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Medicine

Diet Sodas May Be Tied To Stroke, Dementia Risk (cnn.com) 222

Gulping down an artificially sweetened beverage not only may be associated with health risks for your body, but also possibly your brain, a new study suggests. From a report: Artificially sweetened drinks, such as diet sodas, were tied to a higher risk of stroke and dementia in the study, which published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke on Thursday. The study sheds light only on an association, as the researchers were unable to determine an actual cause-and-effect relationship between sipping artificially sweetened drinks and an increased risk for stroke and dementia. Therefore, some experts caution that the findings should be interpreted carefully. No connection was found between those health risks and other sugary beverages, such as sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit juice and fruit drinks.
Earth

Louisiana's Governor Declares State Of Emergency Over Disappearing Coastline (npr.org) 306

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency over the state's rapidly eroding coastline. From a report on NPR: It's an effort to bring nationwide attention to the issue and speed up the federal permitting process for coastal restoration projects. "Decades of saltwater intrusion, subsidence and rising sea levels have made the Louisiana coast the nation's most rapidly deteriorating shoreline," WWNO's Travis Lux tells our Newscast unit. "It loses the equivalent of one football field of land every hour." More than half of the state's population lives on the coast, the declaration states. It adds that the pace of erosion is getting faster: "more than 1,800 square miles of land between 1932 and 2010, including 300 square miles of marshland between 2004 and 2008 alone."
Communications

Inside Elon Musk's New Company Neuralink Which Aims To Fight Brain Conditions And Help Humanity Survive in the Age of AI (waitbutwhy.com) 63

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has confirmed plans for his newest company, called Neuralink Corp, revealing he will be the chief executive of a startup that aims to merge computers with brains so humans could one day engage in "consensual telepathy." In an interview with explainer website Wait But Why (36,000-word), Musk said Neuralink aims to implant tiny brain electrodes that first would be used to fight brain conditions but later help humanity avoid subjugation at the hands of intelligent machines. From the report: "There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing," Musk said. "That's what language is, your brain has executed a compression algorithm on thought, on concept transfer. If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person." Musk says he expects the project to take eight to 10 years before being usable by people with no disability. He anticipates tons of regulatory challenges in his way.
Facebook

Neuroscientists Offer a Reality Check On Facebook's 'Typing By Brain' Project (ieee.org) 58

the_newsbeagle writes: Yesterday, Facebook announced that it's working on a "typing by brain" project, promising a non-invasive technology that can decode signals from the brain's speech center and translate them directly to text (see the video beginning at 1:18:00). What's more, Facebook exec Regina Dugan said, the technology will achieve a typing rate of 100 words per minute. Here, a few neuroscientists are asked: Is such a thing remotely feasible? One neuroscientist points out that his team set the current speed record for brain-typing earlier this year: They enabled a paralyzed man to type 8 words per minute, and that was using an invasive brain implant that could get high-fidelity signals from neurons. To date, all non-invasive methods that read brain signals through the scalp and skull have performed much worse. Thomas Naselaris, an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, says, "Our understanding of the way the words and their phonological and semantic attributes are encoded in brain activity is actually pretty good currently, but much of this understanding has been enabled by fMRI, which is noninvasive but very slow and not at all portable," he said. "So I think that the bottleneck will be the [optical] imaging technology," which is what Facebook's gear will be using.
Canada

Subway Sues Canada Network Over Claim Its Chicken Is 50 Percent Soy (yahoo.com) 292

jenningsthecat writes: As reported here back in February, the CBC, (Canada's national broadcaster), revealed DNA test results which indicated the chicken used in Subway Restaurants' sandwiches only contained about 50% chicken. Now, Subway is suing the public broadcaster for $210 million, because "its reputation and brand have taken a hit as a result of the CBC reports." The suit claims that "false statements [...] were published and republished, maliciously and without just cause or excuse, to a global audience, which has resulted in pecuniary loss to the plaintiffs."

Personally, my working assumption here is that the CBC report is substantially correct. It will be interesting to see how the case plays out -- but should this have happened at all? Regulatory agencies here in Canada seem to be pretty good when it comes to inspecting meat processing facilities. Should they also be testing the prepared foods served by major restaurant chains to ensure that claims regarding food content are true and accurate?

IT

CC'ing the Boss on Email Makes Employees Feel Less Trusted, Study Finds (hbr.org) 147

Do you ever loop your boss when having a conversation with a colleague when his or her presence in the thread wasn't really necessary? Turns out, many people do this, and your colleague doesn't find it helpful at all. From an article: My collaborators and I conducted a series of six studies (a combination of experiments and surveys) to see how cc'ing influences organizational trust. While our findings are preliminary and our academic paper is still under review, a first important finding was that the more often you include a supervisor on emails to coworkers, the less trusted those coworkers feel (alternative link). In our experimental studies, in which 594 working adults participated, people read a scenario where they had to imagine that their coworker always, sometimes, or almost never copied the supervisor when emailing them. Participants were then required to respond to items assessing how trusted they would feel by their colleague. ("In this work situation, I would feel that my colleague would trust my 'competence,' 'integrity,' and 'benevolence.'") It was consistently shown that the condition in which the supervisor was "always" included by cc made the recipient of the email feel trusted significantly less than recipients who were randomly allocated to the "sometimes" or "almost never" condition. Organizational surveys of 345 employees replicated this effect by demonstrating that the more often employees perceived that a coworker copied their supervisor, the less they felt trusted by that coworker. To make matters worse, my findings indicated that when the supervisor was copied in often, employees felt less trusted, and this feeling automatically led them to infer that the organizational culture must be low in trust overall, fostering a culture of fear and low psychological safety.
China

China's First Cargo Spacecraft Launch a 'Crucial Step' To Space Station (cnn.com) 20

Earlier today, China launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country's space station, marking further progress in the ambitious Chinese space program. Chinese state media Xinhua described the event as a "crucial step for China's plan to have an operational space station by 2020." From a report: The Tianzhou-1 took off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in China's southern Hainan province, on track to dock with the orbiting space lab Tiangong-2. The launch was the latest in a series of major announcements by the Chinese space program, which celebrated its longest-ever space mission in November.
Science

Discovery May Help Decipher Ancient Inca String Code (nationalgeographic.com) 40

A discovery made in a remote mountain village high in the Peruvian Andes suggests that the ancient Inca used accounting devices made of knotted, colored strings for more than accounting. From a report on National Geographic: The devices, called khipus (pronounced kee-poos), used combinations of knots to represent numbers and were used to inventory stores of corn, beans, and other provisions. Spanish accounts from colonial times claim that Inca khipus also encoded history, biographies, and letters, but researchers have yet to decipher any non-numerical meaning in the cords and knots. Now a pair of khipus protected by Andean elders since colonial times may offer fresh clues for understanding how more elaborate versions of the devices could have stored and relayed information. "What we found is a series of complex color combinations between the cords," says Sabine Hyland, professor of anthropology at University of St Andrews in Scotland and a National Geographic Explorer. "The cords have 14 different colors that allow for 95 unique cord patterns. That number is within the range of symbols in logosyllabic writing systems." Hyland theorizes that specific combinations of colored strings and knots may have represented syllables or words.
Science

Physicists Observe 'Negative Mass' (bbc.com) 117

Physicists have created a fluid with "negative mass," which accelerates towards you when pushed. From a report on BBC: In the everyday world, when an object is pushed, it accelerates in the same direction as the force applied to it; this relationship is described by Isaac Newton's Second Law of Motion. But in theory, matter can have negative mass in the same sense that an electric charge can be positive or negative. Prof Peter Engels, from Washington State University (WSU), and colleagues cooled rubidium atoms to just above the temperature of absolute zero (close to -273C), creating what's known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. In this state, particles move extremely slowly, and following behaviour predicted by quantum mechanics, acting like waves. They also synchronise and move together in what's known as a superfluid, which flows without losing energy.
Medicine

South Indian Frog Oozes Molecule That Inexplicably Decimates Flu Viruses (arstechnica.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: From the slimy backs of a South Indian frog comes a new way to blast influenza viruses. A compound in the frog's mucus -- long known to have germ-killing properties -- can latch onto flu virus particles and cause them to burst apart, researchers report in Immunity. The peptide is a potent and precise killer, able to demolish a whole class of flu viruses while leaving other viruses and cells unharmed. But scientists don't know exactly how it pulls off the viral eviscerations. No other antiviral peptide of its ilk seems to work the same way. The study authors, led by researchers at Emory University, note that the peptide appears uniquely nontoxic -- something that can't be said of many other frog-based compounds. Thus, the peptide on its own holds promise of being a potential therapy someday. But simply figuring out how it works could move researchers closer to a vaccine or therapy that could take out all flus, ditching the need for yearly vaccinations for each season's flavor of flu.
Medicine

First Evidence For Higher State of Consciousness Found (neurosciencenews.com) 288

New submitter baalcat quotes a report from Neuroscience News: Neuroscientists observed a sustained increase in neural signal diversity -- a measure of the complexity of brain activity -- of people under the influence of psychedelic drugs, compared with when they were in a normal waking state. The diversity of brain signals provides a mathematical index of the level of consciousness. For example, people who are awake have been shown to have more diverse neural activity using this scale than those who are asleep. This, however, is the first study to show brain-signal diversity that is higher than baseline, that is higher than in someone who is simply "awake and aware." Previous studies have tended to focus on lowered states of consciousness, such as sleep, anesthesia, or the so-called "vegetative" state. For the study, Michael Schartner, Dr Adam Barrett and Professor Seth of the Sackler Center reanalyzed data that had previously been collected by Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff in which healthy volunteers were given one of three drugs known to induce a psychedelic state: psilocybin, ketamine and LSD. Using brain imaging technology, they measured the tiny magnetic fields produced in the brain and found that, across all three drugs, this measure of conscious level -- the neural signal diversity -- was reliably higher. The findings have been published in Scientific Reports.
Power

Scientists Invent Ultrasonic Dryer That Uses Sound To Dry Your Clothes (yahoo.com) 435

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo: Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed a dryer that could make doing laundry much quicker. Called the ultrasonic dryer, it's expected to be up to five times more energy efficient than most conventional dryers and able dry a large load of clothes in about half the time. Instead of using heat the way most dryers do, the ultrasonic dryer relies on high-frequency vibrations. Devices called green transducers convert electricity into vibrations, shaking the water from clothes. The scientists say that this method will allow a medium load of laundry to dry in 20 minutes, which is significantly less time than the average 50 minutes it takes in many heat-based machines. The drying technology also leaves less lint behind than normal dryers do, since the majority of lint is created when the hot air stream blows tiny fibers off of clothing. Drying clothes without heat also reduces the chance that their colors will fade. While the ultrasonic dryer has been in development for the past couple of years, the U.S. Department of Energy explains in a published video that it has recently been "developed into a full-scale press dryer and clothes dryer drum -- setting the stage for it to one day go to market through partners like General Electric Appliances."
Space

Broadband Expansion Could Trigger Dangerous Surge In Space Junk (theguardian.com) 129

A new study from the University of Southampton warns that expanding broadband networks via launching "mega constellations" of thousands of communications satellites could increase catastrophic crashes of dangerous space junk in Earth's orbit. "Dr Hugh Lewis, a senior lecturer in aerospace engineering at the University of Southampton, ran a 200-year simulation to assess the possible consequences of such a rise in orbital traffic," reports The Guardian. "He found it could create a 50% increase in the number of catastrophic collisions between satellites." From the report: Such crashes would probably lead to a further increase in the amount of space junk in orbit, he said, leading to the possibility of further collisions and potential damage to the services the satellites were intended to provide. The European Space Agency, which funded Lewis's research, is calling for the satellites planned for orbital mega-constellations to be able to move to low altitudes once their missions are over so they burn up in Earth's atmosphere. They must also be able discharge all batteries, fuel tanks and pressure tanks to prevent explosions that would scatter debris. Lewis is presenting his research this week at the European conference on space debris at the ESA's center in Darmsadt, Germany. Krag said he expected some of the companies planning launches to attend.
Earth

Physicists Detect Whiff of New Particle At the Large Hadron Collider (sciencemag.org) 176

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: For decades, particle physicists have yearned for physics beyond their tried-and-true standard model. Now, they are finding signs of something unexpected at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's biggest atom smasher at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. The hints come not from the LHC's two large detectors, which have yielded no new particles since they bagged the last missing piece of the standard model, the Higgs boson, in 2012, but from a smaller detector, called LHCb, that precisely measures the decays of familiar particles. The latest signal involves deviations in the decays of particles called B mesons -- weak evidence on its own. But together with other hints, it could point to new particles lying on the high-energy horizon. "This has never happened before, to observe a set of coherent deviations that could be explained in a very economical way with one single new physics contribution," says Joaquim Matias, a theorist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. B mesons are made of fundamental particles called quarks. Familiar protons and neutrons are made of two flavors of quarks, up and down, bound in trios. Heavier quark flavors -- charm, strange, top, and bottom -- can be created, along with their antimatter counterparts, in high-energy particle collisions; they pair with antiquarks to form mesons. In their latest result, reported today in a talk at CERN, LHCb physicists find that when one type of B meson decays into a K meson, its byproducts are skewed: The decay produces a muon (a cousin of the electron) and an antimuon less often than it makes an electron and a positron. In the standard model, those rates should be equal, says Guy Wilkinson, a physicist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and spokesperson for the 770-member LHCb team. The new data suggest the bottom quark might morph directly into a strange quark -- a change the standard model forbids -- by spitting out a new particle called a Z9 boson. That hypothetical cousin of the Z boson would be the first particle beyond the standard model and would add a new force to theory. The extra decay process would lower production of muons, explaining the anomaly.
Earth

Researchers Discover New Species of Giant Spider (mentalfloss.com) 51

adeelarshad82 writes: Califorctenus cacachilensis, recently named by researchers at the San Diego Natural History Museum, was first located in 2013 in a mountain range in Baja California Sur, Mexico. The eye pattern led researchers to believe it was potentially part of a group of wandering spiders from the Ctenidae family. Knowing Ctenidae are nocturnal, the researchers returned to the cave at night, where they spotted a living specimen. Their research further led them to confirm that it was a previously unidentified species related to the Brazilian wandering spider. The findings have been published in Zootaxa.

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