ananyo writes "Two dangerous things together might make a medicine for one of the hardest cancers to treat. In a mouse model of pancreatic cancer, researchers have shown that bacteria can deliver deadly radiation to tumours — exploiting the immune suppression that normally makes the disease so intractable. The researchers coated the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes with radioactive antibodies and injected the bacterium into mice with pancreatic cancer that had spread to multiple sites. After several doses, the mice that had received the radioactive bacteria had 90% fewer metastases compared with mice that had received saline or radiation alone."
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new submitter heybiff writes "It is the time of year where students are scrambling for extra credit assignments to boost grades. As a middle school science teacher, I want to accommodate them, while still keeping science involved; and book reports are a popular activity in my school. Unfortunately, I have only been able to come up with a short list of science related books that a 11-14 year old would or could read in their free time: Ender's Game, Hitchhiker's Guide. What books would you recommend as a good read for an extra credit book report, that would still involve a strong science twist or inspire a student's interest in science? The book must be in print, science related, fiction or non-fiction, and not be overtly objectionable or outright banned. I look forward to the submissions." "Outright banned" actually seems a rich vein on which to draw; note that not even Ender's Game is safe.
First time accepted submitter ckwu writes "Scientists once thought that pathogens could not reach drinking water wells sunk into deep, protected groundwater aquifers. Nevertheless, over the past decade, researchers have identified diarrhea-causing viruses at a handful of deep bedrock well sites in the U.S. and Europe. Now, researchers report where these pathogenic viruses may have originated. The viruses appear to seep from sewer pipes and then swiftly penetrate drinking water wells. Experts recommend that public water systems might need to start testing for viruses on a routine basis."
ananyo writes "Activists occupied an animal facility at the University of Milan, Italy, at the weekend, releasing mice and rabbits and mixing up cage labels to confuse experimental protocols. Researchers at the university say that it will take years to recover their work. Many of the animals at the facility are genetic models for psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. Some of the mice removed by activists were delicate mutants and immunosuppressed 'nude' mice, which die very quickly outside controlled environments. No arrests have been made following the 12-hour drama, which took place on Saturday, although the university says that it will press charges against the protesters. The attack was staged by the animal-rights group that calls itself Fermare Green Hill (or Stop Green Hill), in reference to the Green Hill dog-breeding facility near Brescia, Italy, which it targets for closure."
littlesparkvt writes in with a bit from Space Industry News about Bigelow Aerospace's plans for the moon: "NASA and Bigelow Aerospace are in the initial planning phases for a moon base. 'As part of our broader commercial space strategy, NASA signed a Space Act Agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to foster ideas about how the private sector can contribute to future human missions,' Said David Weaver NASA Associate Administrator for the Office of Communications." Bigelow will be performing the study for free too. Robert Bigelow chatted with a radio host a few weeks ago about Bigelow's long-term space plans. They include refueling depots and a commercial moon base, since NASA isn't planning to go there.
colinneagle writes "During a recent trip to an eye doctor, I noticed that she was still using Windows XP. After I suggested that she might need to upgrade soon, she said she couldn't because she couldn't afford the $10,000 fee involved with the specialty medical software that has been upgraded for Windows 7. Software written for medical professionals is not like mass market software. They have a limited market and can't make back their money in volume because there isn't the volume for an eye doctor's database product like there is for Office or Quicken. With many expecting Microsoft's upcoming end-of-support for XP to cause a security nightmare of unsupported Windows devices in the wild, it seems a good time to ask how many users may fall into the category of wanting an upgrade, but being priced out by expensive but necessary third-party software. More importantly, can anything be done about it?"
coondoggie writes "IBM today said its researchers are developing a solar power system that concentrates solar radiation 2,000 times by using a human-blood supply modeled way of cooling and converting 80% of Sun's heat into useful energy. IBM says the system can also desalinate water and cool air in sunny, remote locations where such systems are often in short supply."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Samsung is testing a way to control your mobile device with your brainwaves. If that project succeeds, it would truly be a case of science fiction brought to real life. According to MIT Technology Review, Samsung's Emerging Technology Lab is collaborating with Roozbeh Jafari, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas, Dallas, on the early-stage research. That research involves placing a cap 'studded with EEG-monitoring electrodes' atop the head of a convenient subject, who then concentrates on an onscreen icon blinking at a particular rate. Concentrate hard enough, and the subject can launch and interact with applications. However, Samsung also indicated that mind-controlled mobile devices are quite a ways off, if they ever appear in a market-ready form at all. 'Several years ago, a small keypad was the only input modality to control the phone, but nowadays the user can use voice, touch, gesture, and eye movement to control and interact with mobile devices,' Insoo Kim, Samsung's lead researcher, told the Review. 'Adding more input modalities will provide us with more convenient and richer ways of interacting with mobile devices.' In any case, it's a crazy concept, the sort of thing Philip K. Dick might have written up as a short story; but it's one evidently grounded in reality."
An anonymous reader writes "A single equation grounded in basic physics principles could describe intelligence and stimulate new insights in fields as diverse as finance and robotics, according to new research, reports Inside Science. Recent work in cosmology has suggested that universes that produce more entropy (or disorder) over their lifetimes tend to have more favorable properties for the existence of intelligent beings such as ourselves. A new study (pdf) in the journal Physical Review Letters led by Harvard and MIT physicist Alex Wissner-Gross suggests that this tentative connection between entropy production and intelligence may in fact go far deeper. In the new study, Dr. Wissner-Gross shows that remarkably sophisticated human-like "cognitive" behaviors such as upright walking, tool use, and even social cooperation (video) spontaneously result from a newly identified thermodynamic process that maximizes entropy production over periods of time much shorter than universe lifetimes, suggesting a potential cosmology-inspired path towards general artificial intelligence."
After high winds (up to 140mph) delayed yesterday's scheduled launch (itself a re-do because of a cabling problem), Orbital Science's Antares rocket has made it to space. This launch was a test run, but Antares is intended to launch supplies to the ISS. Space.com reports: "The third try was the charm for the private Antares rocket, which launched into space from a new pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, its twin engines roaring to life at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) to carry a mock cargo ship out over the Atlantic Ocean and into orbit. The successful liftoff came after two delays caused by a minor mechanical glitch and bad weather." Congratulations to all involved.
hessian writes with a story at Wired (excerpt below) about a project from Drew Endy of the International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology, or BIOFAB, to standardize a programming language connecting genetic information from DNA to the cell components that DNA can create. "The BIOFAB project is still in the early stages. Endy and the team are creating the most basic of building blocks — the 'grammar' for the language. Their latest achievement, recently reported in the journal Science, has been to create a way of controlling and amplifying the signals sent from the genome to the cell. Endy compares this process to an old fashioned telegraph. 'If you want to send a telegraph from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the signals would get degraded along the wire,' he says. "At some point, you have to have a relay system that would detect the signals before they completely went to noise and then amplify them back up to keep sending them along their way.""
Shipud writes "E.O. Wilson is the renowned father of sociobiology, a professor (emeritus) at Harvard, two time pulitzer prize winner, and a popularizer of science. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Wilson provides controversial advice to aspiring young scientists. Wilson claims that math literacy is not essential, and that scientific models in biology, intuitively generated, can later be formalized by a specialized statistician. One blogger calls out Wilson on his article, arguing that knowing mathematics is essential to generating models, and that lacking what Darwin called the "extra sense" is essentially limiting to any scientist."
The Washington Post reports that concerns about high winds have postponed until tomorrow evening the launch of Orbital Science's Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia. When the rocket finally launches, it should be a spectacular event for the region: "Clear skies should allow viewing of the 133-foot rocket throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic – including the Washington, D.C. area. Assuming technical issues don’t delay or abort the launch, look southeast and the rocket will be viewable about 10 degrees above the horizon in the Washington area at 5 p.m. 6:10 p.m."
alostpacket writes "The New York times reports that statistical scoring by the standardized testing company Pearson incorrectly disqualified over 4700 students from a chance to enter gifted / advanced programs in New York City schools. Only students who score in the 90th percentile or above are eligible for these programs. Those in the 97th or above are eligible for 5 of the best programs. 'According to Pearson, three mistakes were made. Students' ages, which are used to calculate their percentile ranking against students of similar age, were recorded in years and months, but should also have counted days to be precise. Incorrect scoring tables were used. And the formula used to combine the two test parts into one percentile ranking contained an error.' No mention of enlisting the help of the gifted children was made in the Times article, but it also contained a now-corrected error. This submission likely also contains an erro"
Florida today reports that cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov on Friday became the oldest person to have completed a spacewalk. From the article: "Working outside the Russian side of the international outpost, Vinogradov and cosmonaut Roman Romanenko put in six hours and 38 minutes of high-flying maintenance work. They set up a plasma physics experiment and retrieved a package that exposed advanced spacecraft materials to the deleterious space environment. They also replaced a reflector that is part of an autonomous rendezvous and docking system that will guide a robotic European space freighter to the station in early June." NASASpaceFlight.com has more details on the spacewalk, as well as the note that Vinogradov edges out "Story Musgrave, who was 58 when he flew the Hubble SM-1 mission in 1993."
damn_registrars writes "The lobe-finned fish described as a 'living fossil' due to its apparent lack of change for hundreds of millions of years (thought to be extinct until the 1930s) has been sequenced by an international team, including scientists from Sweden, Harvard, and MIT. The 3-billion-base-pair genome of the Coelacanth was described yesterday in the journal Nature. This paper is published in an open (non-paywalled) manner on Nature, making the full text available to all. 'We found that the genes overall are evolving significantly slower than in every other fish and land vertebrate that we looked at.'"
sciencehabit writes "When Superstorm Sandy struck the United States on 30 October, it didn't just devastate the Eastern Seaboard, it shook the ground as far away as the West Coast, producing tiny vibrations in Earth's crust that were picked up by seismometers there. Scientists can use this activity to track the path of the storm. Now, they say that analyzing past records of these vibrations may help them discern whether climate change has influenced the amount of storminess over the world's oceans in recent decades."
ananyo writes "Researchers have tagged every single worker in entire colonies and used a computer to track them, accumulating what they say is the largest-ever data set on ant interactions. The biologists have found that the workers fall into three social groups that perform different roles: nursing the queen and young; cleaning the colony; and foraging for food. The insects, they found, tend to graduate from one group to another as they age. By creating heat maps to represent the workers’ positions, Mersch's team showed that nurses and foragers stick to their own company and seldom mix, even if the colony’s entrance and brood chamber are close together (abstract). Cleaners are more widely dispersed, patrolling the whole colony and interacting with both of the other groups. 'The ants can probably be in any place within their enclosures in less than a minute,' says Mersch, 'but even in these simple spaces, they organize into these spatial groups.'"
astroengine writes "About 1,200 light-years from Earth, five planets are circling around sun-like star Kepler-62, two of which are fortuitously positioned for water, if any exists, to remain liquid on their surfaces — a condition believed to be necessary for life. The discovery, made by scientists using NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, is the strongest evidence yet for more than one Earth-sized planet existing in a star's so-called 'habitable' zone. 'We're particularly delighted to find that there are two planets in the habitable zone,' lead Kepler scientist William Borucki, with NASA's Ames Research Center in California, told Discovery News. 'It sort of doubles our chances of finding that Earth we'd all like to find. When you think about Earth and Mars, if Mars had been a bit larger, if Jupiter hadn't been so close, we'd again have two planets in the habitable zone and maybe we'd have a place to go,' he said." There's also a third planet believed to be a good candidate for hosting water.
Famous for his work in math, astronomy, nuclear engineering, and theoretical physics, Freeman Dyson has left his mark on almost every scientific discipline. He's won countless awards, and written numerous books on a wide range of topics both scientific and philosophical. One of his biggest contributions to science was the unification of the three versions of quantum electrodynamics invented by Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga. 10 years after moving to the U.S. he started working on the Orion Project, which sought to create a spacecraft with a nuclear propulsion system. STNG exposed the idea of a Dyson sphere to the masses, and his hypothetical plan for making a comet habitable with the help of genetically-engineered plants is a personal favorite. Mr. Dyson has graciously agreed give us a bit of his time in order to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.