Researchers: Thousands of Medical Devices Are Vulnerable To Hacking 29

itwbennett writes: At the DerbyCon security conference, researchers Scott Erven and Mark Collao explained how they located Internet-connected medical devices by searching for terms like 'radiology' and 'podiatry' in the Shodan search engine. Some systems were connected to the Internet by design, others due to configuration errors. And much of the medical gear was still using the default logins and passwords provided by manufacturers. 'As these devices start to become connected, not only can your data gets stolen but there are potential adverse safety issues,' Erven said.

Dormant Virus Wakes Up In Some Patients With Lou Gehrig's Disease 46

MTorrice writes: Our chromosomes hold a partial record of prehistoric viral infections: About 8% of our genomes come from DNA that viruses incorporated into the cells of our ancestors. Over many millennia, these viral genes have accumulated mutations rendering them mostly dormant. But one of these viruses can reawaken in some patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive muscle wasting disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. A new study demonstrates that this so-called endogenous retrovirus can damage neurons, possibly contributing to the neurodegeneration seen in the disease. The findings raise the possibility that antiretroviral drugs, similar to those used to treat HIV, could slow the progression of ALS in some patients.

Mars Mission: How Hard? NASA Astronauts Weigh In 41

astroengine writes: In an interesting interview with Discovery News, retired NASA astronauts Clay Anderson (Expedition 15/16) and Steve Swanson (Expedition 39/40) discussed their views on how the US space agency should select the first Mars-bound astronauts — a mission that is slated to commence in the late 2020's. While Swanson thinks that the current NASA astronaut selection process should suffice for a long-duration foray to the Red Planet, Anderson isn't so sure, saying, "(Mars) doesn't require a jet fighter pilot. It doesn't require a Ph.D. astronaut — although those people would be just fine, but I think that it's going to take people that are very good generalists, that can do many things." As depicted in the upcoming Matt Damon movie, "The Martian," Mark Watney (Damon) is thrown into an unexpected, life-threatening situation, requiring him to use his general skill set to survive on the barren landscape until he's rescued. As the first manned missions to Mars will likely throw unforeseen challenges at the explorers, it will probably be a good idea to have a crew that are adept at thinking on the fly and skilled in many different areas rather than being a specialist in one.

Treefinder Revokes Software License For Users In Immigrant-Friendly Nations 576

dotancohen writes: The author of bioinformatics software Treefinder is revoking the license to his software for researchers working in eight European countries because he says those countries allow too many immigrants to cross their borders, effective 1 October. The author states, "Immigration to my country harms me, it harms my family, it harms my people. Whoever invites or welcomes immigrants to Europe and Germany is my enemy."

Tracing the Limits of Computation 82

An anonymous reader writes: For more than 40 years, researchers had been trying to find a better way to compare two arbitrary strings of characters, such as the long strings of chemical letters within DNA molecules. The most widely used algorithm is slow and not all that clever: It proceeds step-by-step down the two lists, comparing values at each step. If a better method to calculate this "edit distance" could be found, researchers would be able to quickly compare full genomes or large data sets, and computer scientists would have a powerful new tool with which they could attempt to solve additional problems in the field.

Yet in a paper presented at the ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing, two researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology put forth a mathematical proof that the current best algorithm was "optimal" — in other words, that finding a more efficient way to compute edit distance was mathematically impossible. But researchers aren't quite ready to record the time of death. One significant loophole remains. The impossibility result is only true if another, famously unproven statement called the strong exponential time hypothesis (SETH) is also true.

Talking Science and God With the Pope's New Chief Astronomer 268

sciencehabit writes: On 18 September, Pope Francis appointed Jesuit brother Guy Consolmagno as the new director of the Vatican Observatory, which employs a dozen astronomers to study asteroids, meteorites, extrasolar planets, stellar evolution, and cosmology. The observatory is based at the pope's summer residence south of Rome and operates a 1.8-meter telescope in Arizona, where the skies are clearer. Science Magazine chatted with Consolmagno about a variety of topics, including whether God gets in the way of doing good astronomy. Consolmagno said, "First of all, I want to provide space for other astronomers to do their work. And I also want to show the world that religion supports astronomy. It is often religious people who most need to see that; they need to know that astronomy is wonderful and that they shouldn't be afraid of it. I often quote John Paul II, when he said [of evolution] that "truth cannot contradict truth." If you think you already know everything about the world, you are not a good scientist, and if you think you know all there is to know about God, then your religious faith is at fault."

$20 Million XPRIZE Takes On Carbon Emissions 47

An anonymous reader writes: XPRIZE has announced a new, $20 million competition that aims to tackle carbon emissions. They're not looking to reduce emissions, but rather to convert them into something useful. They provide examples: "products like new and sustainable building materials; low-emission transportation fuels; and alternative chemical products that can be used to make everything from clothing and running shoes, to safer, stronger automobiles and breakthrough medicines." Awards will be given for making use of emissions from two different sources: coal power plants and natural gas power plants. "The winning team will convert the most CO2 emissions into the highest value products. To be competitive, teams will have to make the business case for their approach as well as minimize their use of energy, water, land, and other inputs that have consequences for the environment."

Rogue Biohacking Is Not a Problem 43

Lasrick writes: Although biosecurity experts have long warned that biohackers will eventually engineer pathogens in the same way that computer enthusiasts in the 1970s developed viruses and adware, UC Berkeley's Zian Liu thinks fears about 'rogue biohackers' are overblown. He lists the five barriers that make it much more difficult to bioengineer in your garage than people think, but also suggests some important chokeholds regulators can take to prevent a would-be bioweaponeer from getting lucky.
Input Devices

ALS Patients Use a Brain Implant To Type 6 Words Per Minute 26

the_newsbeagle writes: With electrodes implanted in their neural tissue and a new brain-computer interface, two paralyzed people with ALS used their thoughts to control a computer cursor with unprecedented accuracy and speed. They showed off their skills by using a predictive text-entering program to type sentences, achieving a rate of 6 words per minute. While paralyzed people can type faster using other assistive technologies that are already on the market, like eye-gaze trackers and air-puff controllers, a brain implant could be the only option for paralyzed people who can't reliably control their eyes or mouth muscles.

When Schools Overlook Introverts 307

Esther Schindler writes: A few years ago, Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking seemed to give the world a bit of enlightenment about getting the most out of people who don't think they should have to be social in order to succeed. For a while, at least some folks worked to respect the needs and advantages of introversion, such as careful, reflective thinking based on the solitude that idea-generation requires.

But in When Schools Overlook Introverts, Michael Godsey writes, "The way in which certain instructional trends — education buzzwords like "collaborative learning" and "project-based learning" and "flipped classrooms" — are applied often neglect the needs of introverts. In fact, these trends could mean that classroom environments that embrace extroverted behavior — through dynamic and social learning activities — are being promoted now more than ever." It's a thoughtful article, worth reading. As I think many people on slashdot will agree, Godsley observes, "This growing emphasis in classrooms on group projects and other interactive arrangements can be challenging for introverted students who tend to perform better when they're working independently and in more subdued environments."

New Nanoparticle Sunblock Is Stronger and Safer, Scientists Say 113

sciencehabit writes: What's the best sunscreen? It's a question that troubles beachgoers, athletes, and scientists alike. Mark Saltzman, who falls into the last category, was so concerned by the time his third child was born that he wanted to engineer a better sunblock. "The initial goal was to make a sunblock that lasted longer," says Saltzman, a biomedical engineer at Yale University. "But as I read more about sunscreen, I became aware of people's concerns about safety." Now, he and his colleagues have unveiled the results of their research: a nanoparticle-based sunblock, which they say is longer lasting and less likely to leak into the body than traditional sunscreen.

John Harrison: Inventor and Longitude Hero 106

szczys writes: Here's an interesting fact: when at sea you can't establish your longitude without a reliable clock. You can figure out latitude with a sextant, but not longitude. Early clocks used pendulums that don't work on a rocking boat. So in the 1700s the British government offered up £20,000 for a reliable clock that would work at sea. John Harrison designed a really accurate ocean-worthy clock after 31 years of effort and was snubbed for the prize which would be £2.8 Million at today's value. After fighting for the payout for another 36 years he did finally get it at the ripe old age of 80. The methods he used to build this maritime chronometer were core to every wrist and pocket watch through the first third of the 20th Century. One of his timepieces, designated Clock B, was declared by Guinness to be the world's most accurate mechanical clock with a pendulum swinging in free air' more than 250 years after it was designed.

Doctors On Edge As Healthcare Gears Up For 70,000 Ways To Classify Ailments 232 writes: Melinda Beck reports in the WSJ that doctors, hospitals and insurers are bracing for possible disruptions on October 1 when the U.S. health-care system switches to ICD-10, a massive new set of codes for describing illnesses and injuries that expands the way ailments are described from 14,000 to 70,000. Hospitals and physician practices have spent billions of dollars on training programs, boot camps, apps, flashcards and practice drills to prepare for the conversion, which has been postponed three times since the original date in 2011. With the move to ICD-10, the one code for suturing an artery will become 195 codes, designating every single artery, among other variables, according to OptumInsight, a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc. A single code for a badly healed fracture could now translate to 2,595 different codes, the firm calculates. Each signals information including what bone was broken, as well as which side of the body it was on.

Propoenents says ICD-10 will help researchers better identify public-health problems, manage diseases and evaluate outcomes, and over time, will create a much more detailed body of data about patients' health—conveying a wealth of information in a single seven-digit code—and pave the way for changes in reimbursement as the nation moves toward value-based payment plans. "A clinician whose practice is filled with diabetic patients with multiple complications ought to get paid more for keeping them healthy than a clinician treating mostly cheerleaders," says Dr. Rogers. "ICD-10 will give us the precision to do that." As the changeover deadline approaches some fear a replay of the Affordable Care Act rollout debacle in 2013 that choked computer networks, delaying bills and claims for several months. Others recollect the end-of-century anxiety of Y2K, the Year 2000 computer bug that failed to materialize. "We're all hoping for the best and expecting the worst," says Sharon Ahearn. "I have built up what I call my war chest. That's to make sure we have enough working capital to see us through six to eight weeks of slow claims."

Rosetta's Comet Is Actually 2 Comets Stuck Together 45

astroengine writes: Scientists have solved the mystery of why the comet being studied by Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is shaped like a rubber duck — it started off as TWO separate comets, a new study shows. Ever since Rosetta sent back pictures of its twin-lobed target more than a year ago, scientists have debated whether the comet, known as 67P/Churyumov-Garasimenko, could be the result of two comets that merged together during the solar system's early years. The other option is that the so-called "neck region" between 67P's two lobes experienced some particularly active and still unexplained outgassing over the eons, eroding its more spherical shape into a body that resembles a rubber duck. "Our study rules out the possibility that the comet shape is the outcome of erosion," planetary scientist Matteo Massironi, with the University of Padova in Italy, wrote in an email to Discovery News. Rather, the neck region is where two independent bodies collided, analysis of high-resolution images taken by the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft shows.

Scientists Have Spotted the Signs of Flowing Water On Mars 260

New submitter universe520 writes: Using neat imaging technology that allows them to determine the chemical compound of a substance by looking at the light reflected from it, scientists have spotted the traces of flowing water on Mars. By looking at the dark streaks on some photos of Mars, Lujendra Ojha from Georgia Tech has found compounds that are made in liquid water—meaning that water may be trickling down those streaks when the climate is just right. From the linked Economist piece: Details remain to be worked out, including where the water in question originates. Possibly, it derives from subsurface ice. Or it might condense out of Mars’s thin, dry atmosphere. Wherever it does come from, though, the amounts in question are modest in the extreme. But even modest amounts of water are intriguing to biologists. If Martians evolved during their planet’s earlier, wetter phase, the continued presence of water means it is just about possible that a few especially hardy types have survived until the present day—clinging on in dwindling pockets of dampness in the way that some “extremophile” bacteria on Earth are able to live in cold, salty and arid environments.