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Earth

Group Seeks Test For Geoengineering Tool To Fight Climate Change 127

An anonymous reader writes: A group of retired engineers and scientists has been meeting for several years to develop techniques to fight climate change. They've now reached the point where they want to actively test a machine that shoots water droplets into the sky in order to supplement existing clouds and increase the planet's albedo. The group is not aiming for full deployment — in fact, it's not even unanimous in support for prevailing theories in climate science. But they all agree that it's important to learn about such technologies before the situation becomes a crisis. "We need to understand whether this approach is even possible and what the risks are, in the event that we find ourselves looking for ways to extend time and mitigate warming damage."

If we're eventually forced to deploy large-scale geoengineering projects to combat climate change, it's not a good idea to grab whatever technology is cheapest or most readily available without knowing how well it works. The group is aware of the ethical concerns surrounding such research, but its director notes, "The fact is humanity is already engaged in unplanned climate engineering. We're doing it through coal plant and shipping emissions every day without understanding it very well."
China

Chinese Scientists Discover Structural Basis of Pre-mRNA Splicing 48

hackingbear writes: On August 21st, the research team led by Prof. Yigong Shi from School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University in China published two side-by-side research articles in Science, reporting the long-sought-after structure of a yeast spliceosome at 3.6 angstrom resolution determined by single particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), and the molecular mechanism of pre-messenger RNA splicing. Until now, decades of genetic and biochemical experiments have identified almost all proteins in spliceosome and uncovered some functions. Yet, the structure remained a mystery for a long time. The works, primarily performed by Dr. Chuangye Yan, and Ph.D students Jing Hang and Ruixue Wan under Prof. Yigong Shi's supervision, settled this Holy Grail question and established the structural basis for the related area. This work was supported by funds from the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
Earth

In Germany, a Message-in-a-Bottle Found 108 Years After Its Release 57

schwit1 writes with a report that an early 20th century experiment has generated a belated data point. One of many floating bottles released 108 years ago to study currents was recently found by a German couple; it washed up on a beach in Amrum, Germany. From The Independent: When the couple unfurled the note inside, they found a message in English, German and Dutch. It asked the finder to fill in some information on where and when they had found the bottle, before returning it to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth. It said whoever did so would be rewarded with one shilling. Communications director of the Marine Biological Association, Guy Baker, told The Daily Telegraph: "It was quite a stir when we opened that envelope, as you can imagine." Once at the association, staff recognised the bottle was one of 1,020 released into the North Sea between 1904 and 1906 as part of a project to test the strength of currents. Mr Baker told the paper: "It was a time when they were inventing ways to investigate what currents and fish did. Many of the bottles were found by fishermen trawling with deep sea nets. Others washed up on the shore, and some were never recovered. Most of the bottles were found within a relatively short time. We're talking months rather than decades."
Space

Some Observers Perceive the Universe To Be Much Younger Than We Do 135

StartsWithABang writes: It's been 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang for us, and when we look out at a distant object in the Universe, we're seeing it as it was in the past. Its age — as it appears — is determined only by how long the light took for it to travel from that object to our eyes, but to someone living there, it will also appear that the Universe is 13.8 billion years old. But it is actually possible for an observer living on another planet, star or galaxy to perceive that significantly less time has passed since the Big Bang, so long as they were moving close to the speed of light relative to the CMB. Paradoxically, if they slowed their speed, they'd find that they themselves were very young, but living in a 13.8 billion year-old Universe.
Space

Re-Examined IceCube Data Firms Up Case For Extra-Galactic Neutrinos 27

In 2013, the IceCube neutrino telescope detected dozens of high-energy neutrinos. Now, reports Astronomy magazine, researchers "have sorted through the billions of subatomic particles that zip through its frozen cubic-kilometer-sized detector each year to gather powerful new evidence in support of [those] 2013 observations confirming the existence of cosmic neutrinos." According to the report, Albrecht Karle from UW-Madison notes that while the neutrino-induced tracks recorded by the IceCube detector have a good pointing resolution, within less than a degree, the IceCube team has not observed a significant number of neutrinos emanating from any single source. ... “The plane of the galaxy is where the stars are. It is where cosmic rays are accelerated, so you would expect to see more sources there. But the highest-energy neutrinos we’ve observed come from random directions,” said Karle. “It is sound confirmation that the discovery of cosmic neutrinos from beyond our galaxy is real.”
Cellphones

Mobile Phone Data Can Track the Spread of Infectious Diseases 21

jan_jes writes: Researchers have used anonymous mobile phone records for more than 15 million people to track the spread of rubella disease in Kenya and were able to quantitatively show that mobile phone data can predict seasonal disease patterns. The researchers compared the cellphone analysis with a highly detailed dataset on rubella incidence in Kenya. They matched; the cellphone movement patterns lined up with the rubella incidence figures. In both of their analyses, rubella spiked three times a year. This showed the researchers that cellphone movement can be a predictor of infectious-disease spread.
Space

John S. Lewis On the Space Commodities Market 61

John S. Lewis -- Deep Space Industries' chief scientist, author, and University of Arizona professor -- speaks in an interview with Air & Space magazine about the practicalities and possibilities of deep-space mining, a topic on which he is unapologetically bullish. He points out, though, that some of the artist's-conception version of space mining skips over some of the economic realities of getting back to Earth metals that are scarce here. From the interview: But—and here’s the big conditional—if we develop an industrial capability in space such that we’re processing large amounts of metals to make solar-powered satellites, for example, then as a byproduct, we would have very substantial quantities of platinum-group metals, which are extremely valuable. So if you have a market for the iron and the nickel in space, that would liberate the precious metals to be brought back to Earth. So the scheme is not based on the idea of retrieving platinum-group metals—that is simply gravy."
Space

JAXA Prepares To Try Making Whiskey In Space 67

schwit1 writes: An experiment to test how whiskey ages in weightlessness is about to begin on ISS: "H-II Transfer Vehicle No. 5, commonly known as "Kounotori5" or HTV5, was launched on Wednesday from JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center carrying alcohol beverages produced by Suntory to the Japanese Experiment Module aboard the International Space Station, where experiments on the "development of mellowness" will be conducted for a period of about one year in Group 1 and for two or more years (undecided) in Group 2." Don't worry, the astronauts on ISS won't be getting drunk. After the test period is complete the samples will then returned to Earth, untasted, where they will then be compared with control samples.
Earth

NASA's Hurricane Model Resolution Increases Nearly 10-Fold Since Katrina 89

zdburke writes: Thanks to improvements in satellites and on-the-ground computing power, NASA's ability to model hurricane data has come a long way in the ten years since Katrina devastated New Orleans. Their blog notes, "Today's models have up to ten times the resolution than those during Hurricane Katrina and allow for a more accurate look inside the hurricane. Imagine going from video game figures made of large chunky blocks to detailed human characters that visibly show beads of sweat on their forehead." Gizmodo covered the post too and added some technical details, noting that, "the supercomputer has more than 45,000 processor cores and runs at 1.995 petfalops."
Mars

The Real NASA Technologies In 'The Martian' 59

An anonymous reader writes: On October 2, movie audiences will get to see Ridley Scott's adaptation of Andy Weir's brilliant sci-fi novel The Martian, about a near-future astronaut who gets left for dead on the planet Mars. (Official trailer.) Both book and film are rooted in actual science, and NASA has now posted a list of technologies featured in the movie that either already exist, or are in development. For example, the Mars rover: "On Earth today, NASA is working to prepare for every encounter with the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV). The MMSEV has been used in NASA's analog mission projects to help solve problems that the agency is aware of and to reveal some that may be hidden. The technologies are developed to be versatile enough to support missions to an asteroid, Mars, its moons and other missions in the future." They also show off their efforts to develop water reclamation, gardens in space, and oxygen recovery.
Medicine

New Blood-Cleansing Device Removes Pathogens, Toxins From Blood 60

jan_jes writes: A team of scientists at the Wyss Institute last year described the development of a device to treat sepsis that works by mimicking the human spleen. The device cleanses pathogens and toxins from blood flowing through a dialysis-like circuit. Now the team has developed an improved device that works with conventional antibiotic therapies and is better positioned for near-term use in clinics. The improved design will be described in the October issue of Biomaterials. This approach can be administered quickly, even without identifying the infectious agent.
NASA

How Viking 1 Won the Martian Space Race 53

derekmead writes: NASA launched the Viking 1 spacecraft to Mars forty years ago. The probe was the first to achieve a soft landing on the planet, providing the first images and data from Mars. Politically the Viking 1 success was a huge win for the U.S. against the competing Soviet space program. Motherboard reports: "Viking 1 went on to become one of the most productive landers ever deployed on Mars, operating for 2,307 days before it finally shut down on November 13, 1982. It held the record for the longest Martian surface mission for decades, until the Opportunity rover finally beat it out in 2010 (and that little trooper is still going, by the way)."
Medicine

MIT Researchers Discover "Metabolic Master Switch" To Control Obesity 380

New submitter ahbond writes: The meme of the chubby nerd alone in the basement may be a thing of the past. Well, at least the chubby part, if recent work at MIT pans out and we're able to use a biological "master switch" to "dial-in" a persons metabolic rate. “Obesity has traditionally been seen as the result of an imbalance between the amount of food we eat and how much we exercise, but this view ignores the contribution of genetics to each individual’s metabolism,” said senior author Manolis Kellis, a professor of computer science and a member of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and of the Broad Institute.
Intel

Intel's Collaborative Cancer Cloud, an Open Platform For Genome-Based Treatments 16

Lucas123 writes: Intel and the Knight Cancer Institute have announced what will be an open-source service platform, called the Collaborative Cancer Cloud. The platform will enable healthcare facilities to securely share patient genomic data, radiological imagery and other healthcare-related information for precision treatment analysis. Key to averting HIPAA privacy issues will be Intel's Trusted Execution Technology, its embedded server encryption hardware that tests the authenticity of a platform and its operating system before sharing data. Intel said it will be opening that technology up for use by any clinic that want to take part in the Collaborative Cancer Cloud or to build its own data-sharing network with healthcare partners. Dr. Brian Druker, director of the Knight Cancer Institute, said the Trusted Execution Technology will allow healthcare centers to maintain control of patient data, while also allowing clinics around the world to use it for vastly faster genomic analysis.