Biotech

Ethics Panel Endorses Mitochondrial Therapy, But Says Start With Male Embryos (sciencemag.org) 125

sciencehabit writes: An experimental assisted reproduction technique that could allow some families to avoid having children with certain types of heritable disease should be allowed to go forward in the United States, provided it proceeds slowly and cautiously. That is the conclusion of a report released today from a panel organized by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS), which assesses the ethics questions surrounding the controversial technique called mitochondrial DNA replacement therapy. More controversially, however, the panel recommended that only altered male embryos should be used to attempt a pregnancy, to limit the possible risks to future generations. (Males can't pass along the mitochondrial DNA that is altered in the procedure.)
Communications

Receiving Real-Time Imagery From Russia's Meteor-M N2 Satellite 26

An anonymous reader writes: The Meteor-M N2 is a low orbit Russian weather satellite which broadcasts live weather satellite images, similar to the APT images produced by the NOAA satellites. But Meteor digital images are however much better as they are transmitted as a digital signal with an image resolution 12x greater than the aging analog NOAA APT signals. Radio enthusiasts are receiving images with hacked cheap digital TV dongles. There is even the AMIGOS project which stands for Amateur Meteor Images Global Observation System: users around the world can contribute Meteor images through the internet to create worldwide real-time coverage.
Democrats

Perfect Coin-Toss Record Broke 6 Clinton-Sanders Deadlocks In Iowa (marketwatch.com) 634

schwit1 writes: While it was hard to call a winner between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders last night, it's easy to say who was luckier. The race between the Democrat presidential hopefuls was so tight in the Iowa caucus Monday that in at least six precincts, the decision on awarding a county delegate came down to a coin toss. And Clinton won all six, media reports said.
Moon

China's Chang'e 3 Lander and Yutu Rover Camera Data Released 56

AmiMoJo writes: Detailed high resolution images from the recent Chinese moon mission have been released. Links to the original Chinese sites hosting the images are available, but Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society has kindly organized them in English. Images show the lander, the rover and the surface of the earth. An interactive map is also available, built from data collected by the mission.
NASA

AnonSec Attempts To Crash $222m Drone, Releases Secret Flight Videos (ibtimes.co.uk) 133

An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from IBTimes that says it's not just governments that have proven themselves capable of hacking into drones: Hackers from the AnonSec group who spent several months hacking NASA have released a huge data dump and revealed they tried to bring down a $222m Global Hawk drone into the Pacific Ocean. The hack included employee personal details, flight logs and video footage collected from unmanned and manned aircraft. The 250GB data dump contained the names, email addresses and phone numbers of 2,414 NASA employees, 2,143 flight logs and 631 videos taken from Nasa aircraft and radar feeds, as well as a self-published paper (known as a 'zine') from the group explaining the extensive technical vulnerabilities that the hackers were able to breach. Among these: the group discovered that the flight paths uploaded into each drone could be replaced with their own.
Biotech

U.K. Researcher Receives Permission To Edit Genes In Human Embryos (sciencemag.org) 64

sciencehabit writes: Developmental biologist Kathy Niakan has received permission from U.K. authorities to modify human embryos using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. Niakan, who works at the Francis Crick Institute in London, applied for permission to use the technique in studies to better understand the role of key genes during the first few days of human embryo development.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which grants licenses for work with human embryos, sperm, and eggs in the United Kingdom, approved Niakan's application at a meeting of HFEA's license committee on 14 January. The minutes of that meeting state that, '[o]n balance, the proposed use of CRISPR/Cas9 was considered by the Committee to offer better potential for success, and was a justified technical approach to obtaining research data about gene function from the embryos used.'

Technology

Graphene Optical Lens a Billionth of a Meter Thick Breaks the Diffraction Limit (gizmag.com) 127

Zothecula writes: With the development of photonic chips and nano-optics, the old ground glass lenses can't keep up in the race toward miniaturization. In the search for a suitable replacement, a team from the Swinburne University of Technology has developed a graphene microlens one billionth of a meter thick that can take sharper images of objects the size of a single bacterium and opens the door to improved mobile phones, nanosatellites, and computers.
NASA

Tiny Pluto Big On Frozen Water Reserves 49

New submitter rmdingler writes that a new map created by NASA based on the New Horizons flyby of Pluto "shows much more frozen water than scientists initially expected." Using LEISA to photograph from 108,000 kilometers away, much more of the recently demoted planet's frozen surface liquid is water, rather than methane, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen as originally posited.
Mars

Elon Musk To Unveil Mars Spacecraft Later This Year, For 2025 Flight (foxnews.com) 101

frank249 writes: Fox News is reporting that Space X and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expects to unveil plans for the spacecraft that would send humans to Mars within a decade. Speaking at an event in Hong Kong, Musk said he was 'hoping to describe the architecture' of the spacecraft at the International Astronautical Conference in Mexico in late September. "That will be quite exciting," Musk said. 'In terms of the first flight to Mars, we are hoping to do that around 2025.' As for his plans to go into space, Musk said he was hoping to reach the International Space Station 'four or five years from now.'
Math

Ancient Babylonians Figured Out Forerunner of Calculus (sciencemag.org) 153

sciencehabit writes: Tracking and recording the motion of the sun, the moon, and the planets as they paraded across the desert sky, ancient Babylonian astronomers used simple arithmetic to predict the positions of celestial bodies. Now, new evidence reveals that these astronomers, working several centuries B.C.E., also employed sophisticated geometric methods that foreshadow the development of calculus. Historians had thought such techniques did not emerge until more than 1400 years later, in 14th century Europe.
NASA

SpaceX Successfully Tests Crew Dragon Landing Parachutes 91

SpaceX successfully tested out the parachute system it plans to use to land its Crew Dragon spaceship safely back on Earth today. By using a "mass simulator," SpaceX was able to replicate the weight and shape of the spacecraft. According to NASA, "Later tests will grow progressively more realistic to simulate as much of the actual conditions and processes the system will see during an operational mission."

The goal of the test was to evaluate the four main parachutes, but this test did not include the "drogue chutes" the full landing system will utilize. The aim is for the spacecraft to splash safely into the ocean carried down by parachutes to reduce its speed. Eventually, SpaceX intends for the spacecraft to land upright on solid ground by utilizing eight SuperDraco propulsion engines. SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral in December. Earlier this month, a SpaceX Falcon 9 exploded upon landing on a drone ship.
Biotech

Researchers Use CRISPR To Repair Genetic Defect That Causes Blindness (dispatchtribunal.com) 41

hypnosec writes: In what has been claimed to be the first use of gene editing technique CRISPR for replacement of a defective gene associated with a sensory disease, researchers have repaired a genetic defect that causes blindness. The research that led to successful editing of defective genes responsible for retinitis pigmentosa (RP) – an inherited condition that causes the retina to degrade and leads to blindness in at least 1.5 million cases worldwide – was carried out using stem cells derived from a patient's tissue. Published in Scientific Reports, the study paves the way for using CRIPSR therapeutically to treat eye diseases.
NASA

The Future of Astronomy: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope 117

An anonymous reader writes: In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched and deployed, becoming the first space-based observatory. In the years since, many others have followed, covering the entire electromagnetic spectrum, but with nothing superseding Hubble over the wavelengths it covers. That will all change with the James Webb Space Telescope, currently on schedule and almost ready for its October 2018 launch date. The science instruments are all complete, the final mirrors are being inserted into the optical assembly, the sunshield (a new, innovative component) is almost complete, and then it just needs assembly and launch. When it's all said and done, JWST will be orders of magnitude greater than all the other observatories that came before, and will finally allow us to truly see the first stars, galaxies and quasars in the Universe, not limited by the obscuring neutral gas that currently blocks our view with other observatories.
NASA

30 Years Since The Challenger Disaster: Where Were You? (space.com) 320

Martin S. writes: Thirty years ago today, NASA suffered a spaceflight tragedy that stunned the world and changed the agency forever. When I mentioned this at work most of my colleagues are too young to remember this first hand. When I heard the news, I was in a middle-school science class; our teacher walked us solemnly over to the school library, where we watched the television news. It hit especially hard because one of our other teachers had pursued the slot that was eventually filled by Christa McAuliffe.
Power

Why the Calorie Is Broken (arstechnica.com) 108

New submitter ami.one writes: Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley explain how we are still using a century old method for measuring the calories in our food and the calories spent in different human activities. Essentially, there is a very big difference between burning stuff in a bomb calorie-meter and the extremely complex ways our body extracts energy from food. In fact, the exact process of digestion is yet to be understood sufficiently at a micro level, and years from being replicated to any close degree. Plus, the way our bodies spend calories for a given activity is hugely different from the way a car consumer gasoline and dependent on a number of parameters — some of which are not even known currently. Therefore, balancing calories in to Calories out is not so stupidly simple as it seems to the underweight layperson . Update: 01/28 22:09 GMT by T : Sorry for the duplicate post; it was a long night.
The Almighty Buck

A Crowdfunding Site To Help Pay Patients' Medical Bills 285

Lucas123 writes: A start-up financial services company called Someone With Group has just completed a pilot of a crowdfunding service that allows hospitals to set up campaigns to help patients pay their medical expenses. The website, which is HIPAA compliant in terms of privacy and security, allows patients facing medical debts to inform family, friends and even strangers of their need for funds versus flowers or cards. The crowdfunding service also addresses a systemic debt issue in the healthcare industry. Each year, the U.S. healthcare industry writes off $40 billion in bad debt from unpaid medical bills. "Then you consider that $6 billion is spent on cards and flowers for patients every year. Why can't we redirect that money and put it into a debit instrument restricted to medical spending only?" said Jagemann-Bane, CEO of Someone With Group. One hospital group, Pinnacle Health Systems in Harrisburg, Penn., routinely writes off $40 million to $50 million a year in unpaid medical bills from patients. The hospital set up a crowdfunding site via Someone With Group and so far has seen a couple dozen patients use it. ... After a one-year pilot of the crowdfunding service, patients who've used it on average have raised $2,315.
Science

Consciousness May Be the Product of Carefully Balanced Chaos (sciencemag.org) 121

sciencehabit writes: The question of whether the human consciousness is subjective or objective is largely philosophical. But the line between consciousness and unconsciousness is a bit easier to measure. In a new study (abstract) of how anesthetic drugs affect the brain, researchers suggest that our experience of reality is the product of a delicate balance of connectivity between neurons—too much or too little and consciousness slips away. During wakeful consciousness, participants’ brains generated “a flurry of ever-changing activity”, and the fMRI showed a multitude of overlapping networks activating as the brain integrated its surroundings and generated a moment to moment “flow of consciousness.” After the propofol kicked in, brain networks had reduced connectivity and much less variability over time. The brain seemed to be stuck in a rut—using the same pathways over and over again.
Science

Why the Calorie Is Broken (arstechnica.com) 425

An anonymous reader writes: Nutrition is a subject for which everybody should understand the basics. Unfortunately, this is hard. Not only is there a ton of conflicting research about how to properly fuel your body, there's a multi-billion-dollar industry with financial incentive to muddy the waters. Further, one of the most basic concepts for how we evaluate food — the calorie — is incredibly imprecise. "Wilbur Atwater, a Department of Agriculture scientist, began by measuring the calories contained in more than 4,000 foods. Then he fed those foods to volunteers and collected their faeces, which he incinerated in a bomb calorimeter. After subtracting the energy measured in the faeces from that in the food, he arrived at the Atwater values, numbers that represent the available energy in each gram of protein, carbohydrate and fat. These century-old figures remain the basis for today's standards."

In addition to the measuring system being outdated, the amount of calories taken from a meal can vary from person to person. Differences in metabolism and digestive efficiency add sizable error bars. Then there are issues with serving sizes and preparation methods. Research is now underway to find a better measure of food intake than the calorie. One possibility for the future is mapping your internal chemistry and having it analyzed with a massive database to see what foods work best for you. Another may involve tweaking your gut microbiome to change how you extract energy from certain foods.

Earth

Flat-Earth Argument Results in Rap Battle (npr.org) 235

New submitter mjjochen writes: A little something to make you smile (or cry). NPR reports on astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson calling out rapper B.o.B. in a Twitter (& rap) argument over the status of the earth (are we round or flat?). Rapper B.o.B. references the usual conspiracy theories to support his case in his throwdown (music). Neil deGrasse Tyson responds (actually, his nephew does), on why B.o.B.'s points are not very well-informed (music). As Tyson puts it, "Duude — to be clear: Being five centuries regressed in your reasoning doesn't mean we all can't still like your music." Shall we start leeching the four humors from the body again to achieve balance? Hrm.
Data Storage

Six Missing HDDs Contain Health Information of Nearly a Million Patients (corporate-ir.net) 87

Lucas123 writes: Health insurer Centene Corp. revealed that it is looking for six HDDs with information on 950,000 customers that went missing during a data project that was using laboratory results to improve the health outcomes of patients. The drives not only contain sensitive personal identification information, such as addresses, dates of birth and social security numbers, but they also contain health information. "While we don't believe this information has been used inappropriately," said Michael Neidorff, CEO of Centene.

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