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The Almighty Buck

Crick's Nobel Medal Fetches $2.3 Million At Auction 53 53

ananyo writes "Francis Crick's Nobel medal fetched US$2.27 million at an auction in New York yesterday. The proud new owner is Jack Wang, chief executive of 'Biomobie' a company that intends to sell walnut-sized, flying-saucer-shaped electromagnetic devices that it claims have medically regenerative powers. The closely-watched sale featured a range of Crick memorabilia that the family had kept in storage for many years. Up for auction along with the medal — awarded for Crick's role in the 1953 discovery of the structure of DNA — were his lab coat, sailing logbooks and garden journals. Expectations were high because the day before, auctioneer Christie's had brokered the sale of a letter from Crick (PDF) to his 12-year-old son for $6 million, more than triple the pre-sale estimate. The letter went to an anonymous bidder. The new owner of the Crick medal is a Chinese-born American who says his motivation for purchasing the medal was to stimulate research into the 'mystery of Bioboosti,' which, he says, produces electromagnetic stimulation that can 'control and enable the regeneration of damaged organs.' Those benefits are, needless to say, so far unproven. Crick's family has said it will donate at least 20% of the proceeds from the sale of the medal and other items to the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research centre scheduled to open in London in 2015."

IAU: No, You Can't Name That Exoplanet 142 142

astroengine writes "The International Astronomical Union (IAU) — the official body that governs the designations of all celestial bodies — in their capacity of purveyors of all things 'official' has deemed attempts at crowdsourcing names for exoplanets illegitimate. 'In the light of recent events, where the possibility of buying the rights to name exoplanets has been advertised, the International Astronomical Union wishes to inform the public that such schemes have no bearing on the official naming process,' writes Thierry Montmerle, General Secretary of the IAU in Paris, France. Although the 'schemes' are not specifically named, the most popular U.S.-based "exoplanet naming" group Uwingu appears to be the target of today's IAU statement. Set up by Alan Stern, planetary scientist and principal investigator for NASA's Pluto New Horizons mission, Uwingu encourages the public to nominate and vote (for a fee) on names for the slew of exoplanets steadily being discovered."

Mystery Meteorite May Not Be From Mercury After All 31 31

gbrumfiel writes "A strange green meteorite found in Morocco caused a stir in the press earlier this month, when scientists reported that it might be the first chunk of Mercury ever found here on earth. But scientists who've been puzzling over the stone since then say the accumulating evidence may point in a different direction. The 4.56-billion-year-old rock might have come from the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. If true, then it would provide clues about the origin of the solar system as a whole instead of the origin of the innermost planet."

Organic Pollutants Poison the Roof of the World 114 114

ananyo writes "Toxic chemicals are accumulating in the ecosystems of the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau, researchers warn in the first comprehensive study to assess levels of organic pollutants in that part of the world. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are carbon-based compounds that are resistant to break-down. Some originate from the burning of fuel or the processing of electronic waste, and others are widely used as pesticides or herbicides or in the manufacture of solvents, plastics and pharmaceuticals. Some POPs, such as the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and the herbicide Agent Orange, can cause diseases such as cancers, neurological disorders, reproductive dysfunction and birth defects. The researchers found large amounts of POPs (including DDT) in various components of the ecosystems such as soil, grass, trees and fish in the Himalayas and in the Tibetan plateau, especially at the highest elevations."

Russia Adding $50 Billion To Space Effort 130 130

An anonymous reader sends news that Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled today a new $50 billion effort to maintain and extend the country's space capabilities. Part of this initiative is a new spaceport located in Russia, which will lead to the first manned launches from Russian soil in 2018. Manned launches currently originate from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. "The Russian space programme has been hurt in recent years by a string of launch failures of unmanned probes and satellites, but Putin vowed Moscow would continue to ramp up spending. He said that from 2013-2020, Russia would be spending 1.6 trillion rubles ($51.8 billion, 38 million euros) on its space sector, a growth far greater than any other space power. 'Developing our potential in space will be one of the priorities of state policy,' Putin said at a meeting in the regional capital Blagoveshchensk. ... speaking to Canadian spaceman Chris Hadfield, currently commander of the ISS, Putin hailed cooperation in space which meant world powers could forget about the problems of international relations and think 'about the future of mankind.'"

FDA Approves Software For iPhone-Based Vision Test 46 46

anderzole writes "The FDA recently gave clearance to Vital Art and Science Inc. (VAS) to market software which enables people with degenerative eye conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy to monitor their vision at home with their iPhone. The software, which is called myVisionTrack, isn't a replacement for regular visits to the doctor, but rather allows patients to keep tabs on their vision in between visits with eye care professionals. VAS notes that retinal diseases affect approximately 40 million individuals worldwide and 13 million in the United States. While treatments have been developed to deal with degenerative eye conditions, early diagnosis is of paramount importance — which is why the software is so important."

"Choice Blindness" Can Transform Conservatives Into Liberals - and Vice Versa 542 542

ananyo writes "When U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney said last year that he was not even going to try to reach 47% of the US electorate, and that he would focus on the 5–10% thought to be floating voters, he was articulating a commonly held opinion: that most voters are locked in to their ideological party loyalty. But Lars Hall, a cognitive scientist at Lund University in Sweden, knew better. When Hall and his colleagues tested the rigidity of people's political attitudes and voting intentions during Sweden's 2010 general election, they discovered that loyalty was malleable: nearly half of all voters were open to changing their minds. Hall's group polled 162 voters during the final weeks of the election campaign, asking them which of two opposing political coalitions — conservative or social democrat/green — they intended to vote for. The researchers also asked voters to rate where they stood on 12 key political issues, including tax rates and nuclear power. The person conducting the experiment secretly filled in an identical survey with the reverse of the voter's answers, and used sleight-of-hand to exchange the answer sheets, placing the voter in the opposite political camp. The researcher invited the voter to give reasons for their manipulated opinions, then summarized their score to give a probable political affiliation and asked again who they intended to vote for. On the basis of the manipulated score, 10% of the subjects switched their voting intentions, from right to left wing or vice versa. Another 19% changed from firm support of their preferred coalition to undecided. A further 18% had been undecided before the survey, indicating that as many as 47% of the electorate were open to changing their minds, in sharp contrast to the 10% of voters identified as undecided in Swedish polls at the time (research paper). Hall has used a similar sleight of hand before to show that our moral compass can often be easily reversed."

Can NASA, Air Force, and Private Industry Really Mitigate an Asteroid Threat? 151 151

coondoggie writes "There has been much chatter about the threat of an asteroid or significant meteor strike on Earth — mostly caused by the untracked meteor that blasted its way to international attention when it exploded in the sky above Russia injuring nearly 1,200 people in February. It was one of those amazing coincidences that on that same day an asteroid NASA had been tracking for months — asteroid 2012 DA14 — was to harmlessly cross Earth's path. Those events and the topic of mitigating asteroid and meteor or Near Earth Object threats to Earth prompted a couple congressional hearings by the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the latest of which was held this week. None of the NEOs found to date have more than a tiny chance of hitting Earth in the next century. Thus the near-term risk of an unwarned impact from large asteroids, and hence the majority of the risk from all NEOs, has been reduced by more than 90%. Assuming none are found to be an impact threat, discovering 90% of the 140 meter sized objects will further reduce the total risk to the 99% level. By finding these objects early enough and tracking their motions over the next 100 years, even those rare objects that might be found threatening could be deflected using existing technologies."

High-Speed Camera Grabs First 3D Shots of Untouched Snowflakes 79 79

sciencehabit writes "Researchers have developed a camera system that shoots untouched flakes 'in the wild' as they fall from the sky. By grabbing a series of images of the tumbling crystals—its exposure time is one-40,000th of a second, compared with about one-200th in normal photography—the camera is revealing the true shape diversity of snowflakes. Besides providing beautiful real-time 3D snowflake photographs from a ski resort in Utah, the goal is to improve weather modeling. More accurate data on how fast snowflakes fall and how their shapes interacts with radar will improve predictions of when and where storms will dump snow and how much."

Iceman Had Bad Teeth 130 130

sciencehabit writes "Europe's best-known mummy wasn't just a medical mess; he also had terrible teeth, according to a new study. Ötzi, a Stone Age man who died atop a glacier about 5300 years ago, suffered from severe gum disease and cavities. When Ötzi was discovered atop a glacier on the Austro-Italian border, his frozen corpse was intensively studied. But no one took a close look at his teeth until now. Using 3D computer tomography (a CAT scan), the hunter's mouth could be examined for clues as to the life he led. A fall or other accident killed one of his front teeth, still discolored millennia later. And he may have had a small stone, gone unnoticed in his whole-grain bread or gruel, to thank for a broken molar. That gruel may be the culprit behind Ötzi's cavities and gum disease, too. The uptick in starches, the researchers suggest, could explain the increasing frequency of cavities in teeth from the time—a problem that's been with us ever since."

Interviews: Ask David Gallo About Ocean Exploration 35 35

David Gallo is an oceanographer and Director of Special Projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has participated in expeditions to all of the world’s oceans and was one of the first scientists to use a combination of robots and submarines to explore the deep seafloor. As a member of James Cameron’s Deep Ocean Task Force and the XPrize Ocean Advisory Board, David actively encourages the development of new technologies for ocean exploration. With more than 8 million views, his TED presentation entitled Underwater Astonishments is the 4th most viewed TED Talk to date. David has agreed to come up for air and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

Giant Dinosaurs Were Fastest Growing Animals Ever 64 64

sciencehabit writes "Lufengosaurus, a long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur that lived in China during the Jurassic period, were the biggest animals of their age, measuring 30 feet long. Now, fossilized embryos reveal that they were also the fastest growing animals on record — 'faster than anything we have ever seen,' according to one researcher. What's more, researchers have found traces of organic matter in their bones, which may belong to the oldest fossil proteins ever found."

Hydrogel Process Creates Transparent Brain For Research 46 46

First time accepted submitter jds91md writes "Scientists at Stanford have developed a technique to see the structural detail of actual brains with resolution down to the cellular and axonal/dendritic level. The process called CLARITY allows a 'transparent' view of the brain without having to slice or section it in any way. From the article: 'Even more important, experts say, is that unlike earlier methods for making the tissue of brains and other organs transparent, the new process, called Clarity by its inventors, preserves the biochemistry of the brain so well that researchers can test it over and over again with chemicals that highlight specific structures within a brain and provide clues to its past activity. The researchers say this process may help uncover the physical underpinnings of devastating mental disorders like schizophrenia, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder and others.'"

Fantastic Voyage Microrocket Technology Coming To a Body Near You 19 19

coondoggie writes "In the 1966 science fiction classic Fantastic Voyage, a tiny submarine with a crew of five is miniaturized and injected into a comatose man to surgically laser a blood clot in his brain and save his life. At this week's American Chemical Society Nanoengineering expert Joseph Wang detailed his latest work in developing micromotors and microrockets that are so small that thousands would fit inside this 'o'. Such machines could someday perform microsurgery, clean clogged arteries or transport drugs to the right place in the body. But there are also possible uses in cleaning up oil spills, monitoring industrial processes and in national security."

'Ring Rain' Quenches Saturn's Atmosphere 30 30

astroengine writes "Saturn's rings rain charged water particles down onto the gas giant's atmosphere, causing measurable changes in the planet's ionosphere. This intriguing conclusion comes from astronomers using the W. M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii that observed dark bands forming in Saturn's ionosphere. 'Saturn is the first planet to show significant interaction between its atmosphere and ring system,' said James O'Donoghue, postgraduate researcher at the University of Leicester and lead author of a paper to appear this week in the journal Nature. 'The main effect of ring rain is that it acts to 'quench' the ionosphere of Saturn, severely reducing the electron densities in regions in which it falls.'"

European Researchers Propose Quantum Network Between Earth and ISS 209 209

New kalalau_kane writes with this tidbit from Extreme Tech: "A group of European researchers has proposed the largest quantum network yet: Between Earth and the International Space Station. Such a network would see entangled photons transmitted over a distance of 250 miles — two or three times greater than previous quantum communication experiments. Not only will this be the first quantum experiment in space, but it will allow the scientists to see if entanglement really is instantaneous over long distances, and whether it's affected by gravity." The proposal (licensed CC BY).

Climate Change Will Boost Plane Turbulence, Suggests Study 184 184

sciencehabit writes "Get used to a bumpy ride. The strength and frequency of atmospheric turbulence affecting transatlantic flights will increase by midcentury, a new study suggests. During winter months, 16 of the 21 often-used ways in which scientists measure turbulence suggest that the average intensity of the plane-rattling phenomenon will be between 10% and 40% stronger when CO2 concentrations are double their preindustrial value. Accordingly, the frequency of moderate-or-greater turbulence—intensities at which passengers will experience accelerations of 0.5 g or more, which are strong enough to toss items about the cabin—will rise by between 40% and 170%. As a result of pilots needing to dodge strong turbulence, flight paths will become longer, and fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions will increase—possibly leading to even more turbulence."

"Dark Lightning" Could Expose Airline Passengers To Radiation 263 263

mbstone writes "Lightning researcher Joseph Dwyer of the Florida Institute of Technology claims that thunderstorms unleash sprays of X-rays and even intense bursts of gamma rays which could cause airline passengers to receive in an instant the maximum safe lifetime dose of ionizing radiation — the kind that wreaks the most havoc on the human body. Dwyer hopes his sensor aboard the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, will provide more data."

Mendeley Acquired By Elsevier 87 87

First time accepted submitter alexgieg writes "Academic reference manager Mendeley has announced they're joining Elsevier. They say this won't change anything for Mendeley users and that they're still committed to their Open API efforts, all the while acknowledging that Elsevier's reputation hasn't been the best as of late. If you're currently a Mendeley user will you continue using it from now on? Or will this move prompt you to start evaluating alternatives such as the Open Source, Firefox-based Zotero?"

Fake Academic Journals Are a Very Real Problem 248 248

derekmead writes "Because its become so easy to start a new publication in this new pixel-driven information economy, a new genre of predatory journals is emerging at an alarming rate. The New York Times just published an exposée of sorts on the topic. Its only an exposée of sorts because the scientific community knows about the problem. There are blogs set up to shame the fake journals into halting publishing. There are tutorials online for spotting a fake journal. There's even a list created and maintained by academic librarian Jeffrey Beall that keeps an eye on all the new fake journals coming out. When Beall started the list in 2010, it had only 20 entries. Now it has over 4,000. The journal Nature even published an entire issue on the problem a couple of weeks ago. So again, scientists know this is a problem. They just don't know how to stop it."

Intraterrestrials: Mars Life May Hide Deep Below 79 79

astroengine writes "Almost every month we see news dispatches from the Mars where the nuclear-powered rover Curiosity finds water-bearing minerals in rocks and other circumstantial clues that the Red Planet could have once supported life. But in terms of finding direct evidence of past or present Martians, the rover barely scratches the surface, says geochemist Jan Amend of the University of Southern California. Using Earth life as an example, some species of microbes live miles below the surface, without sunlight or oxygen, metabolizing chemicals that are the result of radioactive decay. Most intriguing of all is the microbe Desulforudis Audaxviator that dwells nearly two miles down, a life form that would feel right at home inside Mars' crust. 'This organism has had to figure out everything on its own,' says Amend, 'it splits water into hydrogen and oxygen for metabolism.' Amend hopes to drop probes deep underground in some of the world's most inhospitable locations over the next few years, creating a possible analog for future Mars subsurface studies."

Is $100 Million Per Year Too Little For The Brain Map Initiative? 190 190

waderoush writes "At a time of sequesters and shrinking R&D spending, critics are attacking President Obama's proposed Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, which would have a $100 million budget starting in 2014. But in fact, the project 'runs the risk of becoming a casualty of small-bore thinking in science business, and politics,' argues Xconomy national life sciences editor Luke Timmerman. The goal of the BRAIN initiative is to develop technologies for exploring the trillions of synapses between neurons in the human brain. If the $3 billion Human Genome Project and its even more productive sequel, the $300-million-per-year Advanced Sequencing Technologies program, are any guide, the initiative could lead to huge advances in our understanding of Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and consciousness itself. Only government can afford to think this big, argues Timmerman. 'Even though $100 million a year is small change by federal government standards,' Timmerman writes, 'it is enough to create a small market that gives for-profit companies assurance that if they build such tools, someone will buy them. We ought to be talking about how we can free up more money to achieve our neuroscience goals faster, rather than talking about whether we can afford this puny appropriation at all.'"

Scientists Tout New Way To Debug Surgical Bots 68 68

coondoggie writes "When it comes to having robotic surgeons slicing around inside your brain, heart or other important body organ, surgeons and patients need to know that a software or hardware glitch isn't going to ruin their day. That's why a new technique developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory that promises to reliably detect software bugs and verify the software safety of surgical robots could be a significant development."

Closing the Gap To Improve the Capacity of Existing Fiber Optic Networks 53 53

cylonlover writes "A team of researchers working through Australia's Centre for Ultrahigh Bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) has developed data encoding technology that increases the efficiency of existing fiber optic cable networks. The researchers claim their invention, which packs the data channels closer together, increases the data capacity of optical networks to the point that all of the world's internet traffic could be transmitted via a single fiber."

Increased Carbon Emissions Creating Giant Crabs 203 203

An anonymous reader writes "A lot of things in America are supersized: our portions, our drinks and now, apparently, our crabs. New research reveals that crabs can grow much faster and larger when water is saturated with carbon.This means that as greenhouse gas emissions grow, so will these crustaceans."

Take a Sonic Tour of the Brain 16 16

Duncan J Murray writes "Currently exhibiting at The Barbican, London is an exhibit on Neuroscience, which includes this 20-minute auditory exhibit looking at (or should that be listening to) — sounds of neurons firing, simulations of cochlear implants, the mosquito frequency, neverending scales, phantom words and speech reconstructed from intracranial electrophysiological recording, as well as other auditory illusions. It is worth a listen."

Beyond Kepler: Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite Set For 2017 Launch 43 43

astroengine writes "NASA has selected a $200 million mission to carry out a full-sky survey for exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. The space observatory, called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is scheduled for a 2017 launch. Like the currently operational Kepler Space Telescope, TESS will be in the lookout for exoplanets that orbit in front of their host stars, resulting in a slight dip in starlight. This dip is known as a "transit" and Kepler has revolutionized our understanding about planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy by applying this effective technique. As of January 2013, Kepler has spotted 2,740 exoplanetary candidates. "TESS will carry out the first space-borne all-sky transit survey, covering 400 times as much sky as any previous mission," said TESS lead scientist George Ricker, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. "It will identify thousands of new planets in the solar neighborhood, with a special focus on planets comparable in size to the Earth.""

Extended TeX: Past, Present, and Future 300 300

First time accepted submitter Hamburg writes "Frank Mittelbach, member of the LaTeX Project and LaTeX3 developer, reviews significant issues of TeX raised already 20 years ago. Today he evaluates which issues are solved, and which still remain open and why. Examples of issues are managing consecutive hyphens, rivers of vertical spaces and identical words across lines, grid-based design, weighed hyphenation points, and overcoming the the mouth/stomach separation. Modern engines such as pdfTeX, XeTeX and LuaTeX are considered with regard to solutions of important problems in typesetting." Note: When TeX was first released, Jimmy Carter was president.

NASA's Bolden: No American-Led Return To the Moon 'In My Lifetime' 233 233

MarkWhittington writes "A clash over the future course of American space exploration flared up at a recent joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. In one corner was Al Carnesale of UCLA, who headed the recent study issued by the National Research Council that found fault with the Obama administration's plan to send American astronauts to an asteroid. In the other corner was NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who has been charged with carrying out the policy condemned by the NRC report."

Why Do Pathogen Researchers Face Less Scrutiny Than Nuclear Scientists? 227 227

Lasrick writes "Derrin Culp of the National Center for Disease Preparedness explores the different levels of scrutiny that scientists in microbiology undergo, when compared to those who work in the nuclear weapons field. His complaint is that, even though America's most notorious biosecurity breach — the 2001 anthrax mailings — was the work of an insider, expert panels have concluded that there is no need for intrusive monitoring of microbiologists engaged in unclassified research."

Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Unwanted But Official Security Probes? 238 238

An anonymous reader writes "I manage a few computers for an independent private medical practice connected to a hospital network. Recently I discovered repeated attempts to access these computers. After adjusting the firewall to drop connections from the attacking computers, I reported the presumed hacker IP to hospital IT. I was told that the activity was conducted by the hospital corporation for security purposes. The activity continues. It has included attempted fuzzing of a web server, buffer overrun attacks, attempts to access a protected database, attempts to get the password file, etc. The doctors want to maintain a relationship with the hospital and are worried that involving law enforcement would destroy the relationship. What would you advise the doctors to do next?"

How Would an Astronaut Falling Into a Black Hole Die? 412 412

ananyo writes "According to the accepted account, an astronaut falling into a black hole would be ripped apart, and his remnants crushed as they plunged into the black hole's infinitely dense core. Calculations by Joseph Polchinski, a string theorist at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, California, though, point to a different end: quantum effects turn the event horizon into a seething maelstrom of particles and anyone who fell in would hit a wall of fire and be burned to a crisp in an instant. There's one problem with the firewall theory. If Polchinski is right, then either general relativity or quantum mechanics is wrong and his work has triggered a mini-crisis in theoretical physics."

Fusion Rocket Could Take Us To Mars 171 171

New submitter imikem writes "University of Washington researchers and scientists at a Redmond-based space-propulsion company are building components of a fusion-powered rocket aimed to clear many of the hurdles that block deep space travel, including long times in transit, exorbitant costs and health risks. 'Using existing rocket fuels, it's nearly impossible for humans to explore much beyond Earth,' said lead researcher John Slough, a UW research associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics. 'We are hoping to give us a much more powerful source of energy in space that could eventually lead to making interplanetary travel commonplace.' 'The research team has developed a type of plasma that is encased in its own magnetic field. Nuclear fusion occurs when this plasma is compressed to high pressure with a magnetic field. The team has successfully tested this technique in the lab. Only a small amount of fusion is needed to power a rocket – a small grain of sand of this material has the same energy content as 1 gallon of rocket fuel.'"

Mobile App Screens Calls With Brain Waves 40 40

alphadogg writes "A mobile app under development can filter phone calls and reroute them directly to voicemail by reading brain waves, cutting the need for users to press buttons on the smartphone screen. The app, called Good Times, is the brainchild of Ruggero Scorcioni, CEO and founder of Brainyno, who presented the technology at the AT&T Innovation Showcase in New York, where some of the company's top research projects were highlighted. The app analyzes brainwaves as a phone call comes in, and depending on a person's mental state, reroutes a call. Information about brain waves is collected by a headset and sent to the smartphone via a Bluetooth connection, after which the app uses algorithms to analyze the status of a brain." Of course, the user has to be wearing a headset to detect the brainwaves. The software's creator hopes such detection can someday be integrated into devices like Google Glass.

Researchers Build 3D Printer That Makes Tissue-Like Material 32 32

carmendrahl writes "3-D printers don't build only solid objects anymore. They also build liquid objects, thanks to a research team at the University of Oxford. The group custom crafted a 3-D printer to squirt tiny liquid droplets from its nozzles. The 3-D patterned droplets can mimic biological tissues, such as nerve fibers, and may have potential in tissue engineering applications. An expert not involved with the study is cautious about endorsing the tissue engineering applications because they're not yet demonstrated, but praises the team for extending 3-D printing to new classes of materials."

Listening To the Big Bang – In High Fidelity 85 85

First time accepted submitter vinces99 writes "A decade ago, spurred by a question for a fifth-grade science project, University of Washington physicist John Cramer devised an audio recreation of the Big Bang that started our universe nearly 14 billion years ago. Now, armed with more sophisticated data from a satellite mission observing the cosmic microwave background – a faint glow in the universe that acts as sort of a fossilized fingerprint of the Big Bang – Cramer has produced new recordings that fill in higher frequencies to create a fuller and richer sound."

Kepler Watches White Dwarf Warp Spacetime 58 58

astroengine writes "The Kepler space telescope's prime objective is to hunt for small worlds orbiting distant stars, but that doesn't mean it's not going to detect some extreme relativistic phenomena along the way. While monitoring a red dwarf star — designated KOI-256 — astronomers detected a dip in starlight in the Kepler data. But it wasn't caused by an exoplanet. After some careful detective work, the researchers found that the red dwarf was actually in orbit around a binary partner — a white dwarf. As the white dwarf passed in front of the red dwarf, the starlight was enhanced by microlensing — a phenomenon caused by an intense gravitational field focusing light from behind. This had the counter-intuitive result of causing the starlight to dim when the white dwarf passed behind the red dwarf and then brighten as the white dwarf passed in front. This is one of the first discoveries of a binary partner through microlensing. 'Only Kepler could detect this tiny, tiny effect,' said Doug Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington. 'But with this detection, we are witnessing Einstein's theory of general relativity at play in a far-flung star system.'"

Firing a Laser Into Your Brain Could Help Beat a Drug Addiction 156 156

An anonymous reader writes "The prelimbic region of the prefrontal cortex in the human brain is thought to play a key role in drug addiction, and researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse wanted to see if manipulating cells there had a positive or negative impact on that addiction. They got some rats addicted to cocaine but not before loading them up with light sensitive proteins called rhodopsins that were placed in their prefrontal cortex, attaching to the neurons there. By shining a tuned laser light on to the prefrontal cortex, it was possible to activate and deactivate the cells. By turning them on with the laser, the addictive behavior of the rats was removed. Turning them off, even in non-addicted rats, saw the addictive behavior return or introduced."

Tiny Tentacled Microorganisms Named After Cthulu 54 54

First time accepted submitter mebates writes "Two newly discovered protists, found in the guts of termites, were named after monstrous cosmic entities featured in Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos as an ode to the sometimes strange and fascinating world of the microbe. From the article: 'The single-cell protists, Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and Cthylla microfasciculumque, help termites digest wood. The researchers decided to name them after monstrous cosmic entities featured in Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos as an ode to the sometimes strange and fascinating world of the microbe. 'When we first saw them under the microscope they had this unique motion, it looked almost like an octopus swimming,' says UBC researcher Erick James, lead author of the paper describing the new protists, published in the online journal PLoS ONE.'"

Pinhead-Sized Implant Could Replace Hearing Aids 69 69

An anonymous reader writes "Depending on the level of hearing impairment, conventional aids may not be good enough and a hearing implant is the only option. Until now the required surgery to fit them has taken several hours. However, that is about to change. A new implant that can be fitted with outpatient surgery has been developed consisting of a 1.2mm electro-acoustic transducer, which is positioned at the so-called 'round window,' which is where the middle and inner ear connect. It then produces amplified mechanical vibrations that stimulate the auditory nerve. Even though the transducer is tiny, it can reach volumes of up to 120 decibels."

How That 'Extra .9%' Could Ward Off a Zombie Apocalypse 204 204

netbuzz writes "The questioner on Quora asks: 'When is the difference between 99% accuracy and 99.9% accuracy very important?' And the most popular answer provided cites an example familiar to all of you: service level agreements. However, the most entertaining reply comes from a computer science and mathematics student at the University of Texas, Alex Suchman. Here's his answer: 'When it can stop a Zombie Apocalypse.'"

Dark Matter Found? $2 Billion Orbital Experiment Detects Hints 173 173

astroengine writes "A $2 billion particle detector attached to the International Space Station has detected the potential signature of dark matter annihilation in the Cosmos, scientists have announced today. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) was attached to the space station in May 2011 by space shuttle Endeavour — the second-to last shuttle mission to the orbital outpost. Since then, the AMS has been detecting electrons and positrons (the electron's anti-particle) originating from deep space and assessing their energies. By doing a tally of electrons and positrons, physicists hope the AMS will help to answer one of the most enduring mysteries in science: Does dark matter exist? And today, it looks like the answer is a cautious, yet exciting, affirmative."

How to Get Conjurer James Randi to Give You $1 Million (Video) 219 219

This is the second of our two-part interview (part one ran yesterday) with Conjurer and Investigator (his words) James Randi, whose organization, the James Randi Education Foundation, has a long-standing offer: prove you have paranormal abilities and they'll give you $1 Million. They say they've recently made this award easier than ever to win. Note that, lower bar or no, Randi claims the last time a conjurer's illusion fooled him was many years ago, when he was very young. It was one done by the famous Chan Canasta -- and Randi claims that in the end he figured it out, anyway. So forget the $1 Million, relax, and enjoy James Randi. He's a great raconteur, so we can all be jealous of interviewer Rob Rozeboom (samzenpus) for having made this great video even as we enjoy watching it.

Magician & Investigator James Randi Talks Directly to You (Video) 259 259

Last week James Randi answered your questions. But that was text, and he's a performer ("The Amazing Randi"), so you need to hear the man talk to get his full flavor. He's a good talker, too. So Rob Rozeboom (samzenpus) got on Skype with The Amazing Randi to talk about his exploits, including his debunking of a whole bunch of (alleged) frauds, ranging from Uri Geller to Sylvia Browne. The resulting interview was so long and so strong that we cut it in half. Today you see Part One. Tomorrow you'll see Part Two. (The video's here now; sorry about the delay.)

NASA Gets $75 Million For Europa Mission 135 135

astroengine writes "It may not be a lander or an orbiter, but its something. Europa, one of Jupiter's largest moons, has been the focus of much scrutiny over its potential life-bearing qualities. It has an icy crust over a liquid water ocean and now salts have been detected on its surface, suggesting a cycling of nutrients from the surface to the interior. This only amplifies the hypothesis that Europa not only could support basic life, it could support complex life. But how can we find out? The proposed Europa Clipper received interest at NASA HQ last year as it would optimize the science while keeping the mission budget under $2 billion. It would be a spacecraft that will be in orbit around Jupiter, but make multiple flybys of Europa to assess the moon for its habitable qualities. Now, in a bill signed by President Obama and approved by lawmakers, $75 million has been allocated (for the remainder of this fiscal year) for a 'Jupiter Europa mission.' Could it represent the seed money for the Europa Clipper? We'll have to wait and see."

Indian Supreme Court Denies Novartis Cancer Drug Patent 288 288

beltsbear writes "Following a reasonable view of drug patents, the Indian courts have decided that making small changes to an existing patented drug are not worthy of a new patent. This ruling makes way for low cost Indian cancer drugs that will save lives. From the Article: 'Novartis lost a six-year legal battle after the court ruled that small changes and improvements to the drug Glivec did not amount to innovation deserving of a patent. The ruling opens the way for generic companies in India to manufacture and sell cheap copies of the drug in the developing world and has implications for HIV and other modern drugs too.'"

Soyuz Breaks Speed Record To ISS 58 58

Zothecula writes "A manned Soyuz spacecraft set a record for traveling to the International Space Station (ISS), arriving six hours after launch instead of the usual two days. Soyuz 34 lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, March 28 at 4:43 p.m. EDT (08:43 GMT) and docked with the ISS at 10: 28 PM EDT (03:28 GMT). It was able to catch up and match trajectories with the ISS in only four orbits using new techniques previously tested in ISS rendezvouses with Russian unmanned Progress cargo ships."

CERN Gives Away Higgs Boson Particles To 10 Lucky Winners 71 71

redletterdave writes "In an unprecedented move sure to shake up the world of particle physics, CERN announced on Monday that it will give away its newly-discovered Higgs boson particles in a lottery. But given the rarity of Higgs boson particles – only one particle is created out of one million million collisions – CERN will only be able to reward 10 lucky winners. 'At CERN, we have always believed in sharing the results of our research, and the time has come to make that tangible,' said CERN director of research Sergio Bertolucci. 'This is our way of saying thanks for the incredible level of enthusiasm that has greeted this discovery.'"

New Director Chosen At Fermilab 52 52

An anonymous reader writes "It appears that Fermilab has chosen a a new director. They refuse to release the name of the new director, only referring to him as 'The Doctor'. Citing their primary reasons for choosing him: 'It was his extensive experience, as well as his vague yet somehow still impressive educational background, that tipped the scales in the Doctor's favor, members of the committee said. This despite the fact that none of the members could determine with any certainty exactly what the new lab director's doctorate is in. "After facing down Daleks, Cybermen and the Master, I can't think of anyone more qualified to take on a congressional budget committee," outgoing director Pier Oddonesaid said. "I think the Doctor is a perfect choice."'"