itwbennett writes "Neal Stephenson is shouldering some of the blame for discouraging budding scientists and engineers, saying in a interview that perhaps the dark turn science fiction has taken is 'discouraging budding scientists and engineers.' For his part, Stephenson has vowed to be more optimistic. From the article: 'Speaking before a packed lecture theater at MIT yesterday, Neal Stephenson worried that the gloomy outlook prevalent in modern science fiction may be undermining the genre's ability to inspire engineers and scientists. Describing himself as a "pessimist trying to turn himself into an optimist," and acknowledging that some of his own work has contributed to the dystopian trend, he added "if every depiction of the future is grim...then it doesn't create much of an incentive to building the future."'"
Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system
First time accepted submitter gstrickler writes "After years of work recovering and analyzing old mission data and vehicle schematics, a just published analysis(Pdf) provides strong evidence for anisotropic thermal radiation being the source of the slowing of the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft. The theory isn't new, but the recovered data and new analysis provide solid evidence that at least 80% of the deceleration is accounted for by anisotropic thermal radiation. Members of The Planetary Society were instrumental in recovering the data and helping fund the analysis. The lesson is, in space, it matters what direction your heat radiating surfaces point."
waderoush writes "The Google Lunar X Prize, announced in 2007, challenges private teams to send remote-controlled landers and robot rovers to the Moon by December 31, 2015. At the moment, 26 teams are still in the running — but organizers say 2012 could be the shakeout year, as many teams realize they can't go it alone or that they can't raise the tens of millions of dollars needed to reserve a launch vehicle. Xconomy talked with officials at Google, NASA, the X Prize Foundation, and two of the competing teams, asking whether the prize is really winnable in the face of the formidable fundraising obstacles the teams face. The piece also looks at the technology being developed by two of the teams (Moon Express and Team FREDNET), why lunar exploration matters to Google, and how Tiffany Montague, Google's manager of space initiatives, is working to improve the teams' chances."
An anonymous reader writes with this extract from a Reuters article: "In early 2010, a spike in cases appeared at Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael, and it was soon determined to be an outbreak of whooping cough — the largest seen in California in more than 50 years. Witt had expected to see the illnesses center around unvaccinated kids, knowing they are more vulnerable to the disease. 'We started dissecting the data. What was very surprising was the majority of cases were in fully vaccinated children. That's what started catching our attention,' said Witt."
techgeek0279 writes "The Cybram 001 Cybernetic Brain Artery Model simulates the functioning of the cerebral blood vessels, so doctors can practice performing actual operations on the brain. Developed through joint research by Fuyo and the Saitama Medical University International Medical Center, the life size plastic body contains a blood vessel system that runs from the groin to the cerebral artery, as well as a circulation pump and pressure control circuit used to realistically simulate blood flow and pressure in the body."
ananyo writes "Condensed-matter physicists have managed to detect the third constituent of an electron — its 'orbiton'. Isolated electrons cannot be split into smaller components, earning them the designation of a fundamental particle. But in the 1980s, physicists predicted that electrons in a one-dimensional chain of atoms could be split into three quasiparticles: a 'holon' carrying the electron's charge, a 'spinon' carrying its spin and an 'orbiton' carrying its orbital location. In 1996, physicists split an electron into a holon and spinon. Now, van den Brink and his colleagues have broken an electron into an orbiton and a spinon (abstract). Orbitons could also aid the quest to build a quantum computer — one stumbling block has been that quantum effects are typically destroyed before calculations can be performed. But as orbital transitions are extremely fast, encoding information in orbitons could be one way to overcome that hurdle."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.'"