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Experimental Drug Targeting Alzheimer's Disease Shows Anti-Aging Effects ( 101

schwit1 writes with news that researchers at the Salk Institute have found that an experimental drug candidate aimed at combating Alzheimer's disease has a host of unexpected anti-aging effects in animals. Says the article: The Salk team expanded upon their previous development of a drug candidate, called J147, which takes a different tack by targeting Alzheimer's major risk factor–old age. In the new work, the team showed that the drug candidate worked well in a mouse model of aging not typically used in Alzheimer's research. When these mice were treated with J147, they had better memory and cognition, healthier blood vessels in the brain and other improved physiological features.

"Initially, the impetus was to test this drug in a novel animal model that was more similar to 99 percent of Alzheimer's cases," says Antonio Currais, the lead author and a member of Professor David Schubert's Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at Salk. "We did not predict we'd see this sort of anti-aging effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters."


Quantum Entanglement Survives, Even Across an Event Horizon 152

StartsWithABang writes: One of the more puzzling phenomena in our quantum Universe is that of entanglement: two particles remain in mutually indeterminate states until one is measured, and then the other — even if it's across the Universe — is immediately known. In theory, this should be true even if one member of the pair falls into a black hole, although it's impossible to measure that. However, we can (and have) measured that for the laboratory analogue of black holes, known as "dumb holes," and the entanglement survives!

Experiment On Public Pre-reviewing and Discussion of Workshop Paper Submissions ( 41

An anonymous reader writes: The ADAPT workshop (6th international workshop on adaptive, self-tuning computing systems) is trying a new publication model: all papers have been submitted via Arxiv, are now publicly discussed via Reddit, and will then be selected by a Program Committee for a presentation at the workshop. The idea is to speed up dissemination of novel ideas while making reviews more fair and letting the authors actively engage in discussions, defend their techniques, fix mistakes and eventually improve their open articles.

Neurons Can Be Changed From One Type To Another, Communication Paths Rewired ( 31

schwit1 writes: A newly published study from Harvard biologists [here's a link to the paywalled paper's summary] shows how neurons can be dramatically changed from one type into another from within the brain and how neighboring neurons recognize the reprogrammed cells as different and adapt by changing how they communicate with them. Building on earlier work in which they disproved neurobiology dogma by "reprogramming" neurons — turning one form of neuron into another — in the brains of living animals, Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers have now shown that the networks of communication among reprogrammed neurons and their neighbors can also be changed, or "rewired."

Earth May Have Kept Its Own Water Rather Than Getting It From Asteroids ( 45

sciencehabit writes: Carl Sagan famously dubbed Earth the 'pale blue dot' for our planet's abundant water. But where this water came from—and when it arrived—has been a longstanding debate. Many scientists argue that Earth formed as a dry planet, and gained its water millions of years later through the impact of water-bearing asteroids or comets. But now, scientists say that Earth may have had water from the start, inheriting it directly from the swirling nebula that gave birth to the solar system. If true, the results suggest that water-rich planets may abound in the universe.

Lunar Scientist Proposes Dozens of Impact Probes To Map Moon's Water ( 35

MarkWhittington writes: Water ice believed by scientists to reside at the lunar poles is the key to opening up the solar system to human activity. The water could help sustain a lunar settlement. It could also be refined into rocket fuel, not only to sustain travel to and from the moon but to make it a refueling stop for spacecraft headed deeper into the solar system. A recent MIT study suggested that lunar fuel would simplify NASA's Journey to Mars. Lunar scientist Paul Spudis, writing in Air and Space Magazine, pondered the next step in determining the extent and composition of the lunar ice. Spudis' idea is to deploy several dozen impact probes across one of the lunar polar regions.

Video Space Exploration Politics -- and an Explanation of the Apollo Flag 'Mystery' (Video) 39

Meet Tom Moser. And here's another NASA oral history interview with him. And we interviewed him last week ourselves. Tom has been involved, one way or another, as engineer or manager, with every American manned space flight program since 1963. Now, among other things, he's thinking of ways multiple governments and private companies can share their resources to make future space exploration feasible, which may not be engineering -- but in many cases politics can be more important than designing and building the hardware, which is why it's worth learning about.

And thinking of hardware, do you remember the conspiracy people talking about how the U.S. flag on the moon was faked because there's no way it could wave in the breeze without an atmosphere? Moser gives us the inside scoop on that: it was an engineering screwup, and at least partly his fault. Whoops!

UK May Blacklist Homeopathy ( 287

New submitter Maritz writes: Vindication may be on the horizon for people who defer to reality in matters of health — UK ministers are considering whether homeopathy should be put on a blacklist of treatments GPs in England are banned from prescribing, the BBC has learned. The controversial practice is based on the principle that "like cures like," but critics say patients are being given useless sugar pills. The Faculty of Homeopathy said patients supported the therapy. A consultation is expected to take place in 2016. The total NHS bill for homeopathy, including homeopathic hospitals and GP prescriptions, is thought to be about £4m.

It's Way Too Easy To Hack the Hospital ( 116

schwit1 sends along a lengthy piece from Bloomberg about the chaos currently surrounding medical device security: The Mayo Clinic had assembled an all-star team of about a dozen computer jocks, investigators from some of the biggest cybersecurity firms in the country, as well as the kind of hackers who draw crowds at conferences such as Black Hat and Def Con. The researchers split into teams, and hospital officials presented them with about 40 different medical devices. Do your worst, the researchers were instructed. Hack whatever you can.

Like the printers, copiers, and office telephones used across all industries, many medical devices today are networked, running standard operating systems and living on the Internet just as laptops and smartphones do. Like the rest of the Internet of Things—devices that range from cars to garden sprinklers—they communicate with servers, and many can be controlled remotely. As quickly became apparent to Rios and the others, hospital administrators have a lot of reasons to fear hackers. For a full week, the group spent their days looking for backdoors into magnetic resonance imaging scanners, ultrasound equipment, ventilators, electroconvulsive therapy machines, and dozens of other contraptions. The teams gathered each evening inside the hospital to trade casualty reports.

"Every day, it was like every device on the menu got crushed," Rios says. "It was all bad. Really, really bad." The teams didn't have time to dive deeply into the vulnerabilities they found, partly because they found so many—defenseless operating systems, generic passwords that couldn't be changed, and so on.

Sooner or later, hospitals would be hacked, and patients would be hurt. He'd gotten privileged glimpses into all sorts of sensitive industries, but hospitals seemed at least a decade behind the standard security curve. "Someone is going to take it to the next level. They always do," says Rios. "The second someone tries to do this, they'll be able to do it. The only barrier is the goodwill of a stranger."


Usernames Reveal the Age and Psychology of Game Players ( 262

limbicsystem writes: Your online name can reveal a lot about you. Researchers from the University of York and Riot Games have shown that information harvested from the usernames of players who signed up to 'League of Legends' can sometime reveal both their ages and how they behave online. And the short story is that both younger players and players with obnoxious names are more likely to exhibit toxic online behavior.

Paper Retracted After Anti-Immigrant Scientist Bans Use of His Software ( 418

sciencehabit writes: An 11-year-old research paper describing Treefinder, a computer program used by evolutionary biologists, has been retracted after the program's developer banned its use in European countries he deemed too friendly to refugees. In September, German scientist Gangolf Jobb announced on his website that researchers in eight European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, were no longer allowed to use Treefinder, which builds phylogenetic trees from sequence data. The move sparked outrage among some scientists, and now, BMC Evolutionary Biology has pulled the 2004 paper describing the software because the license change 'breaches the journal's editorial policy on software availability.'

Comet Catalina To Pass By Earth For the Final Time 54

StartsWithABang writes: Originating from the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, comets are generally thought of as periodic objects, with their initial trajectories having been perturbed by either Neptune, another distant object or a passing star or rogue planet. But most comets aren't periodic; they're transient instead, where a trip into the inner Solar System gives them additional gravitational perturbations, causing them to either fly into the Sun or gain enough kinetic energy to escape entirely. This latter fate is the case for Comet Catalina, which reaches perihelion on November 15th and then heads out of the Solar System after putting on one final show for observers on Earth.

Bill Confirming Property Rights For Asteroid Miners Passes the Senate ( 171

MarkWhittington writes: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee announced the passage of a bill called H.R.2262 — SPACE Act of 2015, which is designed to facilitate commercial space. The bill has a number of provisions for that purpose, including extending the "learning period" during which the government would be restricted from imposing regulations on the commercial launch industry to September 2023. The most interesting and potentially far-reaching provision concerned property rights for companies proposing to mine asteroids for their resources. In essence, the bill confirms that private companies own what they mine. The bill is a compromise between previous Senate and House versions.

Astronomers Spot Most Distant Object In the Solar System ( 85

sciencehabit writes: Astronomers have found the most distant known object in our solar system, three times farther away than Pluto. The dwarf planet, which has been designated v774104, is between 500 and 1000 kilometers across. It will take another year before scientists pin down its orbit, but it could end up joining an emerging class of extreme solar system objects whose strange orbits point to the hypothetical influence of rogue planets or nearby stars. In other planetary science news, UCLA professor Jean-Luc Margot has proposed a new definition of the term "planet" which would allow for the inclusion of exoplanets. His metric is laid out in an academic paper available at the arXiv.

DNA Data From California Newborn Blood Samples Stored, Sold To 3rd Parties ( 187

schwit1 writes: "This might come as a surprise to California natives in their 20s and early 30s: The state owns your DNA. Every year about four million newborns in the U.S. get a heel prick at birth, to screen for congenital disorders, that if found early enough, can save their life." However, when those tests are done, the leftover blood isn't simply thrown away. Instead, they're taken to an office building and the DNA data is stored in a database. "It’s a treasure trove of information about you, from the color of your eyes and hair to your pre-disposition to diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer." And that's not the end of it: "The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is not the only agency using the blood spots. Law enforcement can request them. Private companies can buy them to do research – without your consent."

The Two Modern Space Races ( 99

MarkWhittington writes: Observers of the current state of the space program like to maintain that a space race, such as occurred in the 1960s, will never happen again. They cannot be farther from the truth, since not just one, but two space races are going on. The Google Lunar X Prize is managing a race for the first private group to land a rover on the lunar surface and perform a number of tasks for glory and prize money. Eric Berger at Ars Technica pointed out that another prize space race, with the goal of performing the first private crewed space mission in low Earth orbit, is ongoing thanks to NASA's commercial crew program.

Stanford Creates Tricorder-Like Devices For Detecting Cancer and Explosives ( 34

An anonymous reader writes: A new technology has promise to safely find buried plastic explosives and maybe even spot fast-growing tumors. The technique involves the clever interplay of microwaves and ultrasound to develop a detector like the Star Trek tricorder. The careful manipulation of two scientific principles drives both the military and medical applications of the Stanford work. First, all materials expand and contract when stimulated with electromagnetic energy, such as light or microwaves. Second, this expansion and contraction produces ultrasound waves that travel to the surface and can be detected remotely.

In a potential battlefield application, the microwaves would heat the suspect area, causing the muddy ground to expand and thus squeeze the plastic (abstract). Pulsing the microwaves would generate a series of ultrasound pressure waves that could be detected and interpreted to disclose the presence of buried plastic explosives. Solving the technical challenges of detecting ultrasound after it left the ground gave the Stanford researchers the experience to take aim at their ultimate goal – using the device in medical applications without touching the skin.


Gambling Could Reveal Which Scientific Studies Are Worth Their Salt ( 63

sciencehabit writes with this interesting story about using prediction markets to weed out false positives in scientific experiments. From the article: "Gambling is frowned upon in many circles. But what if the gamblers are researchers betting on how each other's experiments will turn out, and the results are used to improve science itself? A group of psychologists has found that their collective gambling—with real money—predicted the outcome of attempts at replicating experimental results better than their own expert guesses. They propose that this type of gambling setup, known as a prediction market, could become part of how science gets done."

Icy Volcanoes May Erupt On Pluto ( 32

An anonymous reader writes: The New Horizons probe may have discovered two possible ice volcanoes on the surface of Pluto. "These are two really extraordinary features. Nothing like this has ever been seen in the solar system." Oliver White, a New Horizons postdoctoral researcher with NASA's Ames Research Center in California said. The mountains have been informally named Wright Mons and Picard Mons, and at their crests, each peak hosts a central crater, reminiscent of peaks called "shield volcanoes" on Earth. "Whatever they are, they're definitely weird" — 'volcanoes' is the least weird hypothesis at the moment," White says.

SETI Fails To Detect Signals Coming From KIC 8462852 ( 99

MarkWhittington writes: Rare excitement spread through the scientific community and the media when data from the Kepler Space Telescope indicated something strange going on around a star 1,500 light years away called KIC 8462852. An analysis of the pattern of light coming from the star suggested that a swarm of smaller objects was orbiting the planet. Scientists narrowed down the possible explanations for the data to either a swarm of comets or a group of alien megastructures. According to a story in Space Daily, an examination of KIC 8462852 by SETI, using the Allen Telescope Array, has failed to find any evidence that ET exists around that particular star.