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IBM Granted Your-Paychecks-Are-What-You-Eat Patent 455

theodp writes "On IBM's Smarter Planet, at least as envisioned in Big Blue's recently-granted patent for 'providing consumers with incentives for healthy eating habits', the FDA will team up with employers and insurers to determine your final paycheck based upon what you eat. IBM explains that whether a given food item is considered healthy may vary based on a number of factors, including 'individual health histories, family health histories, food intake, exercise routines, medications, and other health related factors', and may even be time dependent ('incentives are greater for consumption of a particular food item during a designated lunch time and less for consumption of the particular food item during other periods of time'). Before being issued, IBM's patent request languished for ten years and was only granted after a Patent Examiner's rejection was overturned on appeal. IBM CEO Sam Palmisano has been a cheerleader for pay-for-monitored-healthy-eating on a national level, which seems to be neatly aligned with the goals of his fellow CEOs on the Business Rountable, who told President Obama in 2009, 'It's very important that we don't have a government [healthcare] plan competing with a private plan and finding out that our employees or the citizens in general could go to a plan that doesn't have the same incentives and requirements and behavioral characteristics to make sure that they do the right things long term'."

Melting Glaciers Cutting Peru Water Supply 421

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In a story that may repeat itself in all mountainous areas dependent on glaciers for their water supply, the glaciers in Peru's Cordillera Blanca mountain range are melting so quickly (PDF) that the water they supply to the arid region is being threatened 20-30 years earlier than expected. Of the time needed for the region to adapt to the coming water shortages, previously thought to be decades, researchers now believe, 'those years don't exist.'"

Christmas Always On Sunday? Researchers Propose New Calendar 725

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered a way to make time stand still — at least when it comes to the yearly calendar. Using computer programs and mathematical formulas, an astrophysicist and an economist have created a new calendar in which each new 12-month period is identical to the one which came before, and remains that way from one year to the next in perpetuity."

SETI To Scour the Moon For Alien Footprints? 167

astroengine writes "Although we have an entire universe to seek out the proverbial alien needle in a haystack, perhaps looking in our own backyard would be a good place to start. That's the conclusions reached by Paul Davies and Robert Wagner of Arizona State University, anyway. The pair have published a paper in the journal Acta Astronautica detailing how SETI could carry out a low-cost crowdsourcing program (a la SETI@Home) to scour the lunar surface for alien artifacts, thereby gaining clues on whether intelligent aliens are out there and whether they've paid the solar system a visit in the moon's recent history."

America's Turn From Science, a Danger For Democracy 900

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Here's a good article about how playing politics with science puts our country at risk — a review of Shawn Otto's book Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America. Today's policy-makers, Otto shows, are increasingly unwilling to pursue many of the remedies science presents. They take one of two routes: deny the science, or pretend the problems don't exist."

Twin GRAIL Probes To Map Lunar Gravity Field 18

smitty777 writes "The two washing machine sized satellites from the GRAIL program (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) launched in September are set to enter lunar orbit this weekend. As can be seen from this nifty infographic, the probes will monitor the gravitational field from orbit via the precise distance measurements of microwaves passing between the two satellites. From the article: 'The twin spacecrafts are named Grail-A and Grail-B. Grail-A will enter the moon's orbit on New Year's Eve, Grail-B will follow on New Year's Day. "The purpose of the GRAIL mission is to obtain gravity data on the Moon. And with that data, the scientists are able to determine the structure of the lunar interior, from crust to core," said David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.' This is similar to the earlier GRACE project, which not only helped map out the gravity field of the Earth, but also helped map drought conditions in the U.S."

Weird Fossils Show Ancient Organism Reproducing 32

ananyo writes "Strange fossils from Doushantuo in China, have turned out to be 570-million-year-old snapshots of an organism caught in the act of reproducing. Researchers have used three-dimensional X-ray scanning techniques to see that the fossils contain nuclei-like structures — and one even has the dumb-bell shape of a modern nucleus about to replicate. The fossils have divided palaeontologists for over a decade. It now seems likely they are fossils of creatures similar to modern single-celled microorganisms called mesomycetozoeans that are neither animals nor bacteria."

Satellite Piece Crashes Through Man's Roof 121

PolygamousRanchKid writes "A Siberian resident miraculously escaped serious injury or even death when a fragment of a Russian communication satellite crashed through the roof of his house. A Meridian satellite that was launched Friday from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia on board a Soyuz-2 carrier rocket crashed near the Siberian city of Tobolsk minutes after lift-off. A titanium ball of about five kg fell on to the roof of a house in Ordyn district."

The Science of Santa 223

Hugh Pickens writes writes "For decades, mystified scientists have chalked up Santa's power to the inexplicable wonder of magic, but North Carolina State University aerospace engineer Larry Silverberg, team leader on a first-of-its-kind visiting scholars program at Santa's Workshop-North Pole Labs (NPL), says that Santa is, in fact, a scientific genius and that Silverberg looks forward to Christmas each year, so he can ponder the remarkable accomplishments of one of the greatest pioneers in his field. 'Santa is not just a jolly old elf,' says Silverberg. 'He really has an understanding of engineering, technology, science that's far beyond our own.' It all starts at the North Pole where Santa has an elaborate technical setup that rivals the nerve center of the CIA including an underground antenna that listens to children's thoughts. 'He takes those signals and finds out whether the child has been naughty or nice, and ultimately, what present the child wants.' Santa's mastery of nanotechnology allows Santa to grow presents on the spot eschewing the necessity of carrying them on the sleigh which would be prohibitive because of the weight. Then there's Santa's sleigh itself, an advanced aerodynamic structure equipped with laser sensors to find the optimal path, and covered by a nanostructured 'skin' that is porous and contains its own low-pressure system, which holds the air flowing around the airborne sled onto the body, reducing drag by as much as 90 percent. Finally there's Santa's greatest invention, the relativity cloud, that bends time and space to allow for his round-the-world Christmas journey and explains why Santa is so seldom seen. 'Relativity clouds are controllable domains – rips in time – that allow him months to deliver presents while only a few minutes pass on Earth. The presents are truly delivered in a wink of an eye.'"

NASA To Investigate Mysterious 'Space Ball' 192

redletterdave writes "In mid-November, a hollow space ball fell from the sky and crashed into the earth in Namibia, the African nation situated above South Africa and west of Botswana and Zimbabwe. Authorities recovered the sphere in a grassy village north of Windhoek, the country's capital. The hollow ball, which appears to be made of 'two halves welded together,' has a rough surface, a 14-inch diameter and measures 43 inches around. The strange globe created a crater 13 inches deep and almost 12.5 feet wide, but was found almost 60 feet from the landing spot. Paul Ludik, the police forensics director investigating the case, says the dense ball weighs 13 pounds and is made of a 'metal alloy known to man.' NASA and the European Space Agency will both help investigate the strange occurrence."
Christmas Cheer

Linux-Powered Christmas Display Puts Rudolph To Shame 68

xmas2003 writes "Over at, Zonker writes about Alek's Controllable Christmas Lights for Celiac Disease. This annual Internet tradition uses a hi/low-tech combo of LAMP'ed Redhat Web Servers, a 7+ year old Thinkpad running Ubuntu for the X10 control, and an old-school webpage design that could be politely described as Web 0.0 — wait until you see the animated cursor — D'OH! The site is free (and totally fun) as it also raises awareness and donations for Celiac Disease — over $70,000 to the University of Maryland. Nifty pictures of the crazy christmas display can be seen on the Christmas Blog (notice Clifford Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg in post #220) plus watch videos of it in action with comedic history. Nothing quite says Christmas like a giant, inflatable HULK wearing a Santa Hat... along with three wise men of Elmo, SpongeBob, and Homer Simpson. The Slashdot Effect of turning 21,000 Christmas lights ON & OFF this evening should provide quite a Christmas Eve show to Alek's neighbors... and also the International Space Station."

The Large Hadron Collider Has Been Recreated In Lego 80

An anonymous reader writes "The Large Hadron Collider has many fans, and one of its biggest is Sasha Mehlhase, a physicist from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen. Mehlhase has decided to help promote the LHC to students by taking the time to recreate a 1:50 scale model of it using Lego bricks. In total he spent 81 hours creating it, which was split between 48 hours of designing the model on his laptop, and a further 33 hours putting it together."

Russia Botches Another Rocket Launch 119

astroengine writes "Three hours before a new crew arrived at the International Space Station on Friday, bringing the outpost back up to full staff for the first time in months, Russia racked up its fifth launch accident within a year. A Soyuz-2 rocket carrying a military communications satellite failed to reach orbit after blastoff from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia. The botched launch is again due to an upper-stage engine problem."

How the Tevatron Influenced Computing 66

New submitter SciComGeek writes "Few laypeople think of computing innovation in connection with the Tevatron particle accelerator, which shut down earlier this year. Mention of the Tevatron inspires images of majestic machinery, or thoughts of immense energies and groundbreaking physics research, not circuit boards, hardware, networks, and software. Yet over the course of more than three decades of planning and operation, a tremendous amount of computing innovation was necessary to keep the data flowing and physics results coming. Those innovations will continue to influence scientific computing and data analysis for years to come."

New Study Confirms Safety of GM Crops 571

New submitter ChromeAeonium writes "Much like vaccines and evolution, there exists a great disparity between the scientific consensus and the public perceptions of the safety of genetically engineered crops. A previous study from France, which was later dismissed by the EFSA, FSANZ, and the French High Council of Biotechnologies, claiming to have found abnormalities in the organs of animals fed GM diets by analyzing three previous studies was discussed on Slashdot. However, a new study, also out of France, claims the opposite is true, that GM crops are unlikely to pose health risks (translation of original in French). Looking at 24 long-term and multi-generational studies on insect resistant and herbicide tolerant plants, the study states, 'The studies reviewed present evidence to show that GM plants are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GM counterparts and can be safely used in food and feed.' Although it is impossible to prove a negative, and while every GM crop must be individually evaluated as genetic engineering is a process not a product, perhaps this study will help to ease the fears of genetically engineered food and foster a more scientific discussion on the role of agricultural biotechnology."