Dinosaurs May Have Been Neither Warm-blooded Nor Cold-Blooded 54

An anonymous reader writes An article published in Science (abstract) points to the possibility that dinosaurs were mesotherms more akin to modern Tuna. Their internal temperature would have been warmer than their surrounding environment, conferring on them the ability to move more quickly than any ectotherm ("cold blooded" animal), but wouldn't have been constant or as warm as any endoderm ("warm blooded" animal). Their energy use and thus their necessary food intake would have been greater than an ectotherm, but much less than an endotherm. In order to arrive at this possibility, bone growth rings in fossilized bone were used to establish growth rates and then compared to modern ectotherms and endotherms.

Open-Source Hardware For Neuroscience 41

the_newsbeagle (2532562) writes "The equipment that neuroscientists use to record brain signals is plenty expensive, with a single system costing upward of $60,000. But it turns out that it's not too complicated to build your own, for the cost of about $3000. Two MIT grad students figured out how to do just that, and are distributing both manufactured systems and their designs through their website, Open Ephys. Their goal is to launch an open-source hardware movement in neuroscience, so researchers can spend less time worrying about the gear they need and more time doing experiments."

EU's Top Court May Define Obesity As a Disability 625

mrspoonsi (2955715) writes The EU's top court is considering a test case which could oblige employers to treat obesity as a disability. Denmark has asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the case of a male childminder who says he was sacked for being too fat. The court's final ruling will be binding across the EU. It is seen as especially significant because of rising obesity levels in Europe and elsewhere, including the US. If the judges decide it is a disability then employers could face new obligations. Employers might in future have a duty to create reserved car parking spaces for obese staff, or adjust the office furniture for them, she said.

New Evidence For Oceans of Water Deep In the Earth 190

techtech (2016646) writes Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of New Mexico report evidence for potentially oceans worth of water deep beneath the United States. Though not in the familiar liquid form—the ingredients for water are bound up in rock deep in the Earth's mantle—the discovery may represent the planet's largest water reservoir. This research was published in Science.

NASA Forming $3M Satellite Communication, Propulsion Competition 9

coondoggie (973519) writes NASA took the next step in forming a large-scale, $3 million competition to build advanced propulsion and communications technologies for small, inexpensive satellite systems known as cubesats. The Cubesat Lunar Challenge will be broken up into two areas: propulsion and communication while in orbit around the moon. In Request For Information published this week, NASA said the two challenges would provide competitive opportunities for a variety of competition teams to deploy cubesats on a NASA or third-party provided launch.

Japanese Stem Cell Debacle Could Bring Down Entire Center 52

sciencehabit (1205606) writes Shutting down the research center at the heart of an unfolding scientific scandal may be necessary to prevent a recurrence of research misconduct, according to a report released at a press conference in Tokyo today. A committee reviewing conduct at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, Japan, found lax oversight and a failure on the part of senior authors of two papers in Nature outlining a surprisingly simple way of reprogramming mature cells into stem cells. The committee surmised that a drive to produce groundbreaking results led to publishing results prematurely. "It seems that RIKEN CDB had a strong desire to produce major breakthrough results that would surpass iPS cell research," the report concludes, referring to another type of pluripotent stem cell. "One of our conclusions is that the CDB organization is part of the problem," said committee chair Teruo Kishi Kishi. He recommends a complete overhaul of CDB, including perhaps restructuring it into a new institute. "This has to be more than just changing the nameplate."

Human Blood Substitute Could Help Meet Donor Blood Shortfall 172

Zothecula (1870348) writes According to the World Health Organization, over 107 million blood donations are collected around the globe every year, most of which goes on to help save lives. However, while the need for blood is global, much of that which is donated is not accessible to many who need it, such as those in developing countries. And of the blood donated in industrialized countries, the amount often falls short of requirements. To help address this imbalance, scientists at the University of Essex are developing an artificial blood substitute. It would be able to be stored at room temperatures for up to two years, which would allow it to be distributed worldwide without the need for refrigeration and make it immediately accessible at the site of natural disasters.

Aliens and the Fermi Paradox 686

First time accepted submitter sayhem (1842674) writes Various explanations for why we don't see aliens have been proposed—perhaps interstellar travel is impossible or maybe civilizations are always self-destructive. But with every new discovery of a potentially habitable planet, the Fermi Paradox becomes increasingly mysterious. There could be hundreds of millions of potentially habitable worlds in the Milky Way alone. This impression is only reinforced by the recent discovery of a "Mega-Earth," a rocky planet 17 times more massive than the Earth but with only a thin atmosphere. Previously, it was thought that worlds this large would hold onto an atmosphere so thick that their surfaces would experience uninhabitable temperatures and pressures. But if this isn't true, there is a whole new category of potentially habitable real estate in the cosmos.

A Scientist Is Growing Asparagus In Meteorites To Prepare Us For Space Farming 59

Jason Koebler writes: For those of us without a green thumb, growing even the most hardy plants in perfect conditions can seem impossible. How about trying to grow plants on a meteorite? Well, at least one scientist is doing it, with moderate levels of success. "People have been talking about terraforming, but what I'm trying to do is give some concrete evidence that it's possible to do this, that it's possible to grow in extraterrestrial materials," Michael Mautner, one of the world's only "astroecologists" said. "What I've found is that a range of microorganisms—bacteria, fungi, and even asparagus and potato plants—can survive with the nutrients that are in extraterrestrial materials."

There's No Wind Chill On Mars 110

sciencehabit writes: Even though daytime temperatures in the tropics of Mars can be about –20C, a summer afternoon there might feel about the same as an average winter day in southern England or Minneapolis. That's because there's virtually no wind chill on the Red Planet, according to a new study — the first to give an accurate sense of what it might feel like to spend a day walking about on our celestial neighbor. "I hadn't really thought about this before, but I'm not surprised," says Maurice Bluestein, a biomedical engineer and wind chill expert recently retired from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. The new findings, he says, "will be useful, as people planning to colonize Mars need to know what they're getting themselves into."

Geothermal Heat Contributing To West Antarctic Ice Sheet Melting 387

bricko sends this news from The University of Texas at Austin: Thwaites Glacier, the large, rapidly changing outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is not only being eroded by the ocean, it's being melted from below by geothermal heat, researchers at the Institute for Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin (UTIG) report in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings significantly change the understanding of conditions beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where accurate information has previously been unobtainable. The Thwaites Glacier has been the focus of considerable attention in recent weeks as other groups of researchers found the glacier is on the way to collapse, but more data and computer modeling are needed to determine when the collapse will begin in earnest and at what rate the sea level will increase as it proceeds. The new observations by UTIG will greatly inform these ice sheet modeling efforts.

Biodegradable Fibers As Strong As Steel Made From Wood Cellulose 82

Zothecula writes "A team of researchers working at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology claim to have developed a way to make cellulose fibers stronger than steel on a strength-to-weight basis. In what is touted as a world first, the team from the institute's Wallenberg Wood Science Center claim that the new fiber could be used as a biodegradable replacement for many filament materials made today from imperishable substances such as fiberglass, plastic, and metal. And all this from a substance that requires only water, wood cellulose, and common table salt to create it. The full academic paper is available from Nature Communications."

Getting the Most Out of the Space Station (Before It's Too Late) 155

bmahersciwriter writes: NASA administrators are strategizing a push to do more science on the International Space Station in the coming years. The pressure is on, given the rapidly cooling relations between the U.S. and Russia, whose deputy prime minister recently suggested that U.S. astronauts use a trampoline if they want to get into orbit. Aiding in the push for more research is the development of two-way cargo ships by SpaceX, which should allow for return of research materials (formerly a hurdle to doing useful experiments). NASA soon aims to send new earth-monitoring equipment to the station and expanded rodent facilities. And geneLAB will send a range of model organisms like fruit flies and nematodes into space for months at a time.

Moon Swirls May Inspire Revolution In the Science of Deflector Shields 76

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes 'One curious feature on the Moon's surface are "lunar swirls", wisp-like regions that are whiter than surrounding areas and that, until recently, astronomers could not explain. But one team of physicists recently showed that these areas are protected by weak magnetic fields that deflect high energy particles from the Sun and so prevent the darkening effect this radiation has. The problem they had to solve was how a weak field could offer so much protection, when numerous studies of long duration spaceflight have shown that only very powerful fields can act like radiation shields. The team now says that these previous studies have failed to take into account an important factor: the low density plasma that exists in space. It turns out that this plasma is swept up by a weak magnetic field moving through space, creating a layer of higher density plasma. That's important because the separation of charge within this layer creates an electric field. And it is this field that deflects the high energy particles from the Sun. That explains the lunar swirls but it also suggests that the same effect could be exploited to protect astronauts on long duration missions to the moon, to nearby asteroids and beyond. This team has now produced the first study of such a shield and how it might work. Their shield would use superconducting coils to create a relatively weak field only when it is needed, during solar storms, for example. And it would create a plasma by pumping xenon into the vacuum around the vehicle, where it would be ionised by UV light. The entire device would weigh around 1.5 tonnes and use about 20 KW of power. That's probably more than mission planners could currently accommodate but it is significantly less than the science fiction-type power requirements of previous designs. And who knows what other tricks of plasma physics engineers might be able to exploit to refine this design. All of a sudden, long duration space flight looks a little more feasible.'

Fuel Cells From Nanomaterials Made From Human Urine 83

New submitter turning in circles (2882659) writes 'Carbon based fuel cells require carbon doped with other elements, normally platinum, for oxygen reduction reactions. Urine contains carbon with an exciting splash of nitrogen, sulfur, potassium, silicon, and so on, and you don't have to manufacture it: the stuff just comes out by itself. In an article published this week in an open journal, researchers from Korea reported a new nanomaterial for fuel cells, which they dub "Urine Carbon." Upon drying, and then heating at 1000C, and rinsing of salts, the resulting Urine Carbon porous nanostructures outperformed Carbon/platinum in electrodes.'

General Anesthesia Exposure In Infancy Causes Long-Term Memory Deficits 90

First time accepted submitter LordFlower (606949) writes "In a study, published today in Neuropsycopharmacology, exposure to general anesthesia in both human and rat infants was associated with long-term episodic memory deficits. Children aged 6 to 11 years exposed to general anesthesia during infancy had poorer episodic memory than age/gender matched controls. This deficit was replicated in rats using an analogous paradigm with full experimental control of pre-existing conditions could be exercised, suggesting a causal relation rather than correlational one. Prior research in rats suggests a mechanism of disrupted developmental synaptogenesis and apoptosis.

While a growing literature has demonstrated the presence of memory deficits and neurodegeneration in rats after general anesthesia exposure in infancy, this is the first to demonstrate a long-term deficit after exposure during human infancy. Given that each year 1.5 million infants undergo a surgery requiring general anesthesia, these findings are particularly alarming."

DNA Study: First Farmers Were Also Sailors 40

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "When hunter-gatherers in the Middle East began to settle down and cultivate crops about 10,500 years ago, they became the world's first farmers. But two new papers suggest that they were at home on both the land and the sea: Studies of ancient and modern human DNA, including the first reported ancient DNA from early Middle Eastern farmers, indicate that agriculture spread to Europe via a coastal route, probably by farmers using boats to island hop across the Aegean and Mediterranean seas."

Video Hack A Day Prize is a Trip To Space (Video) 34

Last month, at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014, Timothy Lord spotted a guy wearing a very large piece of headgear that included two crossed wrenches. The guy turned out to be Mike Szczys, Managing Editor of, which says, "The Hackaday Prize will send one person into space for building the next evolution of hardware." That's certainly of interest to the hardware hacker/maker crowd. How they're going to arrange the space flight (probably one of those "just above the atmosphere" hops) isn't specified, but even so the contest is an interesting idea, and the Hack A Day site seems to have some interest hacks and tutorials on it. So go ahead and enter the contest -- and don't forget to take your camera with you on your flight into space, because we'll want to see pictures! (Alternate Video Link)

NASA Names Gavin Schmidt Director of the Goddard Institute For Space Studies 41

First time accepted submitter Graculus (3653645) writes "NASA has named Gavin A. Schmidt to head the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, a leading Earth climate research laboratory. Currently deputy director of the institute, Schmidt steps into the position left vacant after the retirement of long-time director James E. Hansen and becomes only the third person to hold the post."

Study: Male Facial Development Evolved To Take Punches 190

First time accepted submitter Joe_NoOne (48818) writes "A new theory suggests that our male ancestors evolved beefy facial features as a defense against fist fights. The bones most commonly broken in human punch-ups also gained the most strength in early hominin evolution. They are also the bones that show most divergence between males and females. From the article: 'Fossil records show that the australopiths, immediate predecessors of the human genus Homo, had strikingly robust facial structures. For many years, this extra strength was seen as an adaptation to a tough diet including nuts, seeds and grasses. But more recent findings, examining the wear pattern and carbon isotopes in australopith teeth, have cast some doubt on this "feeding hypothesis". "In fact, [the australopith] boisei, the 'nutcracker man', was probably eating fruit," said Prof David Carrier, the new theory's lead author and an evolutionary biologist at the University of Utah. Instead of diet, Prof Carrier and his co-author, physician Dr Michael Morgan, propose that violent competition demanded the development of these facial fortifications: what they call the "protective buttressing hypothesis".'"

Greenland Is Getting Darker 174

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Greenland's white snow is getting darker. Scientists have generally attributed that darkening to larger, slightly less white snow grains caused by warmer temperatures. But researchers have found a new source of darkening taking hold: impurities in the snow. The new darkening effect could easily add 2 centimeters to the projections of 20 cm sea level rise by 2100—and perhaps more if impurity levels grow with time."

Study: Rats Regret Making the Wrong Decision 94

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered that rats in a decision making experiment showed three behaviors consistent with regret. David Redish and his graduate student Adam Steiner '...trained rats to do a task they call "restaurant row." The rat ran around a circle past a series of four spokes, each leading to a different flavor of food. As the rat came to the entrance of each spoke, a tone sounded that indicated how long it would have to wait to receive that specific flavor of food. The rat could choose whether to stay or go, depending on how much it liked that food and how long it would have to wait...The rats showed three behaviors consistent with regret. First, the rats only looked backwards in the regret conditions, and not in the disappointment conditions. Second, they were more likely to take a bad deal if they had just passed up a good deal. And third, instead of taking their time eating and then grooming themselves afterwards, the rats in the regret conditions wolfed down the food and immediately took off to the next restaurant.'"

Lyme Bacterium's Possible Ancestor Found In Ancient Tick 30

Taco Cowboy (5327) writes "A few ancient ticks, some 15-million to 20-million years old, trapped inside a piece of amber were bought by a researcher some 25 years ago, in the Dominican Republic. Upon examination, he found ancient spirochetes bacterium, a group of rotini-shaped bacteria responsible for many human diseases, in one of the ticks. Although Lyme disease did not exist back then, the spirochetes in the fossil tick probably contributed to the genetic diversity of the 12 or more species of Borrelia that cause Lyme and similar diseases today, says George Poinar. 'Parasites represent at least half of all modern animal species, and that distribution probably held true millions of years ago, too. “In a sense, this [finding] is not surprising since virtually every species on the planet is parasitized,” says Armand Kuris, a parasitologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the study. Evidence of those ancient parasite–host associations is difficult to come by, however. “In terms of finding any kind of physical documentation in the fossil record, that’s really rare — especially for a microbial pathogen,” Kuris says. “That’s what makes this paper just plain interesting.”'"

Brownsville SpaceX Space Port Faces More Regulatory Hurdles 78

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "It turns out that the recent FAA environmental impact statement that seemed to give a stamp of approval for the proposed SpaceX space port in south Texas is not the end of the regulatory process, but the end of the beginning. A story in the Brownsville Herald reminds us that the report has kicked off a 30 day review period after which the FAA can allow SpaceX to apply for a launch license to start work on the Brownsville area launch facility. And that in turn kicks off a 180 day process during which the FAA makes the decision whether or not to grant the required licensing and permits.

But even that is not the end of the regulatory hurdles that SpaceX must face before the first Falcon rocket roars into the skies over the Gulf of Mexico. The Longview News-Journal reports that a number of state and federal agencies must give their approval for various aspects of the space port before it becomes operational. For instance, the Texas Department of Transportation must give approval for the movement of utility lines. Environment Texas still opposes the space port since it is close to a wild life reserve and a state park. SpaceX has already agreed to enact measures to minimize the impact the space port would have on the environment, 'such as containing waste materials from the construction and enforcing a speed limit in the control center area.' Environment Texas is not impressed, however. Whether it is disposed to make trouble in the courts is an open question."

Scientists Race To Save Miami Coral Doomed By Dredging 99

An anonymous reader writes "Miami scientists are scrambling to rescue a crop of coral at the bottom of one of the world's busiest shipping channels that they say could hold clues about climate change. 'The coral, which may hold clues about how sea life adapts to climate change, is growing in Government Cut. The channel, created more than a century ago, leads to PortMiami and is undergoing a $205 million dredging project — scheduled to begin Saturday — to deepen the sea floor by about 10 feet in time for a wave of new monster cargo ships cruising through an expanded Panama Canal starting in 2015. Endangered coral and larger coral have already been removed by a team hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the dredging work. But the remaining coral, deemed "corals of opportunity" in Corps lingo, can be retrieved with a permit. The problem, scientists say, is they only had 12 days between when the permits were issued last month and the start of dredging, not nearly enough time to save the unusual colonies thriving in Government Cut.'"

NASA Beams Hi-Def Video From Space Via Laser 38

An anonymous reader writes "NASA successfully beamed a high-definition video 260 miles from the International Space Station to Earth Thursday using a new laser communications instrument. Transmission of 'Hello, World!' as a video message was the first 175-megabit communication for the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS), a technology demonstration that allows NASA to test methods for communication with future spacecraft using higher bandwidth than radio waves." Last September, NASA's LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) showed that they could supply a lunar colony with broadband via lasers.

Mars Base Design Competition Open To Non-Scientific Professionals 94

An anonymous reader writes "MakerBot, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), is hosting a competition for the design of a future Mars base. The competition is open to any Thingiverse account holder regardless of professional or educational background. Winners will be chosen by a subjective panel of JPL and MakerBot employees based on scientific feasibility, creativity, and printability. Contest ends June 12, and contestants have to be at least 13 years old. The first place winner will receive a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D printer and three spools of MakerBot Filament. The second place winner will receive two spools, and the third place winner will receive one spool. All three will have their design featured on Thingiverse." You can also browse the entries so far.

Robotics Engineers: "We Don't Want To Replace Humans. We Want To Enhance Humans. 124

Lucas123 writes: 'Scientists developing smart robotic prosthetics say the lines between robots and humans is beginning to blur and that someday soon people will be able to improve their body. For example, robotic prosthetics, using a built-in computer, 100 sensors, and 17 motors, can take natural cues from a user's residual limb, giving him or her the dexterity and grace to play a piano. Robotic exoskeletons have helped people suffering from paralysis walk again and the U.S. military is just weeks away from testing a new exoskeleton. And, more than six years ago, a University of Arizona researcher who had successfully connected a moth's brain to a robot predicted that by 2022 we'll be using "hybrid" computers that run a combination of technology and living organic tissue. "By utilizing technology, you're able to improve your body beyond anything you could do in the past," said Daniel Wilson, an engineer with degrees in machine learning and robotics from Carnegie Mellon University.'

Updating the Integrated Space Plan 65

garyebickford writes 'Space Finance Group (in which I'm a partner) has launched a Kickstarter to fund updating the "famous Integrated Space Plan", created by Ron Jones at Rockwell International in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and can be found on walls in the industry even today. The new Plan will be a poster, but also will provide the initial core data for a new website. The permanent link will be As additional resources become available the website will be able to contain much more information, with (eventually) advanced data management (possibly including sources like Linked Data) and visualization tools to become a resource for education, research, entertainment, and business analytics. The group also hopes to support curated crowdsourcing of some data, and is talking to Space Development companies about providing data about themselves. They hope to be able to construct new timelines and show the relations between events and entities — companies, agencies, people, etc.'

Wikipedia Mining Algorithm Reveals the Most Influential People In History 231

KentuckyFC writes: 'In 1978, the American researcher Michael Hart published The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, a book that became an international best seller. Since then, various others have published similar lists. But all suffer the same drawback: they are subjective list ultimately influenced by numerous cultural factors. Now data scientists have come up with a way to extract an objective list of the 100 most influential people in history using the network of links between biographical articles on Wikipedia and how they vary between 24 different language editions, including English, Chinese, Russian Arabic and so on. The researchers assume that people who are highly ranked in different language editions are influential across both language cultures and that the more appearances they make in different language editions, the more influential they are. But the actual ranking is done by PageRank-like algorithms that consider a biographical article important if it is pointed to by other important articles.

The resulting lists of the most influential men and women might surprise. The top PageRanked individual is Carl Linnaeus, the 18th century Swedish botanist who developed the modern naming scheme for plants and animals, followed by Jesus. The top PageRanked women are: Elizabeth II followed by Mary (mother of Jesus). For comparison, just under half of the top 100 most influential also appear in Hart's 1978 book. But this is just the beginning. By counting the individuals from one culture that influence other cultures, the team is able to work out which cultures have dominated others. And by looking only at people born before certain dates, they can see how the influence of different cultures has waxed and waned throughout 35 centuries of recorded history.'

Fasting Triggers Stem Cell Regeneration of Damaged, Old Immune System 148

schwit1 sends word of research showing that cycles of prolonged fasting can both protect the immune system from harm and also induce regeneration by causing stem cells to start renewing themselves. 'In both mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial (abstract), long periods of not eating significantly lowered white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles then "flipped a regenerative switch," changing the signaling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems, the research showed. "PKA is the key gene that needs to shut down in order for these stem cells to switch into regenerative mode. It gives the OK for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system," explained [study author Valter Longo], noting the potential of clinical applications that mimic the effects of prolonged fasting to rejuvenate the immune system. "And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting. Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."'

Electrical Control of Nuclear Spin Qubits: Important Step For Quantum Computing 42

Taco Cowboy writes: "Using a spin cascade in a single-molecule magnet, scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and their French partners have demonstrated that a single nuclear spin can be realized in a purely electric manner, rather than through the use of magnetic fields (abstract). For their experiments, the researchers used a nuclear spin-qubit transistor that consists of a single-molecule magnet connected to three electrodes (source, drain, and gate). The single-molecule magnet is a TbPc2 molecule — a single metal ion of terbium that is enclosed by organic phthalocyanine molecules of carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen atoms. The gap between the electric field and the spin is bridged by the so-called hyperfine-Stark effect that transforms the electric field into a local magnetic field. This quantum mechanical process can be transferred to all nuclear spin systems and, hence, opens up entirely novel perspectives for integrating quantum effects in nuclear spins into electronic circuits"

Astronomers Solve Puzzle of Mysterious Streaks In Radio Images of the Sky 66

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes 'Back in 2012, astronomers constructed an array of 256 radio antennas in the high deserts of New Mexico designed to listen for radio waves produced by gamma ray bursts, one of the most energetic phenomena in universe and thought to be associated with the collapse of a rapidly rotating stars to form neutron stars and black holes. The array generates all sky images of signals produced in the 25 MHz to 75 MHz region of the spectrum. But when researchers switched it on, they began to observe puzzling streaks across the sky that couldn't possibly be generated by gamma ray bursts. One source left a trail covering more than 90 degrees of the sky in less than 10 seconds. This trail then slowly receded to an endpoint which glowed for around 90 seconds. Now the first study of these transient radio signals has discovered that they are almost certainly produced by fireballs as they burn up after entering the Earth's atmosphere. The conclusion comes after the researchers were able to match several of the radio images with visible light images of fireballs gathered by NASA's All Sky Fireball Network. That solves the mystery but not without introducing another to keep astrophysicists busy in future. The question they're scratching their heads over now is how the plasma trails left by meteors can emit radio waves at this frequency.'

Mad Cow Disease Blamed For Patient's Death In Texas 132

An anonymous reader writes 'Health officials say a patient in Texas has died of a rare brain disorder believed to be caused by consumption of beef products contaminated with mad cow disease. It is only the fourth known case of its kind in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that recent laboratory tests confirmed a diagnosis of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the patient.' From the article: 'The CDC says the Texas patient's history included extensive travel to Europe and the Middle East and that it is likely the infection occurred overseas. In each of the three previous U.S. deaths, the initial infection is believed to have taken place in other countries. ... The Texas Department of State Health Services says there are no state public health concerns or threats associated with the case. State and federal health officials continue to investigate and are trying to track the source of the infection.'

Video Aspiring Astronaut Gideon Gidori Invents a New Holiday: Star Day (Video) 46

Gideon wants to be an astronaut. You could even describe him as "space-obsessed." He wants to be the first astronaut from Tanzania. The only African to make it into space so far is Mark Shuttleworth, who is from South Africa. Can Gideon talk Elon Musk into launching from Tanzania, which is directly on the equator? How about bringing in other space buffs and entrepreneurs? Don't think this is a silly idea. Gideon is only 14, but he's a straight-A student at the Florida Air Academy, and before that was one of the top students at Shepherds Junior School in Arusha, which Mama Lucy Kamptoni originally financed by raising and selling chickens. Gideon's scholarships to Shepherds and later to Florida Air Academy have been financed in part by, which is also helping him spread the word about Star Day (tomorrow; June 7), the holiday Gideon created, which is being celebrated all over the world even in this, its first year of existence. You can celebrate it, too. All you have to do, weather permitting, is sleep outdoors under the stars, and maybe make a wish or two. After all, wishing (and a lot of studying and hard work) have helped Gideon get to where he is today, and may yet help him become Tanzania's first astronaut.

Lose Sleep, Fail To Form Memory 85

Rambo Tribble writes: 'A research team of Chinese and American scientists claim to have witnessed the mechanism by which sleep contributes to the formation of memories. Using advanced microscopy, the researchers witnessed synapses being formed in the brain of sleeping mice recently exposed to a learning task (abstract). They compared this to similarly tasked mice, that were subsequently sleep-deprived. The sleeping mice showed a marked increase in the formation of new synapses. As one researcher explained, "We thought sleep helped, but it could have been other causes, and we show it really helps to make connections and that in sleep the brain is not quiet, it is replaying what happened during the day and it seems quite important for making the connections.'''

Whom Must You Trust? 120

CowboyRobot writes: 'In ACM's Queue, Thomas Wadlow argues that "Whom you trust, what you trust them with, and how much you trust them are at the center of the Internet today." He gives a checklist of what to look for when evaluating any system for trustworthiness, chock full of fascinating historical examples. These include NASA opting for a simpler, but more reliable chip; the Terry Childs case; and even an 18th century "semaphore telegraph" that was a very early example of steganographic cryptography. From the article: "Detecting an anomaly is one thing, but following up on what you've detected is at least as important. In the early days of the Internet, Cliff Stoll, then a graduate student at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories in California, noticed a 75-cent accounting error on some computer systems he was managing. Many would have ignored it, but it bothered him enough to track it down. That investigation led, step by step, to the discovery of an attacker named Markus Hess, who was arrested, tried, and convicted of espionage and selling information to the Soviet KGB."'

Lego To Produce Three Box Sets Featuring Female Scientists 208

vossman77 writes: 'According to the Chicago Tribune, "Lego will produce a limited-edition box set called Research Institute, featuring three female scientists in the act of learning more about our world and beyond." The concept received 10,000 supporters on the LEGO ideas site. Creator Ellen Kooijman writes in a blog post, "As a female scientist I had noticed two things about the available Lego sets: a skewed male/female minifigure ratio and a rather stereotypical representation of the available female figures. It seemed logical that I would suggest a small set of female mini-figures in interesting professions to make our Lego city communities more diverse." LEGO says, "The final design, pricing and availability are still being worked out, but it's on track to be released August 2014."'

Evidence of Protoplanet Found On Moon 105

mrspoonsi (2955715) writes 'Researchers have found evidence of the world that crashed into the Earth billions of years ago to form the Moon. Analysis of lunar rock brought back by Apollo astronauts shows traces of the "planet" called Theia. The researchers claim that their discovery confirms the theory that the Moon was created by just such a cataclysmic collision. The accepted theory since the 1980s is that the Moon arose as a result of a collision between the Earth and Theia 4.5bn years ago. It is the simplest explanation, and fits in well with computer simulations. The main drawback with the theory is that no one had found any evidence of Theia in lunar rock samples. Earlier analyses had shown Moon rock to have originated entirely from the Earth whereas computer simulations had shown that the Moon ought to have been mostly derived from Theia. Now a more refined analysis of Moon rock has found evidence of material thought to have an alien origin.'

Why NASA's Budget "Victory" Is Anything But 267

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes 'Earlier this week, attempts to cut NASA's budget were defeated, and it looks like the largest space agency in the world will actually be getting nearly a 2% budget increase overall. While common news outlets are touting this as a great budget victory, the reality is that this is shaping up to be just another year of pathetic funding levels, putting our greatest dreams of exploring and understanding the Universe on hold. A sobering read for anyone who hasn't realized what we could be doing.'

Video ISS-Above Tells You When the International Space Station is Overhead (Video) 59

It's a device, and quite a small one, based on the Raspberry Pi. It tells you when the ISS is visible from your part of the world and when it will soon be visible so you can grab the kids and dogs and run outside to wave at the astronauts. Or just to watch the closest thing humanity has to a space colony orbit the Earth. Liam Kennedy, ISS-Above's creator, points out that the ISS passes over most of the inhabited parts of the Earth five or six times a day, which is more than most people know. And about ISS-Above and Kickstarter: It's too late to climb on that wagon, and it already was when this interview was recorded in mid-May. But don't despair. Liam managed to raise $17,731 -- which was far more than his $5000 goal. Can you buy one of these things in its various manifestations? Yes. But you need to look long and hard at the ISS-Above website to spot the all-caps word HERE that takes you to the order page. Liam also points out that you can get all kinds of smartphone apps that will tell you where the ISS is at any given moment, but the ISS-Above has an advantage or two over those apps that will be revealed only to those who watch the video or read the transcript. (Alternate Video Link)

SpaceX Landing Video Cleanup Making Progress 54

Maddog Batty (112434) writes 'The fine people at the NASA Space Flight Forum are making good progress on restoring the corrupted landing video reported earlier. It worth looking at the original video to see how bad it was and then at the latest restored video. It is now possible to see the legs being deployed, the sea coming closer and a big flame ball as the rocket plume hits the water. An impressive improvement so far and it is still being actively worked on so further refinements are likely.' Like Maddog Batty, I'd suggest watching the restored version first (note: the video is lower on the page), to see just what a big improvement's been made so far.

Ear Grown From Van Gogh DNA On Display 64

First time accepted submitter afeeney (719690) writes 'The Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, is displaying an ear grown from DNA contributed by a relative of artist Vincent Van Gogh. The Center said artist Diemut Strebe made the replica using living cells from Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo. Using a 3D-printer, the cells were shaped to resemble the ear that Vincent van Gogh is said to have cut off during a psychotic episode in 1888. “I use science basically like a type of brush, like Vincent used paint,” Strebe told The Associated Press. Historians argue about whether Van Gogh cut off his own ear and if so, why, but it remains one of the most famous acts of self-mutilation in the Western world.'

Plastic Trash Forming Into "Plastiglomerate" Rocks 123

sciencehabit (1205606) writes 'Plastic may be with us a lot longer than we thought. In addition to clogging up landfills and becoming trapped in Arctic ice, some of it is turning into stone. Scientists say a new type of rock cobbled together from plastic, volcanic rock, beach sand, seashells, and corals has begun forming on the shores of Hawaii. The new material--which the researchers are calling a "plastiglomerate"--may be becoming so pervasive that it actually becomes part of the geologic record.'

NRC Human Spaceflight Report Says NASA Strategy Can't Get Humans To Mars 206

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes 'The National Research Council issued its report on the future of space exploration. The report stated that the "horizon goal" for any program of space exploration in the near term (i.e. the next two decades) is a Mars surface expedition. It also stated that the current NASA program, which includes a mission that would snag an asteroid, put it in lunar orbit, and visit it with astronauts is inadequate to meet that goal.

The report gave two reasons for its critique of the current NASA program. First the asteroid redirect mission would not create and test technologies necessary to conduct a crewed Mars mission. Second, NASA projects essentially flat budgets for the foreseeable future. Any space exploration program worthy of the name will cost considerably more money, with five percent increases in NASA funding for a number of years.'

Lepton Universality In Question, a Standard Model Assumption 62

Charliemopps writes: "Over the past few years, more and more experiments have started to question one of the core assumptions of the standard model: Lepton Universality. Simply put, the weak nuclear force is assumed to work equally on all Leptons (electron, muon and tau). Two years ago The Babar experimental collaboration reported that measurements indicated this may not have been the case. But the measurements were not accurate enough to be definitive.

Now, a report from The LHC shows that they have analyzed their entire dataset of proton-proton collisions and found a rather large discrepancy. These measurements are still not all that accurate. These decays happen so rarely that even with this huge data set there is still about a 1% change they are incorrect. One explanation for such measurements is an as-yet-undiscovered, charged Higgs particle. It would have to be extremely heavy: greater than 109GeV possibly even as high as 150GeV. This is predicted by some models outside of the Standard Model, like Supersymmetry."

Star Within a Star: Thorne-Zytkow Object Discovered 89

astroengine writes: "A weird type of 'hybrid' star has been discovered nearly 40 years since it was first theorized — but until now has been curiously difficult to find. In 1975, renowned astrophysicists Kip Thorne, of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif., and Anna Zytkow, of the University of Cambridge, UK, assembled a theory on how a large dying star could swallow its neutron star binary partner, thus becoming a very rare type of stellar hybrid, nicknamed a Thorne-Zytkow object (or TZO). The neutron star — a dense husk of degenerate matter that was once a massive star long since gone supernova — would spiral into the red supergiant's core, interrupting normal fusion processes. According to the Thorne-Zytkow theory, after the two objects have merged, an excess of the elements rubidium, lithium and molybdenum will be generated by the hybrid. So astronomers have been on the lookout for stars in our galaxy, which is thought to contain only a few dozen of these objects at any one time, with this specific chemical signature in their atmospheres. Now, according to Emily Levesque of the University of Colorado Boulder and her team, a bona fide TZO has been discovered and their findings have been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters."

Key Researcher Agrees To Retract Disputed Stem Cell Papers 61

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "After several months of fiercely defending her discovery of a new, simple way to create pluripotent stem cells, Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, has agreed to retract the two Nature papers that reported her work. Satoru Kagaya, head of public relations for RIKEN, headquartered in Wako near Tokyo, confirmed press reports today that Obokata had finally agreed to retract both papers. He said the institute would be notifying Nature and that the decision to formally retract the papers would be up to the journal."

Geophysicists Discover How Rocks Produce Magnetic Pulses 72

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Since the 1960s, geophysicists have known that some earthquakes are preceded by ultra-low frequency magnetic pulses that increase in number until the quake takes place. But this process has always puzzled them: how can rocks produce magnetic pulses? Now a group of researchers has worked out what's going on. They say that rocks under pressure can become semiconductors that produce magnetic pulses under certain circumstances.

When igneous rocks form in the presence of water, they contain peroxy bonds with OH groups. Under great temperature and pressure, these bonds break down creating electron-holes pairs. The electrons become trapped at the site of the broken bonds but the holes are free to move through the crystal structure. The natural diffusion of these holes through the rock creates p and n regions just like those in doped semiconductors. And the boundary between these regions behaves like the p-n junction in a diode, allowing current to flow in one direction but not the other. At least not until the potential difference reaches a certain value when the boundary breaks down allowing a sudden increase in current. It is this sudden increase that generates a magnetic field. And the sheer scale of this process over a volume of hundreds of cubic meters ensures that these magnetic pulses have an extremely low frequency that can be detected on the surface. The new theory points to the possibility of predicting imminent earthquakes by triangulating the position of rocks under pressure by searching for the magnetic pulses they produce (although significantly more work needs to be done to characterize the process before then)."

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