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Space

The Stolen Credit For What Makes Up the Sun 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the stellar-gasbags dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Sure, it's easy today to look at the Sun and know it's a ball of (mostly) hydrogen, generating energy by combining those protons in a chain into helium through the process of nuclear fusion. But before we even knew that nuclear fusion was possible, we needed to figure out what the Sun was made out of, a more difficult task than you'd imagine. The credit was given to Henry Norris Russell (of Hertzsprung-Russell diagram fame), but he completely stole the work from a woman you never heard of: his student, Cecilia Payne, after discouraging her from publishing her work on the subject four years prior.
Moon

Giant Lava Tubes Possible On the Moon 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-else-would-the-space-worms-hide dept.
schwit1 writes: New analysis of lunar geology combined with gravity data from GRAIL suggests the Moon could harbor lava tubes several miles wide. "David Blair, a graduate student in Purdue's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, led the study that examined whether empty lava tubes more than 1 kilometer wide could remain structurally stable on the moon. 'We found that if lunar lava tubes existed with a strong arched shape like those on Earth, they would be stable at sizes up to 5,000 meters, or several miles wide, on the moon,' Blair said. 'This wouldn't be possible on Earth, but gravity is much lower on the moon and lunar rock doesn't have to withstand the same weathering and erosion. In theory, huge lava tubes – big enough to easily house a city – could be structurally sound on the moon.'" You can read their paper here (PDF). If this is so, then the possibility of huge colonies on the Moon increases significantly, as it will be much easier to build these colonies inside such lava tubes.
Biotech

Scientists: It's Time To Resolve the Ethics of Editing Human Genome 299

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-we-haven't-created-a-real-spiderman-yet dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We've previously discussed a system called CRISPR-cas9, which is dramatically reducing the cost and effort required to do gene editing. In fact, the barrier to entry is now so low that a group of biologists is calling for a moratorium on using the method to modify the human genome. Writing in the journal Science (abstract), the scientists warn that we've reached the point where the ethical questions surrounding DNA alteration can be put off no longer. David Baltimore, one of the group's members, said, "You could exert control over human heredity with this technique, and that is why we are raising the issue. ... I personally think we are just not smart enough — and won't be for a very long time — to feel comfortable about the consequences of changing heredity, even in a single individual." Another group of scientists called for a similar halt to human germline modification, and the International Society for Stem Cell Research says it agrees.
Facebook

Fake Suicide Attempt Tests Facebook Prevention Tool, Lands Man In Asylum 317

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-guess-it-worked dept.
First time accepted submitter abhishekmdb writes Shane Tusch faked his suicide in an attempt to test the authenticity of Facebook suicide prevention tool and got detained for 72 hours. Facebook has rolled out a set of tools to keep a check on its users who are having suicidal tendencies and prevent these users from suicidal attempts. In case some user is having suicidal thoughts and mentions that in the Facebook posts and if a friend of that user reports it to Facebook then a third party will immediately review the post and Facebook would lock the suicidal user's account and the user will be made to read Facebook's suicide prevention materials.
Earth

Some Biodegradable Plastics Don't Live Up To Their Claims 98

Posted by timothy
from the ya-don't-say-or-actually-ya-do dept.
ckwu writes From bread bags to beverage bottles, many plastics now contain additives designed to make the materials biodegradable. But a new study shows that plastics made with such additives do not biodegrade in the environment significantly faster than those without the compounds. Researchers prepared films of commercial plastics with three different types of additives supplied by their manufacturers. The researchers then treated the film samples to mimic disposal of such plastics in a compost pile, a landfill, and soil. After about six months of composting, a year and a half of landfill-like conditions, and three years of soil burial, the plastics with additives did not show any more evidence of biodegradation than plastics without them.
Portables

Ask Slashdot: Choosing a Laptop To Support Physics Research? 385

Posted by timothy
from the budget-for-replacement-too dept.
An anonymous reader writes My daughter is in her third year of college as a physics major. She has an internship in Europe this summer, will graduate next year, and continue with graduate physics studies. Her area of research interest is in gravitational waves and particle physics. She currently has a laptop running Win7 and wants to buy a new laptop. She would like to use Linux on it, and plans to use it for C++ programming, data analysis and simulations (along with the usual email, surfing, music, pictures, etc). For all of the physics-savvy Slashdotters out there: what should she get? PC? Mac? What do you recommend for running Linux? For a C++ development environment? What laptop do you use and how is it configured to support your physics-related activities?
Medicine

Gates: Large Epidemics Need a More Agile Response 140

Posted by Soulskill
from the looking-to-hire-The-Flash dept.
jones_supa writes: Writing in the NY Times about the recent Ebola crisis, Bill Gates says this disease has made the world realize we are not properly prepared to deal with a global epidemic. Even if we signed up lots of experts right away, few organizations are capable of moving thousands of people, some of them infected, to different locations on the globe, with a week's notice. Data is another crucial problem. During the Ebola epidemic, the database that tracks cases has not always been accurate. This is partly because the situation is chaotic, but also because much of the case reporting has been done first on paper.

There's also our failure to invest in effective medical tools like tests, drugs and vaccines. On average, it has taken an estimated one to three days for test results to come back — an eternity when you need to quarantine people. Drugs that might help stop Ebola were not tested in patients until after the epidemic had peaked, partly because the world has no clear process for expediting drug approvals. Compare all of this to the preparation that nations put into defense, which has high-quality mobile units ready to be deployed quickly.
Security

Personal Healthcare Info of Over 11M Premera Customers Compromised 68

Posted by Soulskill
from the another-day,-another-breach dept.
An anonymous reader writes: U.S. healthcare provider Premera Blue Cross has suffered a data breach that resulted in a potential compromise of personal, financial and health-related information of as many as 11 million applicants and members. The breach was detected on January 29, 2015, and the investigation mounted by the company and by forensic investigators from Mandiant has revealed that the initial attack happened on May 5, 2014. The FBI has also been notified, and is involved in the investigation."
Biotech

Sloppy Biosafety Procedures Found At Federal Disease Center 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.
schwit1 writes: An investigation of a federal center for studying dangerous diseases in primates has found serious biosafety procedure violations. "Concerns arose at the center in Covington, Louisiana, after two rhesus macaques became ill in late November with melioidosis, a disease caused by the tropical bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Agriculture investigators traced the strain infecting the primates to a vaccine research lab working with mice. Last month, as the investigation continued, CDC suspended the primate center's 10 or so research projects involving B. pseudomallei and other select agents (a list of dangerous bacteria, viruses, and toxins that are tightly regulated). Meanwhile, a report in USA Today suggested the bacterium might have contaminated the center's soil or water. In addition, workers "frequently entered the select agent lab without appropriate protective clothing," the release says. No center staff has shown signs of illness. On 12 March, however, Tulane announced that blood tests have found that one worker has low levels of antibodies to the bacterium, suggesting possible exposure at the center, according to ABC News."
Science

Speaking a Second Language May Change How You See the World 274

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-can-see-clearly-now,-der-regen-ist-weg dept.
sciencehabit writes: Where did the thief go? You might get a more accurate answer if you ask the question in German. How did she get away? Now you might want to switch to English. Speakers of the two languages put different emphasis on actions and their consequences, influencing the way they think about the world, according to a new study (abstract). The work also finds that bilinguals may get the best of both worldviews, as their thinking can be more flexible.
Space

Most Powerful Geomagnetic Storm of Solar Cycle 24 Is Happening 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-colors-in-the-sky dept.
astroengine writes: The most powerful solar storm of the current solar cycle is currently reverberating around the globe. Initially triggered by the impact of a coronal mass ejection (CME) hitting our planet's magnetosphere, a relatively mild geomagnetic storm erupted at around 04:30 UT (12:30 a.m. EDT), but it has since ramped-up to an impressive G4-class geomagnetic storm, priming high latitudes for some bright auroral displays.
NASA

Politics Is Poisoning NASA's Ability To Do Science 416

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretend-to-be-surprised dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Phil Plait just published an article about how politics is interfering with NASA's ability to perform vital scientific experiments. As expected when we heard that Ted Cruz would be made head of the committee in charge of NASA's funding, the Texas senator is pushing hard for NASA to stop studying Earth itself. Plait writes, "Over the years, NASA has had to beg and scrape to get the relatively small amount of money it gets—less than half a percent of the national budget—and still manages to do great things with it. Cruz is worried NASA's focus needs to be more on space exploration. Fine. Then give them enough money to do everything in their charter: Explore space, send humans there, and study our planet. Whether you think climate change is real or not—and it is— telling NASA they should turn a blind eye to the environment of our own planet is insanity." He concludes, "[T]he politics of funding a government agency is tying NASA in knots and critically endangering its ability to explore."
The Military

New Compound Quickly Disables Chemical Weapons 52

Posted by Soulskill
from the breaking-things-that-break-people dept.
sciencehabit writes: In 2013, the Syrian military allegedly launched sarin gas rockets into a rebel-held town, killing hundreds. After diplomats brokered a deal to eradicate the weapons, international organizations began the dangerous job of destroying them. One roadblock to chemical weapons disposal is that heat and humidity quickly break down enzymes that can disable the deadly chemicals. Now, researchers have developed a highly stable compound that can inactivate nerve agents like sarin in a matter of minutes.
Mars

A Mars One Finalist Speaks Out On the "Dangerously Flawed" Project 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-second-thought dept.
superboj writes Dr Joseph Roche is one of the finalists to go on Mars One's much-hyped mission to the Red Planet. And yet he says he's never had an in-person interview, had to organize his own physical exam, was only tested on prepared questions, and is being encouraged to give more and more money to the group. That's why he's decided to quit.
Software

NASA Wants Your Help Hunting For Asteroids 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-think-I-got-one dept.
An anonymous reader writes about new NASA software that can help you become an asteroid hunter. "Since the early 20th century, astronomers have relied on the same technique to detect asteroids — they take images of a section in the sky and look for star-like objects that move between frames. However, with an increase in sensitivity of ground-based telescopes, it has become increasingly difficult for astronomers to sift through the massive pile of data and verify every single detection. In order to increase the frequency of asteroid detection, including of those bodies that could be potential threats to our planet, NASA has released new software, developed in collaboration with Planetary Resources, Inc., capable of running on any standard PC. The software, which can be downloaded for free, will accept images from a telescope and run an algorithm on them to determine celestial bodies that are moving in a manner consistent with an asteroid."
Science

Scientific Study Finds There Are Too Many Scientific Studies 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-study-can-beat-up-your-study dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Chris Matyszczyk reports at Cnet that a new scientific study concludes there are too many scientific studies — scientists simply can't keep track of all the studies in their field. The paper, titled "Attention Decay in Science," looked at all publications (articles and reviews) written in English till the end of 2010 within the database of the Thomson Reuters (TR) Web of Science. For each publication they extracted its year of publication, the subject category of the journal in which it is published and the corresponding citations to that publication. The 'decay' the researchers investigated is how quickly a piece of research is discarded measured by establishing the initial publication, the peak in its popularity and, ultimately, its disappearance from citations in subsequent publications.

"Nowadays papers are forgotten more quickly. Attention, measured by the number and lifetime of citations, is the main currency of the scientific community, and along with other forms of recognition forms the basis for promotions and the reputation of scientists," says the study. "Typically, the citation rate of a paper increases up to a few years after its publication, reaches a peak and then decreases rapidly. This decay can be described by an exponential or a power law behavior, as in ultradiffusive processes, with exponential fitting better than power law for the majority of cases (PDF). The decay is also becoming faster over the years, signaling that nowadays papers are forgotten more quickly." Matyszczyk says,"If publication has become too easy, there will be more and more of it."
NASA

NASA Launches Four Spacecraft To Study Earth-Sun Magnetism 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-magnets-how-do-they-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Late Thursday NASA used an Atlas rocket to put four new, identical spacecraft into orbit. "The quartet of observatories is being placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales. Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather."
Biotech

Lawsuit Over Quarter Horse's Clone May Redefine Animal Breeding 170

Posted by Soulskill
from the reasons-genetic-superhorses-will-take-over-the-world dept.
schwit1 sends this report from the LA Times: "Lynx Melody Too, a clone of a renowned quarter horse, is at the center of a lawsuit that could change the world of animal breeding and competition. Texas horse breeder Jason Abraham and veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen sued the American Quarter Horse Assn., claiming that Lynx Melody Too should be allowed to register as an official quarter horse. A Texas jury decided in their favor in 2013, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling in January, saying there was 'insufficient' evidence of wrongdoing by the association.

The suit is among the first to deal with the status of clones in breeding and competition, and its outcome could impact a number of fields, including thoroughbred horse racing and dog breeding. The quarter horse association is adamant that clones and their offspring have no place in its registry. "It's what AQHA was founded on — tracking and preserving the pedigrees of these American quarter horses," said Tom Persechino, executive director of marketing for the association. "When a person buys an American quarter horse, they want to know that my quarter horse has the blood of these horses running through it, not copies of it."
NASA

Russia Abandons Super-Rocket Designed To Compete With SLS 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the forget-about-it dept.
schwit1 writes Russia has decided to abandon an expensive attempt to build an SLS-like super-rocket and will instead focus on incremental development of its smaller but less costly Angara rocket. "Facing significant budgetary pressures, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has indefinitely postponed its ambitious effort to develop a super-heavy rocket to rival NASA's next-generation Space Launch System, SLS. Instead, Russia will focus on radical upgrades of its brand-new but smaller Angara-5 rocket which had its inaugural flight in Dec. 2014, the agency's Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, decided on Thursday, March 12." For Russia's space industry, it appears that these budgetary pressures have been a blessing in disguise. Rather than waste billions on an inefficient rocket for which there is no commercial demand — as NASA is doing with SLS (under orders from a wasteful Congress) — they will instead work on further upgrades of Angara, much like SpaceX has done with its Falcon family of rockets. This will cost far less, is very efficient, and provides them a better chance to compete for commercial launches that can help pay for it all. And best of all, it offers them the least costly path to future interplanetary missions, which means they might actually be able to make those missions happen. To quote the article again: "By switching upper stages of the existing Angara from kerosene to the more potent hydrogen fuel, engineers might be able to boost the rocket's payload from current 25 tons to 35 tons for missions to the low Earth orbit. According to Roscosmos, Angara-A5V could be used for piloted missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface." In a sense, the race is now on between Angara-A5V and Falcon Heavy.
Programming

Algorithm Clones Facial Expressions And Pastes Them Onto Other Faces 31

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-want-that-smile dept.
KentuckyFC writes Various researchers have attempted to paste an expression from one face on to another but so far with mixed results. Problems arise because these algorithms measure the way a face distorts when it changes from a neutral expression to the one of interest. They then attempt to reproduce the same distortion on another face. That's fine if the two faces have similar features. But when the faces differ in structure, as most do, this kind of distortion looks unnatural. Now a Chinese team has solved the problem with an algorithm that divides a face into different regions for the mouth, eyes, nose, etc and measures the distortion in each area separately. It then distorts the target face in these specific regions while ensuring the overall proportions remain realistic. At the same time, it decides what muscle groups must have been used to create these distortions and calculates how this would change the topology of the target face with wrinkles, dimples and so on. It then adds the appropriate shadows to make the expression realistic. The result is a way to clone an expression and paste it onto another entirely different face. The algorithm opens the way to a new generation of communication techniques in which avatars can represent the expressions as well as the voices of humans. The film industry could also benefit from an easy way to paste the expressions of actors on to the cartoon characters they voice.