An anonymous reader writes "A report just released from NASA's senior review panel recommends extending the Kepler mission(Pdf), initially for two years. 'Kepler is not only a unique source of exoplanet discoveries, but also an organizing and rallying point for exo-planet research. It has enabled remarkable stellar science." The scaled-down budget for the extended mission was broadly expected to include funding only for continued operations and management, with no funding for science. Astronomers have already started seeking private funding to continue their Kepler-related work, through crowd-funding websites like PetriDish and FundaGeek, as well as through the non-profit Pale Blue Dot project."
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers from the University of Lugano, Switzerland, and other universities from the U.S. and Europe organize a competition to automatically identify sexual predators in chat logs. The task is described as: 'The goal of this sub-task is to identify classes of authors, namely online predators. You will be given chat logs involving two (or more) people and have to determine who is the one trying to convince the other participants(s) to provide some sexual favor. You will also need to identify the particular conversation where the person exploits his bad behavior.' Their data set covers hundreds of chat logs with dozens of true positives (i.e., chats where one is trying to hit on another)."
A fight over posting calorie counts for popcorn is just one example of the clash between the White House and the agency charged with protecting public health. Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the F.D.A. commissioner, was forced to scrap plans to have calorie counts posted for foods served in movie theaters and on airplanes after a phone call from the White House deputy chief of staff in 2010. From the article: "White House officials describe their disagreements with the F.D.A. as part of the normal, constructive give-and-take over policy that has never undermined the agency’s mission. 'Under President Obama’s leadership, the Food and Drug Administration has new authority and resources to help stop kids from smoking, protect our food supply and approve more affordable prescription drugs,' said the White House press secretary, Jay Carney. The administration also views the agency’s hostility to its oversight as hopelessly naïve, given a 24-hour news cycle and a ferocious political environment that punishes any misstep. 'They want a world that doesn’t exist anymore,' an administration official said."
dsinc contributes a link to Neil deGrasse Tyson's short piece in Wired on how we could deal with the very real threat of killer asteroids, writing "In 2029 we'll be able to know whether, seven years later, Apophis will miss Earth or slam into the Pacific and create a tsunami that will devastate all the coastlines of the Pacific Rim." From the article: "Saving the planet requires commitment. First we have to catalogue every object whose orbit intersects Earth’s, then task our computers with carrying out the calculations necessary to predict a catastrophic collision hundreds or thousands of orbits into the future. Meanwhile, space missions would have to determine in great detail the structure and chemical composition of killer comets and asteroids."
JSBiff writes "Ars Technica is reporting on a study by NOAA scientists who surveyed the ocean near Fukushima, which concludes that while a lot of radioactivity was released into the water, as would be expected, it diluted out to levels that pose little risk to wildlife or humans, and that the seafood is safe to eat. Perhaps we needn't worry so much about "millions of gallons of radioactive water" being released into the ocean, like it's a major environmental disaster, as it's really not — the ocean is many orders of magnitude larger than any accidental release of radiation which might happen from a nuclear plant."
An anonymous reader writes "Two controversial scientific papers on a mutant form of the H5N1 avian flu virus should be published in uncensored form after a review determined there would be no immediate threat from releasing the data, a U.S. biosecurity panel said, revising its earlier decision."
New submitter smarq2 writes "Chessbase reports that chess programmer IM Vasik Rajlich has solved the King's Gambit chess opening with technical means. 3000 processor cores, running for over four months, exhaustively analyzed all lines that follow after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 and came to some extraordinary conclusions." Update: 04/02 22:11 GMT by U L : Skuto points out that this is the same person who was found guilty of plagiarizing GNU Chess and Crafty.
pigrabbitbear writes with musings on the anniversary of the groundbreaking paper on DNA structure by Watson and Crick. From the article: "Consider every organism that's ever lived on Earth. From dinosaurs to bacteria, the number is near infinite, and an overwhelming majority have their entire structures and lives dictated according to their DNA. The DNA molecule is life itself, and it's astonishing that we've only known what it looks like for less than a century. But it's true: In one of the most groundbreaking papers ever published, James D. Watson and Francis Crick described the double-helix structure of DNA in Nature, 59 years ago today."
An anonymous reader writes an excerpt from a press release by the University of Chicago: "Analysis of data from the 10-meter South Pole Telescope is providing new support for the most widely accepted explanation of dark energy — the source of the mysterious force that is responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe." The research resulted in three papers involving new constraints on the mass of neutrinos, a measurement of the angular power spectrum of the CMB, and a catalog of newly discovered galaxy clusters. The data lends a bit more support to the cosmological constant theory of dark energy.
First time accepted submitter ericjones12398 writes "If you haven't seen the words 'health care' in news headlines lately, you must be living under a rock. What seems most controversial among the latest research and news is a flawed payment scale that undervalues primary care and overvalues specialty care. There is evidence suggesting that publicly funded health care spending (i.e., Medicare) has not been based on primary health care needs. Rather, In the U.S. Medicare spending relies on a resource-based relative value scale (RBRVS) which seems to promote higher spending without evidence of better patient outcomes. A study comparing spending and mortality rates in Ontario had the opposite findings however, supporting a link between higher spending and better outcomes for patients. What are we doing different in the U.S.? "
Adrian Bachtold at the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology in Barcelona has created the world's most sensitive scale. The new subatomic weight scale can measure masses as tiny as one yoctogram, less than the mass of a proton. From the article: "Bachtold hopes the scales could be used to distinguish different elements in chemical samples, which might differ only by a few protons. They might also diagnose health conditions by identifying proton-scale differences in molecular mass that are markers of disease."
New submitter reovirus1 writes "Mike Smith, the character Bubbles on the Canadian TV show Trailer Park Boys, is leading the Race for Space contest that will send one lucky reader into space. 'Throughout the series, Bubbles often talks about his love for space and his lifelong desire to become a spaceman someday, but his poor eyesight has always prevented him from even owning a driver's license. It's a fictional show obviously, but Bubble's desire to go to space on the show was actually born out of my love of space and rocketry. It has been a hobby of mine since I was 5 years old. If I win this chance to go to space, I intend to shoot a documentary of the entire process leading up to the flight, in hopes of inspiring a new generation of young people to become involved in space exploration,' he writes."
Jimme Blue writes "The use of pulsars as a GPS analogue holds the promise of fixing a spacecraft's location to within 5 km, anywhere in the galaxy. While not ready for immediate use, it may be ready for use within the Solar System in the next 10-15 years. From the article: '"The principle is so simple that it will definitely have applications," said Prof Werner Becker from the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching. "These pulsars are everywhere in the Universe and their flashing is so predictable that it makes such an approach really straightforward," he told BBC News.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Notch posted the official page of Mars Effect today, saying through Twitter, 'it's a completely different game! Our takes place in space, and focuses on characters, and lets you land on planets!!' He gives more detailed on the new website, noting the game will be based around hard science fiction (think Star Trek sci-fi) and puts characters in control of a character rather than just a ship. Similar to Minecraft, it will be a free-roaming game, but with a full economic system, different planets, customizable ships, space battles against AI, and other features. There will also be an in-game, 16-bit computer. Notch also took the chance to poke fun at Mass Effect, noting it will have 'A game ending that makes sense.'"
shreshtha writes with this intriguing bit from The Daily Mail: "A tiny satellite thruster which can journey to the Moon on just a tenth of a litre of fuel could usher in a new low-cost space age, its creators hope. The mini-motor weights just a few hundred grams and runs on an ionic chemical compound, using electricity to expel ions and generate thrust. The tiny motor isn't built to blast satellites into orbit — instead, it's to help spacecraft manouevre once they're in space, which previously required bulky, expensive engines."