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GM Names Names, Suspends Two Engineers Over Ignition-Switch Safety 236

Posted by timothy
from the laying-blame dept.
cartechboy (2660665) writes "GM said it has placed two engineers on paid leave in connection with its massive recall probe of 2 million vehicles. Now, GM is asking NASA to advise on whether those cars are safe to drive even with the ignition key alone. Significantly, individual engineers now have their names in print and face a raft of inquiries what they did or didn't know, did or didn't do, and when. A vulnerability for GM: One engineer may have tried to re-engineer the faulty ignition switch without changing the part number—an unheard-of practice in the industry. Is it a good thing that people who engineer for a living can now get their names on national news for parts designed 10 years ago? The next time your mail goes down, should we know the name of the guy whose code flaw may have caused that?"

Cost Skyrockets For United States' Share of ITER Fusion Project 172

Posted by Soulskill
from the burning-plasma-and-benjamins dept.
sciencehabit writes: "ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in Cadarache, France, aims to prove that nuclear fusion is a viable power source by creating a 'burning plasma' that produces more energy than the machine itself consumes. Although that goal is at least 20 years away, ITER is already burning through money at a prodigious pace. The United States is only a minor partner in the project, which began construction in 2008. But the U.S. contribution to ITER will total $3.9 billion — roughly four times as much as originally estimated — according to a new cost estimate released yesterday. That is about $1.4 billion higher than a 2011 cost estimate, and the numbers are likely to intensify doubts among some members of Congress about continuing the U.S. involvement in the project."
The Military

Fruit Flies, Fighter Jets Use Similar Evasive Tactics When Attacked 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the talk-to-me-goose dept.
vinces99 writes: "When startled by predators, tiny fruit flies respond like fighter jets – employing screaming-fast banked turns to evade attacks. Researchers at the University of Washington used an array of high-speed video cameras operating at 7,500 frames a second to capture the wing and body motion of flies after they encountered a looming image of an approaching predator (abstract). 'We discovered that fruit flies alter course in less than one one-hundredth of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes, and which is faster than we ever imagined.' In the midst of a banked turn, the flies can roll on their sides 90 degrees or more, almost flying upside down at times, said Florian Muijres, a UW postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper. 'These flies normally flap their wings 200 times a second and, in almost a single wing beat, the animal can reorient its body to generate a force away from the threatening stimulus and then continues to accelerate,' he said."

Mathematical Proof That the Cosmos Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing 590

Posted by Soulskill
from the something-from-nothing dept.
KentuckyFC writes: "One of the great theories of modern cosmology is that the universe began in a Big Bang. It's backed up by numerous lines of evidence, such as the cosmic microwave background and so on. But what caused the Big Bang, itself? For many years, cosmologists have fallen back on the idea that the universe formed spontaneously; that the Big Bang was result of quantum fluctuations in which the universe came into existence from nothing. But is this compatible with what we know about the Big Bang itself and the theories that describe it? Now cosmologists have come up with the first rigorous proof that the Big Bang could indeed have occurred spontaneously and produced the universe we see today. The proof is developed within a mathematical framework known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle allows a small region of empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to quantum fluctuations. Most of the time, such a bubble will collapse and disappear. The question these scientists address is whether a bubble could also expand exponentially to allow a universe to form in an irreversible way. Their proof (PDF) shows that this is indeed possible. There is an interesting corollary: the role of the cosmological constant is played by a property known as the quantum potential. This is a property introduced in the 20th century by the physicist David Bohm, which has the effect of making quantum mechanics deterministic while reproducing all of its predictions. It's an idea that has never caught on. Perhaps that will change now."

NASA Setting Up $250,000 Mars Lander Competition 44

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-it-for-us dept.
coondoggie (973519) writes "NASA this week said it is exploring setting up one of its iconic Centennial Challenge competitions for companies to build a robotic Mars landing spacecraft. NASA said it would expect to have about $250,000 worth of prize money for a robotic spacecraft that could land on the Red Planet, retrieve a sample and return it to orbit."

Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover 290

Posted by samzenpus
from the nothing-new-under-the-sun dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "John Horgan writes in National Geographic that scientists have become victims of their own success and that 'further research may yield no more great revelations or revolutions, but only incremental, diminishing returns.' The latest evidence is a 'Correspondence' published in the journal Nature that points out that it is taking longer and longer for scientists to receive Nobel Prizes for their work. The trend is strongest in physics. Prior to 1940, only 11 percent of physics prizes were awarded for work more than 20 years old but since 1985, the percentage has risen to 60 percent. If these trends continue, the Nature authors note, by the end of this century no one will live long enough to win a Nobel Prize, which cannot be awarded posthumously and suggest that the Nobel time lag 'seems to confirm the common feeling of an increasing time needed to achieve new discoveries in basic natural sciences—a somewhat worrisome trend.' One explanation for the time lag might be the nature of scientific discoveries in general—as we learn more it takes more time for new discoveries to prove themselves.

Researchers recently announced that observations of gravitational waves provide evidence of inflation, a dramatic theory of cosmic creation. But there are so many different versions of 'inflation' theory that it can 'predict' practically any observation, meaning that it doesn't really predict anything at all. String theory suffers from the same problem. As for multiverse theories, all those hypothetical universes out there are unobservable by definition so it's hard to imagine a better reason to think we may be running out of new things to discover than the fascination of physicists with these highly speculative ideas. According to Keith Simonton of the University of California, 'the core disciplines have accumulated not so much anomalies as mere loose ends that will be tidied up one way or another.'"

Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed? 721

Posted by timothy
from the 7.1m-impossible-things-before-breakfast dept.
An anonymous reader writes "When the Obama administration announced on April 1 that an estimated 7.1 million had signed up for ObamaCare by the end of March, it seemed a nearly impossible achievement. To reach 7.1 million, sign-ups had to rocket up by 67% in just one month. That's astounding enough, but an IBD review of existing ObamaCare enrollment data shows that the mathematical challenge of reaching 7.1 million sign-ups was even tougher."

Scientists/Actress Say They Were 'Tricked' Into Geocentric Universe Movie 639

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-never-heard-of-such-a-thing-and-even-if-I-did-I-don't-remember-when dept.
EwanPalmer (2536690) writes "Three scientists and Star Trek actress Kate Mulgrew say they were duped into appearing in a controversial documentary which claims the Earth is the center of the Universe. The Principle, a film which describes itself as 'destined to become one of the most controversial films of our time', argues the long-debunked theory of geocentrism – where the earth is the center of the Universe and the Sun resolves around it – is true and Nasa has tried to cover it up. The film features the narration of actress Mulgrew, who played the part of captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek Voyager, as well as three prominent scientists."

The Amoeba That Eats Human Intestines, Cell By Cell 70

Posted by samzenpus
from the break-out-the-pepto dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Entamoeba histolytica is a tiny pathogen that takes a terrible toll. The single-celled parasite—an amoeba about a tenth the size of a dust mite—infects 50 million people worldwide and kills as many as 100,000 each year. Now, a new report reveals how the microbe does its deadly damage: by eating cells alive, piece by piece. The finding offers a potential target for new drugs to treat E. histolytica infections, and it transforms researchers' understanding of how the parasite works."

LHCb Confirms Existence of Exotic Hadrons 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the pushing-back-the-boundaries-of-physics dept.
An anonymous reader sends this news from CERN: "The Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) collaboration today announced results that confirm the existence of exotic hadrons – a type of matter that cannot be classified within the traditional quark model. Hadrons are subatomic particles that can take part in the strong interaction – the force that binds protons inside the nuclei of atoms. Physicists have theorized since the 1960s, and ample experimental evidence since has confirmed, that hadrons are made up of quarks and antiquarks that determine their properties. A subset of hadrons, called mesons, is formed from quark-antiquark pairs, while the rest – baryons – are made up of three quarks. ... The Belle Collaboration reported the first evidence for the Z(4430) in 2008. They found a tantalizing peak in the mass distribution of particles that result from the decays of B mesons. Belle later confirmed the existence of the Z(4430) with a significance of 5.2 sigma on the scale that particle physicists use to describe the certainty of a result. LHCb reports a more detailed measurement of the Z(4430) that confirms that it is unambiguously a particle, and a long-sought exotic hadron at that. They analyzed more than 25,000 decays of B mesons selected from data from 180 trillion (180x10^12) proton-proton collisions in the Large Hadron Collider."

MtGox's "Transaction Malleability" Claim Dismissed By Researchers 92

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the did-you-check-the-couch-cushions? dept.
Martin S. (98249) writes "The Register reports on a paper at the arXiv (abstract below) by Christian Decker and Roger Wattenhofer analyzing a year's worth of Bitcoin activity to reach the conclusion that MtGox's claims of losing their bitcoins because of the transaction malleability bug are untrue. The Abstract claims: 'In Bitcoin, transaction malleability describes the fact that the signatures that prove the ownership of bitcoins being transferred in a transaction do not provide any integrity guarantee for the signatures themselves. ... In this work we use traces of the Bitcoin network for over a year preceding the filing to show that, while the problem is real, there was no widespread use of malleability attacks before the closure of MtGox.'" Quoting El Reg: "By extracting transaction keys from the transaction set, the researchers say, they were able to identify more than 35,000 transaction conflicts and more than 29,000 “confirmed attacks” covering more than 300,000 Bitcoins." And less than 6000 were actually successful.

Australia Declares Homeopathy Nonsense, Urges Doctors to Inform Patients 408

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the healing-crystals-considered-harmful dept.
jones_supa (887896) writes "Homeopathy is a 200-year-old form of alternative medicine based on the principle that substances that produce symptoms in a healthy person can be used to treat similar symptoms in a sick person. The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia has officially declared that homeopathic remedies are useless for human health. The body today released a guide for doctors (PDF) on how to talk to their patients about the lack of evidence for many such therapies. Doctors will also be told to warn patients of possible interactions between alternative and conventional medicines. On top of that, the council has produced a 300-page draft report that reviews the evidence for homoeopathy in treating 68 clinical conditions. It concludes 'there is no reliable evidence that homoeopathy is effective for treating health conditions'.

Representing the opposite viewpoint, Australian Homeopathic Association spokesman Greg Cope said he was disappointed at the narrow evidence relied on by the NHMRC in its report. 'What they have looked at is systematic trials for named conditions when that is not how homeopathy works,' he said. Homeopathy worked on the principle of improving a person's overall health and wellness, and research such as a seven-year study conducted in Switzerland was a better measure of its usefulness, he added. There are about 10,000 complementary medicine products sold in Australia but most consumers are unaware they are not evaluated by the domestic medicines safety watchdog before they are allowed on the market."

Last Month's "Planet X" Announcement Was Probably Wrong 44

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the science-ruins-everything dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Last month, astronomers announced the discovery of the most distant body in the Solar System, a dwarf planet called 2012VP113. They also said this body's orbit was strangely aligned with several other dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt and that this could be the result of these bodies being herded by a much larger Planet X even further from the Sun. They calculated that this hidden planet could be between 2 and 15 times the mass of the Earth and orbiting at a distance of between 200 AU and 300 AU, an announcement that triggered excited headlines around the world. Now it looks as though these predictions were wildly optimistic. It turns out that the position of Planet X can be constrained more tightly using orbital measurements of other planets. And when this data is added into the mix, Planet X can only only orbit at much greater distances, if it exists at all. The new calculations suggest that a planet twice the mass of Earth cannot orbit any closer than about 500 AU. And a planet 15 times the mass of Earth must be at least 1000 AU distant. What's more, the New Horizons mission currently on its way to Pluto, should constrain the distance to beyond 4700 AU. So any Planet X hunters out there are likely to be disappointed."
The Military

Navy Creates Fuel From Seawater 256

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-blood-for-seawater dept.
New submitter lashicd sends news that the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has announced a successful proof-of-concept demonstration of converting seawater to liquid hydrocarbon fuel. They used seawater to provide fuel for a small replica plan running a two-stroke internal combustion engine. "Using an innovative and proprietary NRL electrolytic cation exchange module (E-CEM), both dissolved and bound CO2 are removed from seawater at 92 percent efficiency by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and simultaneously producing H2. The gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system. ... NRL has made significant advances in the development of a gas-to-liquids (GTL) synthesis process to convert CO2 and H2 from seawater to a fuel-like fraction of C9-C16 molecules. In the first patented step, an iron-based catalyst has been developed that can achieve CO2 conversion levels up to 60 percent and decrease unwanted methane production in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins). These value-added hydrocarbons from this process serve as building blocks for the production of industrial chemicals and designer fuels."

Isolated Tribes Die Shortly After We Meet Them 351

Posted by Soulskill
from the keep-your-culture-to-yourself dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes: "It's a story we all know — Christopher Columbus discovers America, his European buddies follow him, they meet the indigenous people living there, they indigenous people die from smallpox and guns and other unknown diseases, and the Europeans get gold, land, and so on. It's still happening today in Brazil, where 238 indigenous tribes have been contacted in the last several decades, and where between 23 and 70 uncontacted tribes are still living. A just-published report that takes a look at what happens after the modern world comes into contact with indigenous peoples isn't pretty: Of those contacted, three quarters went extinct. Those that survived saw mortality rates up over 80 percent. This is grim stuff."

Study: Video Gamer Aggression Result of Game Experience, Not Violent Content 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the random-number-generators-are-the-root-of-all-evil dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new study published in the March edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that a gamer's experience of a video game and not the content of the game itself can give rise to violent behavior. In other words, 'researchers found it was not the narrative or imagery, but the lack of mastery of the game's controls and the degree of difficulty players had completing the game that led to frustration.' Based on their findings, researchers note that even games like Tetris and Candy Crush can inspire violent behavior more so than games like World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto if they are poorly designed and difficult to play."

Zombie Plants Help To Spread Bacterial Pathogen 38

Posted by Soulskill
from the eschews-brains-for-sunlight dept.
bmahersciwriter writes: "We've all heard stories about how parasites can 'zombify' organisms, getting them to mindlessly protect a brood or infect their peers. Now UK researchers have figured out how one bacterial pathogen co-opts the behavior of a plant, causing it to attract sap-sucking insects that help the bacteria spread to other plants. From the story in Nature News: 'The plant appears alive, but it's only there for the good of the pathogen,' says plant pathologist Saskia Hogenhout from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. 'In an evolutionary sense, the plant is dead and will not produce offspring.' 'Many might balk at the concept of a zombie plant because the idea of plants behaving is strange,' says David Hughes, a parasitologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. 'But they do, and since they do, why wouldn't parasites have evolved to take over their behavior, as they do for ants and crickets?'"

Rover Curiosity Discovers Australia-Shaped Rock On Mars 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-send-our-prisoners-there dept.
astroengine writes: "NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has begun science operations in a new area of study nicknamed 'the Kimberly' after the Western Australian region. But in a new image uploaded to the Mars Science Laboratory raw image archive, it seems 'the Kimberly' is a little more Australian than mission managers originally thought. As spotted by @CoUdErMaNn on Twitter, Curiosity's Navcam photographed a rather interesting-looking rock formation just in front of the rover. The rock, which appears to have been formed through some erosion process, will likely fascinate geologists for some time. But at first glance the rock also appears to take the shape of Australia."

Stem-Cell Research Funding Institute Is Shuttered 86

Posted by timothy
from the politics-is-political dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The National Institutes of Health, the top funder of biomedical research in the U.S., has closed a program designed to bring induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) from the lab to the clinic. It has made no public mention of the closure, but the website has been deleted and Nature News reports that the center director, Mahendra Rao, resigned his post in frustration after the program allocated funds to only one clinical trial in its last round of funding."

For the First Time, Organ Regenerated Inside a Living Animal 94

Posted by timothy
from the casio-not-wurlitzer dept.
ananyo (2519492) writes "Scientists at Edinburgh University have successfully persuaded an organ to regenerate inside an animal. As they report in the journal Development, they have treated, in mice, an organ called the thymus, which is a part of the immune system that runs down in old age. Instead of adding stem cells they have stimulated their animals' thymuses to make more of a protein called FOXN1. This is a transcription factor (a molecular switch that activates genes). The scientists knew from earlier experiments that FOXN1 is important for the embryonic development of the thymus, and speculated that it might also rejuvenate the organ in older animals. They bred a special strain of mice whose FOXN1 production could be stimulated specifically in the thymus by tamoxifen, a drug more familiar as a treatment for breast cancer. In one-year-olds, stimulating FOXN1 production in the thymus caused it to become 2.7 times bigger within a month. In two-year-olds the increase was 2.6 times. Moreover, when the researchers studied the enlarged thymuses microscopically, and compared them with those from untreated control animals of the same ages, they found that the organs' internal structures had reverted to their youthful nature."

MATH AND ALCOHOL DON'T MIX! Please, don't drink and derive. Mathematicians Against Drunk Deriving