An anonymous reader writes in with a neat project Microsoft is working on to translate sign language with a Kinect. "Microsoft Research is now using the Kinect to bridge the gap between folks who don't speak the same language, whether they can hear or not. The Kinect Sign Language Translator is a research prototype that can translate sign language into spoken language and vice versa. The best part? It does it all in real time."
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astroengine writes "Kepler-78b may be an exoplanet notable for being approximately Earth-sized and likely possessing a rocky surface plus iron core, but that's where any similarity to our planet ends. It has an extremely tight orbit around sun-like star Kepler-78, completing one 'year' in only 8.5 hours. It orbits so close in fact that the alien world's surface temperature soars to 2,000 degrees hotter than Earth's. Referring to Kepler-78b as a 'rocky' world is therefore a misnomer — it's a hellish lava world. But this is just a side-show to the real conundrum behind Kepler-78b: It shouldn't exist at all. 'This planet is a complete mystery,' said astronomer David Latham of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in a press release. 'We don't know how it formed or how it got to where it is today. What we do know is that it's not going to last forever.'"
ananyo writes "A U.S. team that claims to have built the world's most sensitive dark matter detector has completed its first data run without seeing any sign of the stuff. In a webcast presentation today at the Sanford Underground Laboratory in Lead, South Dakota, physicists working on the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment said they had seen nothing statistically compelling in 110 days of data-taking. 'We find absolutely no events consistent with any kind of dark matter,' says LUX co-spokesman Rick Gaitskell, a physicist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Physicists know from astronomical observations that 85% of the Universe's matter is dark, making itself known only through its gravitational pull on conventional matter. Some think it may also engage in weak but detectable collisions with ordinary matter, and several direct detection experiments have reported tantalizing hints of these candidate dark matter particles, known as WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles). Gaitskell says that it is now overwhelmingly likely that earlier sightings were statistical fluctuations. Despite the no-shows at XENON-100 and LUX, Laura Baudis, a physicist on XENON-100 at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, says physicists are not ready to give up on the idea of detecting WIMPs. They may simply have a lower mass, or may be more weakly interacting than originally hoped. 'We have some way to go,' she says."
ananyo writes "He founded two genetic-sequencing companies and sold them for hundreds of millions of dollars. He helped to sequence the genomes of a Neanderthal man and James Watson, who co-discovered DNA's double helix. Now, entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg has set his sights on another milestone: finding the genes that underlie mathematical genius. Rothberg and physicist Max Tegmark, who is based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, have enrolled about 400 mathematicians and theoretical physicists from top-ranked US universities in a study dubbed 'Project Einstein'. They plan to sequence the participants' genomes using the Ion Torrent machine that Rothberg developed. Critics say that the sizes of these studies are too small to yield meaningful results for such complex traits. But Rothberg is pushing ahead. 'I'm not at all concerned about the critics,' he says, adding that he does not think such rare genetic traits could be useful in selecting for smarter babies. Some mathematicians, however, argue that maths aptitude is not born so much as made. 'I feel that the notion of "talent" may be overrated,' says Michael Hutchings, a mathematician also at Berkeley."
Philip Ross writes "Astronomers have warned that our planet is long overdue for a defense plan against catastrophic asteroid collisions. When it comes to deflecting Earth-obliterating celestial bodies, short of a superhero capable of punching the approaching rock back into outer space, there is no single force dedicated to stopping cosmic bullies from striking our little blue planet straight in the eye. That's why the United Nations said it will establish an International Asteroid Warning Group to intercept and divert dangerous asteroids."
vinces99 writes "During spring break the last five years, a University of Washington class has headed to the Nevada desert to launch rockets and learn more about the science and engineering involved. Sometimes, the launch would fail and a rocket smacked hard into the ground. This year, the session included launches from a balloon that were deliberately directed into a dry lakebed. Far from being failures, these were early tests of a concept that in the future could be used to collect and return samples from forbidding environments – an erupting volcano, a melting nuclear reactor or even an asteroid in space. 'We're trying to figure out what the maximum speed is that a rocket can survive a hard impact,' said Robert Winglee, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, who heads that department and leads the annual trek to the desert. The idea for a project called 'Sample Return Systems for Extreme Environments' is that the rocket will hit the surface and, as it burrows in a short distance, ports on either side of the nose will collect a sample and funnel it to an interior capsule. That capsule will be attached by tether to a balloon or a spacecraft, which would immediately reel in the capsule to recover the sample. 'The novel thing about this is that it developed out of our student rocket class. It's been a successful class, but there were a significant number of rockets that went ballistically into the ground. We learned a lot of physics from those crashes,' Winglee said. The technology, which recently received $500,000 over two years from NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts, could have a number of applications. It would allow scientists a relatively safe way of recovering samples in areas of high contamination, such as Japan's Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant, or from an erupting volcano, or even from an asteroid in space, in advance of a possible mining project."
littlesparkvt writes "A team of astrophysicists at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und- Raumfahrt; DLR), together with German and European colleagues, has discovered the most extensive exoplanetary system to date. Seven planets circle the star KOI-351 – more than in other known planetary systems. They are arranged in a similar fashion to the eight planets in the Solar System, with small rocky planets close to the parent star and gas giant planets at greater distances. Although the planetary system around KOI-351 is packed together more tightly, it provides an interesting comparison to our cosmic home."
schwit1 writes "The reservoir of molten rock underneath Yellowstone National Park in the United States is at least two and a half times larger than previously thought. Despite this, the scientists who came up with this latest estimate say that the highest risk in the iconic park is not a volcanic eruption but a huge earthquake. Jamie Farrell, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Utah, mapped the underlying magma reservoir by analyzing data from more than 4,500 earthquakes. Seismic waves travel more slowly through molten rock than through solid rock, and seismometers can detect those changes. The images show that the reservoir resembles a 4,000-cubic-kilometer underground sponge, with 6–8% of it filled with molten rock. It underlies most of the Yellowstone caldera and extends a little beyond it to the northeast."
KindMind writes "Robert Cringely writes on the idea that technological advances have changed the health care system, and not for the better. The idea is that companies now rate individuals instead of groups, and so move to a mode of simply avoiding policies that might lose money, instead of the traditional way that insurance costs were spread over a group. From the article: 'Then in the 1990s something happened: the cost of computing came down to the point where it was cost-effective to calculate likely health outcomes on an individual basis. This moved the health insurance business from being based on setting rates to denying coverage. In the U.S. the health insurance business model switched from covering as many people as possible to covering as few people as possible — selling insurance only to healthy people who didn't much need the healthcare system.'"
sciencehabit writes "A new study of the monkey brain suggests that primates are uniquely adapted to recognize the features of snakes and react in a flash. What's more, by selecting for traits that helped animals avoid them, the reptiles ultimately endowed us with forward-facing eyes, for example, and enlarged visual centers deep in our brains that are specialized for picking out specific features in the world around us, such as the general shape of a snake's body camouflaged among leaves.The results lend support to a controversial hypothesis: that primates as we know them would never have evolved without snakes."
astroengine writes "A deadly bed of icy javelins — known as penitentes — could be awaiting any spacecraft that tries to land on some parts of the ice-covered world Europa, say researchers who have carefully modeled the ice processes at work on parts of the Jovian moon to detect features beyond the current low resolution images. If the prediction of long vertical blades of ice is correct, it will not only help engineers design a lander to tame or avoid the sabers, but also help explain a couple of nagging mysteries about the strange moon. 'This is a game changer,' said planetary scientist Don Blankenship of the University of Texas in Austin. Blankenship has been involved in NASA's planning process for sending a reconnaissance spacecraft and eventually a lander to Europa."
mdsolar writes in about an ongoing scandal in South Korea that has rocked their nuclear power program. "It started with a few bogus safety certificates for cables shutting a handful of South Korean nuclear reactors. Now, the scandal has snowballed, with 100 people indicted and Seoul under pressure to rethink its reliance on nuclear power. A shift away from nuclear, which generates a third of South Korea's electricity, could cost tens of billions of dollars a year by boosting imports of liquefied natural gas, oil or coal. Although helping calm safety concerns, it would also push the government into a politically sensitive debate over whether state utilities could pass on sharply higher power bills to households and companies. Gas, which makes up half of South Korea's energy bill while accounting for only a fifth of its power, would likely be the main substitute for nuclear, as it is considered cleaner than coal and plants can be built more easily near cities."
MarkWhittington writes "Glenn Reynolds, the purveyor of Instapundit, asked the pertinent question, 'If big government can put a man on the moon, why can't it put up a simple website without messing it up?' The answer, as it turns out, is a rather simple one. The Apollo program, that President John F. Kennedy mandated to put a man on the moon and return him to the Earth, was a simple idea well carried out for a number of reasons. The primary one was that Congress did not pass a 1,800 or so page bill backed up by a mind-numbing amount of regulations mandating how NASA would do it. The question of how to conduct the lunar voyages was left up to the engineers at NASA and the aerospace industry at the time. The government simply provided the resources necessary to do the job and a certain degree of oversight. Imagine if President Obama had stated, 'I believe the nation should commit itself to the goal of enabling all Americans to access affordable health insurance' but then left the how to do it to some of the best experts in health care and economics without partisan interference."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Michael Hiltzik writes in the LA Times that you'd think the one place you can depend on for verifiable facts is science but a few years ago, scientists at Amgen set out to double-check the results of 53 landmark papers in their fields of cancer research and blood biology and found only six could be proved valid. 'The thing that should scare people is that so many of these important published studies turn out to be wrong when they're investigated further,' says Michael Eisen who adds that the drive to land a paper in a top journal encourages researchers to hype their results, especially in the life sciences. Peer review, in which a paper is checked out by eminent scientists before publication, isn't a safeguard because the unpaid reviewers seldom have the time or inclination to examine a study enough to unearth errors or flaws. 'The journals want the papers that make the sexiest claims,' Eisen says. 'And scientists believe that the way you succeed is having splashy papers in Science or Nature — it's not bad for them if a paper turns out to be wrong, if it's gotten a lot of attention.' That's why the National Institutes of Health has launched a project to remake its researchers' approach to publication. Its new PubMed Commons system allows qualified scientists to post ongoing comments about published papers. The goal is to wean scientists from the idea that a cursory, one-time peer review is enough to validate a research study, and substitute a process of continuing scrutiny, so that poor research can be identified quickly and good research can be picked out of the crowd and find a wider audience. 'The demand for sexy results, combined with indifferent follow-up, means that billions of dollars in worldwide resources devoted to finding and developing remedies for the diseases that afflict us all is being thrown down a rathole,' says Hiltzik. 'NIH and the rest of the scientific community are just now waking up to the realization that science has lost its way, and it may take years to get back on the right path.'"
RocketAcademy writes "The test article for Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft suffered a landing accident on Saturday when the left main landing gear failed to deploy, causing the vehicle to flip over. NBC News quotes a Sierra Nevada engineer saying that the pilot would have walked away. Sierra Nevada Corporation is developing the Dream Chaser to support the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo program. It is not yet known what effect the mishap will have on Dream Chaser development. A number of rocket vehicles have suffered landing-gear mishaps in the recent past. Several years ago, concerns over spacecraft gear design led to a call for NASA to fund a technology prize for robust, light-weight landing gear concepts."
An anonymous reader writes "A century ago on Monday, the predecessor to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County began a two-year project to uncover the Ice Age creatures that became trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits. 'Digs over the years have unearthed bones of mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and other unsuspecting Ice Age creatures that became trapped in ponds of sticky asphalt. But it's the smaller discoveries — plants, insects and rodents — in recent years that are shaping scientists' views of life in the region 11,000 to 50,000 years ago.'"
First time accepted submitter ydrozd writes "Until recently, most physicists believed that an observer falling into a black hole would experience nothing unusual when crossing its event horizon. As has been previously mentioned on Slashdot, there is a strong argument, initially based on observing an entangled pair at the event horizon, that suggests that the unfortunate observer would instead be burned up by a high energy quanta (a.k.a "firewall") just before crossing the black hole's event horizon. A new paper significantly improves the argument by removing reliance on quantum entanglement. The existence of black hole "firewalls" is a rare breakthrough in theoretical physics."
Lasrick writes "Nebraska researchers say they refuse to be used as political pawns: 'The problem, according to members of the governor-appointed Climate Assessment and Response Committee, is that the bill behind the study specifically calls for the researchers to look at 'cyclical' climate change. In so doing, it completely leaves out human contributions to global warming.'"
theodp writes "That there's no easy way for her to get timely, affordable access to taxpayer-funded research that could help her patients leaves speech-language pathologist Cortney Grove, well, speechless. 'Cortney's frustration,' writes the EFF's Adi Kamdar, 'is not uncommon. Much of the research that guides health-related progress is funded by taxpayer dollars through government grants, and yet those who need this information most-practitioners and their patients-cannot afford to access it.' She says, 'In my field we are charged with using scientific evidence to make clinical decisions. Unfortunately, the most pertinent evidence is locked up in the world of academic publishing and I cannot access it without paying upwards of $40 an article. My current research project is not centered around one article, but rather a body of work on a given topic. Accessing all the articles I would like to read will cost me nearly a thousand dollars. So, the sad state of affairs is that I may have to wait 7-10 years for someone to read the information, integrate it with their clinical opinions (biases, agendas, and financial motivations) and publish it in a format I can buy on Amazon. By then, how will my clinical knowledge and skills have changed? How will my clients be served in the meantime? What would I do with the first-hand information that I will not be able to do with the processed, commercialized product that emerges from it in a decade?'"
KentuckyFC writes "Network theorists have always simulated the spread of information through the internet using the same models epidemiologists use to study the spread of disease. Now Chinese scientists say this isn't quite right--it's easy to infect everybody you meet with a disease but it's much harder to inform all your contacts of a particular piece of information. So they've redone the conventional network simulations assuming that people only ever transmit messages to a certain fraction of their friends. And their results throw up a surprise. In these models, there are always individuals or clusters of individuals who are unreachable. These people never receive the information and make up a kind of underclass who eke out an information-poor existence in a few dark corners of the network. That has implications for organizations aiming to spread ideas who will have to think more carefully about how to reach people in these dark corners. That includes marketers and advertisers hoping to sell products and services but also agencies hoping to spread different kinds of messages such as safety-related information. It also raises the interesting prospect of individuals seeking out the dark corners of the internet, perhaps to preserve their privacy or perhaps for more nefarious reasons."
ananyo writes "Allen Nicklasson has had a temporary reprieve. Scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Missouri on 23 October, the convicted killer was given a stay of execution by the state's governor, Jay Nixon, on 11 October — but not because his guilt was in doubt. Nicklasson will live a while longer because one of the drugs that was supposed to be used in his execution — a widely used anesthetic called propofol — is at the center of an international controversy that threatens millions of U.S. patients, and affects the way that U.S. states execute inmates. Propofol, used up to 50 million times a year in U.S. surgical procedures, has never been used in an execution. If the execution had gone ahead, U.S. hospitals could have lost access to the drug because 90% of the U.S. supply is made and exported by a German company subject to European Union regulations that restrict the export of medicines and devices that could be used for capital punishment or torture. This is not the first time that the E.U.'s anti-death-penalty stance has affected the U.S. supply of anesthetics. Since 2011, a popular sedative called sodium thiopental has been unavailable in the United States. 'The European Union is serious,' says David Lubarsky, head of the anesthesiology department at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida. 'They've already shown that with thiopental. If we go down this road with propofol, a lot of good people who need anesthesia are going to be harmed.'"
benonemusic writes "A new study in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that dinosaurs reached gigantic proportions relative to mammals because of differences in their cartilage, making their joints squishier and able to sustain greater amounts of force. Other factors contributed to dinosaurs' larger sizes, including their lighter, air-sac-filled skeletons, and some researchers point out that the sizes of some dinosaurs and mammals were approximately equal, so anatomical differences between cartilage in dinosaurs and mammals may not directly explain why some dinosaurs grew to larger sizes."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Julie Beck has an interesting read in the Atlantic about how our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative because evolution has optimized our brains for survival, but not necessarily happiness, which means that we feel stressed and unhappy even though there are a lot of positive things in our lives. 'The problem is that the brain is very good at building brain structure from negative experiences,' says neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson. 'We learn immediately from pain—you know, "once burned, twice shy." As our ancestors evolved, they needed to pass on their genes. And day-to-day threats like predators or natural hazards had more urgency and impact for survival. On the other hand, positive experiences like food, shelter, or mating opportunities, those are good, but if you fail to have one of those good experiences today, as an animal, you would have a chance at one tomorrow. But the brain is relatively poor at turning positive experiences into emotional learning neural structure. 'Positive thinking by definition is conceptual and generally verbal and most conceptual or verbal material doesn't have a lot of impact on how we actually feel or function over the course of the day. A lot of people have this kind of positive, look on the bright side yappity yap, but deep down they're very frightened, angry, sad, disappointed, hurt, or lonely.' Dr. Hanson proposes several ideas for helping 're-wire' our brains for happiness. One of them is that we need to learn how to move positive experiences from short-term buffers to long-term storage. 'But to move from a short-term buffer to long-term storage, an experience needs to be held in that short-term buffer long enough for it to transfer to long-term storage,' says Hanson. 'When people are having positive thinking or even most positive experiences, the person is not taking the extra 10, 20 seconds to heighten the installation into neural structure. So it's not just positive thinking that's wasted on the brain; it's most positive experiences that are wasted on the brain.'"
the_newsbeagle writes "In spinal cord injuries, the brain's commands can't reach the lower body — so in a ground-breaking experiment at the University of Louisville, researchers are providing artificial commands via electrodes implanted in the spine. The first paralyzed people to try out the tech have already been able to stand on their own, and have regained some bowel and sexual function. A video that accompanies the article also shows paralyzed rats that were able to walk again with this kind of electrical stimulation."
RenderSeven writes "Science has so far been at a loss to explain why tapping a beer bottle with another causes it to explosively foam over. Thanks to a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, a research team at the University of Madrid studying fluid mechanics has found the answer with some fascinating slow-motion video. Their soon-to-be-published paper found that tapping the bottle (or shooting it with a laser) causes a series of compression and expansion waves, that generate unstable buoyant plumes, quickly turning most of the liquid into foam. PhysicsBuzz notes that the process is very rapid and nearly unstoppable once started."
minty3 writes "The twin inverted pulse radar (TWIPR) made by a team from the University of Southampton in England uses the same technique dolphins do to capture prey. Like dolphins, the device sends out two pulses in quick succession to cancel out background noise. The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences, explained how the device resembles the way dolphins send out two pulses in quick succession to cancel out background noise."
Science_afficionado writes "A news release from Vanderbilt University begins, 'Solar cells that produce electricity 24/7, not just when the sun is shining. Mobile phones with built-in power cells that recharge in seconds and work for weeks between charges. These are just two of the possibilities raised by a novel supercapacitor design invented by material scientists ... that is described in a paper published in the Oct. 22 issue of the journal Scientific Reports. It is the first supercapacitor that is made out of silicon so it can be built into a silicon chip along with the microelectronic circuitry that it powers. In fact, it should be possible to construct these power cells out of the excess silicon that exists in the current generation of solar cells, sensors, mobile phones and a variety of other electromechanical devices, providing a considerable cost savings. ... Instead of storing energy in chemical reactions the way batteries do, “supercaps” store electricity by assembling ions on the surface of a porous material. As a result, they tend to charge and discharge in minutes, instead of hours, and operate for a few million cycles, instead of a few thousand cycles like batteries.' The full academic paper is available online."
New submitter smegfault writes "In a new trial, PubMed Commons has been released. Until now, post-peer-publication results were restricted to letters to the editor of scientific journals; and even then some journals don't accept letters to the editor. With PubMed Commons, scientific peers can comment on PubMed-indexed articles without the interference of journal editors and peer reviewers. At the moment, eligible for participating are: 'Recipients of NIH (US) or Wellcome Trust (UK) grants can go to the NCBI website and register. You need a MyNCBI account, but they are available to the general public. If you are not a NIH or Wellcome Trust grant recipient, you are still eligible to participate if you are listed as an author on any publication listed in PubMed, even a letter to the editor. But you will need to be invited by somebody already signed up for participation in PubMed Commons. So, if you have a qualifying publication, you can simply get a colleague with the grant to sign up and then invite you.' However, reports are in that anyone with a PubMed / NCBI account can sign up on the PubMed home page."
KentuckyFC writes "One of the great challenges in physics is to unite the theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity. But all attempts to do this all run into the famous 'problem of time' — the resulting equations describe a static universe in which nothing ever happens. In 1983, theoreticians showed how this could be solved if time is an emergent phenomenon based on entanglement, the phenomenon in which two quantum particles share the same existence. An external, god-like observer always sees no difference between these particles compared to an external objective clock. But an observer who measures one of the pair — and so becomes entangled with it--can immediately see how it evolves differently from its partner. So from the outside the universe appears static and unchanging, while objects that are entangled within it experience the maelstrom of change. Now quantum physicists have performed the first experimental test of this idea by measuring the evolution of a pair of entangled photons in two different ways. An external god-like observer sees no difference while an observer who measures one particle and becomes entangled with it does see the change. In other words, the experiment shows how time is an emergent phenomenon based on entanglement, in which case the contradiction between quantum mechanics and general relativity seems to melt away."
astroengine writes "The first 1,000 exoplanets to be confirmed have been added to the Europe-based Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia. For the last few weeks, astronomers (and the science media) have been waiting with bated breath as the confirmed exoplanet count tallied closer and closer to the 1,000 mark. Then, with the help of the Super Wide Angle Search for Planets (SuperWASP) collaboration, the number jumped from 999 to 1,010 overnight. All of the 11 worlds are classified as 'hot-Jupiters' with orbital periods between 1 day and 9 days."
sighted writes "NASA reports that it has used a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 384,633 kilometers (239,000 miles) between the Moon and the Earth at a transfer rate of 622 megabits per second. The transmissions took place between a ground station in New Mexico and the LADEE robotic spacecraft now orbiting the moon. 'LLCD is NASA's first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves. It also has demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon. ... LLCD is a short-duration experiment and the precursor to NASA's long-duration demonstration, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). LCRD is a part of the agency's Technology Demonstration Missions Program, which is working to develop crosscutting technology capable of operating in the rigors of space. It is scheduled to launch in 2017.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Sky gazers at CU-Boulder's Fiske Planetarium are getting better, clearer and deeper views. And not just of astronomy anymore. The planetarium has been upgraded, transforming it into a digital IMAX-like theater that's open to the public every Saturday and Sunday with a variety of programs including shows for children. 'Fiske's refurbished video system projects ultra high-definition pictures at 8,000 by 8,000 pixels in size, giving audience members a crystal-clear 360-degree view on the dome’s 65-foot screen. "The size and quality is the equivalent of 40 Blu-ray players projecting 40 sections of one video image at once," said [Doug Duncan, director of Fiske]. This gallery of images shows a behind-the-scenes look at the Planetarium's brand new 8k Fulldome projection system. ' In addition to space odysseys and laser shows — longtime favorites of audiences — movies are now part of the Fiske lineup. 'Just like at an IMAX theater, we can take you near a black hole, through the Grand Canyon, under the ocean, or up to a super volcano,' said Duncan. "The sky is no longer the limit.'"
astroengine writes "If the thought of a rocket ride to space — or the $250,000 price tag to get there — leaves you feeling queasy, an Arizona firm thinks it has a gentler, less expensive alternative. World View, an offshoot of privately owned Paragon Space Development Corp., is developing a balloon-launched, near-space (30 kilometers) ride for $75,000 — less than one-third the current cost to fly on Virgin Galactic's suborbital SpaceShipTwo. "It really is very gentle. You can be up at altitude for hours, for days for research if you need to be... I think we have the opportunity to give a really, really incredible experience to people — and for a lot less than most of what's out on the market right now," project co-founder and Paragon president Jane Poynter told Discovery News."
jones_supa writes "A team working at Tampere University, Finland has discovered the virus that causes type 1 diabetes. The enterovirus penetrates the pancreas and destroys insulin-producing cells, eventually causing diabetes. Researchers have looked at more than a hundred different strains of the virus and pinpointed five that could cause diabetes. They believe they could produce a vaccine against those strains. One virus type has been identified to carry the biggest risk. A vaccine could also protect against its close relatives, to give the best possible effect. A similar enterovirus causes polio, which has been almost eradicated in many parts of the world thanks to vaccination programmes. A prototype diabetes vaccine has already been produced and tested on animals. Taking the vaccine through a clinical trial would cost some 700 million euros. Some funding is in place from the United States and from Europe, but more is required. Professor Heikki Hyöty says that money is the biggest obstacle in moving to testing in humans, but he sees that people are interested in their research and that the funding problems will ultimately be solved."
Kristian vonBengtson writes "A DIY, manned space program like Copenhagen Suborbitals is kept alive by keeping total independence, cutting the red tape and simply just doing it all in a garage. We basically try to stay below the radar at all time and are reluctant in engagements leading to signing papers or do things (too much) by the books. But now there might be trouble ahead. (Saul Goodman! We need you...) During the last 5 years we have encountered many weird legal cases which does not make much sense and no one can explain their origin. If we were to fix up a batch of regular black gunpowder (which we use for igniters) we are entitled for serving time in jail. Even a few grams. But no one give a hoot about building a rocket fueled with 12 tonnes of liquid oxygen and alcohol. Thats is perfectly legal. If Copenhagen Suborbitals fly a rocket into space for the first time there are likely legal action that must be dealt with. At my time at the International Space University we had lectures and exams in space law and I remember the Outer Space Treaty which is the most ratified space treaty with over 100 countries including Denmark and U.S. And here is the matter – in which I seek some kind of advice or what you may call it: Outer Space Treaty, Article 6 states: 'the activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty.' Does this mean that Denmark (or any other country for that matter – if it was your project) suddenly have to approve what we are doing and will be kept responsible for our mission, if we launch into space?"
sciencehabit writes "Scientists have successfully grown new hair follicles from the skin cells of balding men. While the research team (abstract) hasn't yet shown whether the structures, which produce strands of hair on our bodies, are fully functional and usable for transplants onto a scalp, experts say the discovery is a significant step toward finding new treatments for hair loss. Previous attempts used standard two-dimensional cell culturing techniques, but the new works grows the follicles in suspended droplets, better replicating the 3-D environment of the body. Using one's own cells to generate new follicles is useful because hair color and thickness will match perfectly with the rest of someone's head of hairs. And with the new technique, clinicians would be able to take just a few dermal papilla cells from a balding patient and expand the number of hair follicles available for transplant, rather than only be able to move follicles around."
KentuckyFC writes "The problem of free will is one of the great unsolved puzzles in science, not to mention philosophy, theology, jurisprudence and so on. The basic question is whether we are able to make decisions for ourselves or whether the outcomes are predetermined and the notion of choice is merely an illusion. Now a leading theoretical physicist has outlined a 'Turing Test' for free will and says that while simple devices such as thermostats cannot pass, more complex ones like iPhones might. The test is based on an extension of Turing's halting problem in computer science. This states that there is no general way of knowing how an algorithm will finish, other than to run it. This means that when a human has to make a decision, there is no way of knowing in advance how it will end up. In other words, the familiar feeling of not knowing the final decision until it is thought through is a necessary feature of the decision-making process and why we have the impression of free will. This leads to a simple set of questions that forms a kind of Turing test for free will. These show how simple decision-making devices such as thermostats cannot believe they have free will while humans can. A more interesting question relates to decision-makers of intermediate complexity, such as a smartphone. As the author puts it, this 'seems to possess all the criteria required for free will, and behaves as if it has it.'"
starr802 writes "A biological clock capable of determining how old different human tissues and cells are has been discovered by a team of researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (abstract). 'To fight aging, we first need an objective way of measuring it. Pinpointing a set of biomarkers that keeps time throughout the body has been a four-year challenge,' Steve Horvath, a professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and of biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health said in a statement. 'My goal in inventing this clock is to help scientists improve their understanding of what speeds up and slows down the human aging process.'"
itwbennett writes "It's no secret that the healthcare.gov website has been plagued by problems since its launch 3 weeks ago. On Sunday, the Department of Health and Human Services said that it's now bringing in the big guns: 'Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the [HHS] team and help improve HealthCare.gov,' the blog post reads. 'We're also putting in place tools and processes to aggressively monitor and identify parts of HealthCare.gov where individuals are encountering errors or having difficulty using the site, so we can prioritize and fix them.' Other emergency measures being taken as part of what HHS calls a 'tech surge' include defining new test processes to prevent new problems and regularly patching bugs during off-peak hours. Still unclear is how long it will take to fix the site. As recently reported on Slashdot, that could be anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months."
vinces99 writes "A quick glance at a world precipitation map shows that most tropical rain falls in the Northern Hemisphere. The Palmyra Atoll, at 6 degrees north, gets 175 inches of rain a year, while an equal distance on the opposite side of the equator gets only 45 inches. Scientists long believed that this was a quirk of the Earth's geometry – that the ocean basins tilting diagonally while the planet spins pushed tropical rain bands north of the equator. But a new University of Washington study shows that the pattern arises from ocean currents originating from the poles, thousands of miles away. The findings, published (paywalled) Oct. 20 in Nature Geoscience, explain a fundamental feature of the planet's climate, and show that icy waters affect seasonal rains that are crucial for growing crops in such places as Africa's Sahel region and southern India."
McGruber writes "Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, Paul Ford explains that the debacle known as healthcare.gov makes clear that it is time for the government to change the way it ships code: namely, by embracing the open source approach to software development that has revolutionized the technology industry." That seems like the only way to return maximum value to the taxpayers, too.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Radio Iowa reports that 155 scientists from 36 colleges and universities in Iowa are jointly issuing a call for action against global warming and calling on the US Department of Agriculture to update its policies to better protect the land. 'The last couple of years have underscored the fact that we are very vulnerable to weather conditions and weather extremes in Iowa,' says Gene Takle, director of the Climate Science Program at Iowa State. Both years were marked by heavy spring rains followed by droughts that damaged Iowa's farmland. 'This has become a real issue for us, particularly with regard to getting crops planted in the spring,' says Takle adding that Iowa had 900,000 acres that weren't planted this year because of these intense spring rains. 'Following on the heels of the disastrous 2012 loss of 90% of Iowa's apple crop, the 2013 cool March and record-breaking March-through-May rainfall set most ornamental and garden plants back well behind seasonal norms,' says the Iowa Climate Statement for 2013 . 'Iowa's soils and agriculture remain our most important economic resources, but these resources are threatened by climate change (PDF)." When the Iowa climate change statement was first released in 2011, 44 Iowa scientists signed on and last year's statement was signed by 137 Iowa scientists. "It's easy to set up a straw-man argument, to say, 'Oh, well climates always change; there have been changes in the past. This might just be natural,' " says David Courard-Hauri. "And often that gets played on the Internet as, 'Maybe scientists haven't thought about the fact that there have been natural changes in the past and maybe this is related.' " Of course scientists have thought about that possibility, says Courard-Hauri, but the evidence strongly suggests the climate is changing faster than could be expected to happen naturally."
An anonymous reader writes "Richard Schiffman writes in The Guardian that the Republican-led shutdown of the U.S. government caused significant damage to many scientific programs. For example: shortly before the shutdown started, over a hundred scientists had gathered to perform critical equipment tests on the James Webb Space Telescope — Hubble's successor — and that work was unable to continue without the government around. 'Not only did this delay cost the program an estimated $1M a day, but, given NASA's tight schedule, some tests may never get done now.' It doesn't stop there: 'This is only one of untold thousands of projects that were mothballed when Congress's failure to approve a budget defunded the US government at the start of the month. Federal websites were taken offline, scientists couldn't receive emails, attend meetings, or interact with their colleagues. Crucial environmental, food safety and climate monitoring programs were either suspended, or substantially scaled back.' Schiffman provides a few more examples, including one project that's losing a year's worth of work and equipment that will end up buried under snow in Antarctica. But it goes beyond even the basic funding issues; in many cases, scientific work is simply too intertwined with the government to continue without it. Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' center for science and democracy, said, 'It is all so interconnected now. Federal researchers collect data that is utilized by researchers in academia, by people working in industry, at state and local levels, so when you ask how dependent are we on the federal government in terms of science, it's a bit like asking: do you need your left leg?'"
New submitter Enokcc writes "In a series of research articles it was claimed that a famous system of nonlinear differential equations originally used to model atmospheric convection can also be used to model changes in human emotions over time. It took an amateur in psychology with a computer science background to notice how extraordinary these claims were, and with the help of experts on psychology he has now published a critique. The latest of the questionable research articles (with 360 citations) is now 'partially withdrawn.'" Notably, skeptic Nick Brown's paper is co-authored by Alan Sokal, famous for exposing nonsense by less diplomatic means.
An anonymous reader writes "All Power Labs in Berkeley, California has produced and sold over 500 machines that take in dense biomass and put out energy. What makes the machines special is that instead of releasing carbon back into the atmosphere, it's concentrated into a lump charcoal that makes excellent fertilizer. The energy is produced cheaply, too; many of the machines went to poor nations who normally pay much more per kilowatt. '[T]he PowerPallets are still relatively simple, at least as far as their users are concerned. For one, thing Price explained, much of the machine is made with plumbing fixtures that are the same everywhere in the world. That means they're easy to repair. At the same time, while researchers at the 50 or so institutions that have bought the machines are excited by opening up the computer control system and poking around inside, a guy running a corn mill in Uganda with a PowerPallet "will never need to open that door and never will," Price said.'"
benonemusic writes "The commercially available D-Wave computer has demonstrated its ability to perform increasingly complex tasks. But is it a real quantum computer? A new round of research continues the debate over how much its calculations owe to exotic quantum-physics phenomena. 'One side argues there is too much noise in the D-Wave system, which prevents consistent entanglement. But in an adiabatic device, certain types of entanglement are not as vital as they are in the traditional model of a quantum computer. Some researchers are attempting to solve this conundrum by proving the presence or absence of entanglement. If they show entanglement is absent, that would be the end of the discussion. On the other hand, even if some of D-Wave's qubits are entangled, this doesn't mean the device is taking advantage of it. Another way to prove D-Wave's quantumness would be to confirm it is indeed performing quantum, and not classical, annealing. Lidar has published work to this effect, but that triggered opposition, and then a counter-point. The debate continues.'"
jones_supa writes "If you want to find the computer geniuses of tomorrow, you could do worse than to check out which kids are playing Minecraft. In a Google+ post, the Google Quantum A.I. Lab Team says that they've released a mod called qCraft to enable kids (and adults) to play around with blocks that exhibit behaviors like quantum entanglement, superposition and observer dependency. qCraft obviously isn't a perfect scientific simulation, but it's a fun way for players to experience a few parts of quantum mechanics outside of thought experiments or dense textbook examples. The team doesn't know the full potential of what you can make with the mod, but they are excited to see what Minecraft's players can discover."
wabrandsma writes "New Scientist reports that 'A bacterium has had its genome recoded so that the standard language of life no longer applies. Instead, one of its words has been freed up to impart a different meaning, allowing the addition of genetic elements that don't exist in nature. ... The four letters of the genetic code are usually read by a cell's protein-production machinery, the ribosome, in sets of three letters called codons. Each codon "word" provides instructions about which amino acid to add next to a growing peptide chain. Although there are 64 ways of combining four letters, only 61 codons are used to encode the 20 amino acids found in nature. ... The three combinations left over, UAG, UAA and UGA, act like a full stop or period – telling the ribosome to terminate the process at that point. ... A team of synthetic biologists led by Farren Isaacs at Yale University have now fundamentally rewritten these rules (abstract). They took Escherichia coli cells and replaced all of their UAG stop codons with UAAs. They also deleted the instructions for making the release factor that usually binds to UAG, rendering UAG meaningless. Next they set about assigning UAG a new meaning, by designing molecules called tRNAs and accompanying enzymes that would attach an unnatural amino acid – fed to the cell – whenever they spotted this codon."
An anonymous reader writes "According to the Washington Post, 'Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he once feared that terrorists could use the electrical device that had been implanted near his heart to kill him and had his doctor disable its wireless function. Cheney has a history of heart trouble, suffering the first of five heart attacks at age 37. ... In an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes, Cheney says doctors replaced an implanted defibrillator near his heart in 2007. The device can detect irregular heartbeats and control them with electrical jolts. Cheney says that he and his doctor, cardiologist Jonathan Reiner, turned off the device's wireless function in case a terrorist tried to send his heart a fatal shock.' More at CBS News."
ananyo writes "A 1.8 million-year-old human skull dramatically simplifies the textbook story of human evolution, suggesting what were thought to be three distinct species of early human (Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis and Homo erectus) was just one. 'Skull 5', along with four other skulls from the same excavation site at Dmanisi, Georgia, also shows that early humans were as physically diverse as we are today (paper abstract)."