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Journalist: NASA Administrator Has Short Memory on Changing Space Policy ( 87

MarkWhittington writes: Recently, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated that NASA would be "doomed" if the next president were to deviate in any way from the current Journey to Mars program. Space journalist and founder of the America Space website Jim Hillhouse took exception to Bolden's assertion in a letter to the aerospace newspaper Space News. In the process, Hillhouse provides a good summary of how space policy has evolved during the past five years under the Obama administration.

Microsoft To Provide New Encryption Algorithm For the Healthcare Sector 85

An anonymous reader writes: The healthcare sector gets a hand from Microsoft, who will release a new encryption algorithm which will allow developers to handle genomic data in encrypted format, without the need of decryption, and by doing so, minimizing security risks. The new algorithm is dubbed SEAL (Simple Encrypted Arithmetic Library) and is based on homomorphic encryption, which allows mathematical operations to be run on encrypted data, yielding the same results as if it would run on the cleartext version. Microsoft will create a new tool and offer it as a free download. They've also published the theoretical research. For now, the algorithm can handle only genomic data.

World's First "Porous Liquid" Could Be Used For CO2 Sequestration ( 91

Zothecula sends word that scientists have developed the world's first "porous" liquid that can potentially be used to capture carbon emissions. Gizmag reports: "The Italians have a colorful expression – to make a hole in water – to describe an effort with no hope of succeeding. Researchers at Queen's University Belfast (QUB), however, have seemingly managed the impossible, creating a class of liquids that feature permanent holes at the molecular level. The properties of the new materials are still largely unknown, but what has been gleaned so far suggests they could be used for more convenient carbon capturing or as a molecular sieve to quickly separate different gases."

The Next Big IT Projects From the University Labs ( 29

snydeq writes: From unstructured data mining to visual microphones, academic labs are bringing future breakthrough possibilities to light, writes InfoWorld's Peter Wayner in his overview of nine university projects that could have lasting impact on IT. 'Open source programmers can usually build better code faster, often because they have bosses who pay them to build something that will pay off next quarter, not next century. Yet good computer science departments still manage to punch above — sometimes well above — their weight. While a good part of the research is devoted to arcane topics like the philosophical limits of computation, some of it can be tremendously useful for the world at large. What follows are nine projects currently under development at university labs that [could] have a broad impact on the world of computing.'

'Shrinking Bull's-eye' Algorithm Speeds Up Complex Modeling From Days To Hours ( 48

rtoz sends word of the discovery of a new algorithm that dramatically reduces the computation time for complex processes. Scientists from MIT say it conceptually resembles a shrinking bull's eye, incrementally narrowing down on its target. "With this method, the researchers were able to arrive at the same answer as a classic computational approaches, but 200 times faster." Their full academic paper is available at the arXiv. "The algorithm can be applied to any complex model to quickly determine the probability distribution, or the most likely values, for an unknown parameter. Like the MCMC analysis, the algorithm runs a given model with various inputs — though sparingly, as this process can be quite time-consuming. To speed the process up, the algorithm also uses relevant data to help narrow in on approximate values for unknown parameters."

Louis Friedman Says Humans Will Never Venture Beyond Mars ( 378

MarkWhittington writes: Dr. Louis Friedman, one of the co-founders of the Planetary Society, is coming out with a new book, "Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars," an excerpt of which was published in Scientific America. Friedman revives and revises a version of the humans vs. robots controversy that has roiled through aerospace circles for decades. Unlike previous advocates of restricting space travel to robots, such as Robert Park and the late James Van Allen, Friedman admits that humans are going to Mars to settle. But there, human space travel will end. Only robots will ever venture further.

Experimental Drug Targeting Alzheimer's Disease Shows Anti-Aging Effects ( 101

schwit1 writes with news that researchers at the Salk Institute have found that an experimental drug candidate aimed at combating Alzheimer's disease has a host of unexpected anti-aging effects in animals. Says the article: The Salk team expanded upon their previous development of a drug candidate, called J147, which takes a different tack by targeting Alzheimer's major risk factor–old age. In the new work, the team showed that the drug candidate worked well in a mouse model of aging not typically used in Alzheimer's research. When these mice were treated with J147, they had better memory and cognition, healthier blood vessels in the brain and other improved physiological features.

"Initially, the impetus was to test this drug in a novel animal model that was more similar to 99 percent of Alzheimer's cases," says Antonio Currais, the lead author and a member of Professor David Schubert's Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at Salk. "We did not predict we'd see this sort of anti-aging effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters."


Quantum Entanglement Survives, Even Across an Event Horizon 152

StartsWithABang writes: One of the more puzzling phenomena in our quantum Universe is that of entanglement: two particles remain in mutually indeterminate states until one is measured, and then the other — even if it's across the Universe — is immediately known. In theory, this should be true even if one member of the pair falls into a black hole, although it's impossible to measure that. However, we can (and have) measured that for the laboratory analogue of black holes, known as "dumb holes," and the entanglement survives!

Experiment On Public Pre-reviewing and Discussion of Workshop Paper Submissions ( 41

An anonymous reader writes: The ADAPT workshop (6th international workshop on adaptive, self-tuning computing systems) is trying a new publication model: all papers have been submitted via Arxiv, are now publicly discussed via Reddit, and will then be selected by a Program Committee for a presentation at the workshop. The idea is to speed up dissemination of novel ideas while making reviews more fair and letting the authors actively engage in discussions, defend their techniques, fix mistakes and eventually improve their open articles.

Neurons Can Be Changed From One Type To Another, Communication Paths Rewired ( 31

schwit1 writes: A newly published study from Harvard biologists [here's a link to the paywalled paper's summary] shows how neurons can be dramatically changed from one type into another from within the brain and how neighboring neurons recognize the reprogrammed cells as different and adapt by changing how they communicate with them. Building on earlier work in which they disproved neurobiology dogma by "reprogramming" neurons — turning one form of neuron into another — in the brains of living animals, Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers have now shown that the networks of communication among reprogrammed neurons and their neighbors can also be changed, or "rewired."

Earth May Have Kept Its Own Water Rather Than Getting It From Asteroids ( 45

sciencehabit writes: Carl Sagan famously dubbed Earth the 'pale blue dot' for our planet's abundant water. But where this water came from—and when it arrived—has been a longstanding debate. Many scientists argue that Earth formed as a dry planet, and gained its water millions of years later through the impact of water-bearing asteroids or comets. But now, scientists say that Earth may have had water from the start, inheriting it directly from the swirling nebula that gave birth to the solar system. If true, the results suggest that water-rich planets may abound in the universe.

Lunar Scientist Proposes Dozens of Impact Probes To Map Moon's Water ( 35

MarkWhittington writes: Water ice believed by scientists to reside at the lunar poles is the key to opening up the solar system to human activity. The water could help sustain a lunar settlement. It could also be refined into rocket fuel, not only to sustain travel to and from the moon but to make it a refueling stop for spacecraft headed deeper into the solar system. A recent MIT study suggested that lunar fuel would simplify NASA's Journey to Mars. Lunar scientist Paul Spudis, writing in Air and Space Magazine, pondered the next step in determining the extent and composition of the lunar ice. Spudis' idea is to deploy several dozen impact probes across one of the lunar polar regions.

Video Space Exploration Politics -- and an Explanation of the Apollo Flag 'Mystery' (Video) 39

Meet Tom Moser. And here's another NASA oral history interview with him. And we interviewed him last week ourselves. Tom has been involved, one way or another, as engineer or manager, with every American manned space flight program since 1963. Now, among other things, he's thinking of ways multiple governments and private companies can share their resources to make future space exploration feasible, which may not be engineering -- but in many cases politics can be more important than designing and building the hardware, which is why it's worth learning about.

And thinking of hardware, do you remember the conspiracy people talking about how the U.S. flag on the moon was faked because there's no way it could wave in the breeze without an atmosphere? Moser gives us the inside scoop on that: it was an engineering screwup, and at least partly his fault. Whoops!

UK May Blacklist Homeopathy ( 287

New submitter Maritz writes: Vindication may be on the horizon for people who defer to reality in matters of health — UK ministers are considering whether homeopathy should be put on a blacklist of treatments GPs in England are banned from prescribing, the BBC has learned. The controversial practice is based on the principle that "like cures like," but critics say patients are being given useless sugar pills. The Faculty of Homeopathy said patients supported the therapy. A consultation is expected to take place in 2016. The total NHS bill for homeopathy, including homeopathic hospitals and GP prescriptions, is thought to be about £4m.

It's Way Too Easy To Hack the Hospital ( 116

schwit1 sends along a lengthy piece from Bloomberg about the chaos currently surrounding medical device security: The Mayo Clinic had assembled an all-star team of about a dozen computer jocks, investigators from some of the biggest cybersecurity firms in the country, as well as the kind of hackers who draw crowds at conferences such as Black Hat and Def Con. The researchers split into teams, and hospital officials presented them with about 40 different medical devices. Do your worst, the researchers were instructed. Hack whatever you can.

Like the printers, copiers, and office telephones used across all industries, many medical devices today are networked, running standard operating systems and living on the Internet just as laptops and smartphones do. Like the rest of the Internet of Things—devices that range from cars to garden sprinklers—they communicate with servers, and many can be controlled remotely. As quickly became apparent to Rios and the others, hospital administrators have a lot of reasons to fear hackers. For a full week, the group spent their days looking for backdoors into magnetic resonance imaging scanners, ultrasound equipment, ventilators, electroconvulsive therapy machines, and dozens of other contraptions. The teams gathered each evening inside the hospital to trade casualty reports.

"Every day, it was like every device on the menu got crushed," Rios says. "It was all bad. Really, really bad." The teams didn't have time to dive deeply into the vulnerabilities they found, partly because they found so many—defenseless operating systems, generic passwords that couldn't be changed, and so on.

Sooner or later, hospitals would be hacked, and patients would be hurt. He'd gotten privileged glimpses into all sorts of sensitive industries, but hospitals seemed at least a decade behind the standard security curve. "Someone is going to take it to the next level. They always do," says Rios. "The second someone tries to do this, they'll be able to do it. The only barrier is the goodwill of a stranger."


Usernames Reveal the Age and Psychology of Game Players ( 262

limbicsystem writes: Your online name can reveal a lot about you. Researchers from the University of York and Riot Games have shown that information harvested from the usernames of players who signed up to 'League of Legends' can sometime reveal both their ages and how they behave online. And the short story is that both younger players and players with obnoxious names are more likely to exhibit toxic online behavior.

Paper Retracted After Anti-Immigrant Scientist Bans Use of His Software ( 416

sciencehabit writes: An 11-year-old research paper describing Treefinder, a computer program used by evolutionary biologists, has been retracted after the program's developer banned its use in European countries he deemed too friendly to refugees. In September, German scientist Gangolf Jobb announced on his website that researchers in eight European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, were no longer allowed to use Treefinder, which builds phylogenetic trees from sequence data. The move sparked outrage among some scientists, and now, BMC Evolutionary Biology has pulled the 2004 paper describing the software because the license change 'breaches the journal's editorial policy on software availability.'

Comet Catalina To Pass By Earth For the Final Time 54

StartsWithABang writes: Originating from the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, comets are generally thought of as periodic objects, with their initial trajectories having been perturbed by either Neptune, another distant object or a passing star or rogue planet. But most comets aren't periodic; they're transient instead, where a trip into the inner Solar System gives them additional gravitational perturbations, causing them to either fly into the Sun or gain enough kinetic energy to escape entirely. This latter fate is the case for Comet Catalina, which reaches perihelion on November 15th and then heads out of the Solar System after putting on one final show for observers on Earth.

Bill Confirming Property Rights For Asteroid Miners Passes the Senate ( 171

MarkWhittington writes: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee announced the passage of a bill called H.R.2262 — SPACE Act of 2015, which is designed to facilitate commercial space. The bill has a number of provisions for that purpose, including extending the "learning period" during which the government would be restricted from imposing regulations on the commercial launch industry to September 2023. The most interesting and potentially far-reaching provision concerned property rights for companies proposing to mine asteroids for their resources. In essence, the bill confirms that private companies own what they mine. The bill is a compromise between previous Senate and House versions.

Astronomers Spot Most Distant Object In the Solar System ( 85

sciencehabit writes: Astronomers have found the most distant known object in our solar system, three times farther away than Pluto. The dwarf planet, which has been designated v774104, is between 500 and 1000 kilometers across. It will take another year before scientists pin down its orbit, but it could end up joining an emerging class of extreme solar system objects whose strange orbits point to the hypothetical influence of rogue planets or nearby stars. In other planetary science news, UCLA professor Jean-Luc Margot has proposed a new definition of the term "planet" which would allow for the inclusion of exoplanets. His metric is laid out in an academic paper available at the arXiv.