Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
snydeq writes "The U.S. health care industry is undergoing several massive transformations, not the least of which is the shift to interoperable EHR (electronic health records) systems. The ONC's Doug Fridsma discusses the various issues that many health care IT and medical providers have raised regarding use of these systems, which are mandated for 2014 under the HITECH Act of 2004, and are all the more important in light of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Key to the transition, says Fridsma, is transforming health IT for EHRs into something more akin to the Internet, and less like traditional ERP and IT systems. 'I think what we're trying to do is the equivalent of what you've got in the Internet, which is horizontal integration rather than vertical integration,' Fridsma says. 'We've done a lot of work looking at what other countries have done, and we've tried to learn from those experiences. Rather than trying to build this top down and create restrictions, we're really trying to ask, "What's the path of least regret in what we need to do?"'"
New submitter tchernobog writes "An Italian team funded by Telethon and S. Raffaele of Milan, was able to cure six kids affected by lethal genetic diseases (in Italian, English video): the Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and the metachromatic leukodystrophy. This is the culmination of a project lasted 15 years, and which cost more than 30M €; the researchers published some preliminary results last year in Nature, and are waiting for the results on more patients to submit another. The really interesting part is: they used a mix of advanced genetic techniques to achieve this result. Firstly, the DNA of a defective cell is corrected with a gene assembled in the lab. This procedure has been very dangerous for the past 20 years: that it can even be used is a good achievement alone. Secondly, the corrected DNA is propagated in the patient's body using a stripped-down version of HIV, of which less than 10% of its original genome remains. Might the feared HIV in reality prove to be salvation for some?"
First time accepted submitter HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "Khadeeja Safdar reports in the WSJ that researchers who surveyed 655 incoming college students found that while math and science majors drew the most interest initially, not many students finished with degrees in those subjects. Students who dropped out didn't do so because they discovered an unexpected amount of the work and because they were dissatisfied with their grades. "Students knew science was hard to begin with, but for a lot of them it turned out to be much worse than what they expected," says Todd R. Stinebrickner, one of the paper's authors. "What they didn't expect is that even if they work hard, they still won't do well." The authors add that the substantial overoptimism about completing a degree in science can be attributed largely to students beginning school with misperceptions about their ability to perform well academically in science. ""If more science graduates are desired, the findings suggest the importance of policies at younger ages that lead students to enter college better prepared (PDF) to study science.""
ananyo writes "A navy-blue world orbiting a faraway star is the first exoplanet to have its colour measured. Discovered in 2005, HD 189733 b is one of the best-studied planets outside the Solar System, orbiting a star about 19 parsecs away in the Vulpecula, or Fox, constellation. Previous efforts to observe the planet focused on the infrared light it emits — invisible to the human eye. Astronomers have now used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the planet and its host star. Hubble's optical resolution is not high enough to actually 'see' the planet as a dot of light separate from its star, so instead, the telescope receives light from both objects that mix into a single point source. To isolate the light contribution of the planet, the researchers waited for the planet to move behind the star during its orbit, so that its light would be blocked, and looked for changes in light colour. During the eclipse, the amount of observed blue light decreased, whereas other colours remained unaffected. This indicated that the light reflected by the planet's atmosphere, blocked by the star in the eclipse, is blue."
vinces99 writes "The basics of how a muscle generates power remain the same: Filaments of myosin tugging on filaments of actin shorten, or contract, the muscle – but the power doesn't just come from what's happening straight up and down the length of the muscle, as has been assumed for 50 years. Instead, new research shows that as muscles bulge, the filaments are drawn apart from each other, the myosin tugs at sharper angles over greater distances, and it's that action that deserves credit for half the change in muscle force scientists have been measuring."
coondoggie writes "The space missions to Mars have so far been one way — satellites and robotic rovers have all gone there to stay. NASA, as part a of a new, ambitious Mars visit, wants to change that by sending a rover to the surface of the Red Planet which can dig up chunks of the surface and send them back to Earth for highly detailed examination. These plans were laid out in a lengthy report outlining mission plans for Mars that will be acted upon over the next decade. It says a retrieval mission 'could occur as early as the mid-2020s or wait until the 2030s.'"
astroengine writes "As NASA's New Horizons probe powers through interplanetary space, it's keeping a careful eye forward, watching its target gradually loom larger on the proverbial celestial horizon. But earlier this month the spacecraft spotted something right next to Pluto — a pixelated Charon, the dwarf planet's largest moon. 'The image itself might not look very impressive to the untrained eye, but compared to the discovery images of Charon from Earth, these 'discovery' images from New Horizons look great!' said New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD. 'We're very excited to see Pluto and Charon as separate objects for the first time from New Horizons.'"
Michi writes "According to Anatoly Zak, the crash of the Russion Proton rocket on 1 July was apparently caused by several angular velocity sensors having been installed upside down. From the source: 'Each of those sensors had an arrow that was supposed to point toward the top of the vehicle, however multiple sensors on the failed rocket were pointing downward instead.' It seems amazing that something as fundamental as this was not caught during quality control. Even more amazing is that the design of the sensors permits them to be installed in the wrong orientation in the first place. Even the simplest of mechanical interlocks (such as a notch at one end that must be matched with a corresponding projection) could have prevented the accident." A review of the quality control procedures used by the contractors responsible is underway.
ph4cr writes with news that a few researchers have discovered an alloy that allows them to print 3D structures from liquid metal at room temperature. From the article: "'It's difficult to create structures out of liquids, because liquids want to bead up. But we’ve found that a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium reacts to the oxygen in the air at room temperature to form a "skin" that allows the liquid metal structures to retain their shapes,' says Dr. Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work. ... One technique involves stacking droplets of liquid metal on top of each other, much like a stack of oranges at the supermarket. The droplets adhere to one another, but retain their shape – they do not merge into a single, larger droplet. ... Another technique injects liquid metal into a polymer template, so that the metal takes on a specific shape. The template is then dissolved, leaving the bare, liquid metal in the desired shape. The researchers also developed techniques for creating liquid metal wires, which retain their shape even when held perpendicular to the substrate." The paper is available online. There's also a video of the process in action, below the fold.
MarkWhittington writes "Two House Democrats, Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), have proposed a bill called Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, H.R. 2617 (PDF), that would establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park at all the Apollo lunar landing sites, according to a story in The Hill. 'The park would be comprised of all artifacts left on the surface of the moon from the Apollo 11 through 17 missions. The bill says these sites need to be protected because of the anticipated increase in commercial moon landings in the future.'"
RocketAcademy writes "Arduino, the popular open-source microcontroller board, is powering a revolution in low-cost space-mission design. San Francisco-based Planet Labs, a spinoff of NASA's PhoneSat project, has raised $13 million to launch a flock of 28 Arduino-based nanosatellites for remote sensing. Planet Labs launched two test satellites this spring; Flock-1 is scheduled to launch on an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket in 2014. NanoSatisifi, also based in San Francisco-based company, is developing the Arduino-based ArduSat, which carries a variety of sensors. NanoSatisifi plans to rent time on ArduSats to citizen scientists and experimenters, who will be able upload their own programs to the satellites. The first ArduSat is scheduled for launch August 4 on a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle carrying supplies to the International Space Station. The cost of orbital launches remains a limiting factor, however. As a result, Infinity Aerospace has developed the Arduino-based ArduLab experiment platform, which is compatible with new low-cost suborbital spacecraft as well as higher-end systems such as the International Space Station. The non-profit Citizens in Space has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which will be made available to the citizen-science community. Citizens in Space is looking for 100 citizen-science experiments and 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators. To help spread the word, it is holding a Space Hacker Workshop in Dallas, Texas on July 20-21. Infinity Aerospace will be on hand to teach Arduino hardware and software."
bmahersciwriter writes "The new type of clock, called an optical lattice clock could replace the cesium fountain clocks used as the standard for time keeping. Indeed, it could redefine the second. The cesium fountain is predicted to keep time within one second over 100 million years. While other atomic clocks are better than that, researchers suspect the optical lattice is better still and could one day replace the standard."
Zothecula writes "NASA scientists have unleashed a new robot on the arctic terrain of Greenland to demonstrate that its ability to operate with complete autonomy in one of Earth's harshest environments. Named GROVER, which stands for both Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, the polar robotic ranger carries ground-penetrating radar for analysis of snow and ice, and an autonomous system that is operated over an Iridium satellite connection. All of that is placed between two solar panels and two snowmobile tracks."
cylonlover writes "Li-ion batteries may be ok for your smartphone, but when it comes to large-scale energy storage, the priorities suddenly shift from compactness and cycling performance (at which Li-ion batteries excel) to low cost and environmental feasibility (in which Li-ion batteries still have much room for improvement). A new 'wood battery' could allow the emerging sodium-ion battery technology to fit the bill as a long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly battery for large-scale energy storage."
theodp writes "National Geographic takes a high-level look at the physics behind waterslides. A lot of science goes into providing a safe 60 mph trip down slides like Walt Disney World's 10-story Summit Plummet. 'Safety is our number one concern,' explains Rick Hunter of ProSlide Technology. 'We're thinking about things like, "are you going to stay on the fiberglass tube," it's really easy to do a computer model and look at curves and drops and forecast rider position and speed.'"
jpyeck writes "Lake Vostok, Antarctica's biggest and deepest subsurface lake, might contain thousands of different kinds of tiny organisms — and perhaps bigger fish as well, researchers report. The lake, buried under more than 2 miles (3.7 kilometers) of Antarctic ice, has been seen as an earthly analog for ice-covered seas on such worlds as Europa and Enceladus. It's thought to have been cut off from the outside world for as long as 15 million years. But the latest results, reported in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, suggest that the lake isn't as sterile or otherworldly as some scientists might have thought. More than 3,500 different DNA sequences were identified in samples extracted from layers of ice that have built up just above the surface of the lake."
An anonymous reader writes "This movie clip shows Phobos, the larger of the two moons of Mars, passing overhead, as observed by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity in a series of images centered straight overhead starting shortly after sunset. Phobos first appears near the lower center of the view and moves toward the top of the view. The clip runs at accelerated speed; the amount of time covered in it is about 27 minutes"
An anonymous reader writes "Designer Amy Radcliffe has created an 'analog odor camera' that can be used to recreate a smell. From the article: 'When a smell source is placed under the device's glass cone, a pump extracts the smell via a plastic tube. After being drawn to Madeleine's main unit, the smell goes through a resin trap which absorbs the particles so molecular information can be recorded. That data is expressed in a graph-like formula, which essentially contains a fingerprint of the smell. In a special lab, that formula can then be inscribed on a bronze disk to artificially reproduce the smell. The smell can also be recreated in small vials.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Biologist Janine Benyus is excited about the 3-D printer revolution and she thinks it can be improved by modeling natural processes. 'Benyus, who wrote Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature and co-founded the institute Biomimicry 3.8, would like to see a transition in manufacturing—from big, smoke-belching factories to small, clean desktop printers. The key to making it truly sustainable, she said, lies in mimicking how a natural ecosystem functions. "Nature uses life-friendly chemistry, which is nontoxic and water-based, and which does not require high heat," said Benyus. In contrast, most of the products people use today have been forged in industrial-size furnaces, with a plethora of toxic solvents. A potato chip bag may seem like a simple item, but it is actually made up of several thin layers of different materials, one to make it strong, one to make it airtight, and so on.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A new computer simulated map has revealed the past position of the Australian, Antarctic and Indian tectonic plates, demonstrating how they formed the supercontinent Gondwana 165 million years ago. 'It was a simple technique, matching the geological boundaries on each plate. The geological units formed before the continents broke apart, so we used their position to put this ancient jigsaw puzzle back together again,' said Lloyd White of Royal Holloway University in a press release. 'We found that many existing studies had positioned the plates in the wrong place because the geological units did not align on each plate.'"
An anonymous reader writes "If aliens are out there, the United Kingdom is determined to find them, as seen in the recent launch of a network called the UK Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (UKSETI), which combines the efforts and know-how of academics from 11 institutions from across the country."
An anonymous reader writes "Sixteen years ago, the Mars Pathfinder lander touched down on Mars and began collecting about the atmosphere and geology of the Red Planet. Its original mission was planned to last somewhere between a week and a month, but it only took a few days for software problems to crop up. The engineers responsible for the system were forced to diagnose the problem and issue a patch for a device that was millions of miles away. From the article: 'The Pathfinder's applications were scheduled by the VxWorks RTOS. Since VxWorks provides pre-emptive priority scheduling of threads, tasks were executed as threads with priorities determined by their relative urgency. The meteorological data gathering task ran as an infrequent, low priority thread, and used the information bus synchronized with mutual exclusion locks (mutexes). Other higher priority threads took precedence when necessary, including a very high priority bus management task, which also accessed the bus with mutexes. Unfortunately in this case, a long-running communications task, having higher priority than the meteorological task, but lower than the bus management task, prevented it from running. Soon, a watchdog timer noticed that the bus management task had not been executed for some time, concluded that something had gone wrong, and ordered a total system reset.'"
garymortimer writes "SpaceX's Grasshopper flew 325 m (1066 feet) – higher than Manhattan's Chrysler Building – before smoothly landing back on the pad. For the first time in this test, Grasshopper made use of its full navigation sensor suite with the F9-R closed loop control flight algorithms to accomplish a precision landing. Most rockets are equipped with sensors to determine position, but these sensors are generally not accurate enough to accomplish the type of precision landing necessary with Grasshopper."
MTorrice writes "When hospital patients develop nasty, antibiotic-resistant infections, the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa is often the culprit. In a new approach to killing the pathogen, researchers genetically modified harmless Escherichia coli bacteria to detect and destroy P. aeruginosa. The E. coli spot a specific chemical released by the pathogen and then secrete a toxin to kill it (abstract)."
seagirlreed writes "Rocket traffic may be adding water to the Earth's mesosphere, leading to more very high clouds in this layer of thin air on the edge of space. From the article: 'A team of researchers looking for an expected decrease in the number of clouds in this layer, as solar activity and heating have ramped up, were instead surprised to find an increase in the number and brightness of clouds in this near-outer-space region over the last two years. ... The source of the water to make the clouds is a puzzle, Siskind explained, because there is not much sign of it coming up into the mesosphere. On the other hand, rockets and, until recently, shuttles roaming in space could rain water exhaust down into the mesosphere.'"
coondoggie writes "As if landing on an asteroid wouldn't be dangerous enough, a new microgravity experiment on the forces generated by an asteroid and its make-up suggests landing on one may cause a big avalanche. The rubble and dust covering asteroids and comets can feel changes in what is known as 'force-chains' between particles over much larger distances than on Earth, making these surfaces less stable than previously imagined, said Dr. Ben Rozitis of the Open University, who presented his experiment's findings (abstract) on July 4 at the National Astronomy Meeting."
trawg writes "A new Australian study on the effect of violent video games on Australia has just been published, failing to find any evidence that playing video games affects prosocial behavior. The study compared groups who played different types of games, including notably violent titles like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, as well as non-violent titles like Portal, comparing their behavioral response through a simple pen-drop experiment. In a follow-up interview, the researcher said his perspective on how violence might affect people has changed since he started the research: 'I've played video games for most of my life and got into this research because I couldn't believe that violent video games could make me do something I didn't want to do, that is, be aggressive. My attitude has changed somewhat. These days I find it totally plausible that violent video games could influence people's behavior, but the real question is whether their influence is harmful, and I'm not yet convinced of that.'"
Charliemopps writes "On June 23rd, 2013, asteroid (5099) was officially named Iainbanks by the IAU, and will be referred to as such for as long as Earth Culture may endure. The official citation reads, 'Iain M. Banks (1954-2013) was a Scottish writer best known for the Culture series of science fiction novels; he also wrote fiction as Iain Banks. An evangelical atheist and lover of whiskey, he scorned social media and enjoyed writing music. He was an extra in Monty Python & The Holy Grail.'"
willith writes "I got to sit down with ISS TOPO Flight Controller Josh Parris at the Houston Mission Control Center and talk about how NASA steers all 400 tons of the International Space Station around potential collisions, or 'conjunctions,' in NASA-parlance. The TOPO controller, with assistance from USSTRATCOM's big radars, keeps track of every object that will pass within a 'pizza-box'-shaped 50km x 50km x 4km perimeter around the ISS. Actually moving the station is done with a combination of large control moment gyros and thrusters on both the Zvezda module and visiting vehicles. It's a surprisingly complex operation!"
MarkWhittington writes "According to a July 3, 2013 story in SpaceRef, NASA has issued a Request for Information concerning various commercial endeavors to create robotic lunar landers. NASA appears to be interested in assisting in those projects with a view of using the resulting vehicles for its own exploration plans. Officially, thanks to a mandate by President Obama, NASA is not planning its own crewed mission to the moon. However the space agency seems to be interested in supporting, in some way, a commercially run lunar base. Joint robotic lunar landings might be seen as the start of such an effort."
ananyo writes "Transplanting tiny 'liver buds' constructed from human stem cells restores liver function in mice, researchers have found. Although preliminary, the results offer a potential path towards developing treatments for the thousands of patients awaiting liver transplants every year. The liver buds, approximately 4 mm across, staved off death in mice with liver failure, the researchers report this week in Nature (abstract.). The transplanted structures also took on a range of liver functions — secreting liver-specific proteins and producing human-specific metabolites. But perhaps most notably, these buds quickly hooked up with nearby blood vessels and continued to grow after transplantation."
Daniel_Stuckey writes with a snippet from his piece at Vice: "I did some calculations in Excel, using independence dates provided on About.com, and found the average age of a country is about 158.78 years old. Now, before anyone throws a tizzy about what makes a country a country, about nations, tribes, civilizations, ethnic categories, or about my makeshift methodology, keep in mind, I simply assessed 195 countries based on their political sovereignty. That is the occasion we're celebrating today, right?"
astroengine writes "Astronomers were on a celestial fishing expedition for pulsing neutron stars and other radio bursts when they found something unexpected in archived sky sweeps conducted by the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The powerful signal, which lasted for just milliseconds, could have been a fluke, but then the team found three more equally energetic transient flashes all far removed from the galactic plane and coming from different points in the sky. Astronomers are at a loss to explain what these flashes are — they could be a common astrophysical phenomenon that has only just been detected as our radio antennae have become sensitive enough, or they could be very rare and totally new phenomenon that, so far, defies explanation."
ckwu writes "Scientists at Boston University have put together an inexpensive microelectromechanical machine that can direct atoms onto a surface in a controlled manner (abstract). The device—which acts as a moving stencil—can lay down such precise, complex patterns that the technique is akin to writing with atoms, the researchers say. They've used the machine to draw rings and infinity symbols out of gold atoms, but the technique should be compatible with almost any material."
darthcamaro writes "We all know that the open source LibreOffice Calc has been slow — forever and a day. That's soon going to change thanks to a major investment made by AMD into the Document Foundation. AMD is helping LibreOffice developers to re-factor Calc to be more performance and to be able to leverage the full power of GPUs and APUs. From the article: '"The reality has been that Calc has not been the fastest spreadsheet in the world," Suse Engineer Michael Meeks admitted. "Quite a large chunk of this refactoring is long overdue, so it's great to have the resources to do the work so that Calc will be a compelling spreadsheet in its own right."'" Math operations will be accelerated using OpenCL, unit tests are being added for the first time, and the supposedly awful object oriented code is being rewritten with a "modern performance oriented approach."
sciencehabit writes "Combining lasers with a principle discovered by Alexander Graham Bell over 100 years ago, researchers have developed a new way to collect high-resolution information about the shape of red blood cells. The lasers pulse every 760 nanoseconds to induce red blood cells to emit sound waves with frequencies of more than 100MHz, one of the highest frequencies ever achieved. Testing the laser on blood samples collected from a group of human volunteers, researchers showed that the high-frequency sound waves emitted by red blood cells in the blood samples revealed the tiniest details about the cells' shapes. Because diseases like malaria can alter the shape of the body's cells, the device may provide a way to accurately diagnose various blood disorders before it's too late." Abstract (actual paper is paywalled).
An anonymous reader writes "India's first dedicated navigation satellite, the IRNSS-1A, developed by the Indian Space Research Organization, was successfully put in orbit on Monday night. The launch vehicle, PSLV-C22, bearing the 1,425-kg navigation satellite, blasted off the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center here at the scheduled lift-off time of 11.41 p.m." The satellite is the first of seven that will eventually provide a regional equivalent of GPS under complete Indian control.
ananyo writes "Two men with HIV may have been cured after they received stem-cell transplants to treat the blood cancer lymphoma, their doctors announced today at the International AIDS Society Conference in Kuala Lumpur. One of the men received stem-cell transplants to replace his blood-cell-producing bone marrow about three years ago, and the other five years ago. Their regimens were similar to one used on Timothy Ray Brown, the 'Berlin patient' who has been living HIV-free for six years and is the only adult to have been declared cured of HIV. Last July, doctors announced that the two men — the 'Boston patients' — appeared to be living without detectable levels of HIV in their blood, but they were still taking antiretroviral medications at that time." The story reports that they have only been off of medication for seven and fifteen weeks and they won't know for a year, but signs are looking positive.
theodp writes "If you hoped your employer would finally provide health insurance in 2014, take two aspirin and call your doctor in the morning — the morning of January 1st, 2015. The Obama administration will delay a crucial provision of its signature health-care law until 2015, giving businesses an extra year to comply with a requirement that they provide their workers with insurance. The government will postpone enforcement of the so-called employer mandate until 2015, after the congressional elections, the administration said Tuesday. Under the provision, companies with 50 or more workers face a fine of as much as $3,000 per employee if they don't offer affordable insurance."
An anonymous reader writes "New research out of the University of North Carolina now shows factory farm workers actually carry drug-resistant staph. Europe has long ago banned the use of antibiotics in livestock, but the FDA remains behind the curve with a partial ban. Thanks to large industrial farming operations, we all remain continuously at risk as our last line of antibiotics is wasted on animals."
An Associated Press report details how the Florida Keys are starting to prepare for seasonal flooding and rising water levels overall. "A tidal gauge operating since before the Civil War has documented a sea level rise of 9 inches in the last century, and officials expect that to double over the next 50 years." Flooding used to be a much rarer occurrence, but now many businesses are finding it necessary to have plans in place to deal with it. "The Keys and three South Florida counties agreed in 2010 to collaborate on a regional plan to adapt to climate change. The first action plan developed under that agreement was published in October and calls for revamped planning policies, more public transportation options, stopping seawater from flowing into freshwater supplies and managing the region's unique ecosystems so that they can adapt, too." The Keys are one of many places beginning to seriously evaluate their options for dealing with flooding after witnessing the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
GTRacer writes "Ann Makosinski, a Canadian student competing in Google's Science Fair, submitted a flashlight which uses temperature differentials to power its LEDs. Her long-time interest is alternative energy because, '[she's] really interested in harvesting surplus energy, energy that surrounds but we never really use.' Using Peltier tiles and custom circuitry, her design currently runs for 20 minutes or so and costs $26. A win at the September finals in Mountain View and/or outside investment could fund further development."
MarkWhittington writes "The International Astronomical Union announced on July 2, 2013 its picks to name the two recently discovered moons of Pluto, hitherto known as P4 and P5. They will now be known as Kerberos and Styx respectively. In Greek and Roman mythology Kerberos is the name of the mythological three headed hound that guards the entrance to the underworld. Styx is the name of the river that separated the underworld from the real world. The names, picked in a popular contest, were actually the second and third choices. The first choice was Vulcan, which was officially touted because it was the name of a Roman god who was a relative of Pluto's and was associated with fire and smoke. The real reason that Vulcan shot up to the top of the list was that was a choice by Star Trek fans in a campaign instigated by actor William Shatner, who played Captain James Kirk in the original series." Shatner is sad and may lead a revolt. Phil Plait wins the award for best headline for this news.
dryriver writes "Technical barriers to grafting one person's head onto another person's body can now be overcome, says Dr. Sergio Canavero, a member of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group. In a recent paper, Canavero outlines a procedure modeled on successful head transplants which have been carried out in animals since 1970. The one problem with these transplants was that scientists were unable to connect the animals' spinal cords to their donor bodies, leaving them paralyzed below the point of transplant. But, says Canavero, recent advances in re-connecting spinal cords that are surgically severed mean that it should be technically feasible to do it in humans. (This is not the same as restoring nervous system function to quadriplegics or other victims of traumatic spinal cord injury.)"
astroengine writes "The intense cold of interstellar space shouldn't be conducive to chemical reactions between methanol and hydroxyl radicals — two molecules that are known to exist in stellar nurseries and cold interstellar clouds — and yet the product of this reaction, methoxy radicals, are found in abundance throughout the universe. What is creating them? In a paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry (abstract), Dwayne Heard and colleagues from the University of Leeds think that interstellar alcohol is undergoing a destruction mechanism facilitated by a weird quantum effect known as tunneling. On encountering hydroxyl radicals, methanol molecules should be repelled by the electrostatic force. But at very low temperatures, when both chemicals are mixed in a cold gaseous state, quantum tunneling becomes extremely efficient at allowing chemical reactions to occur. The researchers write: 'at temperatures relevant to the interstellar medium, almost every collision between methanol and OH (hydroxyl) would result in a successful reaction to form CH3O (methoxy).' What's more, they find that the reaction rate is 50 times higher in the cold interstellar environment than it is at room temperature. 'If our results continue to show a similar increase in the reaction rate at very cold temperatures, then scientists have been severely underestimating the rates of formation and destruction of complex molecules, such as alcohols, in space,' said Heard."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The European Organization for Nuclear Research (known as CERN) requires truly epic hardware and software in order to analyze some of the most epic questions about the nature of the universe. While much of that computing power stems from a network of data centers, CERN is considering a more aggressive move to the cloud for its data-crunching needs. To that end, CERN has partnered with Rackspace on a hybrid cloud built atop OpenStack, an open-source Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform originally developed by Rackspace as part of a joint effort with NASA. Tim Bell, leader of CERN's OIS Group within its IT department, suggested in an interview with Slashdot that CERN and Rackspace will initially focus on simulations—which he characterized as 'putting into place the theory and then working out what the collision will have to look like.' CERN's private cloud will run 15,000 hypervisors and 150,000 virtual machines by 2015—any public cloud will likely need to handle similarly massive loads with a minimum of latency. 'I would expect that there would be investigations into data analysis in the cloud in the future but there is no timeframe for it at the moment,' Bell wrote in a follow-up email. 'The experiences running between the two CERN data centers in Geneva and Budapest will already give us early indications of the challenges of the more data intensive work.' CERN's physicists write their own research and analytics software, using a combination of C++ and Python running atop Linux. 'Complex physics frameworks and the fundamental nature of the research makes it difficult to use off-the-shelf [software] packages,' Bell added."
sciencehabit writes "A patient admitted to a hospital with a serious bacterial infection may have only a few hours to live. Figuring out which antibiotic to administer, however, can take days. Doctors must grow the microbes in the presence of the drugs and see whether they reproduce. Rush the process, and they risk prescribing ineffective antibiotics, exposing the patient to unnecessary side effects, and spreading antibiotic resistance. Now, researchers have developed a microscopic 'tuning fork' that detects tiny vibrations in bacteria. The device might one day allow physicians to tell the difference between live and dead microbes—and enable them to recognize effective and ineffective antibiotics within minutes."
cylonlover writes "Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among older adults in the western world. Unfortunately, conventional optical aids provide little help for a retina which has lost the acuity of its central area. Now a team of multinational researchers led by University of California, San Diego Professor Joseph Ford has created a telescopic contact lens that can switch between normal and magnified vision to offer AMD patients a relatively unobtrusive way to enhance their vision."
Voyager 1 has been close to the boundary of the solar system for quite a while; we've mentioned that the edge is near a few times before, including an evidently premature report in 2010 that Voyager had reached a distance so far from the sun that it could no longer detect solar winds and another in 2011 that it had reached an "outer shell" of solar influence. It turns out that the boundaries of the solar system are fuzzier than once anticipated; the L.A. Times is reporting that "Toward the end of July 2012, Voyager 1's instruments reported that solar winds had suddenly dropped by half, while the strength of the magnetic field almost doubled, according to the studies. Those values then switched back and forth five times before they became fixed on Aug. 25. Since then, solar winds have all but disappeared, but the direction of the magnetic field has barely budged." Also at Wired, which notes "That's hard to explain because the galaxy's magnetic field is thought to be inclined 60 degrees from the sun's field. No one is entirely sure what's going on. ... [It's] almost as if Voyager thought it was going outside but instead found itself standing in the foyer of the sun's home with an open door that allows wind to blow in from the galaxy."
aarondubrow writes "Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin developed a fundamentally new way of simulating fabric impacts that captures the fragmentation of the projectiles and the shock response of the target. Running hundreds of simulations on supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, they assisted NASA in the development of ballistic limit curves that predict whether a shield will be perforated when hit by a projectile of a given size and speed. The framework they developed also allows them to study the impact of projectiles on body armor materials and to predict the response of different fabric weaves upon impact." With thousands of known pieces of man-made space junk, as well plenty of natural ones, it's no idle concern.