government-wide sequestration cuts reduce that spending authority by $894 million.'"
sciencehabit writes "A fluorescent glow high in the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, signifies the presence of a gas that astronomers have yet to identify. The glow appears only on the daytime side of the moon at altitudes between 600 and 1250 kilometers, with the largest intensity occurring at an altitude of about 950 km. Detailed analyses reveal that the glow doesn't stem from a problem with the Saturn-orbiting Cassini craft, and it isn't associated with methane or any of the other hydrocarbons already identified as constituents of Titan's atmosphere."
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports on a new study of prehistoric skulls which suggests that Neanderthals became extinct because they had larger eyes than our species. As a consequence of having extra sized eyes, an average 6 millimeters larger in radius, more of their backside brain volume was devoted to seeing, at the expense of frontal lobe high-level processing of information and emotions. This difference affected their ability to innovate and socialize the way we, modern people (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) do. When the last Ice Age set on 28,000 years ago, Neanderthals had no sewn clothes and no large organized groups to rely on each other, hastening their fall. Yet, they were not stupid, brutish creatures as portrayed in Hollywood films, they were very, very smart, but not quite in the same league as the Homo Sapiens of Cromagnon."
xclr8r writes "James Holmes representation did not enter a plea today in with regards to the Aurora, Co. Movie theater shooting so the Judge entered a plea of not guilty for James that could be changed at a later date by Holmes' attorney. The judge entered an advisory that if the plea was changed to Not Guilty by insanity that Holmes would be subject to a 'narcoanalytic interview' with the possibility of medically appropriate substances could be used e.g. so called truth serums. Holmes defense looks to have initially objected to this but as the previous article seems to infer that some compromises are being worked out. This certainly raises legal questions on how this is being played out 5th, 14th amendments. The legal expert in the second article states this is legal under Co. law but admits there's not a huge amount of cases regarding this. I was only able to find Harper v State where a defendant willingly underwent truth serum and wanted to submit the interview on his behalf but was rejected due to the judge not recognizing sufficient scientific basis to admit the evidence."
Nerval's Lobster writes "How's this for a daunting task? By 2017, IBM must develop low-power microservers that can handle 10 times the traffic of today's Internet — and resist blowing desert sands, to boot. Sound impossible? Hopefully not. Those are the design parameters of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Project, the world's largest radio telescope, located in South Africa and Australia amid some of the world's most rugged terrain. It will be up to the SKA-specific business unit of South Africa's National Research Foundation, IBM, and ASTON (also known as the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy) to jointly design the servers. Scientists from all three organizations will collaborate remotely and at the newly established ASTRON & IBM Center for Exascale Technology in Drenthe, the Netherlands. By peering into the furthest regions of space, the SKA project hopes to glimpse 'back in time,' where the radio waves from some of the earliest moments of the universe — before stars were formed — are still detectable. The hardware is powerful enough to pick up an airport radar on a planet 50 light-years away, according to the SKA team."
sighted writes "NASA is announcing that analysis of a rock sample collected by the Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater last month. The announcement quotes Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program: 'A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment. From what we know now, the answer is yes.'"
Yesterday we ran the first half of Dr. Robert Bakker's essay in response to your questions. Below you'll find the second part which focuses on the history of science and religion, and the patron saint of paleontology, St. Augustine of Hippo. A big thanks goes out to Dr. Bob for his lengthy reply.
New submitter onyxruby writes "On December 29th of last year a comet exploded over Sri Lanka. When examined by Cardiff University one of the comet samples was found to contain micro-fossils akin to plankton. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center tested additional samples with similar results. The research paper was published in the Journal of Cosmology. In practice this means that the argument that life did not start on Earth has gained additional evidence." Update: 03/12 16:59 GMT by S : On the other hand, Phil Plait says the paper is very flawed; the sample rocks the researchers tested may not even be meteorites.
thAMESresearcher writes with news about the progress of Mars One. From the article: "Mars One has taken a bold step toward their goal of establishing a human settlement on Mars in 2023 by contracting with its first aerospace supplier, Paragon Space Development Corporation. ... The contract will enable the initial conceptual design of the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) and Mars Surface Exploration Spacesuit System. During this study, Paragon will identify major suppliers, concepts, and technologies that exist today and can be used as the baseline architecture for further development. The ECLSS will provide and maintain a safe, reliable environment for the inhabitants, providing them with clean air and water. The Mars suits will enable the settlers to work outside of the habitat and explore the surface of Mars."
coondoggie writes "What kind of network can support future commercial and government space trips around Earth and support bigger distances to the moon and Mars? NASA is in the process of exploring exactly what technology will be needed beyond 2022 in particular to support future space communication and navigation. The agency recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) to begin planning for such a new architecture."
The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers have found the third-closest star system to the Earth: called WISE 1049-5319, it's a binary brown dwarf system just 6.5 light years away. Brown dwarfs are faint, low mass objects 13 — 75 times the mass of Jupiter, and are so dim they are very difficult to detect. These newly-found nearby objects were seen in observations from 1978 but went unnoticed at the time, but since that date the large apparent motion of the binary made their proximity obvious. Only two star systems are closer: Alpha Centauri (4.3 light years) and Barnard's star (6 light years)."
A while ago you had the chance to ask paleontologist Dr. Robert Bakker a wide variety of questions. Instead of answering them individually, Dr. Bob decided to write a lengthy piece that covers most of your inquiries, and includes personal stories and some of his philosophy. The first part is a narrative about his childhood conversion to fossil studies and how his paleo-CSI approach developed. We'll post the second half, covering his training in the history of theology and how it intersects with his science, tomorrow.
sciencehabit writes "When an adult loses a tooth, there's no hope of growing a new one—unless you've got a mouse kidney handy. In a new study, researchers injected human gum tissue extracted during oral surgery into the molars of fetal mice. After giving the cells a week to get used to each other, the scientists implanted the chimeric concoction into the protective tissue surrounding the kidneys of living mice. There, 20% of the cells developed into objects recognizable as teeth, complete with the root structures missing from artificial tooth implants. The next step is to transplant these so-called 'bio-teeth' back into human mouths and see if they grow into something that we can chew on—or rather, with."
hypnosec writes "A Team of researchers and engineers at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has developed 'self-healing' chips (PDF) that can heal themselves within a few microseconds. The team tested their work by damaging amplifiers in several places using high-powered lasers. In less than a second the chips were able to develop work-arounds thereby healing themselves."
New submitter ceview writes "NASA has released its latest green data showing a creeping of green towards the northern hemisphere. From the article: 'Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Former vice president Al Gore sat down with Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg at this year's SXSW conference to talk about the future — specifically, what Gore sees as the dangers and opportunities awaiting the planet for the next few years. Gore drilled down into what he referred to as the "stalker economy." The rise of apps such as SnapChat, which allows smartphone users to control how long friends can view messages, is emblematic of people reaching the "gag point" with pervasive recording and surveillance by government and business. "Our democracy has been hacked," Gore also told his audience, referring to the U.S. Constitution as "our operating system." While there's never been a "golden age" of American Democracy, he added, the perils emerging today are new. "If a Congressman or Senator has to spend five hours a day begging special interests or rich people for money," he said, they'll be more concerned about how what they're saying will appeal to those interests—rather than their constituents. In yet another tangent, Gore railed against genetic engineering, including Spider Goats, which are goats with spliced spider DNA that allows them to secrete spider silk along with their milk. The goats breed, extending that trait to future generations. Gore sees such things as a case of science run amok, alternately creepy and scary."
jjoelc writes "Being one of those 'suffering' through the time change last night, the optimist in me reminded me that it could be much worse. That's when I started wondering how many different time/date standards there really are. Wikipedia is a good starting point, but is sorely lacking in the various formats used by e.g. Unix, Windows, TRS-80, etc. And that is without even getting into the various calendars that have been in and out of use throughout the ages. So how about it? How many different time/date 'standards' can we come up with? I'm betting there are more than a few horror stories of having to translate between them..."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, took the keynote stage at this year's SXSW to talk about everything from space exploration to electric cars. Joining him onstage to ask questions was Chris Anderson, the former Wired editor and co-founder of 3DRobotics. Musk used his keynote discussion to show off a video of a rocket test, which he said had taken place earlier that week. In the video, a ten-story rocket takes off from a launching pad and hovers several hundred feet in the air before landing in the same spot, upright. It's an early test of SpaceX's reusable-rocket project. 'Reusability is extremely important,' Musk told the audience. 'If you think it's important that humanity extends beyond Earth and becomes a multitenant species' then reusable rockets will prove essential. Musk also talked about the recent controversy involving his Tesla Motors, which started when a New York Times reporter claimed in a much-circulated column that his electric-powered Model S sedan had ground to a halt during a test drive up the East Coast. 'I have no problem with negative feedback,' he told Anderson, in response to the latter's question. 'There have been hundreds of negative articles, and yet I've only spoken out a few times. I don't have a problem with critical reviews, I have a problem with false reviews.'"
astroengine writes "Decades of searching and a 7.5 billion Euro particle accelerator later, why is everyone so down on one of the biggest discoveries of the century? Well, as the evidence strengthens for a bona fide signal of a 'Standard Model' Higgs boson with a mass of 125 GeV, many scientists are disappointed that the discovery of an 'ordinary' — or 'vanilla' according to Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll — Higgs removes any doubt for more exotic physics beyond the Standard Model. It's a strange juxtaposition; a profound discovery that's also an anticlimax. But to confirm the identity of the Higgs candidate, LHC physicists still need to measure the particle's spin. 'Until we can confidently tie down the particle's spin,' said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci at this week's Rencontres de Moriond conference in Italy, 'the particle will remain Higgs-like. Only when we know that is has spin-zero will we be able to call it a Higgs.'"
gentryx writes "Newly found evidence supports earlier claims that Gustave Whitehead (a German immigrant, born Gustav Weißkopf, with Whitehead being the literal translation of Weißkopf) performed the first powered, controlled, heavier-than-air flight as early as 1901-08-14 — more than two years before the Wrights took off. A reconstructed image shows him mid-flight. A detailed analysis of said photo can be found here. Apparently the results are convincing enough that even Jane's chimes in. His plane is also better looking than the Wright Flyer I." (And when it comes to displacing the Wright brothers, don't forget Alberto Santos Dumont.)
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Discover Magazine reports that Hugo Chavez will apparently get an embalming job designed to keep him looking alive for decades similar to that of Russia's Vladimir Lenin, whose body still lies in a mausoleum in Moscow's Red Square, nearly 90 years after his death. So how do you preserve a human body for decades without it turning into a pile of melted tissue? First, get to work quickly. Upon death, the human body starts decomposing immediately. The way to stop it is with formaldehyde, a preservative used for the past century, which inhibits the enzyme decomposition as well as killing bacteria. 'You pump the chemical in, and as the formaldehyde hits the cells of the body, it firms up the protein of the cell, or fixates it,' says Vernie Fountain, head of the Fountain National Academy of Professional Embalming Skills in Springfield, Mo. 'That's what makes them stiff.' With a body that will have to be on display for years, it's likely to require a top-shelf, super-strong solution. 'If I were doing Hugo Chavez, I would strengthen the solution and use more preservative product,' says Fountain. Next, get a good moisturizer. Formaldehyde preserves, but it also dries out the body. Vaseline or other moisturizers can preserve the look of skin, according to Melissa Johnson Williams, executive director of the American Society of Embalmers. Finally keep cool. Heat decomposes a body so for long term preservation, the body has to be kept at the temperature of a standard kitchen refrigerator, somewhere in the mid-40s. Lastly, if Venezuelans really want to keep Hugo Chavez around forever, like many other world figures, there's only one solution that works, according to Fountain. 'The best form of preservation is mummification.'"
sciencehabit writes "It's the sort of abstract puzzle that keeps a scientist awake at night: Can you predict how three objects will orbit each other in a repeating pattern? In the 300 years since this 'three-body problem' was first recognized, just three families of solutions have been found. Now, two physicists have discovered 13 new families. It's quite a feat in mathematical physics, and it could conceivably help astrophysicists understand new planetary systems." The paper is available at arxiv.
theodp writes "When it comes to tales of fake girlfriends, Manti Te'o can't hold a candle to theoretical particle physicist Paul Frampton. In November 2011, writes the NY Times' Maxine Swann in 'The Professor, the Bikini Model and the Suitcase Full of Trouble,' Frampton met who he says he thought was Czech bikini model Denise Milani on Mate1.com. A Yahoo Messenger romance bloomed, at least in the 68-year-old Frampton's mind (Frampton's ex-wife was a self-described 'physics groupie'). But before starting their perfect life together, fake Denise asked Frampton for one little favor — would he be so kind as to bring her a bag that she had left in La Paz, Bolivia? Yep, bad idea. The UNC Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy soon found himself in a Buenos Aries prison, charged with transporting two kilos of cocaine into Argentina. Currently serving a four years and eight months sentence under house arrest, Frampton reportedly continues to supervise his two current PhD students by phone, and still finds time to post to the Physics archive."
New submitter phenopticon writes with this nugget from an intriguing piece at Gamasutra that adds another voice to the slow-burn debate on the psychological effects of video games: "For nearly thirty years we've been having this discussion, asking the question: do violent movies, music or video games make people violent? Well according to Brad Bushman and Craig Anderson of Iowa State University, yes. Based on the results of their research they concluded in 2001 that video games and violent media can make people aggressive and violent. Based upon their data and their conclusions, however, it's safe to say that photos of snakes, crispy bacon, or a particularly rigorous game of chess can also make people aggressive and violent."
dcblogs writes "The number of new undergraduate computing majors in U.S. computer science departments increased more than 29% last year, a pace called 'astonishing' by the Computing Research Association. The increase was the fifth straight annual computer science enrollment gain, according to the CRA's annual survey of computer science departments at Ph.D.-granting institutions. The survey also found that more students are earning a Ph.D., with 1,929 degrees granted — an 8.2% increase over the prior year. The pool of undergraduate students represented in the CRA survey is 67,850. Of that number, 57,500 are in computer science."
sciencehabit writes "The National Science Foundation (NSF) is investigating nearly 100 cases of suspected plagiarism drawn from a single year's worth of proposals funded by the agency. The cases grow out of an internal examination by NSF's Office of Inspector General (IG) of every proposal that NSF funded in fiscal year 2011. James Kroll, head of administrative investigations within the IG's office, tells ScienceInsider that applying plagiarism software to NSF's entire portfolio of some 8000 awards made that year resulted in a 'hit rate' of 1% to 1.5%. 'My group is now swamped,' he says about his staff of six investigators."
redletterdave writes "An un-named male patient in the U.S. has had 75 percent of his skull replaced with 3D printed materials. The undisclosed patient had his head imaged by a 3D scanner before South Windsor, Conn.-based Oxford Performance Materials (OPM) gained approval from US regulators to print the bone replacement. OPM's final skull replacement was built within two weeks, and inserted in the patient's skull in an operation performed earlier this week; this cutting-edge procedure was only just revealed on Friday. OPM's 3D-printed process was granted approval by the FDA back on Feb. 18, which means the company can now provide 3D printed replacements for bones damaged by trauma or even disease. The company says this technique could benefit more than 500 U.S. citizens each month, from injured factory or construction workers to wounded soldiers."
sciencehabit writes "After a long day buzzing between flowers, even the most industrious worker bee could use a little help remembering which ones she wants to return to the next day. Some plants have a trick to ensure they end up at the top of the list: caffeinated nectar. A team of researchers bombarded honey bees with floral smells paired with sugary rewards, some of which contained the same levels of caffeine found in the nectar of coffee and citrus flowers. Three times as many bees remembered the odors associated with caffeine after 24 hours, when compared with the scents associated with sugar alone (abstract). When the researchers applied the stimulant directly to honey bee brains, it had a positive effect on the neurons associated with the formation of long term memories. Now, they want to see if bees go out of their way to feed on caffeinated nectar, perhaps even ignoring predators to do so—behavior that, if observed, could shed light on the neurological processes behind addiction."
derekmead writes "Dolly's mere existence was profound. It was also unusually short, at just six years. But scientists in Japan announced yesterday they have succeeded in cloning mice using the same technique that created Dolly with more or less perfect results: The mice are healthy, they live just as long as regular mice, and they've been flawlessly cloned and recloned from the same source to the 25th generation. Researchers claim it's the first example of seamless, repeat cloning using the Dolly method—known as "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT)—in which the nucleus from an adult source animal is transferred to an egg with its nucleus removed. Until recently, the process was fraught with failures and mutations. But the team led by Teruhiko Wakayama, whose results were published today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, was able to create 581 clones from the same original mouse. Scientists, including Dolly's creator, have long felt the process was still too unstable—and too wasteful of precious eggs, given the failure rate—to be used on humans any time soon. But perhaps it's not so far off, after all."