An anonymous reader writes "Ars reports on new legislation in the Missouri House of Representatives which is seeking equal time in the classroom for Intelligent Design, and to redefine science itself. You can read the text of the bill online. It uses over 600 words to describe Intelligent Design. Scientific theory, the bill says, is 'an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy.' It would require that 'If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught.' The legislation's references to 'scientific theory' and 'scientific law' make it clear the writers don't have the slightest idea how science actually works. It also has this odd line near the end: 'If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth's biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course.'"
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An anonymous reader writes "A group of researchers including Dr. H. Shaw Warren of Mass. General Hospital and Stanford genomics researcher Ronald W. Davis have published a paper challenging the effectiveness of the 'mouse model' as a basis for medical research, based on a decade-long study involving 39 doctors and scientists across the country. In clinical studies of sepsis (a severe inflammatory disorder caused by the immune system's abnormal response to a pathogen), trauma, and burns, the researchers found that certain drugs triggered completely different genetic responses in mice compared with humans. The Warren-Davis paper was rejected by both Science and Nature before its acceptance by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, perhaps suggesting the degree to which the 'mouse model' has become entrenched within the medical research community. Ninety five percent of the laboratory animals used in research are mice or rats. Mice in particular are ideal subjects for research: they are cheap to obtain and house, easy to handle, and share at least 80 percent of their genes with humans (by some reckoning, closer to 99 percent). Over the past twenty five years, powerful methods of genetically engineering mice by 'knocking out' individual genes have become widely adopted, so that use of mice for drug testing prior to human clinical trials has become standard procedure."
astroengine writes "In a recent poll funded by the non-profit Explore Mars, 71% of respondents agreed that the U.S. will send a human to Mars within the next two decades. Unfortunately, on average, the sample of 1,101 people surveyed thought the U.S. government allocated 2.4% of the federal budget to NASA — in reality it's only 0.5%. With this in mind, 75% of the respondents agreed/strongly agreed that NASA's budget should be increased to explore Mars through manned and robotic means."
New adosch writes "The Landsat Data Continuity Mission is now in orbit, after launching Monday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Calif. After about three months of testing, the U.S. Geological Survey will take control and the mission, renamed Landsat 8, will extend more than 40 years of global land observations critical to energy and water management, forest monitoring, human and environmental health, urban planning, disaster recovery, and agriculture." We still need more new observation satellites to avoid losing Earth observing capabilities as the work horses of the NASA/USGS fleet die of old age.
coondoggie writes "The US Department of Energy today said it would spend $20 million on the development of advanced cybersecurity tools to help protect the nation's vulnerable energy supply. The DOE technologies developed under this program should be interoperable, scalable, cost-effective advanced tools that do not impede critical energy delivery functions, that are innovative and can easily be commercialized or made available through open source for no cost."
First time accepted submitter Ben Rooney writes "Children in the Baltic state of Estonia will learn statistics based less on computation and doing math by hand and more on framing and interpreting problems, and thinking about validation and strategy. From the article: 'Jon McLoone is Content Director for computerbasedmath.org, a project to redefine school math education assuming the use of computers. The company announced a deal Monday with the Estonian Education ministry to trial a self-contained statistics program replacing the more traditional curriculum. “We are re-thinking computer education with the assumption that computers are the tools for computation,” said Mr. McLoone. “Schools are still focused on teaching hand calculating. Computation used to be the bottleneck. The hard part was solving the equations, so that was the skill you had to teach. These days that is the bit that computers can do. What computers can’t do is set up the problem, interpret the problem, think about validation and strategy. That is what we should be teaching and spending less time teaching children to be poor computers rather than good mathematicians.”'"
astroengine writes "The SETI Institute has launched a new website called 'Pluto Rocks!' intended to gather a public vote on the names of Pluto's smallest, and most recently discovered, moons P4 and P5. Discovered in 2011 and 2012 by Hubble, the two dinky satellites have concerned scientists managing the NASA New Horizons probe that will flyby the Plutonian system in 2015 — the presence of small rocky bodies in Pluto orbit might mean there is a significant collision risk to the high velocity spacecraft. This sinister back story will surely influence the naming outcome of the two new moons, where all the suggestions on Pluto Rocks! are related to Greek and Roman mythological characters from the underworld (but you can also make your own suggestions). If you want to get involved, there's also a special SETI Institute G+ Hangout planned for 11 a.m. PT Monday where two of the P4/P5 discovery scientists will hold a Q&A session."
Hugh Pickens writes writes "BBC reports that Pope Benedict XVI is to resign at the end of this month in an unexpected development, saying he is too old to continue at the age of 85. In a statement, the pontiff said: 'After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.' Resignations from the papacy are not unknown, but this is the first in the modern era, which has been marked by pontiffs dying while in office."
theodp writes "In an open letter on TechCrunch, Vivek Wadhwa calls on Congressman Luis Gutierrez to lift his 'hold on Silicon Valley' and stop tying immigration reform for highly-skilled STEM immigrants to the plight of undocumented immigrants. So, why should the STEM set get first dibs? 'The issues of high-skilled and undocumented immigrants are both equally important,' says Wadhwa, but 'the difference is that the skilled workers have mobility and are in great demand all over the world. They are getting frustrated and are leaving in droves.' Commenting on Gutierrez's voting record, Wadhwa adds, 'I would have voted for visas for 50,000 smart foreign students graduating with STEM degrees from U.S. universities over bringing in 55,000 randomly selected high-school graduates from abroad. The STEM graduates would have created jobs and boosted our economy. The lottery winners will come to the U.S. with high hopes, but will face certain unemployment and misery because of our weak economy.' So, should Gutierrez cede to Wadhwa's techies-before-Latinos proposal, or would this be an example of the paradox of virtuous meritocracy undermining equality of opportunity?"
First time accepted submitter CarlosF writes "Does Lunar New Year belong alongside those other red-letter days? Efforts to recognize Lunar New Year at the state and local level have been afoot for years. In 1994, San Francisco decided to close public schools on Lunar New Year, but this was largely a response to demographic reality rather than political pressure."
hypnosec writes "The ozone layer seems to be on a road to recovery over Antarctica; according to Europe's MetOp weather satellite, which is monitoring atmospheric ozone, the hole over the South Pole in 2012 was the smallest it's been in the last 10 years. The decrease in size of the hole is probably the result of reduction in the concentration of CFCs, especially since the mid-1990s, because of international agreements like the Montreal Protocol."
littlesparkvt writes "NASA's Curiosity rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its robotic arm to bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars and collect a sample from its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars."
eldavojohn writes "According to Bloomberg, drilling and fracking results in greenhouse gases second only to coal power plants in the United States. From the article, 'Emissions from drilling, including fracking, and leaks from transmission pipes totaled 225 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents during 2011, second only to power plants, which emitted about 10 times that amount.' According to Mother Jones, we now have more giant methane fireballs than any other country in the world and we can now see once dim North Dakota at night from space."
JG0LD writes "Students at a tiny Appalachian public school can't use Wi-Fi because any such network can throw the radio equivalent of a monkey wrench into a gigantic super-sensitive radio telescope just up the road. GBT's extraordinary sensitivity means that it's very susceptible to human-generated radio interference, according to site interference protection engineer Carla Beaudet. 'If there was no dirt between us and the transmitter, a typical access point ... would have to be on the order of 1,000,000 km [more than 620,000 miles, or about two and a half times the distance from the Earth to the Moon] distant to not interfere. Fortunately, we have mountains around us which provide lots of attenuation, so we're not seeing everything from everywhere,' she said. A standard Wi-Fi access point would wipe out a significant range of usable frequencies for the observatory. 'It simply ruins the spectrum for observations from 2400-2483.5MHz and from 5725-5875MHz for observational purposes,' wrote Beaudet."
ewenc writes "Mercenary computer coders are helping scientists cope with the deluge of data pouring out of research labs. A contest to write software to analyze immune-system genes garnered more than 100 entries, including many that vastly outperformed existing programs. The US$6,000 contest was launched by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School, both in Boston, Massachusetts. TopCoder.com, a community of more than 400,000 coders who compete in programming competitions, hosted the contest. The results are described in a letter published this week in Nature Biotechnology."
An anonymous reader writes "[Ars Technica] recently reviewed the documentary The Revisionaries, which chronicles the actions of the Texas state school board as it attempted to rewrite the science and history standards that had been prepared by experts in education and the relevant subjects. For biology, the board's revisions meant that textbook publishers were instructed to help teachers and students 'analyze all sides of scientific information' about evolution. Given that ideas only reach the status of theory if they have overwhelming evidence supporting them, it isn't at all clear what 'all sides' would involve."
sciencehabit writes "A new study shows that ant pupae—a stage between larvae and adult—can communicate via sound, and that this communication can be crucial to their survival. The young insects have a specialized spike along their abdomen that they stroke with one of their hind legs, similar to dragging the teeth of a comb along the edge of a table. This noise serves primarily as an emergency beacon, allowing the ants to shout for help when being threatened by a predator."
First time accepted submitter Noctis-Kaban writes "Scientists in China have built and tested a radical new space drive. Although the thrust it produces may not be enough to lift your mobile phone, it looks like it could radically change the satellite industry. Satellites are just the start: with superconducting components, this technology could generate the thrust to drive everything from deep space probes to flying cars. And it all started with a British engineer whose invention was ignored and ridiculed in his home country."
sciencehabit writes "The ancestor of all placental mammals—the diverse lineage that includes almost all species of mammals living today, including humans—was a tiny, furry-tailed creature that evolved shortly after the dinosaurs disappeared, a new study suggests. The hypothetical creature, not found in the fossil record but inferred from it, probably was a tree-climbing, insect-eating mammal that weighed between 6 and 245 grams—somewhere between a small shrew and a mid-sized rat. It was furry, had a long tail, gave birth to a single young, and had a complex brain with a large lobe for interpreting smells and a corpus callosum, the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The period following the dinosaur die-offs could be considered a 'big bang' of mammalian diversification, with species representing as many as 10 major groups of placentals appearing within a 200,000-year interval."
astroengine writes "The Earth has one permanent moon — you know, 'The Moon' — but at any given time there are thought to be two temporary interlopers that were once asteroids, but get captured by our planet's gravity to become mini-moons for a few months or even years. They eventually get flung back out into interplanetary space. This ultimate 'catch and release' provides an interesting opportunity for any future asteroid mission. So now astronomers want to find them, possibly using the newly-minted Hubble-class spy telescopes donated to NASA by the National Reconnaissance Office."