Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
An anonymous reader writes "British researchers at the Universities of Sussex and Sheffield are developing a computer model of a bee's brain that they hope can help scientists better understand the brains of more-complex animals, such as humans, and perhaps power artificial intelligence systems for bee-like robots. Called 'Green Brain,' the project is trying to advance the science of AI beyond systems that just follow a predetermined set of rules, and into an area where AI systems can actually act autonomously and respond to sensory signals."
RougeFive writes "Imagine a warship weapon that can launch projectiles at Mach 10 without explosives (more than three times the muzzle speed of an M16 rifle), that has a range of 220 miles and that uses the enormous speed to destroy the target by causing as much damage as a Tomahawk missile. Meet the U.S. Navy's electromagnetic railgun program."
Zothecula writes "The internet has revolutionized global communications and now researchers at Stanford University are looking to provide a similar boost to bioengineering with a new process dubbed "Bi-Fi." The technology uses an innocuous virus called M13 to increase the complexity and amount of information that can be sent from cell to cell. The researchers say the Bi-Fi could help bio-engineers create complex, multicellular communities that work together to carry out important biological functions."
teleyinex writes "ForestWatchers.net is a citizen project with the goal of making it possible for anyone (locals, volunteers, NGOs, governments, etc), anywhere in the world, to monitor selected patches of forest across the globe, almost in real-time, using a computer connected to the Internet. The project has recently released a first alpha web application (built using the open source crowdsourcing PyBossa framework) where volunteers can participate by classifying satellite images of one area of the Amazon basin."
An anonymous reader writes "In 2008, Sherrie Walters, now 42 years old, discovered that she had rapidly spreading basal cell cancer in her ear. The disease is a type of skin cancer. The doctors pursued an aggressive treatment to combat the destructive disease, removing her ear, part of her skull, and her left ear canal. Though Walters was left without an ear, she was still able to hear with the help of a special hearing aid. A few months ago, doctors from the renowned Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore decided to try a new procedure on Walters. Using cartilage from her rib, the doctors stitched a new ear to match her right one. Then their creation was implanted under the skin of her forearm, where the ear grew for months. ...Doctors attached the ear and blood vessels surgically. Another surgery, conducted this week, gave the ear shape and detail. Dr. Patrick Byrne, a revered plastic and reconstructive surgeon, says that after the swelling goes down and the ear heals, Walters will have an ear that both looks and functions normally."
cylonlover writes "Titan is Saturn's largest moon, and it's said to be one of the most Earth-like celestial bodies in the Solar System. It has a thick atmosphere, and is covered with a network of seas, lakes and rivers – albeit ones made up of liquid hydrocarbons instead of water. Now, a team of scientists are proposing sending a boat-like probe to Titan, that would travel across its largest lake. The probe, which is still in the concept stage, is known as TALISE – that stands for Titan Lake In-situ Sampling Propelled Explorer, although it's also an Iroquois word for 'beautiful water.' The plan calls for it to land in the middle of Ligeia Mare, which is near the moon's north pole. It would then set out on a six-month to one-year mission, taking scientific measurements and obtaining samples as it makes its way to the closest shore."
linjaaho writes "A group of Finnish mathematics researchers, teachers and students write an upper secondary mathematics textbook in a three-day booksprint. The event started on Friday 28th September at 9:00 (GMT+3) and the book will be (hopefully) ready on Sunday evening. The book is written in Finnish. The result — LaTeX source code and the PDF — is published with open CC-BY-license. As far as the authors know, this is the first time a course textbook is written in three-day hackathon. The hackathon approach has been used earlier mainly for coding open source software and writing manuals for open source software. The progress can be followed by visiting the repository at GitHub or the project Facebook page."
sciencehabit writes "Like all invisible things that are only partly understood, black holes evoke a sense of mystery. Astronomers know that the tremendous gravitational pull of a black hole sucks matter in, and that the material falling in causes powerful jets of particles to shoot out of the hole at nearly the speed of light. But how exactly this phenomenon occurs remains a matter of conjecture, because astronomers have never quite managed to observe the details – until now. Astrophysicists have taken the closest look to date at the region where matter swirls around a black hole. By measuring the size of the base of a jet shooting out of the supermassive black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy (abstract), the researchers conclude that the black hole must be spinning and that the material orbiting must also be swirling in the same direction. Some of the material from this orbiting 'accretion disk' is also falling into the black hole, like water swirling down a drain."
Reader intellitech points to an article at National Geographic, from which he excerpts: "If astronomers' early predictions hold true, the holidays next year may hold a glowing gift for stargazers—a superbright comet, just discovered streaking near Saturn. Even with powerful telescopes, comet 2012 S1 (ISON) is now just a faint glow in the constellation Cancer. But the ball of ice and rocks might become visible to the naked eye for a few months in late 2013 and early 2014—perhaps outshining the moon, astronomers say. The comet is already remarkably bright, given how far it is from the sun, astronomer Raminder Singh Samra said. What's more, 2012 S1 seems to be following the path of the Great Comet of 1680, considered one of the most spectacular ever seen from Earth."
An anonymous reader writes with news of a recent paper about the bias among science faculty against female students. The study, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, asked professors to evaluate applications for a lab manager position. The faculty were given information about fictional applicants with randomly-assigned genders. They tended to rate male applicants as more hire-able than female applicants, and male names also generated higher starting salary and more mentoring offers. This bias was found in both male and female faculty. "The average salary suggested by male scientists for the male student was $30,520; for the female student, it was $27,111. Female scientists recommended, on average, a salary of $29,333 for the male student and $25,000 for the female student."
DevotedSkeptic sends this news from NASA: "The 18,000-pound test article that mimics the size and weight of NASA's Orion spacecraft crew module recently completed a final series of water impact tests in the Hydro Impact Basin at the agency's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The campaign of swing and vertical drops simulated various water landing scenarios to account for different velocities, parachute deployments, entry angles, wave heights and wind conditions the spacecraft may encounter when landing in the Pacific Ocean. The next round of water impact testing is scheduled to begin in late 2013 using a full-sized model that was built to validate the flight vehicle's production processes and tools."
SchrodingerZ writes "In the wake of Neil Armstrong's death, the United States Navy has announced this week that a new research vessel will be named in his honor. This ship will be the first Armstrong-class Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research (AGOR) ship in the world. This ship got its name from secretary Ray Mabus, who wanted to honor the first man to set foot on the moon. 'Naming this class of ships and this vessel after Neil Armstrong honors the memory of an extraordinary individual, but more importantly, it reminds us all to embrace the challenges of exploration and to never stop discovering,' say Mabus. Armstrong, before his career at NASA, flew in combat missions during the Korean war. 'The Armstrong-class AGOR ship will be a modern oceanographic research platform equipped with acoustic equipment capable of mapping the deepest parts of the oceans, and modular on-board laboratories that will provide the flexibility to meet a wide variety of oceanographic research challenges.' It will be 238 feet long, beam length of 50 feet, and will be able to travel at 12 knots. The ship is currently under construction in Anacortes, Washington."
derekmead writes "Data from the enormous Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory has been used to test some of Einstein's theories, discover new molecules in space, and find evidence of the building blocks of life and of the origins of galaxies. With 6,600 hours of observation time a year, the GBT produces massive amounts of data on the makeup of space, and any researchers with reason to use the data are welcome to do so. The eleven-year-old GBT stands as one of the crowning achievements of American big science. But with the National Science Foundation strapped for cash like most other science-minded government agencies, the NRAO's funding is threatened. In August of this year, the Astronomy Portfolio Review, a committee appointed by the NSF, recommended that the GBT be defunded over the next five years. Researchers, along with locals and West Virginia congressmen, are fighting the decision, which puts the nearly $100 million telescope at risk. Unless they succeed, America's giant dish will go silent."
ananyo writes "Two species of African spiny mouse have been caught at something no other mammal is known to do — completely regenerating damaged tissue. The work could help improve wound healing in humans. The species — Acomys kempi and Acomys percivali — have skin that is brittle and easily torn, which helps them to escape predators by jettisoning patches of their skin when caught or bitten. Researchers report that whereas normal laboratory mice (Mus musculus) grow scar tissue when their skin is removed, African spiny mice can regrow complete suites of hair follicles, skin, sweat glands, fur and even cartilage (abstract). Tissue regeneration has not been seen in mammals before, though it is common in crustaceans, insects, reptiles and amphibians."