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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Space

First Full Observable-Universe Simulation 95

Posted by timothy
from the not-counting-the-big-blue-room dept.
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."
AI

The Artificial Life of the App Store 106

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-global-thermonuclear-war? dept.
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!"
Earth

Eating Meat Helped Early Humans Reproduce 487

Posted by timothy
from the dinner-and-a-movie dept.
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."
Earth

Beneath Africa, Survey Finds 'Huge' Water Reserves 292

Posted by timothy
from the first-the-moon-now-this dept.
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."
Google

Billionaires and Polymaths Expected To Unveil a Plan To Mine Asteroids 531

Posted by timothy
from the why-couldn't-it-be-undersea? dept.
dumuzi writes "A team including Larry Page, Ram Shriram and Eric Schmidt of Google, director James Cameron, Charles Simonyi (Microsoft executive and astronaut), Ross Perot Jr. (son of Ross Perot), Chris Lewicki (NASA Mars mission manager), and Peter Diamandis (X-Prize) have formed a new company called Planetary Resources, and are expected to announce plans on April 24th to mine asteroids. A study by NASA released April 2nd claims a robotic mission could capture a 500 ton asteroid and bring it to orbit the moon for $2.6 billion. The additional cost to mine the asteroid and return the ores to Earth would make profit unlikely even if the asteriod was 20% gold."
Science

Is Middle Age Evolution's Crowning Achievement? 140

Posted by timothy
from the so-far-it-feels-sorta-ok dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Reproductive biologist David Bainbridge writes that with the onset of wrinkles, love handles, and failing eyesight we are used to dismissing our fifth and sixth decades as a negative chapter in our lives. However recent scientific findings show just how crucial middle age has been to the success of our species and that with the probable existence of lots of prehistoric middle-aged people, natural selection had plenty to work on. 'We lead an energy-intensive, communication-driven, information-rich way of life, and it was the evolution of middle age that supported this,' writes Bainbridge, adding that middle age is a controlled and preprogrammed process, not of decline, but of development. 'When we think of human development, we usually think of the growth of a fetus or the maturation of a child into an adult. Yet the tightly choreographed transition into middle age is a later but equally important stage in which we are each recast into yet another novel form' — resilient, healthy, energy-efficient and productive. 'The middle aged may not have been able to outrun the prey, but they were really good at working out where it might be hiding and dividing up the spoils afterwards.' Although some critics say that middle age is a construct of the middle aged, Bainbridge asserts that one key role of middle age is the propagation of information. 'All animals inherit a great deal of information in their genes; some also learn more as they grow up. Humans have taken this second form of information transfer to a new level. We are born knowing and being able to do almost nothing. Each of us depends on a continuous infusion of skills, knowledge and customs, collectively known as culture, if we are to survive. And the main route by which culture is transferred is by middle-aged people showing and telling their children — as well as the young adults with whom they hunt and gather — what to do.'"
Space

Weekend Lyrid Meteor Shower Visible From Earth 34

Posted by timothy
from the big-dark-blue-room dept.
jamaicaplain writes "The annual Lyrid meteor shower will hit its peak this weekend and promises to put on an eye-catching display. NASA scientists plan to track the Lyrid meteor shower using a network of all-sky cameras on Earth, as well as from a student-launched balloon in California. Meanwhile, an astronaut on the International Space Station will attempt to photograph the meteors from space."
Medicine

Computer Game Designed To Treat Depression As Effective As Traditional Treatment 190

Posted by timothy
from the defeat-the-zoloftians dept.
New submitter sirlark writes "'Researchers at the University of Auckland tested an interactive 3D fantasy game called Sparx on a 94 youngsters diagnosed with depression whose average age was 15 and a half. Sparx invites a user to take on a series of seven challenges over four to seven weeks in which an avatar has to learn to deal with anger and hurt feelings and swap negative thoughts for helpful ones. Used for three months, Sparx was at least as effective as face-to-face conventional counselling, according to several depression rating scales. In addition, 44% of the Sparx group who carried out at least four of the seven challenges recovered completely. In the conventional treatment group, only 26% recovered fully.' One has to wonder if it's Sparx specifically — or gaming in general — that provides the most benefit, given that most of the symptoms of depression relate to a feeling of being unable to influence one's environment (powerlessness, helplessness, ennui, etc) and games are specifically designed to make one feel powerful but challenged (if they hit the sweet spot)."
Canada

Canadian Bureacracy Can't Answer Simple Question: What's This Study With NASA? 164

Posted by timothy
from the how-thick-is-your-thicket? dept.
Saint Aardvark writes "It seemed like a pretty simple question about a pretty cool topic: an Ottawa newspaper wanted to ask Canada's National Research Council about a joint study with NASA on tracking falling snow in Canada. Conventional radar can see where it's falling, but not the amount — so NASA, in collaboration with the NRC, Environment Canada and a few universities, arranged flights through falling snow to analyse readings with different instruments. But when they contacted the NRC to get the Canadian angle, "it took a small army of staffers— 11 of them by our count — to decide how to answer, and dozens of emails back and forth to circulate the Citizen's request, discuss its motivation, develop their response, and "massage" its text." No interview was given: "I am not convinced we need an interview. A few lines are fine. Please let me see them first," says one civil servant in the NRC emails obtained by the newspaper under the Access to Information act. By the time the NRC finally sorted out a boring, technical response, the newspaper had already called up a NASA scientist and got all the info they asked for; it took about 15 minutes."
Science

Studies Suggest Massive Increase In Scientific Fraud 229

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-we-blame-this-on-madoff dept.
Titus Andronicus writes "Scientific fraud has always been with us. But as stated or suggested by some scientists, journal editors, and a few studies, the amount of scientific 'cheating' has far outpaced the expansion of science itself. According to some, the financial incentives to 'cut corners' have never been greater, resulting in record numbers of retractions from prestigious journals. From the article: 'For example, the journal Nature reported that published retractions had increased tenfold over the past decade, while the number of published papers had increased by just 44 percent.'"
The Military

Hypersonic Test Aircraft Peeled Apart After 3 Minutes of Sustained Mach 20 Speed 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the make-a-video-of-this-please dept.
coondoggie writes "DARPA's experimental Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2), lost significant portions of its outer skin and became uncontrollable after three minutes of sustained Mach 20 speed last August. That was the conclusion of an independent engineering review board investigating the cause of what DARPA calls a 'flight anomaly' in the second test flight of the HTV-2. Quoting the report: 'The resulting gaps created strong, impulsive shock waves around the vehicle as it traveled nearly 13,000 miles per hour, causing the vehicle to roll abruptly. Based on knowledge gained from the first flight in 2010 and incorporated into the second flight, the vehicle's aerodynamic stability allowed it to right itself successfully after several shockwave-induced rolls. Eventually, however, the severity of the continued disturbances finally exceeded the vehicle's ability to recover.'"
Space

Survey Finds No Hint of Dark Matter Near Solar System 125

Posted by Soulskill
from the did-you-check-under-the-couch-cushions dept.
Eponymous Hero writes "Does dark matter exist or doesn't it? It seems these results don't shed as much light as we'd hoped. 'Moni Bidin says he's not sure whether dark matter exists or not. But he says that his team's survey (PDF) is the most comprehensive of its type ever done, and the puzzling results must be reckoned with. "We don't have a good comprehension of what is going on," he says.' This has the smell of a Neutrinogate scandal, but at least we've been warned about the shoulder shrugging. 'As an example, Newberg notes that the researchers assumed that the group of stars they examined were smoothly distributed above and below the plane of the Milky Way. But if the distribution turns out to be lumpier, as is the case for stars in the outer parts of the galaxy, then the resulting calculations of dark matter density could be incorrect. Flynn agrees that there are a number of ways that the method employed by Moni Bidin and his co-authors "could get it wrong."'"
Biotech

Artificial DNA Replicates and 'Evolves' 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the cylons-were-created-by-man dept.
ananyo writes "Scientists have demonstrated that several lab-made variants of DNA can store and transmit information much like the genuine article. DNA is made up of nucleic acid bases — labelled A, C, G and T — on a backbone made of phosphates and the sugar deoxyribose. The artificial polymers, dubbed XNAs, carry the normal genetic 'alphabet' on a backbone made using different sugars. The researchers engineered enzymes that transcribed DNA into the various XNAs, then back into new DNA strands. Faithful genetic transmission over successive DNA-to-XNA cycles allowed researchers to select for only those XNAs that attached to certain target proteins from a pool of random samples — a process akin to evolution over multiple generations (abstract). The research confirms for the first time that replication, heredity and evolution can take place in artificial DNA-like molecules."
Power

IBM Creates 'Breathing' High-Density Lithium-Air Battery 582

Posted by Soulskill
from the inspirational-energy-tech dept.
MrSeb writes "As part of IBM's Battery 500 project — an initiative started in 2009 to produce a battery capable of powering a car for 500 miles — Big Blue has successfully demonstrated a light-weight, ultra-high-density, lithium-air battery. In it, oxygen is reacted with lithium to create lithium peroxide and electrical energy. When the battery is recharged, the process is reversed and oxygen is released — in the words of IBM, this is an 'air-breathing' battery. While conventional batteries are completely self-contained, the oxygen used in a lithium-air battery comes from the atmosphere, so the battery itself can be much lighter. The main thing, though, is that lithium-air energy density is a lot higher than conventional lithium-ion batteries: the max energy density of lithium-air batteries is theorized to be around 12 kWh/kg, some 15 times greater than li-ion — and more importantly, comparable to gasoline."
Earth

NASA Unveils Greenest Federal Building In the Nation 172

Posted by samzenpus
from the green-space dept.
An anonymous reader writes "NASA just unveiled its new Sustainability Base — an exceptionally efficient building that harnesses technology developed for the International Space Station. The high-tech complex produces more energy than it consumes and it was just awarded LEED Platinum certification, making it the greenest federal building in the nation. The project features an extensive network of wireless sensors that allow the building to automatically react to changes in weather and occupancy and NASA's forward-osmosis water recycling system, which cuts water use by 90% compared to a traditional building."

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