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Television

StarTalk TV Show With Neil DeGrasse Tyson Starts Monday 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the way-better-than-reality-tv dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Neil DeGrasse Tyson of StarTalk Radio and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey has a TV show starting on Monday, April 20, at 11 p.m. ET/10 p.m. CT on NatGeo. Based on Dr. Tyson's prominent podcast of the same name, the hour-long, weekly series infuses pop culture with science, while bringing together comedians and celebrities to delve into a wide range of topics. Each week, in a private interview, Dr. Tyson explores all the ways science and technology have influenced the lives and livelihoods of his guests, whatever their background.
Biotech

Breakthrough In Artificial Photosynthesis Captures CO2 In Acetate 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the use-it-to-3D-print-your-own-clones dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Berkeley Lab and the U.S. Dept. of Energy have created an artificial photosynthetic process that capture carbon dioxide in acetate, "the most common building block today for biosynthesis." The research has been published in the journal Nano Letters (abstract). "Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in at least three million years, primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Yet fossil fuels, especially coal, will remain a significant source of energy to meet human needs for the foreseeable future. Technologies for sequestering carbon before it escapes into the atmosphere are being pursued but all require the captured carbon to be stored, a requirement that comes with its own environmental challenges. ... By combining biocompatible light-capturing nanowire arrays with select bacterial populations, the new artificial photosynthesis system offers a win/win situation for the environment: solar-powered green chemistry using sequestered carbon dioxide."
Science

Scientists Close To Solving the Mystery of Where Dogs Came From 166

Posted by Soulskill
from the evolved-to-fit-the-need-for-a-natural-vacuum-cleaner dept.
sciencehabit writes: For years researchers have argued over where and when dogs arose. Some say Europe, some say Asia. Some say 15,000 years ago, some say more than 30,000 years ago. Now an unprecedented collaboration of archaeologists and geneticists from around the world is attempting to solve the mystery once and for all. They're analyzing thousands of bones, employing new technologies, and trying to put aside years of bad blood and bruised egos. If the effort succeeds, the former competitors will uncover the history of man's oldest friend — and solve one of the greatest mysteries of domestication.
Science

Newly Discovered Sixth Extinction Rivals That of the Dinosaurs 88

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-line dept.
sciencehabit writes Earth has seen its share of catastrophes, the worst being the 'big five' mass extinctions scientists traditionally talk about. Now, paleontologists are arguing that a sixth extinction, 260 million years ago, at the end of a geological age called the Capitanian, deserves to be a member of the exclusive club. In a new study, they offer evidence for a massive die-off in shallow, cool waters in what is now Norway. That finding, combined with previous evidence of extinctions in tropical waters, means that the Capitanian was a global catastrophe.
Space

Enceladus Spreads Ghostly Ice Tendrils Around Saturn 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the old-space-faithful dept.
astroengine writes A ghostly apparition has long been known to follow Saturn moon Enceladus in its orbit around the gas giant. But until now, scientists have had a hard time tracking its source. Using images from NASA's Cassini mission, the source of these tendrils have been tracked down and they originate from the icy moon's famous geysers. But even better than that, scientists have been able to track the tendril shapes down to the specific geysers that produce them. "We've been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon's surface," said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of a paper published int he Astrophysical Journal. The study of these features are helping scientists understand how much ice is being transported into Saturn's E ring from Enceladus as well as helping us understand the evolution of the moon's sub-surface ocean.
Space

An Engineering Analysis of the Falcon 9 First Stage Landing Failure 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the ground-not-soft-enough dept.
schwit1 writes: AviationWeek has posted an analysis of SpaceX's latest attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean barge. Quoting: "SpaceX founder and chief technology officer Elon Musk tweeted that "excess lateral velocity caused it [the booster] to tip over post landing." In a later tweet that was subsequently withdrawn, Musk then indicated that "the issue was stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag." In this statement, Musk was referring to "stiction" — or static friction — in the valve controlling the throttling of the engine. The friction appears to have momentarily slowed the response of the engine, causing the control system to command more of an extreme reaction from the propulsion system than was required. As a result, the control system entered a form of hysteresis, a condition in which the control response lags behind changes in the effect causing it.

Despite the failure of the latest attempt, SpaceX will be encouraged by the landing accuracy of the Falcon 9 and the bigger-picture success of its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system in bringing the booster back to the drone ship. The GNC also worked as designed during the prior landing attempt in January, which ended in the destruction of the vehicle following a hard touchdown on the edge of the platform."
In related news, SpaceX is hoping to attempt its next landing on solid ground.
NASA

NASA's MESSENGER Mission To Crash Into Mercury In 2 Weeks 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-that,-mercury dept.
astroengine writes: NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft is in the final days of an unprecedented and unexpectedly long-lived, close-up study of the innermost planet of the solar system, with a crashing finale expected in two weeks. Out of fuel, the robotic Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging, or MESSENGER, probe on April 30 will succumb to the gravitational pull of this strange world that has been its home since March 2011. The purpose of the mission, originally designed to last one year, is to collect detailed geochemical and other data that will help scientists piece together of how Mercury formed and evolved. "MESSENGER is going to create a new crater on Mercury sometime in the near future ... let's not be sad about that," NASA associate administrator John Grunsfeld said Thursday. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has an excellent site for looking through the pictures MESSENGER has taken and the science it's done.
Biotech

A 2-Year-Old Has Become the Youngest Person Ever To Be Cryonically Frozen 310

Posted by Soulskill
from the rest-in-peace dept.
merbs writes: After losing a long battle with brain cancer, 2-year-old Matheryn Naovaratpong became the first minor ever to be cryogenically frozen. This article is the story of how a Thai girl was frozen in Bangkok and shipped to Arizona to have her brain preserved in liquid nitrogen, while medical science works on a cure. "Typically we’d move the head from the trunk of the body. We didn't know what their reaction would be from the family, the mortuary, from border officials; this has to go through a number of shipping venues, customs, the TSA and so on. To see a frozen head in a box might have raised a number of red flags. In the U.S. that’s not a big deal, but there, they may not be accustomed."
Medicine

New Chemical Tools Lead To Targeted Cancer Drugs 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the sniper-scope-built-out-of-proteins dept.
New submitter caudex writes: Proteins are encoded in DNA, and while the degeneracy of the genetic code works to minimize errors, a single DNA basepair mutation can change the structure of the encoded protein. When a mutated protein causes uncontrolled cell growth, we call it cancer. Unfortunately, proteins typically contain hundreds of amino acids, and developing a drug that will target the version of a protein containing one amino acid mutation is difficult. For this reason, most anticancer agents indiscriminately attack both mutant and healthy proteins and tissues. Researchers at Caltech have come up with a potentially general method for selectively drugging only the mutant protein at fault for cancerous activity, even in the crowded and complex milieu of living cells. Their proof of concept study published in Nature Chemistry targets the E17K mutation, which can be the causative mutation of many types of cancer.
Space

Spitzer Space Telescope Finds New Planet 21

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-see-you dept.
Aspiring Astronomer sends word of the discovery of one of the farthest known exoplanets. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known. The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer -- from its unique perch in space -- can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs? 'We don't know if planets are more common in our galaxy's central bulge or the disk of the galaxy, which is why these observations are so important,' said Jennifer Yee of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a NASA Sagan fellow. Yee is the lead author of one of three new studies that appeared recently in the Astrophysical Journal describing a collaboration between astronomers using Spitzer and the Polish Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment, or OGLE."
Space

Longer Video Shows How Incredibly Close Falcon Stage Came To Successful Landing 340

Posted by samzenpus
from the close-but-no-cigar dept.
Bruce Perens writes In the video here, the Falcon 9 first stage is shown landing with a tilt, and then a thruster keeps the rocket vertical on the barge for a few seconds before it quits, followed by Kabooom with obvious significant damage to the barge. It looks like this attempt was incredibly close to success. Given fixes, a successful first-stage recovery seems likely.
Medicine

How Brain Pacemakers Treat Parkinson's Disease 23

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-under-control dept.
the_newsbeagle writes Pharmaceutical research for neuropsychiatric disorders hasn't produced many breakthroughs lately, which may explain why there's so much excitement around "electroceutical" research. That buzzy new field encompasses deep brain stimulation (DBS), in which an implanted stimulator sends little jolts through the neural tissue. DBS has become an accepted therapy for Parkinson's and other motor disorders, even though researchers haven't really understood how it works. Now, new research may have found the mechanism of action in Parkinson's patients: The stimulation reduces an exaggerated synchronization of neuron activity in the motor cortex.
Math

Magician Turned Professor Talks About the Math Behind Shuffling Cards 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the nothing-up-my-sleeve dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story about magician and professor of mathematics and statistics at Stanford University Persi Diaconis. "Now a professor of mathematics and statistics at Stanford University, Diaconis has employed his intuition about cards, which he calls 'the poetry of magic,' in a wide range of settings. Once, for example, he helped decode messages passed between inmates at a California state prison by using small random 'shuffles' to gradually improve a decryption key. He has also analyzed Bose-Einstein condensation — in which a collection of ultra-cold atoms coalesces into a single 'superatom' — by envisioning the atoms as rows of cards moving around. This makes them 'friendly,' said Diaconis, whose speech still carries the inflections of his native New York City. 'We all have our own basic images that we translate things into, and for me cards were where I started.' In 1992, Diaconis famously proved — along with the mathematician Dave Bayer of Columbia University — that it takes about seven ordinary riffle shuffles to randomize a deck. Over the years, Diaconis and his students and colleagues have successfully analyzed the effectiveness of almost every type of shuffle people use in ordinary life."
Education

MIT Celebrates 10 Years of SCIgen Bogus CompSci Paper Generator With New Tool 13

Posted by samzenpus
from the making-it-all-up dept.
alphadogg writes Three MIT grads this week are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their clever SCIgen program, which randomly generates computer science papers realistic enough to get accepted by sketchy technical conferences and publishers, with a brand new tool designed to poke even more fun at such outfits. Just a bit late for April Fool's Day, the new SCIpher program from the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab alums enables users to hide messages inside randomly-generated calls for papers from phony conferences whose names are so ridiculous that they sound legit. An MIT spokesman says the new tool is really just a way for geeky friends to mess with each other, whereas SCIgen pointed out major flaws in the worlds of scientific journals and conferences.
Power

Researchers Design a Self-Powered Digital Camera 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the thankfully-not-a-selfie-powered-camera dept.
Jason Koebler writes: Researchers at Columbia University have designed a fully electric digital camera that powers itself using ambient light. Put in a well-lit room, it would work indefinitely. The camera's image sensor does double duty. It measures the light needed to make the photograph, and it also takes excess light and uses it to power a capacitor (it has no battery) that runs the camera (PDF). The research team says the technology can be used to create self-powered cameras that can live on the internet of things.
Space

Hubble and the VLT Uncover Evidence For Self-Interacting Dark Matter 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-perfectly-natural-and-healthy dept.
astroengine writes: A new study carried out by the ESO's Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revealed for the first time that dark matter may well interact with itself — a discovery that, at first glance, seems to contradict what we thought we knew about the nature of this invisible mass. "In this study, the researchers observed the four colliding galaxies and found that one dark matter clump appeared to be lagging behind the galaxy it surrounds. The dark matter is currently 5000 light-years (50 000 million million kilometers) behind the galaxy — it would take NASA’s Voyager spacecraft 90 million years to travel that far. A lag between dark matter and its associated galaxy is predicted during collisions if dark matter interacts with itself, even very slightly, through forces other than gravity. Dark matter has never before been observed interacting in any way other than through the force of gravity."
News

World's Oldest Stone Tools Discovered In Kenya 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-all-you-have-is-a-stone-flake,-everything-looks-like-a-bone-chip dept.
sciencehabit writes: Researchers say they have found the oldest tools made by human ancestors—stone flakes dated to 3.3 million years ago. That's 700,000 years older than the oldest-known tools to date, suggesting that our ancestors were crafting tools several hundred thousand years before our genus Homo arrived on the scene. If correct, the new evidence could confirm disputed claims for very early tool use, and it suggests that ancient australopithecines like the famed 'Lucy' may have fashioned stone.
Space

New Horizons Captures First Color Image of Pluto and Charon 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the pictures-that-are-both-unimpressive-and-really-impressive dept.
192_kbps writes: NASA published today the first color image of Pluto and Charon captured by the New Horizons probe, revealing a reddish world. "The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons has traveled a longer time and farther away - more than nine years and three billion miles - than any space mission in history to reach its primary target. Its flyby of Pluto and its system of at least five moons on July 14 will complete the initial reconnaissance of the classical solar system. This mission also opens the door to an entirely new "third" zone of mysterious small planets and planetary building blocks in the Kuiper Belt, a large area with numerous objects beyond Neptune's orbit." The picture is blurry, but far better than the few pixels Hubble can resolve, the image whets the appetite for New Horizon's closest approach on July 14th."
Mars

Road To Mars: Solving the Isolation Problem 137

Posted by Soulskill
from the cryostasis-is-not-just-for-sci-fi-and-weekly-meetings dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As space technology matures, new missions are being funded and humanity is setting its goals ever further. Space agencies are tackling some of the new problems that crop up when we try to go further away than Earth's moon. This New Yorker article takes a look at research into one of the biggest obstacles: extended isolation. Research consultant Jack Stuster once wrote, "Future space expeditions will resemble sea voyages much more than test flights, which have served as the models for all previous space missions." Long-duration experiments are underway to test the effects of isolation, but it's tough to study. You need many experiments to derive useful conclusions, but you can't just ship 100 groups of a half-dozen people off to remote areas of the globe and monitor all of them. It's also borderline unethical to expose the test subjects to the kind of stress and danger that would be present in a real Mars mission. The data collected so far has been (mostly) promising, but we have a long way to go. The technology and the missions themselves will probably come together long before we know how to deal with isolation. At some point, we'll just have to hope our best guess is good enough.
ISS

SpaceX Dragon Launches Successfully, But No Rocket Recovery 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the trying-difficult-things dept.
New submitter monkeyzoo writes: SpaceX has successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft en route to the International Space Station with supplies (including an Italian espresso machine). This was also the second attempt to land the launch rocket on a barge, but that was not successful. Elon Musk tweeted that the rocket landed on the recovery ship but too hard to be reused. Video of the launch is available on the SpaceX webcast page.