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Space

Spacecraft Spots Probable Waves On Titan's Seas 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the surf's-up dept.
sciencehabit writes: It's springtime on Titan, Saturn's giant and frigid moon, and the action on its hydrocarbon seas seems to be heating up. Near the moon's north pole, there is growing evidence for waves on three different seas, scientists reported at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Researchers are also coming up with the first estimates for the volume and composition of the seas. The bodies of water appear to be made mostly of methane, and not mostly ethane as previously thought. And they are deep: Ligeia Mare, the second biggest sea with an area larger than Lake Superior, could contain 55 times Earth's oil reserves.
Medicine

Researchers Accidentally Discover How To Turn Off Skin Aging Gene 174

Posted by Soulskill
from the vain-mice-everywhere-rejoice dept.
BarbaraHudson sends this excerpt from The Province: While exploring the effects of the protein-degrading enzyme Granzyme B on blood vessels during heart attacks, professor David Granville and other researchers at the University of British Columbia couldn't help noticing that mice engineered to lack the enzyme had beautiful skin at the end of the experiment, while normal mice showed signs of age. The discovery pushed Granville's research in an unexpected new direction.

The researchers built a mechanized rodent tanning salon and exposed mice engineered to lack the enzyme and normal mice to UV light three times a week for 20 weeks, enough to cause redness, but not to burn. At the end of the experiment, the engineered mice still had smooth, unblemished skin, while the normal mice were deeply wrinkled.

Granzyme B breaks down proteins and interferes with the organization and the integrity of collagen, dismantling the scaffolding — or extra-cellular matrix — that cells bind to. This causes structural weakness, leading to wrinkles. Sunlight appears to increase levels of the enzyme and accelerate its damaging effects.
NASA

11 Trillion Gallons of Water Needed To End California Drought 322

Posted by Soulskill
from the everybody-send-2,000-gallons-of-water-to-california dept.
mrflash818 points out a new study which found that California can recover from its lengthy drought with a mere 11 trillion gallons of water. The volume this water would occupy (roughly 42 cubic kilometers) is half again as large as the biggest water reservoir in the U.S. A team of JPL scientists worked this out through the use of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. From the article: GRACE data reveal that, since 2011, the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins decreased in volume by four trillion gallons of water each year (15 cubic kilometers). That's more water than California's 38 million residents use each year for domestic and municipal purposes. About two-thirds of the loss is due to depletion of groundwater beneath California's Central Valley. ... New drought maps show groundwater levels across the U.S. Southwest are in the lowest two to 10 percent since 1949.
Biotech

Brain Stimulation For Entertainment? 88

Posted by Soulskill
from the volunteer-your-neighbors-as-guinea-pigs dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been used for years to diagnose and treat neural disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer's, and depression. Soon the medical technique could be applied to virtual reality and entertainment. Neuroscientist Jeffrey Zacks writes, "it's quite likely that some kind of electromagnetic brain stimulation for entertainment will become practical in the not-too-distant future." Imagine an interactive movie where special effects are enhanced by zapping parts of the brain from outside to make the action more vivid. Before brain stimulation makes it to the masses, however, it has plenty of technical and safety hurdles to overcome.
Mars

Curiosity Detects Mysterious Methane Spikes On Mars 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-still-hasn't-killed-any-cats dept.
astroengine writes: A gas strongly associated with life on Earth has been detected again in the Martian atmosphere, opening a new chapter in a decade-old mystery about the on-again, off-again appearance of methane on Mars. The latest discovery comes from NASA's Curiosity rover, which in addition to analyzing rocks and soil samples, is sniffing the air at its Gale Crater landing site. A year ago, scientists reported that Curiosity had come up empty-handed after an eight-month search for methane in the atmosphere, leaving earlier detections by ground-based telescopes and Mars-orbiting spacecraft an unexplained anomaly. "We thought we had closed the book on methane. It was disappointing to a lot of people that there wasn't significant methane on Mars, but that's where we were," Curiosity scientist Christopher Webster with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News.
Education

Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM? 279

Posted by Soulskill
from the jump-in-with-an-appropriate-number-of-feet dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I graduated with a degree in the liberal arts (English) in 2010 after having transferred from a Microbiology program (not for lack of ability, but for an enlightening class wherein we read Portrait of the Artist). Now, a couple years on, I'm 25, and though I very much appreciate my education for having taught me a great deal about abstraction, critical thinking, research, communication, and cheesily enough, humanity, I realize that I should have stuck with the STEM field. I've found that the jobs available to me are not exactly up my alley, and that I can better impact the world, and make myself happier, doing something STEM-related (preferably within the space industry — so not really something that's easy to just jump into). With a decent amount of student debt already amassed, how can I best break into the STEM world? I'm already taking online courses where I can, and enjoy doing entry-level programming, maths, etc.

Should I continue picking things up where and when I can? Would it be wiser for me to go deeper into debt and get a second undergrad degree? Or should I try to go into grad school after doing some of my own studying up? Would the military be a better choice? Would it behoove me to just start trying to find STEM jobs and learn on the go (I know many times experience speaks louder to employers than a college degree might)? Or perhaps I should find a non-STEM job with a company that would allow me to transfer into that company's STEM work? I'd be particularly interested in hearing from people who have been in my position and from employers who have experience with employees who were in my position, but any insight would be welcome.
NASA

NASA's $349 Million Empty Tower 196

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-tax-dollars-at-rest dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In a scathing indictment of NASA's bureaucracy, the Washington Post documents a $349 million project to construct a laboratory tower that was closed as soon as it was finished. From the article: "[The tower was] designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space. ... As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially 'mothballed' — closed up and left empty — without ever being used. ... The reason for the shutdown: The new tower — called the A-3 test stand — was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010. ... The result was that NASA spent four more years building something it didn't need. Now, the agency will spend about $700,000 a year to maintain it in disuse. ... Jerked from one mission to another, NASA lost its sense that any mission was truly urgent. It began to absorb the vices of less-glamorous bureaucracies: Officials tended to let projects run over time and budget. Its congressional overseers tended to view NASA first as a means to deliver pork back home, and second as a means to deliver Americans into space. In Mississippi, NASA built a monument to its own institutional drift."
Mars

Mysterious Martian Gouges Carved By Sand-surfing Dry Ice 26

Posted by Soulskill
from the Iceman's-vacation-home dept.
sciencehabit writes: After the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter began beaming back close-up images of the Red Planet, researchers spotted peculiar features along the slopes of dunes: long, sharply defined grooves that seem to appear and disappear seasonally. They look like trails left behind by tumbling boulders, but rocks never appear in the sunken pits at the trail ends. Researchers initially took these gullies as signs of flowing liquid water, but a new model suggests they're the result of sand-surfing dry ice that breaks off from the crests of dunes and skids down slopes. This is no ordinary tumble — according to the model, the bases of the chunks are continually sublimating, resulting in a hovercraftlike motion that gouges the dune while propelling the ice down slopes.
Science

Graphene: Fast, Strong, Cheap, and Impossible To Use 187

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-my-space-elevator dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We keep hearing about the revolutionary properties of graphene, an atom-thick sheet of carbon whose physical characteristics hold a great deal of promise — if we can figure out good ways to produce it and use it. The New Yorker has a lengthy profile of graphene and its discoverer, Andre Geim, as well as one of the physicists leading a big chunk of the bleeding-edge graphene research, James Tour.

Quoting: "[S]cientists are still trying to devise a cost-effective way to produce graphene at scale. Companies like Samsung use a method pioneered at the University of Texas, in which they heat copper foil to eighteen hundred degrees Fahrenheit in a low vacuum, and introduce methane gas, which causes graphene to "grow" as an atom-thick sheet on both sides of the copper—much as frost crystals "grow" on a windowpane. They then use acids to etch away the copper. The resulting graphene is invisible to the naked eye and too fragile to touch with anything but instruments designed for microelectronics. The process is slow, exacting, and too expensive for all but the largest companies to afford. ... Nearly every scientist I spoke with suggested that graphene lends itself especially well to hype."
Communications

Want To Influence the World? Map Reveals the Best Languages To Speak 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the speaking-internet-doesn't-help dept.
sciencehabit writes: Speak or write in English, and the world will hear you. Speak or write in Tamil or Portuguese, and you may have a harder time getting your message out. Now, a new method for mapping how information flows around the globe (abstract) identifies the best languages to spread your ideas far and wide. One hint: If you're considering a second language, try Spanish instead of Chinese.
Earth

Linking Drought and Climate Change: Difficult To Do 199

Posted by samzenpus
from the connecting-the-dots dept.
Geoffrey.landis writes An article about the current California drought on 538 points out that even though global climate warming may exacerbate droughts, it's nearly impossible to attribute any particular drought to climate warming: "The complex, dynamic nature of our atmosphere and oceans makes it extremely difficult to link any particular weather event to climate change. That's because of the intermingling of natural variations with human-caused ones." They also cite a Nature editorial pointing out the same thing about extreme weather.
Science

How Birds Lost Their Teeth 137

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-more-floss dept.
An anonymous reader writes A research team from the University of California, Riverside and Montclair State University, New Jersey, have found that the lack of teeth in all living birds can be traced back to a common ancestor who lived about 116 million years ago. From the article: "To solve this puzzle, the researchers used a recently created genome database that catalogues the genetic history of nearly all living bird orders--48 species in total. They were looking for two specific types of genes: one responsible for dentin, the substance that (mostly) makes up teeth, and another for the enamel that protects them. Upon finding these genes, researchers then located the mutations that deactivate them, and combed the fossil record to figure out when those mutations developed. They concluded that the loss of teeth and the development of the beak was a two-stage process, though the steps basically happened simultaneously. The paper states: 'In the first stage, tooth loss and partial beak development began on the anterior portion of both the upper and lower jaws. The second stage involved concurrent progression of tooth loss and beak development from the anterior portion of both jaws to the back of the rostrum.'"
Businesses

SpaceX Set To Create 300 New US Jobs and Expand Facilities 43

Posted by timothy
from the even-leases-are-bigger-in-texas dept.
littlesparkvt writes The SpaceX manufacturing plant in McGregor, TX is set to spend $46 million on an expansion that would create 300 full-time jobs. SpaceX is proposing to invest $46.3 million in the site during the next five years. They will spend $32.4 million in real property improvements and $13.9 million in personal property improvements.
Education

Raspberry Pi In Space 56

Posted by timothy
from the freeze-dried-dessert dept.
mikejuk (1801200) writes "When British astronaut Tim Peake heads off to the International Space Station in November, 2015, he will be accompanied on his 6-month mission by two augmented Raspberry Pis, aka Astro Pis. The Astro Pi board is a Raspberry Pi HAT (short for Hardware Attached on Top), and provides a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer, as well as sensors for temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity. It also has a real time clock, LED display, and some push buttons — it sounds like the sort of addon that we could do with down here on earth as well! It will also be equipped with both a camera module and an infra-red camera. UK school pupils are being challenged to write Raspberry Pi apps or experiments to run in space. During his mission, Tim Peake will deploy the Astro Pis, upload the winning code while in orbit, set them running, collect the data generated and then download it to be distributed to the winning teams.
Earth

Last Three Years the Quietest For Tornadoes Ever 185

Posted by timothy
from the always-calm-before-a-storm dept.
schwit1 writes The uncertainty of science: 2014 caps the quietest three year period for tornadoes on record, and scientists really don't understand why. "Harold Brooks, a meteorologist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said there's no consistent reason for the three-year lull — the calmest stretch since a similar quiet period in the late 1980s — because weather patterns have varied significantly from year to year. While 2012 tornado activity was likely suppressed by the warm, dry conditions in the spring, 2013 was on the cool side for much of the prime storm season before cranking up briefly in late May, especially in Oklahoma, SPC meteorologist Greg Carbin said. Then, activity quickly quieted for the summer of 2013."
Medicine

Judge Rules Drug Maker Cannot Halt Sales of Alzheimer's Medicine 263

Posted by timothy
from the you-didn't-build-that dept.
HughPickens.com writes Andrew Pollack reports at the NYT that a federal judge has blocked an attempt by the drug company Actavis to halt sales of an older form of its Alzheimer's disease drug Namenda in favor of a newer version with a longer patent life after New York's attorney general filed an antitrust lawsuit accusing the drug company of forcing patients to switch to the newer version of the widely used medicine to hinder competition from generic manufacturers. "Today's decision prevents Actavis from pursuing its scheme to block competition and maintain its high drug prices," says Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general. "Our lawsuit against Actavis sends a clear message: Drug companies cannot illegally prioritize profits over patients."

The case involves a practice called product hopping where brand name manufacturers make a slight alteration to their prescription drug (PDF) and engage in marketing efforts to shift consumers from the old version to the new to insulate the drug company from generic competition for several years. For its part Actavis argued that an injunction would be "unprecedented and extraordinary" and would cause the company "great financial harm, including unnecessary manufacturing and marketing costs." Namenda has been a big seller. In the last fiscal year, the drug generated $1.5 billion in sales. The drug costs about $300 a month.
Space

Airbus Attacked By French Lawmaker For Talking To SpaceX 166

Posted by timothy
from the eat-local dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes A French lawmaker lashed out at Airbus for daring to consider SpaceX as a possible launch option for a European communications satellite. "The senator, Alain Gournac, who is a veteran member of the French Parliamentary Space Group, said he had written French Economy and Industry Minister Emmanuel Macron to protest Airbus' negotiations with Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. for a late 2016 launch instead of contracting for a launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket. "The negotiations are all the more unacceptable given that, at the insistence of France, Europe has decided to adopt a policy of 'European preference' for its government launches," Gournac said. "This is called playing against your team, and it smacks of a provocation. It's an incredible situation that might lead customers to think we no longer have faith in Ariane 5 — and tomorrow, Ariane 6."
Space

Deflating Claims That ESA Craft Has Spotted Dark Matter 85

Posted by timothy
from the dim-matter-is-much-easier-to-find dept.
Yesterday, we posted news that data from the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton spacecraft had been interpreted as a possible sign of dark matter; researchers noted that a spike in X-ray emissions from two different celestial objects, the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy cluster, matched just what they "were expecting with dark matter — that is, concentrated and intense in the center of objects and weaker and diffuse on the edges." StartsWithABang writes with a skeptical rejoinder: There seems to be a formula for this very specific extraordinary claim: point your high-energy telescope at the center of a galaxy or cluster of galaxies, discover an X-ray or gamma ray signal that you can't account for through conventional, known astrophysics, and claim you've detected dark matter! Only, these results never pan out; they've turned out either to be due to conventional sources or simply non-detections every time. There's a claim going around the news based on this paper recently that we've really done it this time, and yet that's not even physically possible, as our astrophysical constraints already rule out a particle with this property as being the dark matter!
Medicine

Doctors Replace Patient's Thoracic Vertebrae With 3D-Printed Replica 55

Posted by timothy
from the unbeatable-bragging-rights dept.
ErnieKey (3766427) writes Earlier this month, surgeons at Zhejiang University in China performed a surgery to remove two damaged vertebrae from a 21-year-old patient. In their place they inserted a 3D printed titanium implant which was shaped to the exact size needed for the patient's body. The surgery, which took doctors much less time and provided significantly less risk [than conventional surgery] was completely successful and the patient is expected to make a full recovery. This is said to be the first ever surgery involving 3D printing vertebrae in order to replace a patient's thoracic vertebrae.
Space

Possible Dark Matter Signal Spotted 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the either-that-or-there-are-a-lot-of-dentists-in-andromeda dept.
TaleSlinger sends this news from Space.com: Astronomers may finally have detected a signal of dark matter, the mysterious and elusive stuff thought to make up most of the material universe. While poring over data collected by the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton spacecraft, a team of researchers spotted an odd spike in X-ray emissions coming from two different celestial objects — the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy cluster.

"The signal's distribution within the galaxy corresponds exactly to what we were expecting with dark matter — that is, concentrated and intense in the center of objects and weaker and diffuse on the edges," [assuming that dark matter consists of sterile neutrinos] study co-author Oleg Ruchayskiy, of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, said in a statement. "With the goal of verifying our findings, we then looked at data from our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and made the same observations," added lead author Alexey Boyarsky, of EPFL and Leiden University in the Netherlands. The decay of sterile neutrinos is thought to produce X-rays, so the research team suspects these may be the dark matter particles responsible for the mysterious signal coming from Andromeda and the Perseus cluster."

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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