ananyo writes "Two dangerous things together might make a medicine for one of the hardest cancers to treat. In a mouse model of pancreatic cancer, researchers have shown that bacteria can deliver deadly radiation to tumours — exploiting the immune suppression that normally makes the disease so intractable. The researchers coated the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes with radioactive antibodies and injected the bacterium into mice with pancreatic cancer that had spread to multiple sites. After several doses, the mice that had received the radioactive bacteria had 90% fewer metastases compared with mice that had received saline or radiation alone."
new submitter heybiff writes "It is the time of year where students are scrambling for extra credit assignments to boost grades. As a middle school science teacher, I want to accommodate them, while still keeping science involved; and book reports are a popular activity in my school. Unfortunately, I have only been able to come up with a short list of science related books that a 11-14 year old would or could read in their free time: Ender's Game, Hitchhiker's Guide. What books would you recommend as a good read for an extra credit book report, that would still involve a strong science twist or inspire a student's interest in science? The book must be in print, science related, fiction or non-fiction, and not be overtly objectionable or outright banned. I look forward to the submissions." "Outright banned" actually seems a rich vein on which to draw; note that not even Ender's Game is safe.
First time accepted submitter ckwu writes "Scientists once thought that pathogens could not reach drinking water wells sunk into deep, protected groundwater aquifers. Nevertheless, over the past decade, researchers have identified diarrhea-causing viruses at a handful of deep bedrock well sites in the U.S. and Europe. Now, researchers report where these pathogenic viruses may have originated. The viruses appear to seep from sewer pipes and then swiftly penetrate drinking water wells. Experts recommend that public water systems might need to start testing for viruses on a routine basis."
ananyo writes "Activists occupied an animal facility at the University of Milan, Italy, at the weekend, releasing mice and rabbits and mixing up cage labels to confuse experimental protocols. Researchers at the university say that it will take years to recover their work. Many of the animals at the facility are genetic models for psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. Some of the mice removed by activists were delicate mutants and immunosuppressed 'nude' mice, which die very quickly outside controlled environments. No arrests have been made following the 12-hour drama, which took place on Saturday, although the university says that it will press charges against the protesters. The attack was staged by the animal-rights group that calls itself Fermare Green Hill (or Stop Green Hill), in reference to the Green Hill dog-breeding facility near Brescia, Italy, which it targets for closure."
littlesparkvt writes in with a bit from Space Industry News about Bigelow Aerospace's plans for the moon: "NASA and Bigelow Aerospace are in the initial planning phases for a moon base. 'As part of our broader commercial space strategy, NASA signed a Space Act Agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to foster ideas about how the private sector can contribute to future human missions,' Said David Weaver NASA Associate Administrator for the Office of Communications." Bigelow will be performing the study for free too. Robert Bigelow chatted with a radio host a few weeks ago about Bigelow's long-term space plans. They include refueling depots and a commercial moon base, since NASA isn't planning to go there.
colinneagle writes "During a recent trip to an eye doctor, I noticed that she was still using Windows XP. After I suggested that she might need to upgrade soon, she said she couldn't because she couldn't afford the $10,000 fee involved with the specialty medical software that has been upgraded for Windows 7. Software written for medical professionals is not like mass market software. They have a limited market and can't make back their money in volume because there isn't the volume for an eye doctor's database product like there is for Office or Quicken. With many expecting Microsoft's upcoming end-of-support for XP to cause a security nightmare of unsupported Windows devices in the wild, it seems a good time to ask how many users may fall into the category of wanting an upgrade, but being priced out by expensive but necessary third-party software. More importantly, can anything be done about it?"
coondoggie writes "IBM today said its researchers are developing a solar power system that concentrates solar radiation 2,000 times by using a human-blood supply modeled way of cooling and converting 80% of Sun's heat into useful energy. IBM says the system can also desalinate water and cool air in sunny, remote locations where such systems are often in short supply."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Samsung is testing a way to control your mobile device with your brainwaves. If that project succeeds, it would truly be a case of science fiction brought to real life. According to MIT Technology Review, Samsung's Emerging Technology Lab is collaborating with Roozbeh Jafari, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas, Dallas, on the early-stage research. That research involves placing a cap 'studded with EEG-monitoring electrodes' atop the head of a convenient subject, who then concentrates on an onscreen icon blinking at a particular rate. Concentrate hard enough, and the subject can launch and interact with applications. However, Samsung also indicated that mind-controlled mobile devices are quite a ways off, if they ever appear in a market-ready form at all. 'Several years ago, a small keypad was the only input modality to control the phone, but nowadays the user can use voice, touch, gesture, and eye movement to control and interact with mobile devices,' Insoo Kim, Samsung's lead researcher, told the Review. 'Adding more input modalities will provide us with more convenient and richer ways of interacting with mobile devices.' In any case, it's a crazy concept, the sort of thing Philip K. Dick might have written up as a short story; but it's one evidently grounded in reality."
An anonymous reader writes "A single equation grounded in basic physics principles could describe intelligence and stimulate new insights in fields as diverse as finance and robotics, according to new research, reports Inside Science. Recent work in cosmology has suggested that universes that produce more entropy (or disorder) over their lifetimes tend to have more favorable properties for the existence of intelligent beings such as ourselves. A new study (pdf) in the journal Physical Review Letters led by Harvard and MIT physicist Alex Wissner-Gross suggests that this tentative connection between entropy production and intelligence may in fact go far deeper. In the new study, Dr. Wissner-Gross shows that remarkably sophisticated human-like "cognitive" behaviors such as upright walking, tool use, and even social cooperation (video) spontaneously result from a newly identified thermodynamic process that maximizes entropy production over periods of time much shorter than universe lifetimes, suggesting a potential cosmology-inspired path towards general artificial intelligence."
After high winds (up to 140mph) delayed yesterday's scheduled launch (itself a re-do because of a cabling problem), Orbital Science's Antares rocket has made it to space. This launch was a test run, but Antares is intended to launch supplies to the ISS. Space.com reports: "The third try was the charm for the private Antares rocket, which launched into space from a new pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, its twin engines roaring to life at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) to carry a mock cargo ship out over the Atlantic Ocean and into orbit. The successful liftoff came after two delays caused by a minor mechanical glitch and bad weather." Congratulations to all involved.
hessian writes with a story at Wired (excerpt below) about a project from Drew Endy of the International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology, or BIOFAB, to standardize a programming language connecting genetic information from DNA to the cell components that DNA can create. "The BIOFAB project is still in the early stages. Endy and the team are creating the most basic of building blocks — the 'grammar' for the language. Their latest achievement, recently reported in the journal Science, has been to create a way of controlling and amplifying the signals sent from the genome to the cell. Endy compares this process to an old fashioned telegraph. 'If you want to send a telegraph from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the signals would get degraded along the wire,' he says. "At some point, you have to have a relay system that would detect the signals before they completely went to noise and then amplify them back up to keep sending them along their way.""
Shipud writes "E.O. Wilson is the renowned father of sociobiology, a professor (emeritus) at Harvard, two time pulitzer prize winner, and a popularizer of science. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Wilson provides controversial advice to aspiring young scientists. Wilson claims that math literacy is not essential, and that scientific models in biology, intuitively generated, can later be formalized by a specialized statistician. One blogger calls out Wilson on his article, arguing that knowing mathematics is essential to generating models, and that lacking what Darwin called the "extra sense" is essentially limiting to any scientist."
The Washington Post reports that concerns about high winds have postponed until tomorrow evening the launch of Orbital Science's Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia. When the rocket finally launches, it should be a spectacular event for the region: "Clear skies should allow viewing of the 133-foot rocket throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic – including the Washington, D.C. area. Assuming technical issues don’t delay or abort the launch, look southeast and the rocket will be viewable about 10 degrees above the horizon in the Washington area at 5 p.m. 6:10 p.m."
alostpacket writes "The New York times reports that statistical scoring by the standardized testing company Pearson incorrectly disqualified over 4700 students from a chance to enter gifted / advanced programs in New York City schools. Only students who score in the 90th percentile or above are eligible for these programs. Those in the 97th or above are eligible for 5 of the best programs. 'According to Pearson, three mistakes were made. Students' ages, which are used to calculate their percentile ranking against students of similar age, were recorded in years and months, but should also have counted days to be precise. Incorrect scoring tables were used. And the formula used to combine the two test parts into one percentile ranking contained an error.' No mention of enlisting the help of the gifted children was made in the Times article, but it also contained a now-corrected error. This submission likely also contains an erro"
Florida today reports that cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov on Friday became the oldest person to have completed a spacewalk. From the article: "Working outside the Russian side of the international outpost, Vinogradov and cosmonaut Roman Romanenko put in six hours and 38 minutes of high-flying maintenance work. They set up a plasma physics experiment and retrieved a package that exposed advanced spacecraft materials to the deleterious space environment. They also replaced a reflector that is part of an autonomous rendezvous and docking system that will guide a robotic European space freighter to the station in early June." NASASpaceFlight.com has more details on the spacewalk, as well as the note that Vinogradov edges out "Story Musgrave, who was 58 when he flew the Hubble SM-1 mission in 1993."
damn_registrars writes "The lobe-finned fish described as a 'living fossil' due to its apparent lack of change for hundreds of millions of years (thought to be extinct until the 1930s) has been sequenced by an international team, including scientists from Sweden, Harvard, and MIT. The 3-billion-base-pair genome of the Coelacanth was described yesterday in the journal Nature. This paper is published in an open (non-paywalled) manner on Nature, making the full text available to all. 'We found that the genes overall are evolving significantly slower than in every other fish and land vertebrate that we looked at.'"
sciencehabit writes "When Superstorm Sandy struck the United States on 30 October, it didn't just devastate the Eastern Seaboard, it shook the ground as far away as the West Coast, producing tiny vibrations in Earth's crust that were picked up by seismometers there. Scientists can use this activity to track the path of the storm. Now, they say that analyzing past records of these vibrations may help them discern whether climate change has influenced the amount of storminess over the world's oceans in recent decades."
ananyo writes "Researchers have tagged every single worker in entire colonies and used a computer to track them, accumulating what they say is the largest-ever data set on ant interactions. The biologists have found that the workers fall into three social groups that perform different roles: nursing the queen and young; cleaning the colony; and foraging for food. The insects, they found, tend to graduate from one group to another as they age. By creating heat maps to represent the workers’ positions, Mersch's team showed that nurses and foragers stick to their own company and seldom mix, even if the colony’s entrance and brood chamber are close together (abstract). Cleaners are more widely dispersed, patrolling the whole colony and interacting with both of the other groups. 'The ants can probably be in any place within their enclosures in less than a minute,' says Mersch, 'but even in these simple spaces, they organize into these spatial groups.'"
astroengine writes "About 1,200 light-years from Earth, five planets are circling around sun-like star Kepler-62, two of which are fortuitously positioned for water, if any exists, to remain liquid on their surfaces — a condition believed to be necessary for life. The discovery, made by scientists using NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, is the strongest evidence yet for more than one Earth-sized planet existing in a star's so-called 'habitable' zone. 'We're particularly delighted to find that there are two planets in the habitable zone,' lead Kepler scientist William Borucki, with NASA's Ames Research Center in California, told Discovery News. 'It sort of doubles our chances of finding that Earth we'd all like to find. When you think about Earth and Mars, if Mars had been a bit larger, if Jupiter hadn't been so close, we'd again have two planets in the habitable zone and maybe we'd have a place to go,' he said." There's also a third planet believed to be a good candidate for hosting water.
Famous for his work in math, astronomy, nuclear engineering, and theoretical physics, Freeman Dyson has left his mark on almost every scientific discipline. He's won countless awards, and written numerous books on a wide range of topics both scientific and philosophical. One of his biggest contributions to science was the unification of the three versions of quantum electrodynamics invented by Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga. 10 years after moving to the U.S. he started working on the Orion Project, which sought to create a spacecraft with a nuclear propulsion system. STNG exposed the idea of a Dyson sphere to the masses, and his hypothetical plan for making a comet habitable with the help of genetically-engineered plants is a personal favorite. Mr. Dyson has graciously agreed give us a bit of his time in order to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
astroengine writes "World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has announced that he was likely wrong about his view that the Higgs boson doesn't exist — an outcome he doesn't find very exciting — conceding that he lost a $100 wager. Speaking at the Beckman Auditorium in Caltech, Pasadena, Calif., on Tuesday (April 16), the British physicist gave a public lecture on 'The Origins of the Universe,' summarizing new revelations in modern astrophysics and cosmology. After the lecture, Caltech physicist and colleague John Preskill commented on Hawking's fondness for placing bets when faced with conflicts of physics ideas. Hawking lost a famous wager to Preskill in 2004 in a debate over whether or not black holes destroy information (theory suggests they do not, opposing Hawking's argument). 'To love Stephen Hawking is to not always agree with Stephen Hawking,' Preskill quipped. 'He's usually right, but he's not always right. Sometimes we haven't been able to resolve our differences and we've resorted to making bets it's sad to say that although Stephen Hawking is without doubt a great scientist, he's a bad gambler.'"
olsmeister writes "Hydrogen Sulfide is a toxic, flammable, foul-smelling gas that some theorize may have been at least partially responsible for some of Earth's mass extinctions, including the Permian-Triassic event, which killed well over half of the species on the planet. Now, thanks to a fortuitous accident, doctoral student at the University of Washington seems to have discovered that very low doses of the gas seems to greatly enhance plant growth, causing plants to germinate more quickly and grow larger. The finding could have far reaching implications for both food and biofuel production."
An anonymous reader writes "This evening's planned launch of the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket had to be canceled just 12 minutes before liftoff, due to the unexpected separation of the booster's umbilical cable while the vehicle was on the launch pad. This is the first attempt to fly the Antares rocket, which is a commercial craft and direct competitor to the SpaceX Dragon 9. Beyond being the first flight of a brand new commercial rocket, this mission is also notable for carrying three of NASA's PhoneSats; small satellites powered by Android running on Nexus smartphones. With each PhoneSat costing just $3,500, they're designed to test the limits of extremely low cost spacecraft, similar to the European STRaND-1 mission. Since this is simply an orbital test, and the Antares will not be attempting to dock with the International Space Station, the launch window is highly flexible. It's anticipated Orbital Sciences will make another attempt at launching the Antares within 48 hours."
ananyo writes "Paul Steinhardt, an astrophysicist at Princeton University in New Jersey, and colleagues have posted a controversial paper on ArXiv arguing, based on the latest Higgs data and the cosmic microwave background map from the Planck mission, that the leading theory explaining the first moments of the Big Bang ('inflation') is fatally flawed. In short, Steinhardt says that the models that best fit the Planck data — known as 'plateau models' because their potential-energy profiles level off at relatively low energies — are far less likely to occur naturally than the models that Planck ruled out. Secondly, he says, the news for these plateau models gets dramatically worse when the results are analyzed in conjunction with the latest results about the Higgs field coming from CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Particle physicists working at the LHC have calculated that the Higgs field is likely to have started out in a high-energy, 'metastable' state rather than in a stable, low-energy configuration. Steinhardt likens the odds of the Higgs field initially being perched in the precarious metastable state as to those of dropping out of the sky over the Matterhorn and conveniently landing in a 'dimple near the top,' rather than crashing down to the mountain's base."
sciencehabit writes "Put a fruit fly larva in a spacelike vacuum, and the results aren't pretty. Within a matter of minutes, the animal will collapse into a crinkled, lifeless husk. Now, researchers have found a way to protect the bugs: Bombard them with electrons, which form a 'nano-suit' around their bodies. The advance could help scientists take high-resolution photographs of tiny living organisms. It also suggests a new way that creatures could survive the harsh conditions of outer space and may even lead to new space travel technology for humans." Work is also being done on electron "suits" that protect against radiation.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has robot competitions all over the United States. FIRST was founded by inventor Dean Kamen. According to Wikipedia he has said that the FIRST competition is the invention he is most proud of, and he predicts that the 1 million students who have taken part in the contests so far will be responsible for some significant technological advances in years to come. In any case, Robert Rozeboom (samzenpus) was at the Michigan FIRST championship with camcorder in hand, and brought back some great shots of robots at work -- or maybe play. They fired off volleys of Frisbee-like discs, ran into each other, and climbed metal pyramids, either independently or under the control of their human masters. There was a pretty good crowd in the stands, too, to cheer on the robots. Or more likely, to cheer on the robots' human masters, since we're not yet at the point where robot masters invite their robot friends to competitions where they show off their humans.
DoctorBit writes "MIT Technology Review is running a story about an arXiv paper in which geneticists Alexei A. Sharov and Richard Gordon propose that life as we know it originated 9.7 billion years ago. The researchers estimated the genetic complexity of phyla in the paleontological record by counting the number of non-redundant functional nucleotides in typical genomes of modern day descendants of each phylum. When plotting genetic complexity against time, the researchers found that genetic complexity increases exponentially, just as with Moore's law, but with a doubling rate of about once every 376 million years. Extrapolating backwards, the researchers estimate that life began about 4 billion years after the universe formed and evolved the first bacteria just before the Earth was formed. One might image that the supernova debris that formed the early solar system could have included bacteria-bearing chunks of rock from doomed planets circling supernova progenitor stars. If true, this retro-prediction has some interesting consequences in partly resolving the Fermi Paradox. Another interesting consequence for those attempting to recreate life's origins in a lab: bacteria may have evolved under conditions very different from those on earth."
ananyo writes with this bit about lab grown organs from Nature: "Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have fitted rats with kidneys that were grown in a lab from stripped-down kidney scaffolds. When transplanted, these 'bioengineered' organs starting filtering the rodents' blood and making urine. The team, led by organ-regeneration specialist Harald Ott, started with the kidneys of recently deceased rats and used detergent to strip away the cells, leaving behind the underlying scaffold of connective tissues such as the structural components of blood vessels. They then regenerated the organ by seeding this scaffold with two cell types: human umbilical-vein cells to line the blood vessels, and kidney cells from newborn rats to produce the other tissues that make up the organ (paper)."
ananyo writes "Sediment in a deep-sea core may hold radioactive iron spewed by a distant supernova 2.2 million years ago and preserved in the fossilized remains of iron-loving bacteria. If confirmed, the iron traces would be the first biological signature of a specific exploding star. Scientists have found the isotope iron-60, which does not form on Earth, in a sediment core from the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, dating to between about 1.7 million and 3.3 million years ago. The iron-60, which appears in layers dated to around 2.2 million years ago, could be the remains of magnetite chains formed by bacteria on the sea floor as radioactive supernova debris showered on them from the atmosphere, after crossing inter-stellar space at nearly the speed of light."
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) director Jamie Love -- formally James Packard Love -- is the brain behind the "$1 a day" HIV drugs that have saved millions of lives in Africa and other poor parts of the world. Basically, he went around asking, "How much would it cost to make this HIV medication if the patent cost was removed?" At first, no one could answer. After a while, the answer came: Less than $1 a day. At that price, the Bush administration set up a massive program to deliver generic anti-HIV drugs to Africa. Jamie also works on copyright issues, boosts free software (he's a Linux user/evangelist and had more than a little to do with the Microsoft antitrust suit), and generally tries to make the international knowledge ecology more accessible and more useful for everyone, especially those who aren't rich. Or necessarily even prosperous. He's a smart guy (read the Wikipedia entry linked above), but more than that he's bullheaded. Jamie has worked on some of his initiatives for years, even decades. In many cases you can't say, "He hasn't succeeded," without adding "yet" on the end. (You'll understand that statement better after you watch the video, which we broke into two parts because it is far longer than our typical video interview.)
massivepanic writes "Unlike most natural disasters, earthquakes strike without warning. Between large quakes and resulting tsunamis, millions of lives have been lost because science has been unable to provide accurate, useful earthquake predictions. Stellar Solutions' QuakeFinder Division hopes it can develop the tools to dramatically reduce this loss of life. Its network of over 100 sophisticated sensor stations has detected patterns of electromagnetic pulses several days before a number of different earthquakes, moving the possibility of earthquake prediction closer to reality."
rwise2112 writes "Lithium-ion batteries have long been thought to be free of the memory effects of other rechargeable batteries. However, this appears to be not the case. Scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, together with colleagues from the Toyota Research Laboratories in Japan have now discovered that a widely-used type of lithium-ion battery has a memory effect."
Edgewood_Dirk writes "First spotted in 2011, Giant African Land Snails have migrated to Florida, and are causing massive agricultural and social problems in the state. Hugely destructive to crops, the creatures themselves are dangerous, in that they are able to gnaw through stucco and plastics, will eat almost any organic material, their shells are hard enough to pop tires on the freeway and become shrapnel when run over by lawnmowers. Over a thousand are caught each week in Miami-Dade County and their numbers are only growing as more come out of hibernation. They also carry a form of rat lungworm which can cause meningitis in humans, although no human cases have been reported yet."
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have discovered a way to convert ordinary skin cells into myelinating cells, or brain cells that have been destroyed in patients with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other myelin disorders. The research, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, may now enable 'on demand' production of myelinating cells, which insulate and protect neurons to facilitate the delivery of brain impulses to the rest of the body."
First time accepted submitter Martin S. writes "How NASA Engineers have reverse engineered the F1 engine of a Saturn V launcher, because: 'every scrap of documentation produced during Project Apollo, including the design documents for the Saturn V and the F-1 engines, remains on file. If re-creating the F-1 engine were simply a matter of cribbing from some 1960s blueprints, NASA would have already done so. A typical design document for something like the F-1, though, was produced under intense deadline pressure and lacked even the barest forms of computerized design aids. Such a document simply cannot tell the entire story of the hardware. Each F-1 engine was uniquely built by hand, and each has its own undocumented quirks. In addition, the design process used in the 1960s was necessarily iterative: engineers would design a component, fabricate it, test it, and see how it performed. Then they would modify the design, build the new version, and test it again. This would continue until the design was "good enough."'
CowboyRobot writes "A new study by researchers from the U.C. Berkeley School of Information examined the brainwave signals of individuals performing specific actions to see if they can be consistently matched to the right individual. To measure the subjects' brainwaves, the team utilized the NeuroSky Mindset, a Bluetooth headset that records Electroencephalographic (EEG) activity. In the end, the team was able to match the brainwave signals with 99% accuracy (pdf). 'We are not trying to trace back from a brainwave signal to a specific person,' explains Prof. John Chuang, who led the team. 'That would be a much more difficult problem. Rather, our task is to determine if a presented brainwave signal matches the brainwave signals previously submitted by the user when they were setting up their pass-thought.'"
The University of Hawaii at Hilo has been granted a permit by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources to begin construction of the $1.3 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). From the article: "The TMT has been in development for over a decade, but the large amount of land needed for its construction raised concerns over the environmental and cultural impact of such a project. Now, however, the land board has rendered a final decision, saying that the university had satisfied the eight criteria necessary under Hawaiian state law to allow the venture to go forward. The giant TMT will be an optical and infrared telescope with enough coverage area and sharpness to observe light from 13 billion years ago, track extrasolar planets, and observe planets and stars in their early formative years."
An anonymous reader writes "Monday, the Supreme Court will hear a case on the validity of breast cancer gene patents. The court has a chance to end human gene patents after three decades. From the article: 'Since the 1980s, patent lawyers have been claiming pieces of humanity's genetic code. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted thousands of gene patents. The Federal Circuit, the court that hears all patent appeals, has consistently ruled such patents are legal. But the judicial winds have been shifting. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the legality of gene patents. And recently, the Supreme Court has grown increasingly skeptical of the Federal Circuit's patent-friendly jurisprudence. Meanwhile, a growing number of researchers, health care providers, and public interest groups have raised concerns about the harms of gene patents. The American Civil Liberties Union estimates that more than 40 percent of genes are now patented. Those patents have created "patent thickets" that make it difficult for scientists to do genetic research and commercialize their results. Monopolies on genetic testing have raised prices and reduced patient options.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Australia's premiere government research organization, the CSIRO, has been rocked by allegations of corruption including: dishonesty with 60 top-class scientists bullied or fired, fraud against drug giant Novartis, and illegally using intellectual property, faking documents and unreliable testimony to judicial officers. CSIRO boss Megan Clark has refused to discipline the staff responsible and the federal police don't want to get involved. Victims are unimpressed and former CSIRO scientists are calling for an inquiry."
coondoggie writes "In the process of detailing its $17.7 billion 2014 budget this week, NASA highlighted a mission to snag a 500-ton asteroid, bring it back, stash it near the moon and study it. It also took the time to put in a plug for an ongoing research project called Solar Electric Propulsion, which NASA says could be the key technology it needs to pull off the asteroid plan."
New submitter chromaexcursion writes "Several news source are reporting the likelihood of an impressive show of the Aurora Borealis visible as far south as Washington D.C. this evening. Accuweather explains: 'On the Kp index, the flare has been categorized at 6 to 8. This is a scale for measuring the intensity of a a geomagnetic storm. The 6 to 8 rating means that the effects of the radiation will have a greater reach. ... The radiation from such a flare may cause radio wave disturbances to electronics such as cell phones, GPS and radios, causing services to occasionally cut in and out. While traveling slower than was originally anticipated, the flare effects are moving towards Earth at 1000 km per second. ... The lights are currently estimated for 8 p.m. EDT Saturday arrival, with a possible deviation of up to seven hours.' Check the map; if you're in a fair-to-good zone, head out after sunset to see the show."
derekmead writes "Scientists have had a basic understanding of how life first popped up on Earth for a while. The so-called 'primordial soup' was sitting around, stagnant but containing the basic building blocks of life. Then something happened and we ended up with life. It's that 'something' that has been the sticking point for scientists, but new research from a team of scientists at the University of Leeds has started to shed light on the mystery, explaining just how objects from space might have kindled the reaction that sparked life on Earth. It's generally accepted that space rocks played an important role in life's genesis on Earth. Meteorites bombarding the planet early in its history delivered some of the necessary materials for life but none brought life as we know it. How inanimate rocks transformed into the building blocks of life has been a mystery. But this latest research suggests an answer. If meteorites containing phosphorus landed in the hot, acidic pools that surrounded young volcanoes on the early Earth, there could have been a reaction that produced a chemical similar one that's found in all living cells and is vital in producing the energy that makes something alive."
Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have published research into the shrinking levels of sea ice in the Arctic. They wanted to figure out how long it would take before summer sea ice disappeared entirely. Since there's no perfect model for predicting ice levels, they used three different methods. All three predicted the Arctic would be nearly free of summer sea ice by the middle of the century, and one indicated it could happen as early as 2020. Two of the methods were based on observed sea ice trends. If ice loss proceeds as it has in the past decade, we get the 2020 timeframe. If ice loss events are large, like the 2007 and 2012 events, but happen at random some years, the estimate is pushed back to 2030. The third method uses global climate models to 'predict atmosphere, ocean, land, and sea ice conditions over time.' This model pushes the timeframe back to 2040 at the earliest, and around 2060 as the median (abstract). One of the study's authors, James Overland, said, "Rapid Arctic sea ice loss is probably the most visible indicator of global climate change; it leads to shifts in ecosystems and economic access, and potentially impacts weather throughout the northern hemisphere. Increased physical understanding of rapid Arctic climate shifts and improved models are needed that give a more detailed picture and timing of what to expect so we can better prepare and adapt to such changes. Early loss of Arctic sea ice gives immediacy to the issue of climate change."
alancronin writes with this excerpt from CNet: "Stephen Hawking, one of the world's greatest physicists and cosmologists, is once again warning his fellow humans that our extinction is on the horizon unless we figure out a way to live in space. Not known for conspiracy theories, Hawking's rationale is that the Earth is far too delicate a planet to continue to withstand the barrage of human battering. 'We must continue to go into space for humanity,' Hawking said today, according to the Los Angeles Times. 'We won't survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet.'"
A story at Slashgear says that the remains of a Soviet mission to Mars may have been spotted — on Mars — by enthusiasts poring over old photos taken by a NASA orbiter. The article points out that the find must be confirmed by further imaging, but matches the seekers' expectations. From the article: "The community at VK.com/Curiosity_Live crowdsourced a mission to find the Soviet Union’s long-lost Mars 3 spacecraft, with the site’s leader, Vitali Egorov of St. Petersburg, Russia, creating models of what hardware from the spacecraft should look like. With this reference, the community combed through a large image taken five years ago by NASA’s MRO, identifying what is believed to be the craft’s parachute, lander, terminal retrorocket, and heat shield."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.'"