Hugh Pickens writes "An article by Ross Andersen makes note of Freeman Dyson's prediction in 1960 that every civilization in the Universe eventually runs out of energy on its home planet, a major hurdle in a civilization's evolution. Dyson argued that all those who leap over it do so in precisely the same way: they build a massive collector of starlight, a shell of solar panels to surround their home star. Last month astronomers began a two-year search for Dyson Spheres, a search that will span the Milky Way, along with millions of other galaxies. The search is funded by a sizable grant from the Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds research on the 'big questions' that face humanity, questions relating to 'human purpose and ultimate reality.' Compared with SETI, a search for Dyson Spheres assumes that the larger the civilization, the more energy it uses and the more heat it re-radiates. If Dyson Spheres exist, they promise to give off a very particular kind of heat signature, a signature that we should be able to see through our infrared telescopes. 'A Dyson Sphere would appear very bright in the mid-infrared,' says project leader Jason Wright. 'Just like your body, which is invisible in the dark, but shines brightly in mid-infrared goggles.' A civilization that built a Dyson Sphere would have to go to great lengths to avoid detection, building massive radiators that give off heat so cool it would be undetectable, a solution that would involve building a sphere that was a hundred times larger than necessary. 'If a civilization wants to hide, it's certainly possible to hide,' says Wright, 'but it requires massive amounts of deliberate engineering across an entire civilization.'"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
ananyo writes "Japanese researchers have coaxed mouse stem cells into becoming viable eggs that produce healthy offspring. Last year, the same team successfully used mouse stem cells to make functional sperm (other groups have produced sperm cells in vitro). The researchers used a cocktail of growth factors to transform stem cells into egg precursors. When they added these egg precursor cells to embryonic ovary tissue that did not contain sex cells, the mixture spontaneously formed ovary-like structures, which they then grafted onto natural ovaries in female mice. After four weeks, the stem-cell-derived cells had matured into oocytes. The team removed the oocytes from the ovaries, fertilized them and transplanted the embryos into foster mothers. The offspring that were produced grew up to be fertile themselves."
cylonlover writes "NASA launched a strategic partnership with location-based social networking site foursquare in 2010 with the first-ever check-in from the International Space Station (ISS) by astronaut Doug Wheelock. Now the space agency has gone one better with the first check-in on another planet thanks to its Curiosity Mars rover. Since fellow foursquare users will have a hard time checking in on the Red Planet themselves, they'll instead be able to earn a Curiosity-themed badge for visiting locations relating to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The badge will be available later this year and is designed to spark the scientific curiosity of foursquare users by encouraging them to visit science centers, laboratories and museums."
assertation writes "A few weeks ago an article was posted to Slashdot referring to a Stanford Study stating that organic produce, contrary to popular belief is not more nutritious. According to Mark Bitman of The New York times the Stanford study was flawed. A spelling error skewed the results as well as the study ignoring several types of nutrients."
The Bad Astronomer writes "A century ago, astronomers (including Edwin Hubble) discovered the Universe was expanding. Using the same methods — but this time with observations from an orbiting infrared space telescope — a new study confirms this expansion, and nails the rate with higher precision than done before. If you're curious, the expansion rate found was 74.3 +/- 2.1 kilometers per second per megaparsec — almost precisely in line with previous measurements."
dsinc writes "A new study suggests caffeinated coffee drinkers should limit their intake to reduce their chances of developing vision loss or blindness. According to a scientific paper in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, heavy caffeinated coffee consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing exfoliation glaucoma (abstract), the leading cause of secondary glaucoma worldwide. 'Scandinavian populations have the highest frequencies of exfoliation syndrome and glaucoma,' said author Jae Hee Kang, ScD, of Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass. 'Because Scandinavian populations also have the highest consumption of caffeinated coffee in the world, and our research group has previously found that greater caffeinated coffee intake was associated with increased risk of primary open-angle glaucoma, we conducted this study to evaluate whether the risk of exfoliation glaucoma or glaucoma suspect may be different by coffee consumption.'"
Lucas123 writes "The problem: What do you leave behind that billions of years from now, and without context, would give aliens an some kind of accurate depiction of mankind. The answer: A gold-plated silicon disc with just 100 photos. That's the idea behind The Last Pictures project, which is scheduled to blast off in the next few months from Kazakhstan and orbit the earth for 5 billion years. The photos, etched into the silicon using a bitmap format, were chosen over a five-year process that involved interviews with artists, philosophers, and MIT scientists, who included biologists, physicists, and astronomers. To each, was posed a single question: What photos would you choose to send into outer space? The answer became an eclectic mix of images from pre-historic cave paintings to a photo of a group of people taken by a predator drone."
First time accepted submitter Walking The Walk writes "Your co-workers who keep using Schrödinger's cat metaphor may need to find a new one. New Scientist reports that 'by making constant but weak measurements of a quantum system, physicists have managed to probe a delicate quantum state without destroying it – the equivalent of taking a peek at Schrodinger's metaphorical cat without killing it. The result should make it easier to handle systems such as quantum computers that exploit the exotic properties of the quantum world.'"
RocketAcademy writes "ABC News is reporting that Phantom of the Opera singer/actress Sarah Brightman outbid NASA for a seat on a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station. Brightman reportedly paid more than $51 million. If that story is true, there may be some interesting bidding wars in the future."
New submitter CelestialScience writes "The heavens have aligned in a way never seen before, with two exoplanets overlapping as they cross their star. Teruyuki Hirano of the University of Tokyo, Japan, and colleagues used data from the Kepler space telescope to probe KOI-94, a star seemingly orbited by four planets. It seems that one planet candidate, KOI-94.03, passed in front of the star and then the innermost candidate, KOI-94.01, passed between the two. The phenomenon is so new it doesn't yet have a name, though suggestions include 'planet-planet eclipse,' 'double transit,' 'syzygy' and 'exosyzygy.'"
eldavojohn writes "A recent peer reviewed paper and survey by Cliff Frohlich of the University of Texas' Institute for Geophysics reveals a correlation between an increase in earthquakes and the emergence of fracking sites in the Barnett Shale, Texas. To clarify, it is not the actual act of hydrofracking that induces earthquakes, but more likely the final process of injecting wastewater into the site, according to Oliver Boyd, a USGS seismologist. Boyd said, 'Most, if not all, geophysicists expect induced earthquakes to be more likely from wastewater injection rather than hydrofracking. This is because the wastewater injection tends to occur at greater depth, where earthquakes are more likely to nucleate. I also agree [with Frohlich] that induced earthquakes are likely to persist for some time (months to years) after wastewater injection has ceased.' Frohlich added, 'Faults are everywhere. A lot of them are stuck, but if you pump water in there, it reduces friction and the fault slips a little. I can't prove that that's what happened, but it's a plausible explanation.' In the U.S. alone this correlation has been noted several times."
Shipud writes "Bioinformatics science which deals with the study of methods for storing, retrieving, and analyzing molecular biology data. Byte Size Biology writes about ROSALIND, a cool concept in learning bioinformatics, similar to Project Euler. You are given problems of increasing difficulty to solve. Start with nucleotide counting (trivial) and end with genome assembly (putting it mildly, not so trivial). To solve a problem, you download a sample data set, write your code and debug it. Once you think you are ready, you have a time limit to solve and provide an answer for the actual problem dataset. If you mess up, there is a timed new dataset to download. This thing is coder-addictive. Currently in Beta, but a lot of fun and seems stable."
scibri writes "A few months ago, the secretive National Reconnaissance Office gave NASA two Hubble-sized space telescopes that it didn't want anymore. Now the space agency has to figure out what to do with them, and whether it can afford it. The leading candidate to use one of the telescopes is the the proposed Wide-Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), which would search for the imprint of dark energy, find exoplanets and study star-forming regions of the Galaxy. The NRO telescope could speed up the mission, but may end up costing more in the long run." A few issues with re-purposing the NRO satellite: higher launch costs because it's bigger, it can't see as far or as much IR (but it can see fainter objects, and could be used in planet detection), and the need for a bigger camera.
ananyo writes "Bucking a trend of cutting science seen elsewhere, the French government has committed to increasing spending on research and development in its draft austerity budget for 2013. France's education and research ministry gets a 2.2% boost under the proposed budget, giving it a budget of just under €23 billion (US$29 billion). Most other ministries get a cut. The upshot of the cash increase is that 1,000 new university posts will be created, no publicly funded research jobs will be cut and funding for research grants will rise (albeit less than inflation) by 1.2% to €7.86 billion. The move to spend on science during a recession is notable and means that French politicians understand that a sustainable commitment to public spending on science is vital for long-term economic growth. The situation is in stark contrast to that in the U.S. and in the UK, where a recent policy to boost hi-tech industries, unveiled with much fanfare, failed to do much for science. Meanwhile, in Australia, there's alarm over proposals to freeze research grants— a step that could jeopardize 1700 jobs."
the_newsbeagle writes "To study the mysterious phenomena of dark matter and dark energy, astronomers are turning to supercomputers that can simulate the entire evolution of the universe. One such simulation, the Bolshoi projection, recently did a complete run-through. It started with the state the universe was in around 13.7 billion years ago (not long after the Big Bang) and modeled the evolution of dark matter and energy up to the present day. The run used 14,000 CPUs on NASA's fastest supercomputer."