Lemeowski writes "Honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate, with a third of U.S. honeybees vanishing last year. Since bees pollinate many fruits and vegetables, the disappearance of honeybees could cause the United States to lose $15 billion worth of crops, and even change the American diet. The honey bee disappearance is called Colony Collapse Disorder, a serious problem of bees abruptly leaving their hives. A new open source effort called the Open Source Beehives project hopes to help by creating "a mesh network of data-generating honey bee colonies for local, national, and international study of the causes and effects of Colony Collapse Disorder." Collaborators have created two beehive designs that can be downloaded for free and milled using a CNC machine, then filled with sensors to track bee colony health."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
ananyo writes "A team of physicists has provided some of the clearest evidence yet that our Universe could be just one big projection. In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena proposed that an audacious model of the Universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics. The mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram: the real action would play out in a simpler, flatter cosmos where there is no gravity. Maldacena's idea thrilled physicists because it offered a way to put the popular but still unproven theory of strings on solid footing — and because it solved apparent inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein's theory of gravity. It provided physicists with a mathematical Rosetta stone, a 'duality', that allowed them to translate back and forth between the two languages, and solve problems in one model that seemed intractable in the other and vice versa. But although the validity of Maldacena's ideas has pretty much been taken for granted ever since, a rigorous proof has been elusive. In two papers posted on the arXiv repository, Yoshifumi Hyakutake of Ibaraki University in Japan and his colleagues now provide, if not an actual proof, at least compelling evidence that Maldacena's conjecture is true."
MightyMait writes "There's a plan underway to build a space agency run by African nations, and there is a (non-fictional) George Clooney connection. This BBC article details the history of space exploration in Africa as well as current efforts. Quoting: 'To Western eyes, it may seem rather inappropriate to launch space programs in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 70% of the population still lives on less $2 a day. Yet Joseph Akinyede, director of the African Regional Center for Space Science and Technology Education in Nigeria, an education center affiliated with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, says that the application of space science technology and research to "basic necessities" of life – health, education, energy, food security, environmental management – is critical for the development of the continent.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Dennis Overbye reports in the NY Times that two years ago Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss set off on a barnstorming tour to save the world from religion and promote science. Their adventure is now the subject of The Unbelievers, a new documentary. 'If you think a road trip with a pair of intellectuals wielding laptops is likely to lack drama, you haven't been keeping up with the culture wars,' writes Overbye. The scientists are mobbed at glamorous sites like the Sydney Opera House. Inside, they sometimes encounter clueless moderators; outside, demonstrators condemning them to hellfire. At one event, a group of male Muslim protesters are confronted by counterprotesters chanting, 'Where are your women?' 'Travelogue shots, perky editing and some popular rock music, as well as interview bits with such supportive celebrities as Woody Allen, Cameron Diaz, Sarah Silverman and Ricky Gervais, shrewdly enliven the brainy — but accessible — discourse,' writes Gary Goldstein in the LA Times, 'but mostly the movie is an enjoyably high-minded love fest between two deeply committed intellectuals and the scads of atheists, secularists, free-thinkers, skeptics and activists who make up their rock star-like fan base.' The movie ends at the Reason Rally in Washington, billed as the largest convention of atheists in history. Dawkins looks out at the crowd standing in a light rain and pronounces it 'the most incredible sight I can remember ever seeing' and declares that too many people have been cowed out of coming out as atheists, secularists or agnostics. 'We are far more numerous than anybody realizes.'"
coondoggie writes "Private Mars mission planners said today that Lockheed Martin is on board to build the spacecraft that would land a technology demonstration robot on the Red Planet by 2018. The Mars One group ultimately wants to establish a human outpost on Mars. The lander robot would use technology Lockheed previously built for NASA's Phoenix lander, which touched down on Mars in 2008. The Mars One lander will evaluate the use of the Phoenix design for the Mars One mission and identify any modifications that are necessary to meet future requirements. In addition, the mission would go a long way toward determining the cost and schedule of future missions."
Thorfinn.au sends this news from NASA: "What is the coldest place on Earth? It is a high ridge in Antarctica on the East Antarctic Plateau where temperatures in several hollows can dip below minus 133.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 92 degrees Celsius) on a clear winter night. Scientists made the discovery while analyzing the most detailed global surface temperature maps to date, developed with data from remote sensing satellites including the new Landsat 8, a joint project of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., joined a team of researchers reporting the findings Monday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Researchers analyzed 32 years' worth of data from several satellite instruments. They found temperatures plummeted to record lows dozens of times in clusters of pockets near a high ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji, two summits on the ice sheet known as the East Antarctic Plateau. The new record of minus 93.2 C was set Aug. 10, 2010."
An anonymous reader writes "One of this year's winners of the Nobel Peace prize has declared a boycott on leading academic journals after he accused them of contributing to the 'disfigurement' of science. Randy Schekman, who won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, said he would no longer contribute papers or research to the prestigious journals, Nature, Cell and Science, and called for other scientists to fight the 'tyranny' of the publications." And if you'd rather not listen to the sound of auto-playing ads, you'll find Schekman's manifesto at The Guardian.
KentuckyFC writes "Goldilocks zones are regions around stars that are 'just right' for liquid water and for the chemistry of life as we know it. Now one cosmologist points out that the universe must have been through a Goldilocks epoch, a period in which warm, watery conditions could have existed on almost any planet in the entire cosmos. The key phenomenon here is the cosmic background radiation, the afterglow of the Big Bang which was blazing hot when it first formed. But as the universe expanded, the wavelength of this radiation increased, lowering its energy. Today, it is an icy 3 Kelvin. But somewhere along the way, it must have been between 273 and 300 Kelvin, just right to keep water in liquid form. According to the new calculations, this Goldilocks epoch would have occurred when the universe was about 15 million years old and would have lasted for several million years. And since the first stars had a lifespan of only 3 million years or so, that allows plenty of time for the heavy elements to have formed which are necessary for planet formation and the chemistry of life. Indeed, if live did evolve a this time, it would have predated life on Earth by about 10 billion years."
the_newsbeagle writes "If you can't fix it, go around it. That's the thinking behind an experimental treatment for traumatic brain injury. Using an implanted microdevice, researchers recorded the electrical signals from a sensory region of a rat's brain, skipped over a damaged brain region that typically processes sensory information, and sent the electric signals on to the premotor cortex. This cyborg mouse could then move normally. What this means is that we're getting better at speaking the brain's language — even if we don't understand it, we can mimic it."
astroengine writes "The site where NASA's Mars rover Curiosity landed last year contains at least one lake that would have been perfectly suited for colonies of simple, rock-eating microbes found in caves and hydrothermal vents on Earth. Analysis of mudstones in an area known as Yellowknife Bay, located inside the rover's Gale Crater landing site, show that fresh water pooled on the surface for tens of thousands — or even hundreds of thousands — of years. 'The results show that the lake was definitely a habitable environment,' Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology, told Discovery News. The finding was announced at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco."
sfcrazy writes "A giant exoplanet that is in the most distant orbit ever seen around its host star, has been recently discovered. Dubbed HD 106906 b, the newly discovered planet is relatively young (13 million years old, compare this to our 4.5 billion years old Earth) and bigger than any other planet discovered till date. It is 11 times the size of Jupiter, and that's what makes it a most singular discovery."
An anonymous reader writes "Despite how much people might say they like creative thinking, they don't, at least according to studies. 'We think of creative people in a heroic manner, and we celebrate them, but the thing we celebrate is the after-effect,' says Barry Staw, a researcher at the University of California–Berkeley business school who specializes in creativity. 'As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,' he says."
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have discovered huge freshwater reserves beneath the seabed on continental shelves off the coast of Australia, North America, China and South Africa. 'The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we've extracted from the Earth's sub-surface in the past century since 1900. Fresh water on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain so the discovery of significant new stores off the coast is very exciting. It means that more options can be considered to help reduce the impact of droughts and continental water shortages' says Dr Vincent Post of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University."
An anonymous reader writes in with this link about the advances in China's lunar program. "A $30 million Google-backed competition to land a spacecraft on the moon may be about to be scooped. China's Chang'e 3 probe successfully put itself into lunar orbit on Friday in preparation for an attempted touchdown around Dec. 14. China won't be winning the prize money, which is reserved for privately funded, previously enrolled teams, not government agencies."
Taco Cowboy writes in with a link about the remnants of some well-aged wine recently uncovered in Israel. "Scientists have uncovered a 3,700-year-old wine cellar in the ruins of a Canaanite palace in Israel, chemical analysis from the samples from the ceramic jars suggest they held a luxurious beverage that was evidently reserved for banquets. The good stuff contains a blend of ingredients that may have included honey, mint, cedar, tree resins and cinnamon bark. The discovery confirms how sophisticated wines were at that time, something suggested only by ancient texts. The wine cellar was found this summer in palace ruins near the modern town of Nahariya in northern Israel. Researchers found 40 ceramic jars, each big enough to hold about 13 gallons, in a single room. There may be more wine stored elsewhere, but the amount found so far wouldn't be enough to supply the local population, which is why the researchers believe it was reserved for palace use. The unmarked jars are all similar as if made by the same potter. Chemical analysis indicates that the jars held red wine and possibly white wine. There was no liquid left; analyses were done on residues removed from the jars. An expert in ancient winemaking said the discovery 'sheds important new light' on the development of winemaking in ancient Canaan, from which it later spread to Egypt and across the Mediterranean."
An anonymous reader writes "High-temperature superconductors exhibit a frustratingly varied catalog of odd behavior, such as electrons that arrange themselves into stripes or refuse to arrange themselves symmetrically around atoms. Now two physicists propose that such behaviors – and superconductivity itself – can all be traced to a single starting point, and they explain why there are so many variations. Most subatomic particles have a tiny magnetic field – a property physicists call 'spin' – and electrical resistance happens when the fields of electrons carrying current interact with those of surrounding atoms. Two electrons can join like two bar magnets, the north pole of one clamping to the south pole of the other, and this 'Cooper pair' is magnetically neutral and can move without resistance. Lee and Davis propose that this 'antiferromagnetic' interaction is the universal cause not only for superconductivity but also for all the observed intertwined ordering. They show how their 'unified' theory can predict the phenomena observed in copper-based, iron-based and so-called 'heavy fermion' materials."
sciencehabit writes "A simple model of forest fires could help explain the distribution of the sizes of earthquakes and their aftershocks, a theoretical physicist says. In the so-called Drössel-Schwabl model, trees sprout at random on a square grid like a vast checkerboard. Once the forest gets dense enough, lightning sets a random tree on fire, and fire spreads instantaneously among trees that occupy adjacent squares. The conflagration continues until there are no more neighbors to jump to. Then, the process starts all over again. In the team's model, the 'forest' is the plane of a fault cutting through Earth's crust, divided into a 10,000-by-10,000 grid. Sprouting trees correspond to the buildup of stress along the fault; burning areas, to the part of the fault that moves during a quake."
An anonymous reader writes "There's an interesting story on CNN about the University of Pennsylvania's human trial results on curing intractable cancer by retraining the patient's own immune system. Quoting: 'Nick Wilkins was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 4 years old, and when the cancer kept bouncing back, impervious to all the different treatments the doctors tried, his father sat him down for a talk. John Wilkins explained to Nick, who was by then 14, that doctors had tried chemotherapy, radiation, even a bone marrow transplant from his sister. ... A few months later, Nick traveled from his home in Virginia to Philadelphia to become a part of the experiment. This new therapy was decidedly different from the treatments he'd received before: Instead of attacking his cancer with poisons like chemotherapy and radiation, the Philadelphia doctors taught Nick's own immune cells to become more adept at killing the cancer. Two months later, he emerged cancer-free. It's been six months since Nick, now 15, received the personalized cell therapy, and doctors still can find no trace of leukemia in his system. ... Twenty-one other young people received the same treatment at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and 18 of them, like Nick, went into complete remission -- one of them has been disease-free for 20 months.'"
stox tips an article from Nobel Week Dialogue about the biggest problem of the nuclear power industry: it's not fun anymore. The author, Ashutosh Jogalekar, expands upon this quote from Freeman Dyson: "The fundamental problem of the nuclear industry is not reactor safety, not waste disposal, not the dangers of nuclear proliferation, real though all these problems are. The fundamental problem of the industry is that nobody any longer has any fun building reactors. Sometime between 1960 and 1970 the fun went out of the business. The adventurers, the experimenters, the inventors, were driven out, and the accountants and managers took control. The accountants and managers decided that it was not cost effective to let bright people play with weird reactors." Jogalekar adds, "For any technological development to be possible, the technology needs to drive itself with the fuel of Darwinian innovation. It needs to generate all possible ideas – including the weird ones – and then fish out the best while ruthlessly weeding out the worst. ... Nothing like this happened with nuclear power. It was a technology whose development was dictated by a few prominent government and military officials and large organizations and straitjacketed within narrow constraints. ... The result was that the field remained both scientifically narrow and expensive. Even today there are only a handful of companies building and operating most of the world's reactors. To reinvigorate the promise of nuclear power to provide cheap energy to the world and combat climate change, the field needs to be infused with the same entrepreneurial spirit that pervaded the TRIGA design team and the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs."
Lasrick sends this report from Nature News: "The devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan shocked researchers who did not expect that the seismic fault involved could release so much energy. Now the world's deepest-drilling oceanographic ship has been able to pin down the odd geology that made this disaster so horrific. The fault turns out to be unusually thin and weak, the researchers report in Science this week1–3. The results will help to pin down whether other offshore faults around the world are capable of triggering the same scale of disaster. ... The coring revealed a very thin clay layer, about 5 meters thick, separating the two sliding tectonic plates (abstract). 'That’s just weird,' says Emily Brodsky of the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), who is an author on all three Science papers this week. 'Usually it’s tens of meters or more.' Lab tests confirmed that this wet clay layer is extremely slippery, and gets even more so under stress (abstract). As sliding creates friction and heat, water in the clay gets pressurized and pushes up against the impermeable rock around it. That 'jacks open the fault” says Brodsky, allowing it to slip even more. The temperature sensors found that more than a year after the quake, the fault was still up to 0.31 C warmer than its surroundings (abstract). From this they could extrapolate how much heat was generated from friction during the sliding event. Their calculations confirmed the very low friction of the 5-meter-thick clay layer."