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Mosquitos Have Little Trouble Flying in the Rain 186

sciencehabit writes with an interesting article about the (surprisingly not well studied) effects of rain on flying insects. From the article: "When a raindrop hits a mosquito, it's the equivalent of one of us being slammed into by a bus. And yet the bug will survive and keep flying. That's the conclusion of a team of engineers and biologists, which used a combination of real-time video and sophisticated math to demonstrate that the light insect's rugged construction allows the mosquito to shrug off the onslaught of even the largest raindrop. The findings offer little aid in controlling the pest but could help engineers improve the design of tiny flying robots." Bats, unfortunately, aren't so lucky: "...these furry fliers need about twice as much energy to power through the rain compared with dry conditions."

The Link Between Genius and Insanity 402

An anonymous reader writes in a story about the link between certain mental illnesses and high intelligence. "Genius and insanity may actually go together, according to scientists who found that mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are often found in highly creative and intelligent people. The link is being investigated by a group of scientists who had all suffered some form of mental disorder. Bipolar sufferer Kay Redfield Jamison, a clinical psychologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that findings of some 20 or 30 scientific studies confirms the idea of the 'tortured genius' or 'mad scientist.'"

MIT Professor Pushes the Envelope of 3D Art and Manufacturing 58

kkleiner writes "Professor at MIT Neri Oxman's creations are demonstrating the powerful combination of 3D printing and new design algorithms inspired from nature. Just as a computer printer makes copies of 2D images, 3D printers have copied an impressive variety of objects, such as robots, chairs, prosthetics, kidneys, and jaw bones, to mention a few. But Oxman and her colleagues are discovering new design and engineering principles that will help to mature 3D printing into a technology capable of producing complex and beautiful structures impossible by other manufacturing techniques."

NASA Gets Two Military Spy Telescopes For Astronomy 237

First time accepted submitter SomePgmr writes "The U.S. government's secret space program has decided to give NASA two telescopes as big as, and even more powerful than, the Hubble Space Telescope. Designed for surveillance, the telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office were no longer needed for spy missions and can now be used to study the heavens."
Social Networks

Online Social Networks Can Be Tipped By Less Than 1% of Their Population 125

An anonymous reader writes "A new algorithm developed by researchers at West Point seems to break new ground for viral marketing practices in online social networks. Assuming a trend or behavior that spreads in an online social network based on the classic 'tipping' model from sociology (based on the work of Thomas Schelling and Mark Granovetter), the new West Point algorithm can find a set of individuals in the network that can initiate a social cascade – a progressive series of 'tipping' incidents — which leads to everyone in the social network adopting the new behavior. The good news for viral marketers is that this set of individuals is often very small – a sample of the Friendster social network can be influenced when only 0.8% of the initial population is seeded. The trick is finding the seed set. The algorithm is described in a paper to be presented later this summer at the prestigious IEEE ASONAM conference."

Ask Slashdot. Best Online Science Course? 166

First time accepted submitter blubadger writes "Having slept through chemistry at school, I'm looking to fill in the gaps in my science education by following a short online course or two. I've been searching for 'Chemistry 101,' 'Basics of Physics,' 'Biology Primer,' and so on. There's some high-quality stuff on offer – from Academic Earth, MIT and others – but it tends to take the form of videos of traditional university lectures. I was hoping to cut through the chit-chat and blackboards and get straight into the infographics and animations that will help me understand complex ideas. Flash and HTML5 Canvas seem wasted on videos of lectures. If the quality were high enough I would be willing to pay. Have Slashdotters seen anything that fits the bill?"

The Real-Life Doogie Howser 303

An anonymous reader writes "Sho Yano this week will become the youngest student to get an M.D. from University of Chicago. He was reading at age 2, writing by 3, and composing music by his 5th birthday. He graduated from Loyola University in three years — summa cum laude, no less. When he entered U. of C.'s prestigious Pritzker School of Medicine at 12, it was into one of the school's most rigorous programs, where students get both their doctorate and medical degrees. Intelligence is not Yano's only gift — though according to a test he took at age 4, his IQ is too high to accurately measure and is easily above genius level. He is an accomplished pianist who has performed at Ravinia, and he has a black belt in tae kwon do. Classmates and faculty described him as 'sweet' and 'humble,' a hardworking, Bach-adoring, Greek literature-quoting student. And in his own words, 'I may not be the most outgoing person, but I do like to be around people.'"

Redesigned Cooler Reinvents Tuberculosis Treatment 22

First time accepted submitter sarfralogy writes with this news about a cooler redesigned by MIT that is saving lives. "It started with a basic soft drink cooler, a need for easier management of tuberculosis and $150,000 in innovation support. A big challenge in managing tuberculosis is keeping the medicine cool, in addition to tracking and monitoring dose administration. These challenges can be life-threatening, especially in less-developed countries, where refrigerators and fancy cooling devices are rare; ice must be trucked in on a daily basis to keep medicines at controlled temperatures. A redesigned cooler with the ability to keep the medicine cool and record when medicine is dispensed is aiming to solve both these problems. The design of the cooler is simple and practical — common characteristics of a scientifically sound experiment or innovation. It's nothing more than a standard soft drink cooler but the team from MIT's Little Devices Lab equipped the cooler with the ability to sound an alert when the temperature inside the cooler becomes too high and transmit data wirelessly using a cellphone transmitter whenever the cooler is opened."

When Continental Drift Was Considered Pseudoscience 214

Lasrick writes "I Love this article in Smithsonian by Richard Conniff. One of my geology professors was in grad school when the theories for plate tectonics, seafloor spreading, etc., were introduced; he remembered how most of his professors denounced them as ridiculous. The article chronicles the introduction of continental drift theory, starting a century ago with Alfred Wegener. From the article: 'It was a century ago this spring that a little-known German meteorologist named Alfred Wegener proposed that the continents had once been massed together in a single supercontinent and then gradually drifted apart. He was, of course, right. Continental drift and the more recent science of plate tectonics are now the bedrock of modern geology, helping to answer vital questions like where to find precious oil and mineral deposits, and how to keep San Francisco upright. But in Wegener’s day, geological thinking stood firmly on a solid earth where continents and oceans were permanent features.'"

What Struck Earth in 775? 344

ananyo writes "Just over 1,200 years ago, the planet was hit by an extremely intense burst of high-energy radiation of unknown cause, scientists studying tree-ring data have found. The radiation burst, which seems to have hit between 774 and 775, was detected by looking at the amounts of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 in tree rings that formed during the 775 growing season in the Northern Hemisphere. The increase in 14C levels is so clear that the scientists conclude that the atmospheric level of 14C must have jumped by 1.2% over the course of no longer than a year, about 20 times more than the normal rate of variation (abstract). Yet, as the only known events that can produce a 14C spike are supernova explosions or giant solar flares, and neither event was observed at the time, astronomers have a cosmic mystery on their hands."

How Chemistry Stymies Attempts To Regulate Synthetic Drugs 364

Hugh Pickens writes "Brandon Keim reports that the war on drugs has a new front, with chemists fabricating synthetic mimics of marijuana, dissociative drugs and stimulants. So far lawmakers appear to be a losing the war, as every time a new compound is banned, overseas chemists synthesize a new version tweaked just enough to evade the letter of the law in a giant game of chemical Whack-a-Mole. 'Manufacturers turn these things around so quickly. One week you'll have a product with compound X, the next week it's compound Y,' says forensic toxicologist Kevin Shanks. 'It's fascinating how fast it can occur, and it's fascinating to see the minute changes in chemical structure they'll come up with. It's similar, but it's different.' During the last several years, the market for legal highs has exploded in North America and Europe. While people raised on Reefer Madness-style exaggerations may be wary of claims that 'legal high' drugs are dangerous, researchers say they're far more potent than the originals. Reports of psychotic episodes following synthetic drug use are common and have led to a variety of laws, but so far the bans aren't working, as the drugs can be subtly tweaked so as to possess a different, legal molecular form. One obvious alternative approach is to ban entire classes of similar compounds; however this is easier said than done. 'The problem with that is, what does "chemically similar" really mean? Change the structure in a small way — move a molecule here, move something to the other side of the molecule — and while I might think it's an analogue, another chemist might disagree,' says Shanks. 'That's the crux of the entire problem. The scientific community does not agree on what "analogue" essentially means.""

NASA Tool Shows Where Forest Is Being Cut Down 70

terrancem writes "A new tool developed by NASA and other researchers shows where forest is being chopped down on a quarterly basis. The global forest disturbance alert system (GloF-DAS) is based on comparison of MODIS global vegetation index images at the exact same time period each year in consecutive years. GloF-DAS could help users detect deforestation shortly after it occurs, offering the potential to take measures to investigate clearing before it expands."

No Intelligent Aliens Detected In Gliese 581 239

astroengine writes "Using an Australian very long baseline array (VLBA) of three radio antennae, the first very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) campaign has been carried out on a SETI target star: the famous Gliese 581 red dwarf. However, after 8 hours of observing the star — thought to play host to six exoplanets, two of which are in the star's 'habitable zone' — no alien signals were detected. This result isn't surprising, as the likelihood of us stumbling across intelligent aliens living in the Gliese 581 system transmitting radio is extremely slim, but it does validate VLBI as a very exciting means of using the vast amount of exoplanetary data (coming from missions such as the Kepler space telescope) for 'directed SETI' projects."

SpaceX Brownsville Space Port Opposed By Texas Environmentalists 409

MarkWhittington writes "The proposed SpaceX space port in Brownsville, Texas, has run into opposition from an environmental group. Environment Texas is conducting a petition drive to stop the project. According to a news release by the group, the proposed space port, which would include a launch pad and control and spacecraft processing facilities, would be 'almost surrounded' by a park and wildlife refuge. Environment Texas claims the launching of rockets would 'scare the heck' out of every creature in the area and would 'spray noxious chemicals all over the place.' The petition will demand SpaceX build the space port elsewhere." I suspect a lot of people in Brownsville are instead looking forward to the jobs, tourists and excitement that a spaceport would bring.

Ask Slashdot: What To Do With a Math Degree? 416

First time accepted submitter badmojo17 writes "After achieving her lifelong dream of becoming a public school math teacher, my wife has found the profession to be much more frustrating than she ever expected. She could deal with having a group of disrespectful criminals as students if she had competent administrators supporting her, but the sad truth is that her administration causes more problems on a daily basis than her students do. Our question is this: what other professions are open to a bright young woman with a bachelor's degree in math and a master's degree in education? Without further education, what types of positions or companies might be interested in her as an employee?"