astroengine writes "Two exoplanets have been discovered by scientists at the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy orbiting the star HIP 11952. But according to conventional thinking, these worlds shouldn't exist. You see, HIP 11952 is a 'metal-poor star and planetary formation is hindered around stars with low metallicity (PDF). This isn't the only thing; as metal-poor stars were the first stars to form when the Universe was very young, these two worlds also formed around the same time. They are therefore the most ancient exoplanets discovered to date."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
longacre writes "When Space Shuttle Discovery goes on display at the Smithsonian next month, it will be a shell of its former self, with most of its critical systems removed. This article has a behind-the-scenes look at the removal of the engines and their replica replacements, as well as photos of the orbiter in various states of deconstruction. 'From the very beginning it was understood by all parties involved — including the orbiter recipients — that the orbiters will be made safe and inert prior to display, as was made clearly evident in NASA’s request for proposals to house the orbiters. Discovery’s preparation for display took a year and cost approximately $28 million. Since the Smithsonian is a federally owned institution, this cost was borne by the U.S. government, unlike the other institutions that have to foot the bill for the preparation and delivery of the orbiters. The price tag did not stop the frantic push to get one by an eager group of contenders. At stake was not only a piece of American history and the prestige of housing an orbiter but the potential draw for millions of new paying visitors to the recipient museums.'"
eldavojohn writes "The editors of Infection and Immunity are sending a warning signal about modern science. Two editorials (1 and 2) published in the journal have given other biomedical researchers pause to ask if modern science is dysfunctional. Readers familiar with the state of academia may not be surprised but the claims have been presented today to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that level the following allegations: 'Incentives have evolved over the decades to encourage some behaviors that are detrimental to good science' and 'The surest ticket to getting a grant or job is getting published in a high profile journal, this is an unhealthy belief that can lead a scientist to engage in sensationalism and sometimes even dishonest behavior to salvage their career.' The data to back up such slanderous claims? 'In the past decade the number of retraction notices for scientific journals has increased more than 10-fold while the number of journals articles published has only increased by 44%.' At least a few of such retractions have been covered here."
sciencehabit writes "The massive oil spill that inundated the Gulf of Mexico in the spring and summer of 2010 severely damaged deep-sea corals more than 11 kilometers from the well site, a sea-floor survey conducted within weeks of the spill reveals. At one site, which hadn't been visited before but had been right in the path of a submerged 100-meter-thick oil plume from the spill, researchers found a variety of corals — most of them belonging to a type of colonial coral commonly known as sea fans — on a 10-meter-by-12-meter outcrop of rock. Many of the corals were partially or completely covered with a brown, fluffy substance that one team member variously calls 'frothy gunk,' 'goop,' and 'snot.'"
sciencehabit writes, quoting an article in Science: "A single drug can shrink or cure human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver, and prostate tumors that have been transplanted into mice, researchers have found. The treatment, an antibody that blocks a 'do not eat' signal normally displayed on tumor cells, coaxes the immune system to destroy the cancer cells." The abstract and full paper are freely available. It seems fairly promising: "In mice given human bladder cancer tumors, for example, 10 of 10 untreated mice had cancer that spread to their lymph nodes. Only one of 10 mice treated with anti-CD47 had a lymph node with signs of cancer. Moreover, the implanted tumor often got smaller after treatment — colon cancers transplanted into the mice shrank to less than one-third of their original size, on average. And in five mice with breast cancer tumors, anti-CD47 eliminated all signs of the cancer cells, and the animals remained cancer-free 4 months after the treatment stopped."
New submitter petval tips another amazing Minecraft project: a functioning scientific/graphing calculator. "On a virtual scale, the functional device is enormous — enough so that anyone in the real world would become a red blot of meat and bone staining the road if they fell from the very top. Honestly, his virtual machine looks more like a giant cargo ship ripped from a sci-fi movie than a working calculator. Yet type your problem out on the keypad, and the answer appears on a large white display mounted on the side of the monstrous brick structure." The creator says it can do "6-digit addition and subtraction, 3-digit multiplication, division and trigonometric/scientific functions ... Graphing y=mx+c functions, quadratic functions, and equation solving of the form mx+c=0." We've previously discussed the creation of a 16-bit ALU in Minecraft.
thomst sends this quote from an Associated Press report: "The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling allowing human genes to be patented, a topic of enormous interest to cancer researchers, patients and drug makers. The court overturned patents belonging to Myriad Genetics Inc. of Salt Lake City on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The justices' decision sends the case back down to the federal appeals court in Washington that handles patent cases. The high court said it sent the case back for rehearing because of its decision in another case last week saying that the laws of nature are unpatentable. In that case, the court unanimously threw out patents on a Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., test that could help doctors set drug doses for autoimmune diseases like Crohn's disease."
sciencehabit writes "A new analysis of isotopes found in lunar minerals challenges the prevailing view of how Earth's nearest neighbor formed. Geochemists looked at titanium isotopes in 24 separate samples of lunar rock and soil, and found that the moon's proportion was effectively the same as Earth's and different from elsewhere in the solar system. This contradicts the so-called Giant Impact Hypothesis, which posits that Earth collided with a hypothetical, Mars-sized planet called Theia early in its existence, and the resulting smash-up produced a disc of magma orbiting our planet that later coalesced to form the moon."
judgecorp writes "MIT professor Hugh Herr describes how technology can end disability in 50 years — with a big incentive from the need to support injured war veterans. A champion climber, Herr lost both legs below the knee, returned to climbing and designed improved climbing prostheses. From the article: 'Herr believes the work he is doing won’t just have humanitarian benefits. There’s money to be made too. And if there’s a market here, it means more people will receive help. Despite all the horrors and injustices the Iraq and Afghanistan wars spawned, they have helped make the biomechatronics industry a lot more viable. Back in 2007, Herr gave Garth Stewart, a 24-year-old Army veteran who lost his left leg below the knee during the conflict in Iraq, a bionic ankle. It used tendon-like springs and an electric motor to provide support for Stewart.'"
Hugh Pickens writes "At low elevations, the 10,000 or so taste buds in the human mouth work pretty much as nature intended. But step aboard a modern airliner, and the sense of taste loses its bearings. Even before a plane takes off, the atmosphere inside the cabin dries out the nose. As the plane ascends, the change in air pressure numbs about a third of the taste buds, and at 35,000 feet with cabin humidity levels kept low by design to reduce the risk of fuselage corrosion, xerostomia or cotton mouth sets in. This explain why airlines tend to salt and spice food heavily. Without all that extra kick, food tastes bland. 'Ice cream is about the only thing I can think of that tastes good on a plane,' says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. 'Airlines have a problem with food on board. The packaging, freezing, drying and storage are hard on flavor at any altitude, let alone 30,000 feet.' Challenges abound. Food safety standards require all meals to be cooked first on the ground. After that, they are blast-chilled and refrigerated until they can be stacked on carts and loaded on planes. For safety, open-flame grills and ovens aren't allowed on commercial aircraft, so attendants must contend with convection ovens that blow hot, dry air over the food. 'Getting any food to taste good on a plane is an elusive goal,' says Steve Gundrum, who runs a company that develops new products for the food industry."
angry tapir writes "Although earlier reports claimed that a scientific panel recommended South Africa over Australia as the best site for the proposed Square Kilometre Array, the SKA board of directors is still debating which country will host the enormous US$2.1-billion radio telescope. The scientific panel only recommended South Africa by a narrow margin earlier this month."
James Cameron is on his way down. The director's long-planned trip to the deepest spot on Earth — the Mariana Trench's Challenger Deep — is in progress; by the time you read this, if all goes well, Cameron will be navigating around in depths unvisited since 1960. National Geographic's coverage of the dive is excellent as well, as is the BBC's (with video).
An anonymous reader writes "China said that it planned to end the practice of taking organs from executed prisoners within five years, according to the state media report on Friday. Instead, China's vice minister of health Dr. Huang Jiefu said that the country will rely on a new national donation system for organ transplants at a conference in the city of Hangzhou on Thursday."
techfun89 writes "Mars has returned to our evening skies as it does every two years. This time it is getting even more attention and buzz than it normally would. Amateur astronomer Wayne Jaeschke of West Chester Pennsylvania noticed an unusual protrusion in the planet's southern hemisphere, preceding the sunrise terminator. Several things may have contributed to this strange 'cloud formation.' One possibility is a meteoric impact event, where dust was spewed up into the atmosphere. Another could be a major dust storm, which are typical on Mars. Of course, it could be something more mundane; that these observations were caused by a mere optical illusion via a type of glint that occurred due to having just the right combination of lighting and atmospheric conditions. Some suggest volcanic activity, though this is unlikely given it has been 20 to 200 million years since lava has flowed on Mars."
According to a story from CNN, "A piece of a debris from a Russian Cosmos satellite passed close enough to the International Space Station on Saturday that its crew was ordered into escape capsules as a precaution, NASA said. The six crew members were told to take shelter late Friday in their Soyuz capsules after it was determined there was a small possibility the debris could hit the station, the U.S. space agency said in a statement." This isn't the first time it's happened, either. The escape capsules (actually, they're Soyuz spacecraft) must be nice to have on hand, but I'd hate to have to test their efficacy.