Medicine

Doctors Tried To Lower $148K Cancer Drug Cost; Makers Tripled Its Price (arstechnica.com) 384

Slashdot reader Applehu Akbar writes: Imbruvica, a compound that treats white blood cell cancers, has until now been a bargain at $148,000 per year. Until now, doctors have been able to optimize dosage for each patient by prescribing up to four small-dose pills of it per day.

But after results from a recent small pilot trial indicated that smaller doses would for most patients work as well as the large ones, its manufacturer, Janssen and Pharmacyclics, has decided on the basis of the doctors' interest in smaller dosages to reprice all sizes of the drug to the price of the largest size. This has the effect of tripling the price for patients, and doctors have now put off any plans for further testing of lower dosages.

The researchers are retaliating by urging clinical investigators to test whether the expensive pill could be safely given every other day -- and by calling on America's public health regulators to investigate the drug's pricing.
Government

Senate Confirms Climate Denier With No Scientific Credentials To Head NASA (nytimes.com) 529

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Trump's NASA nominee Jim Bridenstine, seven and a half months after being nominated to lead the agency. "The Senate confirmed Mr. Bridenstine, an Oklahoma congressman, as the new NASA administrator in a stark partisan vote: 50 Republicans voting for him and 47 Democrats plus two independents against," reports The New York Times. "The vote lasted more than 45 minutes as Republicans waited for Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona to cast his lot." Slashdot reader PeopleAquarium writes about some of Bridenstine's anti-LGBT and non-scientific views: Bridenstine ran a planetarium once, and peddled a debunked argument made by climate change skeptics, claiming that global temperatures "stopped rising 10 years ago." He said "the people of Oklahoma are ready to accept" an apology from then-President Barack Obama for what Bridenstine called a "gross misallocation" of funds for climate change research instead of weather forecasting. In further news, our rockets will now be coal powered, and gay people aren't allowed in space.
Earth

'Sea Nomads' Are First Known Humans Genetically Adapted To Diving (nationalgeographic.com) 111

schwit1 shares a report from National Geographic: Most people can hold their breath underwater for a few seconds, some for a few minutes. But a group of people called the Bajau takes free diving to the extreme, staying underwater for as long as 13 minutes at depths of around 200 feet. These nomadic people live in waters winding through the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where they dive to hunt for fish or search for natural elements that can be used in crafts. Now, a study in the journal Cell offers the first clues that a DNA mutation for larger spleens gives the Bajau a genetic advantage for life in the deep.
United States

No One Knows How Long the US Coastline Is (discovermagazine.com) 189

How long is the U.S. coastline? It's a straightforward question, and one that's important for scientists and government agencies alike. From a report: The U.S. Geological Survey could give you an answer, too, but I'm going to tell you right now that it's wrong. In fact, no one could give you the right answer, and if you look around, you'll find a number of estimations that differ by seemingly improbable amounts. One government report lists the number as 12,383 miles. The same report admits that a different government agency says the figure is actually 88,612 miles. That's an almost eight-fold disparity for a fact that seems simple to obtain. We all know how to use a ruler, right?

Well, we all know how to measure a straight line, but what about a curve? And what if that curve has curves? The crux of the problem comes down to geometry, and the fundamentally uneven nature of coastlines. Though the border between land and sea may look fairly straight when seen from far away, they're anything but. Coastlines jut and dip, curve and cut, and each deviation from a straight line adds distance. Some of these features are massive, like bays, while others are miniscule.

AI

AI Helps Grow 6 Billion Roaches at China's Largest Breeding Site (cnet.com) 105

With the help of AI, folks at a Chinese pharmaceutical company are breeding cockroaches by the billions every year, South China Morning Post reports. From a report: Their purpose: To make a "healing potion" that can cure respiratory, gastric and other diseases. The "potion," consumed by over 40 million people in China, is made by crushing the cockroaches once they reach a desired weight and size, according to the publication. There is a "slightly fishy smell" to the potion, which tastes "slightly sweet" and looks like tea, it added. Some insects are known to have potential health benefits. Besides China's cockroach potion, scientists are also exploring how milk-like protein crystals in roaches could be an excellent source of calories and nutrition. Chewing down on bugs like crickets and mealworms can also give us more protein, according to studies.
Earth

Since 2016, Half of All Coral In the Great Barrier Reef Has Died (theatlantic.com) 223

A new paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, reports that the Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals since 2016. The authors inspected every one of its reefs, surveying them on an almost species-by-species basis, and found the damage to be widespread across the entire ecosystem. "Two of its most recognizable creatures -- the amber-colored staghorn corals, and the flat, fanlike tabular corals -- suffered the worst casualties," reports The Atlantic. From the report: "On average, across the Great Barrier Reef, one in three corals died in nine months," said Terry Hughes, an author of the paper and the director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the Australian government's federal research program devoted to corals. "You could say [the ecosystem] has collapsed. You could say it has degraded. I wouldn't say that's wrong," Hughes said. "A more neutral way of putting it is that it has transformed into a completely new system that looks differently, and behaves differently, and functions differently, than how it was three years ago."

In the summer months of 2017, warm waters again struck the reef and triggered another bleaching event. This time, the heat hit the reef's middle third. Hughes and his team have not published a peer-reviewed paper on that event, but he shared early survey results with me. Combined, he said, the back-to-back bleaching events killed one in every two corals in the Great Barrier Reef. It is a fact almost beyond comprehension: In the summer of 2015, more than 2 billion corals lived in the Great Barrier Reef. Half of them are now dead. What caused the devastation? Hughes was clear: human-caused global warming. The accumulation of heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere has raised the world's average temperature, making the oceans hotter and less hospitable to fragile tropical corals.

Businesses

Pasta Is Good For You, Say Scientists Funded By Big Pasta (buzzfeed.com) 220

Earlier this month, numerous news outlets reported on a study which concludes that eating pasta is good for health. In fact, the reports claimed, eating pasta could help you lose weight. Except, there is more to the story. BuzzFeed News reports: What those and many other stories failed to note, however, was that three of the scientists behind the study in question had financial conflicts as tangled as a bowl of spaghetti, including ties to the world's largest pasta company, the Barilla Group. Over the last decade or so, with the rise of the Atkins, South Beach, paleo, and ketogenic diets, Big Pasta has battled a societal shift against carbohydrates -- and funded and promoted research suggesting that noodles are good for you.

At least 10 peer-reviewed studies about pasta published since 2008 were either funded directly by Barilla or, like the one published this month, were carried out by scientists who have had financial ties to the company, which reported sales of 3.4 billion euros ($4.2 billion) in 2016. For two years, Barilla has publicized some of these studies, plus others favorable to its product, on its website with taglines like "Eat Smart Be Smart...With Pasta" and "More Evidence Pasta Is Good For You." And the company hired the large public relations firm Edelman to push the latest study's findings to journalists.

Science

MIT Discovers Way To Mass-Produce Graphene In Large Sheets (inhabitat.com) 62

New submitter Paige.Bennett writes: Up till now, graphene has been produced in small batches in labs. But MIT just found a way to mass-produce graphene in large sheets using a process that rolls out five centimeters of graphene each minute. The longest span so far was nearly four hours, which produced about 10 meters of graphene. According to MIT, here's how their conveyor belt system works: "The first spool unfurls a long strip of copper foil, less than one centimeter wide. When it enters the furnace, the foil is fed through first one tube and then another, in a 'split-zone' design. While the foil rolls through the first tube, it heats up to a certain ideal temperature, at which point it is ready to roll through the second tube, where the scientists pump in a specified ratio of methane and hydrogen gas, which are deposited onto the heated foil to produce graphene." The work has been published in the journal Materials and Interfaces.
NASA

SpaceX Launches NASA's Planet-Hunting Satellite, Successfully Lands Its Falcon 9 Rocket (theverge.com) 37

SpaceX launched NASA's TESS spacecraft Wednesday evening from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship following takeoff. This marks 24 successful landings for SpaceX now, notes The Verge. We will update this post once TESS is deployed into orbit. From the report: TESS is NASA's newest exoplanet hunter. The probe is tasked with staring at stars tens to hundreds of light-years from Earth, watching to see if they blink. When a planet passes in front of a distant star, it dims the star's light ever so slightly. TESS will measure these twinkles from a 13.7-day orbit that extends as far out as the distance of the Moon. The satellite won't get to its final orbit on this launch. Instead, the Falcon 9 will put TESS into a highly elliptical path around Earth first. From there, TESS will slowly adjust its orbit over the next couple of months by igniting its onboard engine multiple times. The spacecraft will even do a flyby of the Moon next month, getting a gravitational boost that will help get the vehicle to its final path around Earth. Overall, it will take about 60 days after launch for TESS to get to its intended orbit; science observations are scheduled to begin in June.
Medicine

FDA Approves First Contact Lenses That Turn Dark In Bright Sunlight (interestingengineering.com) 104

The first photochromic contact lenses have been approved by the FDA. "A unique additive will automatically darken the lenses when they're exposed to bright light," reports Interesting Engineering, citing a FDA statement. "The lenses will clear up whenever they're back in normal or darker lighting conditions." From the report: "This contact lens is the first of its kind to incorporate the same technology that is used in eyeglasses that automatically darken in the sun," said Malvina Eydelman. Eydelman serves as director of the division of ophthalmic, and ear, nose and throat devices at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. The FDA approved the technology after extensive trials and clinical studies. One study had 24 wearers use the contacts while driving in both daytime and nighttime settings. The FDA found that there were no problems with driving performance or issues with vision while wearing those contact lenses. In total, over 1,000 patients were involved in the various studies conducted by the FDA. According to current plans, these photochromic lenses should be available for those needing them by the first half of 2019.
Earth

More Than 95% of World's Population Breathing Unhealthy Air, Says New Report (cnn.com) 93

More than 95% of the world's population is breathing unhealthy air and the poorest nations are the hardest hit, a new report has found. From the report: According to the annual State of Global Air Report, published Tuesday by the Health Effects Institute (HEI), long-term exposure to air pollution contributed to an estimated 6.1 million deaths across the globe in 2016. The report says exposure to air pollution led to strokes, heart attacks, lung cancer and chronic lung disease, causing many of those premature deaths. It also says that air pollution is the fourth-highest cause of death among all health risks globally, coming in below high blood pressure, diet and smoking.
Businesses

Amazon Shelves Plan To Sell Prescription Drugs (cnbc.com) 70

Major Blud writes: CNBC is reporting that Amazon Business, which considered selling pharmaceutical products last year, has put its plans to do so on hiatus. "The change in plan comes partly because Amazon has not been able to convince big hospitals to change their traditional purchasing process, which typically involves a number of middlemen and loyal relationships," reports CNBC. Amazon was able to gain licensing in 47 out of the 50 U.S. states, but has struggled to land contracts with large hospital networks. "The setback illustrates the challenges of getting into the medical supply and pharmaceutical space, even for a company as big as Amazon," reports CNBC. "Several health-care and pharmaceutical distribution companies saw their stock take a nosedive following recent reports of Amazon potentially getting into the space, but it will likely take some time before those concerns turn into real threats."
NASA

NASA Planet-Hunter Set For Launch (bbc.com) 34

The US space agency is about to launch a telescope that should find thousands of planets beyond our Solar System. From a report: The Tess mission will go up on a SpaceX's Falcon rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida and survey nearly the entire sky over the course of the next two years. It will stare at stars, hoping to catch the dip in brightness as their faces are traversed by orbiting worlds. Tess will build a catalogue of nearby, bright stars and their planets that other telescopes can then follow up. Key among these will be the successor to Hubble -- the James Webb space observatory, due in orbit from 2020. Its powerful vision will have the capability to analyse the atmospheres of some of Tess's new worlds, to look for gases that might hint at the presence of life.

James Webb will "tease out the chemical compositions of those atmospheres and look for whatever's there," said Paul Hertz, the astrophysics director at Nasa. "People are very interested in looking for, what on Earth, are bio-signatures, such as methane, carbon dioxide, water vapour and oxygen." Tess follows in the footsteps of Kepler, a groundbreaking space telescope launched in 2009. It also used the "transit technique" to confirm more than 2,000 so-called exoplanets. But Kepler, for its primary mission at least, only looked at a very small patch of sky, and many of its discoveries were simply too far away or too dim for other telescopes to pursue with further analysis.
The launch of TESS was scheduled to Monday evening, but it has been postponed until Wednesday. SpaceX tweeted Monday afternoon that it is "standing down today to conduct additional GNC [guidance navigation control] analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of @NASA_TESS on Wednesday, April 18."
NASA

NASA's Got a Plan For a 'Galactic Positioning System' To Save Astronauts Lost in Space (space.com) 102

From a report: Outer space glows with a bright fog of X-ray light, coming from everywhere at once. But peer carefully into that fog, and faint, regular blips become visible. These are millisecond pulsars, city-sized neutron stars rotating incredibly quickly, and firing X-rays into the universe with more regularity than even the most precise atomic clocks. And NASA wants to use them to navigate probes and crewed ships through deep space. A telescope mounted on the International Space Station (ISS), the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), has been used to develop a brand new technology with near-term, practical applications: a galactic positioning system, NASA scientist Zaven Arzoumanian told physicists Sunday (April 15) at the April meeting of the American Physical Society.

With this technology, "You could thread a needle to get into orbit around the moon of a disant planet instead of doing a flyby," Arzoumian told Live Science. A galactic positioning system could also provide "a fallback, so that if a crewed mission loses contact with the Earth, they'd still have navigation systems on board that are autonomous." Right now, the kind of maneuvers that navigators would need to put a probe in orbit around distant moons are borderline impossible.

Earth

Diamonds in Sudan Meteorite 'Are Remnants of Lost Planet' (theguardian.com) 43

Diamonds found in a meteorite that exploded over the Nubian desert in Sudan a decade ago were formed deep inside a "lost planet" that once circled the sun in the early solar system, scientists say. From a report: Microscopic analyses of the meteorite's tiny diamonds revealed they contain compounds that are produced under intense pressure, suggesting the diamonds formed far beneath the surface of a planet. In this case, the mysterious world was calculated to be somewhere between Mercury and Mars in size. Astronomers have long hypothesised that dozens of fledgling planets, ranging in size from the moon to Mars, formed in the first 10m years of the solar system and were broken apart and repackaged in violent collisions that ultimately created the terrestrial planets that orbit the sun today.
Earth

Scientists Accidentally Create Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic Bottles (theguardian.com) 219

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles -- by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles. From a report: The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug. The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. "What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock," said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. "It's great and a real finding." The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic -- far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.
Science

The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete (theatlantic.com) 152

James Somers, writing for The Atlantic: The scientific paper -- the actual form of it -- was one of the enabling inventions of modernity. Before it was developed in the 1600s, results were communicated privately in letters, ephemerally in lectures, or all at once in books. There was no public forum for incremental advances. By making room for reports of single experiments or minor technical advances, journals made the chaos of science accretive. Scientists from that point forward became like the social insects: They made their progress steadily, as a buzzing mass.

The earliest papers were in some ways more readable than papers are today. They were less specialized, more direct, shorter, and far less formal. Calculus had only just been invented. Entire data sets could fit in a table on a single page. What little "computation" contributed to the results was done by hand and could be verified in the same way.

The more sophisticated science becomes, the harder it is to communicate results. Papers today are longer than ever and full of jargon and symbols. They depend on chains of computer programs that generate data, and clean up data, and plot data, and run statistical models on data. These programs tend to be both so sloppily written and so central to the results that it's contributed to a replication crisis, or put another way, a failure of the paper to perform its most basic task: to report what you've actually discovered, clearly enough that someone else can discover it for themselves.

Medicine

Researchers Find Genetic Cause For Alzheimer's, Possible Method To Reverse It (upi.com) 113

schwit1 quotes UPI: Scientists at an independent biomedical research institution have reported a monumental breakthrough: The cause of the primary genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, and a possible cure for the disease. Researchers at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco identified the primary genetic risk factor for the disease, a gene called apoE4... Their findings were published this week in the journal Nature Medicine... By treating human apoE4 neurons with a structure corrector, it eliminated the signs of Alzheimer's disease, restored normal function to the cells and improved cell survival.
The study's senior investigator says he's already working with a San Francisco pharmaceutical startup to develop the approach and move towards clinical trials, adding that "we are working to accelerate the timeline as much as possible."
Space

ULA Is Livestreaming An Atlas V Rocket Launch (upi.com) 59

United Launch Alliance -- a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing -- is livestreaming tonight's launch of an Atlas V rocket. UPI reports: The rocket is set to blast-off at 7:13 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida... The primary payload is the Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM, or CBAS, a geostationary communications satellite... Behind the CBAS payload is EAGLE, a platform capable of releasing several secondary payloads into space. According to Gunter's Space Page, EAGLE is carrying five additional payloads, all experimental satellites.
Here's a good overview of the mission: Saturday's mission will begin with ignition of the Atlas Common Core Booster's RD-180 engine, 2.7 seconds before the countdown reaches zero... Five Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-60A solid rocket motors will augment the CCB at liftoff, igniting about T+1.1 seconds as the rocket lifts off. Climbing away from Cape Canaveral, AV-079 will begin a series of pitch and yaw maneuvers 3.9 seconds into its mission, placing the rocket onto an 89.9-degree azimuth -- almost due East -- for the journey into orbit. Atlas will reach Mach 1, the speed of sound, 34.4 seconds after liftoff, passing through the area of maximum dynamic pressure -- Max-Q -- eleven-and-a-half seconds later.
Long-time Slashdot reader Zorro also shares an interesting remark by the CEO of Boeing when asked if Boeing's cancelled Sonic Cruiser might be making a comeback. "'Something better,' teased the Boeing boss, promising point-to-point connectivity anywhere on Earth in a matter of hours."

And when asked whether Boeing might launch a car into space, he replied instead that "We might pick up the one that's out there and bring it back."
The Almighty Buck

NASA May Fly Humans On the Less Powerful Version of Its Deep-Space Rocket (theverge.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: NASA may make some big changes to the first couple flights of its future deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, after getting a recent funding boost from Congress to build a new launch platform. When humans fly on the rocket for the first time in the 2020s, they might ride on a less powerful version of the vehicle than NASA had expected. If the changes move forward, it could scale down the first crewed mission into deep space in more than 45 years. The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA's main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew -- a mission called EM-2.

But now, NASA may delay that rocket upgrade and fly the same small version of the SLS for the crewed flight instead. If that happens, NASA would need to come up with a different type of mission for the crew to do since they won't be riding on the more powerful version of the vehicle. "If EM-2 flies that way, we would have to change the mission profile because we can't do what we could do if we had the [larger SLS]," Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said during a Congressional hearing yesterday. NASA clarified that astronauts would still fly around the Moon on the second flight. However, the rocket would not be able to carry extra science payloads as NASA had originally planned. "The primary objective for EM-2 is to demonstrate critical functions with crew aboard, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space, which can be accomplished on a Block 1 SLS," a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.

Medicine

'Is Curing Patients a Sustainable Business Model?' Goldman Sachs Analysts Ask (arstechnica.com) 368

In an April 10 report for biotech clients, Goldman Sachs analysts noted that one-shot cures for diseases are not great for business as they're bad for longterm profits. The investment banks' report, titled "The Genome Revolution," asks clients: "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" The answer may be "no," according to follow-up information provided. Slashdot reader tomhath shares the report from Ars Technica: Analyst Salveen Richter and colleagues laid it out: "The potential to deliver 'one shot cures' is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically engineered cell therapy, and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies... While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow."

For a real-world example, they pointed to Gilead Sciences, which markets treatments for hepatitis C that have cure rates exceeding 90 percent. In 2015, the company's hepatitis C treatment sales peaked at $12.5 billion. But as more people were cured and there were fewer infected individuals to spread the disease, sales began to languish. Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that the treatments will bring in less than $4 billion this year. [Gilead]'s rapid rise and fall of its hepatitis C franchise highlights one of the dynamics of an effective drug that permanently cures a disease, resulting in a gradual exhaustion of the prevalent pool of patients," the analysts wrote. The report noted that diseases such as common cancers -- where the "incident pool remains stable" -- are less risky for business.

Earth

Ocean Current That Keeps Europe Warm Is Weakening Because of Climate Change (washingtonpost.com) 193

The Washington Post: The Atlantic Ocean circulation that carries warmth into the Northern Hemisphere's high latitudes is slowing down because of climate change, a team of scientists asserted Wednesday, suggesting one of the most feared consequences is already coming to pass (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation has declined in strength by 15 percent since the mid-20th century to a "new record low," the scientists conclude in a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature. That's a decrease of 3 million cubic meters of water per second, the equivalent of nearly 15 Amazon rivers.

The AMOC brings warm water from the equator up toward the Atlantic's northern reaches and cold water back down through the deep ocean. The current is partly why Western Europe enjoys temperate weather, and meteorologists are linking changes in North Atlantic Ocean temperatures to recent summer heat waves. The circulation is also critical for fisheries off the U.S. Atlantic coast, a key part of New England's economy that have seen changes in recent years, with the cod fishery collapsing as lobster populations have boomed off the Maine coast.

NASA

Hubble Telescope Discovers a Light-Bending 'Einstein Ring' In Space (space.com) 71

Space.com reports of the Hubble Space Telescope's discovery of a light-bending "Einstein Ring" in space: The perfect circle surrounding a galaxy cluster in a new Hubble Space Telescope image is a visual indicator of the huge masses that are bending time and space in that region. The galaxy cluster, called SDSS J0146-0929, features hundreds of individual galaxies all bound together by gravity. There's so much mass in this region that the cluster is distorting light from objects behind it. This phenomenon is called an Einstein ring. The ring is created as the light that comes from distant objects, like galaxies, passes by "an extremely large mass, like this galaxy cluster," NASA said in a statement. "In this image, the light from a background galaxy is diverted and distorted around the massive intervening cluster and forced to travel along many different light paths toward Earth, making it seem as though the galaxy is in several places at once." The ring is named after Albert Einstein, who wrote his theory of general relativity in the early 1900s. In it, he suggested that a massive object would warp space and time. This process is known today as a gravitational lens. When the most massive galaxies and galaxy clusters get in line with a more distant object, they produce an Einstein ring -- a type of gravitational lens.
Earth

XPRIZE Projects Aim To Convert CO2 Emissions, But Skepticism Remains (scientificamerican.com) 83

The XPRIZE foundation exists to encourage particular innovations that might be useful but from which conventional financial backers are likely to shy away. Previous X Prizes have been awarded for feats such as flying a reusable spacecraft to the edge of space, and designing cheap sensors to measure oceanic acidity. This week, the foundation announced a new prize. From a report: One pioneering team hopes to use carbon dioxide to make a stronger form of cement. Another wants to use carbon to make bioplastic. Still another is planning to transform CO2 into solid carbonates that can be used as building materials. The XPRIZE Foundation unveiled 10 teams yesterday as finalists in its $20 million contest to find a solution to carbon emissions.

Its carbon competition is meant to find an economic use for planet-warming emissions. The basic idea: If emissions can be turned into a product, power companies will have an incentive to capture and sell carbon instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. A group of 47 teams from across the world initially submitted proposals. The remaining 10 teams will compete in two groups. One will test their technologies at a coal-fired power plant in Gillette, Wyo. The other will compete at a natural gas plant in Calgary, Alberta. Winners will be announced in 2020. They will split the $20 million purse.

[...] Significant skepticism over carbon utilization's effectiveness persists, however. The chief concern is that global carbon emissions outweigh the market for carbon products. "There is no question you can do it. The question is whether it can be a meaningful contribution to climate mitigation," said Edward Rubin, a professor of environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Encryption

Researchers Devise a Way To Generate Provably Random Numbers Using Quantum Mechanics (newatlas.com) 139

No random number generator you've ever used is truly, provably random. Until now, that is. Researchers have used an experiment developed to test quantum mechanics to generate demonstrably random numbers, which could come in handy for encryption. From a report: The method uses photons to generate a string of random ones and zeros, and leans on the laws of physics to prove that these strings are truly random, rather than merely posing as random. The researchers say their work could improve digital security and cryptography. The challenge for existing random number generators is not only creating truly random numbers, but proving that those numbers are random. "It's hard to guarantee that a given classical source is really unpredictable," says Peter Bierhorst, a mathematician at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where this research took place. "Our quantum source and protocol is like a fail-safe. We're sure that no one can predict our numbers." For example, random number algorithms often rely on a source of data which may ultimately prove predictable, such as atmospheric noise. And however complex the algorithm, it's still applying consistent rules. Despite these potential imperfections, these methods are relied on in the day-to-day encryption of data. This team's method, however, makes use of the properties of quantum mechanics, or what Einstein described as "spooky action at a distance." Further reading: Wired, LiveScience, and CNET.
Science

Late To Bed, Early To Die? Night Owls May Die Sooner (livescience.com) 217

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bad news for "night owls": Those who tend to stay up late and sleep in well past sunrise are at increased risk of early death, a new study from the United Kingdom suggests. The research, which involved nearly half a million people, found that self-described "evening people" were 10 percent more likely to die over a 6.5-year period, compared with self-described morning people. The findings add to a growing body of research that suggests that being a night owl could have negative effects on health. Many of these effects may be attributable to a misalignment between a person's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, and the socially imposed timing of work and other activities, the researchers said. "'Night owls' trying to live in a 'morning lark' world may have health consequences for their bodies," study co-author Kristen Knutson, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement.
AI

FDA Approves AI-Powered Software To Detect Diabetic Retinopathy (engadget.com) 34

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved an AI-powered device that can be used by non-specialists to detect diabetic retinopathy in adults with diabetes. Engadget reports: Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the high levels of blood sugar in the bloodstream cause damage to your retina's blood vessels. It's the most common cause of vision loss, according to the FDA. The approval comes for a device called IDx-DR, a software program that uses an AI algorithm to analyze images of the eye that can be taken in a regular doctor's office with a special camera, the Topcon NW400. The photos are then uploaded to a server that runs IDx-DR, which can then tell the doctor if there is a more than mild level of diabetic retinopathy present. If not, it will advise a re-screen in 12 months. The device and software can be used by health care providers who don't normally provide eye care services. The FDA warns that you shouldn't be screened with the device if you have had laser treatment, eye surgery or injections, as well as those with other conditions, like persistent vision loss, blurred vision, floaters, previously diagnosed macular edema and more.
Cellphones

The Personality Traits That Put You At Risk For Smartphone Addiction (washingtonpost.com) 73

Zorro shares a report from The Washington Post: When the Trump-affiliated firm Cambridge Analytica obtained data on tens of millions of Facebook users, it used the "Big 5" or "Five Factor Model" personality test to target them with ads designed to influence their votes in the 2016 election. The test scores people on five traits -- openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism -- and was used in the election to predict the way a voter would respond to an advertisement. But the Big 5 can predict a lot more -- including how likely you are to even use Facebook or any other social media (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source).

That's because the way you score on the test can tell you how likely you are to become addicted to your screen. Research shows that people who score high on neuroticism, low on conscientiousness, and low on agreeableness are more likely to become addicted to social media, video games, instant messaging, or other online stimuli. Studies have also found that extraverts are more likely to become addicted to cellphone use than introverts. Some of the correlations make sense. Less agreeable people may be more apt to immerse themselves in technology because it does not require the kind of friendly interactions that real life does. Neurotic people have been shown to spend more time online because it validates their desire to belong or be part of a group. Conscientious people are less impulsive and therefore more able to control and organize their time. But then it gets complicated. Because according to a new study out of the State University of New York at Binghamton, specific combinations of those personality traits can mitigate or exaggerate one's propensity to addiction.

Medicine

Eating World's Hottest Pepper Sparks Brain Disorder, Thunderclap Headaches (arstechnica.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Extremely hot peppers don't just blister your mouth and bum -- they can also spark fiery havoc in your brain, according to a report published Monday in BMJ Case Reports. An otherwise healthy 34-year-old man developed a blood-flow disorder in his brain and suffered several debilitating "thunderclap" headaches after entering a hot pepper eating contest, U.S. doctors reported. The man had managed to get down a Carolina Reaper pepper, which in 2013 earned the title of the world's hottest chili by Guinness World Records.

The searing pepper didn't sit well in the chili-eating contestant. Immediately after slaying a Reaper, the man began dry heaving and developed pain in his neck and the back of his skull. That morphed into a diffuse, painful headache. Over the next few days, he experienced thunderclap headaches at least twice -- but likely more, he just couldn't recall exactly. Thunderclap headaches are severe, sudden, with quick pains that strike like a clap of thunder rumbling through your skull. They tend to peak within 60 seconds and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, altered mental state, seizures, and fever. Their stormy aches can be a sign of serious problems, like bleeding in the brain, a brain infection, or a cerebrospinal fluid leak. The pain was excruciating enough that the man went to the emergency room. But doctors didn't find any immediate problems with him to explain the episodes. He didn't have any slurred speech, loss of vision, neurological deficits, muscle weakness, or tingling. His blood pressure was a little high, but not extremely so, at 134/69 mmHg. Initial CT scans found no problems in his neck and head.

Businesses

Theranos Lays Off Almost All of Its Remaining Workers (marketwatch.com) 91

A few months ago, Theranos laid off almost half of its workforce as it struggled to recover from the backlash generated when the company failed to provide accurate results to patients using its proprietary blood test technology. Now, according to people familiar with the matter, the company is laying off most of its remaining workforce in a last-ditch effort to preserve cash and avert or at least delay bankruptcy for a few more months. MarketWatch reports: Tuesday's layoffs take the company's head count from about 125 employees to two dozen or fewer, according to people familiar with the matter. As recently as late 2015, Theranos had about 800 employees. Elizabeth Holmes, the Silicon Valley firm's founder and chief executive officer, announced the layoffs at an all-employee meeting at Theranos's offices in Newark, Calif. on Tuesday, less than a month after settling civil fraud charges with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Under the SEC settlement, Holmes was forced to relinquish her voting control over the company she founded 15 years ago as a 19-year-old Stanford dropout, give back a big chunk of her stock, and pay a $500,000 penalty. She also agreed to be barred from being an officer or director in a public company for 10 years.
Space

Northrop Grumman, Not SpaceX, Reported To Be at Fault For Loss of Top-Secret Zuma Satellite (cnbc.com) 70

Northrop Grumman built and operated the components that failed during the controversial January launch of the U.S. spy satellite known as Zuma, WSJ reported over the weekend. From a report: Two independent investigations, made up of federal and industry officials, pointed to Northrop's payload adapter as the cause of the satellite's loss, the report said, citing people familiar with the probes. The payload adapter is a key part of deploying a satellite in orbit, connecting the satellite to the upper stage of a rocket. Zuma is believed to have cost around $3.5 billion to develop, according to the report. The satellite was funded through a process that received a lesser degree of oversight from Congress compared with similar national security-related satellites, industry officials said.
Medicine

FDA Worried Drug Was Risky; Now Reports of Deaths Spark Concern (cnn.com) 183

Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, writing for CNN: Two years ago, Brendan Tyne pleaded with the Food and Drug Administration to approve a drug that he was hopeful could finally bring his mother some peace. She could no longer move without assistance and had fallen victim to the debilitating and frightening psychosis that haunts many people with Parkinson's disease. "She thinks there are people in the house and animals are trying to get her," he told an FDA advisory committee. He believed that a new medication called Nuplazid, made by San Diego-based Acadia Pharmaceuticals, was the answer.

Nuplazid's review was being expedited because it had been designated a "breakthrough therapy" -- meaning that it demonstrated "substantial improvement" in patients with serious or life-threatening diseases compared to treatments already on the market. Congress created this designation in 2012 in an effort to speed up the FDA's approval process, which has long been criticized for being too slow. Around 200 drugs have been granted this designation since its creation. [...] The committee voted 12-2 and recommended that the FDA approve Nuplazid for the treatment of Parkinson's disease psychosis based on a six-week study of about 200 patients. It hit the market in June 2016. As caregivers and family members rushed to get their loved ones on it, sales climbed to roughly $125 million in 2017

[...] In November, an analysis released by a nonprofit health care organization, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, warned that 244 deaths had been reported to the FDA between the drug's launch and March 2017. [...] Since the institute released its analysis, FDA data shows that the number of reported deaths has risen to more than 700. As of last June, Nuplazid was the only medication listed as "suspect" in at least 500 of the death reports.

Earth

One-Degree Rise In Temperature Causes Ripple Effect In World's Largest High Arctic Lake (folio.ca) 303

An anonymous reader quotes a report from FOLIO Magazine: A 1 C increase in temperature has set off a chain of events disrupting the entire ecology of the world's largest High Arctic lake. "The amount of glacial meltwater going into the lake has dramatically increased," said Martin Sharp, a University of Alberta glaciologist who was part of a team of scientists that documented the rapid changes in Lake Hazen on Ellesmere Island over a series of warm summers in the last decade. "Because it's glacial meltwater, the amount of fine sediment going into the lake has dramatically increased as well. That in turn affects how much light can get into the water column, which may affect biological productivity in the lake." The changes resulted in algal blooms and detrimental changes to the Arctic char fish population, and point to a near certain future of summer ice-free conditions. The findings document an unprecedented shift from the previous three centuries, challenging scientists' expectations of how such a large system could respond so rapidly to a one-degree rise. The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
Science

Scientists Discover That Puffin Beaks Are Fluorescent (www.cbc.ca) 36

A scientist in England discovered that the bills of Atlantic puffins glow like freshly cracked glow sticks when under a UV light. CBC.ca reports of how ornithologist Jamie Dunning stumbled upon the discovery: Dunning normally works with twites, another type of bird, but he had been wondering if puffins had Day-Glo beaks for a while, since crested auklets -- seabirds in the same family -- also have light-up bills. So one January day, while having a "troubling" time in the lab, he threw off the lights and shone a UV light on a puffin carcass. "What happened was quite impressive, really," he said. The two yellow ridges on the puffin's bill -- called the lamella and the cere -- lit up like a firefly. And it's real fluorescence, Dunning emphasizes: something about those parts of the puffin bill is allowing that UV light to be absorbed and re-emitted as a bright glowing light.

The fact some birds have this quality and some birds don't indicates the fluorescence certainly has some use for the puffins, Dunning said, but he's not sure what that use might be. "The bill of a puffin is forged by generations, hundreds and thousands of years, of sexual selection. There's a lot going on there. That's why it's so colorful and pretty." But the radiant color is almost certainly not being used as a headlight, he said. He said whatever's making the beak glow is reacting with the UV light waves, and those light waves aren't around in the dark.

Math

Did Harvard Scientists Predict The End of the Universe? (gizmodo.com) 155

The universe will end with a bang -- and not a whimper -- reports The New York Post, citing a new study by Harvard Researchers predicting exactly when (and how) the universe will end. But Gizmodo's science writer takes issue with the media coverage: That paper predicts that the universe's lifetime would be between 10**88 and 10**241 years, but probably probably around 10**139 years. "I think people don't have a sense as to how big these numbers are," study author and physicist Matthew Schwartz from Harvard told Gizmodo. "It's such an enormous out of time. But they think 10**139 years is 139."

The universe is around 10 billion, or 10**10 years old. 10**139 is a completely unfathomable number of years... It's more than the amount of time it would take to count every atom in the universe, if you had to wait from the Big Bang until now in between counting each atom. That number of years eludes any rational attempt to understand it (Which is probably why it sounds so close -- our heads just short circuit and say, threat!!!). It is forever.

Earth

New Theory Suggests Dinosaurs Were Already Dying When Asteroid Hit (phys.org) 167

The new "biotic revenge hypothesis" suggests that dinosaurs were killed off by toxic plants. (And an inability to recognize the taste of a toxic plant.) the gmr summarizes a new paper reported at Phys.org: The dinosaur population had been drastically decreasing before the asteroid impact, [and] the appearance of the first flowering plants -- angiosperms -- in the fossil record coincides with the gradual disappearance of the dinosaurs... The scientists concluded that though the asteroid played a role in the extinction of dinosaurs, the "plants had already placed severe strain on the species."
Crocodiles (believed to be descended from dinosaurs) also can't recognize the taste of toxic plants -- the researchers tested 10 different species. And they point out that not only did dinosaurs start to disappear before the asteroid impact -- they continued to "gradually disappear for millions of years afterward."
Space

Anticipating the Dangers of Space Radiation (utexas.edu) 23

aarondubrow writes: Astronauts and future space tourists face risks from radiation, which can cause illness and injure organs. Researchers from Texas A&M, NASA, and the University of Texas Medical Branch used supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center to investigate the radiation exposure related to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory mission, planned for the 1960s and 1970s [but never actually flown], during which a dangerous solar storm occurred. They also explored the historical limitations of radiation research and how such limitations could be addressed in future endeavors.
Supercomputers could be "a game-changer" when it comes to predicting the risks of space radiation, allowing NASA to make life-saving decisions in real-time, argues one of the researchers. During that 1972 solar storm, skin and organs would've risked being exposed to radiation in excess of NASA limits, though one of the study's co-authors believes that rather than risking harm to the astronauts, NASA would've promptly terminated that mission.

"Though the study explored the historical missions, the researchers had in mind future commercial space flights, like those proposed by SpaceX or Virgin Galactic, that will likely travel a similar orbit to best show off the beauty of Earth from space."
Printer

Scientists Modify A 3D Printer To Print All-Liquid Structures (lbl.gov) 15

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have successfully printed three-dimensional structures composed entirely of liquids. A special nanoparticle-derived coating can lock water in place for several months in a solution of silicone oil. omaha393 writes: Using a modified 3D printer, the team demonstrated they can reliably print liquid tubes sheathed in surfactants with precision that allows spiral and branching shapes with diameters ranging from micrometers to millimetres. The technique offers a means to finely control small scale synthetic reactions but the team suggest it could lead to wearable, stretchable electronics. A brief video showing the technology is available and the full paper is available at Advanced Materials.
Space

Center of the Milky Way Has Thousands of Black Holes, Study Shows (npr.org) 64

New submitter xonen shares a report from NPR: For decades, scientists have thought that black holes should sink to the center of galaxies and accumulate there. But scientists had no proof that these exotic objects had actually gathered together in the center of the Milky Way. Isolated black holes are almost impossible to detect, but black holes that have a companion -- an orbiting star -- interact with that star in ways that allow the pair to be spotted by telltale X-ray emissions. The team searched for those signals in a region stretching about three light-years out from our galaxy's central supermassive black hole. What they found there: a dozen black holes paired up with stars. Finding so many in such a small region is significant, because until now scientists have found evidence of only about five dozen black holes throughout the entire galaxy. What they've found should help theorists make better predictions about how many cosmic smashups might occur and generate detectable gravitational waves. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
Medicine

Hot-Air Dryers Suck In Nasty Bathroom Bacteria, Shoot Them At Your Hands (arstechnica.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Hot-air dryers suck in bacteria and hardy bacterial spores loitering in the bathroom -- perhaps launched into the air by whooshing toilet flushes -- and fire them directly at your freshly cleaned hands, according to a study published in the April issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The authors of the study, led by researchers at the University of Connecticut, found that adding HEPA filters to the dryers can reduce germ-spewing four-fold. However, the data hints that places like infectious disease research facilities and healthcare settings may just want to ditch the dryers and turn to trusty towels. Indeed, in the wake of the blustery study -- which took place in research facility bathrooms around UConn -- "paper towel dispensers have recently been added to all 36 bathrooms in basic science research areas in the UConn School of Medicine surveyed in the current study," the authors note. The researchers speculated that "one reason hand dryers may disperse so many bacteria is the large amount of air that passes through hand dryers, 19,000 linear feet/min at the nozzle. The convection generated by high airflow below the hand dryer nozzles could also draw in room air."
AI

Researchers Develop Device That Can 'Hear' Your Internal Voice (theguardian.com) 108

Researchers have created a wearable device that can read people's minds when they use an internal voice, allowing them to control devices and ask queries without speaking. From a report: The device, called AlterEgo, can transcribe words that wearers verbalise internally but do not say out loud, using electrodes attached to the skin. "Our idea was: could we have a computing platform that's more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?" said Arnav Kapur, who led the development of the system at MIT's Media Lab.

Kapur describes the headset as an "intelligence-augmentation" or IA device, and was presented at the Association for Computing Machinery's Intelligent User Interface conference in Tokyo. It is worn around the jaw and chin, clipped over the top of the ear to hold it in place. Four electrodes under the white plastic device make contact with the skin and pick up the subtle neuromuscular signals that are triggered when a person verbalises internally. When someone says words inside their head, artificial intelligence within the device can match particular signals to particular words, feeding them into a computer.

Businesses

SpaceX Can't Broadcast Earth Images Because of a Murky License (cnet.com) 177

Last Friday, SpaceX wasn't able to give its fans a view of the 10 new Iridium satellites it released into orbit from its Falcon 9 upper stage. Here's why. From a report: Weirdly, company engineers staffing the launch webcast blamed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration restrictions for the blackout from the stage, a staple of most SpaceX launches. Well, at least those that don't involve deploying spy satellites or top-secret space planes. The story behind the missing live feed is a muddy bureaucratic affair. It appears that NOAA has recently decided to start interpreting or enforcing a decades-old law in a new way. The agency says SpaceX and other commercial space companies must apply for a license to broadcast video from orbit.

"The National and Commercial Space Program Act requires a commercial remote sensing license for companies having the capacity to take an image of Earth while on orbit," NOAA said in a statement last week. "Now that launch companies are putting video cameras on stage 2 rockets that reach an on-orbit status, all such launches will be held to the requirements of the law and its conditions."

Canada

Canada Has Pulled Off a Brain Heist (axios.com) 351

An anonymous reader writes: Seoul-born Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, a professor at Brown University known for her work on fake news, is moving to Canada. So is Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a Harvard chemistry professor working on quantum computing and artificial intelligence. They are among 24 top academic minds around the world wooed to Canada by an aggressive recruitment effort offering ultra-attractive sinecures, seven-year funding arrangements -- and, Chun and Aspuru-Guzik said in separate interviews with Axios, a different political environment from the U.S. The "Canada 150 Research Chairs Program" is spending $117 million on seven-year grants of either $350,000 a year or $1 million a year. It's part of a campaign by numerous countries to attract scholars unhappy with Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and other political trends, sweetened with unusually generous research conditions.
Science

Humans Produce New Brain Cells Throughout Their Lives, Say Researchers (theguardian.com) 57

An anonymous reader shares a report: Humans continue to produce new neurons in a part of their brain involved in learning, memory and emotion throughout adulthood, scientists have revealed, countering previous theories that production stopped after adolescence. The findings could help in developing treatments for neurological conditions such as dementia. Many new neurons are produced in the hippocampus in babies, but it has been a matter of hot debate whether this continues into adulthood -- and if so, whether this rate drops with age as seen in mice and nonhuman primates. Although some research had found new neurons in the hippocampus of older humans, a recent study scotched the idea, claiming that new neurons in the hippocampus were at undetectable levels by our late teens.
AI

Computer Searches Telescope Data For Evidence of Distant Planets (mit.edu) 12

As part of an effort to identify distant planets hospitable to life, NASA has established a crowdsourcing project in which volunteers search telescopic images for evidence of debris disks around stars, which are good indicators of exoplanets. From a report: Using the results of that project, researchers at MIT have now trained a machine-learning system to search for debris disks itself. The scale of the search demands automation: There are nearly 750 million possible light sources in the data accumulated through NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission alone. In tests, the machine-learning system agreed with human identifications of debris disks 97 percent of the time. The researchers also trained their system to rate debris disks according to their likelihood of containing detectable exoplanets. In a paper describing the new work in the journal Astronomy and Computing, the MIT researchers report that their system identified 367 previously unexamined celestial objects as particularly promising candidates for further study.
Earth

Scientists Harvest First Vegetables in Antarctic Greenhouse (apnews.com) 83

Scientists in Antarctica have harvested their first crop of vegetables grown without earth, daylight or pesticides as part of a project designed to help astronauts cultivate fresh food on other planets. From a report: Researchers at Germany's Neumayer Station III say they've picked 3.6 kilograms (8 pounds) of salad greens, 18 cucumbers and 70 radishes grown inside a high-tech greenhouse as temperatures outside dropped below -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit). The German Aerospace Center DLR, which coordinates the project, said Thursday that by May scientists hope to harvest 4-5 kilograms of fruit and vegetables a week.
Medicine

Drug-Resistant 'Nightmare Bacteria' Pose Growing Threat (statnews.com) 87

"Nightmare bacteria" with unusual resistance to antibiotics of last resort were found more than 200 times in the United States last year in a first-of-a-kind hunt to see how much of a threat these rare cases are becoming, health officials said this week. From a report: That's more than they had expected to find, and the true number is probably higher because the effort involved only certain labs in each state, officials say. The problem mostly strikes people in hospitals and nursing homes who need IVs and other tubes that can get infected. In many cases, others in close contact with these patients also harbored the superbugs even though they weren't sick -- a risk for further spread. Some of the sick patients had traveled for surgery or other health care to another country where drug-resistant germs are more common, and the superbug infections were discovered after they returned to the U.S.
China

US' Proposed China Tariffs Would Target Robotics, Satellites (engadget.com) 208

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The U.S. Trade Representative has published the list of Chinese products that would be subject to its proposed tech tariffs, and there are a few clear themes. The move would hike the costs of about 1,300 products, including industrial robots, communication satellites, spacecraft and a slew of semiconductors.The aim, as before, is to punish China for allegedly goading American companies into transferring their patents and technology to Chinese firms for the sake of claiming economic superiority. The USTR claimed the proposed tariffs would stymie Chinese plans while "minimizing the impact" on the American economy. The tariffs are still subject to a 60-day notice process that would include public comments until May 11th and a public hearing on May 15th.
Businesses

NASA Hires Lockheed Martin To Build Quiet Supersonic X-Plane (space.com) 98

New submitter john of sparta shares a report from Space.com: NASA has taken a huge leap forward in its quest to create an aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound without causing the ear-splitting sonic boom. The space agency announced today (April 2) that it has awarded the aerospace company Lockheed Martin a $247.5 million contract to design and build a new X-plane, known as the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD), which may soar silently over the U.S. by 2022. Lockheed Martin's LBFD won't be built for transporting people. Before any supersonic planes will be allowed to fly over land, NASA and Lockheed Martin must prove that it's possible to break the sound barrier without the sonic boom.

Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said that the LBFD will fly over select U.S. cities starting in mid-2022 and NASA will "ask the people living and working in those communities to tell us what they heard, if anything." The LBFD aircraft will be 94 feet (29 meters) long, or about the size of a small business jet. It will fly at a cruising altitude of about 55,000 feet (17,000 meters) and reach a speed of 1.4 times the speed of sound (about 1,000 mph, or 1,600 km/h). This will "create a sound about as loud as a car door closing," NASA officials said in the news conference.

Businesses

MIT Severs Ties To Company Promoting Fatal Brain Uploading (technologyreview.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: The MIT Media Lab will sever ties with a brain-embalming company that promoted euthanasia to people hoping for digital immortality through "brain uploads." The startup, called Nectome, had raised more than $200,000 in deposits from people hoping to have their brains stored in an end-of-life procedure similar to physician-assisted suicide. MIT's connection to the company came into question after MIT Technology Review detailed Nectome's promotion of its "100 percent fatal" technology. Under a subcontract, MIT was receiving approximately $300,000 from a federal grant won by Nectome to develop methods of brain preservation and analysis. According to an April 2 statement, MIT will terminate the research contract with Media Lab professor and neuroscientist Edward Boyden. Boyden said he didn't have a financial stake or other personal involvement with Nectome. MIT's connection to the company drew sharp criticism from some neuroscientists, who say brain uploading isn't possible.

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