The Almighty Buck

A Crowdfunding Site To Help Pay Patients' Medical Bills 285

Lucas123 writes: A start-up financial services company called Someone With Group has just completed a pilot of a crowdfunding service that allows hospitals to set up campaigns to help patients pay their medical expenses. The website, which is HIPAA compliant in terms of privacy and security, allows patients facing medical debts to inform family, friends and even strangers of their need for funds versus flowers or cards. The crowdfunding service also addresses a systemic debt issue in the healthcare industry. Each year, the U.S. healthcare industry writes off $40 billion in bad debt from unpaid medical bills. "Then you consider that $6 billion is spent on cards and flowers for patients every year. Why can't we redirect that money and put it into a debit instrument restricted to medical spending only?" said Jagemann-Bane, CEO of Someone With Group. One hospital group, Pinnacle Health Systems in Harrisburg, Penn., routinely writes off $40 million to $50 million a year in unpaid medical bills from patients. The hospital set up a crowdfunding site via Someone With Group and so far has seen a couple dozen patients use it. ... After a one-year pilot of the crowdfunding service, patients who've used it on average have raised $2,315.
Science

Consciousness May Be the Product of Carefully Balanced Chaos (sciencemag.org) 121

sciencehabit writes: The question of whether the human consciousness is subjective or objective is largely philosophical. But the line between consciousness and unconsciousness is a bit easier to measure. In a new study (abstract) of how anesthetic drugs affect the brain, researchers suggest that our experience of reality is the product of a delicate balance of connectivity between neurons—too much or too little and consciousness slips away. During wakeful consciousness, participants’ brains generated “a flurry of ever-changing activity”, and the fMRI showed a multitude of overlapping networks activating as the brain integrated its surroundings and generated a moment to moment “flow of consciousness.” After the propofol kicked in, brain networks had reduced connectivity and much less variability over time. The brain seemed to be stuck in a rut—using the same pathways over and over again.
Science

Why the Calorie Is Broken (arstechnica.com) 425

An anonymous reader writes: Nutrition is a subject for which everybody should understand the basics. Unfortunately, this is hard. Not only is there a ton of conflicting research about how to properly fuel your body, there's a multi-billion-dollar industry with financial incentive to muddy the waters. Further, one of the most basic concepts for how we evaluate food — the calorie — is incredibly imprecise. "Wilbur Atwater, a Department of Agriculture scientist, began by measuring the calories contained in more than 4,000 foods. Then he fed those foods to volunteers and collected their faeces, which he incinerated in a bomb calorimeter. After subtracting the energy measured in the faeces from that in the food, he arrived at the Atwater values, numbers that represent the available energy in each gram of protein, carbohydrate and fat. These century-old figures remain the basis for today's standards."

In addition to the measuring system being outdated, the amount of calories taken from a meal can vary from person to person. Differences in metabolism and digestive efficiency add sizable error bars. Then there are issues with serving sizes and preparation methods. Research is now underway to find a better measure of food intake than the calorie. One possibility for the future is mapping your internal chemistry and having it analyzed with a massive database to see what foods work best for you. Another may involve tweaking your gut microbiome to change how you extract energy from certain foods.

Earth

Flat-Earth Argument Results in Rap Battle (npr.org) 235

New submitter mjjochen writes: A little something to make you smile (or cry). NPR reports on astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson calling out rapper B.o.B. in a Twitter (& rap) argument over the status of the earth (are we round or flat?). Rapper B.o.B. references the usual conspiracy theories to support his case in his throwdown (music). Neil deGrasse Tyson responds (actually, his nephew does), on why B.o.B.'s points are not very well-informed (music). As Tyson puts it, "Duude — to be clear: Being five centuries regressed in your reasoning doesn't mean we all can't still like your music." Shall we start leeching the four humors from the body again to achieve balance? Hrm.
Data Storage

Six Missing HDDs Contain Health Information of Nearly a Million Patients (corporate-ir.net) 87

Lucas123 writes: Health insurer Centene Corp. revealed that it is looking for six HDDs with information on 950,000 customers that went missing during a data project that was using laboratory results to improve the health outcomes of patients. The drives not only contain sensitive personal identification information, such as addresses, dates of birth and social security numbers, but they also contain health information. "While we don't believe this information has been used inappropriately," said Michael Neidorff, CEO of Centene.
Science

New Clues To How the Brain Maps Time (quantamagazine.org) 79

An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Quanta Magazine: Our brains have an extraordinary ability to monitor time. A driver can judge just how much time is left to run a yellow light; a dancer can keep a beat down to the millisecond. But exactly how the brain tracks time is still a mystery. Researchers have defined the brain areas involved in movement, memory, color vision and other functions, but not the ones that monitor time. Indeed, our neural timekeeper has proved so elusive that most scientists assume this mechanism is distributed throughout the brain, with different regions using different monitors to keep track of time according to their needs.

Over the last few years, a handful of researchers have compiled growing evidence that the same cells that monitor an individual's location in space also mark the passage of time. This suggests that two brain regions — the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex, both famous for their role in memory and navigation — can also act as a sort of timer.

Math

Ask Slashdot: Math-Related Present For a Bright 10-Year-Old? 238

peetm writes: I have an above averagely bright nephew, aged 10, who's into maths and whose birthday is coming up soon. I'd like to get him a suitable present – most likely one that's mathematically centred. At Christmas we sat together while I helped him build a few very simple Python programs that 'animated' some simple but interesting maths, e.g., we built a factorial function, investigated the Collatz conjecture (3n + 1 problem) and talked about, but didn't implement Eratosthenes' Sieve – one step too far for him at the moment perhaps. I've looked about for books that might blend computing + maths, but haven't really found anything appropriate for a 10-year-old. I should be indebted to anyone who might suggest either a suitable maths book, or one that brings in some facet of computing. Or, if not a book, then some other present that might pique his interest.
Science

How Melinda Gates Got Her Daughters Excited About Science (geekwire.com) 106

theodp writes: GeekWire reports that Melinda Gates concluded a Davos panel discussion about gender parity with a personal story about her own family, explaining how she originally became interested in computer science, and how she later played Lab Manager to Bill's Mr. Wizard to help pass along their passion for science and math to their kids. "On Saturday mornings," Gates explained, "I wanted to sleep late. So you know what I did? I made sure there were science projects available, and that's what he did with our two daughters and our son. And guess what my two daughters are interested in? Science and math."
Medicine

US Regulators Find Serious Deficiencies At Theranos Lab (wsj.com) 66

An anonymous reader writes: 2016 has not started well for blood-testing startup Theranos. Already facing allegations of data manipulation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have found problems with Theranos' laboratory in Newark, California, putting the company's relationship with the Medicare program in danger. WSJ reports: "It isn't clear exactly what regulators have faulted Theranos for in their latest inspection, which took several months. Adverse findings would be another regulatory setback for one of Silicon Valley's highest-profile startups, valued at about $9 billion in 2014. Theranos already has stopped collecting tiny samples of blood from patients' fingers for all but one of its tests while it waits for the Food and Drug Administration to review the company's applications for wider use of the proprietary vials called 'nanotainers.' In October, the FDA said it had determined that the nanotainers were an 'uncleared medical device.'"
Youtube

YouTube and the Modern Mad Scientist (hackaday.com) 223

szczys writes: Making change for $1.00 and getting $1.10 back. That's the premise of overunity, free energy, and perpetual motion experiments. Using money as the the analogy is fitting because these concepts are heavily aligned with scams trying to land a payday for their "research". But there is another branch of people working on them: tinkerers who believe they can actually solve the problem. Laws of thermodynamics say otherwise, but this isn't necessarily wasted time. Other breakthroughs are waiting to be discovered as these mad scientists try to remove all efficiency losses from their doomed systems. YouTube can be an interesting place to look for ideas on low-friction, high efficiency fabrication.
Education

2016's First Batch of Anti-Science Education Bills Arrive In Oklahoma (arstechnica.com) 510

An anonymous reader writes: It's only January and we're already seeing the first anti-science education bills of 2016 going through the Oklahoma legislature. The state's lawmakers fight over this every year, and it looks like this year won't be any different. "The Senate version of the bill (PDF) is by State Senator Josh Brecheen, a Republican. It is the fifth year in a row he's introduced a science education bill after announcing he wanted 'every publicly funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution.' This year's version omits any mention of specific areas of science that could be controversial. Instead, it simply prohibits any educational official from blocking a teacher who wanted to discuss the 'strengths and weaknesses' of scientific theories.

The one introduced in the Oklahoma House (PDF) is more traditional. Billed as a 'Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act' (because freedom!), it spells out a whole host of areas of science its author doesn't like: 'The Legislature further finds that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics, and physics can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on some subjects such as, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.'"

Medicine

Chronic Stress Could Lead To Depression and Dementia, Scientists Warn (independent.co.uk) 60

schwit1 writes: A major review of published research suggests that chronic stress and anxiety can damage areas of the brain involved in emotional responses, thinking and memory, leading to depression and even Alzheimer's disease. Dr Linda Mah, the lead author of the review carried out at a research institute affiliated to the University of Toronto, said: 'Pathological anxiety and chronic stress are associated with structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia.'
Bitcoin

Is Blockchain the Most Important IT Invention of Our Age? (theguardian.com) 190

mspohr writes: This article makes a fairly persuasive argument for the utility of the blockchain. It discusses a wide variety of companies and government exploring blockchain to maintain secure records which cannot be altered. One interesting application is to use blockchain to maintain property records in many countries where these records are often incomplete and are easily corrupted (intentionally or unintentionally). A linked article in The Economist expands the thought and discusses changes to the blockchain to improve performance, reduce overhead and accommodate different uses. (See also this related poll.)
Moon

NASA's Deep Space Habitat Could Support the Journey To Mars and a Lunar Return (spaceflightinsider.com) 43

MarkWhittington writes: Back in 2012, when NASA first proposed building a deep space habitat (DSH) beyond the moon, the Obama administration took a dim view of the idea. However, fast forward over three years, and the idea has become part of the Journey to Mars program. According to a story in Spaceflight Insider, the deep space habitat will be deployed in cis-lunar space in the 2020s to test various technologies related to sending humans to Mars. The DSH could also be part of an infrastructure that would support a return to the moon should the next administration decide to go that route.
Math

Finally Calculated: All the Legal Positions In a 19x19 Game of Go (github.io) 117

Reader John Tromp points to an explanation posted at GitHub of a computational challenge Tromp coordinated that makes a nice companion to the recent discovery of a 22 million-digit Mersenne prime. A distributed effort using pooled computers from two centers at Princeton, and more contributed from the HP Helion cloud, after "many hiccups and a few catastrophes" calculated the number of legal positions in a 19x19 game of Go. Simple as Go board layout is, the permutations allowed by the rules are anything but simple to calculate: "For running an L19 job, a beefy server with 15TB of fast scratch diskspace, 8 to 16 cores, and 192GB of RAM, is recommended. Expect a few months of running time." More: Large numbers have a way of popping up in the game of Go. Few people believe that a tiny 2x2 Go board allows for more than a few hundred games. Yet 2x2 games number not in the hundreds, nor in the thousands, nor even in the millions. They number in the hundreds of billions! 386356909593 to be precise. Things only get crazier as you go up in boardsize. A lower bound of 10^{10^48} on the number of 19x19 games, as proved in our paper, was recently improved to a googolplex. (For anyone who wants to double check his work, Tromp has posted as open source the software used.)
Space

Blue Origin Launches and Lands the Same New Shepard That Few In November (blueorigin.com) 132

MarkWhittington writes: The commercial space race between Blue Origin and SpaceX got more interesting on Friday. In November, Blue Origin launched its New Shepard booster on a suborbital flight, and then successfully landed it afterward. On Friday, Blue Origin relaunched the same New Shepard spacecraft to a height of 101.7 kilometers, and then landed it a second time. Blue Origin has therefore accomplished a first by flying a vertical takeoff and landing rocket into space twice in a row. The company has taken another step toward its goal of taking the rich and adventurous on suborbital jaunts for fun and profit.
Medicine

Zika Virus Outbreak Prompts CDC To Expand Travel Advisory (washingtonpost.com) 83

turkeydance writes: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking pregnant women to avoid 22 countries that have seen outbreaks of the Zika virus. That's up eight from just yesterday. Disturbingly, the mosquito-borne virus, which may be causing abnormally small heads in newborns, has also been linked to yet another debilitating disease. The Zika virus has been spreading rapidly over the past several months, most prominently in Brazil. Its spread has been associated with a dramatic increase in microcephaly, a rare condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.
Earth

Mainstream Scientists Cashing In On Climate Wagers (reuters.com) 252

Layzej writes: Climate contrarians have long predicted imminent global cooling. A few have been willing to place wagers that mainstream scientists have been quick to accept. Often acceptance of the bet is followed by immediate retraction, as was the case when "Bastardi's Wager" was accepted by Joseph Romm or when Maurice Newman's $10,000 bet was accepted by physicist Brian Schmidt. In some cases, bets have been formalized and the terms of many of those wagers are coming to a close. It may not be surprising to learn that those who put their money on the side of mainstream science are the ones who are cashing in.

Reuters reports that British climate expert Chris Hope just won a 2,000 pound sterling ($2,830) wager made five years ago against two members of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, who had bet Hope that the Earth would be cooling by now. They also highlight a $10,000 bet made in 2005 between British climate modeler James Annan and two Russian solar physicists. The solar physicists had counted on waning solar output to halt warming. Annan will win if average global temperatures from 2013-17 are warmer than 2003-07. "Things are looking good for my bet," Annan said.

Keith Pickering reports on a series of three bets between Brian Schmidt and climate contrarian David Evans, who also believed that diminishing solar output would dominate the temperatures of the last decade and beyond. The wagers pay out in 2019, 2024, and 2029. Pickering concludes, "What Evans apparently doesn't realize is that because of the thermal inertia of the oceans, within narrow bounds we can already predict what global temperatures will be in 2019, 2024, and 2029. And David Evans is going to lose his shirt."

Earth

An Ancient, Brutal Massacre May Be the Earliest Evidence of War 151

HughPickens.com writes: Violence has always been part of human behavior, but the origins of war are hotly debated. Some experts see it as deeply rooted in evolution, pointing to violent confrontations among groups of chimpanzees as clues to an ancestral predilection while others emphasize the influence of complex and hierarchical human societies, and agricultural surpluses to be raided. Now James Gorman writes in the NY Times that scientists have discovered a site in Africa dated about 10,000 years ago where a group of hunter-gatherers attacked and slaughtered another, leaving the dead with crushed skulls, embedded arrow or spear points, and other devastating wound. It's not clear that anyone was spared at the Nataruk massacre. Of the 27 individuals found, eight were male and eight female, with five adults of unknown gender. The site also contained the partial remains of six children. Twelve of the skeletons were in a relatively complete state, and ten of those showed very clear evidence that they had met a violent end. In the paper, the researchers describe "extreme blunt-force trauma to crania and cheekbones, broken hands, knees and ribs, arrow lesions to the neck, and stone projectile tips lodged in the skull and thorax of two men." Four of them, including a late-term pregnant woman, appear to have had their hands bound. "These human remains record the intentional killing of a small band of foragers with no deliberate burial, and provide unique evidence that warfare was part of the repertoire of inter-group relations among some prehistoric hunter-gatherers," says Dr Marta Mirazon.

The killers carried weapons they wouldn't have used for hunting and fishing, including clubs of various sizes and a combination of close-proximity weapons like knives and distance weapons, including the arrow projectiles she calls a hallmark of inter-group conflict. " This suggests premeditation and planning," says Mirazon Lahr. Other, isolated examples of period violence have previously been found in the area, and those featured projectiles crafted of obsidian, which is rare in the area but also seen in the Nataruk wounds. This suggests that the attackers may have been from another area, and that multiple attacks were likely a feature of life at the time. "This implies that the resources the people of Nataruk had at the time were valuable and worth fighting for, whether it was water, dried meat or fish, gathered nuts or indeed women and children. This shows that two of the conditions associated with warfare among settled societies—control of territory and resources—were probably the same for these hunter-gatherers, and that we have underestimated their role in prehistory."
Space

Russia Forming Space Alliance With Iran, May Fly Iranian Astronaut (examiner.com) 107

MarkWhittington writes: Quietly, the Russians appear to be forming a space alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to a story in Sputnik. Not only is Russia in talks to launch Iranian satellites on Russian rockets but also to include an Iranian astronaut on a future space mission. What that space mission might be is open to question. A visit by an Iranian astronaut to the International Space Station would likely kick up a political firestorm with the United States, even though the Obama administration is attempting to develop a rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.

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