An anonymous reader writes "Seed giant Monsanto has won more than $23 million from hundreds of small farmers accused of replanting the company's genetically engineered seeds. Now, another case is looming – and it could set a landmark precedent for the future of seed ownership. From the article: 'According to the report, Monsanto has alleged seed patent infringement in 144 lawsuits against 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in at least 27 U.S. states as of January of 2013. Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta together hold 53 percent of the global commercial seed market, which the report says has led to price increases for seeds -- between 1995 and 2011, the average cost of planting one acre of soybeans rose 325 percent and corn seed prices went up 259 percent.'"
MTorrice writes "During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, clean up crews applied millions of liters of dispersants to break up the oil. At the time, the public and some scientists worried about the environmental effects of the chemicals, in particular how long they would last in the deep sea. According to a new Environmental Protection Agency study, the key active ingredient in the dispersants degrades very rapidly under conditions similar to those found at the Gulf surface during the spill. Meanwhile, in the much colder temperatures found in the deep sea, the breakdown is quite slow. The chemicals' persistence at deep-sea and Arctic temperatures suggests more research is needed on their toxicity, the researchers say."
ananyo writes "Synthetic biologists have developed DNA modules that perform logic operations in bacteria. These 'genetic circuits' could, for example, be used by scientists to track key moments in a cell's life or, in biotechnology, to turn on production of a drug at the flick of a chemical switch. The researchers have encoded 16 logic gates in modules of DNA and stored the results of logical operations. The different logic gates can be assembled into a wide variety of circuits."
Lucas123 writes "Applying the same technology used for voice recognition and credit card fraud detection to medical treatments could cut healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes by almost 50%, according to new research. Scientists at Indiana University found that using patient data with machine-learning algorithms can drastically improve both the cost and quality of healthcare through simulation modeling.The artificial intelligence models used for diagnosing and treating patients obtained a 30% to 35% increase in positive patient outcomes, the research found. This is not the first time AI has been used to diagnose and suggest treatments. Last year, IBM announced that its Watson supercomputer would be used in evaluating evidence-based cancer treatment options for physicians, driving the decision-making process down to a matter of seconds."
astroengine writes "During the flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 on Friday, radio astronomers will be priming their antennae to do some cutting-edge science on the interplanetary interloper. After firing radio waves at the space rock, the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) will work in tandem with several dishes that make up the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to detect the reflected signal, radar gun style. But they're not measuring the object's speed. They're actually going to gain a measure of DA14's spin, a quantity that relates to the physical mechanism of the Yarkovsky Effect — the impact that solar heating has on the long-term trajectory of asteroids."
Beeftopia writes "The relationship between regulator and regulated is once again called into question as industry pressure leads to a scientist's removal from an EPA regulatory panel. From the article: 'In 2007, when Deborah Rice was appointed chair of an Environmental Protection Agency panel assessing the safety levels of flame retardants, she arrived as a respected Maine toxicologist with no ties to industry. Yet the EPA removed Rice from the panel after an intense push by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry lobbying group that accused her of bias. Her supposed conflict of interest? She had publicly raised questions about the safety of a flame retardant under EPA review.'"
dstates writes with news from NASA about the state of available water in the Middle East. From the NASA article: "'GRACE data show an alarming rate of decrease in total water storage in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, which currently have the second fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on Earth, after India,' said Jay Famiglietti, principal investigator of the study and a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine. 'The rate was especially striking after the 2007 drought. Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws.'" dstates adds: "Water is a huge global security issue. To understand the middle east, you need to understand that the Golan Heights provides a significant amount of the water used in Israel. Focusing on conflicts and politics means that huge volumes of valuable water are being wasted in the Middle East, and this will only exacerbate future conflicts. Water is a serious issue between India and China. And then there is Africa. U.S. food exports are in effect exporting irrigation water drawn from the Ogallala aquifer. Fracking trades water for energy, and lack of water limits fracking in many parts of th world. Think about it."
A few weeks ago you had the chance to ask Jack Horner about dinosaurs, science funding, and extinction level events. He's sent back his responses and commented: "Very impressive audience you have!" Read below for more flattery and his answers to your questions.
Mirk writes "Academic researchers want to make their papers open access for the world to read. If they use traditional publishers like Elsevier, Springer or Taylor & Francis, they'll be charged $3000 to bring their work out from behind the paywall. But PeerJ, a new megajournal launched today and funded by Tim O'Reilly, publishes open access articles for $99. That's not done by cutting corners: the editorial process is thorough, and they use rigorous peer-review. The cost savings come from running lean and mean on a born-digital system. The initial batch of 30 papers includes one on a Penn and Teller trick and one on the long necks of dinosaurs." $99 entitles you to publish an article a year, for life. $300 nets you unlimited articles published per year.
astroengine writes "President Barack Obama called for 'meaningful progress' on tackling climate change in his State of the Union speech in Washington, DC on Tuesday night. While acknowledging that 'no single event makes a trend,' the President noted that the United States had been buffeted by extreme weather events that in many cases encapsulated the predictions of climate scientists. 'But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods — all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it's too late,' Obama added." Other significant statements from Obama's speech: 34,000 troops coming back from Afghanistan over the next year; new gun regulations "deserve a vote"; rewards for schools that focus on STEM education; increases in tech research; a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9.00/hr and tie it to inflation; and a proposal to use oil and gas revenues to fund a move away from oil and gas,
coondoggie writes "The asteroid NASA says is about the half the size of a football field that will blow past Earth on Feb 15 could be worth up to $195 billion in metals and propellant. That's what the scientists at Deep Space Industries, a company that wants to mine these flashing hunks of space materials, thinks the asteroid known as 2012 DA14 is worth — if they could catch it."
An anonymous reader writes "Ars reports on new legislation in the Missouri House of Representatives which is seeking equal time in the classroom for Intelligent Design, and to redefine science itself. You can read the text of the bill online. It uses over 600 words to describe Intelligent Design. Scientific theory, the bill says, is 'an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy.' It would require that 'If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught.' The legislation's references to 'scientific theory' and 'scientific law' make it clear the writers don't have the slightest idea how science actually works. It also has this odd line near the end: 'If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth's biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A group of researchers including Dr. H. Shaw Warren of Mass. General Hospital and Stanford genomics researcher Ronald W. Davis have published a paper challenging the effectiveness of the 'mouse model' as a basis for medical research, based on a decade-long study involving 39 doctors and scientists across the country. In clinical studies of sepsis (a severe inflammatory disorder caused by the immune system's abnormal response to a pathogen), trauma, and burns, the researchers found that certain drugs triggered completely different genetic responses in mice compared with humans. The Warren-Davis paper was rejected by both Science and Nature before its acceptance by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, perhaps suggesting the degree to which the 'mouse model' has become entrenched within the medical research community. Ninety five percent of the laboratory animals used in research are mice or rats. Mice in particular are ideal subjects for research: they are cheap to obtain and house, easy to handle, and share at least 80 percent of their genes with humans (by some reckoning, closer to 99 percent). Over the past twenty five years, powerful methods of genetically engineering mice by 'knocking out' individual genes have become widely adopted, so that use of mice for drug testing prior to human clinical trials has become standard procedure."
astroengine writes "In a recent poll funded by the non-profit Explore Mars, 71% of respondents agreed that the U.S. will send a human to Mars within the next two decades. Unfortunately, on average, the sample of 1,101 people surveyed thought the U.S. government allocated 2.4% of the federal budget to NASA — in reality it's only 0.5%. With this in mind, 75% of the respondents agreed/strongly agreed that NASA's budget should be increased to explore Mars through manned and robotic means."
New adosch writes "The Landsat Data Continuity Mission is now in orbit, after launching Monday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Calif. After about three months of testing, the U.S. Geological Survey will take control and the mission, renamed Landsat 8, will extend more than 40 years of global land observations critical to energy and water management, forest monitoring, human and environmental health, urban planning, disaster recovery, and agriculture." We still need more new observation satellites to avoid losing Earth observing capabilities as the work horses of the NASA/USGS fleet die of old age.
coondoggie writes "The US Department of Energy today said it would spend $20 million on the development of advanced cybersecurity tools to help protect the nation's vulnerable energy supply. The DOE technologies developed under this program should be interoperable, scalable, cost-effective advanced tools that do not impede critical energy delivery functions, that are innovative and can easily be commercialized or made available through open source for no cost."
First time accepted submitter Ben Rooney writes "Children in the Baltic state of Estonia will learn statistics based less on computation and doing math by hand and more on framing and interpreting problems, and thinking about validation and strategy. From the article: 'Jon McLoone is Content Director for computerbasedmath.org, a project to redefine school math education assuming the use of computers. The company announced a deal Monday with the Estonian Education ministry to trial a self-contained statistics program replacing the more traditional curriculum. “We are re-thinking computer education with the assumption that computers are the tools for computation,” said Mr. McLoone. “Schools are still focused on teaching hand calculating. Computation used to be the bottleneck. The hard part was solving the equations, so that was the skill you had to teach. These days that is the bit that computers can do. What computers can’t do is set up the problem, interpret the problem, think about validation and strategy. That is what we should be teaching and spending less time teaching children to be poor computers rather than good mathematicians.”'"
astroengine writes "The SETI Institute has launched a new website called 'Pluto Rocks!' intended to gather a public vote on the names of Pluto's smallest, and most recently discovered, moons P4 and P5. Discovered in 2011 and 2012 by Hubble, the two dinky satellites have concerned scientists managing the NASA New Horizons probe that will flyby the Plutonian system in 2015 — the presence of small rocky bodies in Pluto orbit might mean there is a significant collision risk to the high velocity spacecraft. This sinister back story will surely influence the naming outcome of the two new moons, where all the suggestions on Pluto Rocks! are related to Greek and Roman mythological characters from the underworld (but you can also make your own suggestions). If you want to get involved, there's also a special SETI Institute G+ Hangout planned for 11 a.m. PT Monday where two of the P4/P5 discovery scientists will hold a Q&A session."
Hugh Pickens writes writes "BBC reports that Pope Benedict XVI is to resign at the end of this month in an unexpected development, saying he is too old to continue at the age of 85. In a statement, the pontiff said: 'After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.' Resignations from the papacy are not unknown, but this is the first in the modern era, which has been marked by pontiffs dying while in office."
theodp writes "In an open letter on TechCrunch, Vivek Wadhwa calls on Congressman Luis Gutierrez to lift his 'hold on Silicon Valley' and stop tying immigration reform for highly-skilled STEM immigrants to the plight of undocumented immigrants. So, why should the STEM set get first dibs? 'The issues of high-skilled and undocumented immigrants are both equally important,' says Wadhwa, but 'the difference is that the skilled workers have mobility and are in great demand all over the world. They are getting frustrated and are leaving in droves.' Commenting on Gutierrez's voting record, Wadhwa adds, 'I would have voted for visas for 50,000 smart foreign students graduating with STEM degrees from U.S. universities over bringing in 55,000 randomly selected high-school graduates from abroad. The STEM graduates would have created jobs and boosted our economy. The lottery winners will come to the U.S. with high hopes, but will face certain unemployment and misery because of our weak economy.' So, should Gutierrez cede to Wadhwa's techies-before-Latinos proposal, or would this be an example of the paradox of virtuous meritocracy undermining equality of opportunity?"