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Medicine

Obama Administration Seeks $58M To Put (Partly) Toward Fighting Ebola 105

Posted by timothy
from the let's-order-a-pizza-and-a-dishwasher dept.
The Associated Press reports (here, as carried by the Washington Times) that The White House is asking Congress for $58 million above current levels to speed the production of promising drugs to fight Ebola and additional flexibility for the Department of Homeland Security to cope with the thousands of unaccompanied Central American children still arriving at the southern border. ... [T]he $58 million request for the Centers for Disease Control would help the agency ramp up production and testing of the experimental drug called ZMapp, which has shown promise in fighting the Ebola epidemic in western Africa. It would also help keep the development and manufacturing of two Ebola vaccines on track. The White House request also seeks to use $10 million in unused balances at the Department of Health and Human Services to help with the Ebola outbreak in Africa. The scarcity of ZMapp, the most promising treatment known for Ebola, is such that the third U.S. doctor to have been returned after being infected by the disease will be treated without it.
ISS

Space Station's 'Cubesat Cannon' Has Gone Rogue 143

Posted by Soulskill
from the Look-Dave,-I-can-see-you're-really-upset-about-this. dept.
astroengine writes: Last night (Thursday), two more of Planet Lab's shoebox-sized Earth imaging satellites launched themselves from aboard the International Space Station, the latest in a series of technical mysteries involving a commercially owned CubeSat deployer located outside Japan's Kibo laboratory module. Station commander Steve Swanson was storing some blood samples in one of the station's freezers Friday morning when he noticed that the doors on NanoRack's cubesat deployer were open, said NASA mission commentator Pat Ryan. Flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston determined that two CubeSats had been inadvertently released. "No crew members or ground controllers saw the deployment. They reviewed all the camera footage and there was no views of it there either," Ryan said.
Australia

Mushroom-Like Deep Sea Organism May Be New Branch of Life 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the tasty-on-a-salad dept.
jones_supa writes: During a scientific cruise in 1986, scientists collected organisms at water depths of 400m and 1,000m on the south-east Australian continental slope, near Tasmania. But the two types of mushroom-shaped organisms were recognized only recently, after sorting of the bulk samples collected during the expedition. A team of scientists at the University of Copenhagen says the tiny organism does not fit into any of the known subdivisions of the animal kingdom. The organisms are described in the academic journal PLOS ONE. The authors of the paper recognise two new species of mushroom-shaped animal: Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides. Measuring only a few millimeters in size, the animals consist of a flattened disc and a stalk with a mouth on the end. One way to resolve the question surrounding Dendrogramma's affinities would be to examine its DNA, but new specimens will need to be found. The team's paper calls for researchers around the world to keep an eye out for other examples.
Space

Newly Discovered Asteroid To Pass Within Geostationary Orbit Sunday 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the how's-that-space-program-coming-along dept.
theshowmecanuck writes: A newly found asteroid the size of a house will give earth a close flyby this weekend. It will pass just below satellites in geostationary orbit, and above New Zealand around 14:18 EDT / 18:18 GMT / 06:18 NZST this coming Sunday (Monday morning in NZ). "Asteroid 2014 RC was initially discovered on the night of August 31 by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, and independently detected the next night by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, located on the summit of Haleakal on Maui, Hawaii," NASA officials said in a statement.
Biotech

Scientists Sequence Coffee Genome, Ponder Genetic Modification 166

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-you-modify-it-so-it-doesn't-taste-like-coffee dept.
nbauman sends word that researchers have completed a project to sequence the genome of Coffea canephora, a species of plant responsible for roughly 30% of the world's coffee production. In the course of their genetic mapping, the researchers "pinpointed genetic attributes that could help in the development of new coffee varieties better able to endure drought, disease and pests, with the added benefit of enhancing flavor and caffeine levels." They also discovered a broad range of genes that contribute to the production of flavor-related compounds and caffeine. Plant genomist Victor Albert said, "For any agricultural plant, having a genome is a prerequisite for any sort of high technology breeding or molecular modification. Without a genome, we couldn't do any real advanced research on coffee that would allow us to improve it — not in this day and age."
Image

Dirty Diapers Used To Grow Mushrooms 97 Screenshot-sm

Posted by samzenpus
from the hold-the-mushrooms-please dept.
Zothecula writes While their contents might be considered an environmental hazard by many, disposable diapers themselves pose a more significant problem for the environment. According to the EPA, the average baby will work their way through 8,000 of them before they end up in landfill where they'll take centuries to break down. In an effort to reduce the problem, scientists at Mexico's Autonomous Metropolitan University, Azcapotzalco (UAM-A), have turned used diapers to the task of growing mushrooms.
Music

Music Training's Cognitive Benefits Could Help "At-Risk" Students 58

Posted by timothy
from the every-gambler-brews-delicious-framboise dept.
AthanasiusKircher writes In recent years, emphasis on standardized testing and basic skills has forced many schools to cut back on things like arts and extracurricular activities. A study out this week from Northwestern University hints that schools may be hurting "at-risk" kids even more by cutting such programs. Just two years of music lessons were shown to have significant effects on brain activity and language processing which the researchers argue could help close achievement gaps between at-risk students and more affluent students. Aside from better brain response to language observed in the lab, practical effects of the interventions were readily apparent: 'Leaders at Harmony Project approached the researchers after the non-profit observed that their students were performing much better than other public school students in the area. Since 2008, over 90 percent of high school seniors who participated in Harmony Project's free music lessons went on to college, even though the high school dropout rates in the surrounding Los Angeles areas can reach up to 50 percent.' Note that this is only one of several ongoing studies showing significant cognitive benefits for music training among at-risk students; an article last year from The Atlantic gives a more detailed summary of related research.
Science

Is There a Creativity Deficit In Science? 203

Posted by samzenpus
from the doing-things-differently dept.
nerdyalien writes with this story that explores the impact of reduced science funding on innovation in science. "There’s a current problem in biomedical research,” says American biochemist Robert Lefkowitz, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. “The emphasis is on doing things which are not risky. To have a grant proposal funded, you have to propose something and then present what is called preliminary data, which is basically evidence that you’ve already done what you’re proposing to do. If there’s any risk involved, then your proposal won’t be funded. So the entire system tends to encourage not particularly creative research, relatively descriptive and incremental changes which are incremental advances which you are certain to make but not change things very much."...There is no more important time for science to leverage its most creative minds in attempting to solve our global challenges. Although there have been massive increases in funding over the last few decades, the ideas and researchers that have been rewarded by the current peer-review system have tended to be safer, incremental, and established. If we want science to be its most innovative, it's not about finding brilliant, passionate creative scientists; it's about supporting the ones we already have.
Science

Giant Dinosaur Unearthed In Argentina 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the we're-going-to-need-a-bigger-rock-hammer dept.
sciencehabit writes Researchers working in Argentina have discovered the most complete skeleton of a titanosaur, a group of gigantic plant-eating dinosaurs that dominated the Southern Hemisphere beginning about 90 million years ago. The new dino, named Dreadnoughtus schrani, was 26 meters long and weighed about 59 metric tons—that is, twice as long as Tyrannosaurus rex and as heavy as a herd of elephants. That puts it on a par with other well-known giants such as Argentinosaurus (but it's four times as large as the perhaps better known Diplodocus). The researchers say that the beast was so big it would have had no fear of predators. And it was about to get bigger: A close examination of the fossils, especially its back and shoulder bones, indicates that the animal was still growing when it died.
Security

Hackers Break Into HealthCare.gov 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the our-bad dept.
mpicpp is one of many to point out that hackers broke into the HealthCare.gov website in July and uploaded malicious software. "Hackers silently infected a Healthcare.gov computer server this summer. But the malware didn't manage to steal anyone's data, federal officials say. On Thursday, the Health and Human Services Department, which manages the Obamacare website, explained what happened. And officials stressed that personal information was never at risk. "Our review indicates that the server did not contain consumer personal information; data was not transmitted outside the agency, and the website was not specifically targeted," HHS spokesman Kevin Griffis said. But it was a close call, showing just how vulnerable computer systems can be. It all happened because of a series of mistakes. A computer server that routinely tests portions of the website wasn't properly set up. It was never supposed to be connected to the Internet — but someone had accidentally connected it anyway. That left it open to attack, and on July 8, malware slipped past the Obamacare security system, officials said.
Television

Ask David Saltzberg About Being The Big Bang Theory's Science Advisor 226

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
For seven seasons Dr. David Saltzberg has made sure the science on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory is correct. As science consultant for the show he reviews scripts for technical errors, fixing any problems he finds. He also adds complex formulae to whiteboards on set. Before his life as a science advisor, Saltzberg received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago, performed post-graduate work at CERN, and currently is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA. He writes The Big Blog Theory, where he explains the science behind each episode of the show. Dr. Saltzberg has agreed to answer any questions you have about the show or his previous scientific work. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Biotech

Researchers Harness E. Coli To Produce Propane 82

Posted by samzenpus
from the fill-the-tank dept.
Rambo Tribble writes A team of British and Finnish scientists have used the common bacteria Escherichia coli to produce the environmentally-friendly fuel propane. By introducing enzymes to modify the bacteria's process for producing cell membranes, they were able directly produce fuel-grade propane. While commercial application is some years off, the process is being hailed as a cheap, sustainable alternative to deriving the gas from fossil fuel production. As researcher Patrik Jones is quoted as saying, "Fossil fuels are a finite resource and...we are going to have to come up with new ways to meet increasing energy demands."
Space

DARPA Bolsters Blueprint To Build Robotic Services For Satellites 10

Posted by samzenpus
from the space-garage dept.
coondoggie writes In five years the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to launch a robotic servicing mission to inspect, fix, refuel, or move satellites in geostationary Earth orbit. In order to move that plan along, the research agency today issued a Request for Information calling on commercial and private space groups to provide details on what it would take to accomplish that lofty goal. To expedite the mission, DARPA said it is considering the possibility of integrating DARPA-developed space robotics technologies onto commercial spacecraft to create a jointly developed GEO robotic service craft.
Science

Taking the Ice Bucket Challenge With Liquid Nitrogen 182

Posted by samzenpus
from the coldest-shower dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes As a trend, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge seems a bit played out—who hasn't yet dumped a bucket of icy water over his or her head for charity? But that didn't stop Canadian chemist Muhammad Qureshi from executing his own sublimely scientific, potentially dangerous variation on the theme: After donating to the ALS Association, he proceeded to douse himself with a bucket of liquid nitrogen. Anyone who's taken a chemistry class, or at least watched the end of Terminator 2, knows that liquid nitrogen can rapidly freeze objects, leaving them brittle and prone to shattering. Pouring it on your skin can cause serious frostbite. So what prevented that bucketful of liquid nitrogen from transforming Qureshi into a popsicle? In two words: Leidenfrost effect. Named after 18th century scientist Johann Gottlob Leidenfrost, the effect is when a liquid comes near a mass that's much warmer than the liquid's boiling point, which (in the words of Princeton's helpful physics explainer) results in an insulating vapor layer that "keeps that liquid from boiling rapidly." In other words, the vapor makes the liquid "float" just above the surface of the object, rather than coming into direct contact with it.
Government

Oregon Suing Oracle Over Obamacare Site, But Still Needs Oracle's Help 116

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-hate-you-now-help-me dept.
jfruh writes Oracle and the state of Oregon are in the midst of a particularly nasty set of lawsuits over the botched rollout of Oregon's health care exchange site, with Oregon claiming that Oracle promised an "out-of-the-box solution" and Oracle saying that Oregon foolishly attempted to act as its own systems integrator. But one aspect of the dispute helps illustrate an unpleasant reality of these kinds of disputes: even as Oregon tries to extract damages from Oracle, it still needs Oracle's help to salvage the site.
Science

Hitachi Developing Reactor That Burns Nuclear Waste 200

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-waste-zone dept.
Zothecula writes The problem with nuclear waste is that it needs to be stored for many thousands of years before it's safe, which is a tricky commitment for even the most stable civilization. To make this situation a bit more manageable, Hitachi, in partnership with MIT, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Berkeley, is working on new reactor designs that use transuranic nuclear waste for fuel; leaving behind only short-lived radioactive elements.
Space

Welcome To Laniakea, Our New Cosmic Home 67

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-the-cosmic-heart-is dept.
astroengine writes Using a new mapping technique that takes into account the motions — and not just the distances — of nearby galaxies, astronomers discovered that the Milky Way is located in the suburb of a massive, previously unknown super-cluster they named Laniakea, a term from Hawaiian words meaning "immeasurable heaven." Actually, Laniakea's girth is measurable, though difficult to conceptualize. The super-cluster spans 520 million light-years in diameter, more than five times larger than the cluster previously believed to be the Milky Way's cosmic home.
Earth

Out of the Warehouse: Climate Researchers Rescue Long-Lost Satellite Images 136

Posted by timothy
from the look-for-barry-goldwater's-car dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Once stashed in warehouses in Maryland and North Carolina, images and video captured from orbit by some of NASA's first environmental satellites in the mid-1960s are now yielding a trove of scientific data. The Nimbus satellites, originally intended to monitor Earth's clouds in visible and infrared wavelengths, also would have captured images of sea ice, researchers at the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center realized when they heard about the long-lost film canisters in 2009. After acquiring the film—and then tracking down the proper equipment to read and digitize its 16-shades-of-gray images, which had been taken once every 90 seconds or so—the team set about scanning and then stitching the images together using sophisticated software. So far, more than 250,000 images have been made public, including the first image taken by Nimbus-1 on 31 August 1964, of an area near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Besides yielding a wealth of sea ice data, the data recovery project, which will end early next year, could also be used to extend satellite records of deforestation and sea surface temperatures."
Biotech

CPU's Heat Output to Amplify DNA Could Make Drastically Cheaper Tests 27

Posted by timothy
from the only-waste-heat-is-wasted dept.
MTorrice (2611475) writes "Researchers have harnessed that heat from a computer CPU to run the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify DNA in a blood sample. The team developed software that cycles the temperature of the CPU to drive PCR's three distinct steps.The method allowed them to detect miniscule amounts of DNA from a pathogenic parasite that causes Chagas disease. They hope their technique will lead to low-cost diagnostic tests in developing countries." (Always good to put waste heat to a practical purpose.)
Google

Google To Build Quantum Information Processors 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the remember-when-google-was-a-search-company dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Google Quantum AI Team has announced that they're bringing in a team from the University of California at Santa Barbara to build quantum information processors within the company. "With an integrated hardware group the Quantum AI team will now be able to implement and test new designs for quantum optimization and inference processors based on recent theoretical insights as well as our learnings from the D-Wave quantum annealing architecture." Google will continue to work with D-Wave, but the UC Santa Barbara group brings its own areas of expertise with superconducting qubit arrays.

Time sharing: The use of many people by the computer.

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