Science

Peer Pressure Forced Whales and Dolphins To Evolve Big Brains Like Humans, Says Study (qz.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: The human brain has evolved and expanded over millennia to accommodate our ever-more-complex needs and those of our societies. This process is known as "encephalization" and has given us the big brain we need to communicate, cooperate, reach consensus, empathize, and socialize. The same is true for cetaceans, like whales and dolphins, it seems. These sea creatures also grew big brains in order to better live in societies, according to a study published on Oct. 16 in Nature Ecology & Evolution. According to Michael Muthukrishna, an economic psychologist at the London School of Economics and co-author of the study, the researchers used two related theories, the Social-Brain Hypothesis and the Cultural-Brain Hypothesis, to make predictions about various relationships between brain size, societal organization, and the breadth of behaviors the cetaceans would display. Then they tested these predictions by creating and evaluating a comprehensive database of cetacean brain size, social structures, and cultural behaviors across species using data from prior studies on 90 types of whales and dolphins.

The study found that cetaceans had complex alliances and communications, played and worked together for mutual benefit, and could even work with other species, like humans. Some also have individual signifiers, sounds that set them apart from others, and can mimic the sounds of others. In addition, it found that brain size predicted the breadth of social and cultural behaviors of these marine creatures (though ecological factors, like prey diversity and latitudinal range, also played a role). The researchers concluded there was a tie between cetacean encephalization, social structure, and group size.

Google

Google Maps Now Lets You Explore Your Local Planets and Moons (cnet.com) 53

Google has added three planets and nine moons to Google Maps. "The heavenly bodies include Saturn moons Dione, Enceladus, Iapetus, Mimas, Rhea and Titan, and Jupiter moons Europa, Ganymede and Io," reports CNET. "Google also added dwarf-planets Pluto and Ceres and full-planet Venus." From the report: Once inside Google Maps for planets, you can spin the space objects around, get more information on their place names and zoom in for a closer look. The new worlds are possible thanks to imagery from NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's dearly departed Cassini spacecraft sent back a treasure trove of views of Saturn's moons. If you have a few moments to spare, fire up a browser, go to your current location on Google Maps, enter satellite mode and hit the zoom-out button until you've left the planet and are "floating" in space. A list of available planets and moons pops up on the side and you're off on your space adventure.
Android

Essential Is Getting Sued For Allegedly Stealing Wireless Connector Technology (gizmodo.com) 43

"Keyssa, a wireless technology company backed by iPod creator and Nest founder Tony Fadell, filed a lawsuit against Essential on Monday, alleging that the company stole trade secrets and breached their nondisclosure agreement," reports Gizmodo. Keyssa has proprietary technology that reportedly lets users transfer large files in a matter of seconds by holding two devices side by side. From the report: According to the lawsuit, Keyssa and Essential engaged in conversations in which the wireless tech company "divulged to Essential proprietary technology enabling every facet of Keyssa's wireless connectivity," all of which was protected under a non-disclosure agreement. More specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Keyssa "deployed a team 20 of its top engineers and scientists" to educate Essential on its proprietary tech, sending them "many thousands of confidential emails, hundreds of confidential technical documents, and dozens of confidential presentations." Essential ended this relationship after over 10 months and later told Keyssa that its engineers would use a competing chip in the Essential Phone. But Keyssa is accusing Essential of including techniques in its phone that were gleaned from their relationship, despite their confidentiality agreement. Central to this lawsuit is one of the Essential Phone's key selling points: the option to swap in modular add-ons, made possible thanks to the phone's unique cordless connector. In short, if Keyssa's claims hold water, then one of the phone's defining factors is a product of theft.
Earth

Ophelia Became a Major Hurricane Where No Storm Had Before (arstechnica.com) 180

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The system formerly known as Hurricane Ophelia is moving into Ireland on Monday, bringing "status red" weather throughout the day to the island. The Irish National Meteorological Service, Met Eireann, has warned that, "Violent and destructive gusts of 120 to 150km/h are forecast countrywide, and in excess of these values in some very exposed and hilly areas. There is a danger to life and property." Ophelia transitioned from a hurricane to an extra-tropical system on Sunday, but that only marginally diminished its threat to Ireland and the United Kingdom on Monday, before it likely dissipates near Norway on Tuesday. The primary threat from the system was high winds, with heavy rains. Forecasters marveled at the intensification of Ophelia on Saturday, as it reached Category 3 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale and became a major hurricane. For a storm in the Atlantic basin, this is the farthest east that a major hurricane has been recorded during the satellite era of observations. Additionally, it was the farthest north, at 35.9 degrees north, that an Atlantic major hurricane has existed this late in the year since 1939.
United States

Leave It To the Heat to Dull Autumn's Glory (wsj.com) 140

It's autumn. Somebody tell the trees. From a report: Ordinarily, two signals alert deciduous trees that it's time to relinquish the green hues of summer in favor of autumn's yellows, oranges and reds. First, the days begin to grow shorter. Second, the temperature begins to drop. But this year, unseasonably warm weather across most of the U.S. has tricked trees into delaying the onset of fall's color extravaganza. Temperatures in the eastern half of the country have been as much as 15 degrees above normal since mid-September, and the warmth is expected to persist through the end of October. The unfortunate result for leaf peepers is a lackluster fall. Two kinds of pigments produce the season's liveliest foliage. Carotenoid, responsible for yellows and oranges, is always present in leaves but is usually masked by chlorophyll. The initial trigger for its appearance is shorter days. Anthocyanin, responsible for reds and deep purples, is different. Not all deciduous trees have this pigment, and those that do manufacture it from scratch in the fall. The primary trigger for its appearance is lower temperatures. Without that cooling cue, the colors of maple and other species that generally ignite New England with brilliant reds this time of year are likely to fizzle.
Science

Astronomers Strike Gravitational Gold In Colliding Neutron Stars (npr.org) 109

For the first time, scientists have caught two neutron stars in the act of colliding, revealing that these strange smash-ups are the source of heavy elements such as gold and platinum. From a report: The discovery, announced today at a news conference and in scientific reports written by some 3,500 researchers, solves a long-standing mystery about the origin of these heavy elements -- which are found in everything from wedding rings to cellphones to nuclear weapons. It's also a dramatic demonstration of how astrophysics is being transformed by humanity's newfound ability to detect gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time that are created when massive objects spin around each other and finally collide. "It's so beautiful. It's so beautiful it makes me want to cry. It's the fulfillment of dozens, hundreds, thousands of people's efforts, but it's also the fulfillment of an idea suddenly becoming real," says Peter Saulson of Syracuse University, who has spent more than three decades working on the detection of gravitational waves. Albert Einstein predicted the existence of these ripples more than a century ago, but scientists didn't manage to detect them until 2015. Until now, they'd made only four such detections, and each time the distortions in space-time were caused by the collision of two black holes. That bizarre phenomenon, however, can't normally be seen by telescopes that look for light. Neutron stars, by contrast, spew out visible cosmic fireworks when they come together. These incredibly dense stars are as small as cities like New York and yet have more mass than our sun. Further reading: 'A New Rosetta Stone for Astronomy' (The Atlantic), and Gravitational Wave Astronomers Hit Mother Lode (Scientific American).
China

China's Scientists Set New International Record -- For Faked Peer Reviews (nytimes.com) 75

China now has more laboratory scientists than any other country in the world, reports Amy Qin in the New York Times, and spends more on research than the entire European Union. But in its rush to dominance, China has stood out in another, less boastful way. Since 2012, the country has retracted more scientific papers because of faked peer reviews than all other countries and territories put together, according to Retraction Watch, a blog that tracks and seeks to publicize retractions of research papers... In April, a scientific journal retracted 107 biology research papers, the vast majority of them written by Chinese authors, after evidence emerged that they had faked glowing reviews of their articles. Then, this summer, a Chinese gene scientist who had won celebrity status for breakthroughs once trumpeted as Nobel Prize-worthy was forced to retract his research when other scientists failed to replicate his results. At the same time, a government investigation highlighted the existence of a thriving online black market that sells everything from positive peer reviews to entire research articles...

In part, these numbers may simply reflect the enormous scale of the world's most populous nation. But Chinese scientists also blame what they call the skewed incentives they say are embedded within their nation's academic system.

Social Networks

Elon Musk Teases Reddit With Bad Answers About BFR Rocket (reddit.com) 100

Long-time Slashdot reader Rei writes: On Saturday evening, Elon Musk took questions in a Reddit AMA (Ask-Me-Anything) concerning SpaceX's new design for the BFR (Big F* Rocket). But unlike the 2016 IAC conference where many audience questions seemed to be trolling Musk, this time the tables were turned. Asked why Raptor thrust was reduced from 300 tons to 170, Musk replied, "We chickened out." He responded to a statement about landing on the moon by quoting Bob the Builder, while responding to a user's suggestion about caching internet data from Mars by writing simply "Nerd." A question as to whether BFR autogenous pressurization would be heat-exchanger based, Musk replied that they planned to utilize the Incendio spell from Harry Potter -- helpfully providing a Wikipedia link for the spell.

A technical question about the lack of a tail? "Tails are lame." A question about why the number of landing legs was increased from 3 to 4? "Because 4." After one Redditor observed "This is one bizarre AMA so far," Musk replied "Just wait..." While Musk ultimately did follow up some of the trolling with some actual responses, the overall event could be best described as "surreal".

To be fair, Musk provided some serious answers. (And his final comment ended with "Great questions nk!!") But one Redditor suggested Musk's stranger answers were like a threat, along the lines of "Just wait. It will get way more bizarre than that. Let me finish my whiskey."

Musk replied, "How did you know? I am actually drinking whiskey right now. Really."
Biotech

Scientists Selectively Trigger Suicide In Cancer Cells (scitechdaily.com) 47

Long-time Slashdot reader Baron_Yam quotes SciTechDaily: A team of researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine reveals the first compound that directly makes cancer cells commit suicide while sparing healthy cells. The new treatment approach was directed against acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells but may also have potential for attacking other types of cancers.... AML accounts for nearly one-third of all new leukemia cases and kills more than 10,000 Americans each year. The survival rate for patients has remained at about 30 percent for several decades, so better treatments are urgently needed.
The team's computer screened a million compounds to determine the 500 most likely to bind to the "executioner protein" in cells. They then synthesized them all in their lab and evaluated their effectiveness.
China

8.5-Ton Chinese Space Station Will Crash To Earth In a Few Months (cnbc.com) 104

dryriver writes: China launched a space laboratory named Tiangong 1 into orbit in 2011. The space laboratory was supposed to become a symbol of China's ambitious bid to become a space superpower. After two years in space, Tiangong 1 started experiencing technical failure. Last year Chinese officials confirmed that the space laboratory had to be scrapped. The 8.5 ton heavy space laboratory has begun its descent towards Earth and is expected to crash back to Earth within the next few months.

Most of the laboratory is expected to burn up in earth's atmosphere, but experts believe that pieces as heavy as 100 kilograms (220 pounds) may survive re-entry and impact earth's surface. Nobody will be able to predict with any precision where those chunks of space laboratory will land on Earth until a few hours before re-entry occurs. The chance that anyone would be harmed by Tiangong-1's debris is considered unlikely.


When NASA's SkyLab fell to earth in 1979, an Australian town fined them $400 -- for littering.
Data Storage

Microwave Tech Could Produce 40TB Hard Drives In the Near Future (gizmodo.com) 151

Western Digital has announced a potential game changer that promises to expand the limits of traditional HDDs to up to 40TBs using a microwave-based write head, and the company says it will be able to the public in 2019. Gizmodo reports: Western Digital's new approach, microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR), can utilize the company's existing production chain to cram a lot more storage onto a 3.5-inch disk. In a technical overview, Western Digital says it has managed to overcome the biggest issue with traditional HDD drive storage -- the size of the write head. These days, an average hard drive maxes out in the 10-14TB range. But by integrating a new write head, "a spin torque oscillator," microwaves can create the energy levels necessary for copying data within a lower magnetic field than was ever previously possible. There's a more thorough white paper for those who want to dive in. According to Western Digital, MAMR has "the capability to extend areal density gains up to 4 Terabits per square inch." By the year 2025, it hopes to be packing 40TBs into the same size drive it offers today.
Medicine

Magic Mushrooms 'Reboot' Brain In Depressed People, Study Suggests (theguardian.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Magic mushrooms may effectively "reset" the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression, the latest study to highlight the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics suggests. Psychedelics have shown promising results in the treatment of depression and addictions in a number of clinical trials over the last decade. Imperial College London researchers used psilocybin -- the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms -- to treat a small number of patients with depression, monitoring their brain function, before and after. Images of patients' brains revealed changes in brain activity that were associated with marked and lasting reductions in depressive symptoms and participants in the trial reported benefits lasting up to five weeks after treatment.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial, who led the study, said: "We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments. Several of our patients described feeling 'reset' after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been 'defragged' like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt 'rebooted.' Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary 'kick start' they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a 'reset' analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy." The study has been published in Scientific Reports.

Communications

Recordings of the Sounds Heard In the Cuban US Embassy Attacks Released (apnews.com) 300

New submitter chrissfoot shares a report from The Associated Press: The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon. The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer. What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes. You can listen to the "Dangerous Sound" here via YouTube.
Data Storage

Researcher Turns HDD Into Rudimentary Microphone (bleepingcomputer.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes from Bleeping Computer: Speaking at a security conference, researcher Alfredo Ortega has revealed that you can use your hard disk drive (HDD) as a rudimentary microphone to pick up nearby sounds. This is possible because of how hard drives are designed to work. Sounds or nearby vibrations are nothing more than mechanical waves that cause HDD platters to vibrate. By design, a hard drive cannot read or write information to an HDD platter that moves under vibrations, so the hard drive must wait for the oscillation to stop before carrying out any actions. Because modern operating systems come with utilities that measure HDD operations up to nanosecond accuracy, Ortega realized that he could use these tools to measure delays in HDD operations. The longer the delay, the louder the sound or the intense the vibration that causes it. These read-write delays allowed the researcher to reconstruct sound or vibration waves picked up by the HDD platters. A video demo is here.

"It's not accurate yet to pick up conversations," Ortega told Bleeping Computer in a private conversation. "However, there is research that can recover voice data from very low-quality signals using pattern recognition. I didn't have time to replicate the pattern-recognition portion of that research into mine. However, it's certainly applicable." Furthermore, the researcher also used sound to attack hard drives. Ortega played a 130Hz tone to make an HDD stop responding to commands. "The Linux kernel disconnected it entirely after 120 seconds," he said. There's a video of this demo on YouTube.

Earth

World's First 'Negative Emissions' Plant Has Begun Operation (qz.com) 218

In an effort to reduce the 40 trillion kg of carbon dioxide humans produce each year, three companies have been working to build machines that can capture the gas directly from the air. One such machine in Iceland has begun operation. Quartz reports: Climeworks just proved the cynics wrong. On Oct. 11, at a geothermal power plant in Iceland, the startup inaugurated the first system that does direct air capture and verifiably achieves negative carbon emissions. Although it's still at pilot scale -- capturing only 50 metric tons CO2 from the air each year, about the same emitted by a single U.S. household -- it's the first system to take CO2 in the air and convert the emissions into stone, thus ensuring they don't escape back into the atmosphere for the next millions of years. Climeworks and Global Thermostat have piloted systems in which they coat plastics and ceramics, respectively, with an amine, a type of chemical that can absorb CO2. Carbon Engineering uses a liquid system, with calcium oxide and water. The companies say it's too early in the development of these technologies to predict what costs will be at scale.
Science

Octopuses Show Scientists How To Hide Machines in Plain Sight (axios.com) 63

If you want to learn the art of camouflage look no further than octopuses. Just watch this famous video that shows a diver slowly swimming up to a clump of rock and seaweed, only for part of that clump to turn white, open its eye, and jet away, squirting ink behind it. Materials scientists and engineers have fallen under the octopuses' spell. From a report: Scientists have engineered a material that can transform from a 2D sheet to a 3D shape, adjusting its texture to blend in with its surroundings, per a new study published today in Science. They mimicked the abilities of an octopus, which can change both shape and color to camouflage. This is a first step toward developing soft robots that can hide in plain sight, robotics expert Cecilia Laschi writes of the research. Robots that can camouflage may one day be used in natural environments to study animals more closely than ever before or in military operations to avoid detection, she writes.
Government

FDA Advisers Endorse Gene Therapy To Treat Form of Blindness (cbsnews.com) 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: A panel of U.S. health advisers has endorsed an experimental approach to treating inherited blindness, setting the stage for the likely approval of an innovative new genetic medicine. A panel of experts to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously in favor of Spark Therapeutics' injectable therapy, which aims to improve vision in patients with a rare mutation that gradually destroys normal vision. The vote amounts to a recommendation to approve the therapy. According to Spark Therapeutics' website, inherited retinal diseases are a group of rare blinding conditions caused by one of more than 220 genes. Some living with these diseases experience a gradual loss of vision, while others may be born without the ability to see or lose their vision in infancy or early childhood. Genetic testing is the only way to verify the exact gene mutation that is the underlying cause of the disease.
Education

'Maybe Wikipedia Readers Shouldn't Need Science Degrees To Digest Articles About Basic Topics' (vice.com) 304

Wikipedia articles about "hard science" (physics, biology, chemistry) topics are really mostly written for other scientists, writes Michael Byrne, a reporter on Science beat at Vice's Motherboard news outlet. From the article: This particular class of Wikipedia article tends to take the high-level form of a scientific paper. There's a brief intro (an abstract) that is kinda-sorta comprehensible, but then the article immediately degenerates into jargon and equations. Take, for example, the page for the electroweak interaction in particle physics. This is a topic of potentially broad interest; its formulation won a trio of physicists the Nobel Prize in 1979. Generally, it has to do with a fundamental linkage between two of the four fundamental forces of the universe, electromagnetism and the weak force. The Wikipedia article for the electroweak force consists of a two-paragraph introduction that basically just says what I said above plus some fairly intimidating technical context. The rest of the article is almost entirely gnarly math equations. I have no idea who the article exists for because I'm not sure that person actually exists: someone with enough knowledge to comprehend dense physics formulations that doesn't also already understand the electroweak interaction or that doesn't already have, like, access to a textbook about it. For another, somewhat different example, look at the article for graphene. Graphene is, of course, an endlessly hyped superstrong supermaterial. It's in the news constantly. The article isn't just a bunch of math equations, but it's also not much more penetrable for a reader without at least some chemistry/materials science background.
Earth

Evidence Suggests Updated Timeline Towards Yellowstone's Supervolcano Eruption (nytimes.com) 320

Camel Pilot writes: Geologist have been aware of fresh magma moving in the Yellowstone's super volcano system. Previously this was thought to precede an eruption by thousands of years. Recent evidence by Hannah Shamloo, a graduate student at Arizona State University, demonstrates that perhaps the timeline from the underground basin filling to eruption is more on the scale of decades. A super volcano eruption has the power to alter life's story on this earth and even destroy all life on a continent. In light of this, it seems like a good time to invest some effort and resources into finding ways to prepare, delay or deflect the potential threat. The research was presented at the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) 2017 conference in Portland, Oregon.
Space

Scientists Discover Ring Around Dwarf Planet Haumea Beyond Neptune 49

A ring has been discovered around one of the dwarf planets that orbits the outer reaches of the solar system. Until now, ring-like structures had only been found around the four outer planets -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The Guardian reports: "In 2014 we discovered that a very small body in the Centaurs region [an area of small celestial bodies between the asteroid belt and Neptune] had a ring and at that time it seemed to be a very weird thing," explained Dr Jose Ortiz, whose group at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia in Granada made the discovery described in the journal Nature. "We didn't expect to find a ring around Haumea, but we were not too surprised either." Haumea was recognized by the International Astronomical Union in 2008 and is one of five dwarf planets, alongside Pluto, Ceres, Eris and Makemake. They are located beyond Neptune -- 50 times farther away from the sun than Earth. Haumea, named after the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth, is unusual because of its elongated shape, comparable to a rugby ball, and its rapid rotation, spinning around once every 3.9 hours. Its diameter is approximately a third of the size of Earth's moon.
Space

SpaceX Successfully Landed the 12th Falcon 9 Rocket of 2017 (theverge.com) 118

Shortly after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on one of the company's drone ships in the ocean. "It marks the 12th time SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket this year, the 18th overall, and the second this week," reports The Verge. "It was also the third time that the company has successfully launched and landed a rocket that had already flown." From the report: The vehicle for this mission has flown before: once back in February, when it lofted cargo to the International Space Station and then landed at SpaceX's ground-based Landing Zone 1. Going up on this flight is a hybrid satellite that will be used by two companies, SES and EchoStar. Called EchoStar 105/SES-11, the satellite will sit in a high orbit 22,000 miles above Earth, providing high-definition broadcasts to the U.S. and other parts of North America. While this is the first time EchoStar is flying a payload on a used Falcon 9, this is familiar territory for SES. The company's SES-10 satellite went up on the first "re-flight" in March. And SES has made it very clear that it is eager to fly its satellites on previously flown boosters.
Earth

A Giant, Mysterious Hole Has Opened Up In Antarctica (vice.com) 270

Scientists are perplexed over a giant hole that has opened up in Antarctica. According to Motherboard, the "gigantic, mysterious hole" is as large as Lake Superior or the state of Maine. From the report: The gigantic, mysterious hole "is quite remarkable," atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, told me over the phone. "It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice." Areas of open water surrounded by sea ice, such as this one, are known as polynyas. They form in coastal regions of Antarctica, Moore told me. What's strange here, though, is that this polynya is "deep in the ice pack," he said, and must have formed through other processes that aren't understood. "This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge. If we didn't have a satellite, we wouldn't know it was there." (It measured 80,000 km^2 at its peak.) "This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there," Moore said. (It opened around September 9.) "We're still trying to figure out what's going on."
Science

'Sooty Birds' Reveal Hidden US Air Pollution (bbc.com) 80

Soot trapped in the feathers of songbirds over the past 100 years is causing scientists to revise their records of air pollution. From a report: US researchers measured the black carbon found on 1,300 larks, woodpeckers and sparrows over the past century. They've produced the most complete picture to date of historic air quality over industrial parts of the US. The study also boosts our understanding of historic climate change. [...] This new study takes an unusual approach to working out the scale of soot coming from this part of the US over the last 100 years. The scientists trawled through natural history collections in museums in the region and measured evidence of black carbon, trapped in the feathers and wings of songbirds as they flew through the smoky air. The researchers were able to accurately estimate the amount of soot on each bird by photographing them and measuring the amount of light reflected off them. "We went into natural history collections and saw that birds from 100 years ago that were soiled, they were covered in soot," co-author Shane DuBay, from the Field Museum and the University of Chicago, told BBC News. "We saw that birds from the present were cleaner and we knew that at some point through time the birds cleaned up -- when we did our first pass of analysis using reflectance we were like wow, we have some incredible precision." Their analysis of over 1,000 birds shows that black carbon levels peaked in the first decade of the 1900s and that the air at the turn of the century was worse than previously thought.
Science

'Staying Longer At Home' Was Key To Stone Age Technology Change 60,000 Years Ago (phys.org) 74

A new study by scientists at the University of the Witwatersrand suggests that at about 58,000 years ago, Stone Age humans began to settle down, staying in one area for longer periods. The research also provides a potential answer to a long-held mystery: why older, Howiesons Poort complex technological tradition in South Africa, suddenly disappear at that time. Phys.Org reports: The Howiesons Poort at Sibudu contains many finely-worked, crescent-shaped stone tools fashioned from long, thin blades made on dolerite, hornfels and, to a lesser extent, quartz. These "segments," as they are called, were hafted to shafts or handles at a variety of angles using compound adhesives that sometimes included red ochre (an iron oxide). A diverse bone tool kit in the Howiesons Poort includes what may be the world's oldest bone arrowhead. Certainly a variety of hunting techniques was used perhaps including the first use of snares for the capture of small creatures. The animal remains brought to Sibudu reflect this diversity for there are bones from large plains game like zebra, tiny blue duiker, and even pigeons and small carnivores. Soft, clayey ochre pieces were collected in the Howiesons Poort perhaps at a considerable distance From Sibudu. Clayey ochre is useful for applying as paint. The beautiful Howiesons Poort industry with its long, thin blades is replaced at 58,000 years ago by a simple technology that could be rapidly produced. Coarse rocks like quartzite and sandstone became popular. These could be collected close to Sibudu. Post-Howiesons Poort tools were part of an unstandardized toolkit with triangular or irregularly-shaped flakes. Tiny scaled pieces were also produced using a bipolar technique (in the simplest terms this involves smashing a small piece of rock with a hammerstone). The study has been published in the journal PlosOne.
Japan

Tokyo Preparing For Floods 'Beyond Anything We've Seen' (tampabay.com) 98

In the face of an era of extreme weather brought on by climate change, global cities are working to improve their defenses. The New York Times reports (Warning: may be paywalled; alternative source) of Tokyo's $2 billion underground anti-flood system that consists of tunnels that divert water away from the region's most vulnerable floodplains. The city is "preparing for flooding beyond anything we've seen," says Kuniharu Abe, head of the underground site. From the report: But even in Tokyo, the onset of more frequent and intense storms has forced officials to question whether the region's protections are strong enough, a concern that has become more urgent as the city prepares to host the 2020 Olympic Games. Across Japan, rainfall measuring more than 2 inches an hour has increased 30 percent over the past three decades, the Japan Meteorological Agency estimates. The frequency of rainfall of more than 3 inches an hour has jumped 70 percent. The agency attributes the increase of these intense rains to global warming, heralding a new era in a country that is among the world's wettest, with a language that has dozens of words for rain. [...]

Experts have also questioned the wisdom of erecting more concrete defenses in a country that has dammed most of its major river systems and fortified entire shorelines with breakwaters and concrete blocks. Some of these protections, they say, only encourage development in regions that could still be vulnerable to future flooding. In eastern Saitama, where the Kasukabe facility has done the most to reduce floods, local industry has flourished; the region has successfully attracted several large e-commerce distribution centers and a new shopping mall. Still, the Kasukabe operation remains a critical part of Tokyo's defenses, say officials at Japan's Land Ministry, which runs the site. Five vertical, underground cisterns, almost 250 feet deep, take in stormwater from four rivers north of Tokyo. A series of tunnels connect the cisterns to a vast tank, larger than a soccer field, with ceilings held up by 60-foot pillars that give the space a temple-like feel. From that tank, industrial pumps discharge the floodwater at a controlled pace into the Edo river, a larger river system that flushes the water into Tokyo Bay.

Science

Half the Universe's Missing Matter Has Just Been Finally Found (newscientist.com) 247

An anonymous reader shares a report: The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe -- protons, neutrons and electrons -- unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space. You have probably heard about the hunt for dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to permeate the universe, the effects of which we can see through its gravitational pull. But our models of the universe also say there should be about twice as much ordinary matter out there, compared with what we have observed so far. Two separate teams found the missing matter -- made of particles called baryons rather than dark matter -- linking galaxies together through filaments of hot, diffuse gas. "The missing baryon problem is solved," says Hideki Tanimura at the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Orsay, France, leader of one of the groups. The other team was led by Anna de Graaff at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Because the gas is so tenuous and not quite hot enough for X-ray telescopes to pick up, nobody had been able to see it before.
Mars

SpaceX's Mars Vision Puts Pressure on NASA's Manned Exploration Programs (marketwatch.com) 142

An anonymous reader shares a report: Entrepreneur Elon Musk's announcement late last month accelerating plans for manned flights to Mars ratchets up political and public relations pressure on NASA's efforts to reach the same goal. With Musk publicly laying out a much faster schedule than NASA -- while contending his vision is less expensive and could be financed primarily with private funds -- a debate unlike any before is shaping up over the direction of U.S. space policy. Industry officials and space experts consider the proposal by Musk's Space Exploration to land people on the red planet around the middle of the next decade extremely optimistic. Some supporters concede the deadline appears ambitious even for reaching the moon, while Musk himself acknowledged some of his projected dates are merely "aspirational." But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration doesn't envision getting astronauts to Mars until at least a decade later, a timeline NASA is finding increasingly hard to defend in the face of criticism that it is too slow.
Science

Mondays Are the Worst, Data Science Proves (qz.com) 103

An anonymous shares a report: People who are miserable on Monday have lots of company. It's the worst day of the week for millions, according to researchers at the University of Vermont Complex Systems Center who analyze Twitter messages for happiness sentiment. Mood tends to improve during the rest of the week, peaking on Saturday, before beginning to crash again, according to data based tweets since 2008. In this analysis, the university's "hedonometer" takes a random sample of about 50 million Twitter posts each day, which is roughly 10% of all the site's message traffic. The researchers have assigned average scores to more than 10,000 commonly used words (from 1 to 9, on a scale of increasing happiness), which are used to measure a particular day's happiness. The data can also offer some insight into how populations have responded to major events. The day after the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 2 was Twitter's saddest day on record, according to the University of Vermont research. Another low was recorded on May 2, 2011, when Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind behind thousands of murders, was killed. Rather than clear positivity, language used on Twitter "reflected that a very negatively viewed character met a very negative end," according to the researcher's website.
Earth

Carbon-Emitting Soil Could Speed Global Warming, Warns 26-Year Study (theguardian.com) 203

An anonymous reader quote the Guardian: Warming soil releases more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought, suggesting a potentially disastrous feedback mechanism whereby increases in global temperatures will trigger massive new carbon releases in a cycle that may be impossible to break... The 26-year study is one of the biggest of its kind, and is a groundbreaking addition to our scant knowledge of exactly how warming will affect natural systems. Potential feedback loops, or tipping points, have long been suspected to exist by scientists, and there is some evidence for them in the geological record. What appears to happen is that once warming reaches a certain point, these natural biological factors kick in and can lead to a runaway, and potentially unstoppable, increase in warming...

In the Science study, researchers examined plots of soil in the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts, a mixed hardwood forest in the U.S. They experimented by heating some of the plots with underground cables to 5C above normal levels, leaving others as a control. The long-term study revealed that in the first 10 years there was a strong increase in the carbon released from the heated plots, then a period of about seven years when the carbon release abated. But after this second calmer period, which the scientists attribute to the adjustment of the soil microbes to the warmer conditions, the release of carbon resumed its upward path. From 1991, when the experiment began, the plots subjected to 5C warming lost about 17% of the carbon that had been stored in the top 60cm of the soil, where the greatest concentration of organic matter is to be found...

Lead scientist Jerry Melillo, points out that currently 10 billion metric tons of carbon gets released into the atmosphere every year, but "The world's soils contain about 3,500 billion tons of carbon. If a significant amount of that is added to the atmosphere, due to microbial activity, that will accelerate the global warming process. Once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off. There is no switch to flip."
ISS

Astronaut Scott Kelly Describes One Year In Space -- And Its After Effects (brisbanetimes.com.au) 200

53-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly shared a dramatic excerpt from his new book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery in the Brisbane Times, describing his first 48 hours back on earth and what he'd learned on the mission: I push back from the table and struggle to stand up, feeling like a very old man getting out of a recliner... I make it to my bedroom without incident and close the door behind me. Every part of my body hurts. All my joints and all of my muscles are protesting the crushing pressure of gravity. I'm also nauseated, though I haven't thrown up... When I'm finally vertical, the pain in my legs is awful, and on top of that pain I feel a sensation that's even more alarming: it feels as though all the blood in my body is rushing to my legs, like the sensation of the blood rushing to your head when you do a handstand, but in reverse. I can feel the tissue in my legs swelling... Normally if I woke up feeling like this, I would go to the emergency room. But no one at the hospital will have seen symptoms of having been in space for a year...

Our space agencies won't be able to push out farther into space, to a destination like Mars, until we can learn more about how to strengthen the weakest links in the chain that make space flight possible: the human body and mind... [V]ery little is known about what occurs after month six. The symptoms may get precipitously worse in the ninth month, for instance, or they may level off. We don't know, and there is only one way to find out... On my previous flight to the space station, a mission of 159 days, I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained and shrank the walls of my heart. More troubling, I experienced problems with my vision, as many other astronauts had. I had been exposed to more than 30 times the radiation of a person on Earth, equivalent to about 10 chest X-rays every day. This exposure would increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life.

Kelly says the Space Station crew performed more than 400 experiments, though about 25% of his time went to tracking his own health. "If we could learn how to counteract the devastating impact of bone loss in microgravity, the solutions could well be applied to osteoporosis and other bone diseases. If we could learn how to keep our hearts healthy in space, that knowledge could be useful on Earth." Kelly says he felt better a few months after returning to earth, adding "It's gratifying to see how curious people are about my mission, how much children instinctively feel the excitement and wonder of space flight, and how many people think, as I do, that Mars is the next step... I know now that if we decide to do it, we can."
Microsoft

Microsoft Develops New Programming Language For Quantum Computers (cio-today.com) 120

Microsoft's newest programming language will run on yet-to-be developed quantum computers. An anonymous reader quotes CIO Today: Microsoft said its new quantum computing language, which has yet to be named, is "deeply integrated" into its Visual Basic development environment and does many of the things other standard programming languages do. However, it is specifically designed to allow programmers to create apps that will eventually run on true quantum computers... Like other companies, such as Google and IBM, Microsoft has been working for years to advance quantum computing research to the point where the technology becomes feasible rather than theoretical... Joining Satya Nadella on stage, Fields Medal-winning mathematician Michael Freedman added, "Microsoft's qubit will be based on a new form of matter called topological matter that also has this property that as the information stored in the matter is stored globally, you can't find the information in any particular place..." The programming language is expected to be available as a free preview by the end of the year and "also includes libraries and tutorials so developers can familiarize themselves with quantum computing," Microsoft said.
Education

Publishers Take ResearchGate To Court, Seek Removal of Millions of Papers (sciencemag.org) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: Scholarly publishing giants Elsevier and the American Chemical Society (ACS) have filed a lawsuit in Germany against ResearchGate, a popular academic networking site, alleging copyright infringement on a mass scale. The move comes after a larger group of publishers became dissatisfied with ResearchGate's response to a request to alter its article-sharing practices. ResearchGate, a for-profit firm based in Berlin, Germany, which was founded in 2008, is one of the largest social networking sites aimed at the academic community. It claims more than 13 million users, who can use their personal pages to upload and share a wide range of material, including published papers, book chapters and meeting presentations.

Yesterday, a group of five publishers -- ACS, Elsevier, Brill, Wiley and Wolters Kluwer -- announced that ResearchGate had rejected the association's proposal. Instead, the group, which calls itself the "Coalition for Responsible Sharing," said in a October 5th statement that ResearchGate suggested publishers should send the company formal notices, called "takedown notices," asking it to remove content that breaches copyright. The five publishers will be sending takedown notices, according to the group. But the coalition also alleges that ResearchGate is illicitly making as many as 7 million copyrighted articles freely available, and that the company's "business model depends on the distribution of these in-copyright articles to generate traffic to its site, which is then commercialized through the sale of targeted advertising." The coalition also states that sending millions of takedown notices "is not a viable long-term solution, given the current and future scale of infringement Sending large numbers of takedown notices on an ongoing basis will prove highly disruptive to the research community." As a result, two coalition members -- ACS and Elsevier -- have opted to go to court to try to force ResearchGate's hand.

Earth

Neanderthal Ancestors May Be To Blame For Why You Can't Get a Tan (telegraph.co.uk) 118

turkeydance shares a report from The Telegraph: If you struggle to get a tan, consider yourself a night owl or are plagued with arthritis, then your Neanderthal ancestors could be to blame, a new genetic study has shown. Although Neanderthals are often portrayed in drawings as swarthy, in fact they arrived in Northern Europe thousands of years before modern humans, giving time for their skin to become paler as their bodies struggled to soak up enough sun. When they interbred with modern humans those pale genes were passed on. Likewise, genetic mutations which predispose people to arthritis also came from our Neanderthal ancestors, as did the propensity to be a night owl rather than a lark, as northern latitudes altered their body clocks. A raft of new papers published in the journals Science and the American Journal of Human Genetics has shed light on just how many traits we owe to our Neanderthal ancestors.

Scientists also now think that differences in hair color, mood and whether someone will smoke or have an eating disorder could all be related to inter-breeding, after comparing ancient DNA to 112,000 British people who took part in the UK Biobank study. The Biobank includes genetic data along with information on many traits related to physical appearance, diet, sun exposure, behavior, and disease and helps scientists pick apart which traits came from Neanderthals. Dr Janet Kelso, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Germany, said: "We can now show that it is skin tone, and the ease with which one tans, as well as hair color that are affected."

Bug

Massive 70-Mile-Wide Butterfly Swarm Shows Up On Denver Radar System (bbc.com) 47

dryriver shares a report from BBC: A colorful, shimmering spectacle detected by weather radar over the U.S. state of Colorado has been identified as swarms of migrating butterflies. Scientists at the National Weather Service (NWS) first mistook the orange radar blob for birds and had asked the public to help identifying the species. They later established that the 70-mile wide (110km) mass was a kaleidoscope of Painted Lady butterflies. Forecasters say it is uncommon for flying insects to be detected by radar. "We hadn't seen a signature like that in a while," said NWS meteorologist Paul Schlatter, who first spotted the radar blip. "We detect migrating birds all the time, but they were flying north to south," he told CBS News, explaining that this direction of travel would be unusual for migratory birds for the time of year. So he put the question to Twitter, asking for help determining the bird species. Almost every response he received was the same: "Butterflies." Namely the three-inch long Painted Lady butterfly, which has descended in clouds on the Denver area in recent weeks. The species, commonly mistaken for monarch butterflies, are found across the continental United States, and travel to northern Mexico and the U.S. southwest during colder months. They are known to follow wind patterns, and can glide hundreds of miles each day.
Medicine

Amazon Is Headed For the Prescription-Drug Market, Analysts Say (bloomberg.com) 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Amazon.com Inc. is almost certain to enter the business of selling prescription drugs by 2019, said two analysts at Leerink Partners, posing a direct threat to the U.S.'s biggest brick-and-mortar drugstore chains. "It's a matter of when, not if," Leerink Partners analyst David Larsen said in a report to clients late Thursday. "We expect an announcement within the next 1-2 years." Amazon has a long standing interest in prescription drugs, an industry with multiple middlemen, long supply chains and opaque pricing. In the 1990s, it invested in startup Drugstore.com and Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos sat on the board. Walgreens eventually purchased the site and shuttered it last year to focus on its own branded website Walgreens.com. Leerink's calls with industry experts suggest that Amazon "is in active discussions" with mid-size pharmacy benefit managers and possibly larger player such as Prime Therapeutics, Larsen's colleague, Ana Gupte, wrote in a separate report Friday. On Friday, CNBC reported that Amazon could make a decision about selling prescription drugs online before Thanksgiving.
Space

The World's Oldest Scientific Satellite is Still in Orbit (bbc.com) 80

walterbyrd writes: Nearly 60 years ago, the US Navy launched Vanguard-1 as a response to the Soviet Sputnik. Six decades on, it's still circling our planet. Conceived by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in 1955, Vanguard was to be America's first satellite programme. The Vanguard system consisted of a three-stage rocket designed to launch a civilian scientific spacecraft. The rocket, satellite and an ambitious network of tracking stations would form part of the US contribution to the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year. This global collaboration of scientific research involved 67 nations, including both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Science

Why Is There No Nobel Prize In Technology? (qz.com) 148

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: As the world focuses its attention on this year's recipients of the planet's most prestigious prize, the Nobel, it feels like something's missing from the list: technology. Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes more than century ago with the instruction that his entire estate be used to endow "prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind." The categories laid out in his will -- physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and peace -- have remained the basis of the awards, and a prize for economics was added in 1968. So, what gives? Why only those five original fields? Nobel didn't say, revealing only that he made his choices "after mature deliberation."

One way of looking at it is that when he was designing his categories, he wanted the prizes to only reflect advances in fundamental science. In this view, "lesser" sciences such as biology, geology, or computer science -- or technology-driven fields such as engineering or robotics -- don't qualify. As genome-sequencing pioneer Eric Lander once said, "You don't get a Nobel Prize for turning a crank." But what then of literature and peace, or the newer prize for economics (an applied science at best, and a pseudoscience at worst)? Technology isn't the only field to get the cold shoulder. Mathematics -- the international language, the foundation of so many scientific pursuits, and arguably the most fundamental theoretical discipline of all -- doesn't have a Nobel Prize, either. Mathematicians have complained about this for decades. One story suggests that Nobel disliked the Finnish mathematician Rolf Nevanlinna, and assumed that he would be the first winner of the mathematics prize, if he decided to award one. Alternatively, math undergraduates are often told that Nobel was jealous of a Swedish mathematician who had an affair with his wife (though this story is ruined by the fact that Nobel didn't actually have a wife).

Moon

Vice President Pence Vows US Astronauts Will Return To the Moon (engadget.com) 226

Before astronauts go to Mars, they will return to the Moon, Vice President Mike Pence said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday and in a speech at the National Air and Space Museum today. He touts "humans exploration and discovery" as the new focus of America's space program. This "means establishing a renewed American presence on the moon, a vital strategic goal. And from the foundation of the moon, America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars." Engadget reports: There have been two prevailing (and opposing) views when it comes to U.S. endeavors in human spaceflight. One camp maintains that returning to the moon is a mistake. NASA has already been there; it should work hard and set our sights on Mars and beyond. The other feels that Mars is too much of a reach, and that the moon will be easier to achieve in a short time frame. Mars may be a medium-to-long-term goal, but NASA should use the moon as a jumping-off point. It's not surprising that the Trump administration is valuing short-term gains over a longer, more ambitious project. The U.S. will get to Mars eventually, according to Pence, but the moon is where the current focus lies.
EU

Three-Quarters of All Honey On Earth Has Pesticides In It (theverge.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: About three quarters of all honey worldwide is contaminated with pesticides known to harm bees, according to a new study. Though the pesticide levels were below the limit deemed safe for human consumption, there was still enough insecticide in there to harm pollinators. The finding suggests that, as one of the study authors said, "there's almost no safe place for a bee to exist." Scientists analyzed 198 honey samples from all continents, except Antarctica, for five types of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which are known to harm bees. They found at least one of the five compounds in most samples, with the highest contamination in North America, Asia, and Europe. The results are published today in the journal Science.

To get a better sense of just how widespread neonic contamination is, Mitchell and his colleagues analyzed 198 worldwide honey samples collected as a citizen science project between 2012 and 2016. They found that 75 percent of honey contained at least one of the five tested neonics, and 45 percent of samples had two or more. Honey from North America, Asia, and Europe was most contaminated, while the lowest contamination was in South America. Neonic concentrations were relatively low: on average, 1.8 nanograms per gram in contaminated honey -- below the limits set as safe for people by the EU.

Medicine

Over Half of New Cancer Drugs 'Show No Benefits' For Survival Or Wellbeing (theguardian.com) 123

New research published in the British Medical Journal finds that most cancer drugs that have recently arrived on the market have come with little evidence that they boost the survival or wellbeing of patients. The Guardian reports: Forty-eight cancer drugs were approved by the European Medicines Agency between 2009 and 2013 for use as treatments in 68 different situations. But the study, which looked at the clinical trials associated with the drugs, reveals that at the time the therapies became available there was no conclusive evidence that they improved survival in almost two-thirds of the situations for which they were approved. In only 10% of the uses did the drugs improve quality of life. Overall 57% of uses showed no benefits for either survival or quality of life. The team then looked to see whether the picture improved over time. The team found that after a follow-up period of between three to eight years, 49% of approved uses were linked to no clear sign of improvement in survival or quality of life. Where survival benefits were shown, the team said these were clinically meaningless in almost half of the cases.
Science

Scientists Race To Create Synthetic Blood in the Wake of Mass Tragedies (vice.com) 99

An anonymous reader shares a report: Scientists have been working on creating synthetic blood for years now. The hope is that this substance will have a longer shelf life than human blood -- which can only be refrigerated for 42 days -- and eventually can be packaged and stored for use in emergencies. If this works, thousands of lives could be saved every year. "People can't show up fast enough and then the system can't draw their blood fast enough to meet the need," said Allan Doctor, a physician and researcher at the Washington University in St. Louis. Doctor's lab has been working to create a blood substitute called ErythroMer, comprised of human hemoglobin, sourced from the red blood cells in expired blood at blood banks, and a synthetic polymer. This synthetic blood is actually a dehydrated powder, which would allow it to be stored for years, rather than weeks, and easily transported. Doctor envisions that it could eventually be packaged along with purified water so that doctors or EMTs could mix it when they needed to use it on a patient. ErythroMer is still in the planning stages. It has only been tested on animals, and Doctor predicts that the team is about three to five years from the first human trials. Following that, it will need FDA approval, and then healthcare workers will need to be trained to use it properly to avoid infections. "It's important for us to have a bulletproof delivery system," Doctor told me. He predicts that it will be available in six to 10 years if the trials are successful, and if they can make a cost-effective formula. There are different approaches to creating synthetic blood, which is technically just a way of transporting oxygen in the body. In 2013, a team in Romania announced that they were making it with albumin, a liver protein, and hemerythrin, a protein extracted from worms. In the UK, scientists with the National Health Service have been testing lab-grown red blood cells.
Power

Rice University Adds Asphalt To Speed Lithium Metal Battery Charging By 20 Times (nextbigfuture.com) 131

schwit1 writes: The Rice lab of chemist James Tour developed anodes comprising porous carbon made from asphalt that showed exceptional stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles. A high-current density of 20 milliamps per square centimeter demonstrated the material's promise for use in rapid charge and discharge devices that require high-power density. The Tour lab previously used a derivative of asphalt -- specifically, untreated gilsonite, the same type used for the battery -- to capture greenhouse gases from natural gas. This time, the researchers mixed asphalt with conductive graphene nanoribbons and coated the composite with lithium metal through electrochemical deposition. The lab combined the anode with a sulfurized-carbon cathode to make full batteries for testing. The batteries showed a high-power density of 1,322 watts per kilogram and high-energy density of 943 watt-hours per kilogram. Testing revealed another significant benefit: The carbon mitigated the formation of lithium dendrites. These mossy deposits invade a battery's electrolyte. If they extend far enough, they short-circuit the anode and cathode and can cause the battery to fail, catch fire or explode. But the asphalt-derived carbon prevents any dendrite formation.

"The capacity of these batteries is enormous, but what is equally remarkable is that we can bring them from zero charge to full charge in five minutes, rather than the typical two hours or more needed with other batteries," Tour said. "While the capacity between the former and this new battery is similar, approaching the theoretical limit of lithium metal, the new asphalt-derived carbon can take up more lithium metal per unit area, and it is much simpler and cheaper to make. There is no chemical vapor deposition step, no e-beam deposition step and no need to grow nanotubes from graphene, so manufacturing is greatly simplified."
The findings have been published in the journal ACS Nano.
Science

Nobel Prize In Chemistry Shared By 3 For Cryo-Electron Microscopy (www.cbc.ca) 27

Dave Knott writes: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded on Wednesday to researchers who developed cryo-electron microscopy, which is described as a way to create detailed images of the molecules that drive life -- a technology that allows scientists to visualize molecular processes they had never previously seen. This is decisive for both the basic understanding of life's chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals. From the Nobel committee's press release: "Electron microscopes were long believed to only be suitable for imaging dead matter, because the powerful electron beam destroys biological material. But in 1990, Richard Henderson succeeded in using an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution. This breakthrough proved the technology's potential. Joachim Frank made the technology generally applicable. Between 1975 and 1986 he developed an image processing method in which the electron microscope's fuzzy two-dimensional images are analyzed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure. Jacques Dubochet added water to electron microscopy. Liquid water evaporates in the electron microscope's vacuum, which makes the biomolecules collapse. In the early 1980s, Dubochet succeeded in vitrifying water -- he cooled water so rapidly that it solidified in its liquid form around a biological sample, allowing the biomolecules to retain their natural shape even in a vacuum. Following these discoveries, the electron microscope's every nut and bolt have been optimized. The desired atomic resolution was reached in 2013, and researchers can now routinely produce three-dimensional structures of biomolecules."
Medicine

Expert Says You're Deluding Yourself If You Think You're Productive On Six Hours of Sleep (chicagotribune.com) 223

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Chicago Tribune: Getting through the workday on little sleep is a point of pride for some. But skimping on shuteye could be shortening your life and making you a less than stellar employee, according to Matthew Walker, founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. "Underslept employees tend to create fewer novel solutions to problems, they're less productive in their work and they take on easier challenges at work," said Walker, author of "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams," out Tuesday. Operating on short sleep -- anything less than seven hours -- impairs a host of brain and bodily functions, said Walker, who is also a professor of neuroscience and psychology. It increases your risk for heart attack, cancer and stroke, compromises your immune system and makes you emotionally irrational, less charismatic and more prone to lying. When asked, "What do you say to people who sacrifice sleep to work?" Walker said: "I often ask the question in return, 'Is the reason you've still got so much to do because you haven't gotten enough sleep and so you're inefficient while you're working?' We know that efficiency and effectiveness are increased when you're getting sufficient sleep and it will take you longer to do the same thing on an under-slept brain, which means you end up having to stay awake longer. So goes the vicious cycle."
Science

Unselfish People Are More Likely to Wind Up With Depression (vice.com) 238

People with depression are more likely to feel bad in response to perceived inequality, according to a study published this week in Nature Human Behaviour. From a report: Simply, in experiments where participants were tasked with playing a game with a strong element of unfairness, those participants with higher levels of brain activity in depression-linked brain regions -- as recorded via fMRI scans -- were more likely to later demonstrate signs of clinical depression. This is a new test of an old idea, one that's been demonstrated in previous research. People with depression commonly demonstrate increased concern for others, or for the perspectives of others. More precisely, prosocial attitudes predict depression, which is in contrast to individualist attitudes. Individualist here basically just means selfish, or relatively selfish. The researchers behind the current study hypothesized that they would be able to observe these tendencies at the level of actual brain activity. Fortunately, there are some tried and true methods of testing prosocial behavior. One of these takes the form of what's known as an ultimatum game. The general idea is that participants are offered rewards that are to be shared among a group. Each offer differs in how much the participant gets in relation to the rest of the group, with prosocial participants more likely refuse larger personal rewards in favor of larger rewards going to everybody else. Individualists take the offer that best benefits them, while prosocial people are more concerned with other people in the group.
Businesses

Dawn of Solar Age Declared as PV Beats All Other Forms of Power (bloomberg.com) 398

Solar power blossomed faster than for any other fuel for the first time in 2016, the International Energy Agency said in a report suggesting the technology will dominate renewables in the years ahead. From a report: The institution established after the first major oil crisis in 1973 said 165 gigawatts of renewables were completed last year, which was two-thirds of the net expansion in electricity supply. Solar grew by 50 percent, with almost half new plants built in China. "What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV," Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said in a statement accompanying the report published on Wednesday in Paris. "We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022." This marks the sixth consecutive year that clean energy has set records for installations. Mass manufacturing and a switch by governments away from fixed payments for renewables forced down the cost of wind and solar technology. The IEA expects about 1,000 gigawatts of renewables will be installed in the next five years, a milestone that coal only accomplished after 80 years. That quantity of electricity surpasses what's consumed in China, India and Germany combined.
Science

The Absurdity of the Nobel Prizes in Science (theatlantic.com) 186

An anonymous reader shares an article: Every year, when Nobel Prizes are awarded in physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine, critics note that they are an absurd and anachronistic way of recognizing scientists for their work. Instead of honoring science, they distort its nature, rewrite its history, and overlook many of its important contributors. There are assuredly good things about the prizes. Scientific discoveries should be recognized for the vital part they play in the human enterprise. The Nobel Prize website is an educational treasure trove, full of rich historical details that are largely missing from published papers. And it is churlish to be overly cynical about any event that, year after year, offers science the same kind of whetted anticipation that's usually reserved for Oscar or Emmy nominees. But the fact that the scientific Nobels have drawn controversy since their very inception hints at deep-rooted problems. [...] The wider problem, beyond who should have received the prize and who should not, is that the Nobels reward individuals -- three at most, for each of the scientific prizes, in any given year. And modern science, as Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus write in Stat, is "the teamiest of team sports." Yes, researchers sometimes make solo breakthroughs, but that's increasingly rare. Even within a single research group, a platoon of postdocs, students, and technicians will typically be involved in a discovery that gets hitched to a single investigator's name. And more often than not, many groups collaborate on a single project. The paper in which the LIGO team announced their discovery has an author list that runs to three pages. Another recent paper, which precisely estimated the mass of the elusive Higgs boson, has 5,154 authors.
Medicine

Skipping Breakfast May Be Linked To Poor Heart Health, Study Says (theguardian.com) 165

A new study says that skipping breakfast could be linked to poorer cardiovascular health. The findings reveal that, compared with those who wolfed down an energy-dense breakfast, those who missed the meal had a greater extent of the early stages of atherosclerosis -- a buildup of fatty material inside the arteries. The Guardian reports: The research is part of a larger study that will follow the participants over a decade or more to see how disease in the arteries progresses. Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the research looked at the health and diets of 4,052 middle-aged bank workers, both men and women, with no previous history of cardiovascular disease. At the start of the study, which is partly funded by the Spanish bank Santander, participants completed a detailed questionnaire into what they had eaten and when over the previous 15 days. Body mass index, cholesterol levels and other measures were collected, together with data including the participants' smoking status, educational attainment and level of physical activity. Imaging techniques were used to track the extent of the early, sub-clinical stages of atherosclerosis in six arteries, including those around the heart, thighs and neck. The results reveal that, compared to those tucking into more than 20% of their daily calories at breakfast, those who consumed next to nothing for breakfast had a greater extent of atherosclerosis.
The Internet

More Than 80 Percent of All Net Neutrality Comments Were Sent By Bots, Researchers Say (vice.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The Trump administration and its embattled FCC commissioner are on a mission to roll back the pro-net neutrality rules approved during the Obama years, despite the fact that most Americans support those safeguards. But there is a large number of entities that do not: telecom companies, their lobbyists, and hordes of bots. Of all the more than 22 million comments submitted to the FCC website and through the agency's API found that only 3,863,929 comments were "unique," according to a new analysis by Gravwell, a data analytics company. The rest? A bunch of copy-pasted comments, most of them likely by automated astroturfing bots, almost all of them -- curiously -- against net neutrality. "Using our (admittedly) simple classification, over 95 percent of the organic comments are in favor of Title II regulation," Corey Thuen, the founder of Gravwell, told Motherboard in an email.
Communications

Judge Recommends ISP and Search Engine Blocking of Sci-Hub in the US (torrentfreak.com) 196

Sci-Hub, which is regularly referred to as the "Pirate Bay of Science," faces one of the strongest anti-piracy injunctions we have seen in the US to date, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: Earlier this year the American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry, filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub and its operator Alexandra Elbakyan. Sci-Hub was made aware of the legal proceedings but did not appear in court. As a result, a default was entered against the site. In addition to millions of dollars in damages, ACS also requested third-party Internet intermediaries to take action against the site. While the request is rather unprecedented for the US, as it includes search engine and ISP blocking, Magistrate Judge John Anderson has included these measures in his recommendations. Judge Anderson agrees that Sci-Hub is guilty of copyright and trademark infringement. In addition to $4,800,000 in statutory damages, he recommends a broad injunction that would require search engines, ISPs, domain registrars and other services to block Sci-Hub's domain names. If the U.S. District Court Judge adopts this recommendation, it would mean that Internet providers such as Comcast could be ordered to block users from accessing Sci-Hub.

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