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The Brains of Men and Women Aren't Really That Different, Study Finds ( 112

sciencehabit writes: In the mid-19th century, researchers claimed they could tell the sex of an individual just by looking at their disembodied brain. But a new study (abstract) finds that human brains do not fit neatly into "male" and "female" categories. Indeed, all of our brains seem to share a patchwork of forms; some that are more common in males, others that are more common in females, and some that are common to both. The findings could change how scientists study the brain and even how society defines gender.

Xbox Kinect Technology Helps Create Higher-Quality X-Rays ( 13

An anonymous reader writes: A team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, has adapted a gaming system to help radiographers improve the quality of X-rays. The technology, originally developed for Microsoft Kinect, has been amended to provide a useful tool for measuring the thickness of body parts and monitor movement and positioning in the X-ray field of vision before imaging. The goal of the technology is to aid in the production of high-quality X-rays at low radiation, without the need to repeat the image. Although the technology is expected to benefit all patients, the researchers believe it could be particularly practical for use in children – who are much more sensitive to radiation and vary in body size, from premature babies through to teens.

Washington Hosts Summit On Gene Editing and 'Designer Babies' ( 111

An anonymous reader sends word that a three-day summit has begun in Washington to discuss the future of genetic engineering. It has a particular focus on the CRISPR technique, which has made gene editing quicker and more robust than ever before. "The reason CRISPR is so controversial is that it works well on 'germline' cells, such as sperm, eggs and embryonic cells, and the genetic editing results in heritable traits. Many scientific organizations have called for a time-out on any experiments on human cells, fearing that this crosses into dicey ethical territory. This meeting in Washington could potentially generate a new call for restraint, or some guidelines in how to handle the explosive technology." Many scientists, lawyers, and policymakers are present at the summit to try to reach consensus on how the scientific community should proceed with such research, and how the fruits of their research should be used. Professor Alta Charo said, "The more we can have effective systems for responsible oversight for the development and deployment of a technology, the more we can take chances. We have the chance to back up at the end, and change course."

Experimental Study of 29 Polyhedral Dice Using Rolling Machine, OpenCV Analysis ( 203

enFi writes: All dice are slightly unfair; automating 3k rolls x 29 dice allows detailed exploration. For example: GameScience claims their d20s are fairest, and actually has the fairest die in the study. Chessex d20s are consistently mid-range and all favor the same numbers; Wiz Dice d20s are highly variable (some rival GameScience). Shape differences measurable with calipers account for some of the larger observed differences, but not everything. Read the details for graphs, a video of the Arduino-powered rolling machine, and an explanation of using OpenCV to sort die rolls.

(Disclaimer: I'm the author.)


Russian Moon Landing May Take As Many As Six Launches ( 214

MarkWhittington writes: Russia has made no secret of its desire to land cosmonauts on the lunar surface sometime in the late 2020s. As the United States, at least for the current administration, has decided to bypass the moon in favor of Mars, Russia could move to wipe out the humiliation it suffered at the hands of NASA when it lost the 1960s race to the moon with the landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. However, a story in TASS suggests that a Russian moon landing effort would be complex, requiring up to six launches of its Angara rocket.

Swallow the Doctor: The Present and Future of Robots Inside Us ( 30

szczys writes: Feynman predicted that we would some day "swallow the doctor" and to some extent that is already happening. There are cameras in pill-form that the patient swallows to monitor the digestive tract, and pacemakers are now inserted via catheter rather than major surgery. The question is: where are we going with robots we can put inside our bodies? Intuitively it seems far away, but there is already an open source platform for capsule robots. Medical devices are where the money's at when it comes to hardware development. We can expect to see a lot of work in the coming years to make the man-machine hybrid something that is much more organic, sprinkled with small tablets of robot.
The Courts

Young Climate Activists Sue Obama Over Climate Change Inaction ( 430

EmagGeek writes A recent lawsuit against Obama alleges he has a legal duty to act against climate change, and young climate activists, including 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh, are taking him to task on it. CNN reports: "Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh became a climate change activist at age 6 when he saw an environmental documentary. He asked his mom to find a way for him to speak at a rally. Now 15, the long-haired, hip-hop-savvy Coloradan is one of 21 young activists joining climate scientist James Hansen in suing the Obama administration for failing to ditch fossil fuels. 'It's basically a bunch of kids saying you're not doing your job,' he told me here at the U.N. COP21 climate change summit in Paris. 'You're failing, you know. F-minus. We're holding you accountable for your lack of action.'"

Diamond Nanothreads Could Support Space Elevator ( 156

Taco Cowboy writes with news that Penn State researchers have discovered a way to produce ultra-thin diamond nanothreads that could be ideal for a space elevator. According to the report at, The team, led by chemistry professor John Badding, applied alternating cycles of pressure to isolated, liquid-state benzene molecules and were amazed to find that rings of carbon atoms assembled into neat and orderly chains. While they were expecting the benzene molecules to react in a disorganized way, they instead created a neat thread 20,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair but perhaps the strongest material ever made. ... Just recently, a team from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia modeled the diamond nanothreads using large-scale molecular dynamics simulations and concluded that the material is far more versatile than previously thought and has great promise for aerospace properties.

Canadian, UK Law Professors Condemn Space Mining Provisions of Commercial Space Act ( 212

MarkWhittington writes: The Commercial Space Launch Act, which includes provisions allowing American companies the right to keep resources that they mine in space, was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama. While the act has been hailed as groundbreaking in the United States, the space mining title has gotten an angry reaction overseas. In an article in Science Alert, Gbenga Oduntan, Senior Lecturer in International Commercial Law, University of Kent, condemned the space mining provisions as environmentally risky and a violation of international law. Ram Jakhu, a professor at Canada's McGill University's Institute of air and space law, adds that space mining is a violation of the Outer Space Treaty and should not be allowed.

2 Planets Can Share the Same Orbit, In 3 Different Ways 71

StartsWithABang writes: One of the most important characteristics of a planet, at least according to the IAU definition, is that it clear its orbit of all other bodies. But if we allowed for a special caveat — the possibility of two similarly-sized objects sharing the same orbit — could we have a stable configuration where that occurred? Surprisingly, not only is the answer yes, but there are three ways to do it: to have one at the L4/L5 Lagrange point of the other, to have a close-orbiting binary planet, or to have orbit-swapping worlds, where they periodically change spots with one another. Unbelievably, our Solar System has a history of all three!

NASA Prepares To Launch an Orion and 3 Cubesats To Deep Space: 3 Years To Go ( 53

MarkWhittington writes: As NASA has noted, the space agency and its contractors are working diligently on the first launch of the heavy-lift Space Launch System. The launch, officially called EM-1, or Exploration Mission 1, will loft an unpiloted version of the Orion spacecraft around the moon. also noted that a number of secondary payloads, known as CubeSats, will be along for the ride as well. NASA considered EM-1, scheduled for 2018, a crucial step in its Journey to Mars which will, it is hoped, reach its ultimate destination sometime in the 2030s.

Scientists Turn Gold Into Foam That's Nearly As Light As Air ( 70

Zothecula writes: Along with its use in jewelry, gold also has numerous applications in fields such as electronics and scientific research. It's a handy material, but – of course – it's also expensive. That's why researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a new way of making a small amount of gold go a long way. They've created a gold foam that looks much like solid gold, but is actually 98 parts air and two parts solid material (abstract). As an added bonus, the aerogel-type foam can also be made in non-gold colors such as dark red.

Parts of the SpaceX Falcon-9 Rocket Found Off the Isles of Scilly ( 29

New submitter AppleHoshi writes: The BBC is reporting that a large chunk of the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket, which exploded shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral earlier this year, has been found 4,000 miles away, in the sea off the Isles of Scilly. The recovered section is approximately 10m (32ft) by 4m (13ft). It was discovered by a local coastguard patrol, though they didn't recognize it until they scraped off a layer of goose barnacles.

NASA Concludes That Comets, Not Alien Megastructures Orbit KIC 8462852 ( 103

MarkWhittington writes: Back in October, findings from the Kepler Space Telescope suggested that something strange was going on around a star called KIC 8462852. Kepler was built to detect exoplanets by measuring the cycles of dimming light from other stars, indicating that a large object was passing between them and Earth. But the dimming light cycle from KIC 8462852 seemed to suggest a lot of smaller objects swarming around it. Scientists narrowed down the explanations to either a swarm of comets or alien megastructures. NASA announced evidence garnered by two other telescopes that pointed to the comet explanation.

Japanese Company Makes Low-Calorie Noodles Out of Wood 158

AmiMoJo writes: Omikenshi Co, an Osaka based cloth manufacturer best known for rayon, a fibre made from tree pulp, is expanding into the health food business. Using a similar process, Omikenshi is turning the indigestible cellulose into a pulp that's mixed with konjac, a yam-like plant grown in Japan. The resulting fibre-rich flour, which the company calls "cell-eat," contains no gluten, no fat and almost no carbohydrate. It has just 60 calories a kilogram, compared with 3,680 for wheat.