cylonlover writes with this news bite about a cool new ground to space laser communication system from NASA and ESA: "Space communications have relied on radio since the first Sputnik in 1957. It's a mature, reliable technology, but it's reaching its limits. The amount of data sent has increased exponentially for decades and NASA expects the trend to continue. The current communications systems are reaching their limits, so NASA and ESA are going beyond radio as a solution. As part of this effort, ESA has finished tests of part of a new communications system, in preparations for a demonstration in October in which it will receive a laser data download from a NASA lunar orbiter."
szotz writes "Although there was once a hint from a cosmic ray experiment (on Valentine's Day, no less), no one's found any solid evidence of monopoles (unpaired north and south magnets) flying around the cosmos. But physicists did find monopole-like quasiparticles in some exotic crystals in 2009. One of the discoverers has an article this month in IEEE Spectrum that looks at how the particles were found and what's happened since. They might seem like a wacky curiosity, but the author says we shouldn't write them off — they might one day make useful new 'magnetronic' devices."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Like so many great leaps for mankind, getting a human to one of Jupiter's moons must begin with a small step. And Objective Europa is aiming to do exactly that. A small team — architects, futurist designers, private space pioneers and even Jacques Cousteau's son — is beginning the planning stage to send human beings on a one-way trip to the Jovian moon Europa. The effort is headed up by Kristian Von Bengston, the founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals, an open source DIY space program based in his native Denmark. And he's quite serious about transporting a man or woman beyond our atmosphere, Mars and the asteroid belt."
Zothecula writes "With some help from a robotic fish, scientists have discovered that zebrafish are much like humans in at least one way – they get reckless when they get drunk. OK, 'drunk' might not be technically accurate, but when exposed to alcohol, the fish show no fear of a robotic version of one of their natural predators, the Indian leaf fish. When they're "sober," they avoid the thing like crazy. The researchers believe that the experiments indicate a promising future for robots in behavioral studies."
sciencehabit writes "If you take some scientists' word for it, the biggest agricultural revolution since the domestication of livestock is starting on Monday — in an arts center in London. At a carefully orchestrated media event, Dutch stem cell researcher Mark Post is planning to present the world's first test-tube hamburger. Its patty — financed by an anonymous billionaire — is made from meat that Post has laboriously grown from bovine stem cells in his lab at an estimated cost of $375,000, just to prove a point: that it is possible to produce meat without slaughtering animals."
Beeftopia writes "Conventional wisdom has suggested selfishness is most beneficial evolutionary strategy for humans, while cooperation is suboptimal. This dovetailed with a political undercurrent dating back more than a century, starting with social Darwinism. A new paper in the journal Nature Communications casts doubt on this school of thought. The paper shows that while selfishness is optimal in the short term, it fails in the long term. Cooperation is seen as the most effective long term human evolutionary strategy."
Rambo Tribble writes "U.S. researchers have come to the conclusion that a changing climate can drive increased violence in human society. Their findings are to reported in Science (abstract). 'They report a "substantial" correlation between climate and conflict. Their examples include an increase in domestic violence in India during recent droughts, and a spike in assaults, rapes and murders during heatwaves in the U.S. The report also suggests rising temperatures correlated with larger conflicts, including ethnic clashes in Europe and civil wars in Africa.' Marshall Burke, one of the authors, said, 'This is a relationship we observe across time and across all major continents around the world. The relationship we find between these climate variables and conflict outcomes are often very large.' Add this to the developing scarcity of water due to global warming and the prospects for a peaceful future do not bode well."
Lasrick writes "At the Dot Earth blog in the NY Times, 'Big companies have many, and sometimes conflicting, interests, as a spokesperson for Google tried to explain to the environmental blogger Brian Merchant this way: “[W]hile we disagree on climate change policy, we share an interest with Senator Inhofe in the employees and data center we have in Oklahoma.” Now the Web giant is facing fresh criticism, this time in an open letter from 17 scientists and policy researchers who were invited to Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters back in 2011 to explore ways to improve climate science communication....'"
cold fjord writes "Counsel & Heal reports, 'Many people are stuck in the vicious cycle of late nights and late mornings. However, a new study reveals that a week of camping in the great outdoors may help people set their clocks straight. A new study, published in the journal Current Biology, reveals that if given a chance, our body's internal biological clocks will tightly synchronize to a natural, midsummer light-dark cycle. The study found that a week of exposure to true dawn and dusk with no artificial lights had a significant effect on people who might otherwise describe themselves as night owls. Researchers found that under those conditions, night owls quickly become early birds. "By increasing our exposure to sunlight and reducing our exposure to electrical lighting at night, we can turn our internal clock and sleep times back and likely make it easier to awaken and be alert in the morning," Kenneth Wright of the University of Colorado Boulder said in a news release.'"
The Bad Astronomer writes "A thousand years ago, the light from the explosion of a massive star reached the Earth. We now call this supernova remnant the Crab Nebula, and a new image of the Crab taken by astronomer Adam Block shows the physical expansion of the debris, made obvious in a short video comparing his 2012 observations with some taken in 1999. The outward motion of filaments and knots in the material can be easily traced even over this relatively short time baseline."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Just in time for hurricane season, the National Weather Service has finished upgrading the supercomputers it uses to track and model super-storms. 'These improvements are just the beginning and build on our previous success. They lay the foundation for further computing enhancements and more accurate forecast models that are within reach,' National Weather Service director Louis W. Uccellini wrote in a statement. The National Weather Service's 'Tide' supercomputer — along with its 'Gyre' backup — are capable of operating at a combined 213 teraflops. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which runs the Service, has asked for funding that would increase that supercomputing power even more, to 1,950 teraflops. The National Weather Service uses that hardware for projects such as the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model, a complex bit of forecasting that allows the organization to more accurately predict storms' intensity and movement. The HWRF can leverage real-time data taken from Doppler radar installed in the NOAA's P3 hurricane hunter aircraft."
astroengine writes "Giant plumes of water vapor and ice particles blast from geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus — but scientists have often wondered why the relatively diminutive moon, which measures only 310 miles across, wasn't frozen solid. They also began creating computer models to try to unravel the physics behind the stunning geological phenomenon. Now, after analyzing 252 images of Enceladus' plumes, scientists have part of the answer: Gravitational variations during the moon's slightly eccentric, 1.37-day orbit around Saturn create tidal forces that directly impact how much material is shot into space from four fissures around the moon's south pole. 'It's not a subtle variation. You can look at some of the images and you can actually see it with your eyes. It's very dramatic,' said planetary scientist Matthew Hedman."
Luyseyal writes "BOINC is now available on Android. Many of you may not know, but the Slashdot Users team makes a decent showing on World Community Grid. WCG supports research on AIDS, schistoma, cancer, clean energy, and more. Now is your chance to put your idle charge cycles to good use. Let's do some science!"
raque writes "The NY Times recently published two op-eds in their Philosophy section, The Stone, discussing how Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle is abused. The second is a followup to the first. The author struggled to make clear his point and left the impression he was creating a strawman argument. In his followup he said he was avoiding equations because he was writing for a general audience. I replied to both articles, asking whether showing some basic equations would have worked better, allowing math to illustrate where metaphors struggled. Now I'm asking the same question to everyone on Slashdot. Would Dr. Callendar have been better off just diving in and dealing with Heisenberg and quantum mechanics using the tools that were developed for it?"
SchrodingerZ writes "Planetary Geologist Ellen Stofan, expert in the terrains of Venus, Mars, and Titan, has recently been appointed the Chief Scientist for the space agency. Stofan will act as the top adviser for Charles Bolden, NASA's current administrator. Beginning August 25th, Stofan will be Bolden's head adviser for NASA's project planning and investments. She will replace former chief scientist Dr. Waleed Abdalati, who left his position to be the director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado. Stofan has both a masters and doctoral degree of geological sciences from Brown University, and is known for her involvement in the Applied Science Laboratory's project to put a boat on Saturn's moon Titan, as well as a member of the radar team for the Cassini spacecraft. Though she'll be joining in a time of large budget cuts, Bolden explains that '[Stofan's] breadth of experience and familiarity with the agency will allow her to hit the ground running. We're fortunate to have her on our team.'"
adeelarshad82 writes "Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory recently demonstrated electrical switching thousands of times faster than in transistors now in use thanks to a naturally magnetic mineral called magnetite (abstract). The experiment is considered a major step forward in understanding electrical structures at the atomic level and working with recently identified electrical 'building blocks' called trimerons. The breakthrough could lead to innovations in the tiny transistors that control the flow of electricity across silicon chips, enabling faster, more powerful computing devices."
Lasrick writes "Scientific American has a really nice article explaining why insects should be considered a good food source, and how the encroachment of Western attitudes into societies that traditionally eat insects is affecting consumption of this important source of nutrients. Good stuff." Especially when they're so easy to grow.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating report at the Washington Post that Medicare annually pays $69.6 billion for physician services according to an arcane and little-known price list, known as the Relative Value Update over which doctors themselves exercise considerable and less-than-totally-transparent influence. A 31-member committee of the American Medical Association (AMA) recommends what Medicare should pay for some 10,000 procedures — with the fees based in part on how long it takes to complete each one. But this time-and-motion study often fails to take full account of changing technology and other factors affecting physician productivity, so anomalies result. For example, if the AMA time estimates are correct, then 41 percent of gastroenterologists were typically performing 12 hours or more of procedures in a day, which is longer than the typical outpatient surgery center is open and and one gastroenterologist in the Post story would have to work 26 hours, according to the committee time estimates, to accomplish what he gets done in a typical workday. Here's how it works: Medicare pays for a 15-minute colonoscopy as if it took 75 minutes resulting in a median salary for a gastroenterologist of $481,000. It is possible that in 1992, critics allow, when the price list was first developed, a colonoscopy actually took something close to 75 minute when doctors had to hunch over an eyepiece similar to that of a microscope for a look. But technology has advanced and now the images are processed and displayed on a large screen in high-definition video. Responding to criticism that the nation's method of valuing medical procedures misprices payments, a bipartisan group of legislators has drafted a bill that would reshape the way the nation pays doctors. The bill would require Medicare officials to collect data such as how much time doctors spend doing procedures and reducing the doctor payment for overvalued services. 'What started as an advisory group has taken on a life of its own,' says Tom Scully, who was Medicare chief during the George W. Bush Administration. 'The idea that $100 billion in federal spending is based on fixed prices that go through an industry trade association in a process that is not open to the public is pretty wild.'"
Zothecula writes "Synthetic crop fertilizers are a huge source of pollution. This is particularly true when they're washed from fields (or leach out of them) and enter our waterways. Unfortunately, most commercial crops need the fertilizer, because it provides the nitrogen that they require to survive. Now, however, a scientist at the University of Nottingham has developed what he claims is an environmentally-friendly process, that allows virtually any type of plant to obtain naturally-occurring nitrogen directly from the atmosphere." The process involves injecting a bacteria that colonizes the plant and fixes atmospheric nitrogen in exchange for a bit of sugar, similar to soybeans. Only this bacteria will readily colonize most any plant.
New submitter nusscom writes "On July 28th, as has been reported by BBC, a record number of EVE Online players participated in a record-breaking online battle between two alliances. This battle, which was essentially a turf-war was comprised of over 4,000 online players at one time. The load was so large that Crowd Control Productions (CCP) slowed down the game time to 10% of normal to accommodate the massive amount of activity." This is the largest battle to ever occur on EVE Online.
vinces99 writes with this excerpt from the UW news service: "It might be easier than previously thought for a planet to overheat into the scorchingly uninhabitable 'runaway greenhouse' stage, according to new research (abstract, article paywalled) by astronomers at the University of Washington and the University of Victoria. In the runaway greenhouse stage, a planet absorbs more solar energy than it can give off to retain equilibrium. As a result, the world overheats, boiling its oceans and filling its atmosphere with steam, which leaves the planet glowing-hot and forever uninhabitable, as Venus is now. One estimate of the inner edge of a star's 'habitable zone' is where the runaway greenhouse process begins. The habitable zone is that ring of space around a star that's just right for water to remain in liquid form on an orbiting rocky planet's surface, thus giving life a chance. Revisiting this classic planetary science scenario with new computer modeling, the astronomers found a lower thermal radiation threshold for the runaway greenhouse process, meaning that stage may be easier to initiate." If correct, the habitable zone shrinks a bit and a few exoplanets might lose their potentially habitable status. And the Earth will leave the habitable zone in a billion and a half or so years as the Sun gets brighter.
sciencehabit writes "Human males and females have a strong tendency to live together in monogamous pairs, albeit for highly varied periods of time and degrees of fidelity. Just how such behavior arose has been the topic of much debate among researchers. A new study comes to a startling conclusion: Among primates, including perhaps humans, monogamy evolved because it protected infants from being killed by rival males."
vinces99 writes "The chemical components crucial to the start of life on Earth may have primed and protected each other in never-before-realized ways, according to new research led by University of Washington scientists. That could mean a simpler scenario for how that first spark of life on the planet came about. Scientists have long thought that life started when the right combination of bases and sugars produced self-replicating ribonucleic acid, or RNA, inside a rudimentary 'cell' composed of fatty acids. Under the right conditions, fatty acids naturally form into bag-like structures similar to today's cell membranes. In testing one of the fatty acids representative of those found before life began – decanoic acid – the scientists discovered that the four bases in RNA bound more readily to the decanoic acid than did the other seven bases tested. By concentrating more of the bases and sugar that are the building blocks of RNA, the system would have been primed for the next steps, reactions that led to RNA inside a bag."
vinces99 writes "Researchers have developed a new method that can look at a specific segment of DNA and pinpoint a single mutation, which could help diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis. These small changes can be the root of a disease or the reason some infectious diseases resist certain antibiotics. The findings were published online July 28 in the journal Nature Chemistry. 'We've really improved on previous approaches because our solution doesn't require any complicated reactions or added enzymes, it just uses DNA,' said lead author Georg Seelig, a University of Washington assistant professor of electrical engineering and of computer science and engineering. 'This means that the method is robust to changes in temperature and other environmental variables, making it well-suited for diagnostic applications in low-resource settings.' The researchers designed probes that can pick out mutations in a single base pair in a target stretch of DNA. The probes allow researchers to look in much more detail for variations in long sequences up to 200 base pairs while current methods can detect mutations in stretches of up to only 20."
cylonlover writes "People have been shooting things into space since the 1940s, but in every case this has involved using rockets. This works, but it's incredibly expensive with the cheapest launch costs hovering around $2,000 per pound. This is in part because almost every bit of the rocket is either destroyed or rendered unusable once it has put the payload into orbit. Reusable launch vehicles like the SpaceX Grasshopper offer one way to bring costs down, but another approach is to dump the rockets altogether and hurl payloads into orbit. That's what HyperV Technologies Corp. of Chantilly, Virginia is hoping to achieve with a 'mechanical hypervelocity mass accelerator' called the slingatron."
According to a report at Ars Technica, a dentist named Stacy Makhnevich, who billed herself as "the Classical Singer Dentist of New York," threatened patients who wrote bad Yelp reviews with lawsuits, along the same lines as the online dental damage-control outlined in a different Ars story in 2011. This time, though, there's something even stranger than bargaining with patients to forgo criticism: when a patient defied that demand by describing his experience in negative terms on Yelp, Makhnevich followed up on the threat by seeking a takedown order based on copyright (putatively signed over to her for any criticism that patients might write, post-visit) — then disappeared entirely when lawyers for patient Robert Lee filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the validity of the agreement.
MarkWhittington writes "According to a July 26, 2013 story in Space News, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver mused about what appeared to be a change to the space agency's asteroid snatching mission at the NewSpace 2013 conference. Apparently the idea is to send a robot to a larger asteroid than originally planned, carve out a chunk of it, and then bring it to lunar orbit for an crew of astronauts to visit in an Orion space ship. Garver's proposed change would widen the number of target asteroids and would test technologies important for asteroid mining. But it would also increase the complexity and certainly the cost of the asteroid mission. There are a lot of unanswered questions, such as what kind of mechanism would be involved in taking a piece of an asteroid and moving it? At the same conference Garver had hinted at a willingness to consider mounting a program of "sustainable" lunar exploration, as some in Congress have demanded, concurrent with the asteroid mission."
theodp writes "As noted earlier, Microsoft is tackling the CS education crisis with a popularity contest that will award $100K in donations to five technology education nonprofits that help make kids technically literate. Hopefully, the nonprofits will teach kids that the contest's voting Leader Board is a particularly good example of what-not-to-do technically. In addition to cherry-picking the less-pathetic vote totals to make its Leader Board, Microsoft also uses some dubious rounding code that transforms the original voting data into misleading percentages. Indeed, developer tools reveal that the top five leaders in the Microsoft STEM education contest miraculously account for 130% of the vote. Let's hope the quality control is better for those Microsoft Surface voting machines!"
biobricks writes "A New York Times story says the Florida orange crop is threatened by an incurable disease and traces the efforts of one company to insert a spinach gene in orange trees to fend it off. Not clear if consumers will go for it though." The article focuses on oranges, but touches on the larger world of GMO crop creation as well.
knorthern knight writes "Most major weather services (US NWS, Britain's Met Office, etc) have their own supercomputers, and their own weather models. But there are some models which are used globally. A new paper has been published, comparing outputs from one such program on different machines around the world. Apparently, the same code, running on different machines, can produce different outputs due to accumulation of differing round-off errors. The handling of floating-point numbers in computing is a field in its own right. The paper apparently deals with 10-day weather forecasts. Weather forecasts are generally done in steps of 1 hour. I.e. the output from hour 1 is used as the starting condition for the hour 2 forecast. The output from hour 2 is used as the starting condition for hour 3, etc. The paper is paywalled, but the abstract says: 'The global model program (GMP) of the Global/Regional Integrated Model system (GRIMs) is tested on 10 different computer systems having different central processing unit (CPU) architectures or compilers. There exist differences in the results for different compilers, parallel libraries, and optimization levels, primarily due to the treatment of rounding errors by the different software systems. The system dependency, which is the standard deviation of the 500-hPa geopotential height averaged over the globe, increases with time. However, its fractional tendency, which is the change of the standard deviation relative to the value itself, remains nearly zero with time. In a seasonal prediction framework, the ensemble spread due to the differences in software system is comparable to the ensemble spread due to the differences in initial conditions that is used for the traditional ensemble forecasting.'"
A Russian spacecraft has successfully delivered new supplies to the ISS. Crucially, its payload is meant to prevent a repeat of the aborted spacewalk of earlier this month. Says the article:: "The cargo ship is loaded with nearly 3 tons (2.7 tonnes) of food, fuel, hardware and science experiment equipment for the six-person crew of the station's Expedition 36 mission. Among its cargo is a set of tools intended to help the astronauts investigate and patch up the spacesuit that malfunctioned during a July 16 spacewalk outside the orbiting laboratory."
An anonymous reader writes "The 233-year old American Academy of Arts and Sciences has announced that its longtime President and Chief Executive, Leslie Cohen Berlowitz, has agreed to resign effective at the end of this month following an investigation of charges of resume embellishment and other misconduct. Berlowitz falsely claimed to have received a doctorate from New York University, and has also been criticized for her behavior towards scholars and subordinates, and for her compensation package ($598,000 for 2012) relative to the size of the non-profit organization she led. The Academy, based in Cambridge MA, was founded during the American Revolutionary War and is one of the most prestigious honorary societies for the American intellectual elite, extending across math and science, arts and letters, business, law and public affairs. The active membership rolls contain people you've heard of; the incoming class list provides a more manageable glimpse of the society's breadth."
An anonymous reader writes with an optimistic, present-tense summary of a crowdfunding project to explore Earth's deep ocean: "The Ictineu 3 will be the 10th deepest diving submersible in the world when it is launched later this year. Compared to its deep diving peers, including Russia's Mirs, Japan's Shinkai 6500, the U.S.'s Alvin,and Cameron's Deep Sea Challenger submersibles, the Ictineu 3 was developed on a shoestring budget. The management partners are self-taught, without formal engineering education. Instead of massive government grants, the project has been funded by a trickle of small grants, sponsorships, and private donors. Along with Karl Stanley, the Ictineu team are heroes to the DIY submariners of the world."
An anonymous reader writes "IEEE Spectrum has a story about a robot that uses infra red and ultrasound to image veins, picks the one with best bloodflow, and then sticks a needle in. (video included). Veebot started as an undergrad project and the creators are aiming for better performance than a human phlebotimist before going for clinical trials. Robodracula anyone?"
sciencehabit writes "Scientists have spotted swirling patterns in the radiation lingering from the big bang, the so-called cosmic microwave background. The observation itself isn't Earth-shaking, as researchers know that these particular swirls or 'B-modes' originated in conventional astrophysics, but the result suggests that scientists are closing in on a much bigger prize: B-modes spawned by gravity waves that rippled through the infant universe. That observation would give them a direct peek into the cosmos' first fraction of a second and possibly shed light on how it all began."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Researchers at National Taiwan University have created a tooth-embedded sensor that will catch you in an unhealthy act, whatever it may be, and lets your doctor know so he can shame you during your next checkup. The sensor consists of a tiny circuit that fits inside a tooth cavity and can be rigged into dentures and dental braces. The circuit is able to recognize the jaw motions of drinking, chewing, coughing, speaking, and smoking, and the results get sent directly to your doctor's smartphone."
cylonlover writes "The Honourable Usain Bolt (Order of Jamaica; Commander of the Order of Distinction) is often held out as the world's fastest man. The reigning Olympic champion in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints as well as a member of the Olympic champion 4x100 meter relay team, Bolt is the first man to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting, and is a five-time world champion. Long and lanky at 6 ft 5 in (2 m) tall, he towers above the (mostly) much shorter sprinters. How has he managed to come out on top for the past five years? A team of physicists from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) has analyzed Bolt's past performances in the 100-meter sprint to understand what makes a record-breaker."
sciencehabit writes "For Ved Chirayath, a graduate student and amateur fashion photographer, a photo project that involved NASA researchers dressed as Vikings was just a creative way to promote space science. 'I started this project hoping maybe one day some kid will look at it and say, 'I want to work for NASA,' ' says Chirayath, a student at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who also works nearby at NASA's Ames Research Center. He never suspected that his fanciful image would put him in the crosshairs of a government waste investigation triggered by a senior U.S. senator." The project was funded by an outside art grant. The best part: the investigation into the non-existent waste probably cost more than the "waste" would have were it funded by NASA in the first place.
dcblogs writes "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Thursday switched on two new supercomputers that are expected to improve weather forecasting. The supercomputers are each 213 teraflops systems, running a Linux operating system on Intel processors. The U.S. is paying about $20 million a year to operate the leased systems. The NWS has a new hurricane model, Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF), which is 15% more accurate in day five of a forecast both for forecast track and intensity. That model is now operational and running on the new systems. In nine month, NWS expects to improve the resolution of the system from 27 kilometers to 13 kilometers. The European system, credited with doing a better job at predicting Sandy's path, is at 16 kilometers resolution. In June, the European forecasting agency said it had a deal to buy Cray systems capable of petascale performance."
sciencehabit writes "Call it 'Total Recall' for mice. A group of neuroscientists say that they've identified a potential mechanism of false memory creation and have planted such a memory in the brain of a mouse. With this knowledge, neuroscientists can start to figure out how many neurons it takes to give us the perception of what's around us and what goes on in our neural wiring when we remember—or misremember—the past."
Lasrick writes "Interesting opinion piece that explains successes and holes in the U.S. system of detecting and responding to pandemics: 'In April 2009, following an experimental protocol, staff members at a Navy lab in San Diego tested specimens from two patients using a new diagnostic device. Both tested positive for influenza, but, oddly, neither specimen matched the influenza A subtypes that are known to infect humans. This finding raised suspicions, and so the samples were sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Further tests would reveal that these two patients were the first reported cases of a novel H1N1 influenza virus that would cause a global pandemic in 2009. In many respects, the Navy lab's discovery of H1N1 is a success story for US efforts to boost its biosurveillance capabilities.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Regeneration is one of the most useful skills that an organism can possess. Lizards can regrow their tails and starfish can regrow and entire part of themselves if they're cut to pieces. Yet scientists have long wondered why some creatures possess this ability while others don't. That's why they decided to examine the process of regeneration, looking at the masters of this particular adaptation: flatworms."
dryriver writes "Psychopaths do not lack empathy, rather they can switch it on at will, according to new research. Placed in a brain scanner, psychopathic criminals watched videos of one person hurting another and were asked to empathise with the individual in pain. Only when asked to imagine how the pain receiver felt did the area of the brain related to pain light up. Scientists, reporting in Brain, say their research explains how psychopaths can be both callous and charming. The team proposes that with the right training, it could be possible to help psychopaths activate their 'empathy switch', which could bring them a step closer to rehabilitation. Criminals with psychopathy characteristically show a reduced ability to empathise with others, including their victims. Evidence suggests they are also more likely to reoffend upon release than criminals without the psychiatric condition."
oritonic1 writes "During their long, cold winters, the Norwegian town of Rjukan doesn't enjoy much by way of daylight—so the town (population 3,386), installed three giant sun-tracking mirrors to shine a steady light over a 2000 square foot circle of the town square. From Popular Mechanics: 'Call it a mood enhancer. Or a tourist attraction. But the mirrors, which will be carried in via helicopter, will provide an oasis of light in an otherwise bleak location at the center of the 3500-population town. Three mirrors with a total surface area of about 538 square feet will sit at an angle to redirect winter sun down into the town, lighting up over 2150 square feet of concentrated space in the town square. A similar idea exists in the Italian village of Viganella, which has used brushed steel to reflect light since 2006.'"
notscientific writes "Each wolf has a unique howl, which scientists can now decipher through voice recognition (audio), allowing them to identify wolves individually. The scientists developed sound analysis code that can tell which wolf is howling with 100% accuracy. Previously, pitch was used to tell wolves apart, but these only achieved a relatively low accuracy rate. This sound analysis is important because it could well give researchers the first proper way to effectively monitor wolves in the wild. Interestingly, this research comes after the recent finding that dolphins have names for one another. In the case of wolves, their howls are essentially their names."
cylonlover writes "Reports that the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) had been shut down permanently were apparently a bit premature. According to HAARP program manager James Keeney, the facility is only temporarily off the air while operating contractors are changed. So why does anyone care? Despite being associated with various natural disasters over the past two decades by the conspiracy fringe, HAARP is in reality a facility for studying the ionosphere. Gizmag takes a look at the goings on at HAARP – past, present, and future."
sciencehabit writes "It's the size of large rat, but it can reportedly withstand the weight of an adult man standing on its back. Meet the hero shrew, a molelike creature that owes its near-mythological status to a remarkable spine, thickened by extensions of bone that interlock like fingers. The structure was thought to be unique among mammals — until now. An international team of researchers in the village of Baleko, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, made a surprising find: a slightly different shrew with a similarly 'heroic' backbone. Today in Biology Letters, they introduce Thor's hero shrew (S. thori), named for mammalogist Thorvald Holmes, but invoking the Norse god of strength. The researchers don't yet know how its strength compares to that of S. somereni. After exploring the shrews' swampy palm forests habitat, the researchers also have a new guess about why the spine evolved: They suggest that the creatures might wedge themselves between the trunk of a palm tree and the base of its leaves, then use the strength and flexion of their muscular spine to force open this crevice, revealing insect larvae—a food source that other animals can't access."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Astrophysicists at MIT and the Pawsey supercomputing center in Western Australia have discovered a whole new role for supercomputers working on big-data science projects: They've figured out how to turn a supercomputer into a router. (Make that a really, really big router.) The supercomputer in this case is a Cray Cascade system with a top performance of 0.3 petaflops — to be expanded to 1.2 petaflops in 2014 — running on a combination of Intel Ivy Bridge, Haswell and MIC processors. The machine, which is still being installed at the Pawsey Centre in Kensington, Western Australia and isn't scheduled to become operational until later this summer, had to go to work early after researchers switched on the world's most sensitive radio telescope June 9. The Murchison Widefield Array is a 2,000-antenna radio telescope located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia, built with the backing of universities in the U.S., Australia, India and New Zealand. Though it is the most powerful radio telescope in the world right now, it is only one-third of the Square Kilometer Array — a spread of low-frequency antennas that will be spread across a kilometer of territory in Australia and Southern Africa. It will be 50 times as sensitive as any other radio telescope and 10,000 times as quick to survey a patch of sky. By comparison, the Murchison Widefield Array is a tiny little thing stuck out as far in the middle of nowhere as Australian authorities could find to keep it as far away from terrestrial interference as possible. Tiny or not, the MWA can look farther into the past of the universe than any other human instrument to date. What it has found so far is data — lots and lots of data. More than 400 megabytes of data per second come from the array to the Murchison observatory, before being streamed across 500 miles of Australia's National Broadband Network to the Pawsey Centre, which gets rid of most of it as quickly as possible."
Travis Goodspeed has authored a blog post detailing his method of tracking low-earth-orbit satellites. Starting with an old Felcom 82B dish made for use on maritime vessels, he added motors to move it around and a webcam-based homemade calibration system. "For handling the radio input and controlling the motors, I have a BeagleBone wired into a USB hub. These are all mounted on the trunk of the assembly inside of the radome, sending data back to a server indoors. ... In order to operate the dish, I wanted both a flashy GUI and concise scripting, but scripting was the higher priority. Toward that end, I constructed the software as a series of daemons that communicate through a PostgreSQL database on a server inside the house. For example, I can run SELECT * FROM sats WHERE el>0 to select the names and positions of all currently tracked satellites that are above the horizon. To begin tracking the International Space Station if it is in view, I run UPDATE target SET name='ISS';. For predicting satellite locations, I wrote a quick daemon using PyEphem that fetches satellite catalog data from CelesTrak. These positions are held in a database, with duplicates filtered out and positions constantly updated. PyEphem is sophisticated enough to predict in any number of formats, so it's easy to track many of the brighter stars as well as planets and deep-space probes, such as Voyagers 1 and 2."
coolnumbr12 writes "A 2009 study (PDF) by the McAfee estimated that hacking costs the global economy $1 trillion. It turns out that number was a massive exaggeration by McAfee, a software security branch of Intel that works closely with the U.S. government at the local, state and federal level. A new estimate by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (and underwritten by McAfee) suggests the number is closer to closer to $300 billion (PDF), but even that much is uncertain. One of McAfee's clients, the Department of Defense, has used the $1 trillion estimate to argue for an expansion of cybersecurity, including 13 new teams dedicated to cyberwarfare. Despite the new data, Reuters said McAfee is still trying to exaggerate the numbers." The $1 trillion study has seen other criticism as well, so the new data is a step in the right direction.