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Medicine

The Science of Incivility 108 108

An anonymous reader writes: Stress causes health issues — we've known this for years. But what's harder to figure out is what exactly qualifies as stress. It's easy to understand that working as an EMT or police officer can be stressful. But as medical researchers are beginning to learn, minor stress events common to all workplaces eventually add up — the cumulative stress from workplace incivility can have huge consequences for both health and performance. "A study published in 2012 that tracked women for 10 years concluded that stressful jobs increased the risk of a cardiovascular event by 38 percent. ... In [another] study, the experimenter belittled the peer group of the participants, who then performed 33 percent worse on anagram word puzzles and came up with 39 percent fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming task focused on how they might use a brick." Many people brush off efforts to be civil, saying they have too little time, or too much on their mind. But further studies have shown it takes very little — a smile here and there, or the occasional "thank you" — to have surprisingly strong effects on how people are perceived. The article argues that it's worth the effort, given the costs for failure.
Space

Venus May Have Active Volcanoes 45 45

An anonymous reader writes: The European Space Agency's Venus Express spacecraft has discovered hot lava flows on the surface of Venus, providing the best evidence yet that the planet may have active volcanoes. "[U]sing a near-infrared channel of the spacecraft's Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) to map thermal emission from the surface through a transparent spectral window in the planet's atmosphere, an international team of planetary scientists has spotted localized changes in surface brightness between images taken only a few days apart (abstract)." Venus is fairly similar to Earth in size and composition, which suggests it has an internal heat source. One of the biggest mysteries about Venus is how that heat escapes, and volcanic activity could be the answer.
Science

'Brain-to-Text' Interface Types Thoughts of Epileptic Patients 31 31

Jason Koebler writes with a link to Motherboard's article about research from the Schalk Lab of Albany, New York, where researchers "have just demonstrated for the first time that it's possible to turn a person's thoughts into a legible phrase using what they're calling a "brain-to-text" interface," writing "It's still still the early days of this technology—electrodes had to be placed directly on the brain and the 'dictionary' of phrases was limited. Still, brainwaves of thought patterns were turned into text at a rate much better than chance."
Medicine

Triggering a Mouse's Happy Memories With Lasers Gives It the Will To Struggle On 66 66

the_newsbeagle writes: With optogenetics, scientists can tag neurons with light-responsive proteins, and then trigger those neurons to "turn on" with the pulse of a light. In the latest application, MIT researchers used light to turn on certain neurons in male mice's hippocampi that were associated with a happy memory (coming into contact with female mice!), and then tested whether that artificially activated memory changed the mice's reactions to a stressful situation (being hung by their tails). Mice who got jolted with the happy memory struggled to get free for longer than the control mice. This tail-suspension test was developed to screen potential antidepressant drugs: If a rodent struggles longer before giving up, it's considered less depressed.
Space

Orbiting 'Rest Stops' Could Repair Crumbling Satellites 59 59

astroengine writes: Satellites are numerous, vital to many modern activities, and incredibly expensive to build and launch. They're constructed with redundancy and simplicity in mind because if something goes wrong after the satellite reaches orbit, we can't do much to help it. Now, NASA is talking about building an orbital service station that can perform maintenance, repair, and even refueling operations on these satellites. "Is there a way working with humans and robots together to extend the useful life of satellites, by fixing them and by not allowing fuel to spill out, but give it more propellant, close it up and send it on its way?," said Benjamin Reed, deputy director of the Satellite Servicing Program Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Yes, We have the technologies to be able to do it."
Biotech

Editing DNA For Fame and Fortune 62 62

An anonymous reader writes: The world of genome editing is booming, with several startups racing to develop new tools and therapies out of the DNA-hacking insights of several hotshot scientists. Venture capitalists are pouring big money into this so-called 'CRISPR craze,' which has attracted over $600 million in funding since the beginning of 2013. But major questions loom over who is the rightful owner of this technology, and the leading parties are battling for control of the key patents. Will this new crop of genome-editing companies survive long enough to fulfill their promise of treating genetic disorders? As the patent feud wages on, lives and fortunes hang in the balance.
Medicine

Researchers Claim a Few Cat Videos Per Day Helps Keep the Doctor Away 59 59

bigwophh writes: A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior suggests that watching videos of cats may be good for your health. The study pinged nearly 7,000 people and asked them how viewing cat videos affected their moods. Of those surveyed, over a third (36 percent) described themselves as a "cat person" and nearly two-thirds (60 percent) said they have an affinity for both dogs and cats. Survey subjects noted less tendencies towards feeling anxious, sad, or annoyed after watching cat videos, including times when they viewed the videos while at work or trying to study. They also reported feeling more energetic and more positive afterwards. There may have been some guilt from putting off work or studying to watch Internet videos, but the amusement they got from seeing the antics of cats more than made up for it.
Earth

Big-Data Animal Tracking As an Eye On Life and Planet 28 28

New submitter Thoe writes: As published in Science Magazine and covered by The Washington Post, the continued evolution of animal tracking through various technologies combined with Big Data analytical techniques is driving a push into the "Golden Age" of remote tracking of animals and the environment.

From the abstract: "The unique perspective offered by big-data animal tracking enables a new view of animals as naturally evolved sensors of environment, which we think has the potential to help us monitor the planet in completely new ways. A massive multi-individual monitoring program would allow a quorum sensing of our planet, using a variety of species to tap into the diversity of senses that have evolved across animal groups, providing new insight on our world through the sixth sense of the global animal collective." (Full disclosure, yes, my brother is one of the publishers.)
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What's the Harm In a Default Setting For Div By Zero? 1066 1066

New submitter CodeInspired writes: After 20 years of programming, I've decided I'm tired of checking for div by zero. Would there be any serious harm in allowing a system wide setting that said div by zero simply equals zero? Maybe it exists already, not sure. But I run into it all the time in every language I've worked with. Does anyone want their div by zero errors to result in anything other than zero?
Moon

Russian Official Calls For "International Investigation" of the Apollo Program 307 307

MarkWhittington writes: According to a Tuesday article in the Moscow Times, a spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee named Vladimir Markin suggested that an international investigation be mounted into some of the "various murky details surrounding the U.S. moon landings between 1969 and 1972." Markin would particularly like to know where some of the missing moon rocks went to and why the original footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing was erased. Markin hastened to add that he is, of course, not suggesting that NASA faked the moon landings and just filmed the events in a studio.
Space

Should Nuclear Devices Be Kept On Hand To Protect Against Near Earth Objects? 272 272

Lasrick writes: Seth Baum ponders whether nuclear devices should be kept on hand for the purpose of destroying near-Earth objects (NEOs) that pose a threat to the planet. Baum acknowledges that "The risk posed by NEOs is not zero, but it is small relative to the risk posed by nuclear weapons." Even so, Baum writes, since the consequences of an NEO hitting the earth would be catastrophic, keeping 10 or 20 nuclear devices available might be a good idea, and would be "insignificant compared to the thousands now held in military arsenals."
Power

Energy Harnessed From Humidity Can Power Small Devices 41 41

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have built small devices that generate electricity by harnessing changes in the ambient humidity. This is done through the use of dormant bacterial spores which expand when they absorb moisture from the air. To prove the concept, researchers attached the spores to one side of a curved polymer sheet, and when the spores absorbed humidity from the air, the sheet straightened out. Coupling this movement with an electromagnetic generator allowed them to harvest enough energy to power small devices like an LED and a 100-gram toy car.
United States

FDA Bans Trans Fat 851 851

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finally come to a conclusion about artificial trans fat: it must be removed from the U.S. food supply over the next three years. According to their final determination (PDF), there's no longer a scientific consensus that partially hydrogenated oils are safe to consume. Trans fat must be gone from food in the U.S. by June, 2018, unless a petitioner is granted specific approval by the FDA to continue using it. "Many baked goods such as pie crusts and biscuits as well as canned frosting still use partially hydrogenated oils because they help baked goods maintain their flakiness and frostings be spreadable. As for frying, palm oil is expected to be a go-to alternative, while modified soybean oil may catch on as well." The food industry is expected to spend $6.2 billion over the next two decades to formulate replacements, but the money saved from health benefits is expected to be more than 20 times higher.
Stats

CDC: Americans Getting Heavier, Average Woman Weighs As Much As 1960s Man 409 409

schwit1 writes: New statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the average American has packed on the pounds in the past 50 years. Both men and women have gained a considerable amount of weight since 1960, with the average American woman now weighing 166.2 pounds — nearly identical to what American men weighed in the 1960s. U.S. men have been getting bigger too, gaining nearly 30 pounds from the 1960s to 2010 — 166.3 pounds to 195.5 pounds today. The good news is that both sexes have gained almost an inch in height since then, so that accounts for some of the overall weight gain.
Communications

Philae's Lost Seven Months Were Completely Unnecessary 419 419

StartsWithABang writes: This past weekend, the Philae lander reawakened after seven dormant months, the best outcome that mission scientists could've hoped for with the way the mission unfolded. But the first probe to softly land on a comet ever would never have needed to hibernate at all if we had simply built it with the nuclear power capabilities it should've had. The seven months of lost data were completely unnecessary, and resulted solely from the world's nuclear fears.
Space

'Warm Neptune' Exoplanets May Have Lots of Helium 20 20

An anonymous reader writes: Phil Plait reports on new research into exoplanets that came to an unexpected and non-obvious conclusion. Throughout the galaxy, astronomers have been finding exoplanets they call "warm Neptunes" — bodies about the size of Neptune, but which orbit their parent star more closely than Mercury orbits the Sun. When astronomers looked at spectra for these planets, they found something surprising: no methane signature (PDF). Methane is made of carbon and hydrogen, and it's generally assumed that most large, gaseous planets will have a lot of hydrogen. But this class of exoplanet, being significantly smaller than, say, Jupiter, may not have the mass (and thus the gravity) to hold on to its hydrogen when it's heated by the close proximity to the star. The result is that the atmosphere may be largely made up of helium instead. If so, the planet would look oddly colorless to our eyes, very unlike the planets in our solar system.
Medicine

Monitoring Brain Activity With Mesh Electronics 31 31

An anonymous reader writes: Medical researchers have long known that bioelectronics could substantially improve patient diagnosis and treatment, but the difficulty in putting that circuitry into place kept more traditional options at the forefront. Now, a team of scientists has found a clever way to deliver flexible electronic meshes via syringe, which could make it easier to monitor complex brain activity without dangerous surgery. "The scientists demonstrated they could inject a 2mm wide sample of the mesh through a glass needle with an inner diameter of only 95m. During injection, the mesh structure continuously unfolds as it exits the needle. Injection of the mesh through a needle with a 600m inner diameter produced similar results." The team has already tested the technique on rodents, and found minimal response from astrocytes, cells involved in repairing damaged brain tissue. They were able to record the rodents's brain activity as well.
Mars

A First: CubeSat-Style Probes To Accompany InSight Mars Lander 22 22

Hundreds of CubeSats have been launched to Earth orbit since 2003. Now, though, two of the small-form-factor craft are set for a deeper space mission. According to Spaceflight Now, The twin CubeSat mission, known as Mars Cube One, will launch on an Atlas 5 rocket in March 2016 with NASA’s InSight lander. The CubeSats will relay status signals from InSight as the landing probe descends through the atmosphere, eliminating potential delays in verifying the success of the mission. ... Each Mars Cube One, or MarCO, CubeSat spacecraft measures 14.4 inches (36.6 centimeters) by 9.5 inches (24.3 centimeters) by 4.6 inches (11.8 centimeters) when closed up for launch, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which announced details of the mission Friday. The standardized and small CubeSat has made satellite design and launching accessible to schools and others; going to Mars costs a lot more (in this case it's a "$13 million secondary mission"), but it could conceivably put interplanetary probes possible for deep-pocketed universities or corporations.
Handhelds

UW Researchers Prototype Sonar-Based Contactless Sleep Monitoring 40 40

n01 writes: Researchers of the University of Washington are testing the prototype of their ApneaApp to diagnose sleep apnea, a health problem that can become life-threatening. To monitor a person's sleep, the app transforms the user's smartphone into an active sonar system that tracks tiny changes in a person's movements. The phone's speaker sends out inaudible sound waves, which bounce off a sleeping person's body and are picked back up by the phone's microphone. "It's similar to the way bats navigate," said Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, lead author and a doctoral candidate in the UW's department of computer science and engineering. "They send out sound signals that hit a target, and when those signals bounce back they know something is there." In technical terms, the app continuously analyzes changes in the acoustic room-transfer-function (sampled at ultrasonic frequencies) to detect motion. This is very similar to what the iPhone app Sleep Cycle Sonalarm Clock does, except that the UW researchers have improved the sensitivity of the method so it can precisely track the person's breathing movements which allows it to not only detect different sleep phases but also sleep apnea events. The advantage in both use cases is that the sleep monitoring is contact-less (there's nothing in the user's bed that could disturb their sleep) and doesn't require any additional hardware besides the user's smart phone.
Communications

Online At Last: Comet Lander Philae Wakes Up 62 62

techtech writes with this news from the BBC: The European Space Agency (ESA) says its comet lander, Philae, has woken up and contacted Earth. Philae, the first spacecraft to land on a comet, was dropped on to the surface of Comet 67P by its mothership, Rosetta, last November. It worked for 60 hours before its solar-powered battery ran flat. The comet has since moved nearer to the sun and Philae has enough power to work again, says the BBC's science correspondent Jonathan Amos. An account linked to the probe tweeted the message, "Hello Earth! Can you hear me?" Watch this space for some more links to follow. Update: 06/14 13:39 GMT by T : From the ESA's Rosetta blog: When analysing the status data it became clear that Philae also must have been awake earlier: "We have also received historical data - so far, however, the lander had not been able to contact us earlier," [according to project manager Dr. Stephan Ulamec.] Now the scientists are waiting for the next contact. There are still more than 8000 data packets in Philae’s mass memory which will give the DLR team information on what happened to the lander in the past few days on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.