adeelarshad82 writes "Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory recently demonstrated electrical switching thousands of times faster than in transistors now in use thanks to a naturally magnetic mineral called magnetite (abstract). The experiment is considered a major step forward in understanding electrical structures at the atomic level and working with recently identified electrical 'building blocks' called trimerons. The breakthrough could lead to innovations in the tiny transistors that control the flow of electricity across silicon chips, enabling faster, more powerful computing devices."
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Lasrick writes "Scientific American has a really nice article explaining why insects should be considered a good food source, and how the encroachment of Western attitudes into societies that traditionally eat insects is affecting consumption of this important source of nutrients. Good stuff." Especially when they're so easy to grow.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating report at the Washington Post that Medicare annually pays $69.6 billion for physician services according to an arcane and little-known price list, known as the Relative Value Update over which doctors themselves exercise considerable and less-than-totally-transparent influence. A 31-member committee of the American Medical Association (AMA) recommends what Medicare should pay for some 10,000 procedures — with the fees based in part on how long it takes to complete each one. But this time-and-motion study often fails to take full account of changing technology and other factors affecting physician productivity, so anomalies result. For example, if the AMA time estimates are correct, then 41 percent of gastroenterologists were typically performing 12 hours or more of procedures in a day, which is longer than the typical outpatient surgery center is open and and one gastroenterologist in the Post story would have to work 26 hours, according to the committee time estimates, to accomplish what he gets done in a typical workday. Here's how it works: Medicare pays for a 15-minute colonoscopy as if it took 75 minutes resulting in a median salary for a gastroenterologist of $481,000. It is possible that in 1992, critics allow, when the price list was first developed, a colonoscopy actually took something close to 75 minute when doctors had to hunch over an eyepiece similar to that of a microscope for a look. But technology has advanced and now the images are processed and displayed on a large screen in high-definition video. Responding to criticism that the nation's method of valuing medical procedures misprices payments, a bipartisan group of legislators has drafted a bill that would reshape the way the nation pays doctors. The bill would require Medicare officials to collect data such as how much time doctors spend doing procedures and reducing the doctor payment for overvalued services. 'What started as an advisory group has taken on a life of its own,' says Tom Scully, who was Medicare chief during the George W. Bush Administration. 'The idea that $100 billion in federal spending is based on fixed prices that go through an industry trade association in a process that is not open to the public is pretty wild.'"
Zothecula writes "Synthetic crop fertilizers are a huge source of pollution. This is particularly true when they're washed from fields (or leach out of them) and enter our waterways. Unfortunately, most commercial crops need the fertilizer, because it provides the nitrogen that they require to survive. Now, however, a scientist at the University of Nottingham has developed what he claims is an environmentally-friendly process, that allows virtually any type of plant to obtain naturally-occurring nitrogen directly from the atmosphere." The process involves injecting a bacteria that colonizes the plant and fixes atmospheric nitrogen in exchange for a bit of sugar, similar to soybeans. Only this bacteria will readily colonize most any plant.
New submitter nusscom writes "On July 28th, as has been reported by BBC, a record number of EVE Online players participated in a record-breaking online battle between two alliances. This battle, which was essentially a turf-war was comprised of over 4,000 online players at one time. The load was so large that Crowd Control Productions (CCP) slowed down the game time to 10% of normal to accommodate the massive amount of activity." This is the largest battle to ever occur on EVE Online.
vinces99 writes with this excerpt from the UW news service: "It might be easier than previously thought for a planet to overheat into the scorchingly uninhabitable 'runaway greenhouse' stage, according to new research (abstract, article paywalled) by astronomers at the University of Washington and the University of Victoria. In the runaway greenhouse stage, a planet absorbs more solar energy than it can give off to retain equilibrium. As a result, the world overheats, boiling its oceans and filling its atmosphere with steam, which leaves the planet glowing-hot and forever uninhabitable, as Venus is now. One estimate of the inner edge of a star's 'habitable zone' is where the runaway greenhouse process begins. The habitable zone is that ring of space around a star that's just right for water to remain in liquid form on an orbiting rocky planet's surface, thus giving life a chance. Revisiting this classic planetary science scenario with new computer modeling, the astronomers found a lower thermal radiation threshold for the runaway greenhouse process, meaning that stage may be easier to initiate." If correct, the habitable zone shrinks a bit and a few exoplanets might lose their potentially habitable status. And the Earth will leave the habitable zone in a billion and a half or so years as the Sun gets brighter.
sciencehabit writes "Human males and females have a strong tendency to live together in monogamous pairs, albeit for highly varied periods of time and degrees of fidelity. Just how such behavior arose has been the topic of much debate among researchers. A new study comes to a startling conclusion: Among primates, including perhaps humans, monogamy evolved because it protected infants from being killed by rival males."
vinces99 writes "The chemical components crucial to the start of life on Earth may have primed and protected each other in never-before-realized ways, according to new research led by University of Washington scientists. That could mean a simpler scenario for how that first spark of life on the planet came about. Scientists have long thought that life started when the right combination of bases and sugars produced self-replicating ribonucleic acid, or RNA, inside a rudimentary 'cell' composed of fatty acids. Under the right conditions, fatty acids naturally form into bag-like structures similar to today's cell membranes. In testing one of the fatty acids representative of those found before life began – decanoic acid – the scientists discovered that the four bases in RNA bound more readily to the decanoic acid than did the other seven bases tested. By concentrating more of the bases and sugar that are the building blocks of RNA, the system would have been primed for the next steps, reactions that led to RNA inside a bag."
vinces99 writes "Researchers have developed a new method that can look at a specific segment of DNA and pinpoint a single mutation, which could help diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis. These small changes can be the root of a disease or the reason some infectious diseases resist certain antibiotics. The findings were published online July 28 in the journal Nature Chemistry. 'We've really improved on previous approaches because our solution doesn't require any complicated reactions or added enzymes, it just uses DNA,' said lead author Georg Seelig, a University of Washington assistant professor of electrical engineering and of computer science and engineering. 'This means that the method is robust to changes in temperature and other environmental variables, making it well-suited for diagnostic applications in low-resource settings.' The researchers designed probes that can pick out mutations in a single base pair in a target stretch of DNA. The probes allow researchers to look in much more detail for variations in long sequences up to 200 base pairs while current methods can detect mutations in stretches of up to only 20."
cylonlover writes "People have been shooting things into space since the 1940s, but in every case this has involved using rockets. This works, but it's incredibly expensive with the cheapest launch costs hovering around $2,000 per pound. This is in part because almost every bit of the rocket is either destroyed or rendered unusable once it has put the payload into orbit. Reusable launch vehicles like the SpaceX Grasshopper offer one way to bring costs down, but another approach is to dump the rockets altogether and hurl payloads into orbit. That's what HyperV Technologies Corp. of Chantilly, Virginia is hoping to achieve with a 'mechanical hypervelocity mass accelerator' called the slingatron."
According to a report at Ars Technica, a dentist named Stacy Makhnevich, who billed herself as "the Classical Singer Dentist of New York," threatened patients who wrote bad Yelp reviews with lawsuits, along the same lines as the online dental damage-control outlined in a different Ars story in 2011. This time, though, there's something even stranger than bargaining with patients to forgo criticism: when a patient defied that demand by describing his experience in negative terms on Yelp, Makhnevich followed up on the threat by seeking a takedown order based on copyright (putatively signed over to her for any criticism that patients might write, post-visit) — then disappeared entirely when lawyers for patient Robert Lee filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the validity of the agreement.
MarkWhittington writes "According to a July 26, 2013 story in Space News, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver mused about what appeared to be a change to the space agency's asteroid snatching mission at the NewSpace 2013 conference. Apparently the idea is to send a robot to a larger asteroid than originally planned, carve out a chunk of it, and then bring it to lunar orbit for an crew of astronauts to visit in an Orion space ship. Garver's proposed change would widen the number of target asteroids and would test technologies important for asteroid mining. But it would also increase the complexity and certainly the cost of the asteroid mission. There are a lot of unanswered questions, such as what kind of mechanism would be involved in taking a piece of an asteroid and moving it? At the same conference Garver had hinted at a willingness to consider mounting a program of "sustainable" lunar exploration, as some in Congress have demanded, concurrent with the asteroid mission."
theodp writes "As noted earlier, Microsoft is tackling the CS education crisis with a popularity contest that will award $100K in donations to five technology education nonprofits that help make kids technically literate. Hopefully, the nonprofits will teach kids that the contest's voting Leader Board is a particularly good example of what-not-to-do technically. In addition to cherry-picking the less-pathetic vote totals to make its Leader Board, Microsoft also uses some dubious rounding code that transforms the original voting data into misleading percentages. Indeed, developer tools reveal that the top five leaders in the Microsoft STEM education contest miraculously account for 130% of the vote. Let's hope the quality control is better for those Microsoft Surface voting machines!"
biobricks writes "A New York Times story says the Florida orange crop is threatened by an incurable disease and traces the efforts of one company to insert a spinach gene in orange trees to fend it off. Not clear if consumers will go for it though." The article focuses on oranges, but touches on the larger world of GMO crop creation as well.
knorthern knight writes "Most major weather services (US NWS, Britain's Met Office, etc) have their own supercomputers, and their own weather models. But there are some models which are used globally. A new paper has been published, comparing outputs from one such program on different machines around the world. Apparently, the same code, running on different machines, can produce different outputs due to accumulation of differing round-off errors. The handling of floating-point numbers in computing is a field in its own right. The paper apparently deals with 10-day weather forecasts. Weather forecasts are generally done in steps of 1 hour. I.e. the output from hour 1 is used as the starting condition for the hour 2 forecast. The output from hour 2 is used as the starting condition for hour 3, etc. The paper is paywalled, but the abstract says: 'The global model program (GMP) of the Global/Regional Integrated Model system (GRIMs) is tested on 10 different computer systems having different central processing unit (CPU) architectures or compilers. There exist differences in the results for different compilers, parallel libraries, and optimization levels, primarily due to the treatment of rounding errors by the different software systems. The system dependency, which is the standard deviation of the 500-hPa geopotential height averaged over the globe, increases with time. However, its fractional tendency, which is the change of the standard deviation relative to the value itself, remains nearly zero with time. In a seasonal prediction framework, the ensemble spread due to the differences in software system is comparable to the ensemble spread due to the differences in initial conditions that is used for the traditional ensemble forecasting.'"
A Russian spacecraft has successfully delivered new supplies to the ISS. Crucially, its payload is meant to prevent a repeat of the aborted spacewalk of earlier this month. Says the article:: "The cargo ship is loaded with nearly 3 tons (2.7 tonnes) of food, fuel, hardware and science experiment equipment for the six-person crew of the station's Expedition 36 mission. Among its cargo is a set of tools intended to help the astronauts investigate and patch up the spacesuit that malfunctioned during a July 16 spacewalk outside the orbiting laboratory."
An anonymous reader writes "The 233-year old American Academy of Arts and Sciences has announced that its longtime President and Chief Executive, Leslie Cohen Berlowitz, has agreed to resign effective at the end of this month following an investigation of charges of resume embellishment and other misconduct. Berlowitz falsely claimed to have received a doctorate from New York University, and has also been criticized for her behavior towards scholars and subordinates, and for her compensation package ($598,000 for 2012) relative to the size of the non-profit organization she led. The Academy, based in Cambridge MA, was founded during the American Revolutionary War and is one of the most prestigious honorary societies for the American intellectual elite, extending across math and science, arts and letters, business, law and public affairs. The active membership rolls contain people you've heard of; the incoming class list provides a more manageable glimpse of the society's breadth."
An anonymous reader writes with an optimistic, present-tense summary of a crowdfunding project to explore Earth's deep ocean: "The Ictineu 3 will be the 10th deepest diving submersible in the world when it is launched later this year. Compared to its deep diving peers, including Russia's Mirs, Japan's Shinkai 6500, the U.S.'s Alvin,and Cameron's Deep Sea Challenger submersibles, the Ictineu 3 was developed on a shoestring budget. The management partners are self-taught, without formal engineering education. Instead of massive government grants, the project has been funded by a trickle of small grants, sponsorships, and private donors. Along with Karl Stanley, the Ictineu team are heroes to the DIY submariners of the world."
An anonymous reader writes "IEEE Spectrum has a story about a robot that uses infra red and ultrasound to image veins, picks the one with best bloodflow, and then sticks a needle in. (video included). Veebot started as an undergrad project and the creators are aiming for better performance than a human phlebotimist before going for clinical trials. Robodracula anyone?"
sciencehabit writes "Scientists have spotted swirling patterns in the radiation lingering from the big bang, the so-called cosmic microwave background. The observation itself isn't Earth-shaking, as researchers know that these particular swirls or 'B-modes' originated in conventional astrophysics, but the result suggests that scientists are closing in on a much bigger prize: B-modes spawned by gravity waves that rippled through the infant universe. That observation would give them a direct peek into the cosmos' first fraction of a second and possibly shed light on how it all began."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Researchers at National Taiwan University have created a tooth-embedded sensor that will catch you in an unhealthy act, whatever it may be, and lets your doctor know so he can shame you during your next checkup. The sensor consists of a tiny circuit that fits inside a tooth cavity and can be rigged into dentures and dental braces. The circuit is able to recognize the jaw motions of drinking, chewing, coughing, speaking, and smoking, and the results get sent directly to your doctor's smartphone."
cylonlover writes "The Honourable Usain Bolt (Order of Jamaica; Commander of the Order of Distinction) is often held out as the world's fastest man. The reigning Olympic champion in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints as well as a member of the Olympic champion 4x100 meter relay team, Bolt is the first man to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting, and is a five-time world champion. Long and lanky at 6 ft 5 in (2 m) tall, he towers above the (mostly) much shorter sprinters. How has he managed to come out on top for the past five years? A team of physicists from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) has analyzed Bolt's past performances in the 100-meter sprint to understand what makes a record-breaker."
sciencehabit writes "For Ved Chirayath, a graduate student and amateur fashion photographer, a photo project that involved NASA researchers dressed as Vikings was just a creative way to promote space science. 'I started this project hoping maybe one day some kid will look at it and say, 'I want to work for NASA,' ' says Chirayath, a student at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who also works nearby at NASA's Ames Research Center. He never suspected that his fanciful image would put him in the crosshairs of a government waste investigation triggered by a senior U.S. senator." The project was funded by an outside art grant. The best part: the investigation into the non-existent waste probably cost more than the "waste" would have were it funded by NASA in the first place.
dcblogs writes "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Thursday switched on two new supercomputers that are expected to improve weather forecasting. The supercomputers are each 213 teraflops systems, running a Linux operating system on Intel processors. The U.S. is paying about $20 million a year to operate the leased systems. The NWS has a new hurricane model, Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF), which is 15% more accurate in day five of a forecast both for forecast track and intensity. That model is now operational and running on the new systems. In nine month, NWS expects to improve the resolution of the system from 27 kilometers to 13 kilometers. The European system, credited with doing a better job at predicting Sandy's path, is at 16 kilometers resolution. In June, the European forecasting agency said it had a deal to buy Cray systems capable of petascale performance."
sciencehabit writes "Call it 'Total Recall' for mice. A group of neuroscientists say that they've identified a potential mechanism of false memory creation and have planted such a memory in the brain of a mouse. With this knowledge, neuroscientists can start to figure out how many neurons it takes to give us the perception of what's around us and what goes on in our neural wiring when we remember—or misremember—the past."
Lasrick writes "Interesting opinion piece that explains successes and holes in the U.S. system of detecting and responding to pandemics: 'In April 2009, following an experimental protocol, staff members at a Navy lab in San Diego tested specimens from two patients using a new diagnostic device. Both tested positive for influenza, but, oddly, neither specimen matched the influenza A subtypes that are known to infect humans. This finding raised suspicions, and so the samples were sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Further tests would reveal that these two patients were the first reported cases of a novel H1N1 influenza virus that would cause a global pandemic in 2009. In many respects, the Navy lab's discovery of H1N1 is a success story for US efforts to boost its biosurveillance capabilities.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Regeneration is one of the most useful skills that an organism can possess. Lizards can regrow their tails and starfish can regrow and entire part of themselves if they're cut to pieces. Yet scientists have long wondered why some creatures possess this ability while others don't. That's why they decided to examine the process of regeneration, looking at the masters of this particular adaptation: flatworms."
dryriver writes "Psychopaths do not lack empathy, rather they can switch it on at will, according to new research. Placed in a brain scanner, psychopathic criminals watched videos of one person hurting another and were asked to empathise with the individual in pain. Only when asked to imagine how the pain receiver felt did the area of the brain related to pain light up. Scientists, reporting in Brain, say their research explains how psychopaths can be both callous and charming. The team proposes that with the right training, it could be possible to help psychopaths activate their 'empathy switch', which could bring them a step closer to rehabilitation. Criminals with psychopathy characteristically show a reduced ability to empathise with others, including their victims. Evidence suggests they are also more likely to reoffend upon release than criminals without the psychiatric condition."
oritonic1 writes "During their long, cold winters, the Norwegian town of Rjukan doesn't enjoy much by way of daylight—so the town (population 3,386), installed three giant sun-tracking mirrors to shine a steady light over a 2000 square foot circle of the town square. From Popular Mechanics: 'Call it a mood enhancer. Or a tourist attraction. But the mirrors, which will be carried in via helicopter, will provide an oasis of light in an otherwise bleak location at the center of the 3500-population town. Three mirrors with a total surface area of about 538 square feet will sit at an angle to redirect winter sun down into the town, lighting up over 2150 square feet of concentrated space in the town square. A similar idea exists in the Italian village of Viganella, which has used brushed steel to reflect light since 2006.'"
notscientific writes "Each wolf has a unique howl, which scientists can now decipher through voice recognition (audio), allowing them to identify wolves individually. The scientists developed sound analysis code that can tell which wolf is howling with 100% accuracy. Previously, pitch was used to tell wolves apart, but these only achieved a relatively low accuracy rate. This sound analysis is important because it could well give researchers the first proper way to effectively monitor wolves in the wild. Interestingly, this research comes after the recent finding that dolphins have names for one another. In the case of wolves, their howls are essentially their names."
cylonlover writes "Reports that the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) had been shut down permanently were apparently a bit premature. According to HAARP program manager James Keeney, the facility is only temporarily off the air while operating contractors are changed. So why does anyone care? Despite being associated with various natural disasters over the past two decades by the conspiracy fringe, HAARP is in reality a facility for studying the ionosphere. Gizmag takes a look at the goings on at HAARP – past, present, and future."
sciencehabit writes "It's the size of large rat, but it can reportedly withstand the weight of an adult man standing on its back. Meet the hero shrew, a molelike creature that owes its near-mythological status to a remarkable spine, thickened by extensions of bone that interlock like fingers. The structure was thought to be unique among mammals — until now. An international team of researchers in the village of Baleko, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, made a surprising find: a slightly different shrew with a similarly 'heroic' backbone. Today in Biology Letters, they introduce Thor's hero shrew (S. thori), named for mammalogist Thorvald Holmes, but invoking the Norse god of strength. The researchers don't yet know how its strength compares to that of S. somereni. After exploring the shrews' swampy palm forests habitat, the researchers also have a new guess about why the spine evolved: They suggest that the creatures might wedge themselves between the trunk of a palm tree and the base of its leaves, then use the strength and flexion of their muscular spine to force open this crevice, revealing insect larvae—a food source that other animals can't access."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Astrophysicists at MIT and the Pawsey supercomputing center in Western Australia have discovered a whole new role for supercomputers working on big-data science projects: They've figured out how to turn a supercomputer into a router. (Make that a really, really big router.) The supercomputer in this case is a Cray Cascade system with a top performance of 0.3 petaflops — to be expanded to 1.2 petaflops in 2014 — running on a combination of Intel Ivy Bridge, Haswell and MIC processors. The machine, which is still being installed at the Pawsey Centre in Kensington, Western Australia and isn't scheduled to become operational until later this summer, had to go to work early after researchers switched on the world's most sensitive radio telescope June 9. The Murchison Widefield Array is a 2,000-antenna radio telescope located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia, built with the backing of universities in the U.S., Australia, India and New Zealand. Though it is the most powerful radio telescope in the world right now, it is only one-third of the Square Kilometer Array — a spread of low-frequency antennas that will be spread across a kilometer of territory in Australia and Southern Africa. It will be 50 times as sensitive as any other radio telescope and 10,000 times as quick to survey a patch of sky. By comparison, the Murchison Widefield Array is a tiny little thing stuck out as far in the middle of nowhere as Australian authorities could find to keep it as far away from terrestrial interference as possible. Tiny or not, the MWA can look farther into the past of the universe than any other human instrument to date. What it has found so far is data — lots and lots of data. More than 400 megabytes of data per second come from the array to the Murchison observatory, before being streamed across 500 miles of Australia's National Broadband Network to the Pawsey Centre, which gets rid of most of it as quickly as possible."
Travis Goodspeed has authored a blog post detailing his method of tracking low-earth-orbit satellites. Starting with an old Felcom 82B dish made for use on maritime vessels, he added motors to move it around and a webcam-based homemade calibration system. "For handling the radio input and controlling the motors, I have a BeagleBone wired into a USB hub. These are all mounted on the trunk of the assembly inside of the radome, sending data back to a server indoors. ... In order to operate the dish, I wanted both a flashy GUI and concise scripting, but scripting was the higher priority. Toward that end, I constructed the software as a series of daemons that communicate through a PostgreSQL database on a server inside the house. For example, I can run SELECT * FROM sats WHERE el>0 to select the names and positions of all currently tracked satellites that are above the horizon. To begin tracking the International Space Station if it is in view, I run UPDATE target SET name='ISS';. For predicting satellite locations, I wrote a quick daemon using PyEphem that fetches satellite catalog data from CelesTrak. These positions are held in a database, with duplicates filtered out and positions constantly updated. PyEphem is sophisticated enough to predict in any number of formats, so it's easy to track many of the brighter stars as well as planets and deep-space probes, such as Voyagers 1 and 2."
coolnumbr12 writes "A 2009 study (PDF) by the McAfee estimated that hacking costs the global economy $1 trillion. It turns out that number was a massive exaggeration by McAfee, a software security branch of Intel that works closely with the U.S. government at the local, state and federal level. A new estimate by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (and underwritten by McAfee) suggests the number is closer to closer to $300 billion (PDF), but even that much is uncertain. One of McAfee's clients, the Department of Defense, has used the $1 trillion estimate to argue for an expansion of cybersecurity, including 13 new teams dedicated to cyberwarfare. Despite the new data, Reuters said McAfee is still trying to exaggerate the numbers." The $1 trillion study has seen other criticism as well, so the new data is a step in the right direction.
cold fjord writes "I wish it was always this easy. Business Insider reports, 'Iodized salt is so ubiquitous that we barely notice it. Few people know why it even exists. Iodine deficiency remains the world's leading cause of preventable mental retardation. According to a new study (abstract), its introduction in America in 1924 had an effect so profound that it raised the country's IQ. A new NBER working paper from James Feyrer, Dimitra Politi, and David N. Weil finds that the population in iodine-deficient areas saw IQs rise by a full standard deviation, which is 15 points, after iodized salt was introduced.... The mental impacts were unknown, the program was started to fight goiter, so these effects were an extremely fortunate, unintended side effect.'"
davide-nature writes "The freakish event has been blamed on a company that was drilling for natural gas nearby. But scientists have found a rock formation deep below the surface and shaped like a parabolic antenna. It could have focused seismic waves from an earthquake that occurred shortly before the eruption, and onto a clay layer. The clay then liquefied and somehow found its way to the surface."
sciencehabit writes "The next time your dog digs a hole in the backyard after watching you garden, don't punish him. He's just imitating you. A new study reveals that our canine pals are capable of copying our behavior as long as 10 minutes after it's happened. The ability is considered mentally demanding and, until this discovery, something that only humans and apes were known to do."
Nerval's Lobster writes "In June, Steven Spielberg predicted that Hollywood was on the verge of an 'implosion' in which 'three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing to the ground.' The resulting destruction, he added, could change the film industry in radical and possibly unwelcome ways. And sooner than he may have thought, the implosion has arrived: in the past couple weeks, six wannabe blockbusters have cratered at the North American box office: 'R.I.P.D.,' 'After Earth,' 'White House Down,' 'Pacific Rim,' and 'The Lone Ranger.' These films featured big stars, bigger explosions, and top-notch special effects—exactly the sort of summer spectacle that ordinarily assures a solid run at the box office. Yet all of them failed to draw in the massive audiences needed to earn back their gargantuan budgets. Hollywood's more reliant than ever on analytics to predict how movies will do, and even Google has taken some baby-steps into that arena with a white paper describing how search-query patterns and paid clicks can estimate how well a movie will do on its opening weekend, but none of that data seems to be helping Hollywood avoid shooting itself in the foot with a 'Pacific Rim'-sized plasma cannon. In other words, analytics can help studios refine their rollout strategy for new films—but the bulk of box-office success ultimately comes down to the most elusive and unquantifiable of things: knowing what the audience wants before it does, and a whole lot of luck."
sciencehabit writes "Behind every great man, the saying goes, there's a great woman. And behind every sperm, there may be an X chromosome gene. In humans, the Y chromosome makes men, men, or so researchers have thought: It contains genes that are responsible for sex determination, male development, and male fertility. But now a team has discovered that X—'the female chromosome'—could also play a significant role in maleness. It contains scores of genes that are active only in tissue destined to become sperm. The finding shakes up our ideas about how sex chromosomes influence gender and also suggests that at least some parts of the X chromosome are playing an unexpectedly dynamic role in evolution."
An anonymous reader writes "As temperatures rise, scientists continue to worry about the effects of melting Antarctic ice, which threatens to raise sea levels and swamp coastal communities. This event, though, isn't unprecedented. Researchers have uncovered evidence that reveals global warming five million years ago may have caused parts of Antarctica's ice sheets to melt, causing sea levels to rise by about 20 meters."
DavidHumus writes "Some of the longer-term effects of the anti-vaccination movement of past decades are now evident in a dramatic increase in measles. From the article: 'A measles outbreak infected 1,219 people in southwest Wales between November 2012 and early July, compared with 105 cases in all of Wales in 2011. One of the infected was Ms. Jenkins, whose grandmother, her guardian, hadn't vaccinated her as a young child. "I was afraid of the autism," says the grandmother, Margaret Mugford, 63 years old. "It was in all the papers and on TV."'"
An anonymous reader writes "Unfortunately for the Sumatran rhino the fate of the species may boil down to a plan by the Cincinnati Zoo to breed their lone female with her little brother. 'We absolutely need more calves for the population as a whole; we have to produce as many as we can as quickly as we can,' said Terri Roth, who heads the zoo's Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife. 'The population is in sharp decline and there's a lot of urgency around getting her pregnant.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The Atlantic has an interesting piece on the life and work of the scientist most responsible for moms around the world giving their kids Vitamin C tablets to fight off colds, Linus Pauling. From the article: 'On October 10, 2011, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that women who took supplemental multivitamins died at rates higher than those who didn't. Two days later, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic found that men who took vitamin E had an increased risk of prostate cancer. "It's been a tough week for vitamins," said Carrie Gann of ABC News. These findings weren't new. Seven previous studies had already shown that vitamins increased the risk of cancer and heart disease and shortened lives. Still, in 2012, more than half of all Americans took some form of vitamin supplements. What few people realize, however, is that their fascination with vitamins can be traced back to one man. A man who was so spectacularly right that he won two Nobel Prizes and so spectacularly wrong that he was arguably the world's greatest quack.'"
HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "The gift for spatial reasoning — the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator — is sometimes referred to as the 'orphan ability' for its tendency to go undetected. Now Douglas Quenqua reports that according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, spatial ability may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields. 'Evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don't capture with traditional measures (PDF) used in educational selection,' says David Lubinski, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at Vanderbilt. 'We could be losing some modern-day Edisons and Fords.' Spatial ability can be best defined as the ability to 'generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images.' Some examples of great inventors who have used their high levels of spatial ability to innovate include James Watt, who is known for improving the steam engine, and James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. Nikola Tesla, who provided the basis for alternating current (AC) power systems, is said (or fabled) to have been able to visualize an entire working engine in his mind and be able to test each part over time to see what would break first. Testing spatial aptitude is not particularly difficult but is simply not part of standardized testing because it is considered a cognitive function — the realm of I.Q. and intelligence tests — and is not typically a skill taught in school. 'It's not like math or English, it's not part of an academic curriculum,' says Dr. David Geary. 'It's more of a basic competence. For that reason it just wasn't on people's minds when developing these tests.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A new study by researchers in the Built Environment Research Group at the Illinois Institute of Technology shows that commercially available desktop 3D printers can have substantial emissions of potentially harmful nanosized particles in indoor air. Many desktop 3D printers rely on a process where a thermoplastic feedstock is heated, extruded through a small nozzle, and deposited onto a surface to build 3D objects. Similar processes have been shown to have significant aerosol emissions in other studies using a range of plastic feedstocks, but mostly in industrial environments. In this study, researchers measured ultrafine particle concentrations resulting from a popular commercially available desktop 3D printer using two different plastic feedstocks inside an office. Ultrafine particles (or UFPs) are small, nanosized particles less than 100 nanometers in diameter. Inhalation of UFPs may be important from a health perspective because they deposit efficiently in the lung and can even translocate to the brain. Estimates of emission rates of total UFPs in this study were high, ranging from about 20 billion particles per minute for a 3D printer utilizing a lower temperature polylactic acid (PLA) feedstock to about 200 billion particles per minute for the same type of 3D printer utilizing a higher temperature acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) feedstock. The emission rates were similar to those measured in previous studies of several other devices and indoor activities, including cooking on a gas or electric stove, burning scented candles, operating laser printers, or even burning a cigarette."
Lasrick writes "Kennette Benedict writes in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about the existential threat of climate change, and how the scientists who study and write about it are similar to the early atomic scientists who created, and then worried about, the threat that nuclear weapons posed to humanity: 'Just as the Manhattan Project participants could foresee the coming arms race, climate scientists today understand the consequences of deploying the technologies that defined the industrial age. They also know that action now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will mitigate the worst consequences of climate change, just as the Manhattan Project scientists knew that early action to forestall a deadly arms race could prevent nuclear catastrophe.'"
symbolset writes "Apparently Australians have come up with the brilliant idea: if you don't want to be eaten by a shark, it's best to not go swimming in shark-infested waters in a seal costume. 'Scientists from the University of Western Australia, with designers Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS), have unveiled two new wetsuits that they say could save lives in the water. Based on a breakthrough discovery that sharks are colour-blind, one wetsuit, labelled the "Elude," is designed to camouflage a swimmer or diver in the sea. At the other extreme, the "Diverter" sports bold white and dark-blue stripes, and is intended to mirror nature's warning signs to ward off any potential shark attack.'"
mdsolar writes "Around 2,000 people who have worked at Japan's wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant face a heightened risk of thyroid cancer, its operator said Friday. Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said 1,973 people — around 10 percent of those employed in emergency crews involved in the clean-up since the meltdowns — were believed to have been exposed to enough radiation to cause potential problems. The figure is a 10-fold increase on TEPCO's previous estimate of the number of possible thyroid cancer victims and comes after the utility was told its figures were too conservative. Each worker in this group was exposed to at least 100 millisieverts of radiation, projections show."
New submitter Chris Greenley writes "The T2K long baseline neutrino experiment in Japan has just announced conclusive evidence for electron to muon neutrino oscillation at the 7.5 sigma level. (The level needed for discovery is 5 sigma.) This experiment generates a focused beam of electron neutrinos using an accelerator in the J-PARC facility north of Tokyo which is aimed at the massive Super-Kamiokande detector 295 km (185 miles) away, near the west coast of Japan. 'This T2K observation is the first of its kind in that an explicit appearance of a unique flavor of neutrino at a detection point is unequivocally observed from a different flavor of neutrino at its production point.' This result clears the way for CP-violation neutrino studies which could show that 'regular' neutrinos act differently than their antimatter counterparts, a phenomenon that so far has only been observed in quarks. If neutrino CP-violation is found, it could explain why there is such a large predominance of matter over antimatter in the universe."