Lasrick writes "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announces whether their Doomsday Clock has been moved with this open letter to President Obama, outlining progress on a number of fronts, but also detailing what still needs to be done to avoid various threats to humanity." From the article: "2012 was a year in which the problems of the world pressed forward, but too many of its citizens stood back. In the U.S. elections the focus was "the economy, stupid," with barely a word about the severe long-term trends that threaten the population's well-being to a far greater extent: climate change, the continuing menace of nuclear oblivion, and the vulnerabilities of the world's energy sources."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Back in 2005, RAND Corporation published an analysis suggesting that hospitals and other health-care facilities could save more than $81 billion a year by adopting electronic health records. While e-records have earned a ton of buzz, the reality hasn't quite worked out: seven years later, RAND's new study suggests that health care providers have largely failed to upgrade their respective IT systems in a way that allows them to take full advantage of e-records. Meanwhile, the health care system in the United States continues to waste hundreds of billions of dollars a year, by some estimates. 'The failure of health information technology to quickly deliver on its promise is not caused by its lack of potential, but rather because of the shortcomings in the design of the IT systems that are currently in place,' Dr. Art Kellerman, senior author of the RAND study, wrote in a Jan. 7 statement. Slow pace of adoption, he added, has further delayed the productivity gains from e-records."
First time accepted submitter JacobAlexander writes "Writing in PNAS, a University of Manchester physicist has discovered that some games are simply impossible to fully learn, or too complex for the human mind to understand. Dr Tobias Galla from The University of Manchester and Professor Doyne Farmer from Oxford University and the Santa Fe Institute, ran thousands of simulations of two-player games to see how human behavior affects their decision-making. From the article: 'In simple games with a small number of moves, such as Noughts and Crosses the optimal strategy is easy to guess, and the game quickly becomes uninteresting. However, when games became more complex and when there are a lot of moves, such as in chess, the board game Go or complex card games, the academics argue that players' actions become less rational and that it is hard to find optimal strategies.'"
In January, 2012, Slashdot carried a story about the launch of a $10 million X-Prize for Tricorder design. This year, at CES, Timothy Lord met Alan Zack, who works for the X PRIZE Foundation, and learned a little more about the Tricorder prize and what it's going to take to win it. "Ultimately," says the www.qualcommtricorderxprize.org page, "this tool will collect large volumes of data from ongoing measurement of health states through a combination of wireless sensors, imaging technologies, and portable, non-invasive laboratory replacements." If the success of the Ansari X PRIZE is any indication, it's a rational goal -- and the competition will be exciting to follow as it cranks up.
Zothecula writes "At about 100 times the strength of steel and a sixth the weight, with impressive electrical conductive properties, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have promised much since their discovery in 1991. The problem has been translating their impressive nanoscale properties into real-world applications on the macro scale. Researchers have now unveiled a new CNT fiber that conducts heat and electricity like a metal wire, is very strong like carbon fiber, and is flexible like a textile thread."
cylonlover writes "NASA has announced that it has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide the International Space Station with an inflatable module. Details of the award will be discussed by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Bigelow Aerospace President Robert Bigelow at a press conference on January 16 at the Bigelow Aerospace facilities in North Las Vegas. However, based on previous talks, it's likely that the module in question could be the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)."
You may soon have another option to lose weight other than dieting and exercise thanks to Dean Kamen. The inventor has designed a pump that can suck the cheeseburgers out of your stomach and replace it with water. From the article: "The pump was invented by Dean Kamen, the same man who brought you the Segway, and perhaps more fittingly, a breakthrough dialysis machine. This pump works by routing a tube directly into the user's stomach and then sucking out some of the gooey, masticated goodness. The user then squeezes a little plastic bag to replace that volume of stomach-stew with water. Sounds great, right? There are some catches though. It hasn't been approved by the FDA yet, and some of the users in the tests had problems with certain foods like 'cauliflower, broccoli, Chinese food, stir fry, snow peas, pretzels, chips, and steak.' Oh, also there's a tube going into your stomach that you use to pump unpuked vomit into the toilet. Participants in trial studies did manage to lose about half of their excess weight this way, around 45 pounds on average, so apparently it works."
RocketAcademy writes "A petition on the White House website is calling for the United States to rapidly develop a nuclear thermal rocket engine. Nuclear rockets are a promising technology, but unless NASA develops a deep-space exploration ship such as Johnson Space Center's Nautilus X, a nuclear rocket would be wasted. Launching nuclear rockets may pose regulatory and political problems as well. Practical applications may depend on mining uranium or thorium on the Moon."
Thorfinn.au writes "Authorities are warning lives and property are under immediate threat as a large bushfire burns out of control near communities in northern New South Wales. The Rural Fire Service has issued an emergency warning for the large, fast moving blaze near Coonabarabran, which has already destroyed two properties. Siding Springs, the principal optical observatory is under threat. The MtStromlo observatory was destroyed in a bush fire in 2003."
netbuzz writes "New research from MIT suggests that entrepreneurs innovate better than managers not because they try more often but rather because when they do try they apply more of their available brainpower to the task. 'We found, somewhat surprisingly, that managers and entrepreneurs did not differ in the probability with which they would undertake explorative (potentially innovative) courses of action. But when entrepreneurs did select explorative tasks, they used both the left and right sides of the frontal cortex of their brain whereas managers only used their left parts of the frontal cortex,' says the lead researcher, MIT Sloan School of Management Visiting Prof. Maurizio Zollo. This is an important difference, he notes, 'because the right side of the frontal cortex is associated with creative thinking, involving to a larger extent emotional processes, whereas the left side is associated with rational decision-making and logic.'"
DeviceGuru writes "A handful of innovative high-tech startups have recently emerged to create a new market: remote telepresence robots. With one of these robotic Avatars, you can wander around in the remote environment, chatting with coworkers and managers, attending meetings, and solving problems encountered through those interactions. InformationWeek's Telepresence Robot Smackdown compares five such bots — the MantaroBot TeleMe, VGo Communications VGo, Anybots QB, Suitable Technologies Beam, and Revolve Robotics Kubi — and includes short videos demonstrating each. As the article concludes, 'bear in mind that what we're witnessing here is the emergence of a new industry; and if Moore's Law applies here as it does to so many IT spheres, it won't be long before these gadgets are inexpensive, commonplace, and far more flexible and intelligent."
New submitter mal0rd writes "NewScientist reports a 'collection of galaxies that is a whopping four billion light years long is the biggest cosmic structure ever seen. The group is roughly one-twentieth the diameter of the observable universe – big enough to challenge a principle dating back to Einstein, that, on large scales, the universe looks the same in every direction.' For reference, Andromeda is only 2.5 million light years away."
coondoggie writes "This plan sounds a bit like a science fiction scenario where alien devices were planted in the ground thousands of years ago only to be awoken at some predetermined date to destroy the world. Only in this case it's the scientists at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency who want to develop a system of submersible pods that could reside in the world's oceans (presumably not in anyone's territorial waters) and be activated for any number of applications days, months or even years later."
BuzzSkyline writes "A new design for bicycle cranks violates basic principles of physics, but that's not stopping the inventor of Z-Torque cranks from trying to raise thousands in start-up capital through crowd funding." The picture looks intriguing for a fleeting moment before it looks silly. Covered in similar style at a site I'm glad to discover exists, the Bicycle Museum of Bad Ideas.
An anonymous reader writes "A new technique allows allows 'thermocrystals' to be created that can manipulate heat (a vibration of the atomic lattice of a material). Predicted manipulations include the ability to selectively transmit, reflect or concentrate heat much like light waves can be manipulated by lenses and mirrors. 'Heat differs from sound, he explains, in the frequency of its vibrations: Sound waves consist of lower frequencies (up to the kilohertz range, or thousands of vibrations per second), while heat arises from higher frequencies (in the terahertz range, or trillions of vibrations per second).' Applications range from better thermoelectric devices to switchable heat insulating/transmitting materials (abstract). Perhaps this will result in better cooling/heating mechanisms or more efficient engines."
SchrodingerZ writes "A new video was released yesterday by NASA from the GRAIL mission probes, which ended their mission last month as they impacted the lunar surface. 'Dramatic' footage was captured by the probe Ebb on December 14th. The video was taken from the 'MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school Students) cameras. It shows the view of Ebb flying at an altitude of 6 miles (10 km) above the Moon's northern hemisphere in the vicinity of Jackson crater (22.4N 163.1W).' Two videos were released, one from the fore and one from the aft of the probe, showing a forwards and backwards time lapse containing 931 and 1,489 pictures each of the lunar terrain. The footage was part of the probes' final systems check before they shut down and were sent into a controlled impact to a predetermined location."
ananyo writes "The ribosome, the molecular machine that translates our genetic code to build the body's proteins, is a mechanical marvel. Now, chemists have invented a nanomachine that can achieve a similar feat. The artificial system is not about to displace nature's ribosome, a complex of proteins and RNA. It is much simpler, and only about about one-tenth of the size — and, it is achingly slow, destroys the code it reads and can produce only very short chunks of protein, known as peptides. It does, however, show that some of the tactics of biology's molecular machines can be adopted to make useful chemicals. The device relies on a rotaxane — a large molecular ring threaded onto another molecule that acts as an axle (abstract). The axle is lined with three amino acids, and a chain of three more amino acids hangs from the outer edge of the ring. Heating the device prompts the ring to move along the axle, adding amino acids one-by-one to the chain attached to the ring."
sciencehabit writes "Something is orbiting the bright star Fomalhaut in the constellation known as the Southern Fish, but no one knows exactly what it is. New observations carried out last year with the Hubble Space Telescope confirm that the mysterious object, known as Fomalhaut b, is traveling on a highly elongated path, but they haven't convincingly nailed down its true nature. But if it is a planet, as one team of astronomers thinks, we may be in for some celestial fireworks in 2032, when Fomalhaut b starts to plough through a broad belt of debris that surrounds the star and icy comets within the belt smash into the planet's atmosphere." Meanwhile, astronomers recently announced the discovery of the most Earth-like exoplanet yet seen, which orbits a G-type star, has a radius 1.5 times that of Earth and a year of about 242 days.
Hugh Pickens writes "Louise Radnofsky reports that a study by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine has found U.S. life expectancy ranks near the bottom of 17 affluent countries. The U.S. is at or near the bottom in nine key areas of health: infant mortality and low birth weight; injuries and homicides; teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections; prevalence of HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and disability. Americans fare worse than people in other countries even when the analysis is limited to non-Hispanic whites and people with relatively high incomes and health insurance, nonsmokers, or people who are not obese. The report notes that average life expectancy for American men, at 75.6 years, was the lowest among the 17 countries and almost four years shorter than for Switzerland, the best-performing nation. American women's average life expectancy is 80.8 years, the second-lowest among the countries and five years shorter than Japan's, which had the highest expectancy. 'The [U.S.] health disadvantage is pervasive — it affects all age groups up to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and behavioral risk factors, and injuries,' say the report's authors. The authors offered a range of possible explanations for Americans' worse health and mortality, including social inequality, limited availability of contraception for teenagers, community designs that discourage physical activity such as walking, air pollution as well as individual behaviors such as high calorie consumption. The report's authors were particularly critical of the availability of guns. 'One behavior that probably explains the excess lethality of violence and unintentional injuries in the United States is the widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home,' reads the report. 'The statistics are dramatic.'"
alancronin writes "In conjunction with BBC's recent astronomy television program Stargazing Live comes a citizen science project to analyze images of Mars. Zooniverse has set up a site that allows people to explore the surface of Mars in incredible detail with pictures taken from the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. HiRISE can image Mars with resolutions of 0.3 m/pixel (about 1 foot), resolving objects below a meter across."