Last week James Randi answered your questions. But that was text, and he's a performer ("The Amazing Randi"), so you need to hear the man talk to get his full flavor. He's a good talker, too. So Rob Rozeboom (samzenpus) got on Skype with The Amazing Randi to talk about his exploits, including his debunking of a whole bunch of (alleged) frauds, ranging from Uri Geller to Sylvia Browne. The resulting interview was so long and so strong that we cut it in half. Today you see Part One. Tomorrow you'll see Part Two. (The video's here now; sorry about the delay.)
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
astroengine writes "It may not be a lander or an orbiter, but its something. Europa, one of Jupiter's largest moons, has been the focus of much scrutiny over its potential life-bearing qualities. It has an icy crust over a liquid water ocean and now salts have been detected on its surface, suggesting a cycling of nutrients from the surface to the interior. This only amplifies the hypothesis that Europa not only could support basic life, it could support complex life. But how can we find out? The proposed Europa Clipper received interest at NASA HQ last year as it would optimize the science while keeping the mission budget under $2 billion. It would be a spacecraft that will be in orbit around Jupiter, but make multiple flybys of Europa to assess the moon for its habitable qualities. Now, in a bill signed by President Obama and approved by lawmakers, $75 million has been allocated (for the remainder of this fiscal year) for a 'Jupiter Europa mission.' Could it represent the seed money for the Europa Clipper? We'll have to wait and see."
beltsbear writes "Following a reasonable view of drug patents, the Indian courts have decided that making small changes to an existing patented drug are not worthy of a new patent. This ruling makes way for low cost Indian cancer drugs that will save lives. From the Article: 'Novartis lost a six-year legal battle after the court ruled that small changes and improvements to the drug Glivec did not amount to innovation deserving of a patent. The ruling opens the way for generic companies in India to manufacture and sell cheap copies of the drug in the developing world and has implications for HIV and other modern drugs too.'"
Zothecula writes "A manned Soyuz spacecraft set a record for traveling to the International Space Station (ISS), arriving six hours after launch instead of the usual two days. Soyuz 34 lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, March 28 at 4:43 p.m. EDT (08:43 GMT) and docked with the ISS at 10: 28 PM EDT (03:28 GMT). It was able to catch up and match trajectories with the ISS in only four orbits using new techniques previously tested in ISS rendezvouses with Russian unmanned Progress cargo ships."
redletterdave writes "In an unprecedented move sure to shake up the world of particle physics, CERN announced on Monday that it will give away its newly-discovered Higgs boson particles in a lottery. But given the rarity of Higgs boson particles – only one particle is created out of one million million collisions – CERN will only be able to reward 10 lucky winners. 'At CERN, we have always believed in sharing the results of our research, and the time has come to make that tangible,' said CERN director of research Sergio Bertolucci. 'This is our way of saying thanks for the incredible level of enthusiasm that has greeted this discovery.'"
An anonymous reader writes "It appears that Fermilab has chosen a a new director. They refuse to release the name of the new director, only referring to him as 'The Doctor'. Citing their primary reasons for choosing him: 'It was his extensive experience, as well as his vague yet somehow still impressive educational background, that tipped the scales in the Doctor's favor, members of the committee said. This despite the fact that none of the members could determine with any certainty exactly what the new lab director's doctorate is in. "After facing down Daleks, Cybermen and the Master, I can't think of anyone more qualified to take on a congressional budget committee," outgoing director Pier Oddonesaid said. "I think the Doctor is a perfect choice."'"
p00kiethebear writes "I have a wonderful and beautiful girlfriend who treats me right in every way. We've been together for almost a year now and everything seemed to be going perfectly until this morning. Over breakfast we were discussing dinosaurs and she told me a story about how her grandfather, fifty years ago, dated footprints of a dinosaurs and a man that were right next to each other to be within the same epoch of history. I laughed when she said this and then realized that she wasn't joking. She believes dinosaurs and humans walked at the same time together. The odd thing is that she's not religious, it's just what her archaeologist grandfather taught her. More important than just backing up evidence to the contrary, how do I explain this to her without crushing her childhood dreams? Is it even worth discussing it further with her?"
An anonymous reader writes "Australian researchers have successfully connected a Tasmanian colony of fairy penguins to the internet. The research effort was part of the Interspecies Internet initiative, promoted by Google's chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf and former Genesis lead singer Peter Gabriel in a TED talk earlier this year."
An anonymous reader writes in with news that a meteorite found in Morocco might be from Mercury. "The green rock found in Morocco last year may be the first known visitor from the solar system's innermost planet, according to meteorite scientist Anthony Irving, who unveiled the new findings this month at the 44th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. The study suggests that a space rock called NWA 7325 came from Mercury, and not an asteroid or Mars."
Tired of seeing ads for cars and soda before the films you watch at the theater? Well, a successful crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo will see a trimmed down version of NASA's 'We Are Explorers' video aired before showings of the upcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness in theaters all over the country. "Most people recognize space as a key expression of our character. They know our space programs as a globally recognized brand of ingenuity. The recently landed Mars Curiosity Rover was the latest reminder that space systems are the crown jewels of our scientific and technical prowess. Less known is the indispensable value space systems bring to our everyday lives. Space provides irreplaceable capabilities for defense, public health, finance, medicine, energy, agriculture, transportation, development and countless other fields. Investments in space programs are precisely about improving and protecting life on Earth. ... By funding this campaign, we can remind students and the general public that our nation's space agency is working hard on the next era of exploration." The campaign's funding goal was reached in just six days — their stretch goal will increase the number of theaters for the clip from 59 screens to 750. The movie comes out on May 17th.
RougeFemme writes "As part of a research project to develop low-cost artificial hands, DARPA has developed a two-hand robot that can almost change a tire. Research has mastered grasping objects with robotic hands; the next objective is to manipulate the objects once grasped. Research also continues on a neural interface, a direct link between a robotic arm and the human brain. The ultimate goal of the research project is to develop prostethics and robotic arms for wider use, by reducing cost and improving dexterity and machine vision."
New submitter alysion writes "Per research published in the online journal PLOS One, psychologists Christine Ma-Kellams of Harvard University and Jim Blascovich of the University of California, Santa Barbara report, 'Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms.' In one of the four supporting experiments, undergraduates considered an account of a date rape and were asked to judge behavior on a scale of 1 to 100. Science types, perhaps not surprisingly, proved to have a better grasp of reality, including the moral kind."
First time accepted submitter CanadianRealist writes "Electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen is very inefficient without the use of a catalyst. Unfortunately catalysts are currently made of crystals containing rare, expensive toxic metals such as ruthenium and iridium. Two chemists from the University of Calgary have invented a process to make a catalyst using relatively non-toxic metal compounds such as iron oxide, for 1/1000 the cost of currently used catalysts. It is suggested this would make it more feasible to use electrolysis of water to create hydrogen as a method of storing energy from variable green power sources such as wind and solar."
MarkWhittington writes "Included in President Obama's 2014 budget request will be a $100 million line item for NASA for a mission to capture and bring an asteroid to a high orbit around the moon where it will be explored by astronauts. Whether the $2.6 billion mission is a replacement or a supplement to the president's planned human mission to an asteroid is unclear. The proposal was first developed by the Keck Institite in April, 2012 and has achieved new impetus due to the meteor incident over Russia and new fears of killer asteroids."
sciencehabit writes "For the first time, synthetic biologists have created a genetic device that mimics one of the widgets on which all of modern electronics is based, the three-terminal transistor. Like standard electronic transistors, the new biological transistor is expected to work in many different biological circuit designs. This should make it easier for scientists to program cells to do everything from monitor pollutants and the progression of disease to turning on the output of medicines and biofuels."
First time accepted submitter markboyer writes "The Solar Impulse just landed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California to announce a journey that will take it from San Francisco to New York without using a single drop of fuel. The 'Across America' tour will kick off this May when founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg take off from San Francisco. From there the plane will visit four cities across the states before landing in New York."
SternisheFan points out that there is a great new panorama made from shots from the Curiosity Rover. "Sweep your gaze around Gale Crater on Mars, where NASA's Curiosity rover is currently exploring, with this 4-billion-pixel panorama stitched together from 295 images. ...The entire image stretches 90,000 by 45,000 pixels and uses pictures taken by the rover's two MastCams. The best way to enjoy it is to go into fullscreen mode and slowly soak up the scenery — from the distant high edges of the crater to the enormous and looming Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual destination."
ananyo writes "Nature has published an investigation into the real costs of publishing research after delving into the secretive, murky world of science publishing. Few publishers (open access or otherwise-including Nature Publishing Group) would reveal their profit margins, but they've pieced together a picture of how much it really costs to publish a paper by talking to analysts and insiders. Quoting from the piece: '"The costs of research publishing can be much lower than people think," agrees Peter Binfield, co-founder of one of the newest open-access journals, PeerJ, and formerly a publisher at PLoS. But publishers of subscription journals insist that such views are misguided — born of a failure to appreciate the value they add to the papers they publish, and to the research community as a whole. They say that their commercial operations are in fact quite efficient, so that if a switch to open-access publishing led scientists to drive down fees by choosing cheaper journals, it would undermine important values such as editorial quality.' There's also a comment piece by three open access advocates setting out what they think needs to happen next to push forward the movement as well as a piece arguing that 'Objections to the Creative Commons attribution license are straw men raised by parties who want open access to be as closed as possible.'"
A while ago you had the chance to ask James Randi, the founder of The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), about exposing hucksters, frauds, and fakers. Below you'll find his answers to your questions. In addition to his writings below, Randi was nice enough to sit down and talk to us about his life and his foundation. Keep an eye out for those videos coming soon.
Zothecula writes "Given that scientists are already looking to sea sponges as an inspiration for body armor, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that foam is also being considered ... not just any foam, though. Unlike regular foam, specially-designed nanofoams could someday not only be used in body armor, but also to protect buildings from explosions."