Science

Late To Bed, Early To Die? Night Owls May Die Sooner (livescience.com) 215

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.

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