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NASA Knows How Mars Got a Jelly Doughnut 61

The Associated Press reports that the mysterious "jelly doughnut" shaped rock spotted by the Opportunity rover on Mars wasn't put there by aliens or by mysterious forces of Mars weather. Instead, the NASA has a simple explanation: one of the rover's larger wheels "broke it off a larger rock and then kicked it into the field of view." Of course, they would say that just to head off a lawsuit demanding an investigation into the real reasons.
United States

NSF Report Flawed; Americans Do Not Believe Astrology Is Scientific 326

RichDiesal writes "A new report (PDF) from the National Science Foundation, which we discussed a few days ago, states that roughly 40% of Americans believe astrology to be scientific. This turns out to be false; most of those apparently astrology-loving Americans have actually confused astrology with astronomy. In a 100-person Mechanical Turk study with a $5 research budget, I tested this by actually asking people to define astrology. Among those that correctly defined astrology, only 10% believe it to be scientific; among those that confused astrology for astronomy, 92% believe 'astrology' to be scientific."

The Search for Life On Habitable Exoplanets 69

New submitter Benzainload895 writes "The Verge has an article about why life on other worlds would be far stranger than we might expect. They also interview some astronomers who are trying to narrow down the most likely locations for life. Quoting: 'As it turns out, the small planets with long orbits that Kepler was finding were the ones it was least disposed to find. [After estimating how often red dwarf stars have planets and taking into account their expanded habitable zones, they] came up with an estimate Cowan says is "starting to get really close to a hundred percent, where for every [red dwarf] out there you should expect there to be a habitable rocky planet." Furthermore, research exploring these planets suggests weirdness — and lots of it — in what life they might harbor. For instance, the dim light coming from a red dwarf may not be enough for plant photosynthesis like on Earth. This may lead plants to be black instead of green in order to absorb more available light. Even weirder, these planets likely don't spin as they orbit. Since red dwarfs are smaller and cooler than the sun, planets circle them at close range, creating greater tidal forces than on our planet. While the tidal force on Earth moves the ocean up and down a few meters, that force on a red dwarf planet would be so strong it'd gradually slow down the rotation of planet completely. The result? One side of the planet would face its star in a permanently sunny day, while the other side would face the stars in an endless night."

Vikings' Secret Code Cracked 89

sciencehabit writes "What may look like mere scratches is much more. A 900-year-old Viking code known as jötunvillur has been cracked. The code-cracker, runologist Jonas Nordby from the University of Oslo, deciphered the system after realizing he needed to replace the original runic character with the last sound used to pronounce it. For instance, the runic character 'k' is pronounced 'kaun,' so k becomes n. Nordby believes secret messages were created by the Vikings for entertainment. One piece of wood reads: 'Kiss me.'"

China's Jade Rabbit Fights To Come Back From the Dead 76

Despite being declared officially lost, the Chinese moon rover may yet have some life left. Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that reports of Jade Rabbit's demise may have been premature as signs are emerging that China's first lunar rover may be up and running again. Following technical malfunctions Xinhua says that the lunar rover had lost communication with mission control but on Thursday the state news agency said that the rover was "fully awake" and had returned to its normal signal-receiving status. "Jade Rabbit has fully resurrected and is able to receive signals, but still suffers a mechanical control abnormality," says China's lunar program spokesman Pei Zhaoyu. "The rover entered hibernation while in an abnormal state. We were worried it wouldn't be able to make it through the extreme cold of the lunar night. But it came back alive. The rover stands a chance of being saved as it is still alive." The lunar rover's end seemed near when it signed off at the end of January with a poignant message: "Goodnight humanity." Yutu, as the device is known in Mandarin, had been out of action for two weeks following a technical malfunction, and media around the world filed its obituary late on Wednesday after a short statement on Chinese state media alerted the world to its apparent terminal failings. Should Jade Rabbit make a full recovery, it would cap another success for space exploration, which has seen NASA's Opportunity Mars rover, currently exploring the red planet, far outlast its expected lifespan."
United Kingdom

11-Year UK Study Reports No Health Danger From Mobile Phone Transmissions 180

Mark.JUK writes "The United Kingdom's 11-years long Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) has today published a comprehensive report that summarizes 31 research projects, which investigated the potential for biological or adverse health effects of mobile phone and wireless signals on humans (e.g. as a cause for various cancers or other disorders). The good news is that the study, which has resulted in nearly 60 papers appearing in peer-reviewed scientific journals, found 'no evidence' of a danger from mobile transmissions in the typically low frequency radio spectrum bands (e.g. 900MHz and 1800MHz etc.)."

Researchers Unveil High-Speed Laser Communications Device For Space 40

coondoggie writes "Using lasers to communicate quickly through the long distances of space has generally been the purview of science fiction. But researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are out to change that notion with a prototype array (pdf) that can read more information — and allow much higher data rates than conventional systems — than usual from single particles of light. Lasers can transmit only very low light levels across vast distances, so signals need to contain as much information as possible, NASA said."

New Beetle Named After Charles Darwin and David Sedaris 35

sciencehabit writes "On Charles Darwin's 205th birthday, one beetle he found in Argentina is being recognized as a new species. An entomologist discovered the insect, with unusually saw-toothed antennae and a label reading 'C. Darwin', in a collection on loan from the Natural History Museum in London, where it had been misplaced for at least decades. The beetle represented a new species, Darwinilus sedarisi, named after Darwin and the writer David Sedaris, whose audiobooks the scientist listened to while preparing specimens."

Unlocking 120 Years of Images of the Night Sky 29

First time accepted submitter MCastelaz writes "Researchers at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit foundation located at a former NASA Tracking Station, are preparing to unlock 120 years of images of the night sky. The images are embedded on more than 220,000 astronomical photographic plates and films dating back to 1898 collected from over 40 institutions and observatories in the United States. These plates and films are housed in the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive at PARI. The researchers plan to begin digitizing these collections this year, bringing these fantastic observational works by generations of astronomers who spent more than a million hours at telescopes to the general public and scientists worldwide. The PARI researchers are calling this the Astronomy Legacy Project. The researchers will use an extremely high precision, fast, scanning machine to do the work. To get the project off the ground, they are beginning with a crowdfunding campaign and the funds from that campaign will be used to buy the digitizing machine."

Can Electric Current Make People Better At Math? 112

cold fjord sends this excerpt from the Wall Street Journal: "In a lab in Oxford University's experimental psychology department, researcher Roi Cohen Kadosh is testing an intriguing treatment: He is sending low-dose electric current through the brains of adults and children as young as 8 to make them better at math. A relatively new brain-stimulation technique called transcranial electrical stimulation may help people learn and improve their understanding of math concepts. The electrodes are placed in a tightly fitted cap and worn around the head. ... The mild current reduces the risk of side effects, which has opened up possibilities about using it, even in individuals without a disorder, as a general cognitive enhancer. Scientists also are investigating its use to treat mood disorders and other conditions. ... Up to 6% of the population is estimated to have a math-learning disability called developmental dyscalculia, similar to dyslexia but with numerals instead of letters. [In an earlier experiment, Kadosh] found that he could temporarily turn off regions of the brain known to be important for cognitive skills. When the parietal lobe of the brain was stimulated using that technique, he found that the basic arithmetic skills of doctoral students who were normally very good with numbers were reduced to a level similar to those with developmental dyscalculia. That led to his next inquiry: If current could turn off regions of the brain making people temporarily math-challenged, could a different type of stimulation improve math performance?"

China's Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover Officially Declared Lost 131

An anonymous reader writes "'Jade Rabbit,' the first lunar rover successfully deployed by China, has now been officially declared 'lost.' The rover encountered problems on January 25th, just over a month into its planned three-month mission. 'The rover's mechanical problems are likely related to critical components that must be protected during the cold lunar night. When temperatures plunge, the rover's mast is designed to fold down to protect delicate instruments, which can then be kept warm by a radioactive heat source. Yutu also needs to angle a solar panel towards the point where the sun will rise to maintain power levels. A mechanical fault in these systems could leave the rover fatally exposed to the dark and bitter cold.'"

Why P-values Cannot Tell You If a Hypothesis Is Correct 124

ananyo writes "P values, the 'gold standard' of statistical validity, are not as reliable as many scientists assume. Critically, they cannot tell you the odds that a hypothesis is correct. A feature in Nature looks at why, if a result looks too good to be true, it probably is, despite an impressive-seeming P value."

Google Earth's New Satellites 118

Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC provides some insights into the next generation satellites being built for Google by contractor DigitalGlobe in Colorado. The resolution of these satellites' cameras is sufficient to resolve objects that are only 25cm wide. Unfortunately, the public will be allowed only half that image quality, the best being reserved for the U.S. military. 'The light comes in through a barrel structure, pointed at the Earth, and is bounced around by a series of mirrors, before being focused onto a CCD sensor. The big difference – apart from the size – between this and a typical handheld digital camera, is that the spacecraft will not just take snapshots but continuous images along thin strips of land or sea.'"

National Ignition Facility Takes First Steps Towards Fusion Energy 127

sciencehabit writes "As it approaches its fifth birthday, the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a troubled laser fusion facility in California, has finally produced some results that fusion scientists can get enthusiastic about. In a series of experiments late last year (abstract 1, abstract 2), NIF researchers managed to produce energy yields 10 times greater than produced before and to demonstrate the phenomenon of self-heating that will be crucial if fusion is to reach its ultimate goal of 'ignition'—a self-sustaining burning reaction that produces more energy than it consumes."

Iconic Predator-Prey Study In Peril 84

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have charted the ebb and flow of moose and wolf populations on Isle Royale in Lake Superior for nearly 50 years. Ice bridges to Canada regularly supplied the genetic stocks for much of that time, but have been rare in recent years leading to inbreeding, dwindling populations and developmental deformity for the wolves that inhabit the island. Now, with the first solid freeze in six years, new wolves could join the mix ... or the remaining island dwellers could leave." If new wolves do not appear, or all of the current wolves leave, the moose would end up destroying the native Fir population. The wildlife service is considering introducing new wolves as part of a genetic rescue, or reintroducing wolves should the population reach zero on its own.
United States

Majority of Young American Adults Think Astrology Is a Science 625

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Americans have always had a strange fascination with astrology. First Lady Nancy Reagan famously employed the services of an astrologer after the assassination attempt on her husband. Now UPI reports that according to a new survey by the National Science Foundation, nearly half of all Americans say astrology is either 'very' or 'sort of' scientific. Younger respondents, in particular, were the least likely to regard astrology as unscientific, with 58% of 18 to 24 years olds saying that astrology is scientific (PDF). What's most alarming is that American attitudes about science are moving in the wrong direction. Skepticism of astrology hit an all-time high in 2004, when 66 percent of Americans said astrology was total nonsense. But each year, fewer and fewer respondents have dismissed the connections between star alignment and personality as bunk. Among respondents in the 25 — 44 age group 49% of respondents in the 2012 survey said astrology is either 'very scientific' or 'sort of scientific,' up from 36% in 2010. So what's behind this data? The lead author of the report chapter in question, public opinion specialist John Besley of Michigan State University, cautions that we should probably wait for further data 'to see if it's a real change' before speculating. But, he admits, the apparent increase in astrology belief 'popped out to me when I saw it.'"

Oldest Known Star In the Universe Discovered 141

Zothecula writes "A team of astronomers at The Australian National University working on a five-year project to produce the first comprehensive digital survey of the southern sky has discovered the oldest known star in the Universe. The star dates back 13.7 billion years, only shortly after the Big Bang itself. It's also nearby (at least, from a cosmological perspective) — about 6,000 light-years away. The star is notable for the very small amount of iron it contains (abstract). The lead researcher, Stefan Keller, said, 'To make a star like our Sun, you take the basic ingredients of hydrogen and helium from the Big Bang and add an enormous amount of iron – the equivalent of about 1,000 times the Earth's mass. To make this ancient star, you need no more than an Australia-sized asteroid of iron and lots of carbon. It's a very different recipe that tells us a lot about the nature of the first stars and how they died.'"
United States

The Death Cap Mushroom Is Spreading Across the US 274

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Discovery News reports that the death cap mushroom is now an invasive species on every continent except Antarctica. It is spreading along the East and West Coasts of the U.S. and appears to be moving south into Mexico. 'When someone eats Amanita phalloides, she typically won't experience symptoms for at least six and sometimes as many as 24 hours,' says Cat Adams. 'Eventually she'll suffer from abdominal cramps, vomiting, and severely dehydrating diarrhea. This delay means her symptoms might not be associated with mushrooms, and she may be diagnosed with a more benign illness like stomach flu. To make matters worse, if the patient is somewhat hydrated, her symptoms may lessen and she will enter the so-called honeymoon phase.' Without proper, prompt treatment, the victim can experience rapid organ failure, coma, and death. But good news is on the way. S. Todd Mitchell of Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California has treated more than 60 patients with a drug derived from milk thistle. The patients who have started the drug on time (within 96 hours of ingesting the mushroom) and who have still had kidney function intact have all survived. 'When administered intravenously, the compound sits on and blocks the receptors that bring amatoxin into the liver, thus corralling the amatoxins into the blood stream so the kidneys can expel them faster,' says Adams. Still, Mitchell cautions against the 'regular look"'of deadly mushrooms. 'They smell very good and when they're cooked, many patients have described them as the most delicious mushrooms they've ever eaten.'"

Tiny Motors Controlled Inside Human Cells 46

cold fjord tips a BBC report about the successful installation of microscopic motors into living, human cells. The motors were propelled inside the cell by pulses of ultrasound and steered with magnetism. "At low ultrasonic power, the nanomotors had little effect on these cells. But when the power was increased, the nanomotors surged into action, zooming around and bumping into organelles — structures within the cell that perform specific functions. The nanomotors could be used as 'egg beaters' to essentially homogenise the cell's contents, or act as battering rams to puncture the cell membrane." Once finer control is gained over the motors, they could be used to for extremely small scale surgery, or to deliver drugs to very precise locations. Professor Tom Mallouk of Penn State said multiple motors can move independently of one another, which is important if we try to use them as a cancer treatment. "You don't want a whole mass of them going in one direction."

Massive New Cambrian-Era Fossil Bed Found 108

jfbilodeau sends word of a massive new trove of fossils located in Canada, which scientists say will rival the acclaimed Burgess Shale fossil bed. The rock formation inside which both fossil sites were found is roughly 505 million years old (abstract). The fossils provide insight into the Cambrian explosion, a time that brought the rapid appearance and diversification of many animal forms. "In just two weeks, the research team collected more than 3,000 fossils representing 55 species. Fifteen of these species are new to science." Paleontologist Jean-Bernard Caron said, "The rate at which we are finding animals — many of which are new — is astonishing, and there is a high possibility that we'll eventually find more species here than at the original Yoho National Park site, and potentially more than from anywhere else in the world." The fossils at the new site are about 100,000 years younger and are better preserved than those at the renowned Burgess shale site.

South Carolina Education Committee Removes Evolution From Standards 665

Toe, The writes "The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee approved new science standards for students except for one clause: the one that involves the use of the phrase 'natural selection.' Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, argued against teaching natural selection as fact, when he believes there are other theories students deserve to learn. Fair argued South Carolina's students are learning the philosophy of natural selection but teachers are not calling it such. He said the best way for students to learn is for the schools to teach the controversy. Hopefully they're going to teach the controversy of gravity and valence bonds too. After all, they're just theories."

How Blogs Are Changing the Scientific Discourse 136

quax writes "Mainstream media always follows the same kind of 'He said, she said' template, which is why even climate change deniers get their say, although they are a tiny minority. The leading scientific journals, on the other hand, are expensive and behind pay-walls. But it turns out there are places on the web where you can follow science up close and personal: The many personal blogs written by scientists — and the conversation there is changing the very nature of scientific debate. From the article: 'It's interesting to contemplate how corrosive the arguments between Bohr and Einstein may have turned out, if they would have been conducted via blogs rather than in person. But it's not all bad. In the olden days, science could easily be mistaken for a bloodless intellectual game, but nobody could read through the hundreds of comments on Scott's blog that day and come away with that impression.'"

How To Hack Subway Fares Using Fare Arbitrage 240

KentuckyFC writes "Arbitrage is a way of making profit by exploiting price differences for the same asset. In capital markets, traders aggressively seek out and exploit these market 'inefficiencies.' Now one data scientist says it's possible to do the same with metro fares and has studied the fare-arbitrage potential of San Francisco's subway system, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). The idea is to swap tickets with another commuter during your journey to reduce the amount you both pay. BART has 44 stations which allows 946 different journeys and 446,985 unique pairs of trips. Of these, over 60,000 have arbitrage potential and commuters can save at least $1 on 4,666 of them. But there are good reasons why cities might want to maintain price differences for certain journeys — to encourage people to live in certain areas, for example. What's more, it's possible to imagine a pair of commuters who each travel from one side of a city to the other at considerable cost. But by swapping tickets in the city center, they could both pay for a short commute in each others' suburbs. But is that fair to other commuters?"

Scientists Solve Mystery of World-Traveling Plant 52

sciencehabit writes "By land or by sea? That's the question scientists have been pondering for decades when it comes to the bottle gourd, a plant with a hard-skinned fruit that's used by cultures all over the world to make lightweight containers and other tools. Archaeologists know that people were using domesticated bottle gourds in the Americas as early as 10,000 years ago. But how did the plant make the jump from its original home in Africa to the New World with an ocean in the way? A new study overturns previous evidence pointing to a human-assisted land migration and concludes that the bottle gourd floated across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas on its own."

NASA Now Accepting Applications From Companies That Want To Mine the Moon 251

cold fjord writes "The Verge reports, "NASA is now working with private companies to take the first steps in exploring the moon for valuable resources like helium 3 and rare earth metals. Initial proposals are due tomorrow for the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown program (CATALYST). One or more private companies will win a contract to build prospecting robots, the first step toward mining the moon. Final proposals are due on March 17th, 2014. NASA has not said when it will announce the winner."

Adjusting GPAs: A Statistician's Effort To Tackle Grade Inflation 264

An anonymous reader writes "A recent analysis of 200 colleges and universities published in the Teachers College Record found 43 percent of all letter grades awarded in 2008 were A's, compared to 16 percent in 1960. And Harvard's student paper recently reported the median grade awarded to undergraduates at the elite school is now an A-. A statistician at Duke tried to make a difference and stirred up a hornet's nest in the process."

Hackers Penetrate Top Medical Device Makers 76

An anonymous reader writes "Hackers have penetrated the computer networks of the country's top medical device makers, The Chronicle has learned. The attacks struck Medtronic, the world's largest medical device maker, Boston Scientific and St. Jude Medical sometime during the first half of 2013 and might have lasted as long as several months, according to a source close to the companies."

How Russia Transformed a Subtropical Beach Resort To Host the Winter Olympics 359

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Duncan Geere reports at The Verge that Russian resort as Sochi, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, is humid and subtropical with temperatures averaging about 52 degrees Fahrenheit (12 C) in the winter, and 75 degrees (24 C) in the summer. "There is almost no snow here — at the moment it's raining," says Olga Mironova, a local resident. It's estimated that the cost of staging the Olympics in Sochi has been greater than the previous three Winter Games combined — ballooning to a whopping $51 billion including the cost of implementing an extensive system of safeguards to ensure there'll be sufficient snow in Sochi for the games including the cost of implementing one of the largest snowmaking systems in Europe. The system includes two huge water reservoirs that feed 400 snow cannons installed along the slopes that can generate snow in temperatures of up to 60 degrees fahrenheit (16 C). If that snow isn't enough, then the authorities will fall back on 710,000 cubic meters of snow collected during the winters of previous years leading up to the games. To keep it from melting in the region's hot summers, 10 separate stockpiles have been kept packed tight under insulating covers high up in the mountains, safe from the sun's rays. Down in Sochi itself the other half of the games will be held in five indoor arenas that will host figure skating, speed skating, hockey, and curling, and an additional outdoor area will host the opening and closing ceremonies. In each of these indoor arenas, underfloor cooling systems are installed so that the ice stays frozen above it using propylene glycol, which doesn't freeze until temperatures reach 8.6 F (-13 C). Climatologists predict that even under a best-case scenario, almost half the venues that have hosted the Winter Olympics over the last century would be unable to do so by 2080 without resorting to extensive and expensive artificial snowmaking techniques.""

A Corporate War Against a Scientist, and How He Fought Back 253

AthanasiusKircher writes "Environmental and health concerns about atrazine — one of the most commonly used herbicides in the U.S. — have been voiced for years, leading to an EU ban and multiple investigations by the EPA. Tyrone Hayes, a Berkeley professor who has spearheaded research on the topic, began to display signs of apparent paranoia over a decade ago. He noticed strangers following him to conferences around the world, taking notes and asking questions aimed to make him look foolish. He worried that someone was reading his email, and attacks against his reputation seemed to be everywhere; search engines even displayed ad hits like 'Tyrone Hayes Not Credible' when his name was searched for. But he wasn't paranoid: documents released after a lawsuit from Midwestern towns against Syngenta, the manufacturer of atrazine, showed a coordinated smear campaign. Syngenta's public relations team had a list of ways to defend its product, topped by 'discredit Hayes.' Its internal list of methods: 'have his work audited by 3rd party,' 'ask journals to retract,' 'set trap to entice him to sue,' 'investigate funding,' 'investigate wife,' etc. A recent New Yorker article chronicles this war against Hayes, but also his decision to go on the offensive and strike back. He took on the role of activist against atrazine, giving over 50 public talks on the subject each year, and even taunting Syngenta with profanity-laced emails, often delivered in a rapping 'gangsta' style. The story brings up important questions for science and its public persona: How do scientists fight a PR war against corporations with unlimited pockets? How far should they go?"

Britain's Eastern Coast Yields Oldest Human Footprints Outside Africa 120

schwit1 writes "They were a British family on a day out — almost a million years ago. Archaeologists announced Friday that they have discovered human footprints in England that are between 800,000 and 1 million years old — the most ancient found outside Africa, and the earliest evidence of human life in northern Europe. A team from the British Museum, London's Natural History Museum and Queen Mary college at the University of London uncovered imprints from up to five individuals in ancient estuary mud at Happisburgh on the country's eastern coast."

GOP Bill To Outlaw EPA 'Secret Science' That Is Not Transparent, Reproducible 618

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Fox News reports that Republican lawmakers in the House are pushing legislation that would prohibit the EPA from proposing new regulations based on science that is not transparent or not reproducible. The bill introduced by Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., would bar the agency from proposing or finalizing rules without first disclosing all "scientific and technical information" relied on to support its proposed action. "Public policy should come from public data, not based on the whims of far-left environmental groups," says Schweikert. "For far too long, the EPA has approved regulations that have placed a crippling financial burden on economic growth in this country with no public evidence to justify their actions." The bill, dubbed the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 (HR 4012), would prohibit the EPA's administrator from proposing or finalizing any rules unless he or she also discloses "all scientific and technical information" relied on by the agency in the regulations' development including all data, materials and computer models. According to Schweikert's press release a 2013 poll from the Institute of Energy Research found that 90 percent of Americans agree that studies and data used to make federal government decisions should be made public. "Provisions in the bill are consistent with the White House's scientific integrity policy, the President's Executive Order 13563, data access provisions of major scientific journals, the Bipartisan Policy Center and the recommendations of the Obama administration's top science advisors.""

UK Police Will Have Backdoor Access To Health Records 108

kc123 writes "David Davis MP, a former shadow home secretary, has told the Guardian that police would be able to access the new central NHS database without a warrant as critics warn of catastrophic breach of trust. The database that will store all of England's health records has a series of 'backdoors' that will allow police and government bodies to access people's medical data. In the past police would need to track down the GP who held a suspect's records and go to court for a disclosure order. Now, they would be able to simply approach the new arms-length NHS information centre, which will hold the records. The idea that police will be able to request information from a central database without a warrant totally undermines a long-held belief in the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship."

Big Pharma Presses US To Quash Cheap Drug Production In India 255

An anonymous reader writes "Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), are leaning on the United States government to discourage India from allowing the production and sale of affordable generic drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. India is currently on the U.S. government's Priority Watch List — countries whose practices on protecting intellectual property Washington believes should be monitored closely. Last year Novartis lost a six-year legal battle after the Indian Supreme court ruled that small changes and improvements to the drug Glivec did not amount to innovation deserving of a patent. Western drugmakers Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Roche Holding, Sanofi, and others have a bigger share of the fast-growing drug market in India. But they have been frustrated by a series of decisions on patents and pricing, as part of New Delhi's push to increase access to life-saving treatments in a place where only 15 percent of 1.2 billion people are covered by health insurance. One would certainly understand and probably agree with the need for for cheaper drugs. But don't forget that big pharma, for all its problems still is the number one creator of new drugs. In 2012 alone, the U.S. government and private companies spent a combined $130 billion (PDF) on medical research."

CERN Wants a New Particle Collider Three Times Larger Than the LHC 238

Daniel_Stuckey writes "Not content with the 27-kilometer-round Large Hadron Collider, researchers at CERN have their sights set on a new beast of a particle collider that could have a circumference of 80 to 100 kilometers. The nuclear research organization announced that it was hatching plans for an ambitious successor to the LHC with an international study called the Future Circular Colliders program, which will kick off with a meeting next week. The idea is to consider different hadron collider designs similar to the existing LHC but more powerful — much more powerful. CERN wrote it was looking for a collider 'capable of reaching unprecedented energies in the region of 100 TeV.' The existing LHC will reach a maximum of around 14 TeV."

Spectacular New Martian Impact Crater Spotted From Orbit 99

New submitter kc123 writes: "The team that runs the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has released a photo showning a new impact crater on Mars, formed sometime early this decade. The crater at the center is about 30 meters in diameter, and the material ejected during its formation extends out as far as 15 kilometers. The impact was originally spotted by the MRO's Context Camera, a wide-field imaging system that provides the context—an image of the surrounding terrain—for the high-resolution images taken by HiRISE. The time window on the impact, between July 2010 and May 2012, simply represents the time between two different Context Camera photos of the same location. Once the crater was spotted, it took until November of 2013 for another pass of the region, at which point HiRISE was able to image it." Reader astroengine adds some more Mars news: "On Thursday at 3:41 p.m. EST (20:41 UTC), Mars rover Curiosity beamed back a photo from its rear hazard avoidance camera (Hazcam). In the shot we see wheel tracks in the downward slope of the dune bridging "Dingo Gap" with the peak of Curiosity's eventual goal, Mount Sharp, on the horizon. This can mean only one thing; the one-ton robot has successfully conquered its first Mars dune! Curiosity has also taken a picture of Earth."

Graphene Conducts Electricity Ten Times Better Than Expected 161

ananyo writes "Physicists have produced nanoribbons of graphene — the single-atom-thick carbon — that conduct electrons better than theory predicted even for the most idealized form of the material (abstract). The finding could help graphene realize its promise in high-end electronics, where researchers have long hoped it could outperform traditional materials such as silicon. In graphene, electrons can move faster than in any other material at room temperature. But techniques that cut sheets of graphene into the narrow ribbons needed to form wires of a nano-scale circuit leave ragged edges, which disrupt the electron flow. Now a team led by physicist Walt de Heer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta has made ribbons that conduct electric charges for more than 10 micrometres without meeting resistance — 1,000 times farther than in typical graphene nanoribbons. The ribbons made by de Heer's team in fact conduct electrons ten times better than standard theories of electron transport they should, say the authors."

Not Just NASA Has 'Significant Problems' With $2.5B IT Contract 176

schwit1 writes "According to the Inspector General, NASA and HP Enterprise Services have encountered significant problems implementing the $2.5 billion Agency Consolidated End-User Services (ACES) contract, which provides desktops, laptops, computer equipment and end-user services such as help desk and data backup. Those problems include 'a failed effort to replace most NASA employees' computers within the first six months and low customer satisfaction,' the report states (PDF). It adds that NASA lacked the technical and cultural readiness for an agencywide IT delivery model and did not offer clear contract requirements, while HP failed to deliver on multiple promises."

Quarks Know Their Left From Their Right 150

sciencehabit writes "How an electron interacts with other matter depends on which way it's spinning as it zips along—to the right like a football thrown by a right-handed quarterback or the left like a pigskin thrown by a lefty. Now, physicists have confirmed that quarks—the particles that join in trios to form the protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei—exhibit the same asymmetry. The result could give physics a new weapon in the grand hunt for new particles and forces. Or they can search for subtle hints of exotic new things beyond their tried-and-true standard model by studying familiar particles in great detail. In the latter approach, the new experiment gives physicists a way to probe for certain kinds of new forces."

New Type of Star Can Emerge From Inside Black Holes, Say Cosmologists 193

KentuckyFC writes "Black holes form when a large star runs out of fuel and collapses under its own weight. Since there is no known force that can stop this collapse, astrophysicists have always assumed that it forms a singularity, a region of space that is infinitely dense. Now cosmologists think quantum gravity might prevent this complete collapse after all. They say that the same force that stops an electron spiraling into a nucleus might also cause the collapsing star to 'bounce' at scales of around 10^-14cm. They're calling this new state a 'Planck star' and say its lifetime would match that of the black hole itself as it evaporates. That raises the possibility that the shrinking event horizon would eventually meet the expanding Planck star, which emerges with a sudden blast of gamma rays. That radiation would allow any information trapped in the black hole to escape, solving the infamous information paradox. If they're right, these gamma rays may already have been detected by space-based telescopes meaning that the evidence is already there for any enterprising astronomer to tease apart."
United States

Fracking Is Draining Water From Areas In US Suffering Major Shortages 268

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "RT reports that some of the most drought-ravaged areas of the US are also heavily targeted for oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing — a practice that exacerbates water shortages with half of the oil and gas wells fracked across America since 2011 located in places suffering through drought. Taken together, all the wells surveyed from January 2011 to May 2013 consumed 97 billion gallons of water, pumped under high pressure to crack rocks containing oil or natural gas. Up to 10 million gallons can go into a single well. 'Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country's most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,' says Mindy Lubber. 'Barring stiffer water-use regulations and improved on-the-ground practices, the industry's water needs in many regions are on a collision course with other water users, especially agriculture and municipal water use.' Nearly half (47%) of oil and gas wells recently hydraulically fractured in the U.S. and Canada are in regions with high or extremely high water stress. Amanda Brock, head of a water-treatment firm in Houston, says oil companies in California are already exploring ways to frack using the briny, undrinkable water found in the state's oil fields. While fracking consumes far less water than agriculture or residential uses, the impact can be huge on particular communities and is 'exacerbating already existing water problems,' says Monika Freyman. Hydraulic fracking is the 'latest party to come to the table,' says Freyman. The demands for the water are 'taking regions by surprise,' she says. More work needs to be done to better manage water use, given competing demand."

Dried Meat "Resurrects" Lost Species of Whale 87

sciencehabit writes "A gift of dried whale meat—and some clever genetic sleuthing across almost 16,000 kilometers of equatorial waters—has helped scientists identify a long-forgotten animal as a new species of beaked whale. The 'resurrection' raises new questions about beaked whales, the most elusive and mysterious of cetaceans. Overall, the saga shows 'that there are probably even more species of beaked whales that we don't know about,' says Phil Clapham, a marine mammalogist at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, Washington. 'We don't see them because they're very deep-diving and live far from land.' They also live in a poorly surveyed part of the ocean, Baker says, where very few people dwell on remote atolls."

Second World War Code-cracking Computing Hero Colossus Turns 70 110

DW100 writes "The Colossus computer that helped the Allies crack messages sent by the Nazis during the Second World War has celebrated its 70th birthday. The machine was a pioneering feat of engineering, able to read 5,000 characters a second to help the team at Bletchley Park crack the German's Lorenz code in rapid time. This helped the Allies gather vital information on the Nazi's plans, and is credited with helping end the war effort early, saving millions of lives."

NASA Pondering Two Public Contests To Build Small Space Exploration Satellites 127

coondoggie writes "NASA today said it was looking into developing two new Centennial Challenge competitions that would let the public design, build and deliver small satellites known as Cubesats capable of operations and experiments near the moon and beyond. The first challenge will focus on finding innovative ways to allow deep space communications with small spacecraft, while the second focuses on primary propulsion for small spacecraft."

Designer Seeds Thought To Be Latest Target By Chinese 164

An anonymous reader writes "Economic espionage is nothing new but one of the biggest areas being targeted now is agriculture. Here's a story about a FBI investigation to track down theft of seeds from research farms. 'The case of the missing corn seeds first broke in May 2011 when a manager at a DuPont research farm in east-central Iowa noticed a man on his knees, digging up the field. When confronted, the man, Mo Hailong, who was with his colleague Wang Lei, appeared flushed. Mr. Mo told the manager that he worked for the University of Iowa and was traveling to a conference nearby. When the manager paused to answered his cellphone, the two men sped off in a car, racing through a ditch to get away, federal authorities said.'"

Amputee Has Prosthetic Hand Wired To Nerves 72

New submitter kalman5 writes "Dennis Aabo Sørensen is the first amputee in the world to feel sensory rich information — in real-time — with a prosthetic hand wired to nerves in his upper arm. Sørensen could grasp objects intuitively and identify what he was touching while blindfolded. The surgical team 'attached electrodes from a robotic hand to a 36-year-old volunteer's median and ulnar nerves. Those nerves carry sensations that correspond with the volunteer's index finger and thumb, and with his pinky finger and the edge of his hand, respectively. The volunteer controlled the prosthetic with small muscle movements detected by sEMG, a method that dates to the 1970s and measures electrical signals through the skin—unlike the electrodes attached to his nerves, sEMG is not invasive.' The results? 'The volunteer was able to complete the requested tasks with his prosthetic thumb and index finger 67 percent of the time the first day and 93 percent of the time by the seventh day of the experiment, Micera and colleagues report. He found the pinky finger harder to control: he was only able to accomplish the requested grip 83 percent of the time by the end of the experiment.'"

Video Former Red Hat COO Helps Health Care Providers Work Together (Video) 74

Do you remember the worries about getting different health care software systems to work with each other as health care providers starting moving away from paper? It's still a problem, but Joanne Rohde's company, Axial Exchange, is working to cure that problem not only as an entrepreneur but also because she has personal reasons to see health care providers communicate better with each other. In a 2012 interview for Huffington Post, she said, "While I was working for Red Hat, I got very sick... I ultimately had to go to 10 doctors to be diagnosed. Going from doctor to doctor, I could not believe I had to start over each time. No one actually talks to each other I became convinced that if I had had all the information, I probably would have been able to figure it out faster." In fact, Joanne got so sick that she quit her job as Red Hat COO after four years with the company. Once she started getting decent treatment for her Fybromyalgia and started getting better, she decided to apply open source principles to health care IT -- and to start a new company to do it. talked with Joanne in September 2013, and in January 2014 she talked with Health Care Finance News for an article titled Patients key to reducing readmissions. A phrase Joanne seems to be using a lot lately is "patient engagement," which has become a major part of Axial Exchange's work to improve communications not only between different health care providers but also between those providers and their patients. Update: 02/05 20:16 GMT by T : If you're seeing this post on, note that we're still ironing out the details of video display here. You can view the video on, instead. Please pardon our dust.

Weird Asteroid Itokawa Has a Dual Personality 61

astroengine writes "We care about how asteroids are made, in large part because if one were aiming to smash into us, we'd like to know what we can do about it. The structure of asteroids is also a matter of scientific curiosity, as it tells us a bit about the formation and evolution in our solar system. ... 25143 Itokawa is a relatively small near-Earth asteroid that was visited by the Japanese Habayusa spacecraft in 2005. It has also been monitored by Stephen Lowry of the University of Kent and his colleagues over a twelve year span with the 3.58 meter New Technology Telescope in La Silla, Chile. In that time span, Itokawa has made five near approaches to Earth. And what did they find? The asteroid is composed of two lobes of different densities, suggesting that Itokawa is in fact a merged binary." ESO is hosting a preprint of the paper.

Greenland's Fastest Glacier Sets New Speed Record 136

vinces99 writes "The latest observations of Jakobshavn Glacier show that Greenland's largest glacier is moving ice from land into the ocean at a speed that appears to be the fastest ever recorded. Researchers from the University of Washington and the German Space Agency measured the speed of the glacier in 2012 and 2013. The results were published Feb. 3 in The Cryosphere, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union. Jakobshavn Glacier, which is widely believed to be the glacier that produced the large iceberg that sank the Titanic in 1912, drains the Greenland ice sheet into a deep-ocean fjord on the west coast of the island. This speedup of Jakobshavn means that the glacier is adding more and more ice to the ocean, contributing to sea-level rise. 'We are now seeing summer speeds more than four times what they were in the 1990s, on a glacier which at that time was believed to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, glacier in Greenland,' said lead author Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the UW's Polar Science Center. The new observations show that in summer of 2012 the glacier reached a record speed of more than 10 miles (17 km) per year, or more than 150 feet (46 m) per day. These appear to be the fastest flow rates recorded for any glacier or ice stream in Greenland or Antarctica, researchers said."

How Voter Shortsightedness Skews Elections 269

sciencehabit writes "'Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?' Ronald Reagan's famous question in the U.S. presidential election of 1980 is generally a good yardstick for picking a candidate, or at least for judging a leader's economic policies. But few voters follow it. Instead, they are swayed by economic swings in the months leading up to the election, often ignoring the larger trends. Why are we so shortsighted? A psychological study of voting behavior suggests an answer and points to a simple fix. ... Healy and Lenz challenged their subjects to evaluate hypothetical governments based on slightly varying information. For example, some received information expressed as yearly income while others received the same information expressed as a yearly growth rate. The same information in a plot of steadily increasing average personal income over 3 years—$32,400, $33,100, $33,800—can also be expressed as a steadily decreasing rate of growth—3%, 2.3%, 2.1%. That did the trick. Just changing the units of the data was enough to cure voter fickleness. When economic trends were expressed as yearly income rather than rates of change, the subjects made accurate judgments. But if the same information was expressed as a change over time—the bias reappeared."