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Robotics

Should a Service Robot Bring an Alcoholic a Drink? 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the skynet-will-feed-you-booze-until-you-pass-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We've come to a point where care robots are being used to assist people with illnesses and mobility problems. They can bring medicine, a glass of water, food, and other items that a person may have trouble getting to on their own. But what limits should we set on these robots? Should they be able to deliver alcoholic beverages? If so, should they refuse to serve them to certain people, like children or alcoholics? The issue is complicated further because these robots may have been purchased by the patient, by the doctor or hospital (which sent it home with the patient to monitor their health), or by a concerned family member who wants to monitor their relative. The latest poll research by the Open Roboethics Initiative looked at people's attitudes about whether a care robot should prioritize its owner's wishes over those of the patient.
United Kingdom

Use Astrology To Save Britain's Health System, Says MP 320

Posted by Soulskill
from the gullible-like-a-capricorn dept.
An anonymous reader writes: An MP from the governing Conservative Party has said that using astrology could radically improve the performance of Britain's National Health Service and that its opponents are "racially prejudiced" and driven by "superstition, ignorance and prejudice." David Treddinick even claims he has "helped" fellow legislators through astrology.
Space

What Happens When Betelgeuse Explodes? 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the anticipating-giant-space-booms dept.
StartsWithABang writes: One of the great, catastrophic truths of the Universe is that everything has an expiration date. And this includes every single point of light in the entire sky. The most massive stars will die in a spectacular supernova explosion when their final stage of core fuel runs out. At only an estimated 600 light years distant, Betelgeuse is one (along with Antares) of the closest red supergiants to us, and it's estimated to have only perhaps 100,000 years until it reaches the end of its life. Here's the story on what we can expect to see (and feel) on Earth when Betelgeuse explodes.
Medicine

Giant Asian Gerbils May Have Caused the Black Death 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the adorable-ways-to-die dept.
Dave Knott writes: Rats, long believed to be the scourge that brought the Black Death to 14th-century Europe, may not be the disease-bearing scoundrels we thought they were. Scientists have shifted blame for the medieval pandemic responsible for millions of deaths to a new furry menace: giant gerbils from Asia. University of Oslo researchers, working with Swiss government scientists, say a "pulse" of bubonic plague strains arrived sporadically from Asia. They posit the Yersinia pestis bacterium was likely carried over the Silk Road via fleas on the giant gerbils during intermittent warm spells. The fleas could have then transmitted the disease to humans. The Black Death is believed to have killed up to 200 million people in Europe. Though very rare today, cases of the plague still arise in Africa, Asia, the Americas and parts of the former Soviet Union, with the World Health Organization reporting 783 cases worldwide in 2013, including 126 deaths.
Medicine

Study: Peanut Consumption In Infancy Helps Prevent Peanut Allergy 240

Posted by Soulskill
from the reasons-to-force-feed-your-child-peanuts dept.
Mr D from 63 writes: According to a report from the Associated Press, "For years, parents of babies who seem likely to develop a peanut allergy have gone to extremes to keep them away from peanut-based foods. Now a major study suggests that is exactly the wrong thing to do. Here's the published paper in the New England Journal of Medicine. It's interesting how this peanut allergy fear is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The situation involves a complete misconception of risk by many parents, and probably it doesn't stop at peanuts. Is there a bigger underlying problem here?
Biotech

Police Use DNA To Generate a Suspect's Face 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-the-generic-looking-ones-you've-gotta-watch dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times has a pair of articles about a technology now being used in police investigations: computer generation of a suspect's face from only their DNA. Law enforcement in South Carolina had no pictures or descriptions of a man who murdered a mother and her daughter, but they had some of his DNA. From this, a company named Parabon NanoLabs used a technique called DNA phenotyping to create a rough portrait of the suspect's facial features, which the police then shared with the public.

The accuracy of these portraits is still an area of hot debate — most of them look rather generic. The NY Times staff tested it with a couple of their employees, circulating the DNA-inspired portraits and seeing if people could guess who it was supposed to be. None of the ~50 employees were able to identify reporter John Markoff, and only about 10 were able to identify video journalist Catherine Spangler. But even though the accuracy for a person's entire face is low, techniques for specific attributes, like eye color, have improved greatly. Of course, the whole situation raises a slew of civil liberties questions: "What traits are off limits? Should the authorities be able to test whether a suspect has a medical condition or is prone to violence should such testing be possible?"
Medicine

Brain Imaging Shows Abnormal White Matter Areas In the Brains of Stutterers 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the bonus-smarts dept.
n01 writes: Stuttering — a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables or words are repeated or prolonged — affects more than 70 million people, or about 1% of the population, worldwide. Once treated as a psychological or emotional condition, stuttering can now be traced to brain neuroanatomy and physiology. Two new studies from UC Santa Barbara researchers provide insight into the treatment of the speech disorder as well as understanding its physiological basis. The first paper, published in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, finds that the MPI stuttering treatment program, a new treatment developed at UCSB, was twice as effective as the standard best practices protocol. The second study, which appears in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, uses diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI) in an MRI scanner to identify abnormal areas of white matter in the brains of adult stutterers. According to co-author Janis Ingham, a professor emerita of speech and hearing sciences at UCSB and co-author of both papers, the two studies taken together demonstrate two critical points: A neuroanatomic abnormality exists in the brains of people who stutter, yet they can learn to speak fluently in spite of it.
China

Mummified Monk Found Inside 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the surprise-center dept.
An anonymous reader writes Using a CT scanner, scientists and hospital staff at the Meander Medical Center in the Netherlands have discovered the mummified body of a Chinese monk inside a statue of Buddha. The monk is believed to have lived around the year 1100. From the article: "Glowing through the statue's golden cast, the human skeleton is believed to belong to Buddhist master Liu Quan, a member of the Chinese Meditation School. To further investigate the mummy, the researchers took the statue to the Meander Medical Center in Amersfoort and carried out an endoscopy and additional CT scans. They found out that Liu Quan's internal organs had been removed and replaced with scripts covered in Chinese writing. The museum speculates Liu Quan may have 'self-mummified' in order to become a 'living Buddha.'
Medicine

Researchers: Alcohol Health Risks Underestimated, Marijuana Relatively Safe 398

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-so-bad-after-all dept.
schwit1 writes Compared to other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance (abstract), followed by heroin and cocaine.
Medicine

Looking Up Symptoms Online? These Companies Are Tracking You 147

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-sick dept.
merbs writes When we feel sick, fear disease, or have questions about our health, we turn first to the internet. According to the Pew Internet Project, 72 percent of US internet users look up health-related information online. But an astonishing number of the pages we visit to learn about private health concerns—confidentially, we assume—are tracking our queries, sending the sensitive data to third party corporations, even shipping the information directly to the same brokers who monitor our credit scores.
Google

Google Lunar XPrize Teams Partner For a 2016 SpaceX Moonshot 18

Posted by samzenpus
from the working-together dept.
An anonymous reader writes Two competing teams for the Google Lunar XPrize have announced that they are partnering for a mission to the moon in the second half of 2016. From the article: "The Google Lunar XPrize , a $30 million purse of prizes encouraging private teams to put lunar rovers on the moon, this morning took if not quite a giant leap, then at least a big step. Two of those teams, Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic and Japan-based Hakuto, signed on to share a rocket ride to the moon in late 2016. Hakuto, which developed a pair of rovers to explore the lunar surface, will hitch a ride on Astrobotic's lander, which plans to set down in Lacus Mortis, located in the northeastern portion of the moon. Once on the surface, both teams will deploy their rovers and go exploring. The first to cover 500 meters (around 550 yards) while broadcasting high-definition footage will take home the $20 million grand prize."
The Military

100 Years of Chemical Weapons 224

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-century-later dept.
MTorrice writes This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first large-scale use of chemical weapons during World War I. Sarah Everts at Chemical & Engineering News remembers the event with a detailed account of the day in 1915 when the German Army released chlorine gas on its enemies, igniting a chemical arms race. Read the diaries of soldiers involved in the first gas attack. By the end of WWI, scientists working for both warring parties had evaluated some 3,000 different chemicals for use as weapons. Even though poison gas didn't end up becoming an efficient killing weapon on WWI battlefields—it was responsible for less than 1% of WWI's fatalities--its adoption set a precedent for using chemicals to murder en masse. In the past century, poison gas has killed millions of civilians around the world: commuters on the Tokyo subway, anti-government demonstrators in Syria, and those incarcerated in Third Reich concentration camps. Everts profiles chemist Fritz Haber, the man who lobbied to unleash the gas that day in 1915.
Math

Ancient and Modern People Followed Same Mathematical Rule To Build Cities 81

Posted by samzenpus
from the using-the-same-template dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news of a study that shows similarities in how cities are built throughout time. "A study of archeological data from ancient Mexican settlements reveals remarkable similarities between pre-Colombian cities and modern ones, lending support to the idea that urban spaces are shaped by universal social behaviors. Sure, each city has its own local quirks, architecture, language and cuisine. But recently, some theoretical scientists have started to find there are universal laws that shape all urban spaces. And a new study suggests the same mathematical rules might apply to ancient settlements, too. Using archaeological data from the ruins of Tenochtitlan and thousands of other sites around it in Mexico, researchers found that private houses and public monuments were built in predictable ways."
Earth

What If We Lost the Sky? 421

Posted by timothy
from the we'd-still-have-the-space-needle dept.
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Anna North writes in the NYT that a report released last week by the National Research Council calls for research into reversing climate change through a process called albedo modification: reflecting sunlight away from earth by, for instance, spraying aerosols into the atmosphere. But such a process could, some say, change the appearance of the sky — and that in turn could affect everything from our physical health to the way we see ourselves. "You'd get whiter skies. People wouldn't have blue skies anymore." says Alan Robock. "Astronomers wouldn't be happy, because you'd have a cloud up there permanently. It'd be hard to see the Milky Way anymore."

According to Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at the University of California, losing the night sky would have big consequences. "When you go outside, and you walk in a beautiful setting, and you just feel not only uplifted but you just feel stronger. There's clearly a neurophysiological basis for that," says Keltner, adding that looking up at a starry sky provides "almost a prototypical awe experience," an opportunity to feel "that you are small and modest and part of something vast." If we lose the night sky "we lose something precious and sacred." "We're finding in our lab that the experience of awe gets you to feel connected to something larger than yourself, see the humanity in other people," says Paul K. Piff. "In many ways it's kind of an antidote to narcissism." And the sky is one of the few sources of that experience that's available to almost everybody: "Not everyone has access to the ocean or giant trees, or the Grand Canyon, but we certainly all live beneath the night sky."

Alan Robock says one possible upside of adding aerosols could be beautiful red and yellow sunsets as "the yellow and red colors reflect off the bottom of this cloud." Robock recommends more research into albedo modification: "If people ever are tempted to do this, I want them to have a lot of information about what the potential benefits and risks would be so they can make an informed decision. Dr. Abdalati says deploying something like albedo modification is a last-ditch effort. "We've gotten ourselves into a climate mess. The fact that we're even talking about these kinds of things is indicative of that."
Space

Rocket Flown Through Northern Lights To Help Unlock Space Weather Mysteries 33

Posted by timothy
from the david-bowie-enjoyed-the-trip dept.
Zothecula writes The northern lights are more than one of nature's most awe inspiring sights, they are an electromagnetic phenomena that can adversely affect power grids and communications and navigation systems. Researchers from the University of Oslo have flown a rocket through the phenomena to take a closer look with the aim of gathering data that will help in predicting space weather.
Earth

Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge 676

Posted by timothy
from the line-in-the-sand dept.
conoviator writes Bill Nye, one of the foremost science educators in the United States states that only the upper crust members of American science and technology (with degrees from top tier schools) understand science, particularly climate change. He opines that "regular software writers" dwell in the realm of the semi-science-literate. Nye rates science education in the U.S. an F. ("But if it makes you feel any better, you can say a B-minus.")
Mars

Mars One Does Not Renew Contracts For Robotic Missions 110

Posted by timothy
from the first-one-was-good-enough dept.
braindrainbahrain writes Mars One is, of course, the highly speculative, low credibility project to land humans on Mars after a one-way trip. In 2013 they had announced that two contracts had been awarded to the aerospace industry to develop a Mars orbiter and a Mars lander to carry a science experiment payload to the surface. Both contracts have been completed, but so far, Mars One has no immediate plans to renew the contracts and pursue further development of the crafts.
Earth

Humans' Big Brains Linked To a Small Stretch of DNA 95

Posted by timothy
from the can't-have-nuclear-bombs-without-big-brains dept.
A new study (abstract) described in the L.A. Times suggests that "just 10 differences on one particular strand of human DNA lying near a brain-development gene could have been instrumental in the explosive growth in the human neocortex." The DNA region, containing just 1,200 base pairs, is not a gene. But it lies near one that is known to affect early development of the human neocortex, according to the study, published online Thursday in Current Biology. Researchers showed that the region, known as HARE5, acts as an enhancer of the gene FZD8. Embryos of mice altered with human HARE5 developed significantly larger brains and more neurons compared with embryos carrying the chimp version, according to the study.
The Almighty Buck

How One Climate-Change Skeptic Has Profited From Corporate Interests 448

Posted by timothy
from the note-that-doesn't-mean-he's-wrong dept.
Lasrick writes Elected officials who want to block the EPA and legislation on climate change frequently refer to a handful of scientists who dispute anthropogenic climate change. One of scientists they quote most often is Wei-Hock Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun's energy can largely explain recent global warming. Newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon has made a fortune from corporate interests. 'He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.' The Koch Brothers are cited as a source of Dr. Soon's funding.
ISS

ISS Crew Install Cables For 2017 Arrival of Commercial Capsules 100

Posted by timothy
from the in-meters-they're-even-longer dept.
The Associated Press, as carried by the San Francisco Chronicle, reports that NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Terry Virts have attached more than 300 feet of cable to the exterior of the International Space Station in a series of three planned spacewalks; in total, the wiring job they're undertaking will involve 764 feet of power and data cables. The extensive rewiring is needed to prepare for NASA’s next phase 260 miles up: the 2017 arrival of the first commercial spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts to the orbiting lab. NASA is paying Boeing and SpaceX to build the capsules and fly them from Cape Canaveral, which hasn’t seen a manned launch since the shuttles retired in 2011. Instead, Russia is doing all the taxi work — for a steep price. The first of two docking ports for the Boeing and SpaceX vessels — still under development — is due to arrive in June. Even more spacewalks will be needed to set everything up. Mission Control left two cables — or about 24 feet worth — for the next spacewalk coming up Wednesday. Four hundred feet of additional cable will be installed next Sunday on spacewalk No. 3.