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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Power

Study Finds Fracking Chemicals Didn't Pollute Water 237

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-was-like-that-when-we-found-it dept.
RoccamOccam sends this news from the Associated Press: "A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site. After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water."
Space

Evolution of AI Interplanetary Trajectories Reaches Human-Competitive Levels 52

Posted by Soulskill
from the skynet-practicing-for-conquest-of-the-solar-system dept.
New submitter LFSim writes "It's not the Turing test just yet, but in one more domain, AI is becoming increasingly competitive with humans. This time around, it's in interplanetary trajectory optimization. From the European Space Agency comes the news that researchers from its Advanced Concepts Team have recently won the Gold 'Humies' award for their use of Evolutionary Algorithms to design a spacecraft's trajectory for exploring the Galilean moons of Jupiter (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto). The problem addressed in the awarded article (PDF) was put forward by NASA/JPL in the latest edition of the Global Trajectory Optimization Competition. The team from ESA was able to automatically evolve a solution that outperforms all the entries submitted to the competition by human experts from across the world. Interestingly, as noted in the presentation to the award's jury (PDF), the team conducted their work on top of open-source tools (PaGMO / PyGMO and PyKEP)."
Space

Confirmed: F-1 Rocket Engine Salvaged By Amazon's Bezos Is From Apollo 11 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the does-it-qualify-for-free-shipping dept.
willith writes "The folks at Bezos Expeditions have confirmed that faintly visible serial numbers on one of the large engine components they lifted from three miles below the ocean's surface match the serial number of F-1 engine F-6044, which flew in the center position on Saturn V number SA-506 — Apollo 11. With the 44th anniversary of the first lunar landing coming up tomorrow, the confirmation comes at an auspicious time. The F-1 engine remains to this day the largest single-chamber liquid fueled engine ever produced — although NASA is considering using a newer uprated design designated as the F-1B to help boost future heavy-lift rockets into orbit."
Books

J.K. Rowling Should Try the Voting Algorithm 128

Posted by timothy
from the magic-voting-algorithm dept.
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton proposes a new use for online, anonymous voting: helping sort skill from luck in the cheek-by-jowl world of best-selling (and would-be best-selling) authors: "J.K. Rowling recently confirmed that she was the author of a book she had published under a pseudonym, which spiked in sales after she was outed as the true author. Perhaps she was doing an experiment to see how much luck had played a role in propelling her to worldwide success, and whether she could recreate anything close to that success when starting from scratch. But a better way to answer that question would be to strike a deal with an amateur-fiction-hosting site and use the random-sample-voting algorithm that I've written so much about, to test how her writing stacks up against other writers in the same genre." Read on for more. Update: 07/20 01:23 GMT by T : Note: An editorial goof (mine) swapped out the word "confirmed" for "revealed" (above) in an earlier rendering of this story.
Science

Tar Pitch Drop Captured On Camera 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-now-die-happy dept.
New submitter Ron024 sends this news from Nature: "After 69 years, one of the longest-running laboratory investigations in the world has finally captured the fall of a drop of tar pitch on camera for the first time. A similar, better-known and older experiment in Australia missed filming its latest drop in 2000 because the camera was offline at the time. The Dublin pitch-drop experiment was set up in 1944 at Trinity College Dublin to demonstrate the high viscosity or low fluidity of pitch — also known as bitumen or asphalt — a material that appears to be solid at room temperature, but is in fact flowing, albeit extremely slowly. ... The Trinity College team has estimated the viscosity of the pitch by monitoring the evolution of this one drop, and puts it in the region of 2 million times more viscous than honey, or 20 billion times the viscosity of water. The speed of formation of the drop can depend on the exact composition of the pitch, and environmental conditions such as temperature and vibration."
Science

Is the World's Largest Virus a Genetic Time Capsule? 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the virus-zero dept.
gbrumfiel writes "Researchers in France have discovered the world's largest virus and given it a terrifying name: Pandoravirus. NPR reports it doesn't pose a threat to people, but its genetic code could hint at an unusual origin. The team believes that the virus may carry the genes from a long-dead branch of the tree of life, one that possibly even started on Mars or somewhere else. Other scientists are skeptical, but everyone agrees that the new giant virus is pretty cool."
Mars

Research Suggests Mars Once Had a Thick Atmosphere 98

Posted by samzenpus
from the air-that-I-breathe dept.
astroengine writes "At one time, Mars had a thick, protective atmosphere — possibly even cushier than Earth's — but the bubble of gases mostly dissipated about 4 billion years ago and has never been replenished, new research shows. The findings come from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, which has been moonlighting as an atmospheric probe as it scours planet's surface for habitats that could have supported ancient microbial life. 'On Earth, our magnetic field protects us, it shields us from the solar wind particles. Without Earth's magnetic field, we would have no atmosphere and there would be no life on this planet. Everything would be wiped out — especially when you go back 4 billion years. The solar wind was at least 100 times stronger then than it is today. It was a young sun with a very intense radiation,' Chris Webster, manager of the Planetary Sciences Instruments Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News. Unfortunately for Mars, the last 4 billion years have not been kind."
AI

IQ Test Pegs ConceptNet 4 AI About As Smart As a 4-Year-Old 121

Posted by timothy
from the tell-me-when-it-can-hide-in-a-cabinet-for-fun dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Artificial and natural knowledge researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have IQ-tested one of the best available artificial intelligence systems to see how intelligent it really is. Turns out–it's about as smart as the average 4-year-old. The team put ConceptNet 4, an artificial intelligence system developed at M.I.T., through the verbal portions of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence Test, a standard IQ assessment for young children. They found ConceptNet 4 has the average IQ of a young child. But unlike most children, the machine's scores were very uneven across different portions of the test." If you'd like to play with the AI system described here, take note of the ConceptNet API documentation, and this Ubuntu-centric installation guide.
United States

The CIA Wants To Know How To Control the Climate 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the fire-the-hurricane-gun dept.
Taco Cowboy writes " The CIA is currently funding, in part, a $630,000 study on geoengineering, the science of using experimental techniques to modify Earth's climate. Scientists will study how humans might influence weather patterns, assess the potential dangers of messing with the climate, and investigate possible national security implications of geoengineering attempts. The study calls for information on two geoengineering techniques in particular, 'solar radiation management (SRM),' which refers to launching material into Earth's atmosphere to try and block the Sun's infrared radiation, limiting global temperature rise; and 'carbon dioxide removal (CDR),' taking carbon dioxide emissions out of the climate, which scientists have proposed doing through a variety of means, from structures that eat air pollution to capturing carbon emissions as they come out of smokestacks."
Biotech

Scientists Silence Extra Chromosome In Down Syndrome Cells 230

Posted by samzenpus
from the possible-cure dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have silenced the extra copy of a chromosome that causes Down syndrome in laboratory stem cells, offering the first evidence that it may be possible to correct the genes responsible for the disorder. The discovery provides the first evidence that the underlying genetic defect responsible for Down syndrome can be suppressed in cells in culture."
Space

Colliding, Exploding Stars May Have Created All the Gold On Earth 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the gold-bomb dept.
coondoggie writes "Two dead stars smashing into each other and releasing massive amounts of energy may have created all of the heavy elements such as gold found on Earth. That's the main conclusion of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) researchers who estimated such a collision and subsequent blast of energy known as a gamma-ray burst produced and ejected as much as 10 moon masses worth of heavy elements — including gold."
Biotech

Nanoparticle Exposure Could Disrupt Immune Cell Function 31

Posted by Soulskill
from the finding-new-and-creative-ways-to-harm-ourselves dept.
MTorrice writes "A new study suggests there's more to nanoparticle toxicology than cell life and death. Although immune cells treated with iron oxide particles appeared healthy in standard toxicology tests, they struggled to perform one of their key jobs: engulfing pathogenic bacteria. The researchers wonder if exposure to significant levels of the nanoparticles could lead to dysfunction in people's immune systems."
Medicine

Smart Knife Sniffs Out Cancer Cells 28

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-other-knives-in-the-world-are-now-called-dumbknives dept.
sciencehabit writes "When surgeons can't determine the edges of a tumor, it's a problem. Cut too much, and they risk hurting the patient. Cut too little, and they may leave stray cancer cells behind. Now, researchers have developed a surgical knife that can sniff the smoke made as it cuts tissue, almost instantly detecting whether cells are cancerous or healthy. The 'intelligent knife,' or iKnife could distinguish normal and tumor tissues from different organs, such as breast, liver, and brain, and could even identify the origin of a tumor that was a metastasis, a secondary growth seeded by a primary tumor elsewhere in the body."
Space

Very Large Telescope Observes Gas Cloud Being Ripped Apart By Black Hole 66

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the twirling-toward-oblivion dept.
An anonymous reader writes "New observations (PDF) from ESO's Very Large Telescope show for the first time a gas cloud being ripped apart by the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. The cloud is now so stretched that its front part has passed the closest point and is traveling away from the black hole at more than 10 million km/h, whilst the tail is still falling towards it."
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Scientific Research Positions For Programmers? 237

Posted by Soulskill
from the head-data-wrangler dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I recently (within the past couple years) graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and currently work as a programmer for a large software consulting firm. However, I've become gradually disillusioned with the financial-obsession of the business world and would like to work for the overall betterment of humanity instead. With that in mind, I'm looking to shift my career more toward the scientific research side of things. My interest in computer science always stemmed more from a desire to use it toward a fascinating end — such as modeling or analyzing scientific data — than from a love of business or programming itself. My background is mostly Java, with some experience in C++ and a little C. I have worked extensively with software analyzing big data for clients. My sole research experience comes from developing data analysis software for a geologic research project for a group of grad students; I was a volunteer but have co-authorship on their paper, which is pending publication. Is it realistic to be looking for a position as a programmer at a research institution with my current skills and experiences? Do such jobs even exist for non-graduate students? I'm willing to go to grad school (probably for geology) if necessary. Grad school aside, what specific technologies should I learn in order to gain an edge? Although if I went back to school I'd focus on geology, I'm otherwise open to working as a programmer for any researchers in the natural sciences who will take me."
Space

New Moon Found Orbiting Neptune 120

Posted by Soulskill
from the welcome-to-the-party dept.
Dave Knott writes "A tiny, previously unknown moon circling Neptune has been spotted by astronomers using the Hubble telescope. The moon, which is currently known as S/2004 N1, was found on July 1 by Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., NASA announced Monday. It is less than 20 kilometres wide and its orbit is 105,000 kilometres from Neptune, between those of Larissa and Proteus, two of Neptune's other 14 known moons. It circles Neptune once every 23 hours."
Network

If a Network Is Broken, Break It More 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the somebody-fetch-my-wire-snips dept.
New submitter Aras Esor writes "When a network is broken — an electrical grid, the World Wide Web, your neurological system — one math model created by a PhD student at Northwestern University suggests that the best way to fix it may be to break it a little more. 'Take the web of interactions within a cell. If you knock out an important gene, you will significantly damage the cell's growth rate. However, it is possible to repair this damage not by replacing the lost gene, which is a very challenging task, but by removing additional genes. The key lies in finding the specific changes that would bring a network from the undesirable state A to the preferred state B. Cornelius's mathematical model (abstract) provides a general method to pinpoint those changes in any network, from the metabolism of a single cell to an entire food web.'"
Mars

Ancient Mars Ocean Found? 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-was-in-the-garage-all-along dept.
astroengine writes "With the help of rover Curiosity, we now know that ancient Mars had large quantities of liquid water flowing across its surface. However, evidence for large bodies of water — i.e. seas/oceans — has been hard to come by. But using high-resolution orbital data, Caltech scientists now think they've found a long-dry river delta that once flowed into a very large body of water. Welcome to the Aeolis Riviera — the strongest evidence yet for a Martian coastline. "This is probably one of the most convincing pieces of evidence of a delta in an unconfined region — and a delta points to the existence of a large body of water in the northern hemisphere of Mars," said Roman DiBiase, Caltech postdoctoral scholar and lead author of the paper that was published (abstract) in the Journal of Geophysical Research."
Biotech

Scientists Seek Biomarkers For Violence 294

Posted by timothy
from the thoughtcrime-or-a-propensity-thereto dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A Newtown couple, both scientists, who lost their daughter in the school shooting, are wondering whether there were clues in the shooter's physiological makeup — his DNA, his blood, his brain chemistry. They are now involved in a search for biomarkers, similar to those that may indicate disease, for violence. They are raising money to help fund this research, but the effort is running into obstacles, in part, over ethical concerns. 'I'm not opposed to research on violence and biomarkers, but I'm concerned about making too big of a leap between biomarkers and violence,' said Troy Duster, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. There is concern that science may find biomarkers long before society can deal with its implications."
Earth

Hurricane Sandy a 1-in-700-Year Event Says NASA Study 148

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-to-see-here dept.
Rebecka writes "Hurricane Sandy, which pelted multiple states in Oct. and created billions of dollars in damage, was a freak occurrence and not an indication of future weather patterns, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies via LiveScience. The study (abstract), which calculated a statistical analysis of the storm's trajectory and monitored climate changes' influences on hurricane tracks, claims that the tropical storm was merely a 1-in-700-year event. 'The particular shape of Sandy's trajectory is very peculiar, and that's very rare, on the order of once every 700 years,' said senior scientist at NASA and study co-author, Timothy Hall. According to Hall, the extreme flooding associated with the storm was also due to the storm's trajectory which was described as being 'near perpendicular.' The storm's unusual track was found to have been caused by a high tides associated with a full moon and high pressure that forced the storm to move off the coast of the Western North Atlantic."
Space

Spacewalk Aborted When Water Fills Astronaut's Helmet 125

Posted by timothy
from the could-be-worse-could-be-aliens dept.
astroengine writes "A planned six-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station came to a dramatic and abrupt end on Tuesday when water started building up inside the helmet of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy were less than an hour into their spacewalk, their second in a week, when Parmitano reported that his head felt wet. 'My head is really wet and I have a feeling it's increasing,' Parmitano reported to ground control teams at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Parmitano returned safely to the space station interior, but the cause of the leak was not immediately known."
Science

Why Are Some People Mosquito Magnets? 183

Posted by timothy
from the at-least-I'm-highly-alluring-to-somebody dept.
First time accepted submitter CherryLongman writes "If you feel as if every mosquito in a 50-mile radius has you locked in its sights, while your friends are rarely bitten, you could be right. Up to 20 percent of us are highly alluring to mosquitoes — and scientists have discovered some surprising reasons."
Earth

Researchers Discover First Use of Fertilizer 71

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the circle-of-life dept.
sciencehabit writes "Europe's first farmers helped spread a revolutionary way of living across the continent. They also spread something else. A new study reveals that these early agriculturalists were fertilizing their crops with manure 8000 years ago, thousands of years earlier than previously thought."
Science

Scientists Use Sound Waves To Levitate, Move Objects 78

Posted by samzenpus
from the they-like-to-move-it-move-it dept.
sciencehabit writes "The tragic opera Rigoletto may move you to tears, but here's a more literal application of the moving power of sound. Sound waves with frequencies just above human hearing can levitate tiny particles and liquid droplets and even move them around, a team of engineers has demonstrated. The advance could open up new ways to handle delicate materials or mix pharmaceuticals."
Science

Researchers Find Some Volcanoes 'Scream' At Increasing Pitches Until They Blow 59

Posted by samzenpus
from the call-of-the-volcano dept.
vinces99 writes "Swarms of small earthquakes often precede a volcanic eruption. They can reach such rapid succession that they create a "harmonic tremor" that resembles sound made by some musical instruments. A new analysis of an eruption sequence at Alaska's Redoubt Volcano in March 2009 shows the harmonic tremor glided to substantially higher frequencies and then stopped abruptly just before six of the eruptions. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Volcano Observatory have dubbed the highest-frequency harmonic tremor at Redoubt Volcano 'the screams' because the episodes reach such high pitch compared with a 1-to-5 hertz starting point. Alicia Hotovec-Ellis, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences and an author of two papers examining the phenomenon, has created a 10-second recording and a one-minute recording that provides a 60-times faster representation of harmonic tremor and small earthquakes."
Moon

Oldest Lunar Calendar Found In Scotland 51

Posted by samzenpus
from the saving-dates dept.
First time accepted submitter eionmac writes "The BBC reports that Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world's oldest lunar 'calendar' in an Aberdeenshire field. Excavations of a field at Crathes Castle found a series of 12 pits which appear to mimic the phases of the moon and track lunar months. A team led by the University of Birmingham suggests the ancient monument was created by hunter-gatherers about 10,000 years ago. The pit alignment, at Warren Field, was first excavated in 2004. The experts who analyzed the pits said they may have contained a wooden post. The Mesolithic calendar is thousands of years older than previous known formal time-measuring monuments created in Mesopotamia. The analysis has been published in the journal Internet Archaeology."
Music

Secrets of Beatboxing Revealed By MRI 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the mind-of-doug-e-fresh dept.
united_notions writes "An international team from UCSD and Philips Research have published a paper (article paywalled; extensive free related resources at UCS here) in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, showing the results of real-time magnetic resonance imaging conducted on a beatboxing performer. The authors make interesting comparisons to sounds in many minority languages around the world (such as the 'click' consonants in many African languages); they also show how beatboxing sounds can be represented using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)."
Earth

Global Anoxia Ruled Out As Main Culprit In the P-T Extinction 158

Posted by timothy
from the take-a-deep-breath-and-relax dept.
Garin writes "The late Permian saw the greatest mass extinction event of all-time. The causes for this extinction are hotly debated, but one key piece of the puzzle has recently been revealed: while the deep-water environments were anoxic, shallower waters showed clear signs of being oxygenated. This rules out global anoxia, and strongly suggests that other factors, such as the Siberian Traps vulcanism, must have played a dominant role. From the article: 'Rather than the direct cause of global extinction, anoxia may be more a contributing factor along with numerous other impacts associated with Siberian Traps eruption and other perturbations to the Earth system.' See the full research article (behind a paywall) here."
Space

Tiny Ion Engine Runs On Water 103

Posted by timothy
from the instant-ice-tea-doubles-the-range dept.
symbolset writes "Discovery News is covering a project by two engineers from the University of Michigan to pair cubesats with tiny ion engines for inexpensive interplanetary exploration. The tiny plasma drive called the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT) will ionize water and use it as propellant with power provided by solar cells. In addition to scaling down the size of ion engines they hope to bring down the whole cost of development and launch to under $200,000."
Security

NHS Fined After Computer Holding Patient Records Found On eBay 186

Posted by timothy
from the all-these-billing-addresses-are-identical dept.
judgecorp writes "NHS Surrey, part of Britain's health service, has been fined £200,000 when a computer holding more than 3000 patient records was found for sale on eBay. The system was retired, and given to a contractor who promised to dispose of it securely for free, in exchange for any salvage value... but clearly just put the whole system up for sale."
Biotech

Sculpting Nanoflows With Supercomputers 11

Posted by timothy
from the pinball-bumpers-zoomed-way-out dept.
aarondubrow writes "Researchers reported results in Nature Communications on a new way of sculpting tailor-made fluid flows by placing tiny pillars in microfluidic channels [abstract; article is paywalled]. The method could allow clinicians to better separate white blood cells in a sample, increase mixing in industrial applications, and more quickly perform lab-on-a-chip-type operation. Using the Ranger and Stampede supercomputers, the researchers ran more than 1,000 simulations representing combinations of speeds, thicknesses, heights or offsets that produce unique flows. This library of transformations will help the broader community design and use sculpted fluid flows."
Biotech

A Scientist's Quest For Perfect Broccoli 118

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-sweeter-kale dept.
HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "For all the wonders of fresh broccoli, in most parts of the country it is only available from local growers during the cooler weeks at either end of the growing season, nowhere near long enough to become a fixture in grocery stores or kitchens. But now Michael Moss writes in the NY Times that Thomas Bjorkman is out to change all that by creating a new version of the plant that can thrive in hot, steamy summers like those in New York, South Carolina or Iowa and is easy and inexpensive enough to grow in large volumes. And Bjorkman's quest doesn't stop there: His crucifer is also crisp, subtly sweet and utterly tender when eaten fresh-picked and aims to maximize the concentration of glucoraphanin, a mildly toxic compound used by plants to fight insects that in humans may stimulate our bodies' natural chemical defenses to aid in preventing cancer and warding off heart disease. The Eastern Broccoli Project's goal is to create a regional food network for an increasingly important and nutritious vegetable that may serve as a model network for other specialty crops to help shift American attitudes toward fruits and vegetables by increasing their allure and usefulness in cooking, while increasing their nutritional loads. 'If you've had really fresh broccoli, you know it's an entirely different thing,' says Bjorkman, a plant scientist at Cornell University. 'And if the health-policy goal is to vastly increase the consumption of broccoli, then we need a ready supply, at an attractive price.'"
Space

When Space Weather Attacks Earth 176

Posted by timothy
from the nature-black-and-cold-and-harsh dept.
Lasrick writes "Brad Plumer details the 1859 solar storm known as the Carrington Event. Pretty fascinating stuff: 'At the time, it was a dazzling display of nature. Yet if the same thing happened today, it would be an utter catastrophe...That's not a lurid sci-fi fantasy. It's a sober new assessment by Lloyd's of London, the world's oldest insurance market. The report notes that even a much smaller solar-induced geomagnetic storm in 1989 left 6 million people in Quebec without power for nine hours.'"
Businesses

Texas & Florida Vie For Private Lunar Company Golden Spike's HQ 38

Posted by timothy
from the let's-settle-this-out-back dept.
MarkWhittington writes "The Denver Post reported on July 12, 2013 that Texas and Florida, already embroiled in a fight over which state will be the venue for SpaceX's commercial space port, are now vying to be the site of the headquarters of a company that, while smaller, has much loftier ambitions. Golden Spike, the Boulder, Colorado based company that proposes to start commercial space flights to the moon with paying customers, is being courted by Texas and Florida to leave Colorado and to relocate its headquarters in either state."
Government

The Savvy Tech Strategy Behind Obamacare 146

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-bet-the-borg-have-low-health-care-costs dept.
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?"'"
Medicine

Italian Team Cures Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome With the Help of HIV 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the bending-it-to-our-will dept.
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?"
Education

Math and Science Popular With Students Until They Realize They're Hard 580

Posted by timothy
from the luckily-I-skipped-out-early dept.
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.""
Space

First Exoplanet To Be Seen In Color Is Blue 139

Posted by timothy
from the your-eyes-are-the-color-of-hd-189733-b dept.
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."
Science

50-Year-Old Assumptions About Muscle Strength Tossed Aside 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the pump-you-up dept.
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."
Mars

NASA Wants To Bring Back Hunks of Mars In Future Unmanned Mission 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the live-at-red-rocks dept.
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.'"
Space

Dwarf Planet Ahoy! Spacecraft Spies Pluto and Charon 28

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-way-too-excited-for-this-probe-to-reach-pluto dept.
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.'"
Space

Upside-Down Sensors Caused Proton-M Rocket Crash 323

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the someone's-getting-fired dept.
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.
Printer

3-D Structures Built Out of Liquid Metal At Room Temperature 72

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the micro-t-1000 dept.
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.
Moon

House Democrats Propose National Park On the Moon 255

Posted by Soulskill
from the taking-volunteers-for-space-rangers dept.
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.'"
NASA

Arduino Enables a Low-Cost Space Revolution 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the ever-smaller-ever-cheaper dept.
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."
Science

New Atomic Clock Could Redefine the Second 76

Posted by Soulskill
from the about-time dept.
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."
NASA

NASA's Polar Robotic Ranger Passes Test In One of Earth's Harshest Places 24

Posted by Soulskill
from the call-me-when-it-survives-detroit-after-dark dept.
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."
Power

Wood Nanobattery Could Be Green Option For Large-Scale Energy Storage 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the tree-power dept.
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."
Entertainment

The Physics Behind Waterslides 79

Posted by samzenpus
from the slide-science dept.
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.'"
Earth

Lake Vostok Found Teeming With Life 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the deep-ones-not-included dept.
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."

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