Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
vinces99 writes "The Supreme Court's unanimous decision to bar the patenting of naturally occurring genes opens up important clinical testing options for a variety of diseases, which University of Washington medical geneticists and laboratory medicine experts say will benefit patients. Mary-Claire King, a UW geneticist who was instrumental in identifying the breast cancer-causing genes at the heart of the court case, hailed the ruling as 'a victory for patients, their families, their physicians and common sense.' She noted that within 24 hours after the decision was announced on June 13, UW Laboratory Medicine was offering tests for all known breast cancer genes."
An anonymous reader sends this quote from a University of Texas news release: "Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin have built a tabletop particle accelerator that can generate energies and speeds previously reached only by major facilities that are hundreds of meters long and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build (abstract). 'We have accelerated about half a billion electrons to 2 gigaelectronvolts over a distance of about 1 inch,' said Mike Downer, professor of physics in the College of Natural Sciences. 'Until now that degree of energy and focus has required a conventional accelerator that stretches more than the length of two football fields. It’s a downsizing of a factor of approximately 10,000.' ... Downer said that the electrons from the current 2 GeV accelerator can be converted into “hard” X-rays as bright as those from large-scale facilities. He believes that with further refinement they could even drive an X-ray free electron laser, the brightest X-ray source currently available to science. A tabletop X-ray laser would be transformative for chemists and biologists, who could use the bright X-rays to study the molecular basis of matter and life with atomic precision, and femtosecond time resolution, without traveling to a large national facility."
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at the University of Sheffield have found that high quality science by female academics is underrepresented in comparison to that of their male counterparts. The researchers analyzed the genders of invited speakers at the most prestigious gatherings of evolutionary biologists in Europe — six biannual congresses of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) and found that male speakers outnumbered women. Even in comparison to the numbers of women and men among world class scientists – from the world top ranked institutions for life sciences, and authors in the top-tier journals Nature and Science - women were still underrepresented among invited speakers."
ananyo writes "An international group of neuroscientists has sliced, imaged and analysed the brain of a 65-year-old woman to create the most detailed map yet of a human brain in its entirety. The atlas, called 'BigBrain,' shows the organization of neurons with microscopic precision, which could help to clarify or even redefine the structure of brain regions obtained from decades-old anatomical studies (abstract). The atlas was compiled from 7,400 brain slices, each thinner than a human hair. Imaging the sections by microscope took a combined 1,000 hours and generated 10 terabytes of data. Supercomputers in Canada and Germany churned away for years reconstructing a three-dimensional volume from the images, and correcting for tears and wrinkles in individual sheets of tissue."
First time accepted submitter tpjunkie writes "Many slashdot readers will remember D-wave's announcement in 2007 of its quantum computer, an announcement met with skepticism and a good amount of scorn. However, today the company has sold quantum computers to such companies as Lockheed Martin and Google, and their computers have gone from a handful of qubits to 512 in their most recent offerings. Nature has a story including an interview with the company's founder Geordi Rose, and a look at where the company is headed and some of the difficulties it has overcome."
First time accepted submitter benonemusic writes "Researchers have devised a means of making sound transmit easily through rigid surfaces, including walls. The process relies on creating small holes on a wall, and covering them on one side with a thin covering made from plastic wrap."
MTorrice writes "Crab shells usually are just a nuisance that you have to crack and dig through to get the delicious meat inside. But one team of materials scientists thinks the shells could help them fabricate materials for long lasting batteries. The team used the nanostructures (abstract) found in the crustacean shells as templates to make sulfur and silicon electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries. Sulfur or silicon electrodes have a 10-times greater theoretical energy storage capacity than electrodes used in commercial batteries."
An anonymous reader writes "These folks at Public Lab have published instructions to hack a conventional camera to do photosynthesis photography, just like NASA's LANDSAT satellite. What better way to introduce your kids to space technologies and learn more about the environment? Measure the health of your garden, all with a simple filter switch and some post-processing. It's thoroughly documented at http://publiclab.org/wiki/near-infrared-camera, and you can do it to a variety of cameras." (And here's a link to the related — and fully funded — kickstarter project.)
sciencehabit writes "The next time you hear extended applause for a performance you didn't think was that great, don't feel like a snob. A new study reveals that audience response has more to do with the people in the seats than those up on stage. Applause, it turns out, is a bit like peer pressure. In a study of college students, individuals were more likely to start clapping if a larger percentage of the audience had already started. If 50% of the audience was clapping, for example, individuals were 10 times more likely to start clapping than if 5% of the audience was clapping. People stop clapping for the same reason. Even more surprising, the applause for a bad presentation could be just as long as applause for a good one. Random interactions in the audience can result in very different lengths of applause regardless of the quality of the talk."
gurps_npc writes "Two radical pro-Israel terrorists were caught in upstate NY when they tried to solicit money from various honorable Jewish organizations to build a truck based x-ray weapon. They intended to drive the truck around and then turn on the x-ray machine, focusing on enemies of Israel. But the Jewish organizations they tried to solicit money from refused to participate. Instead they called the FBI, who promptly set up a sting. The men were arrested before the machine was in working order."
sfcrazy writes "A top Monsanto executive has won the prestigious World Food Prize. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the award where Robert T. Fraley, the executive vice president and CTO of Monsanto, won the prize along with two other scientists from Belgium and the US. The award was given for devising a method to insert genes from another organism into plant cells, which could produce new genetic lines with highly favorable traits."
astroengine writes "If you were in any doubt as to Curiosity's photography prowess, this panorama of Gale Crater should allay your concerns. In this billion-pixel photo from Mars, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory snapped nearly 900 separate images that were then stitched together to create a wonderful high-definition view from the robot's mast-mounted cameras. 'It gives a sense of place and really shows off the cameras' capabilities,' said Bob Deen of the Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., who assembled the scene. 'You can see the context and also zoom in to see very fine details.'"
MarkWhittington writes "Politico reports in a June 18, 2013 story that House Republicans have added a Mars base to its demands for a lunar base in the draft 2013 NASA Authorization bill. Both the Bush-era Constellation program and President Obama space plan envisioned eventual human expeditions to Mars. But if Politico is correct, the new bill will be the first time an official piece of legislation will call for permanent habitation of the Red Planet. The actual legislative language states, 'The [NASA] Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon and the surface of Mars.'"
ananyo writes "Physicists have resurrected a particle that may have existed in the first hot moments after the Big Bang. Arcanely called Zc(3900), it is the first confirmed particle made of four quarks, the building blocks of much of the Universe's matter (abstract one, abstract two). Until now, observed particles made of quarks have contained only three quarks (such as protons and neutrons) or two quarks (such as the pions and kaons found in cosmic rays)."
First time accepted submitter ramorim writes "In honor of the Chemist Day, celebrated in Brazil on this day June 18, 2013, I publish a proposal for a new Periodic Table of Elements (Original, in Portugese) in a modular spiral-hexagonal model, with continuity and connectivity for all constituent units of the matter. This proposal indeed permits to extrapolate the hypothetical elements of the G-block and H-block in the same model."
illiteratehack writes "NASA has selected a 39-year-old chief technology officer to become a trainee astronaut. Josh Cassada is the current chief technology officer and co-founder of Quantum Opus, a firm that specialises in photonics. Cassada is one of eight individuals selected by NASA from 6,100 applicants for astronaut training, though what their future mission may be has yet to be revealed." Of the astronaut trainees selected, four of them are women — a new record.
theodp writes "Bill Gates already called dibbs on polio, so British Airways had to settle for tackling the 'global misalignment of talent' problem, putting '100 of the most forward-thinking founders, CEOs, venture capitalists, and Silicon Valley game-changers' on a flight from San Francisco to London to 'innovate and collaborate to find an effective solution to this growing global challenge.' UnGroundedThinking.com showcases the winning concepts, which include Advisher (an online community to help foster women in STEM), INIT ('nutritional labels' to disclose products' 'STEM ingredients'), DGTL (rewards young women with fashionable clothes for completing coding challenges), Beacons in a Backpack (solar powered backpacks pre-loaded with videos, multimedia content, and game-powered educational tools that also serve as mobile hotspots for rural/remote areas), Tech21 (STEM education program aimed at 21-years-and-older post-college grads in the workforce), Certify.me (allows STEM talent from across the globe to audition for potential employers via standardized-quality assessments), and STEAM Truck (a mobile dance lab where STEM art installations teach kids that science is fun and valuable). 'This has the feel of Southby [SXSW],' gushed a Google Ventures general partner. "It's a serendipitous occasion. It's about time we presented engineers to kids as role models — not just firefighters, cops, doctors, detectives. Who knows? Maybe The Internship changes that.'"
sciencehabit writes "Show a native-born Chinese person a picture of the Great Wall, and suddenly they'll have trouble speaking English, even if they usually speak it fluently. That's the conclusion of a new study, which finds that reminders of our home country can complicate our ability to speak a new language. The findings could help explain why cultural immersion is the most effective way to learn a foreign tongue and why immigrants who settle within an ethnic enclave acculturate more slowly than those who surround themselves with friends from their new country."
sciencehabit writes "In a few years, an iPhone app may give you a 3D layout of a room as soon as you step into it. Researchers have developed an algorithm that spits out the shape and contours of complex structures (including Switzerland's Lausanne Cathedral) using data compiled from four randomly placed microphones. The technology, which relies on the same sort of echolocation bats and dolphins use to navigate, could be used to develop more realistic echoes in video games and virtual reality simulations and to eliminate the echo from phone calls."
Lasrick writes "Evie Sobczak won a trip to Jet Propulsion Lab for her biofuel invention: 'For a fifth-grade science fair, Evie Sobczak found that the acid in fruit could power clocks; she connected a cut-up orange to a clock with wire and watched it tick. In seventh grade, she generated power by engineering paddles that could harness wind. And in eighth grade, she started a project that eventually would become her passion: She wanted to grow algae and turn it into biofuel.'"