coondoggie writes "What are the next big things in science and technology? Teleportation? Unlimited clean Energy? The scientists and researchers at DARPA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy put out a public call this week for ideas that could form what they call the Grand Challenges — ambitious yet achievable goals that that would herald serious breakthroughs in science and technology."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Futurist and author Ray Kurzweil predicts the cloud will eventually do more than store our emails or feed us streaming movies on demand: it's going to help expand our brain capacity beyond its current limits. In a question-and-answer session following a speech to the DEMO technology conference in Santa Clara, California last week, Kurzweil described the human brain as impressive but limited in its capacity to hold information. 'By the time we're even 20, we've filled it up,' he said, adding that the only way to add information after that point is to 'repurpose our neocortex to learn something new.' (Computerworld has posted up the full video of the talk.) The solution to overcoming the brain's limitations, he added, involves 'basically expanding our brains into the cloud.'"
kenekaplan writes "NASA has used VxWorks for several deep space missions, including Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. When the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) needs to run stress tests or simulations for upgrades and fixes to the OS, Wind River's Mike Deliman gets the call. In a recent interview, Deliman, a senior member of the technical staff at Wind River, which is owned by Intel, gave a peek at the legacy technology under Curiosity's hood and recalled the emergency call he got when an earlier Mars mission hit a software snag after liftoff."
Hugh Pickens writes "The Christian Science Monitor reports that despite an apparent prohibition on faster-than-light travel by Einstein's theory of special relativity, applied mathematician James Hill and his colleague Barry Cox say the theory actually lends itself easily to a description of velocities that exceed the speed of light. 'The actual business of going through the speed of light is not defined,' says Hill whose research has been published in the prestigious Proceedings of the Royal Society A. 'The theory we've come up with is simply for velocities greater than the speed of light.' In effect, the singularity at the speed of light divides the universe into two: a world where everything moves slower than the speed of light, and a world where everything moves faster. The laws of physics in these two realms could turn out to be quite different. In some ways, the hidden world beyond the speed of light looks to be a strange one. Hill and Cox's equations suggest, for example, that as a spaceship traveling at super-light speeds accelerated faster and faster, it would lose more and more mass, until at infinite velocity, its mass became zero. 'We are mathematicians, not physicists, so we've approached this problem from a theoretical mathematical perspective,' says Dr Cox. 'Should it, however, be proven that motion faster than light is possible, then that would be game changing. Our paper doesn't try and explain how this could be achieved, just how equations of motion might operate in such regimes.'"
SchrodingerZ writes "Two Americans have won the 2012 Nobel prize in Chemistry for their work in cell research. Their work involves the discovery and manipulation of the G-protein-coupled receptors, which detect signals outside the of cells they inhabit. 'The human body has about 1,000 kinds of such receptors, which enable it to respond to a wide variety of chemical signals, like adrenaline. Some receptors are in the nose, tongue and eyes, and let us sense smells, tastes and vision.' The winners are Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka. Lefkowitz works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and is a professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Kobilka is a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine in California. Their research has helped create newer and more effective drugs with fewer side effects. More on G Protein-coupled Receptor research can be found in the Journal of Biological Chemistry."
The Bad Astronomer writes "Using the newly-commissioned ALMA radio observatory, astronomers have taken detailed images of one of the most amazing objects in the sky: the red giant R Sculptoris (abstract). As the star dies, it undergoes gigantic seizures beneath its surface that blast out waves of gas and dust from the surface. These normally expand into a spherical shell, but the presence of a nearby companion star changes things. The combined orbits of the two stars fling out the material like a garden sprinkler, forming enormous and incredibly beautiful spiral arms. Measuring the size and shape of the spiral shows the last eruption was 1800 years ago, lasted for nearly two centuries, and expelled enough material to make a thousand earths."
another random user writes with this quote from Nature News: "Few researchers have given credence to claims that samples of dinosaur DNA have survived to the present day, but no one knew just how long it would take for genetic material to fall apart. Now, a study of fossils found in New Zealand is laying the matter to rest — and putting paid to hopes of cloning a Tyrannosaurus rex (abstract). After cell death, enzymes start to break down the bonds between the nucleotides that form the backbone of DNA, and micro-organisms speed the decay. In the long run, however, reactions with water are thought to be responsible for most bond degradation. Groundwater is almost ubiquitous, so DNA in buried bone samples should, in theory, degrade at a set rate. Determining that rate has been difficult because it is rare to find large sets of DNA-containing fossils with which to make meaningful comparisons. To make matters worse, variable environmental conditions such as temperature, degree of microbial attack and oxygenation alter the speed of the decay process. By comparing the specimens' ages and degrees of DNA degradation, the researchers calculated that DNA has a half-life of 521 years. That means that after 521 years, half of the bonds between nucleotides in the backbone of a sample would have broken; after another 521 years half of the remaining bonds would have gone; and so on."
scibri writes "One side is accused of supporting ethnic cleansing; the other of being intellectually naive. Geneticists and economists are struggling to collaborate on research that explores how our genes influence and interact with economic behavior. Top economists are publishing a paper that claims a country's genetic diversity can predict the success of its economy. To critics, the economists' paper seems to suggest that a country's poverty could be the result of its citizens' genetic make-up, and the paper is attracting charges of genetic determinism, and even racism. But the economists say that they have been misunderstood, and are merely using genetics as a proxy for other factors that can drive an economy, such as history and culture."
puddingebola writes "From the aricle, 'The SpaceX Dragon capsule has been successfully grabbed by the International Space Station, marking the first time a private American space flight has run a supply mission to the orbiting platform. The crew of the ISS snatched Dragon out of orbit ahead of schedule, using the space station's robotic arm to guide the capsule in after its careful approach.' NASA has also posted video of the docking."
An anonymous reader sends this quote from The Guardian: "Doctors and government health officials should set limits, as they do for alcohol, on the amount of time children spend watching screens – and under-threes should be kept away from the television altogether, according to a paper in an influential medical journal published on Tuesday. A review of the evidence in the Archives Of Disease in Childhood says children's obsession with TV, computers and screen games is causing developmental damage as well as long-term physical harm. Doctors at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which co-owns the journal with the British Medical Journal group, say they are concerned."
Zothecula writes "Astrobotic Technology Inc., a spin-off company of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), has debuted its full-size flight prototype of its Polaris lunar water-prospecting robot. Polaris is specially designed to work in the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon's poles. Scheduled to be sent to the Moon using a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle, the solar-powered rover is a contender in the US$20 million Google Lunar X Prize and is tasked with seeking ice deposits that could be used by future colonists."
MrSeb writes "A few hundred million miles away on the surface of the Red Planet, Mars rover Curiosity has photographed an unidentified, shiny, metallic object. Now, before you get too excited, the most likely explanation is that bright object is part of the rover that has fallen off — or perhaps some debris from MSL Curiosity's landing on Mars, nine weeks ago. There is the distinct possibility, however, that this object is actually native to Mars, which would be far more exciting. It could be the tip of a larger object, or perhaps some kind of exotic, metallic Martian pebble (a piece of metal ore, perhaps). Close-up imagery will now be captured and analyzed, and within the next few days we should know if it's simply a piece of Curiosity — or something a whole lot more exciting."
thomst writes "Reuters is reporting that French scientist Serge Haroche and American David Wineland will share the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on measuring quantum particles. (The article is very skimpy on details.)" The Associated Press article carried by the Washington Post is also quite thin, but along with the Reuters story says the Haroche and Wineland were selected for demonstrating "how to observe individual quantum particles without destroying them."
First time accepted submitter ryanferrell writes "Not even Harvard can afford to subscribe to every academic journal. For scientists at small institutions, lack of access to journals specific to one's narrow field can be painful. Individual articles can cost $30 to $50 each, which is paid out of personal or grant funds. The Boston Globe profiles a start-up that is piloting an 'iTunes' model with Nature Publishing Group and the University of Utah. In the pilot program, researchers pay nothing to download articles and their library foots a smaller bill for a la carte access from the publisher."
First time accepted submitter drichan writes "Those of us who watched the live feed of last night's Falcon 9 launch could be forgiven for assuming that everything went according to plan. All the reports that came through over the audio were heavy on the word "nominal," and the craft successfully entered an orbit that has it on schedule to dock with the International Space Station on Wednesday. But over night, SpaceX released a slow-motion video of what they're calling an 'anomaly.'"
First time accepted submitter poofmeisterp writes "Felix Baumgarner's planned record jump from 120,000 feet has been delayed due to 'bad wind.' Humor aside, it's good that careful thought is going into this potentially record-setting public act. From the article: 'The Austrian - who described himself as "like a tiger in a cage waiting to get out" - was due to leap from his Red Bull Stratos space capsule today at a planned altitude of 36,576m (120,000ft) over the New Mexico desert. However, the weather has forced a 24-hour launch delay. In July, Baumgartner jumped from an altitude of 29,455m (96,640ft), hitting 586.92km/h (364.69mph) during the free fall part of his drop.'"
concealment writes "At the end of August this year, the US Department of Transport's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new standards to significantly improve the fuel economy of cars and light trucks by 2025. Last week, we took a look at a range of recent engine technologies that car companies have been deploying in aid of better fuel efficiency today. But what about the cars of tomorrow, or next week? What do Detroit, or Stuttgart, or Tokyo have waiting in the wings that will get to the Obama administration's target of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2025?"
tomhath writes with this exerpt from a Reuters story: "The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear an Indiana farmer's appeal that challenges the scope of Monsanto Co.'s patent rights on its Roundup Ready seeds. Mr. Bowman bought and planted 'commodity seeds' from a grain elevator. Those soybean seeds were a mix and included some that contained Monsanto's technology. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case over the objections of the Obama administration, which had urged the justices to leave the lower court rulings in place."
SpaceX's first regular launch to the International Space Station is set to go off at 8:35 (Eastern time) Sunday evening; the first SpaceX launch to successfully reach the ISS was more of a test, though it did bring some goodies to the crew. Wired has a live video feed in place. Slashdot reader Lee Sheridan is in Florida for the launch; if you're one of the billion Facebook users, his photos of the mission briefing and Falcon 9 lift vehicle being lifted to vertical are public. The SpaceX twitter feed might be fun to watch, too. Update: 10/08 00:09 GMT by T : Bonus points for intelligent parsing of the acronym-laden communications on the live feed.
An anonymous reader writes "Modern Europeans may have interbred with Neanderthals as recently as 37,000 years ago, after modern humans with advanced stone tools expanded out of Africa, according to a new study. In an attempt to understand why the Neanderthals are more closely related to people from outside of Africa, researchers from Harvard and the Max Planck Institute estimated that while the last sex between Neanderthals and modern humans may have occurred 37,000 to 86,000 years ago, it is most likely that it occurred 47,000 to 65,000 years ago."