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News

Who Is Buried In the Largest Tomb Ever Found In Northern Greece? 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the is-it-grant? dept.
schwit1 writes Excitement continues to build as archaeologists dig deeper into a massive tomb discovered two years ago in northern Greece. "This past weekend the excavation team, led by Greek archaeologist Katerina Peristeri, announced the discovery of two elegant caryatids—large marble columns sculpted in the shape of women with outstretched arms—that may have been intended to bar intruders from entering the tomb's main room. "I don't know of anything quite like them," says Philip Freeman, a professor of classics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. The curly-haired caryatids are just part of the tomb's remarkable furnishings. Guarding the door as sentinels were a pair of carved stone sphinxes, mythological creatures with the body of a lion and the head of a human. And when archaeologists finally entered the antechamber, they discovered faded remnants of frescoes as well as a mosaic floor made of white marble pieces inlaid in a red background." Archaeologists believe this tomb is connected somehow to Alexander the Great and could very well be the burial site of one of his relatives or close allies.
Space

X-Class Solar Flare Coming Friday 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the wear-your-shades dept.
First time accepted submitter kit_triforce writes Satellites have just detected a powerful X1.6-class solar flare. The source was active sunspot AR2158, which is directly facing Earth. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash. Ionizing radiation from the flare could cause HF radio blackouts and other communications disturbances, especially on the day-lit side of Earth. In the next few hours, when coronagraph data from SOHO and STEREO become available, we will see if a coronal mass ejection (CME) emerges from the blast site. If so, the cloud would likely be aimed directly at Earth and could reach our planet in 2 to 3 days.
Space

The Exoplanets That Never Were 31

Posted by samzenpus
from the planetary-false-positive dept.
StartsWithABang writes In 1992, scientists discovered the first planets orbiting a star other than our Sun. The pulsar PSR B1257+12 was discovered to have its own planetary system, and since then, exoplanet discoveries have exploded. But before that, in 1963, decades of research led to the much-anticipated publication and announcement of an exoplanet discovered around Barnard's star, the second-closest star system to Earth. Unfortunately, it turned out to be spurious, and it took years to uncover, an amazing story which is only now fully coming to light.
Government

Researcher Fired At NSF After Government Questions Her Role As 1980s Activist 499

Posted by samzenpus
from the skeletons-in-the-closet dept.
sciencehabit writes Valerie Barr was a tenured professor of computer science at Union College in Schenectady, New York, with a national reputation for her work improving computing education and attracting more women and minorities into the field. But federal investigators say that Barr lied during a routine background check about her affiliations with a domestic terrorist group that had ties to the two organizations to which she had belonged in the early 1980s. On 27 August, NSF said that her 'dishonest conduct' compelled them to cancel her temporary assignment immediately, at the end of the first of what was expected to be a 2-year stint. Colleagues who decry Barr's fate worry that the incident could make other scientists think twice about coming to work for NSF. In addition, Barr's case offers a rare glimpse into the practices of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an obscure agency within the White House that wields vast power over the entire federal bureaucracy through its authority to vet recently hired workers.
United Kingdom

Hidden Archeology of Stonehenge Revealed In New Geophysical Map 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-the-banshees-live-and-they-do-live-well dept.
An anonymous reader writes Utilizing a comprehensive array of remote sensing technology and non-invasive geophysical survey equipment, researchers working on the site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England have revealed hundreds of previously unknown features buried deep beneath the ground as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. The finds include images of dwellings from the Bronze and Iron Ages as well as details of buried Roman settlements never before seen."
Space

Rosetta Hunts For Comet Touch Down Site For Philae Lander 17

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-about-here dept.
astroengine writes Attached to the European Space Agency's comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta, the Philae lander opened one of its robotic eyes when the mission was orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko at a distance of only 50 kilometers (31 miles) on Sunday. With two high-contrast exposures, the lander captured one of Rosetta's solar panels in the foreground with the comet behind. ESA says the choice of landing sites will be narrowed down from five to two on Monday -- a primary target and a backup -- before a final decision is made in October.
Biotech

The Grassroots Future of Biohacking 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the building-a-better-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes Forget about some kid engineering a virulent microbe in their bedroom. As the assistant director of the Maurice Kanbar Center for Biomedical Engineering, Oliver Medvedik, puts it, "It's extremely difficult to 'improve' on the lethality of nature. The pathogens that already exist are more legitimate cause for worry.” If anything, you're better off putting energy into wrenching away your desire for McDonalds, and making sure the government doesn't impose draconian laws about DIY-bio. Here's a look at the grassroots future of biohacking and the problems with government overreach.
Government

When Scientists Give Up 347

Posted by Soulskill
from the lab-rats-rejoice dept.
New submitter ferespo sends a report from All Things Considered about the struggle for scientific funding in today's political and economic environment. "Federal funding for biomedical research has declined by more than 20 percent in the past decade. There are far more scientists competing for grants than there is money to support them." It's a tough situation for new scientists trying to set up labs. In addition to all of the scientific work they do, it's essentially a full-time job in addition to that to maintain funding. The reviewers who decide which projects receive funding are risk-averse to the point where innovative research is all but off the table. The consequences of this are two-fold: not only are we giving up on the types of research that led to so many of today's marvels, but many promising young scientists are giving up on the field altogether.
Space

SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.
An anonymous reader writes: $3 billion in funding is on the line as private space companies duke it out for contracts to end U.S. reliance on Russian rockets for manned spaceflight. The two biggest contenders are SpaceX and Boeing, described as "the exciting choice" and "the safe choice," respectively. "NASA is charting a new direction 45 years after sending humans to the Moon, looking to private industry for missions near Earth, such as commuting to and from the space station. Commercial operators would develop space tourism while the space agency focuses on distant trips to Mars or asteroids." It's possible the contracts would be split, giving some tasks to each company. It's also possible that the much smaller Sierra Nevada Corp. could grab a bit of government funding as well for launches using its unique winged-shuttle design.
Math

Information Theory Places New Limits On Origin of Life 211

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-credit-to-the-genesis-device dept.
KentuckyFC writes: Most research into the origin of life focuses on the messy business of chemistry, on the nature of self-replicating molecules and on the behavior of autocatalytic reactions. Now one theorist says the properties of information also place important limits on how life must have evolved, without getting bogged down in the biochemical details. The new approach uses information theory to highlight a key property that distinguishes living from non-living systems: their ability to store information and replicate it almost indefinitely. A measure of this how much these systems differ from a state of maximum entropy or thermodynamic equilibrium. The new approach is to create a mathematical model of these informational differences and use it to make predictions about how likely it is to find self-replicating molecules in an artificial life system called Avida. And interestingly, the predictions closely match what researchers have found in practice. The bottom line is that according to information theory, environments favorable to life are unlikely to be unusual.
Medicine

Reanalysis of Clinical Trials Finds Misleading Results 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the side-effects-may-include-pretty-much-anything dept.
sciencehabit writes: Clinical trials rarely get a second look — and when they do, their findings are not always what the authors originally reported. That's the conclusion of a new study (abstract), which compared how 37 studies that had been reanalyzed measured up to the original. In 13 cases, the reanalysis came to a different outcome — a finding that suggests many clinical trials may not be accurately reporting the effect of a new drug or intervention. Moreover, only five of the reanalyses were by an entirely different set of authors, which means they did not get a neutral relook.

In one of the trials, which examined the efficacy of the drug methotrexate in treating systemic sclerosis—an autoimmune disease that causes scarring of the skin and internal organs—the original researchers found the drug to be not much more effective than the placebo, as they reported in a 2001 paper. However, in a 2009 reanalysis of the same trial, another group of researchers including one of the original authors used Bayesian analysis, a statistical technique to overcome the shortcomings of small data sets that plague clinical trials of rare diseases such as sclerosis. The reanalysis found that the drug was, as it turned out, more effective than the placebo and had a good chance of benefiting sclerosis patients.
Medicine

UCLA Biologists Delay the Aging Process In Fruit Flies 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the mrs-frisby-and-the-fruit-flies-of-NIMH dept.
An anonymous reader writes:Life scientists at UCLA have located a gene in fruit flies which, when intentionally activated, increases lifespan by about 30%. The gene (called AMPK) is normal important as an energy sensor, usually triggered by cells with low energy levels. By triggering it at other times, the researchers slowed the fruit flies' aging process (PDF), even beyond the organ system in which the triggering occurred. "Walker said that the findings are important because extending the healthy life of humans would presumably require protecting many of the body's organ systems from the ravages of aging — but delivering anti-aging treatments to the brain or other key organs could prove technically difficult. The study suggests that activating AMPK in a more accessible organ such as the intestine, for example, could ultimately slow the aging process throughout the entire body, including the brain."
Canada

Northwest Passage Exploration Ship Found 80

Posted by Soulskill
from the forgot-to-bring-their-GPS dept.
Kittenman writes: The BBC (and several other sources) are carrying the news that the Canadian government has found the sunken remains of one of Sir John Franklin's ships (either the Erebus, or the Terror), that went missing in the 1840s, causing sensation in Victorian London. Sir John and his entire crew were never seen alive again. The search for traces of the expedition went for over ten years in the 19th century, partly led by Sir John's widow. The discovery has been called the biggest archaeological event since the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb.
Medicine

3 Short Walking Breaks Can Reverse Harm From 3 Hours of Sitting 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the walk-it-off dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Medical researchers have been steadily building evidence that prolonged sitting is awful for your health. One major problem is that blood can pool in the legs of a seated person, causing arteries to start losing their ability to control the rate of blood flow. A new experimental study (abstract) has discovered it's quite easy to negate these detrimental health effects: all you need to do is take a leisurely, 5-minute walk for every hour you sit. "The researchers were able to demonstrate that during a three-hour period, the flow-mediated dilation, or the expansion of the arteries as a result of increased blood flow, of the main artery in the legs was impaired by as much as 50 percent after just one hour. The study participants who walked for five minutes for each hour of sitting saw their arterial function stay the same — it did not drop throughout the three-hour period. Thosar says it is likely that the increase in muscle activity and blood flow accounts for this."
Medicine

In France, a Second Patient Receives Permanent Artificial Heart 183

Posted by timothy
from the police-won't-need-kill-switches-for-cars dept.
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes One of the most important goals of transhumanist medicine—possessing a perfectly healthy heart—has so far remained elusive. This week, we came a step closer when for the second time ever, a French company implanted a permanent artificial heart in a patient. More than just pumping blood, future artificial hearts will bring numerous other advantages with them. They will have computer chips and wi-fi capacity built into them. We'll control our hearts with our smart phones, tuning down its pumping capacity when we want to sleep, or tuning it up when we want to run marathons. The patient who received the first of these hearts, though he survived for 76 days, died after the heart "stopped after a short circuit, although the exact reasons behind the death were still unknown."
Earth

UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013 427

Posted by timothy
from the where-would-you-move? dept.
Figures released Tuesday by a United Nations advisory body reveal that 2013 saw new recorded highs for both carbon dioxide and methane, as well as the largest year-over-year rise in carbon dioxide since 1984, reflecting continuing worldwide emissions from human sources but also the possibility that natural sinks (oceans and vegetation) are near their capacity for absorbing the excess. From the Washington Post's account: The latest figures from the World Meteorological Organization’s monitoring network are considered particularly significant because they reflect not only the amount of carbon pumped into the air by humans, but also the complex interaction between man-made gases and the natural world. Historically, about half of the pollution from human sources has been absorbed by the oceans and by terrestrial plants, preventing temperatures from rising as quickly as they otherwise would, scientists say. “If the oceans and the biosphere cannot absorb as much carbon, the effect on the atmosphere could be much worse,” said Oksana Tarasova, a scientist and chief of the WMO’s Global Atmospheric Watch program, which collects data from 125 monitoring stations worldwide. The monitoring network is regarded as the most reliable window on the health of Earth’s atmosphere, drawing on air samples collected near the poles, over the oceans, and in other locations far from cities and other major sources of pollution. The new figures for carbon dioxide were particularly surprising, showing the biggest year-over-year increase since detailed records were first compiled in the 1980s, Tarasova said in an interview. The jump of nearly three parts per million over 2012 levels was twice as large as the average increase in carbon levels in recent decades, she said.
The Almighty Buck

$10 Bet Brings Researchers Closer to Industrial Scale Graphene Production 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-hamiltons dept.
AaronW writes: After trying and failing to convince Nina Kovtyukhona to test her technique of separating layers of graphite and boron nitride to instead try graphene, Thomas E. Mallouk made a bet with Nina that her technique method would work. If it worked, Nina would owe him $10. If it didn't, he would owe her $100. The result was published in Nature yesterday (abstract). Thomas is $10 richer, and we are a step closer to industrial scale graphene production.
Biotech

Scientists Regenerate Rat Muscle Tissue 26

Posted by samzenpus
from the building-a-better-mouse dept.
Zothecula writes Muscle lost through traumatic injury, congenital defect, or tumor ablation may soon be regenerated from within. A team of researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has shown how stem cells in the body of mice and rats can be mobilized to form new muscle in damaged regions. "Working to leverage the body’s own regenerative properties, we designed a muscle-specific scaffolding system that can actively participate in functional tissue regeneration," explains Sang Jin Lee, senior author on the study. This scaffold was implanted in the rats' tibialis anterior muscle (which is found below the knee), serving as a kind of home for the muscle progenitor cells to grow and develop.
Science

How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation 770

Posted by samzenpus
from the 8-out-of-10-scientists-agree dept.
nerdyalien writes From the article: "Fiction author Michael Crichton probably started the backlash against the idea of consensus in science. Crichton was rather notable for doubting the conclusions of climate scientists—he wrote an entire book in which they were the villains—so it's fair to say he wasn't thrilled when the field reached a consensus. Still, it's worth looking at what he said, if only because it's so painfully misguided: 'Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results.'" As a STEM major, I am somewhat biased toward "strong" evidence side of the argument. However, the more I read literature from other, somewhat-related fields (i.e. psychology, economics and climate science), the more I felt they have little opportunity to repeat experiments, similar to counterparts in traditional hard science fields. Their accepted theories are based on limited historical occurrences and consensus among the scholars. Given the situation, it's important to understand what "consensus" really means.
Moon

How Astrophysicists Hope To Turn the Entire Moon Into a Cosmic Ray Detector 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-no-moon dept.
KentuckyFC writes One of the great mysteries in astrophysics surrounds the origin of ultra-high energy cosmic rays, which can have energies of 10^20 electron volts and beyond. To put that in context, that's a single proton with the same energy as a baseball flying at 100 kilometers per hour. Nobody knows where ultra-high energy cosmic rays come from or how they get their enormous energies. That's largely because they are so rare--physicists detect them on Earth at a rate of less than one particle per square kilometer per century. So astronomers have come up with a plan to see vastly more ultra high energy cosmic rays by using the Moon as a giant cosmic ray detector. When these particles hit the lunar surface, they generate brief bursts of radio waves that a highly sensitive radio telescope can pick up. No radio telescope on Earth is currently capable of this but astronomers are about to start work on a new one that will be able to pick up these signals for the first time. That should help them finally tease apart the origins of these most energetic particles in the Universe .

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