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Molecule In Corked Wine Plugs Up Your Nose 134

sciencehabit writes "Ever send a bottle of wine back at a restaurant? If you weren't just being a pretentious snob, then it was probably because the wine seemed 'corked' — had a musty odor and didn't taste quite right. Most likely, the wine was contaminated with a molecule called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), the main cause of cork taint. But a new study by Japanese researchers concludes that you do not smell TCA directly; rather, TCA blocks up your sense of smell and distorts your ability to detect odors. The findings could help the food and beverage industry improve its products and lead to less embarrassment for both you and your waiter."

New Snail Species Discovered In Croatia's Deepest Cave 34

minty3 writes "The new snail species, Zospeum tholussum, has no eyes or pigmentation on its shell and is considered to be a true eutroglobiont or cave-dweller. It was found by a team of cavers and biologists from the Croatian Biospeleological Society. While on an expedition to determine the cave’s depth, they collected animal specimens including one of the previously unidentified snails along with eight of its empty shells."

DoD Declassifies Flu Pandemic Plan Containing Sobering Assumptions 337

An anonymous reader writes "The Department of Defense has just declassified a copy of its 2009 Concept of Operations Plan for an Influenza Pandemic. Among the Plan's scary yet reasonable assumptions are that in the United States, such a pandemic will kill 2 percent of the infected population, or about 2 million people. The plan also assumes that a vaccine won't be available for at least 4 to 6 months after confirmation of sustained human transmission, and that the weekly vaccine manufacturing capability will only produce 1 percent of the total US vaccine required. State and local governments will be overwhelmed, and civilian mortuary operations will require military augmentation. Measures such as limiting public gatherings, closing schools, social distancing, protective sequestration and masking will be required to limit transmission and reduce illness and death. International and interstate transportation will be restricted to contain the spread of the virus. If a pandemic starts outside the US, it will enter the country at multiple locations and spread quickly to other parts of the country. A related document, CONPLAN 3591-09, was released by DoD in 2010."

Researchers Develop the Most Detailed Map of Gravitational Variations Ever 88

schliz writes "An Australian-German team of researchers has developed the most detailed map of gravitational variations ever, using satellite data, gravitational readings and small-scale topographical models. They say the data will help civil engineers and miners, and will be available for free online. Gravitational fields vary because the Earth isn't perfectly spherical. According to the new map, the field is 0.7% greater near the North Pole (9.83ms-2) than at Peru's Nevado Huascaran summit (9.76ms-2). The difference is 40% more than previously expected."

Dialing Back the Alarm On Climate Change 490

An anonymous reader writes "A leaked copy of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made the rounds and the good news is that the predicted temperature rise expected as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide is lower than predicted in 2007. From the article: 'Admittedly, the change is small, and because of changing definitions, it is not easy to compare the two reports, but retreat it is. It is significant because it points to the very real possibility that, over the next several generations, the overall effect of climate change will be positive for humankind and the planet. Specifically, the draft report says that "equilibrium climate sensitivity" (ECS)—eventual warming induced by a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which takes hundreds of years to occur—is "extremely likely" to be above 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), "likely" to be above 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and "very likely" to be below 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 Fahrenheit). In 2007, the IPPC said it was "likely" to be above 2 degrees Celsius and "very likely" to be above 1.5 degrees, with no upper limit. Since "extremely" and "very" have specific and different statistical meanings here, comparison is difficult.'"

Tooth Cavities May Protect Against Cancer 149

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "John Gever reports at MedPage Today on a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Buffalo, which found that people with more cavities in their teeth are 32 percent less likely to suffer from head and neck cancers. 'To our knowledge, the present study suggests, for the first time, an independent association between dental caries and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.' The researchers proposed a mechanism for the apparent protective effect: that cariogenic, lactic acid-producing bacteria prompt cell-mediated Th1 immune responses that suppress tumor formation. The team examined records of patients older than 21 seen in the university's dental and maxillofacial prosthetics department from 1999 to 2007, identifying 399 who were newly diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Assuming that the association between caries and reduced cancer risk is real, the team suggests that one could regard the cariogenic bacteria as beneficial overall, with caries 'a form of collateral damage.' Therefore an appropriate strategy could be to target that effect specifically without aggressively targeting the bacteria. 'Antimicrobial treatment, vaccination, or gene therapy against cariogenic bacteria may lead to more harm than good in the long run.'"

Study: Our 3D Universe Could Have Originated From a 4D Black Hole 337

New submitter TaleSlinger sends this quote from Nature: "Afshordi's team realized that if the bulk universe contained its own four-dimensional (4D) stars, some of them could collapse, forming 4D black holes in the same way that massive stars in our Universe do: they explode as supernovae, violently ejecting their outer layers, while their inner layers collapse into a black hole. In our Universe, a black hole is bounded by a spherical surface called an event horizon. Whereas in ordinary three-dimensional space it takes a two-dimensional object (a surface) to create a boundary inside a black hole, in the bulk universe the event horizon of a 4D black hole would be a 3D object — a shape called a hypersphere. When Afshordi's team modeled the death of a 4D star, they found that the ejected material would form a 3D brane surrounding that 3D event horizon, and slowly expand. The authors postulate that the 3D universe we live in might be just such a brane — and that we detect the brane's growth as cosmic expansion. 'Astronomers measured that expansion and extrapolated back that the Universe must have begun with a Big Bang — but that is just a mirage,' says Afshordi."

Japan Controls Rocket Launch With Just 8 People and 2 Laptops 94

SpaceGhost writes "Sky News reports that the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has launched an orbital telescope on a new generation rocket from the Uchinoura Space Centre in Kagoshima, in southwestern Japan. The Epsilon rocket uses an onboard AI for autonomous launch checks by the rocket itself (launch video). A product of renewed focus on reducing costs, the new vehicle required two laptops and a launch team of eight, compared to the 150 people needed to launch the previous platform, the M-5. Because of the reduced launch team and ease of construction, production and launch costs of the Epsilon are roughly half that of the M-5. The payload, a SPRINT-A telescope, is designed for planetary observation."

Dogs Love Robots, Prefer Humans 45

Daniel_Stuckey writes "Researchers recently spent some time forcing dogs and robots to hang out together, in order to better understand the social qualities of interactive robots. The scientists had two objectives: to find out whether canines would interact with a robot and also to see whether they would ascribe social qualities to a non-living, non-human-like being. Dogs were divided into two groups: one would have a social interaction with the robot while the other would have an asocial interaction. They were allowed to watch their owners interact with the robot before meeting it themselves, which was then followed by a session wherein the canine subjects had to obey gestural cues from either a robot or a human. The robot purposely did not look human, save for its arms and gloved hand, as the researchers wanted to explore sociality apart from anthropoid features. As it turns out, dogs were interested in the robots, especially if the robots themselves were social and they saw owners interact with the robot, but ultimately were not as responsive or successful in following cues as they would otherwise be with humans."

It Takes 2.99 Gigajoules To Vaporize a Human Body 272

Have you ever wondered how much energy is needed to power a phaser set to kill? A trio of researchers at the University of Leicester did, so they ran some tests and found out it would take roughly 2.99 GJ to vaporize an average-sized adult human body. Quoting: "First, consider the true vaporization – the complete separation of all atoms within a molecule – of water. With a simple molecular structure containing an oxygen atom bonded to two hydrogen atoms, it takes serious energy to break these bonds. In fact, it takes 460 kilojoules of energy to break just one mole of oxygen-hydrogen bonds — around the same energy that a 2,000-pound car going 70 miles per hour on the highway has in potential. And that's just 18 grams of water! So as you can see, it would take a gargantuan amount of energy to separate all the atoms in even a small glass of water — especially if that glass of water is your analog for a person. The human body is a bit more complicated than a glass of water, but it still vaporizes like one. And thanks to our spies spread across scientific organizations, we now have the energy required to turn a human into an atomic soup, to break all the atomic bonds in a body. According to the captured study, it takes around three gigajoules of death-ray to entirely vaporize a person — enough to completely melt 5,000 pounds of steel or simulate a lightning bolt."

Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol. 1 Released in HTML Format 129

Dr. Richard Feynman's lectures on physics have been iconic standards of physics education for the past five decades. Videos of the series were put online at Microsoft Research a few years ago, but now the entirety of Volume 1 is available over simple HTML (mirror). In a letter to members of the Feynman Lectures Forum, editor Mike Gottlieb said, "It was an idea conceived many years ago, when through FL website correspondence I became aware of the many eager young minds who could benefit from reading FLP, who want to read it, but for economic or other reasons have no access to it, while at the same time I was becoming aware of the growing popularity of horrid scanned copies of old editions of FLP circulating on file-sharing and torrent websites. A free high-quality online edition was my proposed solution to both problems. All concerned agreed on the potential pedagogical benefits, but also had to be convinced that book sales would not be harmed. The conversion from LaTeX to HTML was expensive: we raised considerable funds, but ran out before finishing Volumes II and III, so we are only posting Volume I initially. (I am working on finishing Volumes II and III myself, as time permits, and will start posting chapters in the not-too-distant future, if all goes as planned.)"

Promising Vaccine Candidate Could Lead To a Definitive Cure For HIV 185

Zothecula writes "A very promising vaccine candidate for HIV/AIDS has shown the ability to completely clear the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a very aggressive form of HIV that leads to AIDS in monkeys. Developed at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), the vaccine proved successful in about fifty percent of the subjects tested and could lead to a human vaccine preventing the onset of HIV/AIDS and even cure patients currently on anti-retroviral drugs."

The Ig Nobels Are Tonight 41

alphadogg writes "Harvard University's August Sanders Theater will play host tonight to a glittering collection of scientific luminaries, in a ceremony dedicated to recognizing some of the most important research of the year. And it will probably involve stuff like green hair, dead salmon brains, and monkey butts. Yes, it's time again for the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, where the weirdest and least useful scientific discoveries of the year are paraded before the public in a festival of bizarre nerd pageantry." Slashdot programmer David Hand will be in the crowd, too, triggering a flood of justified envy. Update: 09/13 14:23 GMT by S : Here are the winners.

First Gear Mechanism Discovered In Nature 136

GameboyRMH writes "A gear mechanism has been discovered [paywalled original paper here, for those with access] for the first time in nature in the nymph of the Issus, a small plant-hopping insect common in Europe. It uses the gears to synchronize the movement and power of its hind legs, forcing the legs to propel it in a straight line when jumping, which would otherwise be impossible for the insect if it had to control the timing and force of its leg muscles independently."

It's Official: Voyager 1 Is an Interstellar Probe 218

astroengine writes "After a 35-year, 11-billion mile journey, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft left the solar system to become the first human-made object to reach interstellar space, new evidence from a team of scientists shows. 'It's kind of like landing on the moon. It's a milestone in history. Like all science, it's exploration. It's new knowledge,' long-time Voyager scientist Donald Gurnett, with the University of Iowa, told Discovery News. The first signs that the spacecraft had left the solar system's heliopause was a sudden drop in solar particles and a corresponding increase in cosmic rays in 2012, but this evidence alone wasn't conclusive. Through indirect means, scientist analyzing oscillations along the probe's 10-meter (33-foot) antennas were able to deduce that Voyager was traveling through a less dense medium — i.e. interstellar space." You can watch NASA's briefing on the probe's progress here.

Black Holes Grow By Eating Quantum Foam 164

An anonymous reader writes "The discovery that even the most distant galaxies have supermassive black holes at their cores is a puzzle for astrophysicists. These objects must have formed relatively soon after the Big Bang. But if a galaxy is only a billion years old and contains a black hole that is a billion times more massive than the Sun, how did it get so big, so quickly? Now one cosmologist says he has the answer: black holes feed off the quantum foam that makes up the fabric of spacetime. This foam is 'nourishing' because it contains quantum black holes that can contribute to the black hole's growth. This idea leads to a prediction: that the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way must also be growing in this way and at a rate that we should be able to measure. Just watch out for the burps."

Cells Reprogrammed In Living Mice 29

sciencehabit writes "Researchers have discovered a surprisingly effective way to 'reprogram' mature mouse cells into an embryolike state, able to become any of the body's cell types (abstract). Their recipe: Let the transformation happen in a living animal instead of a petri dish. The finding could help scientists better understand how reprogramming works and it may one day help breed replacement tissues or organs in the lab—or in living patients."

Croak & Dagger: Following the Trail of a Herpetologist Spy 40

bmahersciwriter writes "When Rafe Brown started doing field research in the Philippines, he constantly found himself in the long shadow of Edward Taylor, an irascible giant of herpetology (the study of amphibians) from the mid-20th century, whose legacy was tarnished by accusations of fraud, questions about his naming methods, and rumours of a double life working for the U.S. government. Brown forged a bond with his predecessor and has begun to restore a collection of Taylor's specimens that were lost during the Second World War, and which could aid in allocating resources for conservation. He has meanwhile found out more about Taylor's extracurricular activities, which included work with the organization that would eventually become the CIA."

Study Suggests Weather and Not Hunting Killed Off Wooly Mammoths 150

Big Hairy Ian writes, quoting the BBC: "A DNA analysis shows that the number of creatures began to decrease much earlier than previously thought as the world's climate changed. It also shows that there was a distinct population of mammoth in Europe that died out around 30,000 years ago. ... Dr Dalen worked with researchers in London to analyse DNA samples from 300 specimens from woolly mammoths collected by themselves and other groups in earlier studies ... [The researchers] speculate that it was so cold that the grass on which they fed became scarce. The decline was spurred on as the Ice Age ended, possibly because the grassland on which the creatures thrived was replaced by forests in the south and tundra in the north."

Space Food From Space Farms 168

Modern Farmer magazine has an article about NASA's efforts into growing food in space, a slow, difficult process that's nonetheless necessary if humanity is to have any significant presence away from Earth's surface. Quoting: "This December, NASA plans to launch a set of Kevlar pillow-packs, filled with a material akin to kitty litter, functioning as planters for six romaine lettuce plants. The burgundy-hued lettuce (NASA favors the 'Outredgeous' strain) will be grown under bright-pink LED lights, ready to harvest after just 28 days. NASA has a long history of testing plant growth in space, but the goals have been largely academic. Experiments have included figuring out the effects of zero-gravity on plant growth, testing quick-grow sprouts on shuttle missions and assessing the viability of different kinds of artificial light. But [the Vegetable Production System] is NASA's first attempt to grow produce that could actually sustain space travelers. Naturally, the dream is to create a regenerative growth system, so food could be continually grown on the space station — or, potentially, on moon colonies or Mars. ... Plant size is a vital calculation in determining what to grow on the space station, where every square foot is carefully allotted. Harvest time is also of extreme importance; the program wants to maximize growth cycles within each crew’s (on average) six-month stay."