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Biotech

The Cryonics Institute Offers a Chance at Immortality (Video #2) 155

Posted by Roblimo
from the living-forever-sounds-kind-of-boring dept.
Today's interviewee is Cryonics Institute (CI) Director Andy Zawacki, who takes Slashdot's Robert Rozeboom into the facility where they keep the tanks with frozen people in them. Yesterday, Rob talked with David Ettinger, who is both the group's lawyer and the son of CI founder Robert Ettinger. For those of you who are obsessed with the process of vitrification, here's a link to a story about The Cryonics Institute's 69th Patient and how she was taken care of, starting at the moment of her deanimation (AKA death). The story has anatomical drawings, charts, and color pictures of Andy carrying out the actual procedure. But Cryonics, while endorsed as a concept by numerous scientists, may not be as good a way to insure immortality as transplanting your brain into a fresh (probably robotic) body, as Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov hopes to do by 2035. There are also many groups that claim to offer spiritual (as opposed to corporeal) immortality. Which method of living forever works best? That remains to be seen, assuming any of them work at all. Perhaps we'll find out after the Singularity.
Biotech

Predictors of Suicidal Behavior Found In Blood 209

Posted by timothy
from the advances-in-pre-crime dept.
ananyo writes "Researchers may have found a way to potentially predict suicidal behaviour by analyzing someone's blood. Using blood samples taken by the coroner from nine men who had committed suicide, they found six molecular signs, or biomarkers, that they say can identify people at risk of committing suicide. To check whether these biomarkers could predict hospitalizations related to suicide or suicide attempts, the researchers analysed gene-expression data from 42 men with bipolar disorder and 46 men with schizophrenia. When the biomarkers were combined with clinical measures of mood and mental state, the accuracy with which researchers could predict hospitalizations was more than 80% (abstract)."
China

China Plans To Stop Harvesting Organs From Executed Prisoners 200

Posted by timothy
from the seriously-just-one-more-then-we'll-stop dept.
cold fjord writes "The People's Republic of China continues its long march toward liberalization with two steps forward (And one+ step back?). The BBC reports, 'A senior Chinese official has said the country will phase out the practice of taking organs from executed prisoners from November. Huang Jiefu said China would now rely on using organs from voluntary donors under a new national donation system. Prisoners used to account for two-thirds of transplant organs, based on previous estimates from state media. For years, China denied that it used organs from executed prisoners, but admitted it a few years ago... Human rights groups estimate that China executes thousands of prisoners a year, but correspondents say that the official figures remain a state secret.'"
Biotech

GM Rice Passes Unexpected Benefits To Weeds 208

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the attack-of-the-killer-rice dept.
ananyo writes "A genetic-modification technique used widely to make crops herbicide resistant has been shown to confer advantages on a weedy form of rice, even in the absence of the herbicide. Used in Monsanto's 'Roundup Ready' crops, for example, resistance to the herbicide glyphosate enables farmers to wipe out most weeds from the fields without damaging their crops. A common assumption has been that if such herbicide resistance genes manage to make it into weedy or wild relatives, they would be disadvantageous and plants containing them would die out. But the new study led by Lu Baorong, an ecologist at Fudan University in Shanghai, challenges that view: it shows that a weedy form of the common rice crop, Oryza sativa, gets a significant fitness boost from glyphosate resistance, even when glyphosate is not applied. The transgenic hybrids had higher rates of photosynthesis, grew more shoots and flowers and produced 48 — 125% more seeds per plant than non-transgenic hybrids — in the absence of glyphosate, the weedkiller they were resistant to."
Biotech

The Cryonics Institute Offers a Chance at Immortality (Video) 254

Posted by Roblimo
from the never-ever-refer-to-me-as-a-corpsicle-you-room-temperature-bag-of-bones dept.
Do you want to be frozen after you die, in hopes of being revived a century or two (or maybe ten) in the future? It can cost less than an electric car. That's what the Cryonics Institute (CI) offers. David Ettinger, today's interviewee, is both the son of CI founder Robert Ettinger and CI's lawyer. In this video, among other things, he talks about arrangements that were made for his father's demise, and how they were able to start the cryopreservation process almost immediately after he expired. Is Cryonics the best chance at immortality for those of us likely to die before the Singularity arrives, and gives all of us the tools we need to live forever? David Ettinger obviously thinks so. (This is Video #1 of 2. The second one is scheduled to run tomorrow. It's an interview with CI Director Andy Zawacki, who takes us into the facility where the frozen bodies are stored.)
The Military

DARPA Wants Computers That Fuse With Higher Human Brain Function 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-I-only-had-a-brain dept.
coondoggie writes "In the never-ending quest to get computers to process, really understand and actually reason, scientists at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency want to look more deeply into how computers can mimic a key portion of our brain. The military's advanced research group recently put out a call, or Request For information, on how it could develop systems that go beyond machine learning, Bayesian techniques, and graphical technology to solve 'extraordinarily difficult recognition problems in real-time.'"
Space

New System Propels Satellites Without Propellants 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the gliding-into-the-future dept.
cylonlover writes "Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are testing a new propulsion system ... inside the station. While this might seem like the height of recklessness, this particular system doesn't use rockets or propellants. Developed in the University of Maryland's Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory, this new electromagnetic propulsion technology called the Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System (RINGS) uses magnetic fields to move spacecraft as a way to increase service life and make satellite formation flying more practical."
Medicine

How the UN Might Have Inadvertently Started a Cholera Epidemic In Haiti 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the pandora's-box dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Celso Perez and Muneer Ahmad write in The Atlantic that despite evidence to the contrary, for nearly three years, the United Nations has categorically denied that it introduced cholera into Haiti after the country suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010. Since then, cholera has killed more than 8,000 people and infected more than 600,000, creating an ongoing epidemic. According to extensive documentation by scientists and journalists, peacekeeping troops belonging to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) inadvertently but negligently brought cholera into the country several months after the January 2010 earthquake. That October, troops from Nepal carrying the disease were stationed at a military base near the town of Méyè. Because of inadequate water and sanitation facilities at the base, cholera-infected sewage contaminated the Artibonite River, the largest river in Haiti and one the country's main water sources. As locals consumed the contaminated water, cholera spread across the country. Absent from Haiti for over a century, cholera is now projected to plague the country for at least another decade. 'By refusing to acknowledge responsibility, the United Nations jeopardizes its standing and moral authority in Haiti and in other countries where its personnel are deployed,' writes the Washington Post Editorial Board adding that without 'speaking frankly about its own responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti, the organization does a disservice to Haiti and Haitians, who deserve better.'"
Medicine

Effects of Parkinson's-Disease Mutation Reversed In Cells 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the flipping-genetic-switches dept.
An anonymous reader sends this quote from a press release at Eurekalert: "UC San Francisco scientists working in the lab used a chemical found in an anti-wrinkle cream to prevent the death of nerve cells damaged by mutations that cause an inherited form of Parkinson's disease. A similar approach might ward off cell death in the brains of people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, the team suggested in a study reported online in the journal Cell on August 15 (abstract). ... Mutations that cause malfunction of the targeted enzyme, PINK1, are directly responsible for some cases of early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Loss of PINK1 activity is harmful to the cell’s power plants, called mitochondria, best known for converting food energy into another form of chemical energy used by cells, the molecule ATP. In Parkinson’s disease, poorly performing mitochondria have been associated with the death of dopamine-producing nerve cells in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra, which plays a major role in control of movement. Loss of these cells is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease and the cause of prominent symptoms including rigidity and tremor. A UCSF team led by Shokat, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, used the chemical, called kinetin, to increase mutant PINK1 enzyme activity in nerve cells to near normal levels. 'In light of the fact that mutations in PINK1 produce Parkinson’s disease in humans, the finding that kinetin can speed mutated PINK1 activity to near normal levels raises the possibility that kinetin may be used to treat these patients,' Shokat said."
Stats

Data Visualization: Too Easy To Be Too Slick? 41

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-pretty-so-it-must-be-true dept.
jfruh writes "Data visualization tools are finally putting a longtime dream within reach: offering the ability to make beautiful, slick-looking charts out of datasets almost automatically. But are our psyches ready for the shift? Data scientist Pete Warden quickly put together a visualization of Facebook name geography. Though he didn't consider it to be a scientific sample that could drive major decisions, he quickly found that it drove discussion at the New York Times and on white supremacist websites. 'There is an element of "wow, it's so professionally presented that it must be true,"' said Jim Bell, chief marketing officer for Jaspersoft."
Medicine

Soda Makes Five-Year-Olds Break Your Stuff, Science Finds 287

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-like-alcohol-and-teenagers dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Shakira F. Suglia and co-authors surveyed 2,929 mothers of five-year-olds (PDF) and found that 43 percent of the kids consumed at least one serving of soft drinks per day. About four percent of those children (or 110 of them), drank more than four soft drinks per day, and became 'more than twice as likely to destroy things belonging to others, get into fights, and physically attack people.' In the past, soda and its various strains have been related to depression, irritability, aggression, suicidal thoughts, and delusions of sweepstake-winning grandeur. Of course, this study didn't find out what types of soda the children had consumed."
Medicine

Aging Is a Disease; Treat It Like One 625

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-i-take-sick-days-for-aging,-then? dept.
theodp writes "In a letter to Sergey Brin, Maria Konovalenko urges the Google founder to pursue his interest in the topics of aging and longevity. 'Defeating or simply slowing down aging,' writes Konovalenko, 'is the most useful thing that can be done for all the people on the planet.' Calling for research into longevity gene therapy, extending lifespan pharmacologically, and studying close species that differ significantly in lifespan, Konovalenko says 'it is crucial to make numerous medical organizations recognize aging as a disease. If medical organizations were to recognize aging as a disease, it could significantly accelerate progress in studying its underlying mechanisms and the development of interventions to slow its progress and to reduce age-related pathologies. The prevailing regard for aging as a "natural process" rather than a disease or disease-predisposing condition is a major obstacle to development and testing of legitimate anti-aging treatments. This is the largest market in the world, since 100% of the population in every country suffers from aging.'"
Space

Incredible Footage Shows a Perseid Meteor Exploding 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-speeding-rocks-attack dept.
Nancy_A writes "Photographer and digital artist Michael K. Chung said he couldn't believe what he saw when he was processing images he took for a timelapse of the Perseid meteor shower this week. It appears he captured a meteor explosion and the resulting expansion of a shock wave or debris ring. After this article was posted, Universe Today received more 'explody' footage from the Perseid meteor shower, which has been added to the article."
Science

Carbyne: a Form of Carbon Even Stronger Than Graphene 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the does-graphene-even-lift? dept.
New submitter Dialecticus writes "Sebastian Anthony at ExtremeTech has written an article about research into the physical properties of carbyne, an elusive form of carbon. A new mathematical analysis by Mingjie Liu and others at Rice University suggests that carbyne may achieve double the strength of graphene, stealing its crown and becoming the strongest material known to man. 'While carbyne cannot be stretched, it can be bent into an arc or circle — and by doing so, the additional strain between the carbon atoms alters the electrical bandgap. This property could lead to some interesting uses in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). By adding different molecules to the end of a carbyne chain, such as a methylene (CH2) group, carbyne can also be twisted — much like a strand of DNA — again adding strain and modifying the electrical bandgap. By "decorating" carbyne chains with different molecules, other properties can be added, too: Tack some calcium atoms on the end, which like to mop up spare hydrogen molecules, and suddenly you have a high-density, reversible hydrogen storage sponge. It’s also important to note that, just like graphene, carbyne is just one atom thick. This means that, for a given mass of carbyne, its surface area is relatively massive. A single gram of graphene, for example, has a surface area of about five tennis courts. This could be very important in areas such as energy storage (batteries, supercapacitors), where the surface area of the electrode is directly proportional to the energy density of the device.'"
Science

Why Weather Control Conspiracy Theories Are Scientifically Ludicrous 251

Posted by Soulskill
from the mad-scientist-union-still-on-strike dept.
barlevg writes "The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang breaks down two popular conspiracy theories: that HAARP is responsible for severe weather and that contrails from commercial airliners are actually 'chemtrails' sprayed for nefarious purposes. The article shows why each is preposterous to anyone with even an elementary knowledge of meteorology or an iota of common sense. The author readily acknowledges that his analysis will do nothing to convince the tinfoil-hat-wearing, vinegar-spraying members of the populace."
Medicine

Excess Coffee May Be Linked To Early Death 220

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-enough-coffee-may-be-linked-to-early-morning-violence dept.
Mr.Intel writes "Should we believe it? Those of us under 55 who drink a lot of coffee – more than four cups per day – may be at greater risk of an early death. And not just death from heart problems, but death from all causes. The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings (abstract), followed people for almost two decades, and found that in both sexes, younger people were more likely to die of anything than people who drank less."
NASA

NASA Abandons Kepler Repairs, Looks To the Future 73

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-crash-it-into-planet-genesis dept.
cylonlover writes "If NASA has anything to say about it, Kepler is down, but not out. At a press teleconference on Thursday it announced that it has abandoned efforts to repair the damaged unmanned probe, which was designed to search for extrasolar planets and is no longer steady enough to continue its hunt. But the space agency is looking into alternative missions for the spacecraft based on its remaining capabilities. 'On Aug. 8, engineers conducted a system-level performance test to evaluate Kepler's current capabilities. They determined wheel 2, which failed last year, can no longer provide the precision pointing necessary for science data collection. The spacecraft was returned to its point rest state, which is a stable configuration where Kepler uses thrusters to control its pointing with minimal fuel use.'"
Medicine

New Treatment From Australia For All Cancers 217

Posted by Soulskill
from the that's-not-a-scalpel,-this-is-a-scalpel dept.
New submitter FirephoxRising writes "A new, protein-based treatment from the University of NSW breaks down cancers by destroying their internal protein structures. The approach has been tried before but always resulted in too much damage to muscles and the heart. The new approach allows the new class of drug to attack tumors without damaging normal cells. Professor Peter Gunning said, 'Our drug causes the structure of the cancer cell to collapse — and it happens relatively quickly.'"
Science

Bone-Eating Worms Found In Antarctic Waters 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the stays-crunchy dept.
sciencehabit writes "When you drop a whale backbone into Antarctic waters and retrieve it a year later, you'll find it covered with a pelt of wriggling, rosy-hued worms. Drop a chunk of wood in the same spot, and you'll discover that it's hardly changed. That's the result of a simple experiment to find out if some of the world's weirdest worms also live in Antarctic waters. The discovery extends the range of bone-eating worms to the Southern Ocean and suggests that Antarctic shipwrecks may be remarkably intact."
Medicine

Bioengineered Mouse Heart Gets a Beat Using Human Cells 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the tin-man-approved dept.
cylonlover writes "Heart transplants have given new life to thousands, but are only an unfulfilled hope to thousands more due to a shortage of donor organs. With the goal of meeting this shortfall, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have bioengineered a mouse heart in the lab that beats on its own. The mouse heart had its cells replaced with human cells, offering the potential of growing custom replacement hearts that wouldn't be rejected by the recipient."
Space

The Grasshopper Can Fly Sideways 127

Posted by timothy
from the that's-how-they-sneak-up-on-you dept.
Phoghat writes "I'm of a 'certain age' and as a child grew up watching shows like "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and others popular at the dawn of the space age. They always showed rocket ships sitting on their tails and blasting off, and landing, straight up. The shuttle went up that way but had to land like a plane, and anything else was considered impossible or impractical. Now, the Space X's rocket Grasshopper can not only do that, but has demonstrated sideways flight also."
Medicine

New Tool To Measure Consciousness 151

Posted by samzenpus
from the hello-in-there dept.
bmahersciwriter writes "The line between consciousness and non-consciousness is thin, hard to define and, as the Terri Schiavo case taught us, often rife with ethical quandaries. A research team is developing a tool that will be able to quantify just how conscious a person is, which could prove to be quite useful for research and clinical practices. From the article: 'The metric relies on the idea that consciousness involves widespread communication between different areas of the brain, with each region performing specialized functions. Loss of consciousness during sleep or anaesthesia, or from brain injury, may be caused by the disengagement of brain regions from one another.'"
Medicine

Dyslexia Seen In Brain Scans of Pre-School Children 105

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-picture-is-worth-a-thousand-diagnoses dept.
dryriver writes "Brain scans may allow detection of dyslexia in pre-school children even before they start to read, say researchers. A U.S. team found tell-tale signs on scans that have already been seen in adults with the condition. And these brain differences could be a cause rather than a consequence of dyslexia — something unknown until now — the Journal of Neuroscience reports. Scans could allow early diagnosis and intervention, experts hope. The part of the brain affected is called the Arcuate Fasciculus. Among the 40 school-entry children they studied they found some had shrinkage of this brain region, which processes word sounds and language. They asked the same children to do several different types of pre-reading tests, such as trying out different sounds in words. Those children with a smaller Arcuate Fasciculus had lower scores."
Space

Amateur Astronomer Bruce Berger Talks About Telescopes, Part II (Video) 31

Posted by Roblimo
from the there-are-stars-that-are-famous-and-some-that-you-hardly-ever-hear-of dept.
Bruce Berger is an IT guy, but he's also an amateur astronomer who takes telescope selection and scope building extra-seriously. We ran a video interview with him yesterday. Today that interview continues, with more emphasis on telescope selection and purchasing. He mentions Orion, a telescope vendor he seems to respect, along with other sources for both new and used equipment. Which should you buy (or build): A reflector or a refractor telescope? Bruce talks about how you should make your selection based on what you want to view, your skill level, and how much time and/or money you have available.
Encryption

MIT Research: Encryption Less Secure Than We Thought 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-still-pretty-darn-secure dept.
A group of researchers from MIT and the University of Ireland has presented a paper (PDF) showing that one of the most important assumptions behind cryptographic security is wrong. As a result, certain encryption-breaking methods will work better than previously thought. "The problem, Médard explains, is that information-theoretic analyses of secure systems have generally used the wrong notion of entropy. They relied on so-called Shannon entropy, named after the founder of information theory, Claude Shannon, who taught at MIT from 1956 to 1978. Shannon entropy is based on the average probability that a given string of bits will occur in a particular type of digital file. In a general-purpose communications system, that’s the right type of entropy to use, because the characteristics of the data traffic will quickly converge to the statistical averages. ... But in cryptography, the real concern isn't with the average case but with the worst case. A codebreaker needs only one reliable correlation between the encrypted and unencrypted versions of a file in order to begin to deduce further correlations. ... In the years since Shannon’s paper, information theorists have developed other notions of entropy, some of which give greater weight to improbable outcomes. Those, it turns out, offer a more accurate picture of the problem of codebreaking. When Médard, Duffy and their students used these alternate measures of entropy, they found that slight deviations from perfect uniformity in source files, which seemed trivial in the light of Shannon entropy, suddenly loomed much larger. The upshot is that a computer turned loose to simply guess correlations between the encrypted and unencrypted versions of a file would make headway much faster than previously expected. 'It’s still exponentially hard, but it’s exponentially easier than we thought,' Duffy says."
Biotech

Has Anyone Seen My Rabbit? 92

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the popular-at-raves dept.
New submitter geoskd writes "Scientists at the university of Hawaii have created glow in the dark rabbits. Where can I get my hands on one of these critters? It would drive the cats nuts! These guys are missing a bet, they could sell these things for big bucks and use the money to further fund their research. This is the perfect gift for the geek who has "everything"." The technique used is similar to the glow in the dark cats bred a couple of years ago. The fluorescence isn't the end goal of course; it just happens to be a very obvious marker that their genetic manipulation technique works. According to the researchers, "the final goal is to develop animals that act as barrier reactives to produce beneficial molecules in their milk that can be cheaply extracted, especially in countries that can not afford big pharma plants that make drugs, that usually cost $1bn to build, and be able to produce their own protein-based medication in animals."
Mars

Four Month Mars Food Study Wraps Up 142

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the huy-fong-plans-martian-factory dept.
After four months in a mock space habitat in Hawaii, participants in a study to determine how best to feed astronauts (HI-SEAS) on a mission to Mars emerged yesterday. A few days ago, the mission commander was interviewed in Astrobiology Magazine, noting the most successful foods: "There's also been a lot of really good cooked dishes. Some of our crew members are accomplished cooks, and every week there are different surprises. Some success meals were Russian borscht, Moroccan tagine, enchilasagna, seafood chowder, and fabada asturiana. Wraps work really well: we combine tortillas, different vegetables, Velveeta cheese, and sausage or canned fish into ever-changing combinations. This is actually in line with the success of tortillas at the ISS. In general, the dehydrated and freeze-dried vegetables are a real success. They're used on a daily basis in almost every meal." The crew kept weblogs, and did other things than just sit around and eat: some studied robotics and they went on a few simulated EVAs.
Space

Easily-Captured Asteroids Identified 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-they're-any-smaller-you-have-to-throw-them-back dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Long overlooked as mere rocky chunks leftover from the formation of the solar system, asteroids have recently gotten a lot more scrutiny as NASA moves forward with plans to capture, tow, and place a small asteroid somewhere near our planet. Two different private space companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, plan to seek out and mine precious metals and water from near-Earth asteroids. Now Adam Mann reports that astronomers have identified 12 candidate Easily Retrievable Objects (EROs) ranging in size from approximately 2 meters to 60 meters in diameter that already come (cosmically) close enough to our planet — close enough that it would take a relatively small push to put them into orbits at Lagrange points near Earth using existing rocket technology. For example, 2006 RH120 could be sent into orbit at L2 by changing its velocity by just 58 meters per second with a single burn on 1 February 2021. Moving one of these EROs would be a 'logical stepping stone towards more ambitious scenarios of asteroid exploration and exploitation, and possibly the easiest feasible attempt for humans to modify the Solar System environment outside of Earth (PDF),' write the authors in Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy. None of the 12 ERO asteroids are new to astronomers; in fact, one of them became briefly famous when it was found to be temporarily orbiting the Earth until 2007. But until now nobody had realized just how easily these bodies could be captured."
Biotech

US Horse Registry Forced To Accept Cloned Horses 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the yea-or-neigh dept.
kdryer39 writes "U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lou Robinson said she will sign an order requiring the American Quarter Horse Association to begin allowing cloned animals to be placed on its registry, according to the organization. A jury last month ruled that the horse association violated anti-monopoly laws by banning cloned animals. The quarter horse association issues and maintains a pedigree registry of American quarter horses, a popular breed associated with cowboys riding on the range in the 19th and early 20th centuries."
Medicine

Medical Costs Bankrupt Patients; It's the Computer's Fault 637

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
nbauman writes "Don't get cancer until 2015. The Obama health reform is supposed to limit out-of-pocket costs to $12,700. But the Obama Administration has delayed its implementation until 2015. The insurance companies told them that their computers weren't able to add up all their customers' out-of-pocket costs to see whether they had reached the limit. For some common diseases, such as cancer or heart failure, treatment can cost over $100,000, and patients will be responsible for the balance. Tell me, Slashdot, how difficult would it be to rewrite an insurance billing system to aggregate a policyholder's out-of-pocket costs? 'A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said: "We knew this was an important issue. We had to balance the interests of consumers with the concerns of health plan sponsors and carriers, which told us that their computer systems were not set up to aggregate all of a person's out-of-pocket costs. They asked for more time to comply."'"
Space

Cold War Plan Tried To Put a Copper Ring Around the Earth 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-let's-wrap-the-moon-in-tinfoil dept.
Wired has the story of a plan enacted in the early 1960s by the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense that had the goal of safeguarding the country's long-range communications from Russian interference. The solution they came up with wasn't easy, but it was straightforward: launch hundreds of millions of thin copper wires into orbit in the hopes of forming an artificial ring around the planet. From the article: "Project Needles, as it was originally known, was Walter E. Morrow’s idea. He suggested that if Earth possessed a permanent radio reflector in the form of an orbiting ring of copper threads, America’s long-range communications would be immune from solar disturbances and out of reach of nefarious Soviet plots. Each copper wire was about 1.8 centimeters in length. This was half the wavelength of the 8 GHz transmission signal beamed from Earth, effectively turning each filament into what is known as a dipole antenna. The antennas would boost long-range radio broadcasts without depending on the fickle ionosphere. ... On May 9, 1963, a second West Ford launch successfully dispersed its spindly cargo approximately 3,500 kilometers above the Earth, along an orbit that crossed the North and South Pole. Voice transmissions were successfully relayed between California and Massachusetts, and the technical aspects of the experiment were declared a success. As the dipole needles continued to disperse, the transmissions fell off considerably, although the experiment proved the strategy could work in principle."
Space

Amateur Astronomer Bruce Berger Talks About Meteors and Telescopes (Video) 36

Posted by timothy
from the how-to-see-stars-without-getting-hit-on-the-head dept.
Bruce Berger is an IT guy, but he's also an amateur astronomer who takes at least one aspect of astronomy more seriously than most sky-watchers. Not content with what he could buy when he first wanted a telescope of his own, Berger set out to make one -- it turned out so well, he says he'll never part with it, and he's made several others since, and taught many other people to do the same. In this pursuit, he's also been a long-time member of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston, including a stint as the group's president. (Berger's custom license plate reads "SCPMKR.") In the video below, though, I caught up with him in Maine between evenings watching this year's spectacular Perseid showers (and without any of his home-built scopes to hand), to give some insight about what would-be skywatchers should consider in looking at scopes. It's surprising just how good today's telescopes are for the money, but it's easy to be ripped off, too, or at least disappointed. (And besides avoiding department store junk, building your own is still Bruce's strongest advice.) Ed note: This Video is Part 1 of 2. Part 2 will run tomorrow.
Science

Neurologists Shine Light On Near-Death Experiences 351

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-towards-the-light dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Mainstream science has long considered the brain to be inactive during the period known to doctors as clinical death. However, survivors regularly report having powerful experiences when they come close to dying, often saying they had an overwhelming feeling of peace and serenity. Frequently they describe being in a dark tunnel with a bright light at the end, and many report meeting long-lost loved ones. 'Many of them think it's evidence they actually went to heaven — perhaps even spoke with God,' says Jimo Borjigin. Now scientists at the University of Michigan have found that the brain keeps on working for up to 30 seconds after blood flow stops, possibly providing a scientific explanation for the vivid near-death experiences that some people report after surviving a heart attack. In the study, lab rats were anesthetized, then subjected to induced cardiac arrest as part of the experiment while researchers analyzed changes in power density, coherence, directed connectivity, and cross-frequency coupling. In the first 30 seconds after their hearts were stopped, they all showed a surge of brain activity, observed in electroencephalograms (EEGs) that indicated highly aroused mental states. 'We were surprised by the high levels of activity,' says George Mashour. 'In fact, at near-death, many known electrical signatures of consciousness exceeded levels found in the waking state, suggesting that the brain is capable of well-organized electrical activity during the early stage of clinical death.' Borjigan thinks the phenomenon is really just the brain going on hyperalert to survive while at the same time trying to make sense of all those neurons firing and it's like a more intense version of dreaming. 'The near-death experience is perhaps really the byproduct of the brain's attempt to save itself,' says Borjigan" While interesting, it's important to remind ourselves that this research is not conclusive: "Borjigin and Mashour hesitate to state a direct connection between their findings and near-death experiences. The links are merely speculative at this point and provide a framework for a human study, Borjigin said."
Medicine

Ask Slashdot: Best Software For Med-School Note-Taking? 217

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-you-don't-like-onenote dept.
First time accepted submitter spencj writes "I'm just starting year two of medical school, and I've been rethinking the way I make and create notes/study guides. One of the problems I've considered is that we learn about the same topic in several arenas. For example, if I consider some disease like coronary artery disease, I will likely learn about this topic in cardiology, radiology, pharmacology, and then in outside study resources such as Kaplan guides, online resources, etc.. Further, it will come up in August, October, March, April, etc.. My dream app is some combination of Excel, Visio, Word, and a blog where I could tag selections of text. If I then 'filtered' by certain parameters, it would collapse all the information I'd collected from different resources. For example, say I create a flowchart in Visio, take some notes in Word, create a table in Excel, and save from text from a web resource. I tag each item with 'coronary artery disease,' then I want to quickly query for all of my items with this tag. Is there any kind of app or resource that can pull this off? Medical students everywhere would be grateful."
Transportation

Elon Musk's 'Hyperloop': More Details Revealed 533

Posted by samzenpus
from the behind-the-scenes dept.
astroengine writes "Entrepreneur Elon Musk revealed details today about his concept for a high-speed transportation system he calls the Hyperloop. After tweeting that he'd pulled an all-nighter preparing for the announcement, Musk told Businessweek that the design could transport people as well as cars inside aluminum pods that move up to 800 miles per hour through a tube. The tubes would be mounted on columns 50 to 100 yards apart, not interfering with land needs because it would essentially follow major highways, such as I-75 in California."
Science

Neanderthals Were the First To Use Specialized Bone Tools 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the credit-where-credit-is-due dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Humans have progressed and evolved creating complex tools throughout the years. Based on artifacts and fossils in combination with research, scientists have known that people have used tools made from all kinds of materials. Now in a new study, two research teams discovered that the first specialized set of bone tools were created by Neanderthals in Europe."
Biotech

Looking Beyond Corn and Sugarcane For Cost-Effective Biofuels 242

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-it-growing dept.
carmendrahl writes "The abundance of shale gas in the U.S. is expected to lower the cost of petrochemicals for fuel and other applications, making it harder for plant-based, renewable feedstocks to compete in terms of price. In the search for cost-competitive crops, companies are testing plants other than traditional biofuel sources such as corn and sugarcane. In this video, you can see how a company is test-growing a relative of sugarcane, which is expected to yield 5 times the ethanol per acre compared to corn."
Space

Could Humanity Really Build 'Elysium'? 545

Posted by samzenpus
from the plenty-of-space dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Miriam Kramer writes at Space.com that in the new movie Elysium, Earth is beyond repair, and the rich and powerful have decided to leave it behind to live in a large, rotating space station stocked with mansions, grass, trees, water and gravity. 'The premise is totally believable to me. I spent 28 years working on NASA's International Space Station and retired last summer as the director of ISS at NASA Headquarters. When I took a look at the Elysium space station, I thought to myself, that's certainly achievable in this millennium,' says Mark Uhran, former director of the International Space Station Division in NASA's Office of Human Exploration and Operations. 'It's clear that the number-one challenge is chemical propulsion.' Nuclear propulsion could be a viable possibility eventually, but the idea isn't ready for prime time yet. 'We learned an incredible amount with [the International Space Station] and we demonstrated that we have the technology to assemble large structures in space.' The bottom line: 'If you threw everything you had at it, could you reach a space station of the scale of Elysium in 150 years?' says Uhran. 'That's a pretty tall order.'"
Biotech

Dogs Trained To Sniff Out Ovarian Cancer 83

Posted by timothy
from the as-long-as-the-dogs-aren't-menacing dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Dogs have been trained to sniff out drugs, explosives, cadavers, mobile phones, firearms, and money but now AP reports that researchers have started training canines to sniff out the signature compound that indicates the presence of ovarian cancer. If the animals can isolate the chemical marker, scientists at the nearby Monell Chemical Senses Center will work to create an electronic sensor to identify the same odorant. "Because if the dogs can do it, then the question is, Can our analytical instrumentation do it? We think we can," says organic chemist George Preti. More than 20,000 Americans are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. When it's caught early, women have a five-year survival rate of 90 percent. But because of its generic symptoms — weight gain, bloating or constipation — the disease is more often caught late."
Earth

Chain Reaction Shattered Antarctica's Larson B Ice Shelf 232

Posted by timothy
from the natural-phenomenon dept.
New submitter Jim McNicholas writes "At the end of the summer of 2002, all 3000 lakes on the Larsen B ice shelf drained away in the space of a week. And then the 2,700-square-kilometre ice shelf, which was some 220 metres thick and might have existed for some 12,000 years, rapidly disintegrated into small icebergs. The draining of one lake on an ice shelf changes the stress field in nearby areas, causing a fracture circle to form around the lake."
Space

Examining the Expected Effects of Dark Matter On the Solar System 190

Posted by timothy
from the picks-up-loose-dirt-gets-out-tough-stains dept.
First time accepted submitter LiavK writes "Ethan Siegel recently wrote a great post for ScienceBlogs discussing the expected total mass of dark matter in the solar system. As far as we can tell, dark matter only interacts weakly, via gravity, both with itself and normal matter. So, it can't collide with itself, meaning that it has no way of getting hotter and radiating away energy and momentum. This means that it remains a diffuse mess, with a density that is ridiculously low, to the point where detecting its local effects is likely to remain... challenging for the foreseeable future."
The Military

GovernmentAttic Publishes Declassified Survey of Worldwide Bio-War Research 62

Posted by timothy
from the stuff-of-nightmares dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The GovernmentAttic website has just published a dossier of reports produced by the Defense Intelligence Agency describing biological weapons development in nations throughout the world. The 16 reports were released by the Department of Defense in response to declassification request submitted five years ago. Although the sensitive bits were removed, the remaining portions of the reports demonstrate the prevalence of research, development and deployment of bio weapons worldwide, despite an international treaty prohibiting such activity. The same website has also published a Thesaurus of Biological Warfare terminology (PDF) and a listing of pre-1946 reports on biological and chemical warfare (PDF) from the Army."
Medicine

Study Ties High Blood Sugar To Dementia 157

Posted by timothy
from the news-for-nerds-with-brains dept.
A study published last week in the New England Journal suggests that blood sugar levels may be a more important indicator than previously realized for non-diabetics: high blood sugar levels were linked by the study's authors with increased risk of dementia (summary free; full article paywalled). The study followed more than 2,000 elderly participants, and found a positive correlation between blood glucose levels and development of dementia, both for patients with and without diabetes.
Mars

One-Way Ticket: Mars One Project Applicants Top 100,000 240

Posted by timothy
from the I'd-like-to-help-pick-'em dept.
Bas Lansdorp's projected trip to Mars has a well-known catch: the ticket to space is free (rather than the millions of dollars for the more conventional kind of space travel available to civilians), but it's one-way only. That's a downside for any potential astronauts who'd like to do things like visit the beach or ever see their Earthside family again in person. Still, the Mars One project announced this week that more than 100,000 volunteers have announced their willingness to forsake this planet in favor of the next. The application process is ongoing; have you signed up?
Science

The Science of 12-Step Programs 330

Posted by timothy
from the your-brain-on-steps dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Since the inception of Alcoholics Anonymous — the progenitor of 12-step programs — science has sometimes been at odds with the notion that laypeople can cure themselves because the numerous spiritual references that go with the 12-step program puts A.A. on "the fringe" in the minds of many scientists. But there is an interesting read at National Geographic where Jarret Liotta writes that new research shows that the success of the 12-step approach may ultimately be explained through medical science and psychology. According to Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer at Hazelden and sober 37 years, attending 12-step meetings does more than give an addict warm, fuzzy feelings. The unconscious neurological pull of addiction undermines healthy survival drives, causing individuals to make disastrous choices, he says. "People will regularly risk their lives—risk everything—to continue use of a substance." Addicts don't want to engage in these behaviors, but they can't control themselves. "The only way to truly treat it is with something more powerful," like the 12 steps, that can change patterns in the brain. Philip Flores, author of Addiction as an Attachment Disorder, says the human need for social interaction is a physiological one, linked to the well-being of the nervous system. When someone becomes addicted, Flores says, mechanisms for healthy attachment are "hijacked," resulting in dependence on addictive substances or behaviors. Some believe that addicts, even before their disease kicks in, struggle with knowing how to form emotional bonds that connect them to other people. Co-occurring disorders, such as depression and anxiety, make it even harder to build those essential emotional attachments. "We, as social mammals, cannot regulate our central nervous systems by ourselves," Flores says. "We need other people to do that.""
Space

How to Peep the Perseid's Peak 58

Posted by timothy
from the oh-come-on-people dept.
The Christian Science Monitor has a short piece with some tips on watching the Perseid meteor showers, which will peak over the next few evenings. MSNBC also has a good suggestion if you'd like to watch the show but can't because of weather: watch online, courtesy of NASA and the Slooh space telescope. I hope the skies will cooperate so I can see them from darkest Maine.
The Almighty Buck

Bacteria Behaviour Can Shed Light On How Financial Markets Work 91

Posted by timothy
from the If-only-bacteria-had-agency-and-preferences dept.
notscientific writes "Bacteria invest in proteins in an attempt to reduce stress or increase energy intake, while humans invest in cash. In both cases, better tradeoffs pay off. The similarities in tradeoffs faced by both bacteria and humans during investment are actually quite similar. Now, using synthetic biology, a group of scientists has shown that the outcomes of investment decisions in bacteria can be precisely defined, alluding to the idea that human investment activities, such as financial markets, can be thoroughly understood as well, and even modelled."
Social Networks

There Is a Fly In My Tweet: Tracking Food-Borne Illness the Crowd-Sourced Way 16

Posted by timothy
from the persistent-deliciousness-tracked-separately dept.
First time accepted submitter kraken9 writes "New research shows that online chatter can help you avoid food poisoning. Leveraging a statistical language model of Twitter users' online communication, nEmesis finds individuals who are likely suffering from a foodborne illness. People's visits to restaurants are modeled by matching GPS data embedded in the messages with restaurant addresses. As a result, each venue is assigned a health score based on the proportion of customers that fell ill shortly after visiting it. The paper shows that this score correlates with the official inspection data from the Department of Health, and argues that 'nEmesis offers an inexpensive way to enhance current methods to monitor food safety (e.g., adaptive inspections) and identify potentially problematic venues in near-real time.' Similar techniques have been used before to predict the spread of flu from GPS-tagged social data."
Space

Air Force Space Fence Being Shut Down 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-be-replaced-with-space-moat dept.
New submitter meglon writes "NASA will lose access to important real-time information on tracking orbital debris if the order of Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, is carried out. The Space Fence, the only monitoring system of its kind, will cease to function on October 1st. 'Deployed in the 1960s, the VHF Space Fence includes three transmitter sites and six receiving stations. It is responsible for approximately 40 percent of all observations performed by the Air Force-run Space Surveillance Network, which includes other ground-and space-based sensor assets, said Brian Weeden, technical adviser at the Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to space sustainability. ... A full-scale development contract for an updated version of the Space Fence had been expected in 2012 or early 2013, but on July 16, Shelton said the multibillion-dollar project is being held up due to a wide-ranging Pentagon review that includes major acquisition programs. The review is examining scenarios under which the Pentagon’s budget is cut by $150 billion, $250 billion and $500 billion during the next decade.'"
Science

Request to Falsify Data Published In Chemistry Journal 163

Posted by Soulskill
from the glad-to-know-they're-on-top-of-things dept.
New submitter Jim_Austin writes "A note inadvertently left in the 'supplemental information' of a journal article appears to instruct a subordinate scientist to fabricate data. Quoting: 'The first author of the article, "Synthesis, Structure, and Catalytic Studies of Palladium and Platinum Bis-Sulfoxide Complexes," published online ahead of print in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal Organometallics, is Emma E. Drinkel of the University of Zurich in Switzerland. The online version of the article includes a link to this supporting information file. The bottom of page 12 of the document contains this instruction: "Emma, please insert NMR data here! where are they? and for this compound, just make up an elemental analysis ..." We are making no judgments here. We don't know who wrote this, and some commenters have noted that "just make up" could be an awkward choice of words by a non-native speaker of English who intended to instruct his student to make up a sample and then conduct the elemental analysis. Other commenters aren't buying it.'"

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