ananyo writes "Researchers have discovered that animal mucus — ' whether from humans, fish or corals' — is loaded with bacteria-killing viruses called phages. These protect their hosts from infection by destroying incoming bacteria. In return, the phages are exposed to a steady torrent of microbes in which to reproduce. Mucus mainly consists of huge molecular complexes called mucins, which are made up of thousands of glycan sugars attached to a central protein backbone. The team showed that phages stick to these sugars, reducing the number of bacteria that can attach to mucus by more than 10,000 times."
Check out SlashCloud for the latest in cloud computing.
sciencehabit writes "Archaeologists have long debated when early humans began hurling stone-tipped spears and darts at large prey. By throwing a spear, instead of thrusting it, humans could hunt buffalo and other dangerous game from a safe distance, with less risk of a goring or mauling. But direct evidence of this hunting technique in early sites has been lacking. A new study of impact marks on the bones of ancient prey shows that such sophisticated killing techniques go back at least 90,000 years ago in Africa and offers a new method of determining how prehistoric hunters made their kills."
kkleiner writes "The FDA is finalizing its review of the antibacterial agent triclosan common to many soaps and other health/household products after four decades of use. Recent studies suggest the chemical may be harmful to animals and could interfere with the human immune system along with increasing the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The agency has been slow to cast a verdict, to much criticism considering its widespread use."
sciencehabit writes "Whooping cough, or pertussis, has exploded in the United States in recent years. A new study (abstract) confirms what scientists have suspected for some time: The return of the disease is caused by the introduction of new, safer vaccines 2 decades ago. Although they have far fewer side effects, the new shots don't offer long-lived protection the way older vaccines do."
cylonlover writes "Recently the media has been saturated with overly-hyped reports that NASA's Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer may have detected dark matter. These claims may have some justification if the word 'may' is shouted, but they rest on a number of really major assumptions and guesses, some of which are on weak and shifting soil. So just what was seen in the experiment, and what are the possible explanations?"
cold fjord writes "A healthcare provider has sued the Internal Revenue Service and 15 of its agents, charging they wrongfully seized 60 million medical records from 10 million Americans ... [The unnamed company alleges] the agency violated the Fourth Amendment in 2011, when agents executed a search warrant for financial data on one employee – and that led to the seizure of information on 10 million, including state judges. The search warrant did not specify that the IRS could take medical information, UPI said. And information technology officials warned the IRS about the potential to violate medical privacy laws before agents executed the warrant, the complaint said." Also at Nextgov.com.
The Associated Press (as carried by the Washington Post) reports that a living payload of newts and mice has been retrieved after a month orbiting earth in a Russian space capsule at an altitude of 345 miles, far higher than the ISS's orbital distance of 205 miles. Says the story: "Fewer than half of the 53 mice and other rodents who blasted off on April 19 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome survived the flight, Russian news agencies reported, quoting Vladimir Sychov, deputy director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems and the lead researcher. Sychov said this was to be expected and the surviving mice were sufficient to complete the study, which was designed to show the effects of weightlessness and other factors of space flight on cell structure. All 15 of the lizards survived, he said. The capsule also carried small crayfish and fish."
New submitter GoJays writes "An 18-year-old from Saratoga, California has won an international science fair for creating an energy storage device that can be fully juiced in 20 to 30 seconds. The fast-charging device is a so-called supercapacitor, a gizmo that can pack a lot of energy into a tiny space, charges quickly and holds its charge for a long time. What's more, it can last for 10,000 charge-recharge cycles, compared with 1,000 cycles for conventional rechargeable batteries, according to the inventor Eesha Khare." This one in particular has been used so far only to power an LED, rather than a phone or laptop, but I hope in a few years near-instant charging of portable electronics will be the norm as supercapacitors grow more common.
From a NASA press release published Friday: "For the past 8 years, NASA astronomers have been monitoring the Moon for signs of explosions caused by meteoroids hitting the lunar surface. 'Lunar meteor showers' have turned out to be more common than anyone expected, with hundreds of detectable impacts occurring every year. They've just seen the biggest explosion in the history of the program." Watch the flash for yourself.
New submitter SessionExpired writes "Five 9th graders from Denmark have shown that garden cress won't germinate when placed near a router (Google Translation of Danish original). Article text is in Danish, but the pictures illustrate their results. The exact mechanism is still unknown (Danish original), but experts have shown interest in reproducing the experiment."
An anonymous reader writes "A meta-study published yesterday looked at over 12,000 peer-reviewed papers on climate science that appeared in journals between 1991 and 2011. The papers were evaluated and categorized by how they implicitly or explicitly endorsed humans as a contributing cause of global warming. The meta-study found that an overwhelming 97.1% of the papers that took a stance endorsed human-cause global warming. They also asked the 1,200 of the scientists involved in the research to self-evaluate their own studies, with nearly identical results. In the interest of transparency, the meta-study results were published in an open access journal, and the researchers set up a website so that anybody can check their results. From the article: '... a memo from communications strategist Frank Luntz leaked in 2002 advised Republicans, "Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate." This campaign has been successful. A 2012 poll from U.S. Pew Research Center found less than half of Americans thought scientists agreed humans were causing global warming. The media has assisted in this public misconception, with most climate stories "balanced" with a "skeptic" perspective. However, this results in making the 2–3% seem like 50%. In trying to achieve "balance," the media has actually created a very unbalanced perception of reality. As a result, people believe scientists are still split about what's causing global warming, and therefore there is not nearly enough public support or motivation to solve the problem.'"
astroengine writes "After nine years of hard Mars roving, Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity has broken a 40-year-old extraterrestrial distance record. On Thursday, the tenacious six-wheeled robot drove 80 meters (263 feet), nudging the total distance traveled since landing on the red planet in 2004 to 35.760 kilometers (22.220 miles). NASA's previous distance record was held by Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt when, in December 1972, they drove their Lunar Roving Vehicle 35.744 kilometers (22.210 miles) over the lunar surface. Although it's broken the NASA distance record, it hasn't surpassed the international record, yet. The Soviet Lunokhod 2 remote-controlled moon rover roved 37 kilometers (23 miles) across the lunar surface and, so far, remains the undisputed champion of distance driving on an extraterrestrial surface."
sciencehabit writes "If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic, simple tasks like splitting the dinner bill can be excruciating. Now, a new study suggests that a gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain can boost math performance for up to 6 months. Researchers don't fully understand how it works, however, and there could be side effects." We've covered various other potential benefits to having your brain shocked.
jfruh writes "Larry Page revealed that he'd been suffering from a vocal cord ailment that impaired his ability to speak for more than a year. The positive feedback he got from opening up about it inspired him to tell attendees at Google I/O that we should all be less uptight about keeping our medical records private. As far as Page is concerned, pretty much the only legitimate reason for worry on this score is fear of being denied health insurance. 'Maybe we should change the rules around insurance so that they have to insure people,' he said."
astroengine writes "Dust devils are a well-known atmospheric phenomena on Mars, and as these new HiRISE observations show, the devilish vorticies can carve beautiful patterns in the Martian dust. What's more — in side-by-side comparisons of observations of the same Mars region years apart — it appears that the active Mars atmosphere acts like an Etch A Sketch, rubbing out the dust devils' tracks, only for the dust devils to make brand new tracks years later."
ananyo writes "Scientists working 2.4 kilometers below Earth's surface in a Canadian mine have tapped a source of water that has remained isolated for at least a billion years. The researchers say they do not yet know whether anything has been living in it all this time, but the water contains high levels of methane and hydrogen — the right stuff to support life. Micrometer-scale pockets in minerals billions of years old can hold water that was trapped during the minerals' formation. But no source of free-flowing water passing through interconnected cracks or pores in Earth's crust has previously been shown to have stayed isolated for more than tens of millions of years (paper abstract)."
ananyo writes "D-Wave, the small company that sells the world's only commercial quantum computer, has just bagged an impressive new customer: a collaboration between Google, NASA and the non-profit Universities Space Research Association. The three organizations have joined forces to install a D-Wave Two, the computer company's latest model, in a facility launched by the collaboration — the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab at NASA's Ames Research Center. The lab will explore areas such as machine learning — useful for functions such as language translation, image searches and voice-command recognition. The Google-led collaboration is only the second customer to buy computer from D-Wave — Lockheed Martin was the first."
davecb writes "The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has recently published two notices for patent examiners relating to patent interpretation, and in particular computer-related/business method type patents saying: 'for example, what appears on its face to be a claim for an "art" or a "process" may, on a proper construction, be a claim for a mathematical formula and therefore not patentable subject matter.'"
cyachallenge writes "Scientists say they have, for the first time, cloned human embryos capable of producing embryonic stem cells. 'We had to find the perfect combination,' Mitalipov says. As it turned out, that perfect combination included something surprising: caffeine. That ingredient, plus other tweaks in the process, including using fresh eggs and determining the optimal stage of each egg's development, Mitalipov says."
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Wired: "[Henry] Markram was proposing a project that has bedeviled AI researchers for decades, that most had presumed was impossible. He wanted to build a working mind from the ground up. ... The self-assured scientist claims that the only thing preventing scientists from understanding the human brain in its entirety — from the molecular level all the way to the mystery of consciousness — is a lack of ambition. If only neuroscience would follow his lead, he insists, his Human Brain Project could simulate the functions of all 86 billion neurons in the human brain, and the 100 trillion connections that link them. And once that's done, once you've built a plug-and-play brain, anything is possible. You could take it apart to figure out the causes of brain diseases. You could rig it to robotics and develop a whole new range of intelligent technologies. You could strap on a pair of virtual reality glasses and experience a brain other than your own."
HyperbolicParabaloid writes "According to the New York Times, an equipment failure on the Kepler spacecraft may mean the end of its planet-hunting mission. One of the reaction wheels that maintains the craft's orientation — critical to long-exposure imaging — has failed. 'In January engineers noticed that one of the reaction wheels that keep the spacecraft pointed was experiencing too much friction. They shut the spacecraft down for a couple of weeks to give it a rest, in the hopes that the wheel’s lubricant would spread out and solve the problem. But when they turned it back on, the friction was still there. Until now, the problem had not interfered with observations, which are scheduled to go on until at least 2016. Kepler was launched with four reaction wheels, but one failed last year after showing signs of erratic friction. Three wheels are required to keep Kepler properly and precisely aimed. Loss of the wheel has robbed it of the ability to detect Earth-size planets, although project managers hope to remedy the situation. The odds, astronomers said, are less than 50-50.'"
sciencehabit writes "From the human perspective, few events in evolution were more momentous than the split among primates that led to apes (large, tailless primates such as today's gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans) and Old World monkeys (which today include baboons and macaques). DNA studies of living primates have estimated that the rift took place between 25 million and 30 million years ago, but the earliest known fossils of both groups date no earlier than 20 million years ago. Now, a team working in Tanzania has found teeth and partial jaws from what it thinks are 25-million-year-old ancestors of both groups. If the interpretations hold up (abstract), the finds would reconcile the molecular and fossil evidence and possibly provide insights into what led to the split in the first place."
MTorrice writes "A low-cost chemical process can turn hemp fiber into carbon nanomaterials. Researchers used the materials to make devices called supercapacitors that provide quick bursts of electrical energy. Supercapacitors made with the hemp nanosheets put out more power than commercial devices can." According to one of the authors, "Hemp bast is a nanocomposite made up of layers of lignin, hemicellulose, and crystalline cellulose ... If you process it the right way, it separates into nanosheets similar to graphene." Perhaps the process could be applied to related plants (hops?) too.
ananyo writes "Global warming is changing the location of Earth's geographic poles, according to a study published this week. Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, report that increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet — and to a lesser degree, ice loss in other parts of the globe — helped to shift the North Pole several centimeters east each year since 2005. From 1982 to 2005, the pole drifted southeast towards northern Labrador, Canada, at a rate of about 2 milliarcseconds — or roughly 6 centimetres — per year. But in 2005, the pole changed course and began galloping east towards Greenland at a rate of more than 7 milliarcseconds per year (abstract). The results suggest that tracking polar shifts can serve as a check on current estimates of ice loss. Scientists can locate the north and south poles to within 0.03 milliarcseconds by using Global Positioning System measurements to determine the angle of Earth's spin. When mass is lost in one part of a spinning sphere, its spin axis will tilt directly towards the position of the loss — exactly as the team observed for Greenland."
theodp writes "Last summer, unspecified voice problems caused Google CEO Larry Page to miss Google's Annual Shareholder Meeting, the I/O conference, and a quarterly earnings call. Now, Page has come forward and revealed that he suffers from partial paralysis of each of his vocal chords, an 'extremely rare' condition. Not unlike what Sergey Brin and his wife are doing with Parkinson's research, Page and his wife will be funding and overseeing 'a significant research program' led by Dr. Steven Zeitels of Harvard Medical School."
cylonlover writes "Due to their relative faintness compared to their parent stars, most known exoplanets have been discovered using indirect detection methods – that is, detecting the effects they have rather than observing them directly. There are numerous indirect methods that have proven useful in the detection of exoplanets and now yet another, which relies on Einstein's special theory of relativity (abstract), has joined the list with the discovery of an exoplanet known as Kepler-76b."
ananyo writes "Researchers hoping to get '2' as the answer for a long-sought proof involving pairs of prime numbers are celebrating the fact that a mathematician has wrestled the value down from infinity to 70 million. That goal is the proof to a conjecture concerning prime numbers. Primes abound among smaller numbers, but they become less and less frequent as one goes towards larger numbers. But exceptions exist: the 'twin primes,' which are pairs of prime numbers that differ in value by 2. The twin prime conjecture says that there is an infinite number of such twin pairs. Some attribute the conjecture to the Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria, which would make it one of the oldest open problems in mathematics. The new result, from Yitang Zhang of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, finds that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that are less than 70 million units apart. He presented his research on 13 May to an audience of a few dozen at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although 70 million seems like a very large number, the existence of any finite bound, no matter how large, means that that the gaps between consecutive numbers don't keep growing forever."
kkleiner writes "The first NeuroGaming Conference and Expo took place at the beginning of May to showcase the convergent technologies that are paving the way toward gaming with your mind. Tech news has been dominated with stories about Google Glass and the Oculus Rift, which was on display for attendees to test out. Other technologies that utilize EEG are opening up possibilities of a controller-free gaming experience into virtual realities with unlimited potential. 'Deeper questions surrounding the morality of neurogames will be sure to stir debate. As virtual reality technology inches closer to lifelike resolution, should gamers simulate themselves as characters engaged in acts of violence or criminal activity? It’s unpredictable what these games could uncover about the user as neurogames gain insight into a users’ psyche and how they respond to stimuli at a subconscious level. For instance, a game could uncover how its user particularly enjoys shooting at civilians in gameplay. Games might even become expert at diagnosing psychiatric disorders. As computers become exponentially more powerful, game resolution could fully mimic our ever-present reality.'"
TheSync writes "The long-awaited remake of Carl Sagan's amazing Cosmos series, Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, will be coming to Fox television next year. It will star astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Surprisingly, Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame is an executive producer. MacFarlane was introduced to Carl Sagan's widow Ann Druyan by deGrasse Tyson, and MacFarlane helped them pitch the show to Fox executives."
An anonymous reader writes "If an imposing 2300-year old Mayan temple situated at the Nohmul complex in northern Belize was on your list of things to see before you die, you're too late. The monument was essentially destroyed by a construction crew in order to provide gravel for road construction. Archaeologists expressed shock, as Nohmul (the "great mound") was a major Mayan religious center in its day. While the pyramid was situated on private property, such historical sites are supposedly protected by ordinance, and officials may file criminal charges."
ananyo writes "Volcanologists detonated explosive charges buried in a meadow in Ashford, New York, blowing 12 small craters in the ground and throwing debris 80 meters in the air. The aim was to recreate, in true-to-life detail, what happens when a volcanic eruption punches through Earth's crust. The work could guide the way that active volcanoes are monitored, and could help safety officials to decide where to restrict public access at volcanoes such as Italy's Stromboli, where dozens of tourists arrive every night to watch spectacular fire fountain displays."
sciencehabit writes "The carnivorous humped bladderwort, found on all continents except Antarctica, is a model of ruthless genetic efficiency. Only 3% of this aquatic plant's DNA is not part of a known gene, new research shows. In contrast, only 2% of human DNA is part of a gene. The bladderwort, named for its water-filled bladders that suck in unsuspecting prey, is a relative of the tomato. The finding overturns the notion that this repetitive, non-coding DNA, popularly called 'junk' DNA, is necessary for life."
A while ago you had the chance to ask mathematician and theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson about his work in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear propulsion, and his thoughts on the past, present, and future of science. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
cylonlover writes "Invisibility cloaks have been around in various forms since 2006, when the first cloak based on optical metamaterials was demonstrated. The design of cloaking devices has come a long way in the past seven years, as illustrated by a simple, yet highly effective, radar cloak developed by Duke University Professor Yaroslav Urzhumov, that can be made using a hobby-level 3D printer."
PolygamousRanchKid writes in with news about a U.N. plan to get more bugs in your belly. "The U.N. has new weapons to fight hunger, boost nutrition and reduce pollution, and they might be crawling or flying near you right now: edible insects. The Food and Agriculture Organization on Monday hailed the likes of grasshoppers, ants and other members of the insect world as an underutilized food for people, livestock and pets. Insects are 'extremely efficient' in converting feed into edible meat, the agency said. Most insects are likely to produce fewer environmentally harmful greenhouse gases, and also feed on human and food waste, compost and animal slurry, with the products being used for agricultural feed, the agency said. 'Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly,' the agency said, adding they leave a 'low environmental footprint.' The agency noted that its Edible Insect Program is also examining the potential of arachnids, such as spiders and scorpions."
An anonymous reader writes "With updated lyrics, commander of expedition 35 on the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, sings Space Oddity on board the ISS. He's not Bowie, but he's pretty good."
An anonymous reader writes "Worldwide levels of the chief greenhouse gas that causes global warming have hit a milestone, reaching an amount never before encountered by humans, federal scientists said. Carbon dioxide was measured at 400 parts per million at the oldest monitoring station in Hawaii, which sets the global benchmark. More than half of plants and a third of animal species are likely to see their living space halved by 2080 if current trends continue."
Dr. Mark Post hopes to bring the dream of cultured meat one step closer to reality when he unveils his high tech hamburger in London. The five ounce burger is composed of 20,000 strips of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory at a cost of $325,000 (provided by an anonymous donor.) From the article: "The hamburger, assembled from tiny bits of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory and to be cooked and eaten at an event in London, perhaps in a few weeks, is meant to show the world — including potential sources of research funds — that so-called in-Vitro meat, or cultured meat, is a reality."
jones_supa writes "British Psychological Society's division of clinical psychology (DCP) will on Monday issue a statement declaring that, given the lack of evidence, it is time for a 'paradigm shift' in how the issues of mental health are understood. According to their claim, there is no scientific evidence that psychiatric diagnoses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are valid or useful. The statement effectively casts doubt on psychiatry's predominantly biomedical model of mental distress – the idea that people are suffering from illnesses that are treatable by doctors using drugs. The DCP said its decision to speak out 'reflects fundamental concerns about the development, personal impact and core assumptions of the (diagnosis) systems', used by psychiatry. The provocative statement by the DCP has been timed to come out shortly before the release of DSM-5, the fifth edition of the American Psychiatry Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The manual has been attacked for expanding the range of mental health issues that are classified as disorders."
astroengine writes "During an unscheduled spacewalk on the space station's exterior on Saturday morning, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy carried out the mother of all plumbing jobs: They detached a suspect ammonia pump, replaced it with a spare and watched for any further ammonia leakage. The emergency spacewalk was carried out in response to a troubling ammonia coolant leak that was discovered on Thursday. The coolant is used to maintain the temperature of the vast solar arrays the space station uses to generate electricity for its systems. 'It will take some diagnostics, still, over the course of the next several days by the thermal systems specialists to fully determine that we have solved the problem of the ammonia leak," said NASA commentator Rob Navias during the live NASA TV spacewalk broadcast. 'But so far, so "good."'"
Titus Andronicus writes "Today, NOAA reported, 'On May 9, the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time since measurements began in 1958.' For comparison, over the last 800,000 years, CO2 has ranged from roughly 180 ppm to 280 ppm. 'For the entire period of human civilization, roughly 8,000 years, the carbon dioxide level was relatively stable near that upper bound. But the burning of fossil fuels has caused a 41 percent increase in the heat-trapping gas since the Industrial Revolution, a mere geological instant, and scientists say the climate is beginning to react, though they expect far larger changes in the future.' The last time Earth had 400 ppm was probably more than 3 megayears ago."
An anonymous reader writes "The Priceonomics blog has a post that looks into how so much of our scientific knowledge came to be gated by current publishing models. 'The most famous of these providers is Elsevier. It is a behemoth. Every year it publishes 250,000 articles in 2,000 journals. Its 2012 revenues reached $2.7 billion. Its profits of over $1 billion account for 45% of the Reed Elsevier Group — its parent company which is the 495th largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization. Companies like Elsevier developed in the 1960s and 1970s. They bought academic journals from the non-profits and academic societies that ran them, successfully betting that they could raise prices without losing customers. Today just three publishers, Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, account for roughly 42% of all articles published in the $19 billion plus academic publishing market for science, technology, engineering, and medical topics. University libraries account for 80% of their customers.' The article also explain how moving to open access journals would help, but says it's just one step in a more significant transformation scientific research needs to undergo. It points to the open source software community as a place from which researchers should take their cues."
astroengine writes "After the discovery of an ammonia coolant leak supplying one of the solar arrays on Thursday (video), International Space Station managers have decided to plan for an unscheduled spacewalk on Saturday to repair the problem. The final decision about whether to go ahead with the extravehicular activity will be made late on Friday. 'Good Morning, Earth! Big change in plans, spacewalk tomorrow, Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn are getting suits and airlock ready. Cool!', tweeted the Space Station's Expedition 35 Commander, Chris Hadfield, on hearing the news an emergency EVA may be required of his crew. 'The whole team is ticking like clockwork, readying for tomorrow. I am so proud to be Commander of this crew. Such great, capable, fun people.'"
symbolset writes "Research published yesterday in the journal Cell (abstract) by Richard Lee and Amy Wagers of Harvard has isolated GDF-11 as a negative regulator of age-associated cardiac hypertrophy. 'When the protein ... was injected into old mice, which develop thickened heart walls in a manner similar to aging humans, the hearts were reduced in size and thickness, resembling the healthy hearts of younger mice.' Through a type of transfusion called parabiotic or 'shared circulation' in mice — one old and sick, the other young and well — they managed to reverse this age-associated heart disease. From there, they isolated an active agent, GDF-11, present in the younger mouse but absent in the older, which reverses the condition when administered directly. They are also using the agent to restore other aged/diseased tissues and organs. Human applications are expected within six years. Since the basis for the treatment is ordinary sharing of blood between an older ill, and younger healthy patient, we can probably expect someone to start offering the transfusion treatment somewhere in the world, soon, to those with the means to find a young and healthy volunteer."
cylonlover writes "Millions of years have evolution has resulted in plants being the most efficient harvesters of solar energy on the planet. Much research is underway into ways to artificially mimic photosynthesis in devices like artificial leaves, but researchers at the University of Georgia are working on a different approach that gives new meaning to the term 'power plant.' Their technology harvests energy generated through photosynthesis before the plants can make use of it (abstract), allowing the energy to instead be used to run low-powered electrical devices."
Noryungi writes "Scientific American reports, in a chilling story, that the Hanford, Washington nuclear waste vitrification treatment plant is off to a bad start. Bad planning, multiple sources of radioactive waste, and leaking containment pools are just the beginning. It's never a good sign when that type of article includes the word 'spontaneous criticality,' if you follow my drift..." It seems the main problem is that the waste has settled in distinct layers, and has to be piped through corroded old tubes, leading to all sorts of exciting problems (e.g. enough plutonium aggregating to start a reaction).
DavidHumus writes "A recent study indicates that consuming vegetables from the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes and peppers (as well as tobacco), decreases the risk of contracting Parkinson's disease. Earlier studies had shown that smoking tobacco seems to provide protection against the disease and the newer one seems to confirm that the key ingredient is nicotine, which is present in some vegetables like peppers."
astroengine send this interesting excerpt from Discovery: "The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered rocky remains of planetary material 'polluting' the atmospheres of two white dwarfs — a sign that these stars likely have (or had) planetary systems and that asteroids are currently being shredded by extreme tidal forces. Although white dwarfs with polluted atmospheres have been observed before, this is the first time evidence of planetary systems have been discovered in stars belonging to a relatively young cluster of stars. 'We have identified chemical evidence for the building blocks of rocky planets,' said Jay Farihi of the University of Cambridge in a Hubble news release. 'When these stars were born, they built planets, and there's a good chance that they currently retain some of them. The signs of rocky debris we are seeing are evidence of this — it is at least as rocky as the most primitive terrestrial bodies in our Solar System.'"
Arglebarf writes "A family member is recovering from a serious illness and, unfortunately, the medication that saved her life will probably cost her hands and feet. She is an artist by trade, so this is a pretty big deal. Replacement prostheses might restore a degree of independence, as well as enabling her to continue with her creative passions. Do any Slashdotters have experience with replacement hands? What features do you look for? Do any models allow you tweak the software for fine tuning? Beyond the day-to-day uses, she will want something that can hold small objects precisely (e.g. a paintbrush)."