ananyo writes "First came reports of earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing and the reinjection of water during oil and gas operations. Now U.S. scientists are reporting tremors may have been caused by the injection of carbon dioxide during oil production. The evidence centers on a sudden burst of seismic activity around an old oil field in the Permian Basin in northwest Texas. From 2006 to 2011, after more than two decades without any earthquakes, seismometers in the region registered 38 tremors, including 18 larger quakes ranging from magnitude 3 to 4.4, scientists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The tremors began just two years after injections of significant volumes of CO2 began at the site, in an effort to boost oil production. 'Although you can never prove that correlation is equal to causation, certainly the most plausible explanation is that [the tremors] are related to the gas injection,' says Cliff Frohlich, a seismologist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics in Austin, who co-authored the study."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
First time accepted submitter 192_kbps writes "Mike Clements, a long-haul trucker from West Jordan, Utah, built the largest amateur telescope ever with a whopping 70 inch primary mirror he purchased at auction. The entire telescope is 35 feet tall, 900 pounds, and he hopes to tour it in parks. As a hand-turned Dobsonian the telescope lacks the photographic capacity and tracking required for professional astronomy but the views must be breathtaking." (Are there other compelling candidates out there for "largest amateur telescope ever"? The 71" scope listed by nitesky.org appears to be dormant.)
neo12 writes "India has successfully launched a spacecraft to the Red Planet — with the aim of becoming the fourth space agency to reach Mars." As our previous mention of the launch notes, getting to Mars by rocket is a long haul: if all goes well, it will be about 10 months until Mangalyaan reaches orbit.
First time accepted submitter neapolitan writes "PBS has a report on the difficulties of tracking the complications arising from surgical robotic systems, particularly the Da Vinci robotic surgery apparatus. The original study (paywall) notes that there is a large lag in filing reports, and some are not reported at all. It is difficult to assess the continued outcomes and safety without accurate reporting data."
sfcrazy writes "On Tuesday (Mangalwaar) the Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) will launch the Mars orbiter Mangalyaan from Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The spaceship will take over 10 months to reach Mars and, if everything goes well, it would make India the first country to send a payload to Mars in its first attempt, and would beat close rival China whose recent mission failed."
The Bad Astronomer writes "A new study, looking at over 40,000 stars viewed by the Kepler spacecraft, indicates that 22% of stars like the Sun should have Earth-like planets orbiting them — planets that are similar in size to our home world and with a surface temperature hospitable for liquid water. There are some caveats (they don't include atmospheric issues like the greenhouse effect, which may reduce the overall number, or at cooler stars where there may be many more such planets) but their numbers indicate there could be several billion planets similar to Earth in the Milky Way alone."
minty3 writes "Nathan Gray, 10, from Nova Scotia, Canada, recently discovered a 600-million-year-old supernova in the galaxy PGC 61330, which lies in the constellation of Draco – beating his sister by 33 days as the youngest person to find a supernova. Gray made the discovery on October 30 while looking at astronomical images taken by Dave Lane, who runs the Abbey Ridge Observatory (ARO) in Nova Scotia. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada confirmed Gray's discovery, but astronomers with the International Astronomical Union say they will need to use a larger telescope to make the finding official."
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "A Harvard biologist was able to get an intentionally flawed paper accepted for publication by a number of open-access academic journals, included that had supposedly been vetted for quality by advocates of open access. It seems the problem could be mitigated by consolidating journals within a field, so that there are much fewer of them, publishing much more articles per journal -- so the review processes take the same amount of labor, but you have fewer journals that have to be audited for procedural honesty." Read on for the rest, including his idea to solve the problem of fraudulent submissions (or even just sub-par science) through simplification.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Science writer and 42-year old pre-med student Barbara Moran writes in the NY Times that organic chemistry has been haunting pre-meds since 1910, when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a landmark report calling for tougher admission standards to medical school and for medical training based on science. "The organic chemistry on the MCAT is chemistry that students need to know to succeed in medical school," says Karen Mitchell, senior director of the MCAT Program. Basically, orgo examines how molecules containing carbon interact, but it doesn't require equations or math, as in physics. Instead, you learn how electrons flow around and between molecules, and you draw little curved arrows showing where they go. This "arrow pushing" is the heart and soul of orgo. "Learning how to interpret the hieroglyphics is pretty easy. The hard part is learning where to draw the little arrows," writes Moran. "After you draw oxygen donating electrons to a positive carbon a zillion times, it becomes second nature." But the rules have many exceptions, which students find maddening. The same molecule will behave differently in acid or base, in dark or sunlight, in heat or cold, or "if you sprinkle magic orgo dust on it and turn around three times." You can't memorize all the possible answers — you have to rely on intuition, generalizing from specific examples. This skill, far more than the details of every reaction, may actually be useful for medicine. "It seems a lot like diagnosis," says Logan McCarty. "That cognitive skill — inductive generalization from specific cases to something you've never seen before — that's something you learn in orgo." This takes a huge amount of time, for me 20 to 30 hours a week writes Moran. This is one thing that orgo is testing: whether you have the time and desire to do the work. "Sometimes, if a student has really good math skills, they can slide through physics, but you can't do that in orgo," says McCarty ."
sciencehabit writes "The last star to go supernova in the Milky Way—that astronomers know of—exploded in 1604, before Galileo first turned a telescope to the heavens. But with a neutrino detector now being built within a Japanese mountain that could come online as early as 2016, researchers might be able to do something as yet undone: Make detailed observations of a supernova in our galaxy before it visibly explodes. First, astronomers would be alerted to the unfolding event by the flood of neutrinos generated when a supernova collapses. Within minutes, they could determine the general area of the sky where the explosion would occur, point their infrared telescopes in that direction, and wait for the fireworks. With the new sensor in place, instruments—especially infrared telescopes—would have an almost 100% chance of observing the next supernova in our galaxy, the researchers report."
mdsolar writes "Tomorrow at dawn on the U.S. East Coast, a partial solar eclipse will rise. Solar eclipses have many uses. They can confirm the Theory of Relativity, allow study of the solar corona, and this week, help prepare for global warming induced sea level rise. The tides induced in the oceans when the Sun and Moon are aligned are particularly high (and low) and give a foretaste of the effects of sea level rise in the coming decades. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources is asking for photos of these King Tides to help with preparation for the effect of sea level rise. Way to get out front, Maryland."
New submitter codeusirae writes "An initial round of criticism focused on how many files the browser was being forced to download just to access the site, per an article at Reuters. A thread at Reddit appeared and was filled with analyses of the code. But closer looks by others have teased out deeper, more systematic issues."
theodp writes " The Common Core State Standards Initiative," explains the project's website, ""is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt." Who could argue with such an effort? Not Bill Gates, who ponied up $150 million to help git-r-done. But the devil's in the details, notes Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss, who offers up a ridiculous Common Core math test for first graders as Exhibit A, which also helps to explain why the initiative is facing waning support. Explaining her frustration with the intended-for-5-and-6-year-olds test from Gates Foundation partner Pearson Education, Principal Carol Burris explains, "Take a look at question No. 1, which shows students five pennies, under which it says 'part I know,' and then a full coffee cup labeled with a '6' and, under it, the word, 'Whole.' Students are asked to find 'the missing part' from a list of four numbers. My assistant principal for mathematics was not sure what the question was asking. How could pennies be a part of a cup?" The 6-year-old first-grader who took the test didn't get it either, and took home a 45% math grade to her parents. And so the I'm-bad-at-math game begins!"
An anonymous reader writes "Recent reports of MathML's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Given the amount of marketing dollars companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have spent trying to convince a buying public to purchase their wares as educational tools, you'd think they'd deliver more than lip service by now. MathJax team member, Peter Krautzberger, has compiled a great overview of the current state of MathML, the standard for mathematical content in publishing work flows, technical writing, and math software: "20 years into the web, math and science are still second class citizens on the web. While MathML is part of HTML 5, its adoption has seen ups and downs but if you look closely you can see there is more light than shadow and a great opportunity to revolutionize educational, scientific and technical communication.""
KentuckyFC writes "As the Sun expands into a red giant, life on Earth will die away. Now astrobiologists have worked out how this will look to distant observers watching the biosignature in our atmosphere. They say the first major effect of warming, about 1 billion years from now, will be a dramatic drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide as the oceans absorb more of it. That's bad news for trees and plants, which need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, so they begin to die off. Since plants produce oxygen, atmospheric levels of oxygen will also drop, killing off the animals. Roughly 2 billion years from now, the only living things on Earth will be microbes. However, methane levels will have risen dramatically, caused by decaying plant matter. And decaying animals will release a gas called methanethiol, which breaks down into ethane, which ought to be visible too. Finally, they calculate that about 3 billion years from now, the oceans will boil and Earth will be a barren planet with little if any biosignature at all. But all this is not just a subject of morbid fascination. With the next generation of space telescopes, astronomers should see similar biosignatures on Earth-like planets around other stars that are also beyond their sell-by dates. So we'll be able to watch them die off first."
An anonymous reader writes "Cornell physicists say they've codified why science works, or more specifically, why scientific theories work – a meta-theory. Publishing online in the journal Science (abstract), the team has developed a unified computational framework they say exposes the hidden hierarchy of scientific theories by quantifying the degree to which predictions – like how a particular cellular mechanism might work under certain conditions, or how sound travels through space – depend on the detailed variables of a model."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Scientists at the University of Manchester in England figured out how the largest animal ever to walk on Earth, the 80-ton Argentinosaurus, actually walked on earth. Researchers led by Bill Sellers, Rudolfo Coria and Lee Margetts at the N8 High Performance Computing facility in northern England used a 320 gigaflop/second SGI High Performance Computing Cluster supercomputer called Polaris to model the skeleton and movements of Argentinosaurus. The animal was able to reach a top speed of about 5 mph, with 'a slow, steady gait,' according to the team (PDF). Extrapolating from a few feet of bone, paleontologists were able to estimate the beast weighed between 80 and 100 tons and grew up to 115 feet in length. Polaris not only allowed the team to model the missing parts of the dinosaur and make them move, it did so quickly enough to beat the deadline for PLOS ONE Special Collection on Sauropods, a special edition of the site focusing on new research on sauropods that 'is likely to be the "de facto" international reference for Sauropods for decades to come,' according to a statement from the N8 HPC center. The really exciting thing, according to Coria, was how well Polaris was able to fill in the gaps left by the fossil records. 'It is frustrating there was so little of the original dinosaur fossilized, making any reconstruction difficult,' he said, despite previous research that established some rules of weight distribution, movement and the limits of dinosaurs' biological strength."
First time accepted submitter Rozanne writes "The new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine has a story on Stanford professor Drew Endy's creation of microscopic computers out of biological components for use inside living cells. His work is a mash-up of molecular biology and computer engineering: Instead of a computer made of silicon, metal and plastic, it's a computer made of DNA, RNA and enzymes. Endy says biologists are typically confounded at first when he explains how the computers work and how they could be used."
wjcofkc writes "The United States Government has officially called in the calvary over the problems with Healthcare.gov. Tech titans Oracle, Red Hat and Google have been tapped to join the effort to fix the website that went live a month ago, only to quickly roll over and die. While a tech surge of engineers to fix such a complex problem is arguably not the greatest idea, if you're going to do so, you might as well bring in the big guns. The question is: can they make the end of November deadline?"
First time accepted submitter calinduca writes "Artificial blood that could one day be used in humans without side effects has been created by scientists in Romania. The blood contains water and salts along with a protein known as hemerythrin which is extracted from sea worms. Researchers from Babe-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, hope it could help end blood supply shortages and prevent infections through donations." Wikipedia's entry on hemerythrin explains its unusual oxygen binding mechanism.
coondoggie writes "Imagine 500 million short copper wires — no longer than the tip of your index finger — floating in space creating what amounts to an antenna belt that could be used to send messages and conduct other space communications research. That would describe the 1960s era Project Space Needles or Project West Ford as it was sometimes called that NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last undertook in 1963 which saw the blasting of millions of those copper hairs into space. NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office this month did a 'Where are they now' look at those copper wires and said that after 50 years, some of them indeed still make up a small amount of orbital debris."
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."
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."