gManZboy writes "The vulnerability of wireless medical devices to hacking has now attracted attention in Washington. Although there has not yet been a high-profile case of such an attack, a proposal has surfaced that the Food and Drug Administration or another federal agency assess the security of medical devices before they're sold. A Department of Veterans Affairs study showed that between January 2009 and spring 2011, there were 173 incidents of medical devices being infected with malware. The VA has taken the threat seriously enough to use virtual local area networks to isolate some 50,000 devices. Recently, researchers from Purdue and Princeton Universities announced that they had built a prototype firewall known as MedMon to protect wireless medical devices from outside interference."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Taco Cowboy writes "Arctic methane release is a well recorded phenomenon. Methane stored in both permafrost (which is melting) and methane hydrates (methane trapped in marine reservoirs) are vulnerable to being released into the atmosphere as the planet warms. However, researchers who are trying to map atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations on a global basis have discovered that the amount of methane emissions in the Arctic region do not total up. Further research revealed that significant amounts of methane releases came from the Arctic ocean (abstract) — as much as 2 milligrams of the gas is released per square meter of ocean, each day — presumably by marine bacteria surviving in low-nutrient environments."
Matching widespread predictions, The Bad Astronomer writes with word that "The private company Planetary Resources has announced that it plans to mine asteroids for water, air, and even precious metals in the next few years. Your initial reaction may be to snicker a bit, but it's headed by Peter Diamandis — who established the X Prize — has several ex-NASA personnel running the engineering, and also has the backing of a half-dozen or so billionaires. So this is no joke — their plan looks solid, and may very well be the first step in establishing a permanent human presence in space."
vvaduva writes "The North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition is threatening to send a blogger to jail for recounting publicly his battle against diabetes and encouraging others to follow his lifestyle... the state diatetics and nutrition board decided [Steve] Cooksey's blog — Diabetes-Warrior.net — violated state law. The nutritional advice Cooksey provides on the site amounts to 'practicing nutrition,' the board's director says, and in North Carolina that's something you need a license to do." If applied consistently, I think this would also clear out considerable space from the average bookstore's health section. (And it could be worse; he could have been offering manicures.)
RogerRoast writes "The first private spaceship launch to the International Space Station has been delayed, possibly by at least a week, the vehicle's makers announced Monday. The commercial spaceflight company SpaceX was set to launch its Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket April 30 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida." The article quotes SpaceX lead Elon Musk's twittered explanation: "Am pushing launch back approx a week to do more testing on Dragon docking code. New date pending coordination with @NASA."
astroengine writes, quoting Discovery: "The source of loud 'booms' accompanied by a bright object traveling through the skies of Nevada and California on Sunday morning has been confirmed: it was a meteor. A big one. It is thought to have been a small asteroid that slammed into the atmosphere at a speed of 15 kilometers per second (33,500 mph), turning into a fireball, delivering an energy of 3.8 kilotons of TNT as it broke up over California's Sierra Nevada mountains. Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, classified it as a 'big event.' 'I am not saying there was a 3.8 kiloton explosion on the ground in California,' Cooke told Spaceweather.com. 'I am saying that the meteor possessed this amount of energy before it broke apart in the atmosphere. (The map) shows the location of the atmospheric breakup, not impact with the ground.' Interestingly, this event was bigger than asteroid 2008 TC3 that exploded over the skies of Sudan in 2008 after being detected before it hit."
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."
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."
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?"
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."
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 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."
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!"
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."
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."