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XPrize Pulls Plug On $10 Million Genomics Competition 36

sciencehabit writes "The XPrize Foundation has scrapped its high-profile $10 million genomics challenge set for next month after attracting only two competitors to the sequencing contest. The Archon Genomics XPRIZE began with much fanfare 7 years ago with the aim of boosting medical genomics by offering a $10 million award to the first team to sequence 100 human genomes in 10 days for no more than $10,000 each. After complaints about the tight deadline and unclear judging criteria, the foundation revised the rules in October 2011: The objective was to sequence the genomes of 100 centenarians with high accuracy and 98% completeness within 30 days for $1000 or less. Interest was tepid, however, and only two of the eight contenders in the original contest registered by the 31 May deadline — the company Ion Torrent, and George Church's lab at Harvard University."

Measles Outbreak Tied To Texas Megachurch 622

New submitter the eric conspiracy sends this quote from NBC: "An outbreak of measles tied to a Texas megachurch where ministers have questioned vaccination has sickened at least 21 people, including a 4-month-old infant — and it's expected to spread further, state and federal health officials said. 'There's likely a lot more susceptible people,' said Dr. Jane Seward, the deputy director for the viral diseases division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ... All of the cases are linked to the Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, where a visitor who'd traveled to Indonesia became infected with measles – and then returned to the U.S., spreading it to the largely unvaccinated church community, said Russell Jones, the Texas state epidemiologist. ... Terri Pearsons, a senior pastor of Eagle Mountain International said she has had concerns about possible ties between early childhood vaccines and autism. In the wake of the measles outbreak, however, Pearsons has urged followers to get vaccinated and the church has held several vaccination clinics. ... 'In this community, these cases so far are all in people who refused vaccination for themselves and their children,' [Steward] added. The disease that once killed 500 people a year in the U.S. and hospitalized 48,000 had been considered virtually eradicated after a vaccine introduced in 1963. Cases now show up typically when an unvaccinated person contracts the disease abroad and spreads it upon return to the U.S."

The Game Made From NASA Satellite Data 32

An anonymous reader writes "Kickstarter's helped start all sorts of indie games, but few as unusual as Lacuna Passage, an adventure game set on Mars with a vast open world that's been painstakingly recreated from NASA satellite data. You're able to explore twenty five square miles of the Red Planet in all its barren glory as you attempt to solve the mystery of the first, vanished, manned mission to mars. A new piece today on the making of the game — which is being made by an elementary school teacher and a team of a dozen volunteers — looks at how it came about, and why their quest for authenticity led to even urine analysis being included in the gameplay."

Video Why We Need to Keep Our Night Skies Dark (Video) 130

Kelly Beatty has a unique perspective on the world of astronomy: Beatty's been on the staff of Sky & Telescope magazine for nearly 40 years as a writer and editor, including a stint heading "Night Sky" magazine. He's also written what's been called "the definitive guide for the armchair astronomer," and teaches astronomy to people of all ages. (He even has an asteroid named after him.) Besides being fascinated with the objects we can see in Earth's skies, Beatty takes the skies themselves seriously: his Twitter handle is NightSkyGuy for a reason. We talked a few weeks ago, in dark-skied rural Maine, about his involvement with the International Dark-Sky Association, and why you should care about ubiquitous light pollution, even if you don't have a deep interest in star-gazing. (And it's not just to be courteous to your neighbors.)

PTSD-Monitoring App Captured the Psychological Effects of the Boston Bombing 68

the_newsbeagle writes "This DARPA-funded smartphone app is designed to monitor veterans for signs of depression and PTSD. It screens for signals of psychological distress in a number of ways; for example, the app looks for signs of social isolation (reduced number of phone calls and texts), physical isolation (the phone isn't leaving the house), and sleep disruption (the phone is used in the middle of the night). Interestingly, the company that invented the app was testing it in Boston at the time of the Boston marathon bombing, and reports that the app picked up signals of distress in the days after the attack."

UW Researchers Demonstrate First Direct Communication Between Human Brains 154

An anonymous reader writes "Opening a fascinating set of ethical and legal issues, researchers at UW Seattle have demonstrated the first device to allow direct communication between two humans' brains. Effectively, they allowed a subject to play a video game with another subject's fingers. For now, the communication is uni-directional, though they intend to extend it to bi-directional. EEG sensors are attached to a subject's motor cortex to detect 'motor imagery' — imagined hand movement, in this case. That activity is translated and sent over a computer network where it triggers a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS) located over Subject 2's motor cortex. Effectively, Subject 1 imagines moving their hand, and Subject 2's hand moved."

Just Thinking About Science Triggers Moral Behavior 347

ananyo writes "The association between science and morality is so ingrained that merely thinking about it can trigger more moral behavior, according to a study by researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara. The researchers hypothesized that there is a deep-seated perception of science as a moral pursuit — its emphasis on truth-seeking, impartiality and rationality privileges collective well-being above all else. The researchers conducted four separate studies to test this. In the first, participants read a vignette of a date-rape and were asked to rate the 'wrongness' of the offense before answering a questionnaire measuring their belief in science. Those reporting greater belief in science condemned the act more harshly. In the other three, participants primed with science-related words were more altruistic."

Bionic Skin: the Killer App For Flexible Electronics 46

the_newsbeagle writes "Most of the researchers who work on flexible electronics imagine putting their materials to use in flexible displays, like a rollable, foldable iPad that you could cram in your pocket. And I'm not saying that wouldn't be cool. But researcher Takao Someya of the University of Tokyo has a different idea: He wants his ultra-thin, ultra-flexible electronics to be used as bionic skin. Someya and other researchers have created circuits that stick to your skin, and that can stretch and bend as you move your body. These materials are still in the labs, but the scientists imagine many uses for them. For example, if a synthetic skin is studded with pressure and heat sensors, it could be used as a lifelike covering for prosthetic limbs. There are also potential biomedical applications: The e-skin could discreetly monitor an outpatient's vital signs, and send the data to a nearby computer. The article includes a short video showing Someya's material in action."

Galileo: Right On the Solar System, Wrong On Ice 206

carmendrahl writes "Famed astronomer Galileo Galilei is best known for taking on the Catholic Church by championing the idea that the Earth moves around the sun. But he also engaged in a debate with a philosopher about why ice floats on water. While his primary arguments were correct, he went too far, belittling legitimate, contradictory evidence given by his opponent, Ludovico delle Colombe. Galileo's erroneous arguments during the water debate are a useful reminder that the path to scientific enlightenment is not often direct and that even our intellectual heroes can sometimes be wrong."

Synchronized Virtual Reality Heartbeat Triggers Out-of-Body Experiences 183

Zothecula writes "New research demonstrates that triggering an out-of-body experience (OBE) could be as simple as getting a person to watch a video of themselves with their heartbeat projected onto it. According to the study, it's easy to trick the mind into thinking it belongs to an external body and manipulate a person's self-consciousness by externalizing the body's internal rhythms. The findings could lead to new treatments for people with perceptual disorders such as anorexia and could also help dieters too."

NASA Visualizes Asteroid Grab Mission 73

fergus07 writes "NASA has released new concept images and animations outlining one version of its plan to capture an asteroid with an unmanned craft. The scenario presented for a possible mission around the year 2025 involves literally bagging an asteroid in a huge inflatable cylinder and returning it to lunar orbit for astronauts to study."

The Next US Moonshot Will Launch From Virginia 92

As reported by the Washington Post, a U.S. spacecraft headed for the moon (to circle it, though, not to land) is to be launched for the first time from the facility at Virginia's Wallops Island. If you'll be in the D.C. area on the night of September 6 and the weather cooperates enough for a launch, it should be worth staying up for. "The robotic mission is to collect detailed information about the moon's thin atmosphere. Sometimes thought to be nonexistent, the lunar atmosphere has been described as extremely tenuous and fragile, but present. According to the space agency, the launch will record many firsts. One will be the first launch beyond Earth orbit from the Virginia facility. It also will be the first flight for the Minotaur V rocket, NASA said. NASA said the five-stage Air Force rocket is an excess ballistic missile that was transformed into a space-launch vehicle. It will boost the space probe into position for it to reach lunar orbit." Though the satellite is NASA's, the launch will be controlled by Orbital Sciences.

Using Pulsars As GPS For Starships 103

cold fjord writes with an excerpt from Science Codex: "CSIRO scientists have written software that could guide spacecraft to Alpha Centauri ... Dr George Hobbs (CSIRO) and his colleagues study pulsars — small spinning stars that deliver regular 'blips' or 'pulses' of radio waves and, sometimes, X-rays. Usually the astronomers are interested in measuring, very precisely, when the pulsar pulses arrive in the solar system. Slight deviations from the expected arrival times can give clues about the behaviour of a pulsar itself ... 'But we can also work backwards,' said Dr Hobbs. 'We can use information from pulsars to very precisely determine the position of our telescopes.' 'If the telescopes were on board a spacecraft, then we could get the position of the spacecraft.' Observations of at least four pulsars, every seven days, would be required. ... A paper (paywalled) describing in detail how the system would work has been accepted for publication by the journal Advances in Space Research." (Here is a related story from the same source.)

International Effort Could Put First Canadian On the Moon 152

A long-term plan created by 14 cooperating space agencies around the world could mean that a Canadian astronaut may get to visit the moon sometime close to 2030. The International Space Exploration Coordination Group, of which Canada is a part, released last week an updated roadmap laying out intended projects, including a lunar visit. "[CSA space exploration director Jean-Claude Piedboeuf] suggested astronauts could again be moon-bound in about 15 years. It would be the first human visit to the shining orb since 1972, when NASA astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt spent 75 hours there. This time, there could well be Canadian visitors. Their specialty: robotics. 'We're proposing a vision where Canada could have an astronaut, effectively a Canadian who will be in lunar space, either in orbit or on the moon and could operate a Canadian rover in the same way that Canadians operate a Canadarm on the space station,' Piedboeuf said."

This Satellite Could Be Beaming Solar Power Down From Space By 2025 245

Daniel_Stuckey writes "A NASA veteran, aerospace entrepreneur, and space-based solar power (SBSP) expert, [John] Mankins designed the world's first practical orbital solar plant. It's called the Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array, or SPS-ALPHA for short. If all goes to plan, it could be launched as early as 2025, which is sooner than it sounds when it comes to space-based solar power timelines. Scientists have been aware of the edge the "space-down" approach holds over terrestrial panels for decades. An orbiting plant would be unaffected by weather, atmospheric filtering of light, and the sun's inconvenient habit of setting every evening. SBSP also has the potential to dramatically increase the availability of renewable energy."

Australian University Unveils New Carbon-Trapping Bricks 142

FirephoxRising writes "A research pilot plant in Newcastle will trial world-first technology that turns carbon emissions into bricks and pavers for the construction industry. More efficient and stable than storing gas in the ground, the new method will sequester carbon and can work anywhere, unlike geo-sequestration which is site specific."

How Engineers and Scientists Cluster In the U.S. 79

First time accepted submitter DERoss writes "The National Science Foundation has published a research paper titled Regional Concentrations of Scientists and Engineers In the United States. The lead paragraph contains the sentence 'The three most populous states — California, Texas, and New York — together accounted for more than one-fourth of all S&E employment in the United States.' According to the 2010 census, however, those three states also contain more than one-fourth (26.5%) percent of the U.S. population. In other words, there is no concentration beyond how the general population is concentrated." The clustering is studied with finer granularity than the per-state level, though, and the paper names several places (like the Santa Clara area, and Houston) where such jobs are particularly prevalent.

NASA Testing Frickin' Laser Communications 108

itwbennett writes "The lunar laser communications demonstration will be part of the agency's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission, which is scheduled to launch on Sept. 6. Here's how the system will work: When the satellite is in orbit around the moon and visible from Earth, one of three ground stations will shoot a laser towards its approximate location. The laser beam from Earth will scan a patch of sky and should illuminate the spacecraft at some point. When that happens, the spacecraft will begin transmitting its own laser towards the ground station and the two will lock on to each other. The technology should allow an upstream data rate, from the Earth to the spacecraft, of around 20Mbps and a much faster downstream rate of 622Mbps. That's roughly six times the speed that's currently possible with radio-based transmission, said Don Cornwell, mission manager for the lunar laser communications demonstration."

Workers at Chile's ALMA Telescope Strike Over Working Conditions 274

An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from Deutsche Welle: "'Employees at the world's largest radio telescope have gone on strike after failing to reach agreement over pay and conditions. Workers say they are not sufficiently compensated for isolation and high altitude.' The strike started on Thursday, and the telescope is currently not operating. Although the project's budget is $1.1 billion, an ALMA technician earns less than $2,000 per month. How does this compare with people working at observatories in the U.S., Japan, or the European Union?"

NIST Ytterbium Atomic Clocks Set Record For Stability 85

New submitter bryanandaimee writes "An optical lattice clock like the one discussed earlier on Slashdot has broken the stability record. Comparing two OLC's using trapped atoms of Ytterbium, the stability of the clocks was measured to 2 parts per quintillion (10^18). While the previously reported OLC used strontium, these clocks, built by another group, use Ytterbium. Interestingly, while the stability of the clocks is now the best in the world, the accuracy has yet to be measured."

Censorship Doesn't Just Stifle Speech — It Can Cause Disease To Spread 70

Lasrick writes "Maryn McKenna at Wired explores fears of a pandemic of MERS after October's hajj to Saudi Arabia, the annual pilgrimage to Islam's holy sites: 'The reason is MERS: Middle East respiratory syndrome, a disease that has been simmering in the region for months. The virus is new, recorded in humans for the first time in mid-2012. It is dire, having killed more than half of those who contracted it. And it is mysterious, far more so than it should be—because Saudi Arabia, where the majority of cases have clustered, has been tight-lipped about the disease's spread, responding slowly to requests for information and preventing outside researchers from publishing their findings about the syndrome.'"

Wikipedia Can Predict Box Office Flops 147

Daniel_Stuckey writes "Despite a record year, like every year before it, 2013 remained fraught with its fair share of box office disasters. What if studios could minimize their loses and predict when the next Pluto Nash-level flop was imminent? According to new research published in PLoS One, they may actually be able to. Using data gleaned from Wikipedia articles, researchers measured the likelihood of a film's financial success based on four parameters: number of total page views; number of total edits made; number of users editing; and the number of revisions in the article's revision history, or 'collaborative rigor.'"

DIY Space Suit Testing 37

Kristian von Bengtson is one of the founders of Copenhagen Suborbitals, a private organization dedicated to cheap, manned spaceflight. He says, 'This week the space suit branch of Copenhagen Suborbitals from the U.S. is visiting and testing suits in capsules is being performed." The testing process is being chronicled in a series of articles at Wired. You can take a look at some images of getting suited up, and read about the process in detail. von Bengtson writes, "I have to say this suit is incredible, and wearing it today was a remarkable experience. Not only did it fit like a neatly tailored jacket, you instantly become very aware of isolation, the risks involved in this mission, and the complexity of the suit when the 'visor down' command is effectuated. Even though you have a bunch of people next to you – operating life support and with cameras – you feel all alone and all sounds disappear. They’re replaced by the hissing of the breathing-gas and pressure-gas." There's another article about getting into and out of the capsule while in the space suit, which is quite a complicated procedure. "All three of us tried to perform the fast egress and this was a very intense experience. While pressurized inside the capsule (app 1 psi) arms and legs want to expand your body like a balloon and even just reaching out toward the hatch opening was almost impossible. Each of us spend at least 30-50 seconds on this procedure desperately trying to reach toward anything nearby, feet and leg kicking and general nonsense body-wobbling. A simple procedure like this required all the power and muscle we had while John Haslett tried to keep up with dumping CO2 and adding breathing gas."

Aiming For a Commercially Available Submersible 66

Zothecula writes "In three years, if you happen to be 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) beneath the surface of the ocean, keep an eye out for the Cyclops. No, not the hairy giant, but the 5-passenger submersible. Once it's commercially available in 2016, it should be 'the only privately owned deep-water manned submersible available for contracts.' 'That 7-inch-thick hull will be made of carbon fiber, in which individual strips of pre-impregnated fiber are individually placed within the carbon fiber matrix. Developed by Boeing, this technique is said to offer finer production control than the more traditional filament winding process, and should allow the Cyclops to withstand the 4,300 psi (300 bar) of water pressure it will encounter at its maximum diving depth – the earlier-mentioned 3,000 meters.' As for why it's called the Cyclops, just check out its one-big-eye-like 180-degree borosilicate glass observation dome."

Solar Eruption To Reach Earth Soon 159

rastos1 writes "Spacecraft from NASA recently observed an eruption on the Sun sending billions of tons of particles toward Earth. The solar eruption, called a coronal mass ejection, occurred Tuesday at 1:24 a.m. EDT (0524 GMT) and sent charged particles streaking outward at 380 miles per second. That's just over 1.3 million mph (2.2 million km/h). The solar fallout from the sun storm is expected to reach Earth over the next few days. Interestingly, an unnamed icy comet from the outer solar system dove into the sun and disintegrated nearly a the same time (video)."

Researchers Discover Way To Spot Crappy Coffee 184

sciencehabit writes "People who enjoy the most expensive coffee in the world can soon sip without worry: Researchers have come up with a way to tell if their cuppa joe is real or faux. The luxury drink in question—Kopi Luwak—is produced from coffee beans pooped out by the palm civet, a time-consuming process that helps contribute to the beverage's price tag of between $330 to $500 per kilogram. In a new study, researchers chemically analyzed four different blends of coffee—authentic Kopi Luwak, regular coffee, a 50/50 mix of the two, and a brew of coffee beans that producers had chemically treated in an attempt to simulate mammalian digestion. Of the hundreds of organic substances naturally present in coffee, a handful enabled the team to distinguish Kopi Luwak from the other brews. The technique may even be sensitive enough to distinguish pure Kopi Luwak from versions adulterated with varying percentages of other coffees—which offers some degree of reassurance when your morning mud costs about $15 a cup."

For Overstated Claims, Gore, Tesla Upbraided By NWS, NHTSA Respectively 195

barlevg writes "In a recent interview, former Vice President and environmental activist Al Gore made a bold claim, that man-made global warming was causing hurricanes to be formed of such severity that 'they're adding a 6' to the hurricane scale, going on to say that 'The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events.' In response, the National Weather Service has responded that they have no plans to add a 'doomsday Category 6' to their rating scale: 'No, we're not pursuing any such change. I'm also not sure who VP Gore means by "they,"' also noting that 'Category 5 has no ceiling: it includes hurricanes with top sustained winds of 157 mph and higher.' Furthermore, a recently leaked United Nations climate assessment claims only 'low confidence' of a link between human activity and increased hurricane severity and that this is likely due to increased human settlement in coastal areas and other regions vulnerable to natural disasters." Along similar lines, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that Tesla's Model S, no matter how safe it is, doesn't get any special grade inflation: there's no "5.4" score (as the company did in a press release this week), because that's just not how the NHTSA keeps score. (Hat tip to reader cartechboy.)

Magellan II's Adaptive Optics Top Hubble's Resolution 136

muon-catalyzed writes "The incredible 'first light' images captured by the new adaptive optics system called Magellan|AO for "Magellan Adaptive Optics" in the Magellan II 6.5-meter telescope are at least twice as sharp in the visible light spectrum as those from the NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. 'We can, for the first time, make long-exposure images that resolve objects just 0.02 arcseconds across — the equivalent of a dime viewed from more than a hundred miles away,' said Laird Close (University of Arizona), the project's principal scientist. The 6.5-meter Magellan telescopes in the high desert of Chile were widely considered to be the best natural imaging telescopes in the world and this new technology upgraded them to the whole new level. With its 21-foot diameter mirror, the Magellan telescope is much larger than Hubble with its 8-foot mirror. Until now, Hubble always produced the best visible light images, since even large ground-based telescope with complex adaptive optics imaging cameras could only make blurry images in visible light. The core of the new optics system, the so-called Adaptive Secondary Mirror (ASM) that can change its shape at 585 points on its surface 1,000 times each second, counteracts the blurring effects of the atmosphere."

Dentist Wants To Clone John Lennon Using DNA Extracted From Lennon's Tooth 224

dryriver writes "People fantasizing about a Beatles comeback tour might yet see their dream come true, all thanks to Dr. Michael Zuk. This dentist is the proud owner of one of John Lennon's teeth, and hopes to use it to clone the musician. By the looks of it, Dr. Michael Zuk came in possession of the tooth in 2011. At that time, he purchased the molar at an auction organized in the United Kingdom, and paid about $30,000 (€22,424) for it. According to The Inquisitr, the dentist is now working alongside scientists in the United States, who are helping him figure out a way to extract DNA from the tooth without damaging it in the process. This DNA would serve to bring back John Lennon. Apparently, Dr. Michael Zuk hopes that his project will snowball into a scientific and pop-cultural revolution. 'To potentially say I had a small part in bringing back one of Rock's greatest stars would be mind-blowing. I am nervous and excited at the possibility that we will be able to fully sequence John Lennon's DNA, very soon I hope,' the dentist reportedly commented on the importance of his work."

Ancient Egyptians Made Iron Jewelry From Pieces of Meteorite, Archaeologists Say 47

fangmcgee writes "Researchers at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London have found that a collection of ancient jewelry is out of this world. The 5,000-year-old Egyptian beads, previously thought to be made from iron from Earth have been found to be made from hammered pieces of meteorite. Strung together with gold, gemstones, and other minerals, the beads pre-date iron smelting, showcasing the metalworking mastery of fourth millennium B.C. Egyptians."

Physicists Find Solid-State 'Triple Point' In Material That Conducts, Insulates 35

vinces99 writes "It is well known to scientists that the three common phases of water – ice, liquid and vapor – can exist stably together only at a particular temperature and pressure, called the triple point. Also well known is that the solid form of many materials can have numerous phases, but it is difficult to pinpoint the temperature and pressure for the points at which three solid phases can coexist stably. Physicists now have made the first-ever accurate determination of a solid-state triple point in a substance called vanadium dioxide, which is known for switching rapidly – in as little as one 10-trillionth of a second – from an electrical insulator to a conductor, and thus could be useful in various technologies. 'These solid-state triple points are fiendishly difficult to study, essentially because the different shapes of the solid phases makes it hard for them to match up happily at their interfaces,' said David Cobden, a University of Washington physics professor who is lead author of a paper about the research published in Nature. 'There are, in theory, many triple points hidden inside a solid, but they are very rarely probed.'"

New Drug Mimics the Beneficial Effects of Exercise 492

Zothecula writes "A drug known as SR9009, which is currently under development at The Scripps Research Institute, increases the level of metabolic activity in skeletal muscles of mice. Treated mice become lean, develop larger muscles and can run much longer distances simply by taking SR9009, which mimics the effects of aerobic exercise. If similar effects can be obtained in people, the reversal of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and perhaps Type-II diabetes might be the very welcome result."
The Media

Half of All Research Papers Published In 2011 Already Free To Read 82

ananyo writes "Search the Internet for any research article published in 2011, and you have a 50-50 chance of downloading it for free. This claim — made in a report produced for the European Commission — suggests that many more research papers are openly available online than was previously thought. Previous best estimates for the proportion of papers free online run at around 30%. Peter Suber, director of the Office for Scholarly Communication at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says the report confirms his optimism. 'When researchers hit a paywall online, they turn to Google to search for free copies — and, increasingly, they are finding them,' he says."

International Climate Panel Cites Near Certainty On Warming 510

mdsolar writes "An international panel of scientists has found with near certainty that human activity is the cause of most of the temperature increases of recent decades, and warns that sea levels could conceivably rise by more than three feet by the end of the century if emissions continue at a runaway pace. The scientists, whose findings are reported in a draft summary of the next big United Nations climate report, largely dismiss a recent slowdown in the pace of warming, which is often cited by climate change doubters, attributing it most likely to short-term factors. The report emphasizes that the basic facts about future climate change are more established than ever, justifying the rise in global concern. It also reiterates that the consequences of escalating emissions are likely to be profound." This comes alongside news of research into one of those short-term factors: higher than average rainfall over Australia. "Three atmospheric patterns came together above the Indian and Pacific Oceans in 2010 and 2011. When they did, they drove so much precipitation over Australia that the world's ocean levels dropped measurably." According to, "A rare combination of two other semi-cyclic climate modes came together to drive such large amounts of rain over Australia that the continent, on average, received almost one foot (300 millimeters) of rain more than average. ... Since 2011, when the atmospheric patterns shifted out of their unusual combination, sea levels have been rising at a faster pace of about 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) per year."

What's Causing the Rise In Obesity? Everything. 926

Mr_Blank writes "We all know — because we are being constantly reminded — that we are getting fat. Americans are at the forefront of the trend, but it is a transnational one. Apparently, it is also trans-species: Over the past 20 years, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America's laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas. Researchers examined records on those eight species and found that average weight for every one had increased. The marmosets gained an average of 9% per decade. Lab mice gained about 11% per decade. Chimps are doing especially badly: their average body weight had risen 35% per decade. What is causing the obesity era? Everything."

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

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.

Predictors of Suicidal Behavior Found In Blood 209

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 Plans To Stop Harvesting Organs From Executed Prisoners 200

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.'"

GM Rice Passes Unexpected Benefits To Weeds 208

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."

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

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

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.'"

New System Propels Satellites Without Propellants 85

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."

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

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.'"

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

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."

Data Visualization: Too Easy To Be Too Slick? 41

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."

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

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."

Aging Is a Disease; Treat It Like One 625

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.'"

Incredible Footage Shows a Perseid Meteor Exploding 34

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."

Carbyne: a Form of Carbon Even Stronger Than Graphene 82

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.'"

Why Weather Control Conspiracy Theories Are Scientifically Ludicrous 251

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."