For the out-of-band Slashdot experience (mostly headlines), follow us on Twitter, or Facebook. ×

Volcano Near Mexico City Becomes More Active 114 114

benfrog writes "Popocatépetl, a volcano that sits 34 miles east of Mexico City, has begun a series of small eruptions. It's feared that larger eruptions would not only endanger people within range of its explosions, but disrupt life in Mexico City with ash clouds. 'People in the village of Xalitzintla said they were awakened by a window-rattling series of eruptions. Mexico’s National Disaster Prevention Center said one string of eruptions ended in the early morning, then the volcano started up again at 5:05 a.m., with at least 12 eruptions in two hours.' More than 30 million people live within sight of the volcano."

Satellite System Will Speed Up Tsunami Warnings 8 8

ananyo writes "NASA and a group of universities known as the READI network have begun testing an earthquake-warning system based on satellite data from the Global Positioning System. The method could have allowed Japanese officials to issue accurate warnings of the deadly March 2011 earthquake and tsunami ten times faster than they did, say scientists. The system is currently being tested using the U.S. Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array: hundreds of GPS receivers placed along the North American coast between Northern California and British Columbia in Canada. While conventional seismometers provide similar information, they run into trouble with earthquakes of magnitude 7 or higher. This is partly because in big quakes, the ground may shake for longer, but not significantly harder. GPS has no such problem, because it directly measures the movement of the ground."
The Courts

The Scientific Method Versus Scientific Evidence In the Courtroom 140 140

An anonymous reader writes "A few months back, the National Research Council and the Federal Judicial Center published the Third Edition of the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, the primary guide for federal judges in the United States trying to evaluate scientific evidence. One chapter in particular, 'How Science Works,' written by David Goodstein (Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at CalTech), has raised the issue of how judges should see science in the courtroom: should they look at science to see if it matches our idealized view of the scientific method, or should they consider the realities of science, where people advocate for their own theories far more than they question them?"

Brain Scan Can Predict Math Mistakes 133 133

itwbennett writes "Computer Science Ph.D. candidate Federico Cirett says that he can predict with 80 percent accuracy when someone is about to make a mistake on a math question. Using an EEG machine, Cirett can identify the patterns in a volunteer's thinking that are likely to result in an error 20 seconds or so before it's made. 'If we can detect when they are going to fail, maybe we can change the text or switch the question to give them another one at a different level of difficulty, but also to keep them engaged,' Cirett said. 'Brain wave data is the nearest thing we have to really know when the students are having problems.' He will present a paper on his findings at the User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization conference in July."

The Crisis of Government-Funded Science 194 194

eldavojohn writes "The New York Review of Books has an article penned by Steven Weinberg lamenting the future of physics, cosmology and this era of 'big science' in which we find ourselves. A quote from Goldhaber sums up the problem nicely, 'The first to disintegrate a nucleus was Rutherford, and there is a picture of him holding the apparatus in his lap. I then always remember the later picture when one of the famous cyclotrons was built at Berkeley, and all of the people were sitting in the lap of the cyclotron.' The article is lengthy with a history of big physics projects (most painfully perhaps the SSC) but Weinberg's message ultimately comes across as pessimism laced with fatalism — easily understandable given his experiences with government funding. Unfortunately he notes, 'Big science has the special problem that it can't easily be scaled down. It does no good to build an accelerator tunnel that only goes halfway around the circle.' Apparently this article mirrors his talk given in January at the American Astronomical Society. If not our government, will anyone fund these immense projects or will physics slowly grind to a halt due to fiscal constraints?"

First Full Observable-Universe Simulation 95 95

First time accepted submitter slashmatteo writes "The goal of the DEUS project (Dark Energy Universe Simulation) is to investigate the imprints of dark energy on cosmic structure formation through high-performance numerical simulations. In order to do so, the project has conducted a simulation of the structuring of the entire observable universe, from the Big Bang to the present day. Thanks to the Curie super-computer, the simulation has made it possible to follow the evolution of 550 billion particles. Two other complementary runs are scheduled by the end of May. More details in the press release."

The Artificial Life of the App Store 106 106

mikejuk writes "How does the Apple App Store actually work? What is the best strategy to employ if you want to get some users and make some money? There are some pointers on how it all works from an unusual source — artificial life. A pair of researchers Soo Ling Lim and Peter Bentley from University College London, set up an artificial life simulation of the app store's ecosystem. They created app developers with strategies such as — innovate, copy other apps, create useless variations on a basic app or try and optimize the app you have. What they found, among other things, was that the CopyCat strategy was on average the best. When they allow the strategies to compete and developer agents to swap then the use of the CopyCat fell to only 10%. The reason — more than 10% CopyCats resulted in nothing new to copy!"

Eating Meat Helped Early Humans Reproduce 487 487

PolygamousRanchKid writes "If early humans had been vegans we might all still be living in caves, Swedish researchers suggested in an article Thursday. When a mother eats meat, her breast-fed child's brain grows faster and she is able to wean the child at an earlier age, allowing her to have more children faster, the article explains. 'Eating meat enabled the breast-feeding periods and thereby the time between births to be shortened,' said psychologist Elia Psouni of Lund University in Sweden. 'This must have had a crucial impact on human evolution.' She notes, however, that the results say nothing about what humans today should or should not eat."

Beneath Africa, Survey Finds 'Huge' Water Reserves 292 292

gambit3 writes with this news, carried by the BBC: "Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater. They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface. Across Africa more than 300 million people are said not to have access to safe drinking water. Freshwater rivers and lakes are subject to seasonal floods and droughts that can limit their availability for people and for agriculture. At present only 5% of arable land is irrigated."

Billionaires and Polymaths Expected To Unveil a Plan To Mine Asteroids 531 531

dumuzi writes "A team including Larry Page, Ram Shriram and Eric Schmidt of Google, director James Cameron, Charles Simonyi (Microsoft executive and astronaut), Ross Perot Jr. (son of Ross Perot), Chris Lewicki (NASA Mars mission manager), and Peter Diamandis (X-Prize) have formed a new company called Planetary Resources, and are expected to announce plans on April 24th to mine asteroids. A study by NASA released April 2nd claims a robotic mission could capture a 500 ton asteroid and bring it to orbit the moon for $2.6 billion. The additional cost to mine the asteroid and return the ores to Earth would make profit unlikely even if the asteriod was 20% gold."

Is Middle Age Evolution's Crowning Achievement? 140 140

Hugh Pickens writes "Reproductive biologist David Bainbridge writes that with the onset of wrinkles, love handles, and failing eyesight we are used to dismissing our fifth and sixth decades as a negative chapter in our lives. However recent scientific findings show just how crucial middle age has been to the success of our species and that with the probable existence of lots of prehistoric middle-aged people, natural selection had plenty to work on. 'We lead an energy-intensive, communication-driven, information-rich way of life, and it was the evolution of middle age that supported this,' writes Bainbridge, adding that middle age is a controlled and preprogrammed process, not of decline, but of development. 'When we think of human development, we usually think of the growth of a fetus or the maturation of a child into an adult. Yet the tightly choreographed transition into middle age is a later but equally important stage in which we are each recast into yet another novel form' — resilient, healthy, energy-efficient and productive. 'The middle aged may not have been able to outrun the prey, but they were really good at working out where it might be hiding and dividing up the spoils afterwards.' Although some critics say that middle age is a construct of the middle aged, Bainbridge asserts that one key role of middle age is the propagation of information. 'All animals inherit a great deal of information in their genes; some also learn more as they grow up. Humans have taken this second form of information transfer to a new level. We are born knowing and being able to do almost nothing. Each of us depends on a continuous infusion of skills, knowledge and customs, collectively known as culture, if we are to survive. And the main route by which culture is transferred is by middle-aged people showing and telling their children — as well as the young adults with whom they hunt and gather — what to do.'"

Weekend Lyrid Meteor Shower Visible From Earth 34 34

jamaicaplain writes "The annual Lyrid meteor shower will hit its peak this weekend and promises to put on an eye-catching display. NASA scientists plan to track the Lyrid meteor shower using a network of all-sky cameras on Earth, as well as from a student-launched balloon in California. Meanwhile, an astronaut on the International Space Station will attempt to photograph the meteors from space."

Computer Game Designed To Treat Depression As Effective As Traditional Treatment 190 190

New submitter sirlark writes "'Researchers at the University of Auckland tested an interactive 3D fantasy game called Sparx on a 94 youngsters diagnosed with depression whose average age was 15 and a half. Sparx invites a user to take on a series of seven challenges over four to seven weeks in which an avatar has to learn to deal with anger and hurt feelings and swap negative thoughts for helpful ones. Used for three months, Sparx was at least as effective as face-to-face conventional counselling, according to several depression rating scales. In addition, 44% of the Sparx group who carried out at least four of the seven challenges recovered completely. In the conventional treatment group, only 26% recovered fully.' One has to wonder if it's Sparx specifically — or gaming in general — that provides the most benefit, given that most of the symptoms of depression relate to a feeling of being unable to influence one's environment (powerlessness, helplessness, ennui, etc) and games are specifically designed to make one feel powerful but challenged (if they hit the sweet spot)."

Canadian Bureacracy Can't Answer Simple Question: What's This Study With NASA? 164 164

Saint Aardvark writes "It seemed like a pretty simple question about a pretty cool topic: an Ottawa newspaper wanted to ask Canada's National Research Council about a joint study with NASA on tracking falling snow in Canada. Conventional radar can see where it's falling, but not the amount — so NASA, in collaboration with the NRC, Environment Canada and a few universities, arranged flights through falling snow to analyse readings with different instruments. But when they contacted the NRC to get the Canadian angle, "it took a small army of staffers— 11 of them by our count — to decide how to answer, and dozens of emails back and forth to circulate the Citizen's request, discuss its motivation, develop their response, and "massage" its text." No interview was given: "I am not convinced we need an interview. A few lines are fine. Please let me see them first," says one civil servant in the NRC emails obtained by the newspaper under the Access to Information act. By the time the NRC finally sorted out a boring, technical response, the newspaper had already called up a NASA scientist and got all the info they asked for; it took about 15 minutes."

Studies Suggest Massive Increase In Scientific Fraud 229 229

Titus Andronicus writes "Scientific fraud has always been with us. But as stated or suggested by some scientists, journal editors, and a few studies, the amount of scientific 'cheating' has far outpaced the expansion of science itself. According to some, the financial incentives to 'cut corners' have never been greater, resulting in record numbers of retractions from prestigious journals. From the article: 'For example, the journal Nature reported that published retractions had increased tenfold over the past decade, while the number of published papers had increased by just 44 percent.'"