vikingpower writes "A team of international experts has drawn up the Soil Atlas of Africa — the first such book mapping this key natural resource — to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use. A joint commission of the African Union and the European Union has produced a complete atlas of African soils, downloadable as three hefty PDFs (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). The initiative was announced four years ago, and is intended 'to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use.' A digital, interactive series of maps is (still) in the making."
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Earlier this year we discussed a petition on the White House's 'We The People' site asking the administration to adopt the metric system as the standard system of measurement in the U.S. Today, the administration issued a disappointing response. Simply put: they're not going to do anything about it. They frame their response as a matter of preserving a citizen's choice to adopt whatever measurement system he wants. Quoting Patrick D. Gallagher of the National Institute of Standards and Technology: "... contrary to what many people may think, the U.S. uses the metric system now to define all basic units used in commerce and trade. At the same time, if the metric system and U.S. customary system are languages of measurement, then the United States is truly a bilingual nation. ... Ultimately, the use of metric in this country is a choice and we would encourage Americans to continue to make the best choice for themselves and for the purpose at hand and to continue to learn how to move seamlessly between both systems. In our voluntary system, it is the consumers who have the power to make this choice. So if you like, "speak" metric at home by setting your digital scales to kilograms and your thermometers to Celsius. Cook in metric with liters and grams and set your GPS to kilometers. ... So choose to live your life in metric if you want, and thank you for signing on."
sciencehabit writes "Physicists have, for the first time, been able to image the quantum workings of electrons in hydrogen atoms, an advance that could open the door to a deeper understanding of the quantum world (abstract). Building on a 1981 proposal by three Russian theorists and more recent work that brought that proposal into the realm of possibility, the team first fired two lasers at hydrogen atoms inside a chamber, kicking off electrons at speeds and directions that depended on their underlying wave functions. A strong electric field inside the chamber guided the electrons to positions on a planar detector that depended on their initial velocities rather than on their initial positions. So the distribution of electrons striking the detector matched the wave function the electrons had at the moment they left their hydrogen nuclei behind. There may be practical applications in the future—a commentary accompanying the paper suggests that the method could aid in the development of technologies such as molecular wires, atom-thick conductors that could help shrink electronic devices—but that their result concerns 'extremely fundamental' physics that might be just as valuable for developing quantum intuition in the next generation of physicists."
New submitter kwyjibo87 writes "The World Health Organization (WHO) publicly expressed dismay yesterday concerning news that intellectual property claims were hindering research on a deadly new emerging virus. Novel coronavirus (nCoV), a member of the same viral genus as the causative agent of SARS, has claimed the lives of 22 people (out of 44 reported infected) and left both researchers and health officials scrambling to develop effective diagnostic tests in addition to possible medications and vaccines against nCoV. Now, however, claims of intellectual property on the new virus are hindering research on nCoV according to the WHO, delaying advancements on tools to prevent further spread of the infection. Stories of intellectual property rights in science hindering advancements in research, particularly in clinical applications, are nothing new; the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments on the validity of patents on the BRCA1/2 genes and has yet to issue a decision. The issue of sharing scientific information in order to promote faster research on emerging pathogens is not limited to intellectual property — a recent article in the journal Nature highlighted a case where Chinese researchers risked having their research scooped after uploading viral sequences to a public database designed aid global scientific collaboration."
New submitter trendspotter writes "Scientists at the University of Rochester found a unique way to measure high IQ and IQ of the brain in general just by studying individuals and their abilities to filter out noise in images (abstract). The results of a visual test where people were told to quickly detect movements showed similar IQ results as a classic intelligence test. 'The relationship between IQ and motion suppression points to the fundamental cognitive processes that underlie intelligence, the authors write. The brain is bombarded by an overwhelming amount of sensory information, and its efficiency is built not only on how quickly our neural networks process these signals, but also on how good they are at suppressing less meaningful information. ... The researchers point out that this vision test could remove some of the limitations associated with standard IQ tests, which have been criticized for cultural bias.'"
photonic writes "The BBC is reporting on a possible collision between Ecuador's first satellite (a small cubesat) and debris from an upper stage of an old Russian rocket. If confirmed, this might be the third case in recent years, after a high-speed collision of an Iridium satellite with a dead Russian satellite in 2009 and a collision earlier this year between a Russian laser reflector (which can be tracked very accurately) and a tiny piece of a debris from a Chinese weather satellite that was destroyed in a missile test."
MTorrice writes "Medical researchers think specially tailored RNA sequences could kill tumor cells or encourage wound healing by turning off genes in patients' cells. Now researchers have developed a nanocoating for bandages or other medical materials that could deliver these fragile gene-silencing RNAs right where they're needed. The team hopes to produce a bandage that shuts down genes standing in the way of healing in chronic wounds."
sciencehabit writes "Only a few years after roach motels were introduced in the 1980s, they lost their allure for an increasing number of German cockroaches. Researchers soon realized that some roaches had developed an aversion to glucose—the sugary bait disguising the poison—and that the insects were passing that trait on to their young. Now, scientists have figured out how this behavior evolved."
coondoggie writes "When to comes to offering warm yet visually efficient lighting, LEDs have a long way to go. But scientists with the University of Georgia and Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories are looking at new family of crystals they say glow different colors and hold the key for letting white LED light shine in homes and offices as well as natural sunlight."
First time accepted submitter Rebecka writes with bad news, quoting an IB Times report: "Just as the 2013 hurricane season is about to begin, one of the U.S.' main weather satellites failed this week. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, also known as GOES-13, reportedly ceased to operate as of Tuesday, making it impossible to predict weather patterns on the East Coast." A note at NOAA's page for the GOES family of satellites says "GOES-13 imaging and sounding operations suspended. Recovery efforts for GOES-13 continue and the spacecraft health and safety are nominal. GOES-14 is being activated." You can follow the progress on the agency's page of General Satellite Messages.
Kiera Wilmot, the Florida high school student who was expelled from her school after an unauthorized science experiment was misperceived as a weapon (at least for purposes of arrest and charging), won't be going to jail. She will, though, be going to Space Camp, thanks to a crowdfunding campaign started by author and former NASA engineer Homer Hickham. All charges against her have been dropped.
sciencehabit writes "Physicists have long known that quantum mechanics allows for a subtle connection between quantum particles called entanglement, in which measuring one particle can instantly set the otherwise uncertain condition, or 'state,' of another particle—even if it's light years away. Now, experimenters in Israel have shown that they can entangle two photons that don't even exist at the same time. Anton Zeilinger, a physicist at the University of Vienna, says that the experiment demonstrates just how slippery the concepts of quantum mechanics are. 'It's really neat because it shows more or less that quantum events are outside our everyday notions of space and time.'"
astroengine writes "In a recent batch of images beamed back to Earth from Mars rover Curiosity's MAHLI camera, obvious signs of wear and tear could be seen in the 'skin' of the robot's wheels. Considering Curiosity is only 281 sols (Mars days) into its mission and roved less than a kilometer after landing, surely this doesn't bode well? Fortunately, there's good news. 'The wear in the wheels is expected,' Matt Heverly, lead rover driver for the MSL mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News. 'We will continue to characterize the wheels both on Mars and in the Marsyard, but we don't expect the wear to impact our ability to get to Mt. Sharp.'"
AndyKrish writes "A BBC story reports that scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University found Vitamin C kills drug resistant tuberculosis (abstract). Though results are preliminary — the lead investigator of the study said, 'We have only been able to demonstrate this in a test tube, and we don't know if it will work in humans and in animals' — this is an exciting development in the fight against drug-resistant TB."
astroengine writes "The mother of all cosmic collisions has been spotted between two galaxies containing a total of 400 billion stars, igniting the birth of 2,000 new stars per year! This incredible event was first spotted by the recently-retired Herschel infrared space observatory (abstract), a mission managed by the European Space Agency. This violent discovery isn't just awesome to look at, it could also help explain how massive, red elliptical galaxies evolved in the early universe."
FuzzNugget writes "A contributor at ScienceBlogs.com has compiled and published a shockingly long list of systematic attacks on scientific research committed by the Canadian government since the conservatives came to power in 2006. This anti-scientific scourge includes muzzling scientists, shutting down research centers, industry deregulation and re-purposing the National Research Council to align with business interests instead of doing real science. It will be another two years before Canadians have the chance to go to the polls, but how much more damage will be done in the meantime?"
Wired reports on a cluster of mini-satellites that will soon be launched into orbit that will assist U.S. special forces personnel during manhunts. "SOCOM is putting eight miniature communications satellites, each about the size of a water jug, on top of the Minotaur rocket that's getting ready to launch from Wallops Island, Virginia. They’ll sit more than 300 miles above the earth and provide a new way for the beacons to call back to their masters." When special forces are able to tag their target, the target can be tracked and located through the use of satellites and cell towers, but coverage is poor in many areas of the world. The satellites going up in September will help to fill in some gaps. "This array of configurable 'cubesats' is designed to stay aloft for three years or more. Yes, it will serve as further research project. But 'operators are going to use it,' Richardson promised an industry conference in Tampa last week."
New submitter QuantumPion writes "The Environmental Protection Agency released draft guidelines last month that could significantly relax radiation hazard standards in the case of a radiological event in the United States by using risk-based decisions. The goal is to have limits that make sense in an emergency that are different from the limits in day-to-day life. From the article: 'Currently, the only guidance are the extremely strict standards that apply for EPA Superfund sites and nuclear plant decommissioning, which are as low as 0.010–0.025 rem/year, far below the natural background levels in the U.S. of 0.300 rem/year, and even well below the average amount of radioactive materials that Americans eat each year. And these guidelines aren’t really different from the 1992 PAG, except in the area of long-term cleanup standards and, perhaps, standards for resettlement. What’s the big deal here? As radworkers, we’re allowed to get 5 rem/year. 2 rem/year doesn’t rate a second thought. ... No one has ever been harmed by 5 rem/year, so setting emergency levels at 2 rem/year is pretty mild and more than reasonable. ... Think of it this way. The situations covered by these new guidelines are similar to someone dying of thirst who has the chance to drink fresh water having 2,000 pCi per gallon of radium in it. While the safe drinking water levels are 20 pCi/gal for Ra, 2,000 pCi/gal is of no threat, especially if you’re going to die from imminent dehydration. Of course, a bag of potato chips has 3,500 picocuries, so go figure.'"
cervesaebraciator writes "According to Quartz, '[Anjan Contractor's] Systems & Materials Research Corporation just got a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer. But Contractor, a mechanical engineer with a background in 3-D printing, envisions a much more mundane — and ultimately more important — use for the technology. He sees a day when every kitchen has a 3-D printer, and the earth's 12 billion people feed themselves customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store. Contractor's vision would mean the end of food waste, because the powder his system will use is shelf-stable for up to 30 years, so that each cartridge, whether it contains sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein or some other basic building block, would be fully exhausted before being returned to the store.' No word yet on whether anyone other than the guy trying to sell the technology thinks it'll make palatable food."
necro81 writes "Although its Tevatron particle accelerator has gone dark, Fermi Laboratory outside Chicago is still doing physics. A new experiment, called muon g-2 will investigate quantum mechanical behavior of the electron's heavier sibling: the muon. Fermi needs a large ring chamber to store the muons it produces and investigates, and it just so happens that Brookhaven National Laboratory outside NYC has one to spare. But how do you transport a delicate, 15-m diameter, 600-ton superconducting magnet halfway across the country? Very carefully."