Equipment Already In Space Can Be Adapted For Extremely Secure Data Encryption (helpnetsecurity.com) 20

Orome1 quotes a report from Help Net Security: In a new study, researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Erlangen, demonstrate ground-based measurements of quantum states sent by a laser aboard a satellite 38,000 kilometers above Earth. This is the first time that quantum states have been measured so carefully from so far away. A satellite-based quantum-based encryption network would provide an extremely secure way to encrypt data sent over long distances. Developing such a system in just five years is an extremely fast timeline since most satellites require around 10 years of development. For the experiments, the researchers worked closely with satellite telecommunications company Tesat-Spacecom GmbH and the German Space Administration. The German Space Administration previously contracted with Tesat-Spacecom on behalf of the German Ministry of Economics and Energy to develop an optical communications technology for satellites. This technology is now being used commercially in space by laser communication terminals onboard Copernicus -- the European Union's Earth Observation Program -- and by SpaceDataHighway, the European data relay satellite system. It turned out that this satellite optical communications technology works much like the quantum key distribution method developed at the Max Planck Institute. Thus, the researchers decided to see if it was possible to measure quantum states encoded in a laser beam sent from one of the satellites already in space. In 2015 and the beginning of 2016, the team made these measurements from a ground-based station at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife, Spain. They created quantum states in a range where the satellite normally does not operate and were able to make quantum-limited measurements from the ground. The findings have been published in the journal Optica.

NASA Finds Evidence Of 10 New Earth-sized Planets (usatoday.com) 63

NASA said Monday it has found new evidence of 219 planets outside our Solar System. Ten of those exoplanets appear to be similar to the size of the Earth and orbit their stars in the habitable zone. From a report: The new planets' existence must still be double-checked. But Kepler's latest haul -- which includes a planet that is only slightly larger than Earth and receives the same amount of energy from its sun as Earth -- is the latest triumph for Kepler, which has spotted roughly 80 percent of the planets orbiting stars other than our sun. Because of their potential for hosting life, the 10 Earth-size planets are the most glamorous of the newly announced planets from Kepler. But those 10 were joined by an additional 209 more garden-variety planets that are unlikely to be hospitable to life because they are too gassy, too hot, too cold or otherwise unlike the only known planet to host life: Earth.

Physicists Discover A Possible Break In the Standard Model of Physics (futurism.com) 260

Slashdot reader freddienumber13 write: A series of experiments has shown that tau particles have decayed faster than predicted by the standard model. This has been observed at both CERN and SLAC. This suggests that the standard model for particle physics is incomplete and further research is required to understand this new area of physics.
Nature adds: One of the key assumptions of the standard model of particle physics is that the interactions of the charged leptons, namely electrons, muons and taus, differ only because of their different masses... recent studies of B-meson decays involving the higher-mass tau lepton have resulted in observations that challenge lepton universality at the level of four standard deviations. A confirmation of these results would point to new particles or interactions, and could have profound implications for our understanding of particle physics.

Research Suggests Effects of Shift Work or Jet Lag On Our Body Clocks Can Be Reduced By Simply Changing Meal Times (qz.com) 51

Jonathan Johnston reports via Quartz: Around one in five people in Western countries could be putting their health at risk simply by going to work. This is because working shifts outside of the rest of the population's normal hours has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even declines in brain function. Scientists think this is because our bodies are programmed to run on cycles known as circadian rhythms, and changes in our routine caused by shift work or traveling long distances disrupts those rhythms. But our new research suggests that the effects of shift work or jet lag on our body clocks could be reduced simply by changing the times at which people eat. The key to this theory is the idea that each person doesn't just have a single body clock but rather a complex network of billions of cellular clocks found throughout the body. In humans and other mammals, there is a master clock within a region of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and many peripheral clocks found elsewhere. For our research, we wanted to see how one aspect of this approach -- changing meal times -- affected circadian rhythms. We found that delaying meals by a certain amount caused a similar shift in some peripheral clocks, without changing the master clock. This is important because research in animals suggests peripheral clocks take longer to adjust to a new routine.
The Almighty Buck

Air Force Budget Reveals How Much SpaceX Undercuts Launch Prices (arstechnica.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In 2014, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report on cost estimates for the U.S. Air Force's program to launch national security payloads, which at the time consisted of a fleet of rockets maintained and flown entirely by United Launch Alliance (ULA). The report was critical of the non-transparent nature of ULA's launch prices and noted that the government "lacked sufficient knowledge to negotiate fair and reasonable launch prices" with the monopoly. At around the same time, the new space rocket company SpaceX began to aggressively pursue the opportunity to launch national security payloads for the government. SpaceX claimed to offer a substantially lower price for delivering satellites into various orbits around Earth. But because of the lack of transparency, comparing prices was difficult. The Air Force recently released budget estimates for fiscal year 2018, and these include a run out into the early 2020s. For these years, the budget combines the fixed price rocket and ELC contract costs into a single budget line. (See page 109 of this document). They are strikingly high. According to the Air Force estimate, the "unit cost" of a single rocket launch in fiscal year 2020 is $422 million, and $424 million for a year later. SpaceX sells basic commercial launches of its Falcon 9 rocket for about $65 million. But, for military launches, there are additional range costs and service contracts that add tens of millions of dollars to the total price. It therefore seems possible that SpaceX is taking a loss or launching at little or no profit to undercut its rival and gain market share in the high-volume military launch market. Elon Musk retweeted the article, adding "$300M cost diff between SpaceX and Boeing/Lockheed exceeds avg value of satellite, so flying with SpaceX means satellite is basically free."

Watchdog Report Finds Alarming 20 Percent of Baby Food Tested Contains Lead (arstechnica.com) 192

According to an analysis released Thursday by the nonprofit advocacy group, the Environmental Defense Fund, twenty percent of 2,164 baby foods sampled between 2003 and 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration tested positive for lead. Ars Technica reports: Lead is a neurotoxin. Exposure at a young age can permanently affect a developing brain, causing lifelong behavioral problems and lower IQ. Though the levels in the baby food were generally below what the FDA considers unsafe, the agency's standards are decades old. The latest research suggests that there is no safe level of lead for children. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency this year has estimated that more than five percent of U.S. children (more than a million) get more than the FDA's recommended limit of lead from their diet. The products most often found to contain lead were fruit juices, root vegetable-based foods, and certain cookies, such as teething biscuits, the EDF reports. Oddly, the presence of lead was more common in baby foods than in the same foods marketed for adults. For instance, only 25 percent of regular apple juice tested positive for lead, while 55 percent of apple juices marketed for babies contained lead. Overall, only 14 percent of adult foods tested contained lead. The findings come from data collected in the FDA's annual survey of foods, called the Total Diet Survey, which the agency has run since the 1970s. Each year, the agency samples 280 types of foods from three different cities across the country, tracking nutrients, metals, pesticides, and other contaminants.

Life On Mars: Elon Musk Reveals Details of His Colonisation Vision 229

Elon Musk has put his Mars-colonization vision to paper, and you can read it for free. SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO published the plan, which he unveiled at a conference in Mexico in September 2016, in the journal New Space. From a report: The paper outlines early designs of the gigantic spacecraft, designed to carry 100 passengers, that he hopes to construct. "The thrust level is enormous," the paper states. "We are talking about a lift-off thrust of 13,000 tons, so it will be quite tectonic when it takes off." Creating a fully self-sustained civilisation of around one million people -- the ultimate goal -- would take 40-100 years according to the plans. Before full colonisation takes place, though, Musk needs to entice the first pioneers to pave the way.

Mathematical Biology Is Our Secret Weapon In the Fight Against Disease (scientificamerican.com) 57

An anonymous reader shares excerpts from a Scientific American article: In recent years, increasingly detailed experimental procedures have lead to a huge influx in the biological data available to scientists. This data is being used to generate hypotheses about the complexity of previously abstruse biological systems. In order to test these hypotheses, they must be written down in the form of a model which can be interrogated to determine whether it correctly mimics the biological observations. Mathematics is the natural language in which to do this. In addition, the advent of, and subsequent increase in, computational ability over the last 60 years has enabled us to suggest and then interrogate complex mathematical models of biological systems. The realisation that biological systems can be treated mathematically, coupled with the computational ability to build and investigate detailed biological models, has led to the dramatic increase in the popularity of mathematical biology. Maths has become a vital weapon in the scientific armoury we have to tackle some of the most pressing questions in medical, biological and ecological science in the 21st century. By describing biological systems mathematically and then using the resulting models, we can gain insights that are impossible to access though experiments and verbal reasoning alone. Mathematical biology is incredibly important if we want to change biology from a descriptive into a predictive science -- giving us power, for example, to avert pandemics or to alter the effects of debilitating diseases.

The Quirky Habits of Certified Science Geniuses (bbc.com) 190

dryriver shares a report from the BBC: Celebrated inventor and physicist Nikola Tesla swore by toe exercises -- every night, he'd repeatedly "squish" his toes, 100 times for each foot, according to the author Marc J Seifer. While it's not entirely clear exactly what that exercise involved, Tesla claimed it helped to stimulate his brain cells. The most prolific mathematician of the 20th Century, Paul Erdos, preferred a different kind of stimulant: amphetamine, which he used to fuel 20-hour number benders. When a friend bet him $500 that he couldn't stop for a month, he won but complained "You've set mathematics back a month." Newton, meanwhile, bragged about the benefits of celibacy. When he died in 1727, he had transformed our understanding of the natural world forever and left behind 10 million words of notes; he was also, by all accounts, still a virgin (Tesla was also celibate, though he later claimed he fell in love with a pigeon). It's common knowledge that sleep is good for your brain -- and Einstein took this advice more seriously than most. He reportedly slept for at least 10 hours per day -- nearly one and a half times as much as the average American today (6.8 hours). But can you really slumber your way to a sharper mind? Many of the world's most brilliant scientific minds were also fantastically weird. From Pythagoras' outright ban on beans to Benjamin Franklin's naked "air baths," the path to greatness is paved with some truly peculiar habits.

New Evidence That All Stars Are Born In Pairs (phys.org) 90

InfiniteZero shares a report from Phys.Org: Did our sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes -- though not an identical twin. And so did every other sun-like star in the universe, according to a new analysis by a theoretical physicist from UC Berkeley and a radio astronomer from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University. The new assertion is based on a radio survey of a giant molecular cloud filled with recently formed stars in the constellation Perseus, and a mathematical model that can explain the Perseus observations only if all sunlike stars are born with a companion. "We ran a series of statistical models to see if we could account for the relative populations of young single stars and binaries of all separations in the Perseus molecular cloud, and the only model that could reproduce the data was one in which all stars form initially as wide (more than 500 astronomical units) binaries," said co-author Steven Stahler, a UC Berkeley research astronomer. "These systems then either shrink or break apart within a million years." The study has been published in April on the arXiv server.

US Spy Satellite Buzzes ISS (arstechnica.com) 121

The spy satellite that SpaceX launched about six weeks ago appears to have buzzed the International Space Station in early June. The fly-by was made by a dedicated group of ground-based observers who continued to track the satellite after it reach outer space. Ars Technica reports: One of the amateur satellite watchers, Ted Molczan, estimated the pass on June 3 to be 4.4km directly above the station. Another, Marco Langbroek, pegged the distance at 6.4km. "I am inclined to believe that the close conjunctions between USA 276 and ISS are intentional, but this remains unproven and far from certain," Molczan later wrote. One expert in satellite launches and tracking, Jonathan McDowell, said of the satellite's close approach to the station, "It is not normal." While it remains possible that the near-miss was a coincidence due to the satellite being launched into similar orbit, that would represent "gross incompetence" on the part of the National Reconnaissance Office, he said. Like the astronaut, McDowell downplayed the likelihood of a coincidence. Another option is that of a deliberate close flyby, perhaps to test or calibrate an onboard sensor to observe something or some kind of activity on the International Space Station. "The deliberate explanation seems more likely, except that I would have expected the satellite to maneuver after the encounter," McDowell said. "But it seems to have stayed in the same orbit."

11 States Sue Trump Administration's Energy Department After Weeks of No Movement On Efficiency Standards (go.com) 219

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: New York, California and nine other states sued the Trump administration Tuesday over its failure to finalize energy-use limits for portable air conditioners and other products. The new standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save businesses and consumers billions of dollars, and conserve enough energy to power more than 19 million households for a year, but the U.S. Department of Energy has not met a requirement to publish them by now, according to attorneys general who filed the lawsuit (PDF) against the DOE in federal court in San Francisco. That means the standards are not legally enforceable. The other states in the lawsuit are: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Maryland. The City of New York is also a plaintiff. The energy efficiency standards at issue in the lawsuit also cover walk-in coolers and freezers, air compressors, commercial packaged boilers and uninterruptible power supplies. There is currently no federal energy standard for air compressors, uninterruptible power supplies or portable air conditioners, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the DOE to publish the new standards as final rules.

Wisconsin Speech Bill Might Allow Students To Challenge Science Professors (arstechnica.com) 438

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: There have been some well-publicized incidents in which student groups or other protesters have interfered with scheduled appearances by right-wing speakers at U.S. universities. In response, a number of states have considered "campus free speech" bills based on model legislation produced by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank. Different bills introduce specific penalties for students who shout down the speech of others and prevent college administrators from disinviting speakers, to give two examples. One such bill is being debated in Wisconsin. Faculty and university officials in the state are concerned about what else might be prevented by the bill's overly vague language, according to the local Cap Times. As often happens with bills relevant to science education, the debate has also elicited some rather bizarre comments from the bill's sponsors. The trouble comes from this section of the bill: "That each institution shall strive to remain neutral, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day, and may not take action, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day in such a way as to require students or faculty to publicly express a given view of social policy." While the bills' scope is focused on public events involving invited speakers, there are a couple key questions here. University officials want to know how far this requirement "to remain neutral" extends. For example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has spoken out against proposed bans on stem cell research on campus. Would the university run afoul of this law if it did so again?

E-cigarettes 'Potentially As Harmful As Tobacco Cigarettes' (uconn.edu) 362

An anonymous reader shares a report: A study by chemists at the University of Connecticut offers new evidence that electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are potentially as harmful as tobacco cigarettes. Using a new low-cost, 3-D printed testing device, UConn researchers found that e-cigarettes loaded with a nicotine-based liquid are potentially as harmful as unfiltered cigarettes when it comes to causing DNA damage. The researchers also found that vapor from non-nicotine e-cigarettes caused as much DNA damage as filtered cigarettes, possibly due to the many chemical additives present in e-cigarette vapors. Cellular mutations caused by DNA damage can lead to cancer.

US Government Task Force Urges Cash Incentives For Ditching Insecure Medical Devices (securityledger.com) 64

chicksdaddy shares this report from The Security Ledger: The healthcare sector in the U.S. is in critical condition and in dire need of an overhaul to address widespread and systemic information security weakness that puts patient privacy and even safety at risk, a Congressional Task Force has concluded... On the controversial issue of medical device security, the report suggests that the Federal government and industry might use incentives akin to the "cash for clunkers" car buyback program to encourage healthcare organizations to jettison insecure, legacy medical equipment...

The report released to members of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Friday concludes that the U.S. healthcare system is plagued by weaknesses, from the leadership and governance of information security within healthcare organizations, to the security of medical devices and medical laboratories to hiring and user awareness. Many of the risks directly affect patient safety, the group found. It comes amid growing threats to healthcare organizations, including a ransomware outbreak that affected scores of hospitals in the United Kingdom.

Joshua Corman, the Director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at The Atlantic Council, argues that currently "Healthcare is target rich and resource poor," adding a special warning about the heavy usage of internet-connected healthcare equipment. "If you can't afford to protect it, you can't afford to connect it."

SpaceX Releases Ultra-HD 4K Footage Of Falcon 9 Landing (4k.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes 4K.com: On June 3, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket was placed into low-orbit for the sake of launching its Dragon spacecraft into their eleventh Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-11) to the International Space Station... Last week SpaceX shared on their Youtube channel the remarkable 4K UHD footage of the landing, and since many of us are not used to watching this kind of footage except for Sci-Fi movies or video games, the landing seems almost Hollywood-level surreal, especially since it happens so quickly and accurately. You can watch the video at 4k and 60 fps here if you happen to own a 4K TV or UHD PC monitor with the right hardware specs... The footage above isn't SpaceX's first 4K video of one of its launches. The company has also previously released other videos of even more impressive landings directly onto the surfaces of drone ships.
The article also reminds readers that "If you are by any chance looking to send something or someone out of space, Elon Musk's company offers reasonable prices for their launching services, starting at $62 million for its Falcon 9 and $90 million for the Falcon Heavy."

Has the 40-year Old Mystery of the 'Wow!' Signal Been Solved? (newatlas.com) 85

"Astronomers have confirmed that the Wow! signal, thought to be the most promising detection by SETI of alien life, was actually caused by a comet," writes schwit1. New Atlas reports: Last year, a group of researchers from the Center of Planetary Science proposed a new hypothesis that argued a comet might be the culprit. The frequency could be caused by the hydrogen cloud they carry, and the fact that they move accounts for why it seemingly disappeared. Two comets, named 266/P Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs), happened to be transiting through that region of space when the Wow! signal was detected, but they weren't discovered until after 2006. To test the hypothesis, the team made 200 radio spectrum observations between November 2016 and February 2017. Sure enough, 266/P Christensen was found to emit radio waves at a frequency of 1,420 MHz, and to double check, the researchers moved their radio telescope by one degree. As expected, the signal vanished, and only returned when the telescope was trained back on the comet.

Cancer Drug Proves To Be Effective Against Multiple Tumors (nytimes.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: 86 cancer patients were enrolled in a trial of a drug that helps the immune system attack tumors. Though they had different kinds of tumor -- pancreas, prostate, uterus or bone -- they all shared a genetic mutation that disrupts their cells' ability to fix damaged DNA, found in 4% of all cancer patients. But tumors vanished and didn't return for 18 patients in the study, reports the New York Times, while 66 more patients "had their tumors shrink substantially and stabilize, instead of continuing to grow." The drug trial results were "so striking that the Food and Drug Administration already has approved the drug, pembrolizumab, brand name Keytruda, for patients whose cancers arise from the same genetic abnormality. It is the first time a drug has been approved for use against tumors that share a certain genetic profile, whatever their location in the body."
The researchers say that just in the U.S. there are 60,000 new patients every year who could benefit from the new drug.

Home Blood Pressure Monitors Are Wrong 70 Percent of the Time, Says Study (arstechnica.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In a study out this week, about 70 percent of home blood-pressure devices tested were off by 5 mmHg or more. That's enough to throw off clinical decisions, such as stopping or starting medication. Nearly 30 percent were off by 10 mmHg or more, including many devices that had been validated by regulatory agencies. The findings, published in The American Journal of Hypertension, suggest that consumers should be cautious about picking out and using such devices -- and device manufacturers need to step up their game. Lead author Raj Padwal and his colleagues set out to test the accuracy of the devices themselves. Funded by the University of Alberta Hospital Foundation, they compared the home blood-pressure monitors of 85 patients with a gold-standard blood-pressure measurement technique. The patients' monitors varied by type, age, and validation-status. But they all used an automated oscillometric method, which measures oscillations in the brachial artery and uses an algorithm to calculate blood pressure. The gold-standard method was the old-school auscultatory method, which involves the arm-squeezing sphygmomanometer and a clinician listening for thumps with a stethoscope. Of the 85 home devices, 59 were inaccurate by 5 mmHg or more in either their systolic (the top number that's the maximum pressure of a heart beat) or diastolic (the bottom number that's the minimum between-beat pressure). That's 69 percent inaccurate. Of those, 25 (or 29 percent) were off by 10 mmHg or more. And six devices (seven percent) were off by 15 mmHg or more.
The Almighty Buck

US Pays Farmers Billions To Save The Soil. But It's Blowing Away (npr.org) 186

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: Soil has been blowing away from the Great Plains ever since farmers first plowed up the prairie. It reached crisis levels during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when windblown soil turned day into night. In recent years, dust storms have returned, driven mainly by drought. But Shook -- and others -- say farmers are making the problem worse by taking land where grass used to grow and plowing it up, exposing vulnerable soil. This is where federal policy enters the picture. Most of that grassland was there in the first place because of a taxpayer-funded program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture rents land from farmers across the country and pays them to grow grass, trees and wildflowers in order to protect the soil and also provide habitat for wildlife. It's called the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP. Ten years ago, there was more land in the CRP than in the entire state of New York. In North Dakota, CRP land covered 5,000 square miles. But CRP agreements only last 10 years, and when farming got more profitable about a decade ago, farmers in North Dakota pulled more than half of that land out of the CRP to grow crops like corn and soybeans. Across the country, farmers decided not to re-enroll 15.8 million acres of farmland in the CRP when those contracts expired between 2007 and 2014.

SpaceX Will Launch Secretive X-37B Spaceplane's Next Mission (latimes.com) 83

schwit1 quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: SpaceX will launch the Air Force's X-37B experimental spaceplane later this year, in the military's latest vote of confidence in the Elon Musk-led space company. This will be the first time SpaceX has launched the uncrewed robotic vehicle. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., has launched the spaceplane's previous four missions atop one of its Atlas V rockets. The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is responsible for the X-37B's experimental operations, said it was "very excited" for the fifth flight, which will test how special electronics and heat pipes will fare during a long-duration space mission. The Air Force has two of the spaceplanes, which look like miniature versions of the space shuttle and are known officially as X-37B Orbital Test Vehicles. The first X-37B was launched in 2010.

Astronomers Prove To Einstein That Stars Can Warp Light (theverge.com) 96

Astronomers have observed for the first time ever a distant star warp the light of another star, "making it seem as though the object changed its position in the sky," reports The Verge. The discovery is especially noteworthy as Albert Einstein didn't think such an observation would be possible. From the report: These events require stars that are very far apart to line up perfectly. That's why Einstein once wrote that "there is no hope of observing this phenomenon directly." Our telescope technology has become far more sophisticated than in Einstein's day -- which is what allowed us to observe something he thought we'd never see. In 2014, a group of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope spotted a rare type of microlensing, when a dense white dwarf star passed in front of another star thousands of light-years away. The stars weren't exactly aligned, but they were close enough that the white dwarf made it seem like the background star performed a small loop in the sky. "It looks like the white dwarf pushed it out of the way," Terry Oswalt, an astronomer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University who was not involved in this discovery but wrote a perspective piece in Science, tells The Verge. "That's not what happened, of course. It just looks like that." The astronomers also used the apparent movement of the background star to measure the mass of the passing white dwarf, a novel technique detailed in a paper published today in Science. And they say this isn't the last time they'll make measurements like this either. Now that they've figured out how to spot these kinds of lensing events, they're hoping to find even more with new ground- and space-based telescopes that are coming online soon.

Oldest Fossils of Homo Sapiens Found in Morocco, Altering History of Our Species (nytimes.com) 156

Carl Zimmer, writing for The New York Times: Fossils discovered in Morocco are the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens, scientists reported on Wednesday. Dating back roughly 300,000 years, the bones indicate that mankind evolved earlier than had been known, experts say, and open a new window on our origins. The fossils also show that early Homo sapiens had faces much like our own, although their brains differed in fundamental ways (alternative source). Until now, the oldest fossils of our species, found in Ethiopia, dated back just 195,000 years. The new fossils suggest our species evolved across Africa. "We did not evolve from a single cradle of mankind somewhere in East Africa," said Phillipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liepzig, Germany. Today, the closest living relatives to Homo sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share a common ancestor that lived over six million years ago. After the lineages split, our ancient relatives evolved into many different species, known as hominins. For millions of years, hominins remained very ape-like. They were short, had small brains, and could fashion only crude stone tools. Original research paper here.

Moderate Drinking Can Damage the Brain, Claim Researchers (theguardian.com) 325

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can damage the brain and impair cognitive function over time, researchers have claimed. Writing in the British Medical Journal, researchers from the University of Oxford and University College London, describe how they followed the alcohol intake and cognitive performance of 550 men and women over 30 years from 1985. At the end of the study the team took MRI scans of the participants' brains. None of the participants were deemed to have an alcohol dependence, but levels of drinking varied. After excluding 23 participants due to gaps in data or other issues, the team looked at participants' alcohol intake as well as their performance on various cognitive tasks, as measured at six points over the 30 year period. The team also looked at the structure of the participants' brains, as shown by the MRI scan, including the structure of the white matter and the state of the hippocampus -- a seahorse-shaped area of the brain associated with memory. After taking into account a host of other factors including age, sex, social activity and education, the team found that those who reported higher levels of drinking were more often found to have a shrunken hippocampus, with the effect greater for the right side of the brain. While 35% of those who didn't drink were found to have shrinkage on the right side of the hippocampus, the figure was 65% for those who drank on average between 14 and 21 units a week, and 77% for those who drank 30 or more units a week.

Google Maps Is Being Used To Track Air Pollution In Oakland and Other Cities (androidauthority.com) 24

The functionality of Google Maps is expanding to include air pollution levels. Depending on where you live, you will soon be able to see the specific air quality in your neighborhood. Oakland, California is the first city to have air quality information, but data should be released soon for the Los Angeles and Central Valley regions of California. Android Authority reports: In a blog post, Google says it has been working with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Aclima since 2015 on this project. Google Street View cars were equipped with devices from Aclima to monitor the levels of nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and black carbon in the city of Oakland, California. You can now see those modified Google Maps on the EDF website. The Google Maps that have this information show how pollution levels can change in Oakland based on specific locations, street activity, and more. The idea is that posting this data in an easy visual way will assist communities to campaign for better air quality standards in their neighborhoods to their local and state governments.

Price-gouging Maker of EpiPen Literally Said That Critics Can Go Fuck Themselves (gizmodo.com) 459

Back in August of 2016, the pharmaceutical company Mylan came under fire for jacking up prices of the EpiPen from $57 in 2007 to roughly $600 in 2016. The public backlash has been significant. Gizmodo adds: But the chairman of Mylan has a message for any critics: Go fuck yourself. Well, at least that's what we think he said. The New York Times has a new article about the fact that prices for the live-saving allergy medication haven't actually come down since last year. And the article has a rather strange way of describing the attitude of Mylan chairman Robert Coury. This is how the New York Times describes Coury's reaction to critics of Mylan's price gouging: "Mr. Coury replied that he was untroubled. He raised both his middle fingers and explained, using colorful language, that anyone criticizing Mylan, including its employees, ought to go copulate with themselves. Critics in Congress and on Wall Street, he said, should do the same. And regulators at the Food and Drug Administration? They, too, deserved a round of anatomically challenging self-fulfillment."

Astronomers Discover Alien World Hotter Than Most Stars (vanderbilt.edu) 59

Science_afficionado writes: An international team of astronomers has discovered a planet like Jupiter zipping around its host star every day and a half, boiling at temperatures hotter than most stars and sporting a giant, glowing gas tail like a comet. From a report via Vanderbilt University: "With a day-side temperature peaking at 4,600 Kelvin (more than 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit), the newly discovered exoplanet, designated KELT-9b, is hotter than most stars and only 1,200 Kelvin (about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than our own sun. In fact, the ultraviolet radiation from the star it orbits is so brutal that the planet may be literally evaporating away under the intense glare, producing a glowing gas tail. The super-heated planet has other unusual features as well. For instance, it's a gas giant 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter but only half as dense, because the extreme radiation from its host star has caused its atmosphere to puff up like a balloon. Because it is tidally locked to its star -- as the moon is to Earth -- the day side of the planet is perpetually bombarded by stellar radiation and, as a result, it is so hot that molecules such as water, carbon dioxide and methane can't form there." The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

Dozens of Recent Clinical Trials May Contain Wrong or Falsified Data, Claims Study (theguardian.com) 66

John Carlisle, a consultant anesthetist at Torbay Hospital, used statistical tools to conduct a review of thousands of papers published in leading medical journals. While a vast majority of the clinical trials he reviewed were accurate, 90 of the 5,067 published trials had underlying patterns that were unlikely to appear by chance in a credible dataset. The Guardian reports: The tool works by comparing the baseline data, such as the height, sex, weight and blood pressure of trial participants, to known distributions of these variables in a random sample of the populations. If the baseline data differs significantly from expectation, this could be a sign of errors or data tampering on the part of the researcher, since if datasets have been fabricated they are unlikely to have the right pattern of random variation. In the case of Japanese scientist, Yoshitaka Fuji, the detection of such anomalies triggered an investigation that concluded more than 100 of his papers had been entirely fabricated. The latest study identified 90 trials that had skewed baseline statistics, 43 of which with measurements that had about a one in a quadrillion probability of occurring by chance. The review includes a full list of the trials in question, allowing Carlisle's methods to be checked but also potentially exposing the authors to criticism. Previous large scale studies of erroneous results have avoided singling out authors. Relevant journal editors were informed last month, and the editors of the six anesthesiology journals named in the study said they plan to approach the authors of the trials in question, and raised the prospect of triggering in-depth investigations in cases that could not be explained.

Silicon Valley Is Too Focused On Taking the Easy Path in Health Care (cnbc.com) 135

Silicon Valley investors are increasingly looking at health space, but they are mostly eyeing for opportunities on the fringes of the traditional health care system to avoid long and complicated regulatory cycles, an analysis on CNBC shows. As a result of this, these start-ups will not help low-income and chronically ill patients who need innovation most. From the article: Founders often talk about about how challenging it can be to break into the multi-trillion dollar medical sector. Health care startups face regulatory hurdles, long sales cycles and a high burden of proof -- and that means it can take more than a decade to make a return. As a result, many venture-backed entrepreneurs are looking instead at opportunities on the fringes of the health care system, such as cash-only health services that don't require insurance or tests and apps that aren't regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For tech investors, these opportunities hold the chance of an outsized return in five years or less. That often valuations on par with consumer Internet start-ups. [...] Many entrepreneurs acknowledge this, but justify their approach by promising to focus on more at-risk groups once they've nailed the product.

A Lake On Mars May Once Have Teemed With Life (theverge.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: Once upon a time on Mars, there was a crater that had a massive lake that may have hosted life. Now researchers are saying that a whole variety of organisms could have flourished there. Sure, that life was probably just microbial, but this is another exciting step toward understanding just how habitable Mars may have been around 3.5 billion years ago. Petrified mud that was once at the bottom of the lake suggests that, at the time, the lake had different chemical environments that could have hosted different types of microbes.

The rocks also show that the Red Planet's climate may have been more dynamic than we thought, going from cold and dry to warm and wet, before eventually drying out. We still don't know whether life once existed on Mars when the planet was warmer and had liquid water. But today's findings, published in Science, give a much more nuanced and detailed picture of what this area of Mars could have looked like through time... "The lake had all the right stuff for microbial life to live in," says study co-author Joel Hurowitz, a geochemist and planetary scientist at Stony Brook University.

NASA's Curiosity rover spent three and a half years collecting data from the crater, and that data now suggests that a habitable environment existed there for at least tens of thousands of years -- and possibly as long as "tens of millions of years."

NASA Will Create Fake Red And Green Clouds Near Virginia (cnn.com) 83

"We have scrubbed today, June 4, due to clouds," NASA tweeted hours before sunrise on Sunday, adding later that "The next launch attempt for the Terrier-Improved Malemute is no earlier than June 11 pending range availability." So they're still waiting for the right weather to launch a very unique experiment. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: The early morning hours on the U.S. East Coast might be unusually colorful as NASA plans to produce artificial blue-green and red clouds that may be visible from New York to North Carolina... It's a test of a new system that helps scientists study the auroras and ionosphere. A NASA sounding rocket (a small, sub-orbital rocket often used in research) will launch from Wallops Flight Facility off the coast of Virginia and release several soda-sized canisters of vapor tracers in the upper atmosphere that may appear as colorful clouds. The tracers use vapors made up of lithium, barium and tri-methyl aluminum that react with other elements in the atmosphere to glow, letting researchers visually track the flows of ionized and neutral particles. It's a bit like being able to dye the wind or ocean currents to be able to get a visual picture.
When NASA does perform its launch, CNN adds that "If you're near the eastern U.S. coast, look toward the eastern horizon. The farther you are from the launch location, the lower the clouds will appear on the horizon." Basically, try to adjust your gaze towards Virginia's eastern shore -- and if you're not on the east coast, NASA will be livestreaming the launch and posting updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Updated to reflect new mission status.

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Unveils World's Biggest Plane (seattletimes.com) 147

Frosty Piss quotes a report from The Seattle Times: The huge Stratolaunch finally rolled out of its hangar in Mojave, Calif., Wednesday for the first time. Built by Paul Allen's Scaled Composites, the twin hulled monster will go through months of ground tests before a first flight. Jean Floyd, chief executive at Stratolaunch Systems, said in a statement that the empty airplane, powered by six used 747 engines, weighs approximately 500,000 pounds. The jet will have a three-person crew: pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer in the flight deck of the starboard fuselage, while the port fuselage cockpit is empty and unpressurized. Stratolaunch is intended to carry a rocket slung beneath the central part of the wing, between the two fuselages, and release it at 35,000 feet. The concept is that the rocket will then launch into space and deliver satellites into orbit.

Scientists Decipher the Neural Code For Faces (scientificamerican.com) 35

New submitter akakaak writes: In a new paper published in Cell, researchers Le Chang and Doris Tsao claim to have uncovered "The Code for Facial Identity in the Primate Brain." They develop a model representing each face as a vector in a 50-dimensional "face-space," and show that the firing rate for each face-sensitive neuron represents the location along a single axis through this space. This allows them to accurately predict the appearance of a viewed face from the collective recorded activity of the neurons. This work is a major advance in the decoding of complex neural representations, and refutes exemplar-based models of face recognition. Further reading: Scientific American

'Instantly Rechargeable' Battery Could Change the Future of Electric Cars (sciencedaily.com) 150

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: A technology developed by Purdue researchers could provide an "instantly rechargeable" method that is safe, affordable and environmentally friendly for recharging electric and hybrid vehicle batteries through a quick and easy process similar to refueling a car at a gas station. John Cushman, Purdue University distinguished professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary science and a professor of mathematics, presented the research findings "Redox reactions in immiscible-fluids in porous media -- membraneless battery applications" at the recent International Society for Porous Media 9th International Conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Cushman co-founded Ifbattery LLC (IF-battery) to further develop and commercialize the technology. "Designing and building enough of these recharging stations requires massive infrastructure development, which means the energy distribution and storage system is being rebuilt at tremendous cost to accommodate the need for continual local battery recharge," said Eric Nauman, co-founder of Ifbattery and a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering, basic medical sciences and biomedical engineering. "Ifbattery is developing an energy storage system that would enable drivers to fill up their electric or hybrid vehicles with fluid electrolytes to re-energize spent battery fluids much like refueling their gas tanks." Mike Mueterthies, Purdue doctoral teaching and research assistant in physics and the third co-founder of Ifbattery, said the flow battery system makes the Ifbattery system unique. "Other flow batteries exist, but we are the first to remove membranes which reduces costs and extends battery life," Mueterthies said. Ifbattery's membrane-free battery demonstrates other benefits as well. "Membrane fouling can limit the number of recharge cycles and is a known contributor to many battery fires," Cushman said. "Ifbattery's components are safe enough to be stored in a family home, are stable enough to meet major production and distribution requirements and are cost effective." For the visual learners, Purdue Research Park has uploaded a video about Ifbattery's "instantly rechargeable" method.

Trump Misunderstood MIT Climate Research, University Officials Say (reuters.com) 361

MIT officials said U.S. President Donald Trump badly misunderstood their research when he cited it on Thursday to justify withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. From a report: Trump announced during a speech at the White House Rose Garden that he had decided to pull out of the landmark climate deal, in part because it would not reduce global temperatures fast enough to have a significant impact. "Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100," Trump said. "Tiny, tiny amount." That claim was attributed to research conducted by MIT, according to White House documents seen by Reuters. The Cambridge, Massaschusetts-based research university published a study in April 2016 titled "How much of a difference will the Paris Agreement make?" showing that if countries abided by their pledges in the deal, global warming would slow by between 0.6 degree and 1.1 degrees Celsius by 2100. "We certainly do not support the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement," said Erwan Monier, a lead researcher at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and one of the study's authors. "If we don't do anything, we might shoot over 5 degrees or more and that would be catastrophic," said John Reilly, the co-director of the program, adding that MIT's scientists had had no contact with the White House and were not offered a chance to explain their work.

Anti-Aging Start-Up Is Charging Thousands of Dollars for Teen Blood (vanityfair.com) 243

An anonymous reader writes: A startup called Ambrosia is charging about $8,000 a pop for blood transfusions from people under 25, Jesse Karmazin said at Code Conference. Ambrosia, which buys its blood from blood banks, now has about 100 paying customers. Some are Silicon Valley technologists, like Thiel, though Karmazin stressed that tech types aren't Ambrosia's only clients, and that anyone over 35 is eligible for its transfusions. Karmazin was inspired to found Ambrosia after seeing studies researchers had done involving sewing mice together with their veins conjoined. Some aspects of aging, one 2013 study found, could be reversed when older mice get blood from younger ones, but other researchers haven't been able to replicate these results, and the benefits of parabiosis in humans remains unclear. "I think the animal and retrospective data is compelling, and I want this treatment to be available to people," Karmazin told the MIT Technology Review.

Take-Two Acquires Kerbal Space Program 85

Eloking quotes a report from Polygon: Take-Two Interactive has purchased physics-based space simulation Kerbal Space Program, according to announcements from publisher Take-Two and developer Squad. "We have been impressed with Kerbal Space Program since its launch, and we are committed to grow this unique experience while continuing to support its passionate community," said Michael Worosz, senior vice president, head of corporate development and independent publishing at Take-Two, in a release. "We view Kerbal Space Program as a new, long-term franchise that adds a well-respected and beloved IP to Take-Two's portfolio as we continue to explore opportunities across the independent development landscape." Kerbal Space Program officially launched on PC in 2015. The game had been available through Steam's Early Access program since 2013. It has since gone on to sell more than 2 million copies on console and PC. Developer Squad said in a statement that the acquisition won't alter its plan for continued development of Kerbal Space Program. The developer is currently working on the Making History Expansion for the game.

Third Gravitational Wave Detected From Black-Hole Merger 3 Billion Light Years Away (bbc.com) 83

sycodon quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source): Astronomers said Thursday that they had felt space-time vibrations known as gravitational waves from the merger of a pair of mammoth black holes resulting in a pit of infinitely deep darkness weighing as much as 49 suns, some 3 billion light-years from here. This is the third black-hole smashup that astronomers have detected since they started keeping watch on the cosmos back in September 2015, with LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. All of them are more massive than the black holes that astronomers had previously identified as the remnants of dead stars. The latest detection was made at 10:11 GMT on January 4, and is described in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters. "The analysis suggests the two black holes that coalesced had starting masses that were just over 31 times and 19 times that of our Sun," reports BBC. "And when they finally came together, they produced a single object of a little under 49 solar masses. It means the unison radiated a simply colossal quantity of pure energy."

IBM Says Watson Health's AI Is Getting Really Good at Diagnosing Cancer (fastcompany.com) 51

An anonymous reader shares a report: In deciding on cancer treatment, doctors often get together in a "tumor board" to go over the options. IBM's Watson now sits in on those meetings in a few hospitals, such as in South Korea and India -- and it generally makes the same calls that a human expert would. So says IBM in a series of studies it's presenting this weekend at the ASCO cancer treatment conference in Chicago. "It's not making a diagnosis. That's not what we set out to do," says Andrew Norden of IBM's Watson Health division. "They will run Watson Oncology in a tumor board and sort of get another external opinion." Watson's "concordance rate" -- the degree to which it agrees with human doctors -- ranged from 73% to 96%, depending on the type of cancer (such as colon cancer) and the particular hospital where the study was done (in India, South Korea, and Thailand).

A NASA Spacecraft Will Head Straight For the Sun -- Farther Than Any Probe Before It (abc.net.au) 78

A US spacecraft will swoop inside the Sun's corona, its superheated outer atmosphere, on a pathfinding mission to learn more about how stars work. Nasa's $1.5bn Parker Solar Probe, which will be protected by a shield that can withstand temperatures of 1,400C, will journey within 6m km of the Sun's surface, seven times closer than any previous spacecraft. From a report: Set to kick off next July, the plan is to plunge the Parker Solar Probe into the Sun's corona -- the hazy bit you can see around the edges of the Sun during a total solar eclipse -- to study this phenomenon. The car-sized spacecraft will get closer to the Sun than any other mission ever has. Travelling at the dizzying speed of more than 720,000 kilometres per hour, the probe will eventually come within less than 6.4 million kilometres of the Sun's surface. We've been studying the Sun for thousands of years, and even though we now have remote sensing observatories and spacecraft that examine it in spectacular detail, many questions still remain. The two big ones are: 1. Why is the corona on the outside of the Sun at least 300 times hotter than the surface? 2. Why does the solar wind speed up?
United States

Trump Announces US Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord (reuters.com) 1109

It's official. President Donald Trump announced today that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, following through on a pledge he made during the presidential campaign. Trump said the Paris agreement "front loads costs on American people. In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States," the president said. "We are getting out. But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great." Trump said that the United States will immediately "cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord" and what he said were "draconian financial" and other burdens imposed on the country by the accord.

This means that Elon Musk will leave Trump's Business Advisory Council. On Wednesday, Musk said he did "all he could to advise directly to Trump." (Update: Elon Musk is staying true to his words. Following the announcement, Musk tweeted, "Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.)

Twenty-five companies, including Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, Microsoft, Salesforce, Morgan Stanley, Intel signed on to a letter which was published on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal today arguing in favor of climate pact.

Update: Former president Barack Obama said the U.S. "joins a small handful of nations that reject the future."

Also, the New York Times points out that despite Trump's public statements, the U.S. can't officially leave the Paris climate agreement until 2020.
United States

The US Is the Biggest Carbon Polluter in History (nytimes.com) 465

Justin Gillis, and Nadja Popovich, writing for The New York Times: The United States, with its love of big cars, big houses and blasting air-conditioners, has contributed more than any other country to the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is scorching the planet. "In cumulative terms, we certainly own this problem more than anybody else does," said David G. Victor, a longtime scholar of climate politics at the University of California, San Diego. Many argue that this obligates the United States to take ambitious action to slow global warming. Against that backdrop, factions in the Trump administration are engaged in a heated debate over whether to remain a party to the 195-nation agreement on climate change reached in Paris in 2015. President Trump promised on Wednesday to announce his decision at 3 p.m Thursday in the White House Rose Garden. A decision to walk away from the accord would be a momentous setback, in practical and political terms, for the effort to address climate change. Several news outlets, citing people in the administration, reported on Wednesday that the US is likely to pull out of the agreement.

SpaceX To Refly a Dragon Cargo Spacecraft (arstechnica.com) 41

Thelasko writes: Tomorrow's scheduled resupply mission to the International Space Station will mark the second time its Dragon capsule has visited the station. Ars Technica reports: "This particular Dragon spacecraft was sent to the International Space Station in September 2014, and it delivered nearly 2.5 tons of cargo to the orbiting laboratory. The Dragon returned to Earth about a month later, splashing down into the ocean. It is not clear how much processing SpaceX has had to undertake to ready the spacecraft for its second flight to the station, nor has the company released a cost estimate. It also had to manufacture a new 'trunk,' the unpressurized rear section of the vehicle, and solar panels."
The Courts

Oregon Man Fined For Writing 'I Am An Engineer' Temporarily Wins Right To Call Himself An 'Engineer' (vice.com) 369

Mats Jarlstrom, an electrical engineer fined by the Oregon engineering board for calling himself an "engineer" and talking about traffic lights, has been granted the temporary right by a judge to both publicly call himself an "engineer" and talk about traffic lights. Jason Koebler reports via Motherboard: Last month, Jarlstrom sued the engineering board for violating his First Amendment rights, and Tuesday a federal judge gave Jarlstrom the temporary right to call himself an engineer, pending the results of his case. "Plaintiff Jarlstrom may study, communicate publicly about, and communicate privately his theories relating to traffic lights throughout the pendency of this litigation as long as [his] communications occur outside the context of a paid employment or contractual relationship," Anna Brown, a federal district court judge for the district of Oregon, ordered. He "may describe himself publicly and privately using the word 'engineer' throughout the pendency of this litigation." Jarlstrom's attorneys say this is a promising sign and a "critical first step in protecting Oregonians' First Amendment rights."

Elon Musk Joins CEOs Calling For US To Stay in Paris Climate Deal (bloomberg.com) 304

Billionaire Elon Musk said on Wednesday he would leave President Trump's Business Advisory Council if the White House withdraws from an international agreement aimed at curbing climate change. From a report: The appeals from chief executives such as Tesla's Musk, Tim Cook of Apple and Dow Chemical's Andrew Liveris come as Trump's advisers also present him with closing arguments on the potential risks and rewards of remaining a party to the global pact. Trump also got an earful from foreign leaders and Pope Francis urging him to stay in the agreement during his first international trip as president. Cook placed a call to the White House on Tuesday to urge the president to keep the U.S. in the agreement, according to a person familiar with the move. Liveris was the driving force behind a letter from 30 major company executives backing the deal. And Musk tweeted Wednesday that he has "done all I can to advise directly to" Trump. If the U.S. leaves Paris, Musk said he would drop participation in White House advisory councils. [...] Twenty-five companies, including Intel, Microsoft and PG&E, have signed on to a letter set to run as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on Thursday arguing in favor of climate pact.

Trump Is Pulling US Out of Paris Climate Deal: Sources (axios.com) 737

An anonymous reader shares a report: President Trump has made his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the decision. Details on how the withdrawal will be executed are being worked out by a small team including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. They're deciding on whether to initiate a full, formal withdrawal -- which could take 3 years -- or exit the underlying United Nations climate change treaty, which would be faster but more extreme. Pulling out of Paris is the biggest thing Trump could do to unravel Obama's climate legacy. It sends a combative signal to the rest of the world that America doesn't prioritize climate change and threatens to unravel the ambition of the entire deal. News agency Reuters has corroborated the report with its own source. Further reading on Politico (which has also corroborated the news) and BBC. Update: Trump Announces US Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord.

DNA From Ancient Egyptian Mummies Reveals Their Ancestry (washingtonpost.com) 97

HanzoSpam quotes a report from Washington Post: Ancient Egyptians were an archaeologist's dream. They left behind intricate coffins, massive pyramids and gorgeous hieroglyphs, the pictorial writing code cracked in 1799. But there was one persistent hole in ancient Egyptian identity: their chromosomes. A study led by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Tubingen in Germany managed to plug some of those genetic gaps. Researchers wrung genetic material from 151 Egyptian mummies, radiocarbon dated between Egypt's New Kingdom (the oldest at 1388 B.C.) to the Roman Period (the youngest at 426 A.D.), as reported Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. Johannes Krause, a University of Tubingen paleogeneticist and an author of the study, said the major finding was that "for 1,300 years, we see complete genetic continuity." Despite repeated conquests of Egypt, by Alexander the Great, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Assyrians -- the list goes on -- ancient Egyptians showed little genetic change. "The other big surprise," Krause said, "was we didn't find much sub-Saharan African ancestry."

AI Could Get Smarter By Copying the Neural Structure of a Rat Brain (ieee.org) 89

the_newsbeagle writes: Many of today's fanciest artificial intelligence systems are some type of artificial neural network, but they bear only the roughest resemblance to a biological brain's real networks of neurons. That could change thanks to a $100M program from IARPA. The intelligence agency is funding neuroscience teams to map 1 cubic millimeter of rodent brain, looking at activity in the visual cortex while the rodent is engaged in a complex visual recognition task. By discovering how the neural circuits in that brain cube get activated to process information, IARPA hopes to find inspiration for better artificial neural networks. And an AI that performs better on visual recognition tasks could certainly be useful to intelligence agencies.
The Military

Conch Shells Inspire Next Generation Helmets, Body Armor (rdmag.com) 44

New submitter omaha393 writes: Researchers at MIT used a 3D printing approach to develop a biomimetic composite capable of withstanding 70-85% more resistance than typical helmet designs. The material was manufactured using a composite of hard and soft printable polymers called VeroMagenta and TangoBlackPlus. The polymers were printed to overlay in a specific pattern that mimics conch shell molecular hierarchy, thus preventing cracks from spreading and offering a substantially more crack-resistant material. The researchers propose the material can be custom tailored and readily printed for future helmets and body armor manufacturing. The study has been published in Advanced Materials.

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Choose a News Source? (csmonitor.com) 275

Obfiscator writes: Journalism has long had potential to change the world. The latest elections in the United States demonstrated new dimensions of this, with the rise of "fake news" and "echo chambers," as well as a president who has few reservations in expressing his thoughts of the media. The Christian Science Monitor has been a favorite news site of mine for years, due to their objective and balanced reporting, as well as their tendency to avoid "breaking news" and provide detailed analysis a few days later. Very few stories are going to impact my world to the point where waiting a couple days to read about them will make a difference. Despite the name, the vast majority of articles have no religious context (they address this in their FAQ). CSM has recently switched to be completely behind a paywall, as well. In their words, "We hope the Monitor Daily addresses both those trends. It is pushed to where our readers are and offers this pact: We will deliver our distinctive view of the world and you support financially our ability to produce that news." Is this the next trend: moving away from advertising revenues? Will this create more balanced journalism, as there is no need to attract clicks? Or will it deepen "echo chambers?" How do Slashdotters choose their news sites?

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