sfcrazy writes "On Tuesday (Mangalwaar) the Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) will launch the Mars orbiter Mangalyaan from Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The spaceship will take over 10 months to reach Mars and, if everything goes well, it would make India the first country to send a payload to Mars in its first attempt, and would beat close rival China whose recent mission failed."
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The Bad Astronomer writes "A new study, looking at over 40,000 stars viewed by the Kepler spacecraft, indicates that 22% of stars like the Sun should have Earth-like planets orbiting them — planets that are similar in size to our home world and with a surface temperature hospitable for liquid water. There are some caveats (they don't include atmospheric issues like the greenhouse effect, which may reduce the overall number, or at cooler stars where there may be many more such planets) but their numbers indicate there could be several billion planets similar to Earth in the Milky Way alone."
minty3 writes "Nathan Gray, 10, from Nova Scotia, Canada, recently discovered a 600-million-year-old supernova in the galaxy PGC 61330, which lies in the constellation of Draco – beating his sister by 33 days as the youngest person to find a supernova. Gray made the discovery on October 30 while looking at astronomical images taken by Dave Lane, who runs the Abbey Ridge Observatory (ARO) in Nova Scotia. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada confirmed Gray's discovery, but astronomers with the International Astronomical Union say they will need to use a larger telescope to make the finding official."
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "A Harvard biologist was able to get an intentionally flawed paper accepted for publication by a number of open-access academic journals, included that had supposedly been vetted for quality by advocates of open access. It seems the problem could be mitigated by consolidating journals within a field, so that there are much fewer of them, publishing much more articles per journal -- so the review processes take the same amount of labor, but you have fewer journals that have to be audited for procedural honesty." Read on for the rest, including his idea to solve the problem of fraudulent submissions (or even just sub-par science) through simplification.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Science writer and 42-year old pre-med student Barbara Moran writes in the NY Times that organic chemistry has been haunting pre-meds since 1910, when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a landmark report calling for tougher admission standards to medical school and for medical training based on science. "The organic chemistry on the MCAT is chemistry that students need to know to succeed in medical school," says Karen Mitchell, senior director of the MCAT Program. Basically, orgo examines how molecules containing carbon interact, but it doesn't require equations or math, as in physics. Instead, you learn how electrons flow around and between molecules, and you draw little curved arrows showing where they go. This "arrow pushing" is the heart and soul of orgo. "Learning how to interpret the hieroglyphics is pretty easy. The hard part is learning where to draw the little arrows," writes Moran. "After you draw oxygen donating electrons to a positive carbon a zillion times, it becomes second nature." But the rules have many exceptions, which students find maddening. The same molecule will behave differently in acid or base, in dark or sunlight, in heat or cold, or "if you sprinkle magic orgo dust on it and turn around three times." You can't memorize all the possible answers — you have to rely on intuition, generalizing from specific examples. This skill, far more than the details of every reaction, may actually be useful for medicine. "It seems a lot like diagnosis," says Logan McCarty. "That cognitive skill — inductive generalization from specific cases to something you've never seen before — that's something you learn in orgo." This takes a huge amount of time, for me 20 to 30 hours a week writes Moran. This is one thing that orgo is testing: whether you have the time and desire to do the work. "Sometimes, if a student has really good math skills, they can slide through physics, but you can't do that in orgo," says McCarty ."
sciencehabit writes "The last star to go supernova in the Milky Way—that astronomers know of—exploded in 1604, before Galileo first turned a telescope to the heavens. But with a neutrino detector now being built within a Japanese mountain that could come online as early as 2016, researchers might be able to do something as yet undone: Make detailed observations of a supernova in our galaxy before it visibly explodes. First, astronomers would be alerted to the unfolding event by the flood of neutrinos generated when a supernova collapses. Within minutes, they could determine the general area of the sky where the explosion would occur, point their infrared telescopes in that direction, and wait for the fireworks. With the new sensor in place, instruments—especially infrared telescopes—would have an almost 100% chance of observing the next supernova in our galaxy, the researchers report."
mdsolar writes "Tomorrow at dawn on the U.S. East Coast, a partial solar eclipse will rise. Solar eclipses have many uses. They can confirm the Theory of Relativity, allow study of the solar corona, and this week, help prepare for global warming induced sea level rise. The tides induced in the oceans when the Sun and Moon are aligned are particularly high (and low) and give a foretaste of the effects of sea level rise in the coming decades. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources is asking for photos of these King Tides to help with preparation for the effect of sea level rise. Way to get out front, Maryland."
New submitter codeusirae writes "An initial round of criticism focused on how many files the browser was being forced to download just to access the site, per an article at Reuters. A thread at Reddit appeared and was filled with analyses of the code. But closer looks by others have teased out deeper, more systematic issues."
theodp writes " The Common Core State Standards Initiative," explains the project's website, ""is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt." Who could argue with such an effort? Not Bill Gates, who ponied up $150 million to help git-r-done. But the devil's in the details, notes Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss, who offers up a ridiculous Common Core math test for first graders as Exhibit A, which also helps to explain why the initiative is facing waning support. Explaining her frustration with the intended-for-5-and-6-year-olds test from Gates Foundation partner Pearson Education, Principal Carol Burris explains, "Take a look at question No. 1, which shows students five pennies, under which it says 'part I know,' and then a full coffee cup labeled with a '6' and, under it, the word, 'Whole.' Students are asked to find 'the missing part' from a list of four numbers. My assistant principal for mathematics was not sure what the question was asking. How could pennies be a part of a cup?" The 6-year-old first-grader who took the test didn't get it either, and took home a 45% math grade to her parents. And so the I'm-bad-at-math game begins!"
An anonymous reader writes "Recent reports of MathML's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Given the amount of marketing dollars companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have spent trying to convince a buying public to purchase their wares as educational tools, you'd think they'd deliver more than lip service by now. MathJax team member, Peter Krautzberger, has compiled a great overview of the current state of MathML, the standard for mathematical content in publishing work flows, technical writing, and math software: "20 years into the web, math and science are still second class citizens on the web. While MathML is part of HTML 5, its adoption has seen ups and downs but if you look closely you can see there is more light than shadow and a great opportunity to revolutionize educational, scientific and technical communication.""
KentuckyFC writes "As the Sun expands into a red giant, life on Earth will die away. Now astrobiologists have worked out how this will look to distant observers watching the biosignature in our atmosphere. They say the first major effect of warming, about 1 billion years from now, will be a dramatic drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide as the oceans absorb more of it. That's bad news for trees and plants, which need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, so they begin to die off. Since plants produce oxygen, atmospheric levels of oxygen will also drop, killing off the animals. Roughly 2 billion years from now, the only living things on Earth will be microbes. However, methane levels will have risen dramatically, caused by decaying plant matter. And decaying animals will release a gas called methanethiol, which breaks down into ethane, which ought to be visible too. Finally, they calculate that about 3 billion years from now, the oceans will boil and Earth will be a barren planet with little if any biosignature at all. But all this is not just a subject of morbid fascination. With the next generation of space telescopes, astronomers should see similar biosignatures on Earth-like planets around other stars that are also beyond their sell-by dates. So we'll be able to watch them die off first."
An anonymous reader writes "Cornell physicists say they've codified why science works, or more specifically, why scientific theories work – a meta-theory. Publishing online in the journal Science (abstract), the team has developed a unified computational framework they say exposes the hidden hierarchy of scientific theories by quantifying the degree to which predictions – like how a particular cellular mechanism might work under certain conditions, or how sound travels through space – depend on the detailed variables of a model."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Scientists at the University of Manchester in England figured out how the largest animal ever to walk on Earth, the 80-ton Argentinosaurus, actually walked on earth. Researchers led by Bill Sellers, Rudolfo Coria and Lee Margetts at the N8 High Performance Computing facility in northern England used a 320 gigaflop/second SGI High Performance Computing Cluster supercomputer called Polaris to model the skeleton and movements of Argentinosaurus. The animal was able to reach a top speed of about 5 mph, with 'a slow, steady gait,' according to the team (PDF). Extrapolating from a few feet of bone, paleontologists were able to estimate the beast weighed between 80 and 100 tons and grew up to 115 feet in length. Polaris not only allowed the team to model the missing parts of the dinosaur and make them move, it did so quickly enough to beat the deadline for PLOS ONE Special Collection on Sauropods, a special edition of the site focusing on new research on sauropods that 'is likely to be the "de facto" international reference for Sauropods for decades to come,' according to a statement from the N8 HPC center. The really exciting thing, according to Coria, was how well Polaris was able to fill in the gaps left by the fossil records. 'It is frustrating there was so little of the original dinosaur fossilized, making any reconstruction difficult,' he said, despite previous research that established some rules of weight distribution, movement and the limits of dinosaurs' biological strength."
First time accepted submitter Rozanne writes "The new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine has a story on Stanford professor Drew Endy's creation of microscopic computers out of biological components for use inside living cells. His work is a mash-up of molecular biology and computer engineering: Instead of a computer made of silicon, metal and plastic, it's a computer made of DNA, RNA and enzymes. Endy says biologists are typically confounded at first when he explains how the computers work and how they could be used."
wjcofkc writes "The United States Government has officially called in the calvary over the problems with Healthcare.gov. Tech titans Oracle, Red Hat and Google have been tapped to join the effort to fix the website that went live a month ago, only to quickly roll over and die. While a tech surge of engineers to fix such a complex problem is arguably not the greatest idea, if you're going to do so, you might as well bring in the big guns. The question is: can they make the end of November deadline?"
First time accepted submitter calinduca writes "Artificial blood that could one day be used in humans without side effects has been created by scientists in Romania. The blood contains water and salts along with a protein known as hemerythrin which is extracted from sea worms. Researchers from Babe-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, hope it could help end blood supply shortages and prevent infections through donations." Wikipedia's entry on hemerythrin explains its unusual oxygen binding mechanism.
coondoggie writes "Imagine 500 million short copper wires — no longer than the tip of your index finger — floating in space creating what amounts to an antenna belt that could be used to send messages and conduct other space communications research. That would describe the 1960s era Project Space Needles or Project West Ford as it was sometimes called that NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last undertook in 1963 which saw the blasting of millions of those copper hairs into space. NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office this month did a 'Where are they now' look at those copper wires and said that after 50 years, some of them indeed still make up a small amount of orbital debris."
An anonymous reader writes in with a neat project Microsoft is working on to translate sign language with a Kinect. "Microsoft Research is now using the Kinect to bridge the gap between folks who don't speak the same language, whether they can hear or not. The Kinect Sign Language Translator is a research prototype that can translate sign language into spoken language and vice versa. The best part? It does it all in real time."
astroengine writes "Kepler-78b may be an exoplanet notable for being approximately Earth-sized and likely possessing a rocky surface plus iron core, but that's where any similarity to our planet ends. It has an extremely tight orbit around sun-like star Kepler-78, completing one 'year' in only 8.5 hours. It orbits so close in fact that the alien world's surface temperature soars to 2,000 degrees hotter than Earth's. Referring to Kepler-78b as a 'rocky' world is therefore a misnomer — it's a hellish lava world. But this is just a side-show to the real conundrum behind Kepler-78b: It shouldn't exist at all. 'This planet is a complete mystery,' said astronomer David Latham of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in a press release. 'We don't know how it formed or how it got to where it is today. What we do know is that it's not going to last forever.'"
ananyo writes "A U.S. team that claims to have built the world's most sensitive dark matter detector has completed its first data run without seeing any sign of the stuff. In a webcast presentation today at the Sanford Underground Laboratory in Lead, South Dakota, physicists working on the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment said they had seen nothing statistically compelling in 110 days of data-taking. 'We find absolutely no events consistent with any kind of dark matter,' says LUX co-spokesman Rick Gaitskell, a physicist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Physicists know from astronomical observations that 85% of the Universe's matter is dark, making itself known only through its gravitational pull on conventional matter. Some think it may also engage in weak but detectable collisions with ordinary matter, and several direct detection experiments have reported tantalizing hints of these candidate dark matter particles, known as WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles). Gaitskell says that it is now overwhelmingly likely that earlier sightings were statistical fluctuations. Despite the no-shows at XENON-100 and LUX, Laura Baudis, a physicist on XENON-100 at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, says physicists are not ready to give up on the idea of detecting WIMPs. They may simply have a lower mass, or may be more weakly interacting than originally hoped. 'We have some way to go,' she says."