The tough economic times have had a huge effect on scientific research and development funding. The looming "fiscal cliff" may be the last straw for many programs. "The American science programs that landed the first man on the moon, found cures for deadly diseases and bred crops that feed the world now face the possibility of becoming relics in the story of human progress. American scientific research and development stands to lose thousands of jobs and face a starvation diet of reduced funding if politicians fail to compromise and halt the United States' march towards the fiscal cliff's sequestration of federal funds."
A study has found that a decreased pH level in the antarctic is damaging the shells of native wildlife. "Marine snails in seas around Antarctica are being affected by ocean acidification, scientists have found. An international team of researchers found that the snails' shells are being corroded. Experts says the findings are significant for predicting the future impact of ocean acidification on marine life. The results of the study are published in the journal Nature Geoscience (abstract). The marine snails, called "pteropods", are an important link in the oceanic food chain as well as a good indicator of ecosystem health. 'They are a major grazer of phytoplankton and... a key prey item of a number of higher predators - larger plankton, fish, seabirds, whales,' said Dr Geraint Tarling, Head of Ocean Ecosystems at the British Antarctic Survey and co-author of the report."
SternisheFan writes "The structure of the universe and the laws that govern its growth may be more similar than previously thought to the structure and growth of the human brain and other complex networks, such as the Internet or a social network of trust relationships between people, according to a new study. 'By no means do we claim that the universe is a global brain or a computer,' said Dmitri Krioukov, co-author of the paper, published by the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego.'But the discovered equivalence between the growth of the universe and complex networks strongly suggests that unexpectedly similar laws govern the dynamics of these very different complex systems,' Krioukov noted."
An anonymous reader writes "Vaccines, contrary to opinions from the anti-science crowd, are some of the most effective tools in modern medicine. For some diseases, a single shot is all it takes for lifetime immunity. Others, though, require booster shots, to remind your immune system exactly what it should prepare to fight. Failure to get these shots threatens an individual's health, and the herd immunity concept as well. Scientists are now looking into 'self-boosting' vaccines in order to fix that problem. Some viruses are capable of remaining in the body for a person's entire lifetime. If researchers can figure out a way to safely harness these, it may be possible to add genes that would create proteins to train the immune system against not just one, but multiple other viruses (abstract). This is a difficult problem to solve; changing the way we do vaccinations will itself have consequences for herd immunity. It also hinges on finding a virus that can survive the immune system without having uncomfortable flare-ups from time to time."
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from the NY Times: "Advances in an artificial intelligence technology that can recognize patterns offer the possibility of machines that perform human activities like seeing, listening and thinking. ... But what is new in recent months is the growing speed and accuracy of deep-learning programs, often called artificial neural networks or just 'neural nets' for their resemblance to the neural connections in the brain. 'There has been a number of stunning new results with deep-learning methods,' said Yann LeCun, a computer scientist at New York University who did pioneering research in handwriting recognition at Bell Laboratories. 'The kind of jump we are seeing in the accuracy of these systems is very rare indeed.' Artificial intelligence researchers are acutely aware of the dangers of being overly optimistic. ... But recent achievements have impressed a wide spectrum of computer experts. In October, for example, a team of graduate students studying with the University of Toronto computer scientist Geoffrey E. Hinton won the top prize in a contest sponsored by Merck to design software to help find molecules that might lead to new drugs. From a data set describing the chemical structure of 15 different molecules, they used deep-learning software to determine which molecule was most likely to be an effective drug agent."
Frosty P. writes "Scientists have discovered a new smell, but you may have to go to a laboratory to experience it yourself. The smell is dubbed 'olfactory white,' because it is the nasal equivalent of white noise, researchers report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Just as white noise is a mixture of many different sound frequencies and white light is a mixture of many different wavelengths, olfactory white is a mixture of many different smells. In a series of experiments, they exposed participants to dozens of equally mixed smells, and what they discovered is that our brains treat smells as a single unit, not as a mixture of compounds to break down, analyze and put back together again."
An anonymous reader writes "For the first time, blind people could read street signs with a device that translates letters into Braille and beams the results directly onto a person's eye." According to the article, "In a trial conducted on a single patient who already used the [predecessor] device, the person was able to correctly read Braille letters up to 89 percent of the time, and most of the inaccuracy appeared when the participant misread a single letter. The user was able to read one word a second."
mbstone writes "The Namib Desert Beetle generates water from water vapor via its shell, which has alternating hydrophilic and hydrophobic bumps which channel water droplets into its mouth. Scientists at MIT developed a self-filling water bottle using this technology, and have announced a contest for the best design of a countertop water-from-air generator."
Freshly Exhumed writes "Dr. Clive Boddy believes that increasingly fluid corporate career paths have helped psychopaths conceal their disruptive workplace behavior and ascend to previously unattainable levels of authority. Boddy points out psychopaths are primarily attracted to money, status and power, currently found in unparalleled abundance in the global banking sector. As if to prove the point, many of the world's money traders self identify as the "masters of the universe." Solution? Screening with psychological tests. Who would pay for it? The insurance industry." The tech world has plenty of company heads who've been called psychopaths, too — but would you want to actually change that?
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers believe that they have found the definitive difference between humans and other primates, and they think that the difference all comes down to a single gene."
Rambo Tribble writes "Reuters reports 4D scans have conclusively shown that fetuses do yawn. Understandable, eh? After all, all they get is cable."
Hugh Pickens writes "This is Americans' big week to give thanks. Now Russell McLendon writes that giving thanks can do wonders for the human brain according to researchers at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center where scientists have developed an easy way for people to do just that and, at the same time, contribute to a national research project and maybe also improve their lives. The project is part of a $5.6 million, three-year national effort called 'Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude,' funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The center has gone live with Thnx4.org, an interactive, shareable gratitude journal and has invited people in the campus community to take part in the Cal Gratitude Challenge by keeping a two-week online 'gratitude journal' and, if they choose, sharing their posts with others. Early research into the power of gratitude journals ended up proving that students who wrote down everything they were grateful for strengthened their overall resilience and became less vulnerable to everyday stresses and complaints like rashes and headaches, says Emiliana Simon-Thomas. 'Thnx4.org wanted to make this spiral notebook very accessible, and to make the research a little more specific than it has been historically,' says Simon-Thomas. Online, anyone can take part — and potentially reap the benefits. The Cal Gratitude Challenge opened November 1 and will remain open throughout November but the project has a three-year grant and participants will be able to maintain their journals for the duration and first results from the data are expected in January. 'We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we've received,' writes Robert Emmons as part of the project. 'This doesn't mean that life is perfect; it doesn't ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.'"
First time accepted submitter almostadnsguy writes "There seem to be a lot of ways to cook a turkey the geekiest ones are probably out of the realm of possibility for normal geeks. However, Within the limits of normal society (or outside if you wish) what is the geekiest way to do it? Do you use a special brine, cook it in an inventive way, or raise genetically modified turkeys with extra legs?"
theodp writes "Two decades before Moneyball hit the Big Screen, Coach David Arseneault of tiny Grinnell College came up with a unique style of run-and-gun basketball that he called The System, the principles of which were subjected to statistical analysis in Keys to Success in a Run-and-Gun Basketball System, a paper for the 2011 Joint Statistical Meetings. Well, as they say, sometimes The System works. On Tuesday, biochem major Jack Taylor, just three games into his career as a Grinnell College basketball player, made national news when he poured in 138 points — yes, 138 points — in a 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible College. Even LeBron and Kobe were impressed. The old NCAA Division III record of 89 was set last year by Taylor's Grinnell teammate, Griffin Lentsch. Taylor's feat also bested what was deemed to be the unbeatable overall NCAA scoring record of 113 points, set by NCAA Division II performer Clarence 'Bevo' Francis of Rio Grande in 1954."
BeatTheChip writes "Lawyers representing Andrea Hernandez, a science and engineering student at John Jay High School, are fighting an expulsion notice issued a week ago for refusing to wear a Smart ID badge. To represent her, lawyers filed a preliminary court injunction, seeking legal restraints on the school. She maintains stance of refusal to wear any badge containing an RFID tag for reasons of basic privacy and conflicts with her belief system. The controversial decision for her school to adopt the NFC badges is part of the Student Locator Project, tracking attendance. Local schools started issuing the lanyard badges this fall despite parental outcry at NISD school board meetings."
An article at Ars examines three members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are seeking chairmanship of its Committee on Space, Science, and Technology. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said in an interview, "My analysis is that in the global warming debate, we won. There were a lot of scientists who were just going along with the flow on the idea that mankind was causing a change in the world's climate. I think that after 10 years of debate, we can show that that there are hundreds if not thousands of scientists who have come over to being skeptics, and I don't know anyone [who was a skeptic] who became a believer in global warming." James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has a similar record of opposing climate change, as does Lamar Smith (R-TX). Relatedly, Phil Plait, a.k.a. The Bad Astronomer, has posted an article highlighting how U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has declined to answer a question about how old the Earth is, calling it "one of the great mysteries."
ananyo writes "Quantum-encryption systems that encode signals into a series of single photons have so far been unable to piggyback on existing telecommunications lines because they don't stand out from the millions of others in an optical fiber. But now, physicists using a technique for detecting dim light signals have transmitted a quantum key along 90 kilometers of noisy optical fiber. The feat could see quantum cryptography finally enter the mainstream. The researchers developed a detector that picks out photons only if they strike it at a precise instant, calculated on the basis of when the encoded photons were sent. The team's 'self-differentiating' detector activates for 100 picoseconds, every nanosecond. The weak charge triggered by a photon strike in this short interval would not normally stand out, but the detector measures the difference between the signal recorded during one operational cycle and the signal from the preceding cycle — when no matching photon was likely to be detected. This cancels out the background hum. Using this device, the team has transmitted a quantum key along a 90-kilometer fiber, which also carried noisy data at 1 billion bits per second in both directions — a rate typical of a telecommunications fiber."
Imagine that you are at 33 Flatbush Ave. in the Brooklyn borough of what David Letterman calls "the world's greatest city." You go to the 7th floor. Congratulations. You have found New York City's community biolab, Genspace. It's a well-equipped facility without a single mad scientist in sight. Indeed, everyone here seems as happy as the people you see in a makerspace -- which should not be surprising, since Genspace is essentially a makerspace for biologists. It is confined to non-hazardous experiments, but there is plenty going on, including ongoing projects and courses with titles like DIY Neuroscience: Controlling Behavior from the Inside. You can keep up with Genspace by following their blog. And of course, if you're in the neighborhood you should stop in. It's a welcoming environment, dedicated to the idea that science is for everyone, not just a chosen few.
Randym writes "NASA scientists have some exciting new results from one of the rover's instruments. On the one hand, they'd like to tell everybody what they found, but on the other, they have to wait because they want to make sure their results are not just some fluke or error in their instrument. The exciting results are coming from an instrument in the rover called SAM. 'We're getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting,' says John Grotzinger. He's the principal investigator for the rover mission. SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) is a suite of instruments onboard NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. Grotzinger says they recently put a soil sample in SAM, and the analysis shows something Earth-shaking. 'This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good,' he says."
An anonymous reader writes "Harvard bioengineers have perfected injecting us with a drug-filled sponge instead of just a liquid. It may seem strange to want to inject a piece of sponge into your body, but it does actually help solve a number of invasive problems. For example, sometimes it is necessary to have drugs released slowly into our bodies, and/or some kind of bio-scaffold is required to be positioned so that it can help support a damaged organ or to engineer new tissue. This new, injectable sponge is incredibly useful because not only can it be filled with drugs that then are slowly released, it also has a memory and can be collapsed down to a tiny fraction of its original size."