Businesses

SpaceX Is Now One of the World's Most Valuable Privately Held Companies (theverge.com) 9

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Elon Musk's aerospace company SpaceX is now valued at $21.2 billion, knocking off WeWork as the fourth most valuable privately held tech company in America. This skyrocket in valuation comes after another round of funding that raised $351 million for the company. According to Equidate, a marketplace for trading private tech company stocks, SpaceX's price per share is now $135, up from $96.42 prior to the new funding round. The latest valuation makes SpaceX one of the top five most valuable private, venture-backed tech companies in the US, joining Uber ($69.8B), Airbnb ($31B), WeWork ($20.8B), and the less consumer-facing analytics company Palantir ($21.3B). (SpaceX previously held the sixth spot before Snap, Inc. went public in March.) All five companies are disruptive forces in their respective industries, and also top the world's most valuable startups alongside Didi Chuxing and Xiaomi, as first pointed out by The New York Times. Last year, SpaceX was valued at $14.6 billion.
Space

Solar-Eclipse Glasses On Amazon May Not Meet NASA's Safety Requirements (qz.com) 36

For those planning to watch the solar eclipse on August 21st, you're going to want to make sure you have some specialized, ultra-dark glasses to see safely, especially if you're not in the "path of totality." If you're on the hunt for said glasses, please be on the lookout to make sure you buy glasses that meet NASA's safety standards. Quartz is reporting that there are many "fly-by-night manufacturers looking to turn a quick profit by selling subpar and potentially dangerous goods to unsuspecting Americans." From the report: The first stop for most seeking a pair of eclipse glasses is likely to be Amazon, where there are literally thousands of listings for the devices, ranging in materials from cardboard to bronze. I, too, went on Amazon to scout out a pair. I picked more or less at random: I chose a cheap pack of 10 cardboard glasses with five different designs, at least two of which were not garishly jingoistic. About a week after I bought them, I had a thought: Maybe I should double-check to make sure they met safety standards set by the scientific community. Next stop: NASA. NASA, of course, has a website dedicated to the 2017 eclipse, and on it, they have a section dedicated to eclipse-viewing safety. The site says that eclipse-viewing glasses must meet a few basic criteria: Have ISO 12312-2 certification (that is, having been certified as passing a particular set of tests set forth by the International Organization of Standardization); Have the manufacturer's name and address printed somewhere on the product; Not be older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses.
Earth

Heavier Rainfall Will Increase Water Pollution In the Future (nationalgeographic.com) 96

An anonymous reader shares a report from National Geographic: If climate change continues to progress, increased precipitation could mean detrimental outcomes for water quality in the United States, a major new study warns. An intensifying water cycle can substantially overload waterways with excess nitrogen runoff -- which could near 20 percent by 2100 -- and increase the likelihood of events that severely impair water quality, according to a new study published by Science. When rainfall washes nitrogen and phosphorus from human activities like agriculture and fossil fuel combustion into rivers and lakes, those waterways are overloaded with nutrients, and a phenomenon called "eutrophication" occurs. This can be dangerous for both people and animals. Toxic algal blooms can develop, as well as harmful low-oxygen dead zones known as hypoxia, which can cause negative impacts on human health, aquatic ecosystems, and the economy. In the new study, researchers predict how climate change might increase eutrophication and threats to water resources by using projections from 21 different climate models, each of which was run for three climate scenarios and two different time periods (near future, 2031-2060, and far-future, 2071-2100).
Education

Subscription Journals Are Doomed Because of Sci-Hub's Big Cache of Pirated Papers, Suggests Data Analyst (sciencemag.org) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: There is no doubt that Sci-Hub, the infamous -- and, according to a U.S. court, illegal -- online repository of pirated research papers, is enormously popular. But just how enormous is its repository? That is the question biodata scientist Daniel Himmelstein at the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues recently set out to answer, after an assist from Sci-Hub. Their findings, published in a preprint on the PeerJ journal site on July 20, indicate that Sci-Hub can instantly provide access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles, an amount that Himmelstein says is "even higher" than he anticipated. For research papers protected by a paywall, the study found Sci-Hub's reach is greater still, with instant access to 85% of all papers published in subscription journals. For some major publishers, such as Elsevier, more than 97% of their catalog of journal articles is being stored on Sci-Hub's servers -- meaning they can be accessed there for free. In a chat with ScienceInsider, Himmelstein concludes that the results of his study could mark "the beginning of the end" for paywalled research.
United States

First Human Embryos Edited In US (technologyreview.com) 109

randomErr shares a report from MIT Technology Review: The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon, MIT Technology Review has learned. The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR. Until now, American scientists have watched as scientists elsewhere were first to explore the controversial practice. To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China. Now Mitalipov is believed to have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases. In altering the DNA code of human embryos, the objective of scientists is to show that they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, like the blood condition beta-thalassemia. The process is termed "germline engineering" because any genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells -- the egg and sperm. Reached by Skype, Mitalipov declined to comment on the results, which he said are pending publication. But other scientists confirmed the editing of embryos using CRISPR.
Medicine

E-Cigarettes Linked To Helping People Quit Smoking, Says Study (theverge.com) 194

According to a new study, electronic cigarettes help people trying to quit smoking. The Verge reports: For the study, published today in the journal BMJ, researchers analyzed survey data from over 160,000 people spanning almost 15 years. They found that smokers who used e-cigs tried to quit smoking more often and succeeded (for at least three months) more often than smokers who didn't use e-cigs. Overall, more people quit in the latest year that data was available -- the 2014 -- 15 year -- than in the 2010 -- 11 year. Today's study didn't address whether e-cigs are luring people who would otherwise be nonsmokers. But it did find that e-cigs do have a role in helping people quit. The researchers looked at several population surveys that cover the years 2001 to 2015. These surveys provided smoking-cessation rates, and the most recent survey, from 2014 to 2015, had information about e-cigarette usage. The results show that 65 percent of e-cigarette users had tried to quit smoking, versus 40 percent of people who smoked but didn't use e-cigs. About 8 percent of e-cig users succeeded in quitting for at least three months, compared to about 5 percent of non-users. Overall, the number of people who quit smoking increased by 1.1 percentage points in 2015 from 2011. This might not seem that impressive, but it still represents about 350,000 people.
Medicine

Stem Cell Brain Implants Could 'Slow Aging and Extend Life,' Study Shows (theguardian.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists have slowed down the aging process by implanting stem cells into the brains of animals, raising hopes for new strategies to combat age-related diseases and extend the human lifespan. Implants of stem cells that make fresh neurons in the brain were found to put the brakes on aging in older mice, keeping them more physically and mentally fit for months, and extending their lives by 10-15% compared to untreated animals. The work, described as a tour de force and a breakthrough by one leading expert, suggests that aging across the body is controlled by stem cells that are found in the hypothalamus region of the brain in youth, but which steadily die off until they are almost completely absent in middle age. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York hope to launch clinical trials of the procedure soon, but must first produce supplies of human neural stem cells in the lab which can be implanted into volunteers. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
Education

Scientists Propose To Raise the Standards For Statistical Significance In Research Studies (sciencemag.org) 133

sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: A megateam of reproducibility-minded scientists is renewing a controversial proposal to raise the standard for statistical significance in research studies. They want researchers to dump the long-standing use of a probability value (p-value) of less than 0.05 as the gold standard for significant results, and replace it with the much stiffer p-value threshold of 0.005. Backers of the change, which has been floated before, say it could dramatically reduce the reporting of false-positive results -- studies that claim to find an effect when there is none -- and so make more studies reproducible. And they note that researchers in some fields, including genome analysis, have already made a similar switch with beneficial results.

"If we're going to be in a world where the research community expects some strict cutoff ... it's better that that threshold be .005 than .05. That's an improvement over the status quo," says behavioral economist Daniel Benjamin of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, first author on the new paper, which was posted 22 July as a preprint article on PsyArXiv and is slated for an upcoming issue of Nature Human Behavior. "It seemed like this was something that was doable and easy, and had worked in other fields."

Medicine

US Is Slipping Toward Measles Being Endemic Once Again, Says Study (arstechnica.com) 316

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: With firm vaccination campaigns, the US eliminated measles in 2000. The highly infectious virus was no longer constantly present in the country -- no longer endemic. Since then, measles has only popped up when travelers carried it in, spurring mostly small outbreaks -- ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred cases each year -- that then fizzle out. But all that may be about to change. With the rise of non-medical vaccine exemptions and delays, the country is backsliding toward endemic measles, Stanford and Baylor College of Medicine researchers warn this week. With extensive disease modeling, the researchers make clear just how close we are to seeing explosive, perhaps unshakeable, outbreaks. According to results the researchers published in JAMA Pediatrics, a mere five-percent slip in measles-mumps-and-rubella (MMR) vaccination rates among kids aged two to 11 would triple measles cases in this age group and cost $2.1 million in public healthcare costs. And that's just a small slice of the disease transmission outlook. Kids two to 11 years old only make up about 30 percent of the measles cases in current outbreaks. The number of cases would be much larger if the researchers had sufficient data to model the social mixing and immunization status of adults, teens, and infants under two.
Medicine

Degenerative Brain Disease Found In Nearly All Donated NFL Player Brains, Says Study (npr.org) 209

A new study published Tuesday in the journal American Medical Association found that 110 out of 111 brains of those who played in the NFL had degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). NPR reports: In the study, researchers examined the brains of 202 deceased former football players at all levels. Nearly 88 percent of all the brains, 177, had CTE. Three of 14 who had played only in high school had CTE, 48 of 53 college players, 9 of 14 semiprofessional players, and 7 of 8 Canadian Football League players. CTE was not found in the brains of two who played football before high school. According to the study's senior author, Dr. Ann McKee, "this is by far the largest [study] of individuals who developed CTE that has ever been described. And it only includes individuals who are exposed to head trauma by participation in football." A CTE study several years ago by McKee and her colleagues included football players and athletes from other collision sports such as hockey, soccer and rugby. It also examined the brains of military veterans who had suffered head injuries. The study released Tuesday is the continuation of a study that began eight years ago. In 2015, McKee and fellow researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University published study results revealing 87 of 91 former NFL players had CTE.
Medicine

Sperm Counts Among Western Men Have Halved In Last 40 Years, Says Study (theguardian.com) 412

New submitter flote shares a report from The Guardian: Sperm counts among men have more than halved in the last 40 years, research suggests, although the drivers behind the decline remain unclear. The latest findings reveal that between 1973 and 2011, the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate of men in western countries has fallen by an average of 1.4% a year, leading to an overall drop of just over 52%. The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction Update by an international team of researchers, drew on 185 studies conducted between 1973 and 2011, involving almost 43,000 men. The team split the data based on whether the men were from western countries -- including Australia and New Zealand as well as countries in North America and Europe -- or from elsewhere. After accounting for factors including age and how long men had gone without ejaculation, the team found that sperm concentration fell from 99 million per ml in 1973 to 47.1 million per ml in 2011 -- a decline of 52.4% -- among western men unaware of their fertility. For the same group, total sperm count -- the number of sperm in a semen sample -- fell by just under 60%.
NASA

NASA Has a Way to Cut Your Flight Time in Half (bloomberg.com) 233

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg Businessweek article: For almost a half-century there's been a clear speed limit on most commercial air travel: 660 miles per hour, the rate at which a typical-size plane traveling at 30,000 feet breaks the sound barrier and creates a 30-mile-wide, continuous sonic boom. That may be changing. In August, NASA says, it will begin taking bids for construction of a demo model of a plane able to reduce the sonic boom to something like the hum you'd hear inside a Mercedes-Benz on the interstate. The agency's researchers say their design, a smaller-scale model of which was successfully tested in a wind tunnel at the end of June, should cut the six-hour flight time from New York to Los Angeles in half. NASA proposes spending $390 million over five years to build the demo plane and test it over populated areas. The first year of funding is included in President Trump's 2018 budget proposal. Over the next decade, growth in air transportation and distances flown "will drive the demand for broadly available faster air travel," says Peter Coen, project manager for NASA's commercial supersonic research team. "That's going to make it possible for companies to offer competitive products in the future." NASA plans to share the technology resulting from the tests with U.S. plane makers, meaning a head start for the likes of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, and startups such as Boom Technology and billionaire Robert Bass's Aerion. [...] NASA is targeting a sound level of 60 to 65 A-weighted decibels (dBa), Coen says. That's about as loud as that luxury car on the highway or the background conversation in a busy restaurant. Iosifidis says that Lockheed's research shows the design can maintain that sound level at commercial size and his team's planned demo will be 94 feet long, have room for one pilot, fly as high as 55,000 feet, and run on one of the twin General Electric engines that power Boeing Co.'s F/A-18 fighter jet.
Moon

A New Study Shows the Moon's Interior Could Contain Water (npr.org) 69

A new study from Brown University shows the moon might be flowing with more water than we thought, thanks to ancient volcanic deposits. NPR reports: Using satellite data, scientists from Brown University studied layers of rock on the moon that likely formed from large volcanic eruptions, called lunar pyroclastic deposits. The magma created by these eruptions has been carried to the moon's surface from very deep within its interior, the study showed. What's interesting about this new study, though, is that it shows the water is far more than just ice hiding in shadowy areas of the moon. In fact, there are likely pools of water in the moon's mantle, as well. If there's water in the moon's mantle, that suggests that the water was delivered to the moon very early in its formation, before it fully solidified, the study's lead author, Ralph Milliken told Space.com. Because the magma originally comes from deep within the lunar interior, Milliken explains, "the deep interior of the moon must also contain water."
Medicine

Global Network of Labs Will Test Security of Medical Devices (securityledger.com) 49

chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: Amid increasing concerns about cyber threats to healthcare environments, a global network of labs will test the security of medical devices, according to an announcement on Monday by a consortium of healthcare industry firms, universities and technology firms, The Security Ledger reports. The "World Health Information Security Testing Labs (or "WHISTL") will adopt a model akin to the Underwriters Laboratory, which started out testing electrical devices, and focus on issues related to cyber security and privacy, helping medical device makers "address the public health challenges" created by connected health devices and complex, connected healthcare environments, according to a statement by The Medical Device Innovation, Safety and Security Consortium. "MDISS WHISTL facilities will dramatically improve access to medical device security know-how while protecting patient privacy and the intellectual property of our various stakeholders," said Dr. Nordenberg, MD, Executive Director of MDISS.

The labs will be one of the only independent, open and non-profit network of labs specifically designed for the needs of medical field, including medical device designers, hospital IT, and clinical engineering professionals. Experts will assess the security of medical devices using standards and specifications designed by testing organizations like Underwriters Labs. Evaluations will include application security testing like "fuzzing," static code analysis and penetration testing of devices. Any vulnerabilities found will be reported directly to manufacturers in accordance with best practices, and publicly disclosed to the international medical device vulnerability database (MDVIPER) which is maintained by MDISS and the National Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center (NH-ISAC). The group says it plans for 10 new device testing labs by the end of the year including in the U.S. in states like New York to Indiana, Tennessee and California and outside North America in the UK, Israel, Finland, and Singapore. The WHISTL facilities will work with Underwriters Labs as well as AAMI, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. Specifically, MDISS labs will base its work on the UL Cybersecurity Assurance Program specifications (UL CAP) and follow testing standards developed by both groups including the UL 2900 and AAMI 80001 standards.

Earth

World's First Floating Wind Farm Emerges Off Coast of Scotland (bbc.co.uk) 251

AmiMoJo writes: The world's first full-scale floating wind farm has started to take shape off the north-east coast of Scotland. The revolutionary technology will allow wind power to be harvested in waters too deep for the current conventional bottom-standing turbines. The manufacturer hopes to cash in on a boom in the technology, especially in Japan and the west coast of the U.S., where waters are deep. The tower, including the blades, stretches to 175m and weighs 11,500 tons. The price of energy from bottom-standing offshore wind farms has plummeted 32% since 2012, and is now four years ahead of the government's expected target. Another big price drop is expected, taking offshore wind to a much lower price than new nuclear power.

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