Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
sciencehabit writes "Europe's first farmers helped spread a revolutionary way of living across the continent. They also spread something else. A new study reveals that these early agriculturalists were fertilizing their crops with manure 8000 years ago, thousands of years earlier than previously thought."
sciencehabit writes "The tragic opera Rigoletto may move you to tears, but here's a more literal application of the moving power of sound. Sound waves with frequencies just above human hearing can levitate tiny particles and liquid droplets and even move them around, a team of engineers has demonstrated. The advance could open up new ways to handle delicate materials or mix pharmaceuticals."
vinces99 writes "Swarms of small earthquakes often precede a volcanic eruption. They can reach such rapid succession that they create a "harmonic tremor" that resembles sound made by some musical instruments. A new analysis of an eruption sequence at Alaska's Redoubt Volcano in March 2009 shows the harmonic tremor glided to substantially higher frequencies and then stopped abruptly just before six of the eruptions. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Volcano Observatory have dubbed the highest-frequency harmonic tremor at Redoubt Volcano 'the screams' because the episodes reach such high pitch compared with a 1-to-5 hertz starting point. Alicia Hotovec-Ellis, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences and an author of two papers examining the phenomenon, has created a 10-second recording and a one-minute recording that provides a 60-times faster representation of harmonic tremor and small earthquakes."
First time accepted submitter eionmac writes "The BBC reports that Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world's oldest lunar 'calendar' in an Aberdeenshire field. Excavations of a field at Crathes Castle found a series of 12 pits which appear to mimic the phases of the moon and track lunar months. A team led by the University of Birmingham suggests the ancient monument was created by hunter-gatherers about 10,000 years ago. The pit alignment, at Warren Field, was first excavated in 2004. The experts who analyzed the pits said they may have contained a wooden post. The Mesolithic calendar is thousands of years older than previous known formal time-measuring monuments created in Mesopotamia. The analysis has been published in the journal Internet Archaeology."
united_notions writes "An international team from UCSD and Philips Research have published a paper (article paywalled; extensive free related resources at UCS here) in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, showing the results of real-time magnetic resonance imaging conducted on a beatboxing performer. The authors make interesting comparisons to sounds in many minority languages around the world (such as the 'click' consonants in many African languages); they also show how beatboxing sounds can be represented using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)."
Garin writes "The late Permian saw the greatest mass extinction event of all-time. The causes for this extinction are hotly debated, but one key piece of the puzzle has recently been revealed: while the deep-water environments were anoxic, shallower waters showed clear signs of being oxygenated. This rules out global anoxia, and strongly suggests that other factors, such as the Siberian Traps vulcanism, must have played a dominant role. From the article: 'Rather than the direct cause of global extinction, anoxia may be more a contributing factor along with numerous other impacts associated with Siberian Traps eruption and other perturbations to the Earth system.' See the full research article (behind a paywall) here."
symbolset writes "Discovery News is covering a project by two engineers from the University of Michigan to pair cubesats with tiny ion engines for inexpensive interplanetary exploration. The tiny plasma drive called the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT) will ionize water and use it as propellant with power provided by solar cells. In addition to scaling down the size of ion engines they hope to bring down the whole cost of development and launch to under $200,000."
judgecorp writes "NHS Surrey, part of Britain's health service, has been fined £200,000 when a computer holding more than 3000 patient records was found for sale on eBay. The system was retired, and given to a contractor who promised to dispose of it securely for free, in exchange for any salvage value... but clearly just put the whole system up for sale."
aarondubrow writes "Researchers reported results in Nature Communications on a new way of sculpting tailor-made fluid flows by placing tiny pillars in microfluidic channels [abstract; article is paywalled]. The method could allow clinicians to better separate white blood cells in a sample, increase mixing in industrial applications, and more quickly perform lab-on-a-chip-type operation. Using the Ranger and Stampede supercomputers, the researchers ran more than 1,000 simulations representing combinations of speeds, thicknesses, heights or offsets that produce unique flows. This library of transformations will help the broader community design and use sculpted fluid flows."
HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "For all the wonders of fresh broccoli, in most parts of the country it is only available from local growers during the cooler weeks at either end of the growing season, nowhere near long enough to become a fixture in grocery stores or kitchens. But now Michael Moss writes in the NY Times that Thomas Bjorkman is out to change all that by creating a new version of the plant that can thrive in hot, steamy summers like those in New York, South Carolina or Iowa and is easy and inexpensive enough to grow in large volumes. And Bjorkman's quest doesn't stop there: His crucifer is also crisp, subtly sweet and utterly tender when eaten fresh-picked and aims to maximize the concentration of glucoraphanin, a mildly toxic compound used by plants to fight insects that in humans may stimulate our bodies' natural chemical defenses to aid in preventing cancer and warding off heart disease. The Eastern Broccoli Project's goal is to create a regional food network for an increasingly important and nutritious vegetable that may serve as a model network for other specialty crops to help shift American attitudes toward fruits and vegetables by increasing their allure and usefulness in cooking, while increasing their nutritional loads. 'If you've had really fresh broccoli, you know it's an entirely different thing,' says Bjorkman, a plant scientist at Cornell University. 'And if the health-policy goal is to vastly increase the consumption of broccoli, then we need a ready supply, at an attractive price.'"
Lasrick writes "Brad Plumer details the 1859 solar storm known as the Carrington Event. Pretty fascinating stuff: 'At the time, it was a dazzling display of nature. Yet if the same thing happened today, it would be an utter catastrophe...That's not a lurid sci-fi fantasy. It's a sober new assessment by Lloyd's of London, the world's oldest insurance market. The report notes that even a much smaller solar-induced geomagnetic storm in 1989 left 6 million people in Quebec without power for nine hours.'"
MarkWhittington writes "The Denver Post reported on July 12, 2013 that Texas and Florida, already embroiled in a fight over which state will be the venue for SpaceX's commercial space port, are now vying to be the site of the headquarters of a company that, while smaller, has much loftier ambitions. Golden Spike, the Boulder, Colorado based company that proposes to start commercial space flights to the moon with paying customers, is being courted by Texas and Florida to leave Colorado and to relocate its headquarters in either state."
snydeq writes "The U.S. health care industry is undergoing several massive transformations, not the least of which is the shift to interoperable EHR (electronic health records) systems. The ONC's Doug Fridsma discusses the various issues that many health care IT and medical providers have raised regarding use of these systems, which are mandated for 2014 under the HITECH Act of 2004, and are all the more important in light of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Key to the transition, says Fridsma, is transforming health IT for EHRs into something more akin to the Internet, and less like traditional ERP and IT systems. 'I think what we're trying to do is the equivalent of what you've got in the Internet, which is horizontal integration rather than vertical integration,' Fridsma says. 'We've done a lot of work looking at what other countries have done, and we've tried to learn from those experiences. Rather than trying to build this top down and create restrictions, we're really trying to ask, "What's the path of least regret in what we need to do?"'"
New submitter tchernobog writes "An Italian team funded by Telethon and S. Raffaele of Milan, was able to cure six kids affected by lethal genetic diseases (in Italian, English video): the Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and the metachromatic leukodystrophy. This is the culmination of a project lasted 15 years, and which cost more than 30M €; the researchers published some preliminary results last year in Nature, and are waiting for the results on more patients to submit another. The really interesting part is: they used a mix of advanced genetic techniques to achieve this result. Firstly, the DNA of a defective cell is corrected with a gene assembled in the lab. This procedure has been very dangerous for the past 20 years: that it can even be used is a good achievement alone. Secondly, the corrected DNA is propagated in the patient's body using a stripped-down version of HIV, of which less than 10% of its original genome remains. Might the feared HIV in reality prove to be salvation for some?"
First time accepted submitter HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "Khadeeja Safdar reports in the WSJ that researchers who surveyed 655 incoming college students found that while math and science majors drew the most interest initially, not many students finished with degrees in those subjects. Students who dropped out didn't do so because they discovered an unexpected amount of the work and because they were dissatisfied with their grades. "Students knew science was hard to begin with, but for a lot of them it turned out to be much worse than what they expected," says Todd R. Stinebrickner, one of the paper's authors. "What they didn't expect is that even if they work hard, they still won't do well." The authors add that the substantial overoptimism about completing a degree in science can be attributed largely to students beginning school with misperceptions about their ability to perform well academically in science. ""If more science graduates are desired, the findings suggest the importance of policies at younger ages that lead students to enter college better prepared (PDF) to study science.""
ananyo writes "A navy-blue world orbiting a faraway star is the first exoplanet to have its colour measured. Discovered in 2005, HD 189733 b is one of the best-studied planets outside the Solar System, orbiting a star about 19 parsecs away in the Vulpecula, or Fox, constellation. Previous efforts to observe the planet focused on the infrared light it emits — invisible to the human eye. Astronomers have now used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the planet and its host star. Hubble's optical resolution is not high enough to actually 'see' the planet as a dot of light separate from its star, so instead, the telescope receives light from both objects that mix into a single point source. To isolate the light contribution of the planet, the researchers waited for the planet to move behind the star during its orbit, so that its light would be blocked, and looked for changes in light colour. During the eclipse, the amount of observed blue light decreased, whereas other colours remained unaffected. This indicated that the light reflected by the planet's atmosphere, blocked by the star in the eclipse, is blue."
vinces99 writes "The basics of how a muscle generates power remain the same: Filaments of myosin tugging on filaments of actin shorten, or contract, the muscle – but the power doesn't just come from what's happening straight up and down the length of the muscle, as has been assumed for 50 years. Instead, new research shows that as muscles bulge, the filaments are drawn apart from each other, the myosin tugs at sharper angles over greater distances, and it's that action that deserves credit for half the change in muscle force scientists have been measuring."
coondoggie writes "The space missions to Mars have so far been one way — satellites and robotic rovers have all gone there to stay. NASA, as part a of a new, ambitious Mars visit, wants to change that by sending a rover to the surface of the Red Planet which can dig up chunks of the surface and send them back to Earth for highly detailed examination. These plans were laid out in a lengthy report outlining mission plans for Mars that will be acted upon over the next decade. It says a retrieval mission 'could occur as early as the mid-2020s or wait until the 2030s.'"
astroengine writes "As NASA's New Horizons probe powers through interplanetary space, it's keeping a careful eye forward, watching its target gradually loom larger on the proverbial celestial horizon. But earlier this month the spacecraft spotted something right next to Pluto — a pixelated Charon, the dwarf planet's largest moon. 'The image itself might not look very impressive to the untrained eye, but compared to the discovery images of Charon from Earth, these 'discovery' images from New Horizons look great!' said New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD. 'We're very excited to see Pluto and Charon as separate objects for the first time from New Horizons.'"
Michi writes "According to Anatoly Zak, the crash of the Russion Proton rocket on 1 July was apparently caused by several angular velocity sensors having been installed upside down. From the source: 'Each of those sensors had an arrow that was supposed to point toward the top of the vehicle, however multiple sensors on the failed rocket were pointing downward instead.' It seems amazing that something as fundamental as this was not caught during quality control. Even more amazing is that the design of the sensors permits them to be installed in the wrong orientation in the first place. Even the simplest of mechanical interlocks (such as a notch at one end that must be matched with a corresponding projection) could have prevented the accident." A review of the quality control procedures used by the contractors responsible is underway.