ananyo writes "Many people dislike the clashing dissonances of modernist composers such as Arnold Schoenberg. But what's our problem with dissonance? There has long been thought to be a physiological reason why at least some kinds of dissonance sound jarring. Two tones close in frequency interfere to produce 'beating': what we hear is just a single tone rising and falling in loudness. If the difference in frequency is within a certain range, rapid beats create a rattling sound called roughness. An aversion to roughness has seemed consistent with the common dislike of intervals such as minor seconds. Yet when cognitive neuroscientist Marion Cousineau of the University of Montreal in Quebec and her colleagues asked amusic subjects (who cannot distinguish between different musical tones) to rate the pleasantness of a whole series of intervals, they showed no distinctions between any of the intervals but disliked beating as much as people with normal hearing. Instead the researchers propose that harmonicity is the key (abstract). Notes contain many overtones — frequencies that are whole-number multiples of the basic frequency in the note. For consonant 'pleasant sounding' intervals the overtones of the two notes tend to coincide as whole-number multiples, whereas for dissonant intervals this is no longer the case. The work suggests that harmonicity is more important than beating for dissonance aversion in normal hearers."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Nwe submitter arrow3D writes "A new startup in Norway is focused on design and fabrication at the level and quality of nature. Using pure mathematical volumes, rather than surfaces or voxels, they are developing a new generation of 3D modelling tools specifically aimed at high resolution 3D printing, to 'support the future of design and manufacturing.' Their software was recently used to create the multi-material Minotaur Helmet by Neri Oxman from MIT, as featured in Wired UK last month. An interesting thought (as recently illustrated in Dilbert) is the idea of a Physical Turing Test for synthetic objects and that both Turing Tests may require each other — i.e. only by designing and building at the resolution of nature can we achieve the intelligence of natural objects. Their software platform is still very much under development but they've started trying to 'save the world from polygons' with a KickStarter campaign that's live now."
eldavojohn writes "Professor Gerald "Jerry" Crabtree of Stanford's Crabtree Laboratory published a paper (PDF) that has appeared in two parts in Trends in Genetics. The paper opens with a very controversial suggestion: 'I would be willing to wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions.' From there, Crabtree speculates we're on the decline of human intelligence and we have been for at least a couple millennia. His argument suggests agriculture and, following from that, cities, have allowed us to break free of some environmental forces on competitive genetic mutations — a la Mike Judge's theory. However, the conclusion of the paper urges humans to keep calm and carry on, as any attempt to fix this genetic trend would almost certainly be futile and disturbing."
According to a story at Northwest Public Radio, the state of Virginia's board of education has decided to institute different passing scores for standardized tests, based on the racial and cultural background of the students taking the test. Apparently the state has chosen to divide its student population into broad categories of black, white, Hispanic, and Asian — which takes painting with a rather broad brush, to put it mildly. From the article (there's an audio version linked as well): "As part of Virginia's waiver to opt out of mandates set out in the No Child Left Behind law, the state has created a controversial new set of education goals that are higher for white and Asian kids than for blacks, Latinos and students with disabilities. ... Here's what the Virginia state board of education actually did. It looked at students' test scores in reading and math and then proposed new passing rates. In math it set an acceptable passing rate at 82 percent for Asian students, 68 percent for whites, 52 percent for Latinos, 45 percent for blacks and 33 percent for kids with disabilities." (If officially determined group membership determines passing scores, why stop there?) Florida passed a similar measure last month.
New submitter calder123 writes "Last week, the BBC won an FOIA tribunal ruling that they didn't have to reveal the names of attendees at a seminar in 2006, designed to shape the BBC's coverage of climate change issues. The document, uncovered by Maurizio Morabito, puts comments by the BBC that the meeting was held under Chatham House rules, and that the seminar drew on top scientific advice in an interesting light. In a bizarre coincidence, four of the BBC's attendees at the seminar have resigned in the last few days."
the_newsbeagle writes "It's hard to determine what the unconscious brain is doing since, after all, we're not aware of it. But in a neat set of experiments, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's consciousness lab found evidence that the unconscious brain can parse language and perform simple arithmetic. The researchers flashed colorful patterns at test subjects that took up all their attention and allowed for the subliminal presentation of sentences or equations. In the language processing experiment, researchers found that subjects became consciously aware of a sentence sooner if it was jarring and nonsensical (like, for example, the sentence 'I ironed coffee')."
Dupple writes in with some news from the team at the Large Hadron Collider. "Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider have detected one of the rarest particle decays seen in Nature. The finding deals a significant blow to the theory of physics known as supersymmetry. Many researchers had hoped the LHC would have confirmed this by now. Supersymmetry, or SUSY, has gained popularity as a way to explain some of the inconsistencies in the traditional theory of subatomic physics known as the Standard Model. The new observation, reported at the Hadron Collider Physics conference in Kyoto, is not consistent with many of the most likely models of SUSY. Prof Chris Parke, who is the spokesperson for the UK Participation in the LHCb experiment, told BBC News: 'Supersymmetry may not be dead but these latest results have certainly put it into hospital.'"
thomst writes "Tim Wogan reports that chemical engineer Zhenan Bao of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and her team have increased the conductivity of a self-healing polymer by incorporating nickel atoms. The polymer they have produced is sensitive to applied forces like pressure and torsion (twisting) because such forces alter the distance between the nickel atoms, changing the electrical resistance of the polymer. Their work is published online in the November 1 issue of Nature Nanotechnology (abstract here, full article paywalled). Now Bao and her team are working on making the polymer more flexible."
MrSeb writes "Scientists at Duke University have created the first invisibility cloak that perfectly hides centimeter-scale objects. While invisibility cloaks have been created before, they have all reflected some of the incident light, ruining the illusion. In this case, the incident light is perfectly channeled around the object, creating perfect invisibility. There are some caveats, of course. For now, the Duke invisibility cloak only works with microwave radiation — and perhaps more importantly, the cloak is unidirectional (it only provides invisibility from one very specific direction). The big news here, though, is that it is even possible to create an invisibility cloak of any description. It is now just a matter of time before visible-light, omnidirectional invisibility cloaks are created."
An anonymous reader writes in with a story about another side effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. "Rising carbon dioxide levels at the edge of space are apparently reducing the pull that Earth's atmosphere has on satellites and space junk, researchers say. The findings suggest that man made increases in carbon dioxide might be having effects on the Earth that are larger than expected, scientists added... in the highest reaches of the atmosphere, carbon dioxide can actually have a cooling effect. The main effects of carbon dioxide up there come from its collisions with oxygen atoms. These impacts excite carbon dioxide molecules, making them radiate heat. The density of carbon dioxide is too thin above altitudes of about 30 miles (50 kilometers) for the molecules to recapture this heat. Cooling the upper atmosphere causes it to contract, exerting less drag on satellites."
William Robinson writes "Scientists have found way to use X-Ray Lasers to create supercharged particles. The specific tuning of the laser's properties can cause atoms and molecules to resonate. The resonance excites the atoms and causes them to shake off electrons at a rate that otherwise would require higher energies. This could be used to create highly charged plasma."
An anonymous reader writes "A new neural interface delicate enough not to damage nerve tissue, but resilient enough to last decades has been made. Made from a single carbon fiber and coated with chemicals, the technology is believed to be fully resistant to proteins in the brain. From the article: 'The new microthread electrode, designed to pick up signals from a single neuron as it fires, is only about 7 micrometers in diameter. That is the thinnest yet developed, and about 100 times as thin as the conventional metal electrodes widely used to study animal brains. “We wanted to see if we could radically change implant technology,” says Takashi Kozai, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh and the lead author on the paper, published today in the journal Nature Materials. “We want to see an electrode that lasts 70 years.”'"
First time accepted submitter GinaSmith888 writes "This is a deep dive in the BP protocol Vint Cerf developed that is the heart of NASA's Delay-Tolerant Networking, better known as DTN. From the article: 'The big difference between BP and IP is that, while IP assumes a more or less smooth pathway for packets going from start to end point, BP allows for disconnections, glitches and other problems you see commonly in deep space, Younes said. Basically, a BP network — the one that will the Interplanetary Internet possible — moves data packets in bursts from node to node, so that it can check when the next node is available or up.'"
dryriver sends this excerpt from the Guardian: "Scientists have pinpointed a new treasure trove in our oceans: micro-organisms that contain millions of previously unknown genes and thousands of new families of proteins. These tiny marine wonders offer a chance to exploit a vast pool of material that could be used to create innovative medicines, industrial solvents, chemical treatments and other processes, scientists say. Researchers have already created new enzymes for treating sewage and chemicals for making soaps from material they have found in ocean organisms. 'The potential for marine biotechnology is almost infinite,' says Curtis Suttle, professor of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences at the University of British Columbia. 'It has become clear that most of the biological and genetic diversity on Earth is – by far – tied up in marine ecosystems, and in particular in their microbial components. By weight, more than 95% of all living organisms found in the oceans are microbial. This is an incredible resource.'"
grrlscientist writes with news of a cockatoo named Figaro, who was observed to construct and use his own tools to retrieve objects that were outside of his cage. Quoting: "One day, a student caregiver noticed Figaro pushing a stone pebble through the aviary wire mesh, where it fell on a wood structural beam. Unable to retrieve the stone with his foot, Figaro then fetched a piece of bamboo and again attempted to retrieve the stone using the bamboo stick. ... During the next three days, the researchers ran trials of the original scenario, which was repeated ten times but substituting a cashew nut for the pebble. All trials were captured on video and the process of tool manufacture and use was documented photographically. ... 'Figaro made a new tool for every nut we placed there and each time the bird was successful in obtaining it,' reports cognitive biologist Alice Auersperg of the University of Vienna, who led the study (PDF). During these trials, Figaro used 10 tools, nine of which he manufactured and one of which was ready-made."
WOOFYGOOFY writes "The NY Times and Voice Of America are reporting on a study by the U.S. National Research Council (PDF) which was released Friday linking global climate change to national security. The report, which was developed at the request of the C.I.A., characterizes the threats posed by climate change as 'similar to and in many cases greater than those posed by terrorist attacks. 'Climate-driven crises could lead to internal instability or international conflict and might force the United States to provide humanitarian assistance or, in some cases, military force to protect vital energy, economic or other interests, the study said.' If the effect of unaddressed climate change is the functional equivalent of terrorist attacks on the nation, does the Executive Branch, as a matter of national security, have a duty and a right to begin to act unilaterally against climate change irrespective of what Congress currently believes?"
Hugh Pickens writes "Coffee is the world's favorite beverage and the second-most traded commodity after oil. Now Nick Collins reports that rising global temperatures and subtle changes in seasonal conditions could make 99.7 per cent of Arabica-growing areas unsuitable for the plant before the end of the century and in some areas as soon as 2020. Even if the beans do not disappear completely from the wild, climate change is highly likely to impact yields. The taste of coffee, a beverage of choice among Slashdot readers, will change in future decades. 'The worst case scenario, as drawn from our analyses, is that wild Arabica could be extinct by 2080,' says Justin Moat. 'This should alert decision makers to the fragility of the species.'" Read more, below.
sciencehabit writes "It's a good 130 years too late to answer that question empirically, but at least symbolically Charles Darwin has won support from more than 4000 voters in the 10th congressional district of Georgia, thanks to an initiative headed by James Leebens-Mack, a plant biologist at the University of Georgia in Athens. Like many others, Leebens-Mack was deeply troubled by a speech his Congressman, Paul Broun (R-GA), gave at an Athens church in October deriding teachings on evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory as 'lies straight from the pit of Hell.' Broun, a medical doctor, is a member of the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and chair of its Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. Leebens-Mack says the 'protest vote should make it clear to future opponents that there are a lot of people in the district who are not happy with antiscience statements.'"
New submitter Joiseybill writes "Now that the election is over, any voters that may have been influenced can rest easy. Space.com reports that the agency has been 'thinking about setting up a manned outpost beyond the moon's far side, both to establish a human presence in deep space and to build momentum toward a planned visit to an asteroid in 2025.' Space policy expert John Logsdon said, 'NASA has been evolving its thinking, and its latest charts have inserted a new element of cislunar/lunar gateway/Earth-moon L2 sort of stuff into the plan. They've been holding off announcing that until after the election.' According to the article, 'Rumors currently point toward parking a spacecraft at the Earth-moon L2 gateway, so NASA (and perhaps international partners) can learn more about supporting humans in deep space. Astronauts stationed there could also aid in lunar exploration — by teleoperating rovers on the moon's surface, for example.'"
cylonlover writes "Our ears work by converting the vibrations of the eardrum into electrochemical signals that can be interpreted by the brain. The current for those signals is supplied by an ion-filled chamber deep within the inner ear – it's essentially a natural battery. Scientists are now looking at using that battery to power devices that could be implanted in the ear, without affecting the recipient's hearing. The 'battery chamber' is located in the cochlea. It is internally divided by a membrane, some of the cells of which are designed to pump ions. The arrangement of those specialized cells, combined with an imbalance of potassium and sodium ions on opposite sides of the membrane, are what creates the electrical voltage. A team of scientists from MIT, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology have recently succeeded in running an ultra-low-power radio-transmitting chip using power from these battery chambers – in guinea pigs' ears."