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Testing for Many Designer Drugs At Once 281

LilaG writes "Drug tests spot banned substances based on their chemical structures, but a new breed of narcotics is designed to evade such tests. These synthetic marijuana drugs, found in 'herbal incense,' are mere chemical tweaks of each other, allowing them to escape detection each time researchers develop a new test for one of the compounds. Now chemists have developed a method that can screen for multiple designer drugs at once, without knowing their structures. The test may help law enforcement crack down on the substances. The researchers used a technique called 'mass defect filtering,' which can detect related compounds all at once. That's because related compounds have almost equal numbers to the right of the decimal point in their molecular masses. The researchers tested their technique on 32 herbal products ... They found that every product contained one or more synthetic cannabinoid; all told, they identified nine different compounds in them — two illegal ones and seven that are not regulated. The original paper appears (behind a paywall) in Analytical Chemistry." From the article: "The research is timely, too. 'Many drugs of abuse in the Olympics are designer drugs,' he [Gary Siuzdak] says, in the steroid family. Grabenauer plans to extend her method to other designer drug families."

NASA and FAA Team To Streamline, Regulate Commercial Space Access 57

coondoggie writes "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA today said they signed an agreement to coordinate standards for commercial space travel of government and non-government astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). The main goals of the agreement are to establish a framework for the emerging commercial US space industry to help streamline requirements and multiple sets of standards and ultimately to regulate public and crew safety."

Do It Yourself Biology Research, Past and Present 108

Harperdog writes "Laura Kahn has a great article about the long and fascinating history of do-it-yourself research, from Darwin and Mendel to present day. From the article: 'Welcome to the new millennium of do-it-yourself (DIY) biology. Advances in technology in the twenty-first century have enabled anybody, with the desire and the disposable income, to build rather sophisticated laboratories in their own homes. Entire communities have even materialized to promote these efforts -- like the thousands of amateur biologists who contribute to, a website "dedicated to making biology an accessible pursuit for citizen scientists, amateur biologists and biological engineers."'"

China Completes Its First Manned Space Docking 130

This AP story, as carried by the Houston Chronicle, says that the Chinese Shenzhou 9 spacecraft (carrying a crew that includes the country's first female astronaut) has successfully docked with an orbiting module, a first for China's manned space program. However, manned mission or not, the actual docking was actually executed from below: as with previous docking maneuvers, "Monday's docking also was completed by remote control from a ground base in China. A manual docking, to carried out by one of the crew members, is scheduled for later in the mission. Two crew members plan to conduct medical tests and experiments inside the module, while the third will remain in the spacecraft."

Wearable Device Generates Electricity From Walking Knee Movements 99

Zothecula writes "If you've ever worn a knee brace, then you may have noticed what a large change in angle your knee goes through with every step you take, and how quickly it does so. A team of scientists from the U.K.'s Cranfield University, University of Liverpool and University of Salford certainly noticed, and decided that all that movement should be put to use. The result is a wearable piezoelectric device that converts knee movement into electricity, which could in turn be used to power gadgets such as heart rate monitors, pedometers and accelerometers."

Did Neandertals Paint Early Cave Art? 126

sciencehabit writes "Dating experts working in Spain, using a technique relatively new to archaeology, have pushed dates for the earliest cave art back some 4000 years to at least 41,000 years ago, raising the possibility that the artists were Neandertals rather than modern humans. And a few researchers say that the study argues for the slow development of artistic skill over tens of thousands of years — not a swift acquisition of talent, as some had argued."

Liu Yang Becomes China's First Female Astronaut 229

China launched Saturday a rocket bearing three astronauts and an experimental orbiting module intended to presage a full-fledged space station at the end of this decade. While that's big news in itself, the launch also marks the first trip for a female Chinese astronaut. The BBC has a brief video, including part of a pre-launch press conference introducing 33-year-old astronaut Liu Yang, as well as her crewmates.

Computers May Be As Good As (Or Better Than) Human Biocurators 35

Shipud writes "Sequencing the genome of an organism is not the end of a discovery process; rather, it is a beginning. It's the equivalent of discovering a book whose words (genes) are there, but their meaning is yet unknown. Biocurators are the people who annotate genes — find out what they do — through literature search and the supervised use of computational techniques. A recent study published in PLoS Computational Biology shows that biocurators probably perform no better than fully automated computational methods used to annotate genes. It is not clear whether this is because the software is of high quality, or both curators and software need to improve their performance. The author of this blog post uses the concept of the uncanny valley to explain this recent discovery and what it means to both life science and artificial intelligence."

Black Death Discovered In Oregon 404

redletterdave writes "The Black Death, a strain of bubonic plague that destroyed nearly a third of Europe's entire population between 1347 and 1369, has been found in Oregon. Health officials in Portland have confirmed that a man contracted the plague after getting bitten by a cat. The unidentified man, who is currently in his 50s, had tried to pry a dead mouse from a stray cat's mouth on June 2 when the cat attacked him. Days later, fever and sickness drove the man to check himself into Oregon's St. Charles Medical Center, where he is currently in 'critical condition.'"

It's Baaack! XB-37B Finally Lands 123

ColdWetDog writes "The US Air Force / DARPA 'baby shuttle,' the Boeing-built XB-37B has just landed after 469 days in orbit. No official explanation of why controllers kept the mission going past the original duration of 270 days other than 'because we could.' I, for one, welcome our long duration, unmanned orbital overlords."

Too Many Biomedical Graduate Students, Not Enough Jobs 226

stillnotelf writes "ScienceInsider is covering a National Institutes of Health advisory committee report that details problems in the U.S. biomedical research workforce. Current policies encourage the training of large numbers of biomedical graduate students, as they are the cheapest labor available, but the research enterprise is not structured to absorb them into full-time scientist positions. The report's varied suggestions include removing graduate student funding from investigator-linked research grants (shifting it to institution-linked training grants instead) and encouraging the hiring of staff scientists as permanent lab members. This would reduce the number of trainees, but increase the proportion of trainees that maintain careers as researchers. ScienceInsider further notes that a National Research Council report 14 years ago noted a similar problem, but never motivated change."

Fly Your Own Experiment In Space 76

An anonymous reader writes "Want to fly your own experiment in space? dvice are reporting on a project called Ardusat — a satellite based (unsurprisingly perhaps, given the name) on Arduinos. For $500 you can upload your own code to the satellite, and run your own experiment for 1 week. Experimenters will have access to a veritable battery of 25 sensors including magnetometer, geiger counter, accelerometer, gas sensors and various others. As well as allowing for affordable space science, this sounds like it would be awesome for educational institutes."

Support Site For Hospital Respirators Found Riddled With Malware 48

chicksdaddy writes "A web site used to distribute software updates for a wide range medical equipment, including ventilators has been blocked by Google after it was found to be riddled with malware and serving up attacks. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking into the compromise. The site belongs to San Diego-based CareFusion Inc., a hospital equipment supplier. The infected Web sites, which use a number of different domains, distribute firmware updates for a range of ventilators and respiratory products. Scans by Google's Safe Browsing program in May and June found the sites were rife with malware. For example, about six percent of the 347 Web pages hosted at, a CareFusion Web site that is used to distribute software updates for the company's AVEA brand ventilators, were found to be infected and pushing malicious software to visitors' systems."

Monsanto May Have To Repay 10 Years of GM Soya Royalties In Brazil 377

scibri writes "Biotech giant Monsanto is one step closer to losing billions of dollars in revenues from its genetically-modified Roundup Ready soya beans, after the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled the company must repay royalties collected over the past decade. Since GM crops were legalized in 2005, Monsanto has charged Brazilian farmers royalties of 2% on their sales of Roundup Ready soya beans. The company also tests Brazilian soya beans that are sold as non-GM — if they turn out to be Roundup Ready, the company charges the farmers 3%. Farmers challenged this as an unjust tax on their business. In April a regional court ruled against Monsanto, though that ruling has been put on hold pending an appeal. The Supreme Court, meanwhile has said that whatever the final ruling is, it will apply throughout the whole country."

Move Over, Quantum Cryptography: Classical Physics Can Be Unbreakable Too 126

MrSeb writes "Researchers from Texas A&M University claim to have pioneered unbreakable cryptography based on the laws of thermodynamics; classical physics, rather than quantum. In theory, quantum crypto (based on the laws of quantum mechanics) can guarantee the complete secrecy of transmitted messages: To spy upon a quantum-encrypted message would irrevocably change the content of the message, thus making the messages unbreakable. In practice, though, while the communication of the quantum-encrypted messages is secure, the machines on either end of the link can never be guaranteed to be flawless. According to Laszlo Kish and his team from Texas A&M, however, there is a way to build a completely secure end-to-end system — but instead of using quantum mechanics, you have to use classical physics: the second law of thermodynamics, to be exact. Kish's system is made up of a wire (the communication channel), and two resistors on each end (one representing binary 0, the other binary 1). Attached to the wire is a power source that has been treated with Johnson-Nyquist noise (thermal noise). Johnson noise is often the basis for creating random numbers with computer hardware."