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Science

Isolated Tribes Die Shortly After We Meet Them 351

Posted by Soulskill
from the keep-your-culture-to-yourself dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes: "It's a story we all know — Christopher Columbus discovers America, his European buddies follow him, they meet the indigenous people living there, they indigenous people die from smallpox and guns and other unknown diseases, and the Europeans get gold, land, and so on. It's still happening today in Brazil, where 238 indigenous tribes have been contacted in the last several decades, and where between 23 and 70 uncontacted tribes are still living. A just-published report that takes a look at what happens after the modern world comes into contact with indigenous peoples isn't pretty: Of those contacted, three quarters went extinct. Those that survived saw mortality rates up over 80 percent. This is grim stuff."
Games

Study: Video Gamer Aggression Result of Game Experience, Not Violent Content 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the random-number-generators-are-the-root-of-all-evil dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new study published in the March edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that a gamer's experience of a video game and not the content of the game itself can give rise to violent behavior. In other words, 'researchers found it was not the narrative or imagery, but the lack of mastery of the game's controls and the degree of difficulty players had completing the game that led to frustration.' Based on their findings, researchers note that even games like Tetris and Candy Crush can inspire violent behavior more so than games like World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto if they are poorly designed and difficult to play."
Science

Zombie Plants Help To Spread Bacterial Pathogen 38

Posted by Soulskill
from the eschews-brains-for-sunlight dept.
bmahersciwriter writes: "We've all heard stories about how parasites can 'zombify' organisms, getting them to mindlessly protect a brood or infect their peers. Now UK researchers have figured out how one bacterial pathogen co-opts the behavior of a plant, causing it to attract sap-sucking insects that help the bacteria spread to other plants. From the story in Nature News: 'The plant appears alive, but it's only there for the good of the pathogen,' says plant pathologist Saskia Hogenhout from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. 'In an evolutionary sense, the plant is dead and will not produce offspring.' 'Many might balk at the concept of a zombie plant because the idea of plants behaving is strange,' says David Hughes, a parasitologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. 'But they do, and since they do, why wouldn't parasites have evolved to take over their behavior, as they do for ants and crickets?'"
Mars

Rover Curiosity Discovers Australia-Shaped Rock On Mars 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-send-our-prisoners-there dept.
astroengine writes: "NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has begun science operations in a new area of study nicknamed 'the Kimberly' after the Western Australian region. But in a new image uploaded to the Mars Science Laboratory raw image archive, it seems 'the Kimberly' is a little more Australian than mission managers originally thought. As spotted by @CoUdErMaNn on Twitter, Curiosity's Navcam photographed a rather interesting-looking rock formation just in front of the rover. The rock, which appears to have been formed through some erosion process, will likely fascinate geologists for some time. But at first glance the rock also appears to take the shape of Australia."
Government

Stem-Cell Research Funding Institute Is Shuttered 86

Posted by timothy
from the politics-is-political dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The National Institutes of Health, the top funder of biomedical research in the U.S., has closed a program designed to bring induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) from the lab to the clinic. It has made no public mention of the closure, but the website has been deleted and Nature News reports that the center director, Mahendra Rao, resigned his post in frustration after the program allocated funds to only one clinical trial in its last round of funding."
Biotech

For the First Time, Organ Regenerated Inside a Living Animal 94

Posted by timothy
from the casio-not-wurlitzer dept.
ananyo (2519492) writes "Scientists at Edinburgh University have successfully persuaded an organ to regenerate inside an animal. As they report in the journal Development, they have treated, in mice, an organ called the thymus, which is a part of the immune system that runs down in old age. Instead of adding stem cells they have stimulated their animals' thymuses to make more of a protein called FOXN1. This is a transcription factor (a molecular switch that activates genes). The scientists knew from earlier experiments that FOXN1 is important for the embryonic development of the thymus, and speculated that it might also rejuvenate the organ in older animals. They bred a special strain of mice whose FOXN1 production could be stimulated specifically in the thymus by tamoxifen, a drug more familiar as a treatment for breast cancer. In one-year-olds, stimulating FOXN1 production in the thymus caused it to become 2.7 times bigger within a month. In two-year-olds the increase was 2.6 times. Moreover, when the researchers studied the enlarged thymuses microscopically, and compared them with those from untreated control animals of the same ages, they found that the organs' internal structures had reverted to their youthful nature."
Science

Ancient Shrimp-Like Creature Has Oldest Known Circulatory System 35

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the brain-hungers-for-blood dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A 520-million-year-old shrimp-like creature known as Fuxianhuia protensa has the oldest known cardiovascular system, researchers report. It was both modern and unsophisticated. A simple, tubelike heart was buried in the creature's belly — or thorax — and shot single blood vessels into the 20 or so segments of its primitive body. In contrast, x-ray scans of the specimen revealed profoundly intricate channels in the head and neck. The brain was well supplied with looping blood vessels, which extended branches into the arthropod's alienlike eyestalks and antennae and rivaled the complexity of today's crustaceans. From this Gordian architecture, the researchers can now speculate about the critter's lifestyle. Its brain required abundant oxygen, so it presumably did a fair amount of thinking."
Books

Online Skim Reading Is Taking Over the Human Brain 224

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the slashdot-ruined-your-brain dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Michael S. Rosenwald reports in the Washington Post that, according to cognitive neuroscientists, humans seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online at the expense of traditional deep reading circuitry... Maryanne Wolf, one of the world's foremost experts on the study of reading, was startled last year to discover her brain was apparently adapting, too. After a day of scrolling through the Web and hundreds of e-mails, she sat down one evening to read Hermann Hesse's challenging novel The Glass Bead Game. 'I'm not kidding: I couldn't do it,' says Wolf. 'It was torture getting through the first page. I couldn't force myself to slow down so that I wasn't skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.'

The brain was not designed for reading and there are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. ... Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on. The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. ... Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade our ability to deal with other mediums. 'We're spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scrolling and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,' says Andrew Dillon."
Music

Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin 469

Posted by samzenpus
from the have-you-tried-the-gold-cables? dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "If you know only one thing about violins, it is probably this: A 300-year-old Stradivarius supposedly possesses mysterious tonal qualities unmatched by modern instruments. However, even elite violinists cannot tell a Stradivarius from a top-quality modern violin, a new double-blind study suggests. Like the sound of coughing during the delicate second movement of Beethoven's violin concerto, the finding seems sure to annoy some people, especially dealers who broker the million-dollar sales of rare old Italian fiddles. But it may come as a relief to the many violinists who cannot afford such prices."
Space

NASA Laying Foundation For Jupiter Moon Space Mission 100

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-we-go dept.
coondoggie (973519) writes "NASA recently began laying out the groundwork for the technology it will need to fly an unmanned mission to Jupiter's intriguing moon Europa. Scientists say Europa — which orbits the planet Jupiter about 778 million km (484 million miles) from the Sun — could support life because it might have an ocean of liquid water under its miles-thick frozen crust. NASA said in December the Hubble Space Telescope observed water vapor above the frigid south polar region of Jupiter's moon Europa, providing the first strong evidence of water plumes erupting off the moon's surface."
Science

How To Build a Quantum Telescope 60

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The resolving power of telescopes is limited by the diffraction limit, a natural bound on resolution caused by the way light diffracts as it passes through a lens. But in recent years, physicists have worked out how to use quantum techniques to beat the diffraction limit. The trick is to create a pair of entangled photons, use one to illuminate the target and the other to increase the information you have about the first. All this is possible in the lab because physicists can use their own sources of light. Indeed, last month, physicists unveiled the first entanglement-enhanced microscope that beats the diffraction limit. But what about astronomy where the light comes from distant astrophysical sources? Now one physicist has worked out how to use quantum techniques to beat the diffraction limit in telescopes too. Her idea is to insert a crystalline sheet of excited atoms into the aperture of the telescope. When astrophysical photons hit this sheet, they generate an entangled pair of photons. One of these photons then passes through the telescope to create an image while the other is used to improve the information known about the first and so beat the diffraction limit. Of course, all this depends on improved techniques for increasing the efficiency of the process and removing noise that might otherwise swamp the astrophysical signal. But it's still the early days in the world of quantum imaging, and at least astronomers now know they're not going to be excluded from the fun."
Science

Sand in the Brain: A Fundamental Theory To Model the Mind 105

Posted by timothy
from the my-brain's-usually-rusty dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In 1999, the Danish physicist Per Bak proclaimed to a group of neuroscientists that it had taken him only 10 minutes to determine where the field had gone wrong. Perhaps the brain was less complicated than they thought, he said. Perhaps, he said, the brain worked on the same fundamental principles as a simple sand pile, in which avalanches of various sizes help keep the entire system stable overall — a process he dubbed 'self-organized criticality.'"
Math

Ties of the Matrix: An Exercise in Combinatorics 51

Posted by timothy
from the hangman's-noose dept.
mikejuk (1801200) writes "The Matrix Reloaded started something when 'The Merovingian' wore a number of very flashy ties. The problem was that we thought we knew how many ways you can tie a tie. The number of ways had been enumerated in 2001 and the answer was that there were exactly 85 different ways but the enumeration didn't include the Matrix way of doing it. So how many "Merovingian" knots are there? The question is answered in a new paper, More ties than we thought [PDf], by Dan Hirsch, Meredith L. Patterson, Anders Sandberg and Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson. The methodology is based on the original enumeration and an interesting application of language theory. The idea is to create a programming language for tying ties and then work out how many programs there are. For single depth tucks there are 177,147 different sequences and hence knots. Of these there are 2046 winding patterns that take up to 11 moves, the same as the The Merovingian knot and other popular knots, and so these are probably practical with a normal length necktie."
Science

Why Are We Made of Matter? 393

Posted by timothy
from the better-than-the-alternate dept.
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "The Universe began with equal amounts of matter and antimatter after the Big Bang, and yet when we look out at today's Universe, we find that, even on the largest scales, it's made of at least 99.999%+ matter and not antimatter. The problem of how we went from a matter-antimatter-symmetric Universe to the matter-dominated one we have today is known as baryogenesis, and is one of the greatest unsolved problems in physics. Where are we on the quest to understand it as of April, 2014? A wonderful and comprehensive recap is here."
Beer

To Reduce the Health Risk of Barbecuing Meat, Just Add Beer 179

Posted by timothy
from the honey-this-is-my-medicine dept.
PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) writes "Grilling meat gives it great flavour. This taste, though, comes at a price, since the process creates molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which damage DNA and thus increase the eater's chances of developing colon cancer. But a group of researchers led by Isabel Ferreira of the University of Porto, in Portugal, think they have found a way around the problem. When barbecuing meat, they suggest, you should add beer. The PAHs created by grilling form from molecules called free radicals which, in turn, form from fat and protein in the intense heat of this type of cooking. One way of stopping PAH-formation, then, might be to apply chemicals called antioxidants that mop up free radicals. And beer is rich in these, in the shape of melanoidins, which form when barley is roasted." (The paper on which this report is based, sadly paywalled.)
The Internet

How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion 1037

Posted by timothy
from the randi-does-miracles dept.
pitchpipe (708843) points out a study highlighted by MIT's Technology Review, which makes the bold claim that "Using the Internet can destroy your faith. That's the conclusion of a study showing that the dramatic drop in religious affiliation in the U.S. since 1990 is closely mirrored by the increase in Internet use," and writes "I attribute my becoming an atheist to the internet, so what the study is saying supports my anecdote. If I hadn't been exposed to all of the different arguments about religion, etc., via the internet I would probably just be another person who identifies as religious but doesn't attend services. What do you think? Have you become more religious, less religious, or about the same since being on the internet? What if you've always had it?"
Biotech

Scientist Quits Effort To Live-Blog Stem Cell Generation 17

Posted by timothy
from the hard-to-perform-for-an-audience dept.
According to reader sciencehabit (1205606), Kenneth Ka-Ho Lee, the embryologist who has been live-blogging his attempt to reproduce a new kind of stem cells, has given up, writing on this Research Gate page, "I don't think STAP cells exist and it will be a waste of manpower and research funding to carry on with this experiment any further." From the linked article: "Though he is giving up, he hopes others will continue to investigate whether the new approach – which has dogged by controversy and claims of research misconduct — can really lead to stem cells."
Education

It's Time To Bring Pseudoscience Into the Science Classroom 470

Posted by timothy
from the for-a-few-object-lessons dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "'Roughly one in three American adults believes in telepathy, ghosts, and extrasensory perception,' wrote a trio of scientists in a 2012 issue of the Astronomy Education Review. 'Roughly one in five believes in witches, astrology, clairvoyance, and communication with the dead (PDF). Three quarters hold at least one of these beliefs, and a third has four distinct pseudoscientific beliefs.' Now Steven Ross Pomeroy writes in Forbes Magazine that it's time to bring pseudoscience into public schools and universities. 'By incorporating examples of pseudoscience into lectures, instructors can provide students with the tools needed to understand the difference between scientific and pseudoscientific or paranormal claims,' say Rodney Schmaltz and Scott Lilienfeld." (Read more, below.)
Space

How Many People Does It Take To Colonize Another Star System? 392

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-volunteer-everyone-in-california dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "The nearest star systems — such as our nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, which is 4.2 light-years from home — are so far away, reaching them would require a generational starship. Entire generations of people would be born, live, and die before the ship reached its destination. This brings up the question of how many people you need to send on a hypothetical interstellar mission to sustain sufficient genetic diversity. Anthropologist Cameron Smith has calculated how many people would be required to maintain genetic diversity and secure the success of the endeavor. William Gardner-O'Kearney helped Smith build the MATLAB simulations to calculate how many different scenarios would play out during interstellar travel and ran some simulations specially to show why the success of an interstellar mission depends crucially on the starting population size. Gardner-O'Kearny calculated each population's possible trajectory over 300 years, or 30 generations. Because there are a lot of random variables to consider, he calculated the trajectory of each population 10 times, then averaged the results.

A population of 150 people, proposed by John Moore in 2002, is not nearly high enough to maintain genetic variation. Over many generations, inbreeding leads to the loss of more than 80 percent of the original diversity found within the hypothetical gene. A population of 500 people would not be sufficient either, Smith says. "Five hundred people picked at random today from the human population would not probably represent all of human genetic diversity . . . If you're going to seed a planet for its entire future, you want to have as much genetic diversity as possible, because that diversity is your insurance policy for adaptation to new conditions." A starting population of 40,000 people maintains 100 percent of its variation, while the 10,000-person scenario stays relatively stable too. So, Smith concludes that a number between 10,000 and 40,000 is a pretty safe bet when it comes to preserving genetic variation. Luckily, tens of thousands of pioneers wouldn't have to be housed all in one starship. Spreading people out among multiple ships also spreads out the risk. Modular ships could dock together for trade and social gatherings, but travel separately so that disaster for one wouldn't spell disaster for all. 'With 10,000,' Smith says, 'you can set off with good amount of human genetic diversity, survive even a bad disease sweep, and arrive in numbers, perhaps, and diversity sufficient to make a good go at Humanity 2.0.'"

Do you suffer painful illumination? -- Isaac Newton, "Optics"

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