DavidHumus writes "A recent study indicates that consuming vegetables from the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes and peppers (as well as tobacco), decreases the risk of contracting Parkinson's disease. Earlier studies had shown that smoking tobacco seems to provide protection against the disease and the newer one seems to confirm that the key ingredient is nicotine, which is present in some vegetables like peppers."
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astroengine send this interesting excerpt from Discovery: "The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered rocky remains of planetary material 'polluting' the atmospheres of two white dwarfs — a sign that these stars likely have (or had) planetary systems and that asteroids are currently being shredded by extreme tidal forces. Although white dwarfs with polluted atmospheres have been observed before, this is the first time evidence of planetary systems have been discovered in stars belonging to a relatively young cluster of stars. 'We have identified chemical evidence for the building blocks of rocky planets,' said Jay Farihi of the University of Cambridge in a Hubble news release. 'When these stars were born, they built planets, and there's a good chance that they currently retain some of them. The signs of rocky debris we are seeing are evidence of this — it is at least as rocky as the most primitive terrestrial bodies in our Solar System.'"
Arglebarf writes "A family member is recovering from a serious illness and, unfortunately, the medication that saved her life will probably cost her hands and feet. She is an artist by trade, so this is a pretty big deal. Replacement prostheses might restore a degree of independence, as well as enabling her to continue with her creative passions. Do any Slashdotters have experience with replacement hands? What features do you look for? Do any models allow you tweak the software for fine tuning? Beyond the day-to-day uses, she will want something that can hold small objects precisely (e.g. a paintbrush)."
An anonymous reader sends this quote from a press release at CERN: "An international team at the ISOLDE radioactive-beam facility at CERN has shown that some atomic nuclei can assume asymmetric, 'pear' shapes (abstract). The observations contradict some existing nuclear theories and will require others to be amended. ... Most nuclei have the shape of a rugby ball. While state-of-the-art theories are able to predict this behaviour, the same theories have predicted that for some particular combinations of protons and neutrons, nuclei can also assume asymmetric shapes, like a pear. In this case there is more mass at one end of the nucleus than the other."
New submitter josedu writes:"Sleep deprivation is a great, hidden problem that afflicts a great percentage of children in affluent countries. About 73% of 9- and 10-year-old children in the U.S. are sleep deprived, as are 80% of 13- and 14-year-olds. The new study thinks this is linked to the increased access to devices such as mobile phones and laptops late at night. One of the researchers put it very simply: 'Our data show that across countries internationally, on average, children who have more sleep achieve higher in maths, science and reading.' This disruption is also causing schools to dumb-down their instruction to accomodate the reduced capacity of these kids. Thus, even the kids who are getting enough sleep will suffer. The long-term impact of sleep deprivation on nationwide education levels is enormous."
FIRST robots? And a good look at what goes into making a competitive robot? For that, Timothy went to Sehome High School in Bellingham, Washington, where members of their Seamonsters robotics team (AKA FIRST Robotics Competition team # 2605; it's a team number, not a date) gave him a good look at their robot's guts, along with showing him how it's controlled and how they organize the 25+ people who work to build and run their robot(s). If you're thinking about joining or starting a FIRST team, this video is essential viewing for you. It's also essential if you just like the idea of robots competing with each other at pyramid-climbing and Frisbee-style disc-throwing. Go, bots, go! Update: 05/08 22:16 GMT by T : Correction: I didn't go to the high school — much simpler, I met the robot creators (and their disk-chucking robot) at LinuxFest Northwest, where they had an impressive demo room set up.
An anonymous reader writes "Mars One reports that 78,000 people have volunteered for a one-way ticket to Mars. A quick calculation shows that this means people lined up coast-to-coast in a line with only 40cm per person! (As Robert Zubrin already predicted). If you want, you can still go and sign up (or sign up your worst enemy). Or you can just look at some videos of the would-be travelers."
An anonymous reader writes "We're seeing a new revolution in artificial intelligence known as deep learning: algorithms modeled after the brain have made amazing strides and have been consistently winning both industrial and academic data competitions with minimal effort. 'Basically, it involves building neural networks — networks that mimic the behavior of the human brain. Much like the brain, these multi-layered computer networks can gather information and react to it. They can build up an understanding of what objects look or sound like. In an effort to recreate human vision, for example, you might build a basic layer of artificial neurons that can detect simple things like the edges of a particular shape. The next layer could then piece together these edges to identify the larger shape, and then the shapes could be strung together to understand an object. The key here is that the software does all this on its own — a big advantage over older AI models, which required engineers to massage the visual or auditory data so that it could be digested by the machine-learning algorithm.' Are we ready to blur the line between hardware and wetware?"
astroengine writes "The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera carried by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted a strange geological feature that, for now, defies an obvious explanation. Found at the southern edge of Acidalia Planitia, small pits with raised edges appear to hug a long ridge. So far, mission scientists have ruled out impact craters and wind as formation processes, but have pegged the most likely cause to be glacial in nature."
sciencehabit writes "If you've ever cringed when your parents said 'groovy,' you'll know that spoken language can have a brief shelf life. But frequently used words can persist for generations, even millennia, and similar sounds and meanings often turn up in very different languages. Now, a new statistical approach suggests that peoples from Alaska to Europe may share a linguistic forebear dating as far back as the end of the Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago. Indeed, some of the words we use today may not be so different than those spoken around campfires and receding glaciers."
New submitter Big Nemo '60 writes with news that the National Institute of Mental Health is seeking to modernize the diagnosis of mental illness through the use of neuroscience, genetics, etc. From the article: "The world's biggest mental health research institute is abandoning the new version of psychiatry's 'bible' — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — questioning its validity and stating that 'patients with mental disorders deserve better.' This bombshell comes just weeks before the publication of the fifth revision of the manual, called DSM-5." More importantly, they are going to be shifting funding to research projects that seek to define new categories of mental illness using modern medical science, ignoring the current DSM categorizations: "The strength of each of the editions of DSM has been 'reliability' .. The weakness is its lack of validity. Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure. In the rest of medicine, this would be equivalent to creating diagnostic systems based on the nature of chest pain or the quality of fever. ... NIMH has launched the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project to transform diagnosis by incorporating genetics, imaging, cognitive science, and other levels of information to lay the foundation for a new classification system. ... It became immediately clear that we cannot design a system based on biomarkers or cognitive performance because we lack the data. In this sense, RDoC is a framework for collecting the data needed for a new nosology. But it is critical to realize that we cannot succeed if we use DSM categories as the 'gold standard.' ... Imagine deciding that EKGs were not useful because many patients with chest pain did not have EKG changes. That is what we have been doing for decades when we reject a biomarker because it does not detect a DSM category. We need to begin collecting the genetic, imaging, physiologic, and cognitive data to see how all the data — not just the symptoms — cluster and how these clusters relate to treatment response."
vinces99 writes "Imagine taking a swab of saliva from your mouth and, within minutes, having your DNA ready for genome sequencing. A new device from University of Washington engineers and a company called NanoFacture can extract human DNA from fluid samples in a simpler, more efficient and environmentally friendly way than conventional methods. It will give hospitals and labs a much easier way to separate DNA from human fluid samples, which will help with genome sequencing, disease diagnosis and forensic investigations."
HiveBio in Seattle is not the world's first community-based biology lab, but it may be the first one started by a high school student. Her name is Katriona Guthrie-Honea, and her co-founder is Bergen McMurray. They managed to get a lot of equipment and supplies donated to their new venture, along with a successful Microryza Campaign that raised $6425 even though their target was only $5100. They're renting space from a local hackerlab, and getting an insane amount of publicity for a venture that's just starting out. But why not? If Bergen's and Katriona's example can spur others to learn and create, whether in mechanical engineering, physics, electronics, computer science or biology, it's all good -- not only for the participants, but for anyone who might someday benefit from creations or discoveries made by people who got their first taste of hands-on science or engineering in a hackerspace or community biology lab.
Okian Warrior writes "New Hampshire based RR Auction is selling the EKG of Neil Armstrong's heartbeat taken when he stepped onto the moon, among many other items of space and aviation historical interest. 'It was really slow on the way down, while Aldrin's was racing' described Gerald Schaber, geologist, who had the task of monitoring Armstrong's heartbeat during the final famous moments of the Apollo 11 landing. The auction begins May 16th."
Zothecula writes "Instead of traipsing through Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León might have been better off turning his search inwards. More specifically, he should have turned his attention to a region of the brain called the hypothalamus. At least that's what research carried out on mice by scientists at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University suggests. They found that the hypothalamus controls many aspects of aging, opening up the potential to slow down the aging process by altering signal pathways within that part of the brain."
cylonlover writes "Aside from the inconvenience of injecting insulin multiple times a day, type 1 diabetics also face health risks if the dosage level isn't accurate. A new approach developed by U.S. researchers has the potential to overcome both of these problems. The method relies on a network of nanoscale particles that, once injected into the body, can maintain normal blood sugar levels for more than a week by releasing insulin when blood-sugar levels rise."
Guppy writes "Does Tylenol reduce existential distress? Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) has been used to relieve mild-to-moderate physical pain for over a century, yet its actual mechanism of action continues to be debated; modern research has demonstrated an intriguing connection with the body's endocannabinoid system, raising the question of whether it may also have subtle psychological effects as well. A recent paper claims Acetaminophen can alter our response to existential challenge; previous findings have suggested that it may blunt the pain of social rejection as well."
symbolset writes "Over the past month a number of individual observations of CO2 at the Mauna Loa Observatory have exceeded 400 parts per million. The daily average observation has crept above 399 ppm, and as annually the peak is typically in mid-May it seems likely the daily observation will break the 400 ppm milestone within a few days. This measure of potent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere should spark renewed discussion about the use of fossil fuels. For the past few decades the annual peak becomes the annual average two or three years later, and the annual minimum after two or three years more."
symbolset writes "Phys.org shares a visual image of a 'shockingly bright' gamma ray burst observed April 27th, labelled GRB 130427A and subsequently observed by ground optical and radio telescopes. One gamma ray photon from the event measured 94 billion electron volts — three times the previous record. The burst lasted four hours and was observable for most of a day — another record. Typical duration of a gamma ray burst is from 10 milliseconds to a few minutes. Astronomers will now train optical telescopes on the spot searching for the supernova expected to have caused it — typically one is observed some few days after the burst. They expect to find one by the middle of May. The event occurred about 3.6 billion lightyears distant which is fairly close as gamma ray bursts go. Click on the GIF to view the actual burst."
An anonymous reader writes "Frédéric Wang, an engineer at the MathJax project, reports that the latest nightly build of Firefox now passes the MathML Acid2 test. Screenshots in his post show a comparison with the latest nightly Chrome Canary, and it's not pretty. He writes 'Google developers forked Webkit and decided to remove from Blink all the code (including MathML) on which they don't plan to work in the short term.'"
alphatel writes "Citing a wide range of symptoms, a federal report (PDF) released yesterday has concluded that no single event, pesticide or virus can be held responsible for CCD in North American bee colonies. Meanwhile, Europe has moved towards banning neocotinids for two years. EPA's Jim Jones stated, 'There are non-trivial costs to society if we get this wrong. There are meaningful benefits from these pesticides to farmers and to consumers, as well as for affordable food.' May R. Berenbaum, head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a participant in the study, said, 'There is no quick fix. Patching one hole in a boat that leaks everywhere is not going to keep it from sinking.'"
sciencehabit writes "The Boston marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly purchased several pounds of black powder explosive before the bombing. Used in fireworks and bullets, the explosive substance is both deadly and widely available. It's also very hard to detect. Now, researchers have modified one bomb-sniffing device to accurately spot very small amounts of black powder, an advance that could make us safer from future attacks. What has prevented detection of black powder by IMS in the past, however, is that sulfur and oxygen -- which composes 20% of air—hit the detector at almost the same time. A strong oxygen signal can thus mask a small amount of sulfur, like what a bombmaker's dirty fingers might leave on a luggage strap. A group led by chemist Haiyang Li at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China modified an IMS to eliminate the oxygen signal. 'We have tested the sensitivity of TR-IMS, and its limit of detection of black powder can reach as low as 0.05 nanograms,' Li says."
sciencehabit writes "If you were a rat living in a completely virtual world like in the movie The Matrix, could you tell? Maybe not, but scientists studying your brain might be able to. Today, researchers report that certain cells in rat brains work differently when the animals are in virtual reality than when they are in the real world. In the experiment, rats anchored to the top of a ball ran in place as movie-like images around them changed, creating the impression that they were running along a track. Their sense of place relied on visual cues from the projections and their self-motion cues, but they had to do without proximal cues like sound and smell. The rodents used half as many neurons to navigate the virtual world as they did the real one."
astroengine writes "Pulling from 20 years of research since the first discoveries of planets beyond our solar system, scientists have concluded that Earth and its sibling worlds comprise what appears to be a relatively rare breed in a diverse cosmic zoo that includes a huge variety of planet sizes, orbits and parent stars. The most common systems contain one or more planets one to three times bigger than Earth, all orbiting much closer to their parent stars than Earth circles the sun, says astronomer Andrew Howard, with the University of Hawaii."
egjertse writes "A Louisiana law that opponents say leaves the backdoor open to teaching 'creationism' in public schools will stay on the books after a Senate committee Wednesday effectively killed a bill that would repeal the statute. After hours of testimony for and against House Bill 26, which repeals the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act, the senators narrowly deferred the legislation, effectively killing it in committee. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans."
mikejuk writes with news of an advancement for homomorphic encryption and open source: "To be fully homomorphic the code has to be such that a third party can add and multiply numbers that it contains without needing to decrypt it. In other words they can change the data by working with just the encrypted version. This may sound like magic but a fully homomorphic scheme was invented in 2009 by Craig Gentry. This was a step in the right direction but the problem was that it is very inefficient and computationally intensive. Since then there have been a number of improvements that make the scheme practical in the right situations Now Victor Shoup and Shai Halevi of the IBM T J Watson Research Center have released an open source (GPL) C++ library, HElib, as a Github project. The code is said to incorporate many optimizations to make the encryption run faster. Homomorphic encryption has the potential to revolutionize security by allowing operations on data without the need to decrypt it."
An anonymous reader writes "Turns out that condensation on your favorite chilled beverage is a bad thing for keeping it cold. Two researchers conducted an experiment in their bathroom proving that condensation can raise the temperature of your beer by nine degrees!"
First time accepted submitter ruhri writes "A 16 year-old girl in Florida not only has been expelled from her high school but also is being charged as an adult with a felony after replicating the classic toilet-bowl cleaner and aluminum foil experiment. This has quite a number of scientists and science educators up in arms. The fact that she's African American and that the same assistant state attorney has decided not to charge a white teenager who accidentally killed his brother with a BB gun has some thinking whether this is a case of doing science while black."
sciencehabit writes "An insect's compound eye is an engineering marvel: high resolution, wide field of view, and incredible sensitivity to motion, all in a compact package. Now, a new digital camera provides the best-ever imitation of a bug's vision, using new optical materials and techniques. This technology could someday give patrolling surveillance drones the same exquisite vision as a dragonfly on the hunt."
ckwu writes "Since the 1970s, physicists have used laser beams to trap and study small objects, from cells down to individual atoms. Now, electrical engineers at the University of Southern California have developed a simple optical system that assembles hundreds of nanoparticles into two-dimensional structures using a single laser beam and a silicon photonic crystal. This compact optical trap fits on a small chip and could eventually help researchers make materials for new types of sensors, optical devices, and chemical filters."
g01d4 writes "On March 29, 2012, NASA scientists learned that the space agency's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was headed for a potential conjunction (close approach) with Cosmos 1805, a defunct Russian satellite from the Cold War era. The team knew that the only way to move Fermi would be to fire thrusters designed to move the spacecraft out of orbit at the end of its operating life. On April 3rd, shortly after noon EDT, the space agency fired all thrusters for one second. When it was over, everyone involved 'just sighed with relief that it all went well.' By 1 p.m., the spacecraft had returned to its mission."
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC has posted a gallery of images showing storms on some of our solar system's other planets. The pictures are both intriguing and stunning."
ceview writes "This story at Wired seems to have lots of people a bit confused: 'In February 2012, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek decided to go public with a strange and, he worried, somewhat embarrassing idea. Impossible as it seemed, Wilczek had developed an apparent proof of "time crystals" — physical structures that move in a repeating pattern, like minute hands rounding clocks, without expending energy or ever winding down. ... [A] Berkeley-led team will attempt to build a time crystal by injecting 100 calcium ions into a small chamber surrounded by electrodes. The electric field generated by the electrodes will corral the ions in a "trap" 100 microns wide, or roughly the width of a human hair. The scientists must precisely calibrate the electrodes to smooth out the field. Because like charges repel, the ions will space themselves evenly around the outer edge of the trap, forming a crystalline ring.' The experimental set up is incredibly delicate (Bose Einstein Condensate), so it implies this perpetual motion effect can't really be used to extract energy. What is your take on it? It's unlike to upend anything, as the article suggests, because at a quantum level things behave weirdly at the best of times. The heavy details are available at the arXiv."
New submitter Doug Otto sends word that researchers working on the ALPHA experiment at CERN are trying to figure out whether antimatter interacts with gravity in the same way that normal matter does. The ALPHA experiment wasn't designed to test for this, but they realized part of it — an antihydrogen trap — is suitable to collect some data. Their preliminary results: uncertain, but they can't rule it out. From the article: "Antihydrogen provides a particularly useful means of testing gravitational effects on antimatter, as it's electrically neutral. Gravity is by far the weakest force in nature, so it's very easy for its effects to be swamped by other interactions. Even with neutral particles or atoms, the antimatter must be moving slowly enough to perform measurements. And slow rates of motion increase the likelihood of encountering matter particles, leading to mutual annihilation and an end to the experiment. However, it's a challenge to maintain any antihydrogen long enough to perform meaningful experiments on it, regardless of its speed. ... The authors of the current study realized that [antiatoms trapped in ALPHA] eventually escaped or were released from this magnetic trap. At that point, they were momentarily in free-fall, experiencing no force other than gravity. The detectors on the outside of ALPHA could then determine if the antihydrogen was rising or falling under gravity's influence, and whether the magnitude of the force was equivalent to the effect on matter."
New submitter cute_orc writes "The International Space Station has been hit by a small object. Chris Hadfield, an astronaut currently on the ISS, described it in his Twitter feed as 'a small stone from the universe.' He also said he was glad it didn't hit the hull. Jim Scotti, a planetary scientist from the University of Arizona, thinks the object may have had a different origin: 'It's unlikely this was caused by a meteor; more likely a piece of man-made space debris in low Earth orbit.'"
Velcroman1 writes "Following the historic first rocket-powered flight of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle, Virgin Galactic plans to build a fleet of spaceships and begin ferrying hundreds of tourists into space in 2014. And then? A whole new kind of spacecraft, Sir Richard Branson said. 'We'll be building orbital spaceships after that,' Branson told Fox News Tuesday, 'so that people who want to go for a week or two can.' Assuming the cost is on the same scale, would you pay a few hundred grand for a few weeks in orbit?"
AmiMoJo writes "The billion-euro Herschel observatory has run out of the liquid helium needed to keep its instruments and detectors at their ultra-low functioning temperature. This equipment has now warmed, meaning the telescope cannot see the sky. Its 3.5m mirror and three state-of-the-art instruments made it the most powerful observatory of its kind ever put in space, but astronomers always knew the helium store onboard would be a time-limiting factor." Reader etash points to a collection of some infrared imagery that Herschel collected.
sl4shd0rk writes "Remember SOPA? If not, perhaps the name Lamar Smith will ring a bell. The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology chose Smith to Chair as an overseer for the National Science Foundation's funding process. Smith is preparing a bill (PDF) which will require that every grant must benefit 'national defense,' be of 'utmost importance to society,' and not be 'duplicative of other research.' Duplicating research seems reasonable until you consider that this could also mean the NSF will not provide funding for research once someone has already provided results — manufactured or otherwise. A strange target since there is a process in place which makes an effort to limit duplicate funding already. The first and second requirements, even when read in context, still miss the point of basic research. If we were absolutely without-a-doubt-certain of the results, there would be little point in doing the research in the first place."
Zothecula writes "Since the early days of space travel, a consistent complaint has been lousy coffee. Now a group of freshman engineering students at Rice University have developed a simple approach to alleviating this problem. From the article: 'The challenge was to develop a method and equipment that allows astronauts to add liquid ingredients (cream, sweetener, and lemon juice) from a foil package to another that contains black coffee or tea. No spills in microgravity can be allowed, as these have a tendency to migrate into equipment and cause faults. The Rice freshmen designed their system around the existing black coffee pouches. NASA supplied them two-ply heat sealed pouches to hold the sugar syrup and cream. The beverage and condiment pouches all have a septum which allows access to their contents without allowing any of the liquid contents to escape.'"
ehartwell writes "It's official. This morning, after WhiteKnightTwo released SpaceShipTwo at an altitude of around 50,000 feet, pilots Mark Stucky and Mike Alsbury ignited the engine for a roughly 16-second blast. After the engine cutoff, the plane coasted back to its landing back at the Mojave airport. Virgin Galactic tweeted that the pilots confirmed 'SpaceShipTwo exceeded the speed of sound on today's flight!' Its predecessor, SpaceShipOne, first went supersonic December 17, 2003."
kkleiner writes "A team has launched a crowdsourcing campaign to develop sustainable natural lighting by using a genetically modified version of the flowering plant Arabidopsis. Using the luciferase gene, the enzyme responsible for making fireflies glow, the researchers will design, print, and transform the genes into the target plant. The project, which was recently launched on Kickstarter, has already raised over $100k with over a month left to go."
SchrodingerZ writes "The nearest planet outside our solar system has recently been named Albertus Alauda. Originally named Alpha Centauri Bb, the planet is the closest known planet not orbiting the Sun, being a mere 4.3 light years away. The name comes from Jay Lark, who won the naming contest held by Uwingu starting last month and ending on April 22. Lark remarks that the name comes from the Latin name of his late grandfather, stating, "My grandfather passed away after a lengthy and valiant battle with cancer; his name in Latin means noble or bright and to praise or extol." The competition for naming the planet came from Uwing, a company which used the buying of name proposals and votes to fund grants for future space exploration ventures. Albertus Alauda won the competition with 751 votes, followed by Rakhat with 684 votes, and Caleo, with 622 votes."
AchilleTalon writes "One of the only well preserved dinosaur skin samples ever found is being tested at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchrotron to determine skin color and to explain why the fossilized specimen remained intact after 70-million years. University of Regina physicist Mauricio Barbi said the hadrosaur, a duck-billed dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period (100-65 million years ago), was found close to a river bed near Grand Prairie, Alberta."
gmfeier writes "The EPA has significantly lowered its estimate of how much methane leaks during natural gas production. This has major implications for the fracking debate, but puts the EPA at odds with NOAA. From the article: 'The scope of the EPA's revision was vast. In a mid-April report on greenhouse emissions, the agency now says that tighter pollution controls instituted by the industry resulted in an average annual decrease of 41.6 million metric tons of methane emissions from 1990 through 2010, or more than 850 million metric tons overall. That's about a 20 percent reduction from previous estimates. The agency converts the methane emissions into their equivalent in carbon dioxide, following standard scientific practice.'"
New submitter hebbosome writes "Researchers at Georgia Tech have provided a glimpse of a future full of highly-sensitive robots. Their nanoelectronic pressure sensors, comparable in sensitivity to human skin, are made out of new type of vertical transistor (abstract). 'In Wang’s nanowire transistors, the gate traditionally used in electronics is eliminated. Instead, the current flowing through the nanowires is controlled by the electrical charge generated when strain or force applied is to the transistors.' 'The arrays include more than 8,000 functioning piezotronic transistors, each of which can independently produce an electronic controlling signal when placed under mechanical strain.' They could immediately be used in human-machine interfaces for capturing electronic signatures, and, down the road, in robots and prosthetics."
Following a conference on space debris, the European Space Agency has warned that the amount of space junk floating around in orbit is a problem that needs to be dealt with 'urgently.' They are calling for a number of test missions to examine different methods of controlling or removing the debris. "Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earth’s changing climate some 20 years ago," said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the agency's Space Debris office. A couple years ago we discussed an idea for de-orbiting space junk by hitting it with a laser to change its momentum. An Australian company has now received funding from NASA and the Australian government to try just that. "We've been developing tracking systems using lasers for some years, so we can actually track very small objects with a laser rangefinder to very high accuracy. ... If you allow that velocity to change over a period of perhaps 24 hours, then you can get actually a 100-meter shift in the location of an object to deflect it from colliding with another space debris object." Other plans are in development as well, and there currently exists an international guideline saying that new hardware must de-orbit and burn up in the atmosphere after 25 years of operation — but compliance is lagging. Meanwhile, collision events are becoming more common (PDF), and experts worry about the safety of the International Space Station and important satellites. "Their direct costs and the costs of losing them will by far exceed the cost of remedial activities."
sciencehabit writes "Researchers have found a genetic mutation that causes mammalian neural tissue to expand and fold. When they mutated this gene in mice, the rodents developed brains that look more like ours (abstract). The discovery may help explain why humans evolved more elaborate brains than mice, and it could suggest ways to treat disorders such as autism and epilepsy that arise from abnormal neural development. The findings go against a common conception that 'dumber species will have different genes' for brain development than more intelligent species, Borrell says. He adds that the mechanism could help explain how New World monkeys, with their small, smooth brains, could have evolved from an ancestor with a bigger and more folded brain."
Hatta writes "According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, belief in god is correlated with improved outcomes of treatment for depression. Quoting: 'In the study, published in the current issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers comment that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without. "Belief was associated with not only improved psychological well-being, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm," says David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.' This raises interesting questions. Does this support the concept of depressive realism? If the association is found to be causal, would it be ethical for a psychiatrist to prescribe religion?"
symbolset writes "Planetary Resources wants to mine asteroids for their sweet, sweet minerals and make a business of it. The sparky little company has been writ up here on Slashdot numerous times. With the backing of such billionaires as Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, James Cameron, and many others, and such luminaries as major NASA project managers, engineers and scientists, you have to think they might have a good shot at it. Recently they picked up a huge engineering, procurement and construction partner: Bechtel. Their operations are already cash-flow positive by selling tech invented to pursue their goals, so they're a legitimate business running lean and intending to make good. Yesterday they announced the plan to launch their first space missions — the Arkyd Series 100 LEO Space Telescopes — as soon as next year. Beginning in 2014 their satellites will be scanning the skies from Low Earth Orbit for lucrative rocks that happen to be heading our way, and incidentally doing for-pay work to keep the lights on. For a reasonable fee they'll sell you the right to retask one of these telescopes to take a picture of anything you want that it can see, for a fair price. The plan is to follow up with harvester craft to go get these asteroids, mulch them, and sell their bits for profit. Some talk has been made of selling what are uncommon terrestrial minerals like gold and platinum, refined on orbit and deorbited at great expense as a business plan, but frankly that's absurd. 'Extraterrestrial Asteroid Bits' ought to go for a higher price on the collector market than gold or platinum ever would, and the temporal preeminence should draw a premium price. 'This 69 mg specimen (769 of 10,000) was one of the first commercially harvested bits of asteroid returned to Earth. Lucite embedded for permanent display, with case. Certificate of authenticity included.'"