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Businesses

Chinese Rare Earths Producer Suspends Output 265

Posted by timothy
from the free-market-except-oh-not-really dept.
concealment writes "State-owned Baotou Steel Rare Earth (Group) Hi-tech Co. said in a statement released through the Shanghai Stock Exchange that it suspended production Tuesday to promote 'healthy development' of rare earths prices. It gave no indication when production would resume and phone calls to the company on Thursday were not answered. Beijing is tightening control over rare earths mining and exports to capture more of the profits that flow to Western makers of lightweight batteries and other products made of rare earths. China has about 30 percent of rare earths deposits but accounts for more than 90 percent of production. Beijing alarmed global manufacturers by imposing export quotas in 2009. It also is trying to force Chinese rare earths miners and processors to consolidate into a handful of government-controlled groups."
Science

Dr. Richard Dawkins On Education, 'Innocence of Muslims,' and Rep. Paul Broun 862

Posted by Roblimo
from the choosing-between-science-and-some-hairy-guy-in-the-sky dept.
In this video interview (with transcript), Dr. Richard Dawkins discusses religious exceptionalism with regard to the teaching of evolution, and the chilling effect of fundamentalism on the production of scientists and engineers. He says, "I can think of no other reason why, of all the scientific facts that people might disagree with or disbelieve, [evolution] is the one they pick on. Physics gets through OK. Chemistry gets through Ok. But not biology/geology, and I think it's got to be because of religion." He also addresses the recent comments from Rep. Paul Broun, who denounced evolution and the Big Bang theory as "lies straight from the pit of hell," and the recent Innocence of Muslims video that led to unrest in various parts of the world. "Freedom of speech is something that Islamic theocracies simply do not understand. They don't get it. They're so used to living in a theocracy, that they presume that if a film is released in the United States, the United States Government must be behind it! How could it be otherwise? So, they need to be educated that, actually, some countries do have freedom of speech and government is not responsible for what any idiot may do in the way of making a video." He also has some very insightful comments about religion as one of the most arbitrary labels by which people divide themselves when involved in conflict. Hit the link below for the video.
Space

Magellan Telescope First Mega-Mirror Polished and Ready 39

Posted by timothy
from the don't-send-it-usps-media-mail dept.
coondoggie writes "One of the six giant — 27 feet across, 20 ton — circular mirrors that will be part of the 4,000 sq. ft., Giant Magellan Telescope that ultimately look for stars, galaxies and black holes has been polished and completed — now for the other five. The mirrors will form the heart of the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope, and when complete will provide more than 380 square meters, or 4,000 square feet, of light-collecting area." This is a big project, not just a big mirror. From the article: "At the Carnegie Institution for Science's Las Campanas Observatory in northern Chile, earthmovers are completing the removal of 4 million cubic feet of rock to produce a flat platform for the telescope and its supporting buildings. The telescope is scheduled to come online in about 10 years.
Biotech

Using Winemaking Waste For Making Fuel 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the drink-and-drive dept.
Tator Tot writes "Grape pomace, the mashed up skins and stems left over from making wine and grape juice, could serve as a good starting point for ethanol production, according to a new study (from the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry). Due to growing interest in biofuels, researchers have started looking for cheap and environmentally sustainable ways to produce such fuels, especially ethanol. Biological engineer Jean VanderGheynst at the University of California, Davis, turned to grape pomace, because winemakers in California alone produce over 100,000 tons of the fruit scraps each year, with much of it going to waste."
Math

Ask Slashdot: Mathematical Fiction? 278

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-was-an-arbitrarily-lit-and-stormy-night dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Neal Stephenson's 1999 Cryptonomicon was a great yarn. It was also a thoroughly enjoyable (and too short) romp through some mathematics. Where can I find more of that? I should say that I don't want SF — at least none of the classic SF I read voraciously in the 70s; it's just not the same thing, and far too often just a puppet-theatre for an author's philosophical rant. Has any author managed to hit the same vein as Stephenson did? (Good non-fiction math-reads are also gratefully accepted. What have you got?)"
Education

Michael E. Mann Sues For Defamation Over Comparison To Jerry Sandusky 371

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-just-talk-like-adults dept.
eldavojohn writes "The global warming debate has left much to be desired in the realm of logic and rationale. One particular researcher, Michael E. Mann, has been repeatedly attacked for his now infamous (and peer reviewed/independently verified) hockey stick graph. It has come to the point where he is now suing for defamation over being compared to convicted serial child molester Jerry Sandusky. Articles hosted by defendants and written by defendant Rand Simberg and defendant Mark Steyn utilize questionable logic for implicating Michael E. Mann alongside Jerry Sandusky with the original piece, concluding, 'Michael Mann, like Joe Paterno, was a rock star in the context of Penn State University, bringing in millions in research funding. The same university president who resigned in the wake of the Sandusky scandal was also the president when Mann was being (whitewashed) investigated. We saw what the university administration was willing to do to cover up heinous crimes, and even let them continue, rather than expose them. Should we suppose, in light of what we now know, they would do any less to hide academic and scientific misconduct, with so much at stake?' Additionally, sentences were stylized to blend the two people together: 'He has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.' One of the defendants admits to removing 'a sentence or two' of questionable wording. Still, as a public figure, Michael E. Mann has an uphill battle to prove defamation in court."
NASA

NASA Engineers Building Mockup of Deep Space Station 64

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the split-infinitive dept.
MarkWhittington writes "NASA engineers at the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Ala., are building a mockup of what appears to be a deep space habitat, though it could also be part of an interplanetary spacecraft. The purpose is to do human factors studies to find out how to sustain astronauts on lengthy deep space missions."
Television

BBC Turns Off CEEFAX Service After 38 Years 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the retiring-after-years-of-service dept.
Kittenman writes "After 38 years (1974 - 2012) the BBC's CEEFAX service has ceased transmission. The service gave on-line up-to-date textual information (albeit in condensed form) to TV viewers in the pre-Internet era and afterwards. Its final broadcast signed off with, 'Goodbye, cruel world.' '... the real impetus for viewers came when BBC Television decided to use a selection of Ceefax pages, accompanied by music, before the start of programming each day. Initially called Ceefax AM and Ceefax In Vision, the Pages From Ceefax "programme" continued for 30 years, being broadcast overnight on BBC Two until this week. As viewers got a small taste of what Ceefax had to offer, millions of Britons during the 1980s invested in new teletext-enabled TV sets which gave them access to the full Ceefax service, which by now included recipe details for dishes prepared on BBC cookery shows, share prices, music reviews and an annual advent calendar.' An British ex-PM (John Major) said, 'From breaking global news to domestic sports news, Ceefax was speedy, accurate and indispensable. It can be proud of its record.'"
Businesses

Website Pitches Scientific Solutions In Search of Problems 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the check-with-jay-z dept.
ananyo writes "In this age of social media, innovators eager to develop high-tech products are tapping into the wisdom of crowds to solve problems, with crowdsourcing sites such as Innocentive and Kaggle offering cash prizes for answers to science or data questions. The launch this week of a site called Marblar is turning this model on its head. Marblar gives scientists a space to tout solutions that have yet to find their problem (it's not in beta, despite the redirect). Members, who can come from any background, are invited to publicly discuss potential uses for patented discoveries made in research laboratories that as yet may not have led to real-world applications. Every suggestion at Marblar is posted on a public forum alongside video interviews with the scientists and explanations of their work. Website visitors suggest applications and vote them up and down, and the scientists behind the discovery are encouraged to take part in the discussion. Popular suggestions are recognized with a points system (denoted by marbles — hence the name) and, in some cases, small cash prizes. A trial run seems to have been pretty successful."
Science

New Quantum Computing Record Set By Recycled Photons 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-working-on-the-reducing-and-reusing dept.
CelestialScience writes "A recycling technique has enabled a quantum computer to carry out a quantum calculation known as Shor's algorithm on a larger number than ever before. The benchmark algorithm exploits quantum mechanics to simplify the factorization of numbers into their prime components — a hard task for classical computers when the numbers get large. Until now, the largest number factorized using Shor's algorithm was 15. Now Anthony Laing at the University of Bristol, UK and colleagues report in Nature Photonics that they used a recycled photon to factorize 21 — still far too small and trivial to spook cryptographers, who rely on the difficulty of factorizing large numbers for their widely-used techniques. But a record nonetheless."
Medicine

The Virtues of the Virtual Autopsy 48

Posted by Soulskill
from the cheerful-tech-of-the-day dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Maryn McKenna writes in Scientific American that the standard autopsy is becoming increasingly rare for cost reasons, religious objections, and because autopsies reveal medical mistakes, making doctors and hospitals uncomfortable. Researchers in several countries have been exploring the possibility that medical imaging might substitute a 'virtual autopsy' for the more traditional variety. 'So few autopsies are being done now that many medical students get out of school never having seen one,' says Gregory Davis. 'And yet in medicine, autopsy is the most powerful quality-control technique that we have and the reason we know as much as we do about many diseases and injuries.' The process, dubbed 'virtopsy,' combines MRI and CT scanning with computer-aided 3-D reconstruction to prove causes of death for difficult cases, which included drownings, flaming car crashes, and severe injuries to the skull and face. Since 2004 the U.S. military has performed x-rays and CT scans on the bodies of every service member killed where the armed forces have exclusive jurisdiction — that is, not just on battlefields abroad but on U.S. bases as well. 'It allows us to identify any foreign bodies present, such as projectiles,' says Edward Mazuchowski. 'X-rays give you the edge detail of radio-opaque or metallic objects, so you can sort out what the object might be, and CT, because it is three-dimensional, shows you where the object is in the body.' A study conducted among intensive care unit patients in Germany compared diagnoses made before death with the results of both traditional and virtual autopsy in 47 patients and with only virtual autopsy in another 115 whose families refused standard autopsy. Virtual autopsies confirmed 88 percent of diagnoses made before death, not far behind the 93 percent rate for traditional postmortem exams. 'The findings so far are mixed,' says Elizabeth Burton of Johns Hopkins University. Virtual autopsy, she says, 'is better for examining trauma, for wartime injuries, for structural defects. But when you start getting into tumors, infections and chronic conditions, it's not as good, and I doubt it will ever be better.'"
Space

NASA Satellite Sees Black Hole Belching Out Hundred-Million-Degree X-rays 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the TSA-working-on-bringing-them-to-airports dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "NASA's NuSTAR satellite, designed to detect cosmic X-rays, detected a flare of high-energy emission coming from the Milky Way galaxy's central supermassive black hole. The X-rays were the dying gasp of a small gas cloud being torn apart, heated to a hundred million degrees, and then falling into the black hole itself. Events like this are relatively uncommon, so it's fortunate NuSTAR happened to be observing the black hole when it flared."
Google

17th Century Microscope Book Is Now Freely Readable 116

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the creating-the-first-germaphobes dept.
menno_h writes "In January 1665, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he stayed up till two in the morning reading a best-selling page-turner, a work that he called 'the most ingenious book I read in my life.' It was not a rousing history of English battles or a proto-bodice ripper. It was filled with images: of fleas, of bark, of the edges of razors. The book was called Micrographia. It provided the reading public with its first look at the world beyond the naked eye. Its author, Robert Hooke, belonged to a brilliant circle of natural philosophers who — among many other things — were the first in England to make serious use of microscopes as scientific instruments. They were great believers in looking at the natural world for themselves rather than relying on what ancient Greek scholars had claimed. Looking under a microscope at the thousands of facets on an insect's compound eye, they saw things at the nanoscale that Aristotle could not have dreamed of. A razor's edge became a mountain range. In the chambers of a piece of bark, Hooke saw the first evidence of cells. Micrographia is is available on Google Books now."
Science

Is Non-Prescription ADHD Medication Use Ever Ethical? 487

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the there-go-your-tour-de-college-titles dept.
derekmead writes "College students' voracious appetite for study drugs like Adderall is widespread enough that it was one of the main topics of a marquee lecture on neuroethics at Society for Neuroscience's 2012 conference called 'The Impact of Neuroscience on Society: The Neuroethics of "Smart Drugs."' It was excellent stuff by Barbara Sahakian, faculty at Department of Psychicatry at the University of Cambridge. Her focus is on prescription drugs for diseases and conditions like Alzheimer's, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and depression, with the fundamental goal of understanding the neural basis of dysfunction to develop better drugs. Specifically, she wants to create drugs with no risk for substance abuse which means drugs that have no effect on dopamine. The true goal then of her research, fundamentally and briefly, is to repair the impaired. But doing so brings us to the discussion of how much repair is ethical when the repair can be disseminated to people who don't actually need it. Divisions abound on what is to be done. Some experts say that if people can boost their abilities to make up for what mother nature didn't give them, what's wrong with that? Others say that people shouldn't be using these drugs because they're designed for people with serious problems who really need help. So another question for the ethicists is whether cognitive enhancers will ultimately level the playing field or juice the opposing team."

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