New submitter mal0rd writes "NewScientist reports a 'collection of galaxies that is a whopping four billion light years long is the biggest cosmic structure ever seen. The group is roughly one-twentieth the diameter of the observable universe – big enough to challenge a principle dating back to Einstein, that, on large scales, the universe looks the same in every direction.' For reference, Andromeda is only 2.5 million light years away."
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coondoggie writes "This plan sounds a bit like a science fiction scenario where alien devices were planted in the ground thousands of years ago only to be awoken at some predetermined date to destroy the world. Only in this case it's the scientists at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency who want to develop a system of submersible pods that could reside in the world's oceans (presumably not in anyone's territorial waters) and be activated for any number of applications days, months or even years later."
BuzzSkyline writes "A new design for bicycle cranks violates basic principles of physics, but that's not stopping the inventor of Z-Torque cranks from trying to raise thousands in start-up capital through crowd funding." The picture looks intriguing for a fleeting moment before it looks silly. Covered in similar style at a site I'm glad to discover exists, the Bicycle Museum of Bad Ideas.
An anonymous reader writes "A new technique allows allows 'thermocrystals' to be created that can manipulate heat (a vibration of the atomic lattice of a material). Predicted manipulations include the ability to selectively transmit, reflect or concentrate heat much like light waves can be manipulated by lenses and mirrors. 'Heat differs from sound, he explains, in the frequency of its vibrations: Sound waves consist of lower frequencies (up to the kilohertz range, or thousands of vibrations per second), while heat arises from higher frequencies (in the terahertz range, or trillions of vibrations per second).' Applications range from better thermoelectric devices to switchable heat insulating/transmitting materials (abstract). Perhaps this will result in better cooling/heating mechanisms or more efficient engines."
SchrodingerZ writes "A new video was released yesterday by NASA from the GRAIL mission probes, which ended their mission last month as they impacted the lunar surface. 'Dramatic' footage was captured by the probe Ebb on December 14th. The video was taken from the 'MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school Students) cameras. It shows the view of Ebb flying at an altitude of 6 miles (10 km) above the Moon's northern hemisphere in the vicinity of Jackson crater (22.4N 163.1W).' Two videos were released, one from the fore and one from the aft of the probe, showing a forwards and backwards time lapse containing 931 and 1,489 pictures each of the lunar terrain. The footage was part of the probes' final systems check before they shut down and were sent into a controlled impact to a predetermined location."
ananyo writes "The ribosome, the molecular machine that translates our genetic code to build the body's proteins, is a mechanical marvel. Now, chemists have invented a nanomachine that can achieve a similar feat. The artificial system is not about to displace nature's ribosome, a complex of proteins and RNA. It is much simpler, and only about about one-tenth of the size — and, it is achingly slow, destroys the code it reads and can produce only very short chunks of protein, known as peptides. It does, however, show that some of the tactics of biology's molecular machines can be adopted to make useful chemicals. The device relies on a rotaxane — a large molecular ring threaded onto another molecule that acts as an axle (abstract). The axle is lined with three amino acids, and a chain of three more amino acids hangs from the outer edge of the ring. Heating the device prompts the ring to move along the axle, adding amino acids one-by-one to the chain attached to the ring."
sciencehabit writes "Something is orbiting the bright star Fomalhaut in the constellation known as the Southern Fish, but no one knows exactly what it is. New observations carried out last year with the Hubble Space Telescope confirm that the mysterious object, known as Fomalhaut b, is traveling on a highly elongated path, but they haven't convincingly nailed down its true nature. But if it is a planet, as one team of astronomers thinks, we may be in for some celestial fireworks in 2032, when Fomalhaut b starts to plough through a broad belt of debris that surrounds the star and icy comets within the belt smash into the planet's atmosphere." Meanwhile, astronomers recently announced the discovery of the most Earth-like exoplanet yet seen, which orbits a G-type star, has a radius 1.5 times that of Earth and a year of about 242 days.
Hugh Pickens writes "Louise Radnofsky reports that a study by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine has found U.S. life expectancy ranks near the bottom of 17 affluent countries. The U.S. is at or near the bottom in nine key areas of health: infant mortality and low birth weight; injuries and homicides; teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections; prevalence of HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and disability. Americans fare worse than people in other countries even when the analysis is limited to non-Hispanic whites and people with relatively high incomes and health insurance, nonsmokers, or people who are not obese. The report notes that average life expectancy for American men, at 75.6 years, was the lowest among the 17 countries and almost four years shorter than for Switzerland, the best-performing nation. American women's average life expectancy is 80.8 years, the second-lowest among the countries and five years shorter than Japan's, which had the highest expectancy. 'The [U.S.] health disadvantage is pervasive — it affects all age groups up to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and behavioral risk factors, and injuries,' say the report's authors. The authors offered a range of possible explanations for Americans' worse health and mortality, including social inequality, limited availability of contraception for teenagers, community designs that discourage physical activity such as walking, air pollution as well as individual behaviors such as high calorie consumption. The report's authors were particularly critical of the availability of guns. 'One behavior that probably explains the excess lethality of violence and unintentional injuries in the United States is the widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home,' reads the report. 'The statistics are dramatic.'"
alancronin writes "In conjunction with BBC's recent astronomy television program Stargazing Live comes a citizen science project to analyze images of Mars. Zooniverse has set up a site that allows people to explore the surface of Mars in incredible detail with pictures taken from the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. HiRISE can image Mars with resolutions of 0.3 m/pixel (about 1 foot), resolving objects below a meter across."
littlesparkvt writes "The spectacular barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 has ranked among the biggest stellar systems for decades. Now a team of astronomers from the United States, Chile and Brazil has crowned it the largest-known spiral galaxy, based on archival data from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) mission."
MTorrice writes "With every breath, people exhale a plume of chemicals. Now German researchers have developed a method to quickly and easily detect this chemical signature of life with a portable device. The team hopes that the approach can help firefighters and other first responders find people trapped inside rubble after earthquakes, terrorist attacks, or other calamities."
An anonymous reader writes "Astronomer and gamer Scott Manley (more famous for his Kerbal Space program coverage) has created a fantastic video explaining the science behind building guns that could one day be used to launch payloads into space. It's not as easy as simply making a bigger gun, there's a whole host of unorthodox 'gun' designs which work around the limitations of garden variety propellants."
McGruber writes "ABC News/ESPN broke the story that a team of scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) analyzed the brain tissue of renowned NFL linebacker Junior Seau and have concluded that the football player suffered a debilitating brain disease likely caused by two decades worth of hits to the head. From the article: 'In May 2012, Seau, 43 — football's monster in the middle, a perennial all-star and defensive icon in the 1990s whose passionate hits made him a dominant figure in the NFL — shot himself in the chest at his home in Oceanside, Calif., leaving behind four children and many unanswered questions.' As Slashdot earlier reported, more than 30 NFL players have in recent years been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition once known as 'punch drunk' because it affected boxers who had taken multiple blows to the head."
sciencehabit writes "All you graying, half-deaf Def Leppard fans, listen up. A drug applied to the ears of mice deafened by noise can restore some hearing in the animals. By blocking a key protein, the drug allows sound-sensing cells that are damaged by noise to regrow. The treatment isn't anywhere near ready for use in humans, but the advance at least raises the prospect of restoring hearing to some deafened people."
coondoggie writes "With China once again playing games with the rare earth materials it largely holds sway over, the U.S. Department of Energy today said it would set up a research and development hub that will bring together all manner of experts to help address the situation. The DOE awarded $120 million to Ames Laboratory to set up an Energy Innovation Hub that will develop solutions to the domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for U.S. energy security, the DOE stated."
Zothecula writes "Fireflies have helped an international team of scientists get over 50 percent more light out of existing LED bulbs. It was discovered that in the Photuris genus of firefly, scales in the insect's exoskeleton possess optical qualities that boost the amount of bioluminescence that can shine through. Those same qualities were found to dramatically increase the light output of an LED bulb."
astroengine writes "As the potentially hazardous asteroid makes closest approach to Earth today, astronomers using the European Herschel Space Observatory have announced something a little unsettling: asteroid 99942 Apophis is actually bigger than we thought. Herschel astronomers have deduced that Apophis is 1,066 feet (325 meters) wide. That's 20 percent larger than the previous estimate of 885 feet (270 meters). 'The 20 percent increase in diameter, from 270 to 325 m, translates into a 75 percent increase in our estimates of the asteroid's volume or mass,' said Thomas Müller of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, and lead scientist of the study. In addition, the space telescope has re-analyzed the albedo of the space rock, providing a valuable heat map of the object's surface — data that will improve orbital trajectory models."
skade88 writes "Boston has seen 10 times more flu cases this year than last. They are now up to 700 cases and counting, with 18 deaths in the city. The city of Boston has declared a public health emergency in the wake of the epidemic. 'The CDC said the proportion of people visiting health care providers with flu-like symptoms climbed from 2.8 percent to 5.6 percent in four weeks. By contrast, the rate peaked at only 2.2 percent during the relatively mild 2011-2012 flu season. The estimated rate of flu-related hospitalizations in the U.S. was 8.1 per 100,000 people, which is high for this time of year, according to Dr. Joe Bresee, chief of the epidemiology and prevention branch of the CDC’s influenza division. The agency’s next advisory will be issued Friday.' As previously discussed on Slashdot it would also be nice for your friends and coworkers for you to stay home if you are sick."
sciencehabit writes "If carrion flies have one enviable talent, it's finding animal carcasses in the wilderness, something they surpass even the most systematic and intrepid field biologists at doing. Now, researchers may be able to capitalize on the insects' gruesome gift to survey biodiversity. Capture the flies, a new study shows, and DNA from their last meals will tell you which animals live in the area. In addition to scanning an area's biodiversity, the technique has the potential to reveal species that are new to science."
New submitter redhat_redneck writes "The U.S. and Canada has been experiencing a shortage of barium sulfate, which is used as contrast for upper and lower GI studies. It has reached the point where doctors are being asked not to order these exams except in emergencies, and some exams are being cancelled. Here's the letter that's been put out by the manufacturer. The longer this drags on, the more serious this issue becomes, eventually impacting patients and healthcare providers in both cost and quality of care. Some sources point to a dramatic drop in Chinese production. In their defense, it seems China is changing safety regulations. Medical use only make a fraction of the uses of barium sulfate, but it's going to be disproportionately affected by this shortage. We can't go back to our old contrast Thorotrast; it causes cancer. Does anyone know of alternatives to barium?"