cylonlover writes "Imagine a pair of rubber gloves whose surface texture could be altered on demand to provide more grip for climbing. Or maybe gloves with "fingerprints" that can be changed in the blink of an eye. They are just a couple of the many potential applications envisioned by researchers at Duke University for a process they have developed that allows the texture of plastics to be changed at will. By applying specific voltages, the researchers have been able to dynamically switch polymer surfaces among various patterns ranging from dots, segments, lines to circles."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
gzipped_tar writes "Whether the fundamental constants really stay the same is always a question worth asking. In particular, the constancy of Planck's Constant is something that cannot be simply ignored, owing to its universal importance in linking the quantum and classical pictures of our world. Using publicly available GPS data and terrestrial clocks, researchers form the California State University were able to verify that the value of h indeed stays the same across different positions in the vicinity of our Earth. Their result says the local position invariance of h is satisfied within a limit of 0.007. The paper is published in the journal Physical Review Letters (abstract), and a free-to-read preprint is available on arXiv. In short: by the well-known formula E = h * f, a hypothetical variation on h induces changes in f, the transition frequency that keeps the time in atomic clocks, both on earth and aboard the satellites. When taking account of other time variations, such as general relativistic time dilation, and assuming the invariance of E (atomic transition energy) on physical grounds, we can figure out an upper bound on the variation of h reflected in the measured variation in f."
longacre writes "One dull morning last week, two teams of NASA technicians simultaneously gathered at two iconic buildings — the 525-foot Vehicle Assembly Building and the shorter, but equally important Orbital Processing Facility 1 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, tasked with moving a space shuttle orbiter from one building to the other. The 'shuttle shuffle' would have Space Shuttle Discovery (the oldest and most flown orbiter surviving in the three-ship fleet) in OPF-1 swapping places with her sister ship, Atlantis, the second oldest and second most flown orbiter. Fleet leader Discovery would emerge from OPF-1 as a preserved spacecraft, gutted and mummified for museum display."
ananyo writes "Neutrinos obey nature's speed limit, according to new results from an Italian experiment. The finding, posted to the preprint server arXiv.org, contradicts a rival claim from the OPERA experiment that neutrinos could travel faster than the speed of light. ICARUS, located just a few meters from OPERA, clocked neutrinos traveling at the speed of light, and no faster, after monitoring a beam of neutrinos sent from CERN in late October and early November of last year. The neutrinos were packed into pulses just four nanoseconds long. That meant the timing could be measured far more accurately than the original OPERA measurement, which used ten microsecond pulses. The new findings are yet another blow to OPERA's results. Researchers there had announced possible timing problems with their original measurements. For many, this will pretty much be case closed."
New submitter greatgreygreengreasy writes "According to NPR, 'Lawmakers in New York approved a bill that will make the state the first to require DNA samples from almost all convicted criminals. Most states, including New York, already collect DNA samples from felons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. What's remarkable about the New York bill is that it would expand the state's database to include DNA from people convicted of almost any crime, even misdemeanors as minor as jumping over a subway turnstile.' Gattaca seems closer than we may have thought. Richard Aborn, one of the bill's backers, said, 'We know from lots of studies and lots of data now that violent criminals very often begin their careers as nonviolent criminals. And the earlier you can get a nonviolent criminal's DNA in the data bank, the higher your chances are of apprehending the right person.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The DanSeis Centre at the University of Copenhagen has just received a grant of more than €3 million from the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education to investigate and tackle one of geoscience's great mysteries: do mantle plumes, hypothetically buoyant regions of heated mantle material rising towards the earth's surface, actually exist?"
New submitter techfun89 writes "Russia plans on sending cosmonauts to the moon as well as unmanned spacecraft to Mars, Jupiter and Venus by 2030. Considering the recent launch failures in Russia, these plans seem very ambitious. From the article: 'These ambitious spaceflight goals are laid out in a strategy document drawn up recently by Russia's Federal Space Agency (known as Roscosmos), the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Tuesday (March 13). And there's more. Roscosmos wants a new rocket called Angara to become the nation's workhorse launch vehicle by 2020, replacing the venerable Soyuz and Proton rockets that have been carrying the load since the 1960s.'"
sciencehabit writes "Offer a male fruit fly a choice between food soaked in alcohol and its nonalcoholic equivalent, and his decision will depend on whether he's mated recently or been rejected by a female. Flies that have been given the cold shoulder are more likely to go for the booze, researchers have found. It's the first discovery, in fruit flies, of a social interaction that influences future behavior."
First time accepted submitter eternaldoctorwho writes "Research has been underway to produce a coffee bean plant that naturally has no or little caffeine content. Now, it looks like that might become a reality in the near future: Paulo Mazzafera of the University of Campinas in Brazil has come closer than ever with a strain containing 'only 2% of normal caffeine levels.' Coffee, anyone?"
interval1066 writes "Ars Technica reports that a paper by biologists Catherine E. Newmana, Jeremy A. Feinbergb, Leslie J. Risslerc, Joanna Burgerb, and H. Bradley Shaffer, in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution (abstract of paywalled article), describes a new subspecies of leopard frog has been found living exclusively in New York City. The researchers describe in the paper that the new frog has a distinctive croak, quite different from the two existing species of leopard frogs on the East Coast. The new frog is also stand-offish and tends to impotently honk its horn when stuck in traffic."
An anonymous reader writes "Computer scientists at the University of Colorado and the Stevens Institute of Technology have shown that gamers that play with friends play better. The study used the blockbuster FPS Halo: Reach as a testbed, and combined ground truth data on friendships from an anonymous survey with data about the multiplayer competitions extracted using the Reach Stats API. They found that the more friends you have on your team, the more assists, the fewer betrayals, the more you score, and the greater the probability your team wins, and that this 'friends for the win' effect goes above and beyond the benefits of playing with skilled strangers. (They also show that older gamers are statistically better than younger players, contrary to popular opinion.) Study lead Prof. Aaron Clauset, writing on his blog, says that friends 'may be able to effectively anticipate or adapt to each others' actions or strategies without an explicit need for verbal (and thus time consuming) communication or coordination,' and 'these effects may be fairly universal, and not merely limited to the traditional domains like sports and war, where practicing together has a long tradition.'"
ananyo writes "An algorithm designed by U.S. scientists to trawl through a plethora of drug interactions has yielded thousands of previously unknown side effects caused by taking drugs in combination (abstract). The work provides a way to sort through the hundreds of thousands of 'adverse events' reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration each year. The researchers developed an algorithm that would match data from each drug-exposed patient to a nonexposed control patient with the same condition. The approach automatically corrected for several known sources of bias, including those linked to gender, age and disease. The team then used this method to compile a database of 1,332 drugs and possible side effects that were not listed on the labels for those drugs. The algorithm came up with an average of 329 previously unknown adverse events for each drug — far surpassing the average of 69 side effects listed on most drug labels."
An anonymous reader writes "A group of scientists has for the first time sent a message using a beam of neutrinos – nearly massless particles that travel at almost the speed of light. The message was sent through 240 meters of stone and said simply, 'Neutrino.' From the article: 'Many have theorized about the possible uses of neutrinos in communication because of one particularly valuable property: they can penetrate almost anything they encounter. If this technology could be applied to submarines, for instance, then they could conceivably communicate over long distances through water, which is difficult, if not impossible, with present technology. And if we wanted to communicate with something in outer space that was on the far side of a moon or a planet, our message could travel straight through without impediment.'"
ananyo writes "An extinct primitive marine vertebrate had the sharpest dental structures ever known — with tips just one-twentieth of the width of a human hair, but able to apply pressures that could compete easily with those from human jaws. The razor-sharp teeth belonged to conodonts, jawless vertebrates that evolved some 500 million years ago in the Precambrian eon and went extinct during the Triassic period, around 200 million years ago. The creatures roamed the planet for longer than any other vertebrate so far–– and despite their lack of jaws, they were the first creatures to evolve teeth (abstract)."
walterbyrd writes "In response to the alleged shortages of qualified American engineers and technology professionals, numerous initiatives have been launched to boost interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers and to strengthen STEM education in the United States. Unfortunately, these programs have not proven successful, and many blame the laziness of modern students, the ineptitude of their teachers, poor parenting or, when there are no other excuses remaining, they may even jump to moral decay as a causative agent. However, the failure of STEM is because the very policies that created the shortages continue unabated. This is not a uniquely American problem. The best way to increase interest in STEM degrees is by making certain that STEM careers are actually viable."