gbrumfiel writes "Researchers in France have discovered the world's largest virus and given it a terrifying name: Pandoravirus. NPR reports it doesn't pose a threat to people, but its genetic code could hint at an unusual origin. The team believes that the virus may carry the genes from a long-dead branch of the tree of life, one that possibly even started on Mars or somewhere else. Other scientists are skeptical, but everyone agrees that the new giant virus is pretty cool."
astroengine writes "At one time, Mars had a thick, protective atmosphere — possibly even cushier than Earth's — but the bubble of gases mostly dissipated about 4 billion years ago and has never been replenished, new research shows. The findings come from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, which has been moonlighting as an atmospheric probe as it scours planet's surface for habitats that could have supported ancient microbial life. 'On Earth, our magnetic field protects us, it shields us from the solar wind particles. Without Earth's magnetic field, we would have no atmosphere and there would be no life on this planet. Everything would be wiped out — especially when you go back 4 billion years. The solar wind was at least 100 times stronger then than it is today. It was a young sun with a very intense radiation,' Chris Webster, manager of the Planetary Sciences Instruments Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News. Unfortunately for Mars, the last 4 billion years have not been kind."
An anonymous reader writes "Artificial and natural knowledge researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have IQ-tested one of the best available artificial intelligence systems to see how intelligent it really is. Turns out–it's about as smart as the average 4-year-old. The team put ConceptNet 4, an artificial intelligence system developed at M.I.T., through the verbal portions of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence Test, a standard IQ assessment for young children. They found ConceptNet 4 has the average IQ of a young child. But unlike most children, the machine's scores were very uneven across different portions of the test." If you'd like to play with the AI system described here, take note of the ConceptNet API documentation, and this Ubuntu-centric installation guide.
Taco Cowboy writes " The CIA is currently funding, in part, a $630,000 study on geoengineering, the science of using experimental techniques to modify Earth's climate. Scientists will study how humans might influence weather patterns, assess the potential dangers of messing with the climate, and investigate possible national security implications of geoengineering attempts. The study calls for information on two geoengineering techniques in particular, 'solar radiation management (SRM),' which refers to launching material into Earth's atmosphere to try and block the Sun's infrared radiation, limiting global temperature rise; and 'carbon dioxide removal (CDR),' taking carbon dioxide emissions out of the climate, which scientists have proposed doing through a variety of means, from structures that eat air pollution to capturing carbon emissions as they come out of smokestacks."
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have silenced the extra copy of a chromosome that causes Down syndrome in laboratory stem cells, offering the first evidence that it may be possible to correct the genes responsible for the disorder. The discovery provides the first evidence that the underlying genetic defect responsible for Down syndrome can be suppressed in cells in culture."
coondoggie writes "Two dead stars smashing into each other and releasing massive amounts of energy may have created all of the heavy elements such as gold found on Earth. That's the main conclusion of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) researchers who estimated such a collision and subsequent blast of energy known as a gamma-ray burst produced and ejected as much as 10 moon masses worth of heavy elements — including gold."
MTorrice writes "A new study suggests there's more to nanoparticle toxicology than cell life and death. Although immune cells treated with iron oxide particles appeared healthy in standard toxicology tests, they struggled to perform one of their key jobs: engulfing pathogenic bacteria. The researchers wonder if exposure to significant levels of the nanoparticles could lead to dysfunction in people's immune systems."
sciencehabit writes "When surgeons can't determine the edges of a tumor, it's a problem. Cut too much, and they risk hurting the patient. Cut too little, and they may leave stray cancer cells behind. Now, researchers have developed a surgical knife that can sniff the smoke made as it cuts tissue, almost instantly detecting whether cells are cancerous or healthy. The 'intelligent knife,' or iKnife could distinguish normal and tumor tissues from different organs, such as breast, liver, and brain, and could even identify the origin of a tumor that was a metastasis, a secondary growth seeded by a primary tumor elsewhere in the body."
An anonymous reader writes "New observations (PDF) from ESO's Very Large Telescope show for the first time a gas cloud being ripped apart by the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. The cloud is now so stretched that its front part has passed the closest point and is traveling away from the black hole at more than 10 million km/h, whilst the tail is still falling towards it."
An anonymous reader writes "I recently (within the past couple years) graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and currently work as a programmer for a large software consulting firm. However, I've become gradually disillusioned with the financial-obsession of the business world and would like to work for the overall betterment of humanity instead. With that in mind, I'm looking to shift my career more toward the scientific research side of things. My interest in computer science always stemmed more from a desire to use it toward a fascinating end — such as modeling or analyzing scientific data — than from a love of business or programming itself. My background is mostly Java, with some experience in C++ and a little C. I have worked extensively with software analyzing big data for clients. My sole research experience comes from developing data analysis software for a geologic research project for a group of grad students; I was a volunteer but have co-authorship on their paper, which is pending publication. Is it realistic to be looking for a position as a programmer at a research institution with my current skills and experiences? Do such jobs even exist for non-graduate students? I'm willing to go to grad school (probably for geology) if necessary. Grad school aside, what specific technologies should I learn in order to gain an edge? Although if I went back to school I'd focus on geology, I'm otherwise open to working as a programmer for any researchers in the natural sciences who will take me."
Dave Knott writes "A tiny, previously unknown moon circling Neptune has been spotted by astronomers using the Hubble telescope. The moon, which is currently known as S/2004 N1, was found on July 1 by Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., NASA announced Monday. It is less than 20 kilometres wide and its orbit is 105,000 kilometres from Neptune, between those of Larissa and Proteus, two of Neptune's other 14 known moons. It circles Neptune once every 23 hours."
New submitter Aras Esor writes "When a network is broken — an electrical grid, the World Wide Web, your neurological system — one math model created by a PhD student at Northwestern University suggests that the best way to fix it may be to break it a little more. 'Take the web of interactions within a cell. If you knock out an important gene, you will significantly damage the cell's growth rate. However, it is possible to repair this damage not by replacing the lost gene, which is a very challenging task, but by removing additional genes. The key lies in finding the specific changes that would bring a network from the undesirable state A to the preferred state B. Cornelius's mathematical model (abstract) provides a general method to pinpoint those changes in any network, from the metabolism of a single cell to an entire food web.'"
astroengine writes "With the help of rover Curiosity, we now know that ancient Mars had large quantities of liquid water flowing across its surface. However, evidence for large bodies of water — i.e. seas/oceans — has been hard to come by. But using high-resolution orbital data, Caltech scientists now think they've found a long-dry river delta that once flowed into a very large body of water. Welcome to the Aeolis Riviera — the strongest evidence yet for a Martian coastline. "This is probably one of the most convincing pieces of evidence of a delta in an unconfined region — and a delta points to the existence of a large body of water in the northern hemisphere of Mars," said Roman DiBiase, Caltech postdoctoral scholar and lead author of the paper that was published (abstract) in the Journal of Geophysical Research."
An anonymous reader writes "A Newtown couple, both scientists, who lost their daughter in the school shooting, are wondering whether there were clues in the shooter's physiological makeup — his DNA, his blood, his brain chemistry. They are now involved in a search for biomarkers, similar to those that may indicate disease, for violence. They are raising money to help fund this research, but the effort is running into obstacles, in part, over ethical concerns. 'I'm not opposed to research on violence and biomarkers, but I'm concerned about making too big of a leap between biomarkers and violence,' said Troy Duster, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. There is concern that science may find biomarkers long before society can deal with its implications."
Rebecka writes "Hurricane Sandy, which pelted multiple states in Oct. and created billions of dollars in damage, was a freak occurrence and not an indication of future weather patterns, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies via LiveScience. The study (abstract), which calculated a statistical analysis of the storm's trajectory and monitored climate changes' influences on hurricane tracks, claims that the tropical storm was merely a 1-in-700-year event. 'The particular shape of Sandy's trajectory is very peculiar, and that's very rare, on the order of once every 700 years,' said senior scientist at NASA and study co-author, Timothy Hall. According to Hall, the extreme flooding associated with the storm was also due to the storm's trajectory which was described as being 'near perpendicular.' The storm's unusual track was found to have been caused by a high tides associated with a full moon and high pressure that forced the storm to move off the coast of the Western North Atlantic."
astroengine writes "A planned six-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station came to a dramatic and abrupt end on Tuesday when water started building up inside the helmet of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy were less than an hour into their spacewalk, their second in a week, when Parmitano reported that his head felt wet. 'My head is really wet and I have a feeling it's increasing,' Parmitano reported to ground control teams at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Parmitano returned safely to the space station interior, but the cause of the leak was not immediately known."
First time accepted submitter CherryLongman writes "If you feel as if every mosquito in a 50-mile radius has you locked in its sights, while your friends are rarely bitten, you could be right. Up to 20 percent of us are highly alluring to mosquitoes — and scientists have discovered some surprising reasons."
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."