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Earth

Alleging 'Malpractice' With Climate Skeptic Papers, Publisher Kills Journal 314

Posted by timothy
from the public-scrutiny dept.
sciencehabit writes "A European publisher today terminated a journal edited by climate change skeptics. The journal, Pattern Recognition in Physics, was started less than a year ago. Problems cropped up soon afterward. In July, Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, noted 'serious concerns' with Pattern Recognition in Physics. As he wrote on his blog about open-access publishing, Beall found self-plagiarism in the first paper published by the journal. 'In addition,' says another critic, 'the editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis, which we regard as malpractice in scientific publishing.'"
Mars

Mystery Rock 'Appears' In Front of Mars Rover 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the stop-throwing-rocks-at-our-rover-you-damn-martian-kids dept.
astroengine writes "After a decade of exploring the Martian surface, the scientists overseeing veteran rover Opportunity thought they'd seen it all. That was until a rock mysteriously 'appeared' a few feet in front of the six wheeled rover a few days ago. News of the errant rock was announced by NASA Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University at a special NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory '10 years of roving Mars' event at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday night. The rock, about 'the size of a jelly doughnut' according to Squyres, is thought to have either come from a freak "flipping" event or a very recent meteorite impact. However, the latter isn't thought to be very likely. Although they are still working on the rock's origin, the rover team believe it was 'tiddlywinked' by Opportunity's broken wheel; as the rover was turning on the spot, the rock was kicked from place under the wheel and flipped a few feet away from the rover. Never missing a science opportunity, Squyres told Discovery News, 'It obligingly turned upside down, so we're seeing a side that hasn't seen the Martian atmosphere in billions of years and there it is for us to investigate. It's just a stroke of luck.'"
Education

Creationism In Texas Public Schools 770

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-one-could-accuse-them-of-evolving dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Slate reports on new anti-science education coming out of Texas. The state has a charter school system called Responsive Education Solutions, which is publicly funded. Unfortunately, 'it has been connected from its inception to the creationist movement and to far-right fundamentalists who seek to undermine the separation of church and state.' The biology workbook used in these schools actually reads, "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth." It also brings up social Darwinism as if it's an aspect of evolutionary theory and introduces doubt that the Earth is billions of years old. The article continues, 'To get around court rulings, Responsive Ed and other creationists resort to rhetoric about teaching "all sides" of "competing theories" and claiming that this approach promotes "critical thinking." In response to a question about whether Responsive Ed teaches creationism, its vice president of academic affairs, Rosalinda Gonzalez, told me that the curriculum "teaches evolution, noting, but not exploring, the existence of competing theories."' Other so-called education texts being used by the Responsive Ed program teach Western superiority and how feminism forced women to 'turn to the state as a surrogate husband.'"
Google

Google Announces Smart Contact Lens Project For Diabetics 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the start-educating-your-contact-lenses-today dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has announced on its official blog that it's working on a new way for diabetics to monitor their blood sugar: a 'smart' contact lens. Diabetes is a difficult condition to treat because blood sugar levels vary widely by a person's activity level and food intake. It's also hard to monitor without painful and intrusive measurements — people can feel normal at dangerously high blood sugar levels, while extremely low levels can impair their ability to seek treatment. Google says, 'Over the years, many scientists have investigated various body fluids—such as tears—in the hopes of finding an easier way for people to track their glucose levels. But as you can imagine, tears are hard to collect and study. At Google[x], we wondered if miniaturized electronics—think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair—might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy. We're now testing a smart contact lens that's built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. We're testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second.' They're talking with the FDA and bringing in experts to help them figure out the best way to do it."
Science

World-First Working Eukaryotic Cell Made From Plastic 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-prefer-real-cells dept.
Zothecula writes "Previously, chemists have managed to create artificial cell walls and developed synthetic DNA to produce self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cells. Now, for the first time, researchers have used polymers to produce an artificial eukaryotic cell capable of undertaking multiple chemical reactions through working organelles."
Space

Previously-Unseen Photos of Challenger Disaster Appear Online 207

Posted by timothy
from the things-in-odd-places dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Twenty-six photos of the space shuttle Challenger disaster have appeared online. According to io9, "Michael Hindes of West Springfield, MA, was sorting through boxes of his grandparents' old photographs when he happened upon 26 harrowing photos of the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster of 1986. To his knowledge, these photos have never been publicly released." Hindes told the Website that the photographer was "a friend of his grandfather, who worked for NASA as an electrician on the Agency's hulking, spacecraft-schlepping crawler transporters." Someone at Reddit (which also has a lengthy thread devoted to the images) also threw together a GIF of the liftoff and subsequent explosion."
Space

Telescope Designer and Astronomer John Dobson, 1915-2014 57

Posted by timothy
from the now-he-gets-the-whole-sky dept.
As noted by Sky & Telescope, SpaceWatchtower, and many other sources, astronomer and telescope innovator John Dobson died yesterday in Burbank, California, at the age of 98. He's famous as an inspiration for others to explore astronomy, in part through the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers, which he co-founded in 1967, and as designer of the telescope variety which bears his name.
Medicine

Paging Dr. MacGyver: Maker Movement Comes To Medical Gear 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-me-an-avocado-an-ice-pick-and-my-snorkel dept.
eggboard writes "The maker movement has started to rapidly turn to medical gear, especially in developing nations. The early results are quite marvelous, but there are a ton of concerns, too. The pace of change is incredibly fast. From the article: '[Many people] without any without any formal medical training—can take advantage of access to global supply chains, cutting-edge medical knowledge, and recent leaps in design and fabrication technology that have made the prototyping process faster, cheaper, and simpler than ever before. Even as concerns about safety and liability are only starting to be addressed, medical inventors and other technical tinkerers are already improving and saving lives—sometimes their own.'"
Science

Revolutionary Scuba Mask Creates Breathable Oxygen Underwater On Its Own 375

Posted by samzenpus
from the swim-with-the-fishes dept.
schwit1 writes "With the Triton Oxygen Respirator, it might be possible to breathe beneath the surface of the water as if you were a fish. Requiring no bulky tank to keep your lungs pumping properly. The regulator comprises a plastic mouthpiece that requires you to simply bite down. There are two arms that branch out to the sides of the scuba mask that have been developed to function like the efficient gills of a marine creature. The scaly texture conceals small holes in the material where water is sucked in. Chambers inside separate the oxygen and release the liquid so that you can breath comfortably in the ocean."
Science

Scientists Glue Sensors To 5,000 Bees In a Bid To Better Understand Them 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the glue-honey dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at the University of Tasmania working with CSIRO have decided to use the latest sensor technology to help them better understand the behavior of thousands of bees. An RFID sensor has been attached with glue to the back of around 5,000 honey bees in Hobart, Tasmania. In order for that to work, shaving the area of the bee where the sensor would sit was necessary in some cases. Thankfully the bee was asleep during the process, and the sensor is small and light enough that they likely won't notice it is there. With the sensors attached, checkpoints can be setup around the area where the bees travel and pollinate in order to create a three-dimensional map of their movements."
Science

Why Birds Fly In a V Formation 207

Posted by samzenpus
from the heading-south dept.
sciencehabit writes "Anyone watching the autumn sky knows that migrating birds fly in a V formation, but scientists have long debated why. A new study of ibises — where researchers took to microlight planes and recorded birds strapped with GPS in-flight — finds that these big-winged birds carefully position their wingtips and sync their flapping, presumably to catch the preceding bird's updraft and save energy during flight."
Biotech

DNA Detectives Count Thousands of Fish Using a Glass of Water 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the where's-walleye dept.
vinces99 writes "A mere glass full of water from Monterey Bay Aquarium's 1.2 million-gallon Open Sea tank is all scientists really needed to identify the Pacific Bluefin tuna, dolphinfish and most of the other 13,000 fish swimming there. Researchers also discerned which of the species were most plentiful in the tank. Being able to determine the relative abundance of fish species in a body of water is the next step in possibly using modern DNA identification techniques to census fish in the open ocean, according to Ryan Kelly, University of Washington assistant professor of marine and environmental affairs, and lead author of a paper in the Jan. 15 issue of PLOS ONE. 'It might be unpleasant to think about when going for a swim in the ocean, but the water is a soup of cells shed by what lives there,' Kelly said. Fish shed cells from their skin, damaged tissues and as body wastes. 'Every one of those cells has DNA and if you have the right tools you can tell what species the cell came from. Now we're working to find the relative abundance of each species present,' he said."
Technology

Carbon Nanotubes and Spongy Polymer Help Transistors Stretch 17

Posted by Soulskill
from the twist-fold-and-roll dept.
MTorrice writes "To make future displays that roll, bend, and stretch, electronics makers need the circuits that control the pixels to be elastic. In particular, they need flexible transistors. Now researchers have combined a carbon nanotube mesh with a spongy ionic polymer to build super-stretchy transistors. The scientists can pull the devices to lengths 57% greater than their resting length without disrupting performance."
Stats

Why Standard Deviation Should Be Retired From Scientific Use 312

Posted by Soulskill
from the hope-it-gets-a-good-pension dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Statistician and author Nassim Taleb has a suggestion for scientific researchers: stop trying to use standard deviations in your work. He says it's misunderstood more often than not, and also not the best tool for its purpose. Taleb thinks researchers should use mean deviation instead. 'It is all due to a historical accident: in 1893, the great Karl Pearson introduced the term "standard deviation" for what had been known as "root mean square error." The confusion started then: people thought it meant mean deviation. The idea stuck: every time a newspaper has attempted to clarify the concept of market "volatility", it defined it verbally as mean deviation yet produced the numerical measure of the (higher) standard deviation. But it is not just journalists who fall for the mistake: I recall seeing official documents from the department of commerce and the Federal Reserve partaking of the conflation, even regulators in statements on market volatility. What is worse, Goldstein and I found that a high number of data scientists (many with PhDs) also get confused in real life.'"
Space

Rare Exoplanet Found In Star Cluster, Orbits Sun's 'Twin' 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-steal-their-sun-and-claim-it-as-our-own dept.
astroengine writes "Three new exoplanets have been discovered inside a star cluster, which is a rare find as only a handful of such exoplanets are known to exist. However, one of the three new finds is even more remarkable — it orbits a star that appears to be 'an almost perfect solar twin.' The discovery was made by astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's HARPS exoplanet-hunting instrument (PDF) attached to the 3.6-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile and was confirmed by other collaborating observatories. The astronomers' attention was focused on the Messier 67 open star cluster, which is located approximately 2,600 light-years away in the constellation Cancer."
Government

U.S. Science Agencies Get Some Relief In 2014 Budget 83

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the make-science-not-war dept.
sciencehabit writes "The ghost of former President George W. Bush permeates the 2014 budget that Congress released this week. His presence is good news for physical scientists, but less cheery for biomedical researchers, as Congress reserved some of the biggest spending increases for NASA and the Department of Energy. The National Institutes of Health, meanwhile, got a $1 billion increase that is drawing mixed reviews from research advocates."
Science

Why Transitivity Violations Can Be Rational 169

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the error-axiom-broken dept.
ananyo writes "Organisms, including humans, are often assumed to be hard-wired by evolution to try to make optimal decisions, to the best of their knowledge. Ranking choices consistently — for example, in selecting food sources — would seem to be one aspect of such rationality. If A is preferred over B, and B over C, then surely A should be selected when the options are just A and C? This seemingly logical ordering of preferences is called transitivity. Furthermore, if A is preferred when both B and C are available, then A should 'rationally' remain the first choice when only A and B are at hand ... But sometimes animals do not display such logic. For example, honeybees and gray jays have been seen to violate the Independence of Irrational Alternatives, and so have hummingbirds ... Researchers have now used a theoretical model to show that, in fact, violations of transitivity can sometimes be the best choice (original paper) for the given situation, and therefore rational. The key is that the various choices might appear or disappear in the future. Then the decision becomes more complicated than a simple, fixed ranking of preferences. So while these choices look irrational, they aren't necessarily."
Canada

Canadian Government Trucking Generations of Scientific Data To the Dump 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-look-on-wikipedia dept.
sandbagger writes "Canada's science documents are literally being taken to the dump. The northern nation's scientific community has been up in arms over the holidays as local scientific libraries and records offices were closed and their shelves — some of which contained century old data — emptied into dumpsters. Stephen Harper's Tory government is claiming that the documents have been digitized. The scientists say, 'The people who use this research don’t have any say in what is being saved or tossed aside.'"
Biotech

Low-Cost Morphing Robotic Hands Could Revolutionize Blue-Collar Bionics 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the might-come-in-handy dept.
malachiorion writes "Cornell, MIT and iRobot have all shown off so-called jamming manipulators: rubbery blobs that grip objects by deforming around them. But with the first commercially available version shipping to industrial and manufacturing customers, Cornell spinoff Empire Robotics has a new market in mind: Prosthetics. While impossibly expensive, neuro-controlled bionic hands continue to be a fantasy for most amputees, jamming manipulators could do the job. This article is about the merits of a low-tech, self-gripping stump, that could be powered by hooking up to an air compressor." This seems like a decent solution while we close in on a method to regrow lost limbs.
China

Chinese Firm Can Now Produce 500 Cloned Pigs Per Year 156

Posted by Soulskill
from the baconators-for-all dept.
Sockatume writes "According to an article published by the BBC, Chinese firm BGI has refined cloning procedures to the point where they can produce 500 pigs per year, performing two embryo implantations per day with a 70-80% success rate. Much of the operation is concerned with producing genetically-engineered animals for research. The biotech firm's other work includes million-individual-scale animal and plant genetic sequencing."
Science

Ampere Could Be Redefined After Experiments Track Single Electrons Crossing Chip 299

Posted by timothy
from the micro-management dept.
ananyo writes "Physicists have tracked electrons crossing a semiconductor chip one at a time — an experiment that should at last enable a rational definition of the ampere, the unit of electrical current. At present, an ampere is defined as the amount of charge flowing per second through two infinitely long wires one meter apart, such that the wires attract each other with a force of 2×10^-7 newtons per meter of length. That definition, adopted in 1948 and based on a thought experiment that can at best be approximated in the laboratory, is clumsy — almost as much of an embarrassment as the definition of the kilogram, which relies on the fluctuating mass of a 125-year-old platinum-and-iridium cylinder stored at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris. The new approach, described in a paper posted onto the arXiv server on 19 December, would redefine the amp on the basis of e, a physical constant representing the charge of an electron."
Security

Mathematical Model Helps Estimate Optimal Timing of Cyber Attack 31

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the hack-the-gibson-when-it's-ripe dept.
sciencehabit writes "Have you been missing the grim mathematical war games that strategists once used to map out possible nuclear confrontations? Don't worry, the games are back — this time applied to computer security. Researchers have now mathematically formalized the strategy of computer hacking, potentially enabling anyone — governments, activist hackers, cybermafia — to determine the optimal timing of attacks."
Medicine

Using Nanotechnology To Build Thinner, Stronger Condoms 253

Posted by samzenpus
from the making-it-better dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Discovery Magazine reports that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted $100,000 to Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) to develop a nanoparticle coating for condoms that will make them more comfortable and stronger while simultaneously keeping them thin to preserve – and increase – sensation in order to make them more appealing to use. According to the Gates Foundation, in the time that condoms have been in use, not much has changed: '[Condoms] have undergone very little technological improvement in the past 50 years. The primary improvement has been the use of latex as the primary material and quality-control measures, which allow for quality testing of each individual condom. Material science and our understanding of neurobiology has undergone revolutionary transformation in the last decade, yet that knowledge has not been applied to improve the product attributes of one of the most ubiquitous and potentially underutilized products on earth.' The nanotechnology that the Boston doctors intend to use for their improved condoms will be superhydrophillic nanoparticles that coat the condom and trap water to make them more resilient and easier to use. 'We believe that by altering the mechanical forces experienced by the condom, we may ultimately be able to make a thinner condom which reduces friction, thereby reducing discomfort associated with friction increases pleasure, thereby increasing condom use and decreases rates of unwanted pregnancy and infection transmission.'"
Science

Chefs Preview Surface Tension-Based Cocktail Garnishes 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the drinking-science dept.
carmendrahl writes "Last fall, MIT researchers made news for developing two bioinspired cocktail toppers-- a moving cocktail boat and a floral pipette-- in collaboration with James Beard Award-winning chef José Andrés. Both the boat and floral pipette operate by taking advantage of surface tension-- either to propel the boat forward or to keep small drops of liquid inside the flower's petals. Some of those early garnishes were nominally edible. But to make them worthy of a restaurant debut requires balancing of flavors, temperature, density, and alcohol content, among other factors. Here's a look inside Andrés' company ThinkFoodGroup to see how the project is coming along. The toppers aren't available to the public just yet."
Science

Government Lab Uses Smartphones To Measure Gamma Ray Exposure 105

Posted by samzenpus
from the hulk-phone-is-strongest-there-is dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Back in 2008, Slashdot reported that researchers were developing ways of turning cellphones into radiation detectors. Since then a few apps have even appeared that claim to do this. However, convincing evidence that they work as advertised is hard to come by. Now government researchers at Idaho National Labs have created their own app that uses an ordinary smartphone as a gamma ray detector, put it through its paces in the lab and published the results. The pixels in smartphone cameras can detect gamma rays in the same way as they pick up visible light. So when the lens is covered, the image should reveal evidence of gamma ray exposure once other noise has been removed, such as that from heat and current leakage. These guys have tested several types of Android smartphone with a variety of gamma ray sources at various different doses. The researchers say the phones give a reasonable measure of radiation dose, can detect the direction of source (by comparing the measurements from the front and back cameras) and can even measure the energy of the gamma rays by measuring the length of the tracks that appear in the image. While the results do not match the quality of bespoke detectors, that may not matter since in many circumstances cellphones are likely to be the only sensors that are available. That could be useful for emergency services, air travelers wanting to monitor their extra radiation dose on routes over the arctic and people who live in areas with a higher than average background radiation level."
Science

Experiment Shows Caffeine Boosts Long Term Memory 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the its-fun-to-stay-up-late dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins has published results demonstrating that caffeine seems to boost long-term memory. In a double-blind study, participants were shown a series of images soon after taking either a caffeine pill or a placebo; 24 hours later they were tested on a similar, but not identical, series of images. Those who took the caffeine pill were more likely to correctly classify images as being different, identical, or similar to those seen the previous day; researchers refer to this as a 'pattern separation' test. The beneficial effect of caffeine on the long-term memory of honey bees was covered by Slashdot earlier."
Earth

How Weather Influences Global Warming Opinions 517

Posted by samzenpus
from the cold-is-the-new-hot dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with this story about how people's belief in climate change shifts with the temperature. "Last week's polar vortex weather event wasn't only hard on fingers, toes and heating bills. It also overpowered the ability of most people to make sound judgments about climate change, in the same way that heat waves do, according to a new study published in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal Nature Climate Change. Researchers have known for some time that the acceptance of climate change depends on the day most people are asked. During unusually hot weather, people tend to accept global warming, and they swing against it during cold events."
Space

Hubble Telescope Snaps Images of Tarantula Nebula 32

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-at-that dept.
An anonymous reader writes "NASA's Hubble Space Telescope snapped a series new images inside the Tarantula Nebula, located within the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) – the third closest galaxy to the Milky Way. Hubble officials previously released images of the spidery nebula, however, this is the deepest view of the intriguing cosmic region full of star clusters yet."
Medicine

India Frees Itself of Polio 309

Posted by samzenpus
from the wiped-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It's been three years since the last recorded polio case in India and health officials hope to officially certify India polio free in the next few weeks. 'Hamid Jafari, director of the WHO's polio-eradication campaign, says the agency's ambitious quest to stop all polio transmission by the end of 2014 is now within reach. If that is achieved, and no new cases crop up for three years, polio—like smallpox—will be officially banished from the planet. "India was one of the most important sources" from where the virus spread to other countries, said Dr. Jafari.'"
Technology

Building a Better Bike Helmet Out of Paper 317

Posted by samzenpus
from the recycled-helmet dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Inspired by nature, a London man believes the solution to safer bike helmets is to build them out of paper. '"The animal that stood out was the woodpecker. It pecks at about ten times per second and every time it pecks it sustains the same amount of force as us crashing at 50 miles per hour," says Surabhi. "It's the only bird in the world where the skull and the beak are completely disjointed, and there's a soft corrugated cartilage in the middle that absorbs all the impact and stops it from getting a headache." In order to mimic the woodpecker's crumple zone, Anirudha turned to a cheap and easily accessible source — paper. He engineered it into a double-layer of honeycomb that could then be cut and constructed into a functioning helmet. "What you end up with is with tiny little airbags throughout the helmet," he says.'"
Government

Doctors Say Food Stamp Cuts Could Cause Higher Healthcare Costs 1043

Posted by samzenpus
from the unintended-consequences dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Lauran Neergaard writes at the Christian Science Monitor that doctors are warning that if Congress cuts food stamps, the federal government could be socked with bigger health bills because over time the poor wind up seeking treatment in doctors' offices or hospitals as a result. 'If you're interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition,' says Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children's HealthWatch pediatric research institute. 'People don't make the hunger-health connection.' Food stamps feed 1 in 7 Americans and cost almost $80 billion a year, twice what it cost five years ago. The doctors' lobbying effort comes as Congress is working on a compromise farm bill that's certain to include food stamp cuts. Republicans want heftier reductions than do Democrats in yet another partisan battle over the government's role in helping poor Americans. Conservatives say the program spiraled out of control as the economy struggled and the costs are not sustainable. However research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that a cut of $2 billion a year in food stamps could trigger in an increase of $15 billion in medical costs (PDF) for over the next decade. Other research shows children from food-insecure families are 30 percent more likely to have been hospitalized for a range of illnesses. 'Food is medicine,' says Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern, who has led the Democrats' defense of the food stamp program. 'Critics focus almost exclusively on how much we spend, and I wish they understood that if we did this better, we could save a lot more money in health care costs.'"
ISS

Orbital Becomes Second Private Firm To Send Cargo Craft To ISS 69

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-that-anywhere dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned Cygnus spacecraft delivered 3,000 pounds of equipment, fresh fruit, and Christmas presents from the families of all six ISS spacemen today. 'From the men and women involved in the design, integration and test, to those who launched the Antares (rocket) and operated the Cygnus, our whole team has performed at a very high level for our NASA customer, and I am very proud of their extraordinary efforts,' said David W. Thompson, president and chief executive officer of Orbital, in a written statement from the company."
Space

SpaceShipTwo Sets a New Altitude Record 117

Posted by samzenpus
from the space-time dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo reached an altitude of 71,000 feet, beating out its previous record of 69,000 feet. From the article: 'This time around, Virgin Galactic and Mojave-based Scaled Composites, the plane's builder, tested a new reflective coating on the rocket plane's tail booms. The flight also marked the first tryout for a thruster system that's designed to keep the plane on course when it's above the atmosphere. Virgin Galactic said all of the test objectives were met.'"
Science

Extinct Species of Early Human Survived On Grass Bulbs, Not Meat 318

Posted by samzenpus
from the eat-em-if-you-got-em dept.
Philip Ross writes "Fresh analysis of an extinct relative of humans suggests our ancient ancestors dined primarily on tiger nuts, which are edible grass bulbs, settling a discrepancy over what made up prehistoric diets. According to a new study published in the journal PLOS One, the strong-jawed ancient hominin known as Paranthropus boisei, nicknamed 'Nutcracker Man,' which roamed East Africa between 2.4 million and 1.4 million years ago, survived on a diet scientists previously thought implausible."
Space

Why We Think There's a Multiverse, Not Just Our Universe 458

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-the-drake-equation-needs-another-term dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It's generally accepted that the Universe's history is best described by the Big Bang model, with General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory as the physical laws governing the underlying framework. It's also accepted that the Universe probably started off with an early period of cosmic inflation prior to that. Well, if you accept those things — as in, the standard picture of the Universe — then a multiverse is an inevitable consequence of the physics of the early Universe, and this article explains why that's the case."
Space

2014 Will Be a Big Year For Commercial Space Travel 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Getting into space is a difficult prospect. The commercial space industry has been making steady progress over the past decade, and they're finally getting to the point where they can be relied upon to transport people and important cargoes. This article makes the case that 2014 will be a turning point for commercial space travel, the year that a nascent industry comes into its own. 'We should — finally — start to see the first flights into space by Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, and perhaps the first commercial flights of that vehicle as well, depending on how well their test program proceeds. In addition, we should also see the first test flights, although not necessarily into space, of XCOR's Lynx vehicle in 2014, and possibly even commercial flights by the end of the year if all goes well,' said Jeff Foust, editor of The Space Review. 'If these companies achieve those long-awaited, and sometimes long-delayed, major milestones, it will go far to erase any lingering doubts that suborbital space tourism is a real market, while also enabling opportunities for using those vehicles in other applications, like suborbital research and technology demonstration.'"
Medicine

Daily Pot Use Tied To Age of First Psychotic Episode 382

Posted by Soulskill
from the exceeding-expectations dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Reuters reports, 'In a study of adults who experienced psychosis for the first time, having smoked marijuana daily was linked to an earlier age of onset of the disorder.' ..."This is not a study about the association between cannabis and psychosis, but about the association between specific patterns of cannabis use ... and an earlier onset of psychotic disorders,' Dr. Marta Di Forti, who led the research at the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College, said in an email. Among more than 400 people in South London admitted to hospitals with a diagnosed psychotic episode, the study team found the heaviest smokers of high-potency cannabis averaged about six years younger than patients who had not been smoking pot. Psychosis is a general term for a loss of reality, and is associated with several psychiatric diseases, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. ... "The thorny question is whether they might otherwise have developed the disease or would have not had mental illness. It's a distinction we haven't figured out yet," Compton said. ... It is still unclear whether there are safe levels of use for cannabis, she added. '"
Math

Kazakh Professor Claims Solution of Another Millennium Prize Problem 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the awaiting-peer-review dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Kazakh news site BNews.kz reports that Mukhtarbay Otelbaev, Director of the Eurasian Mathematical Institute of the Eurasian National University, is claiming to have found the solution to another Millennium Prize Problems. His paper, which is called 'Existence of a strong solution of the Navier-Stokes equations' and is freely available online (PDF in Russian), may present a solution to the fundamental partial differentials equations that describe the flow of incompressible fluids for which, until now, only a subset of specific solutions have been found. So far, only one of the seven Millennium problems was solved — the Poincaré conjecture, by Grigori Perelman in 2003. If Otelbaev's solution is confirmed, not only it might be the first time that the $1 million offered by the Clay Millennium Prize will find a home (Perelman refused the prize in 2010), but also engineering libraries will soon have to update their Fluid Mechanic books."
Shark

Lasers Unearth Lost 'Agropolis' of New England 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-can't-laser-do dept.
sciencehabit writes "Hidden ruins are customary in the wild jungles of South America or on the white shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Now, researchers have uncovered a long-lost culture closer to Western civilization — in New England. Using aerial surveys created by LiDAR, a laser-guided mapping technique, the team detected the barely perceptible remnants of a former 'agropolis' around three rural New England towns (abstract). Near Ashford, Connecticut, a vast network of roads offset by stone walls came to light underneath a canopy of oak and spruce trees. More than half of the town has become reforested since 1870, according to historical documents, exemplifying the extent of the rural flight that marked the late 1800s. Some structures were less than 2 feet high and buried in inaccessible portions of the forest, making them essentially invisible to on-the-ground cartography."
Medicine

New Treatment Kills Metastatic Cancer Cells 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the search-and-destroy dept.
robert2cane points out a promising study from Cornell University about controlling the spread of cancer. There are many treatments for an isolated tumor, but once cancer cells reach the bloodstream and start spreading through the body, it's much more difficult to control. The new research (PDF), led by Michael King, developed a compound that is able to target and eliminate cancer cells in the blood of mice. "When attempting to develop a treatment for metastases, King faced two problems: targeting moving cancer cells and ensuring cell death could be activated once they were located. To handle both issues, he built fat-based nanoparticles that were one thousand times smaller than a human hair and attached two proteins to them. One is E-selectin, which selectively binds to white blood cells, and the other is TRAIL. He chose to stick the nanoparticles to white blood cells because it would keep the body from excreting them easily. This means the nanoparticles, made from fat molecules, remain in the blood longer and thus have a greater chance of bumping into freely moving cancer cells. There is an added advantage. Red blood cells tend to travel in the center of a blood vessel, and white blood cells stick to the edges. This is because red blood cells are lower density and can be easily deformed to slide around obstacles. Cancer cells have a similar density to white blood cells and remain close to the walls, too. As a result, these nanoparticles are more likely to bump into cancer cells and bind their TRAIL receptors."
Communications

Mars One Studying How To Maintain Communications With Mars 24/7 143

Posted by timothy
from the oh-such-unmitigated-cheek dept.
braindrainbahrain writes "Mars One, the low-credibility effort to colonize Mars, is at least funding some interesting concept studies for their alleged plan to colonize the red planet. One of the most interesting is the effort to maintain uninterrupted communications with Mars. This is not as trivial as it may sound, as any satellite in Martian orbit will still have to deal with occultations between Mars and Earth due to the Sun. Surrey Satellite Technology will be performing the study."
Science

Physicists Claim First Observation of a Quantum Cheshire Cat 148

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-is-both-smiling-and-not-smiling dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Last year, a group of theoretical physicists suggested a bizarre experiment based on a quantum phenomenon known as weak measurement. Unlike ordinary measurements that always change the state of a quantum object, a weak measurement extracts such a small amount of information that it leaves the quantum state intact. For example, a weak measurement can detect the presence of a photon by the deflection it causes when it bounces off a mirror. However, this does not change the photon's quantum state. The new idea was to make two weak measurements on a quantum system that is in a superposition of states, the goal being to separate the location of this quantum system from its properties, like a Cheshire cat. Now a group of experimentalists say they've observed a quantum Cheshire cat for the first time in an experiment involving neutrons. They passed a beam of neutrons through a magnetic field to align their spins and then sent them through an interferometer in which the neutrons pass down both arms of the experiment at the same time. They then used weak measurements to locate the neutrons in one arm while measuring their magnetic properties in the other. Voila! A quantum Cheshire cat."
Space

Stormy Alien Atmospheres May Spark Seeds of Life 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-facehuggers dept.
astroengine writes "In research presented at the Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in London on Friday, astronomers discussed the dusty, stormy atmospheres of exoplanets and brown dwarfs and how they could be hothouses for the formation of prebiotic molecules. These are organic molecules that are known to form the building blocks for life as we know it. 'The atmospheres around exoplanets and brown dwarfs form exotic clouds that, instead of being composed of water droplets, are made of dust particles made of minerals,' said astronomer Craig Stark, of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. The idea is that lightning storms generate copious amounts of highly charged ions and electrons, which then get stuck to dust particles, using them as miniature prebiotic chemistry factories. Of particular interest is the formation of formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and the amino acid glycine, all of which underpin Earth's biosphere."
Science

First Recorded Observation of Freshwater Fish Preying On Birds In Flight 93

Posted by Soulskill
from the om-nom-nom dept.
ananyo writes "The waters of the African lake seem calm and peaceful. A few migrant swallows flit near the surface. Suddenly, leaping from the water, a fish grabs one of the famously speedy birds straight out of the air. 'The whole action of jumping and catching the swallow in flight happens so incredibly quickly that after we first saw it, it took all of us a while to really fully comprehend what we had just seen,' says Nico Smit, director of the Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. After the images did sink in, he adds, 'the first reaction was one of pure joy, because we realized that we were spectators to something really incredible and unique.' Rumours of such behaviour by the African tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus), which has been reported as reaching one metre in length, have circulated since the 1940s. But this is the first confirmed record of a freshwater fish preying on birds in flight, the team reports in the Journal of Fish Biology (PDF)."
Medicine

Smart Toothbrush Aims For Better Brushing Habits 102

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-be-a-yuck-mouth dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "These days, it seems just about every imaginable thing is 'connected.' There's connected thermostats, locks, refrigerators, forks, and so many more. Now we can add toothbrushes to the list. Brandon Griggs reports at CNN that the Kolibree toothbrush syncs wirelessly with an iPhone or an Android device to track brushing habits, announce whether you have brushed thoroughly enough and reward you for good oral hygiene. 'It works just like a regular toothbrush,' says Renee Blodgett. 'The only difference is that all the data is stored on your phone so you can see how you're brushing.' Users download a mobile app and connect via Bluetooth, and the Kolibree documents every brushing via three sensors that record 1) how long you brush, 2) whether you brush all four quadrants of your mouth, and 3) whether you brush up and down (good) instead of just side to side (bad). 'Before Kolibree, the issue is that there has been no easy and quick way to monitor whether you're doing an A+ job or a C- one when you brush, so how can you improve on a habit you don't have any data about?.' There's a bit of gameplay built in, which challenges users to do better next time, and the company has created an API, hoping that third-party developers will come up with additional apps that will inspire users to brush more and more effectively writes Daniel Terdiman. 'With individual health getting more attention than ever, it's certainly possible people will see the benefit of something that keeps a close eye on how well they're treating their teeth, and which challenges them to do better.'"
Space

Hubble Images Become Tactile 3D Experience For the Blind 20

Posted by samzenpus
from the feel-the-space dept.
An anonymous reader writes "3D printers are transforming the business, medical, and consumer landscapes by creating objects like airplane parts, lamps, jewellery, and even artificial human bones. Now astronomers are experimenting with the technology to transform astronomy education, turning images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope into tactile 3D pictures for people who cannot explore celestial wonders visually."
Space

New Class of "Hypervelocity Stars" Discovered Escaping the Galaxy 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the greased-lightning dept.
Science_afficionado writes "Astronomers have discovered a surprising new class of 'hypervelocity stars' that are moving at more than a million miles per hour, fast enough to escape the gravitational grasp of the Milky Way galaxy. The 20 hyper stars are about the same size as the sun and, other than their extreme speed, have the same composition as the stars in the galactic disk. The big surprise is that they don't seem to come from the galaxy's center. The generally accepted mechanism for producing hypervelocity stars relies on the extreme gravitational field of the supermassive black hole that resides in the galaxy's core."
Power

Metal-Free 'Rhubarb' Battery Could Store Renewable Grid Energy 131

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the energy-storage-pie dept.
sciencehabit writes "A molecule nearly identical to one in rhubarb may hold the key to the future of renewable energy. Researchers have used the compound to create a high-performance 'flow' battery, a leading contender for storing renewable power in the electric utility grid. If the battery prototype can be scaled up, it could help utilities deliver renewable energy when the wind is calm and the sun isn't shining." Abstract.
Science

People Become More Utilitarian When They Face Moral Dilemmas In Virtual Reality 146

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the morbid-virtual-reality dept.
First time accepted submitter vrml writes "Critical situations in which participant's actions lead to the death of (virtual) humans have been employed in a study of moral dilemmas which just appeared in the Social Neuroscience journal. The experiment shows that participants' behavior becomes more utilitarian (that is, they tend to minimize the number of persons killed) when they have to take a decision in Virtual Reality rather than the more traditional settings used in Moral Psychology which ask participants to read text descriptions of the critical situations. A video with some of the VR moral dilemmas is available, as is the paper."
Space

Swarms of Small Satellites Set To Deliver Close To Real-Time Imagery of Earth 112

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the mantrid-arm-thingies-with-cameras dept.
ananyo writes "A swarm of small satellites set to deliver close to real-time imagery of swathes of the planet is launching today. San Francisco-based Planet Labs, founded in 2010 by three former NASA scientists, is scheduled to launch 28 of its 'Doves' on 9 January. Each toaster-sized device weighs about 5 kilograms and can take images at a resolution of 3–5 metres. Meanwhile Skybox Imaging plans to launch a swarm of 24 satellites, each weighing about 100 kilograms, which will take images of 1 meter resolution or better. Skybox launched its first satellite on 21 November (and captured the first HD video of the world from space) and plans to launch another this year, followed by the remainder between 2015 and 2017. In a first — at least for civilian satellites — Skybox's devices will also stream short segments of near-live high-resolution video footage of the planet. So, too, will UrtheCast, a start-up based in Vancouver, Canada, whose cameras will hitch a ride on the International Space Station. Because the swarms are still to be launched, scientists have yet to fully assess the quality of the imagery. But the satellites' spatial resolutions of 1–5 metres are much higher than those of most scientific satellites. Landsat, NASA's Earth-observation workhorse, for example, has a resolution of 15–100 metres depending on the spectral frequency, with 30 metres in the visible-light range."

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