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Brain Implants Help Paralyzed Monkeys Get a Grip 54

sciencehabit writes "Spinal cord injuries cause paralysis because they sever crucial communication links between the brain and the muscles that move limbs. A new study with monkeys demonstrates a way to re-establish those connections. By implanting electrodes in a movement control center in the brain and wiring them up to electrodes attached to muscles in the arm, researchers restored movement to monkeys with a temporarily paralyzed hand. The work is the latest promising development in the burgeoning field of neuroprosthetics."

Was Earth a Migratory Planet? 257

astroengine writes "Why our planet isn't a "snowball Earth" — a dilemma called the 'faint young sun paradox' — has foxed solar and planetary scientists for decades. Since the Earth's formation, a planet covered in ice should have stifled any kind of greenhouse effect, preventing our atmosphere from warming up and maintaining water in a liquid state. Now, David Minton of Purdue University has come up with a novel solution that, by his own admission, straddles science fact and fiction. Perhaps Earth evolved closer to the Sun and through some gravitational effect, it was pushed to a higher orbit as the Sun grew hotter. But watch out, if this is true, planetary chaos awaits."

Wind Turbine Extracts Water From Air 227

An anonymous reader writes "Getting access to enough water to drink in a desert environment is a pretty tough proposition, but Eole Water may have solved the problem. It has created a wind turbine that can extract up to 1,000 liters of water per day from the air. All it requires is a 15mph wind to generate the 30kW's of power required for the process to happen. The end result is a tank full of purified water ready to drink at the base of each turbine."

Avian Flu Researcher Plans to Defy Dutch Ban On Publishing Paper 118

scibri writes "Ron Fouchier, one of the researchers involved in the controversy over whether to publish research on mutant versions of H5N1 bird flu, has said he plans to submit his paper to Science without applying for an export control license as demanded by the Dutch government. Failing to get the license means he could face penalties including up to six years in prison. Whether the paper falls under export-control laws is unclear. The Netherlands implements European Union (EU) legislation on export controls, which require an export permit for 'dual-use' materials and information — those that could have both legitimate and malicious uses — including those relating to dangerous pathogens. But the EU law allows an exception for 'basic scientific research' that is 'not primarily directed towards a specific practical aim or objective,' which Fouchier says should cover his work."

Julia Language Seeks To Be the C For Numerical Computing 204

concealment writes in with an interview with a creator of the (fairly) new language Julia designed for number crunching. Quoting Infoworld: "InfoWorld: When you say technical computing, to what type of applications are you specifically referring? Karpinski: It's a broad category, but it's pretty much anything that involves a lot of number-crunching. In my own background, I've done a lot of linear algebra but a fair amount of statistics as well. The tool of choice for linear algebra tends to be Matlab. The tool of choice for statistics tends to be R, and I've used both of those a great deal. But they're not really interchangeable. If you want to do statistics in Matlab, it's frustrating. If you want to do linear algebra in R, it's frustrating. InfoWorld: So you developed Julia with the intent to make it easier to build technical applications? Karpinski: Yes. The idea is that it should be extremely high productivity. To that end, it's a dynamic language, so it's relatively easy to program, and it's got a very simple programming model. But it has extremely high performance, which cuts out [the need for] a third language [C], which is often [used] to get performance in any of these other languages. I should also mention NumPy, which is a contender for these areas. For Matlab, R, and NumPy, for all of these options, you need to at some point drop down into C to get performance. One of our goals explicitly is to have sufficiently good performance in Julia that you'd never have to drop down into C." The language implementation is licensed under the GPL. Lambda the Ultimate has a bit of commentary on the language, and an R programmer gives his two cents on the language.

Egg-laying, Not Environment, May Explain the Size and Downfall of Dinosaurs 123

ananyo writes "Paleontologists have argued that dinosaurs were able to grow quickly and fuel large bodies when temperatures were warm, oxygen levels were high, and land masses such as the supercontinent Gondwana provided abundant living space. But two new studies contradict that idea and suggest the key to some dinosaurs' vast size lies in the limitations of egg laying. In the first study, researchers examined whether changes in body size followed changes in environmental factors and found no correlation. A second study argues that the reason dinosaurs grew so large was because they were forced to produce relatively tiny young (abstract only), as developing embryos would not be able to breathe through the thick shells of large eggs. When the young of large animals start out small, they must grow through a large size range before reaching adulthood. As a result there was intense competition between small and medium-sized dinosaurs, forcing adults to keep growing until they reached very large sizes to gain a competitive edge. But being big also had drawbacks. When an asteroid impact 65 million years ago wiped out most large-bodied animals, there were so few small dinosaur species that the group was almost obliterated, with only the birds surviving."

Video The Space Shuttle Discovery's Last Mile (Video) 101

Timothy Lord was in the closest civilian parking lot to where the Space Shuttle Discovery touched down from her last flight -- as a passenger on top of a 747, but it was still a space shuttle flying... a flight that was the sad epitaph for an American era. Timothy's shots of the landing approach are much like all the others you've seen. What's interesting is the variety of people he talked with. One came all the way from Tokyo. And there was the young man who got a Master's in Aeronautical Engineering to work on the space program, which sadly shut down, and who is now looking for a job with SpaceX or one of the other private space-bound companies. We hope there are lots of opportunities in the near future for him, and for thousands if not millions of others who want to go into space or, ground-bound, help our efforts to go where only science fiction writers' imaginations have gone before.

Using Shadows To Measure the Geysers of Enceladus 27

The Bad Astronomer writes "A lot of folks are posting about the amazing new pictures of the icy moon Enceladus returned from the Cassini spacecraft. However, one of them shows the shadow of the moon across the geyser plumes. This has been seen before, but I suddenly realized how that can help determine the geysers' locations, and I thought Slashdot readers might be interested in the general method."

Scientists Say Spread of Schmallenberg Virus Is 'Warning To Europe' 113

redletterdave writes "The outbreak of a new livestock disease in western Europe last year, particularly harmful to offspring, could move further into areas surrounding the worst affected countries in the next cycle of new births, scientists say. The Schmallenberg virus — named after the German town where it was first detected in November — infected sheep and cows on at least 2,600 farms in eight EU countries last year, most likely between August and October. Thought to have been spread for hundreds of miles across Europe by biting midges and warm late summer winds, the virus has since been confirmed in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Spain and Britain. 'It is certainly a warning for the whole world in the sense that, unfortunately, new threats may emerge,' said Alberto Laddomada, a former virologist who heads the animal health unit at the European Commission. 'This virus has spread very, very quickly in the European Union amongst an animal population of many millions.'"

NOAA Releases New Views of Earth's Ocean Floor 33

fishmike writes "NOAA has made sea floor maps and other data on the world's coasts, continental shelves and deep ocean available for easy viewing online. Anyone with Internet access can now explore undersea features and obtain detailed depictions of the sea floor and coasts, including deep canyons, ripples, landslides and likely fish habitat. The new online data viewer compiles sea floor data from the near shore to the deep blue, including the latest high-resolution bathymetric (sea bottom) data collected by NOAA's Office of Coast Survey primarily to support nautical charting."

Researchers Try To Identify the Intelligence Gene 254

An anonymous reader writes "The world's largest brain study to date, with a team of more than 200 scientists from 100 institutions worldwide collaborated to map the human genes that boost or sabotage the brain's resistance to a variety of mental illnesses and Alzheimer's disease. The study also uncovered new genes that may explain individual differences in brain size and intelligence. From the article: 'Following a brain study on an unprecedented scale, an international collaboration has now managed to tease out a single gene that does have a measurable effect on intelligence. But the effect – although measurable – is small: the gene alters IQ by just 1.29 points. According to some researchers, that essentially proves that intelligence relies on the action of a multitude of genes after all.'"

SpaceX Dragon Launch To ISS Set For April 30th 127

Spy Handler writes "NASA announced today a tentative April 30th date for SpaceX launch to the International Space Station on an unmanned cargo mission. 'Everything looks good as we head toward the April 30 launch date,' said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations. If successful, SpaceX will become the first private company to launch a space vehicle and dock with the ISS."

Drugged Honeybees Do the Time Warp 103

sciencehabit writes "Waking up from surgery can be disorienting. One minute you're in an operating room counting backwards from 10, the next you're in the recovery ward sans appendix, tonsils, or wisdom teeth. And unlike getting up from a good night's sleep, where you know that you've been out for hours, waking from anesthesia feels like hardly any time has passed. Now, thanks to the humble honeybee, scientists are starting to understand this sense of time loss. New research shows that general anesthetics disrupt the social insect's circadian rhythm, or internal clock, delaying the onset of timed behaviors such as foraging and mucking up their sense of direction."

Scientific Cruise Meets Perfect Storm, Inspires Extreme Wave Research 107

An anonymous reader writes "The oceanographers aboard RRS Discovery were expecting the winter weather on their North Atlantic research cruise to be bad, but they didn't expect to have to negotiate the highest waves ever recorded in the open ocean. Wave heights were measured by the vessel's Shipborne Wave Recorder, which allowed scientists from the National Oceanography Centre to produce a paper titled 'Were extreme waves in the Rockall Trough the largest ever recorded?' It's that paper, in combination with the first confirmed measurement of a rogue wave (at the Draupner platform in the North Sea), that led to 'a surge of interest in extreme and rogue waves, and a renewed emphasis on protecting ships and offshore structures from their destructive power.'"

Gold Nanoparticles Help Red Blood Cells Deliver Drugs 36

New submitter MTorrice writes "Scientists decorated red blood cells with gold nanoparticles so they could trigger the cells to dump their contents with a zap from a laser. The laser pulses heated the particles to produce nanopores in the cells' membranes. The cells contained two fluorescent dyes and both flooded through the pores and out of the cells after the laser pulses. Although the researchers studied the release of dyes, their end goal is to use red blood cells as a vehicle for drug delivery, because the cells are naturally compatible with the immune system and circulate for days in the body. Until now, researchers have found easy ways to load the cells with drugs, but the challenge has been to control the molecules' release."