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Mars

A Mars One Finalist Speaks Out On the "Dangerously Flawed" Project 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-second-thought dept.
superboj writes Dr Joseph Roche is one of the finalists to go on Mars One's much-hyped mission to the Red Planet. And yet he says he's never had an in-person interview, had to organize his own physical exam, was only tested on prepared questions, and is being encouraged to give more and more money to the group. That's why he's decided to quit.
Software

NASA Wants Your Help Hunting For Asteroids 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-think-I-got-one dept.
An anonymous reader writes about new NASA software that can help you become an asteroid hunter. "Since the early 20th century, astronomers have relied on the same technique to detect asteroids — they take images of a section in the sky and look for star-like objects that move between frames. However, with an increase in sensitivity of ground-based telescopes, it has become increasingly difficult for astronomers to sift through the massive pile of data and verify every single detection. In order to increase the frequency of asteroid detection, including of those bodies that could be potential threats to our planet, NASA has released new software, developed in collaboration with Planetary Resources, Inc., capable of running on any standard PC. The software, which can be downloaded for free, will accept images from a telescope and run an algorithm on them to determine celestial bodies that are moving in a manner consistent with an asteroid."
Science

Scientific Study Finds There Are Too Many Scientific Studies 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-study-can-beat-up-your-study dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Chris Matyszczyk reports at Cnet that a new scientific study concludes there are too many scientific studies — scientists simply can't keep track of all the studies in their field. The paper, titled "Attention Decay in Science," looked at all publications (articles and reviews) written in English till the end of 2010 within the database of the Thomson Reuters (TR) Web of Science. For each publication they extracted its year of publication, the subject category of the journal in which it is published and the corresponding citations to that publication. The 'decay' the researchers investigated is how quickly a piece of research is discarded measured by establishing the initial publication, the peak in its popularity and, ultimately, its disappearance from citations in subsequent publications.

"Nowadays papers are forgotten more quickly. Attention, measured by the number and lifetime of citations, is the main currency of the scientific community, and along with other forms of recognition forms the basis for promotions and the reputation of scientists," says the study. "Typically, the citation rate of a paper increases up to a few years after its publication, reaches a peak and then decreases rapidly. This decay can be described by an exponential or a power law behavior, as in ultradiffusive processes, with exponential fitting better than power law for the majority of cases (PDF). The decay is also becoming faster over the years, signaling that nowadays papers are forgotten more quickly." Matyszczyk says,"If publication has become too easy, there will be more and more of it."
NASA

NASA Launches Four Spacecraft To Study Earth-Sun Magnetism 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-magnets-how-do-they-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Late Thursday NASA used an Atlas rocket to put four new, identical spacecraft into orbit. "The quartet of observatories is being placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales. Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather."
Biotech

Lawsuit Over Quarter Horse's Clone May Redefine Animal Breeding 172

Posted by Soulskill
from the reasons-genetic-superhorses-will-take-over-the-world dept.
schwit1 sends this report from the LA Times: "Lynx Melody Too, a clone of a renowned quarter horse, is at the center of a lawsuit that could change the world of animal breeding and competition. Texas horse breeder Jason Abraham and veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen sued the American Quarter Horse Assn., claiming that Lynx Melody Too should be allowed to register as an official quarter horse. A Texas jury decided in their favor in 2013, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling in January, saying there was 'insufficient' evidence of wrongdoing by the association.

The suit is among the first to deal with the status of clones in breeding and competition, and its outcome could impact a number of fields, including thoroughbred horse racing and dog breeding. The quarter horse association is adamant that clones and their offspring have no place in its registry. "It's what AQHA was founded on — tracking and preserving the pedigrees of these American quarter horses," said Tom Persechino, executive director of marketing for the association. "When a person buys an American quarter horse, they want to know that my quarter horse has the blood of these horses running through it, not copies of it."
NASA

Russia Abandons Super-Rocket Designed To Compete With SLS 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the forget-about-it dept.
schwit1 writes Russia has decided to abandon an expensive attempt to build an SLS-like super-rocket and will instead focus on incremental development of its smaller but less costly Angara rocket. "Facing significant budgetary pressures, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has indefinitely postponed its ambitious effort to develop a super-heavy rocket to rival NASA's next-generation Space Launch System, SLS. Instead, Russia will focus on radical upgrades of its brand-new but smaller Angara-5 rocket which had its inaugural flight in Dec. 2014, the agency's Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, decided on Thursday, March 12." For Russia's space industry, it appears that these budgetary pressures have been a blessing in disguise. Rather than waste billions on an inefficient rocket for which there is no commercial demand — as NASA is doing with SLS (under orders from a wasteful Congress) — they will instead work on further upgrades of Angara, much like SpaceX has done with its Falcon family of rockets. This will cost far less, is very efficient, and provides them a better chance to compete for commercial launches that can help pay for it all. And best of all, it offers them the least costly path to future interplanetary missions, which means they might actually be able to make those missions happen. To quote the article again: "By switching upper stages of the existing Angara from kerosene to the more potent hydrogen fuel, engineers might be able to boost the rocket's payload from current 25 tons to 35 tons for missions to the low Earth orbit. According to Roscosmos, Angara-A5V could be used for piloted missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface." In a sense, the race is now on between Angara-A5V and Falcon Heavy.
Programming

Algorithm Clones Facial Expressions And Pastes Them Onto Other Faces 31

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-want-that-smile dept.
KentuckyFC writes Various researchers have attempted to paste an expression from one face on to another but so far with mixed results. Problems arise because these algorithms measure the way a face distorts when it changes from a neutral expression to the one of interest. They then attempt to reproduce the same distortion on another face. That's fine if the two faces have similar features. But when the faces differ in structure, as most do, this kind of distortion looks unnatural. Now a Chinese team has solved the problem with an algorithm that divides a face into different regions for the mouth, eyes, nose, etc and measures the distortion in each area separately. It then distorts the target face in these specific regions while ensuring the overall proportions remain realistic. At the same time, it decides what muscle groups must have been used to create these distortions and calculates how this would change the topology of the target face with wrinkles, dimples and so on. It then adds the appropriate shadows to make the expression realistic. The result is a way to clone an expression and paste it onto another entirely different face. The algorithm opens the way to a new generation of communication techniques in which avatars can represent the expressions as well as the voices of humans. The film industry could also benefit from an easy way to paste the expressions of actors on to the cartoon characters they voice.
Math

Pi Day Extraordinaire 107

Posted by samzenpus
from the pecan-apple-or-cherry? dept.
First time accepted submitter DrTJ writes Today is Pi day. This year is a bit more extraordinary as it is 3/14/15 (in American date format). To celebrate, USA Today has posted a number of videos of kids reciting Pi, one of them to 8,784 digits. The Washington Post highlights the story of a couple who decided to make it their special day. "Donahue, 33, a Legal Aid attorney, fell for Karmel’s geeky side as soon as they met. On a beach vacation with her friends in 2012, a psychic told her, 'You are about to meet your soulmate.' Three days later, she walked into Kostume Karaoke night at Solly’s Tavern along the U Street corridor and saw a man onstage croaking out the Backstreet Boys’s 'I Want It That Way.' By the end of the night, he would be serenading her with Cake’s 'The Distance' — the song the DJ will play when they cut the pie."
Medicine

World's 1st Penis Transplant Done In South Africa 221

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-equipment dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes The world's first successful penis transplant has been performed by surgeons in South Africa, Bloomberg News reported Friday. The 21-year-old recipient has made a full recovery and regained all functions in the transplanted organ. The nine-hour operation was done Dec. 11 by surgeons from Stellenbosch University and Cape Town's Tygerberg Hospital, the university said Friday in a statement. The unidentified patient had his penis amputated three years ago in a life-saving procedure after he developed complications from a traditional circumcision. "Our goal was that he would be fully functional at two years and we are very surprised by his rapid recovery," said Dr. Andre van der Merwe, head of the university's urology division, who led the surgical team.
Science

Ask Slashdot: Why Does Science Appear To Be Getting Things Increasingly Wrong? 320

Posted by Soulskill
from the tougher-questions-tougher-answers dept.
azaris writes: Recent revelations of heavily policy-driven or even falsified science have raised concern in the general public, but especially in the scientific community itself. It's not purely a question of political or commercial interference either (as is often claimed when it comes to e.g. climate research) — scientists themselves are increasingly incentivized to game the system for improved career prospects, more funding, or simply because they perceive everyone else to do it, too. Even discounting outright fraud or manipulation of data, the widespread use of methodologies known to be invalid plagues many fields and is leading to an increasing inability to reproduce recent findings (the so-called crisis of reproducibility) that puts the very basis of our reliance on scientific research results at risk. Of course, one could claim that science is by nature self-correcting, but the problem appears to be getting worse before it gets better.

Is it time for more scientists to speak out openly about raising the level of transparency and honesty in their field?
Biotech

Controlling Brain Activity With Magnetic Nanoparticles 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-saw-that-episode-of-star-trek-too dept.
sciencehabit writes: Deep brain stimulation, which now involves surgically inserting electrodes several inches into a person's brain and connecting them to a power source outside the skull, can be an extremely effective treatment for disorders such as Parkinson's disease, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression. The expensive, invasive procedure doesn't always work, however, and can be risky. Now, a study in mice (abstract) points to a less invasive way to massage neuronal activity, by injecting metal nanoparticles into the brain and controlling them with magnetic fields. The technique could eventually provide a wireless, nonsurgical alternative to traditional deep brain stimulation surgery, researchers say.
Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson Says Colonizing Mars Won't Be As Easy As He Thought 228

Posted by Soulskill
from the canceling-my-retirement-vacation dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from io9: Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy filled us all with hope that we could terraform Mars in the 21st century, with its plausible description of terraforming processes. But now, in the face of what we've learned about Mars in the past 20 years, he no longer thinks it'll be that easy. Talking to SETI's Blog Picture Science podcast, Robinson explains that his ideas about terraforming Mars, back in the 1990s, were based on three assumptions that have been called into question or disproved:

1) Mars doesn't have any life on it at all. And now, it's looking more likely that there could be bacteria living beneath the surface. 2) There would be enough of the chemical compounds we need to survive. 3) There's nothing poisonous to us on the surface. In fact, the surface is covered with perchlorates, which are highly toxic to humans, and the original Viking mission did not detect these. "It's no longer a simple matter," Robinson says. "It's possible that we could occupy, inhabit and terraform Mars. But it's probably going to take a lot longer than I described in my books."
Biotech

New Molecular 3D Printer Can Create Billions of Compounds 132

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
ErnieKey writes: University of Illinois researchers have created a device, called a Molecular-Machine, which essentially manufactures on the molecular compound level. Martin Burke, the lead researcher on this project says that they are already able to synthesize over a billion different compounds with the machine, compounds which up until now have been very difficult to synthesize. The impact on the pharmaceutical industry could be staggering.
Space

Huge Ocean Confirmed Underneath Solar System's Largest Moon 117

Posted by samzenpus
from the under-the-sea dept.
sciencehabit writes The solar system's largest moon, Ganymede, in orbit around Jupiter, harbors an underground ocean containing more water than all the oceans on Earth, according to new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. Ganymede now joins Jupiter's Europa and two moons of Saturn, Titan and Enceladus, as moons with subsurface oceans—and good places to look for life. Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, may also have a subsurface ocean. The Hubble study suggests that the ocean can be no deeper than 330 kilometers below the surface.
Medicine

Berkeley Builds a Heart Simulator 23

Posted by samzenpus
from the beat-goes-on dept.
Zothecula writes The increasing number of biological structures being grown on chips in various laboratories around the world is rapidly replicating the entire gamut of major human organs. Now one of the most important of all – a viable functioning heart – has been added to that list by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley who have taken adult stem cells and grown a lattice of pulsing human heart tissue on a silicon device.
Earth

Proxima Centauri Might Not Be the Closest Star To Earth 98

Posted by samzenpus
from the hiding-behind-the-shine dept.
StartsWithABang writes The Alpha Centauri system consists of three stars, including Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth. But while main-sequence, hydrogen-burning stars are easy to find due to their visible light output, brown dwarfs — which only fuse the small amounts of deuterium they're born with — often emit no visible light at all, and can only be seen in the infrared. In 2013, WISE discovered a binary pair of brown dwarfs just 6.5 light years away, making them the third-closest star system to Earth, and leaving open the possibility that there may yet be brown dwarfs closer to us than any star, a question that it will take the James Webb Space Telescope to answer.
Medicine

Tony Stark Delivers Real 3D-Printed Bionic Arm To 7-Year Old Iron Man Fan 43

Posted by samzenpus
from the but-I-wanted-repulsors dept.
MojoKid writes "Here's your feel-good story for Thursday afternoon. Albert Manero, who has a degree in Aerospace engineering from the University of Central Florida and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, has made it a point to serve others. He helped found Limbitless Solutions, a volunteer foundation that uses 3D printer technology to build bionic arms for children that have either lost a limb, or were born with partially developed limbs. Seven-year-old Alex fits into the latter category and Manero, with the help of the Microsoft OneNote Collective Project, has been hard at work to develop a new 3D-printed bionic arm for him. And once the project was finished, Microsoft and Manero were able to find the most "qualified" person on the planet to deliver the arm to Alex: Tony Stark AKA Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. Awesomeness ensues, of course.
Medicine

Homeopathy Turns Out To Be Useless For Treating Medical Conditions 447

Posted by timothy
from the ask-your-doctor-if-placebex-is-right-for-you dept.
MightyMartian writes It should prove to be no surprise for most rational people, but a group of Australian researchers have determined that homeopathy is completely useless at treating medical conditions. Researchers sifted through 1,800 research papers on homeopathy and found no reliable report that showed homeopathic remedies had any better results than placebos. Of course, anyone with compelling evidence to the contrary (or better yet, proof to the contrary) is encouraged to post links in the comments below.
Earth

Newly Discovered Sea Creature Was Once the Largest Animal On Earth 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the we're-going-to-need-a-bigger-pot dept.
sciencehabit writes Almost half a billion years ago, the largest animal on Earth was a 2-meter-long, helmet-headed sea creature that fed on some of the ocean's tiniest prey. The newly described species is one of the largest arthropods yet discovered, a class of animals that includes spiders and crabs. The well-preserved remains of the multisegmented creature are providing clues about how subsequent arthropods' legs may have evolved from the dozens of stubby flaps used to propel this beast through the water.
Science

Researchers Nearly Double the Size of Worker Ants 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-would-you-do-this dept.
sciencehabit writes: Researchers have nearly doubled the size of a handful of Florida ants by chemically modifying their DNA, rather than by changing its encoded information. The work may help explain how the insects—despite their high degree of genetic similarity—grow into the different varieties of workers needed in a colony.