An anonymous reader writes "The Yupno people of New Guinea have provided clues to the origins of the number-line concept, and suggest that the familiar concept of time may be cultural as well. From the article: 'Tape measures. Rulers. Graphs. The gas gauge in your car, and the icon on your favorite digital device showing battery power. The number line and its cousins – notations that map numbers onto space and often represent magnitude – are everywhere. Most adults in industrialized societies are so fluent at using the concept, we hardly think about it. We don't stop to wonder: Is it 'natural'? Is it cultural? Now, challenging a mainstream scholarly position that the number-line concept is innate, a study suggests it is learned."
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First time accepted submitter blinkin247 writes "The indiscriminate spraying of pesticides has probably caused as many problems as it has solved, but here's one that was not expected: some bacteria have decided that insecticide is a very tasty meal. Unfortunately for us, one of the strains of bacteria that has evolved the ability to digest the toxin happens to be able to find a home in an insect's gut. When it does so, it provides the insect with resistance."
benfrog writes "Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley say they have come up with a counter-intuitive way of making solar cells more efficient — making them emit light. In a press release the scientists claim to be the first to demonstrate that the better solar cells are at emitting photons (the more LED-like they are), the more efficient they are at generating electricity. However, 'unlike an LED, the electrons in a solar cell are absorbing photons from an exterior source as well as emitting their own.'"
An anonymous reader writes in with a link about the progress of one of the coolest astronomy projects around. "A 3.2 billion-pixel digital camera designed by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is now one step closer to reality. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope camera, which will capture the widest, fastest and deepest view of the night sky ever observed, has received 'Critical Decision 1' approval by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to move into the next stage of the project. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will survey the entire visible sky every week, creating an unprecedented public archive of data – about 6 million gigabytes per year, the equivalent of shooting roughly 800,000 images with a regular eight-megapixel digital camera every night, but of much higher quality and scientific value. Its deep and frequent cosmic vistas will help answer critical questions about the nature of dark energy and dark matter and aid studies of near-Earth asteroids, Kuiper belt objects, the structure of our galaxy and many other areas of astronomy and fundamental physics."
Zothecula writes, quoting Gizmodo "While the Moon may or may not contain life forms, precious metals or even green cheese, recent satellite missions have indicated that it does nonetheless contain something that could prove quite valuable — water ice. NASA has estimated that at least 650 million tons (600 million tonnes) of the stuff could be deposited in craters near the Moon's north pole alone. If mined, it could conceivably serve as a source of life support for future lunar bases, or it could be used to produce fuel for spacecraft stopping at a "lunar gas station." Before any mining can happen, however, we need to learn more about the ice. That's why NASA has contracted Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology to determine if its Polaris rover robot could be used for ice prospecting."
mikejuk writes with this excerpt from I Programmer: "A movie that features science and technology is always welcome, but is it not often we have one that focuses on computer science. Travelling Salesman is just such a rare movie. As you can guess from its name, it is about the Travelling Salesman problem, more precisely about the P=NP question. Written and directed by Timothy Lanzone, and produced by Fretboard Pictures, it should premiere on June 16. As the blurb to the movie trailer says: 'Travelling Salesman is an intellectual thriller about four of the world's smartest mathematicians hired by the U.S. government to solve the most elusive problem in computer science history — P vs. NP. The four have jointly created a "system" which could be the next major advancement for humanity or the downfall of society.'"
ananyo writes "Ron Fouchier, a researcher at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, whose work on the H5N1 avian flu virus has been embroiled in controversy, has now agreed to apply for an export permit to submit his work to the journal Science. Fouchier's paper is one of two reporting the creation of forms of the H5N1 virus capable of spreading between mammals. The other, by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Tokyo, and his colleagues, has already been submitted to Nature. Fouchier had said last week that he intended to defy the government and submit the work to Science without seeking the export permit that the Dutch government says is required." In related news, renek noted that the U.S. NIH director supports publishing the papers in full.
New submitter wave9x writes "The United States Department of Agriculture confirmed today that the nation's fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, sometimes referred to as 'mad cow disease' was found in a dairy cow in California. The animal has been euthanized and the carcass is being being held under State authority at a rendering facility in California and will be destroyed."
redletterdave writes "Chinese scientists have cloned a genetically modified sheep containing a 'good' type of fat found naturally in nuts, seeds, fish and leafy greens that helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. The gene, which is linked to the production of polyunsaturated fatty acids, was inserted into a donor cell taken from the ear of a Chinese Merino sheep. The cell was then inserted into an unfertilized egg and implanted into the womb of a surrogate sheep. With any luck, this process could be replicated in the future to clone more animals for safe and healthy consumption."
sciencehabit writes "Traumatic experiences in early life can leave emotional scars. But a new study suggests that violence in childhood may leave a genetic mark as well. Researchers have found that children who are physically abused and bullied tend to have shorter telomeres — structures at the tips of chromosomes whose shrinkage has been linked to aging and disease."
sycodon writes with news of research into how nearby supernovae affected the development of life on Earth. "[Professor Henrik Svensmark] found that the changing frequency of nearby supernovae seems to have strongly shaped the conditions for life on Earth. Whenever the Sun and its planets have visited regions of enhanced star formation in the Milky Way Galaxy, where exploding stars are most common, life has prospered. Prof. Svensmark remarks in the paper, "The biosphere seems to contain a reflection of the sky, in that the evolution of life mirrors the evolution of the Galaxy.' ... The data also support the idea of a long-term link between cosmic rays and climate, with these climatic changes underlying the biological effects. And compared with the temperature variations seen on short timescales as a consequence of the Sun's influence on the influx of cosmic rays, the heating and cooling of the Earth due to cosmic rays varying with the prevailing supernova rate have been far larger.""
steveb3210 writes "Physicists have demonstrated that making a decision about whether or not to entangle two photons can be made after you've already measured the states of the photons." Here's the article's description of the experiment: 'Two independent sources (labeled I and II) produce pairs of photons such that their polarization states are entangled. One photon from I goes to Alice, while one photon from II is sent to Bob. The second photon from each source goes to Victor. Alice and Bob independently perform polarization measurements; no communication passes between them during the experiment—they set the orientation of their polarization filters without knowing what the other is doing. At some time after Alice and Bob perform their measurements, Victor makes a choice (the "delayed choice" in the name). He either allows his two photons from I and II to travel on without doing anything, or he combines them so that their polarization states are entangled. A final measurement determines the polarization state of those two photons. ... Ma et al. found to a high degree of confidence that when Victor selected entanglement, Alice and Bob found correlated photon polarizations. This didn't happen when Victor left the photons alone.'
gManZboy writes "The vulnerability of wireless medical devices to hacking has now attracted attention in Washington. Although there has not yet been a high-profile case of such an attack, a proposal has surfaced that the Food and Drug Administration or another federal agency assess the security of medical devices before they're sold. A Department of Veterans Affairs study showed that between January 2009 and spring 2011, there were 173 incidents of medical devices being infected with malware. The VA has taken the threat seriously enough to use virtual local area networks to isolate some 50,000 devices. Recently, researchers from Purdue and Princeton Universities announced that they had built a prototype firewall known as MedMon to protect wireless medical devices from outside interference."
Taco Cowboy writes "Arctic methane release is a well recorded phenomenon. Methane stored in both permafrost (which is melting) and methane hydrates (methane trapped in marine reservoirs) are vulnerable to being released into the atmosphere as the planet warms. However, researchers who are trying to map atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations on a global basis have discovered that the amount of methane emissions in the Arctic region do not total up. Further research revealed that significant amounts of methane releases came from the Arctic ocean (abstract) — as much as 2 milligrams of the gas is released per square meter of ocean, each day — presumably by marine bacteria surviving in low-nutrient environments."
Matching widespread predictions, The Bad Astronomer writes with word that "The private company Planetary Resources has announced that it plans to mine asteroids for water, air, and even precious metals in the next few years. Your initial reaction may be to snicker a bit, but it's headed by Peter Diamandis — who established the X Prize — has several ex-NASA personnel running the engineering, and also has the backing of a half-dozen or so billionaires. So this is no joke — their plan looks solid, and may very well be the first step in establishing a permanent human presence in space."
vvaduva writes "The North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition is threatening to send a blogger to jail for recounting publicly his battle against diabetes and encouraging others to follow his lifestyle... the state diatetics and nutrition board decided [Steve] Cooksey's blog — Diabetes-Warrior.net — violated state law. The nutritional advice Cooksey provides on the site amounts to 'practicing nutrition,' the board's director says, and in North Carolina that's something you need a license to do." If applied consistently, I think this would also clear out considerable space from the average bookstore's health section. (And it could be worse; he could have been offering manicures.)
RogerRoast writes "The first private spaceship launch to the International Space Station has been delayed, possibly by at least a week, the vehicle's makers announced Monday. The commercial spaceflight company SpaceX was set to launch its Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket April 30 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida." The article quotes SpaceX lead Elon Musk's twittered explanation: "Am pushing launch back approx a week to do more testing on Dragon docking code. New date pending coordination with @NASA."
astroengine writes, quoting Discovery: "The source of loud 'booms' accompanied by a bright object traveling through the skies of Nevada and California on Sunday morning has been confirmed: it was a meteor. A big one. It is thought to have been a small asteroid that slammed into the atmosphere at a speed of 15 kilometers per second (33,500 mph), turning into a fireball, delivering an energy of 3.8 kilotons of TNT as it broke up over California's Sierra Nevada mountains. Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, classified it as a 'big event.' 'I am not saying there was a 3.8 kiloton explosion on the ground in California,' Cooke told Spaceweather.com. 'I am saying that the meteor possessed this amount of energy before it broke apart in the atmosphere. (The map) shows the location of the atmospheric breakup, not impact with the ground.' Interestingly, this event was bigger than asteroid 2008 TC3 that exploded over the skies of Sudan in 2008 after being detected before it hit."
benfrog writes "Popocatépetl, a volcano that sits 34 miles east of Mexico City, has begun a series of small eruptions. It's feared that larger eruptions would not only endanger people within range of its explosions, but disrupt life in Mexico City with ash clouds. 'People in the village of Xalitzintla said they were awakened by a window-rattling series of eruptions. Mexico’s National Disaster Prevention Center said one string of eruptions ended in the early morning, then the volcano started up again at 5:05 a.m., with at least 12 eruptions in two hours.' More than 30 million people live within sight of the volcano."
ananyo writes "NASA and a group of universities known as the READI network have begun testing an earthquake-warning system based on satellite data from the Global Positioning System. The method could have allowed Japanese officials to issue accurate warnings of the deadly March 2011 earthquake and tsunami ten times faster than they did, say scientists. The system is currently being tested using the U.S. Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array: hundreds of GPS receivers placed along the North American coast between Northern California and British Columbia in Canada. While conventional seismometers provide similar information, they run into trouble with earthquakes of magnitude 7 or higher. This is partly because in big quakes, the ground may shake for longer, but not significantly harder. GPS has no such problem, because it directly measures the movement of the ground."