Space

New Evidence That All Stars Are Born In Pairs (phys.org) 90

InfiniteZero shares a report from Phys.Org: Did our sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes -- though not an identical twin. And so did every other sun-like star in the universe, according to a new analysis by a theoretical physicist from UC Berkeley and a radio astronomer from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University. The new assertion is based on a radio survey of a giant molecular cloud filled with recently formed stars in the constellation Perseus, and a mathematical model that can explain the Perseus observations only if all sunlike stars are born with a companion. "We ran a series of statistical models to see if we could account for the relative populations of young single stars and binaries of all separations in the Perseus molecular cloud, and the only model that could reproduce the data was one in which all stars form initially as wide (more than 500 astronomical units) binaries," said co-author Steven Stahler, a UC Berkeley research astronomer. "These systems then either shrink or break apart within a million years." The study has been published in April on the arXiv server.
ISS

US Spy Satellite Buzzes ISS (arstechnica.com) 121

The spy satellite that SpaceX launched about six weeks ago appears to have buzzed the International Space Station in early June. The fly-by was made by a dedicated group of ground-based observers who continued to track the satellite after it reach outer space. Ars Technica reports: One of the amateur satellite watchers, Ted Molczan, estimated the pass on June 3 to be 4.4km directly above the station. Another, Marco Langbroek, pegged the distance at 6.4km. "I am inclined to believe that the close conjunctions between USA 276 and ISS are intentional, but this remains unproven and far from certain," Molczan later wrote. One expert in satellite launches and tracking, Jonathan McDowell, said of the satellite's close approach to the station, "It is not normal." While it remains possible that the near-miss was a coincidence due to the satellite being launched into similar orbit, that would represent "gross incompetence" on the part of the National Reconnaissance Office, he said. Like the astronaut, McDowell downplayed the likelihood of a coincidence. Another option is that of a deliberate close flyby, perhaps to test or calibrate an onboard sensor to observe something or some kind of activity on the International Space Station. "The deliberate explanation seems more likely, except that I would have expected the satellite to maneuver after the encounter," McDowell said. "But it seems to have stayed in the same orbit."
Government

11 States Sue Trump Administration's Energy Department After Weeks of No Movement On Efficiency Standards (go.com) 219

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: New York, California and nine other states sued the Trump administration Tuesday over its failure to finalize energy-use limits for portable air conditioners and other products. The new standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save businesses and consumers billions of dollars, and conserve enough energy to power more than 19 million households for a year, but the U.S. Department of Energy has not met a requirement to publish them by now, according to attorneys general who filed the lawsuit (PDF) against the DOE in federal court in San Francisco. That means the standards are not legally enforceable. The other states in the lawsuit are: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Maryland. The City of New York is also a plaintiff. The energy efficiency standards at issue in the lawsuit also cover walk-in coolers and freezers, air compressors, commercial packaged boilers and uninterruptible power supplies. There is currently no federal energy standard for air compressors, uninterruptible power supplies or portable air conditioners, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the DOE to publish the new standards as final rules.
Education

Wisconsin Speech Bill Might Allow Students To Challenge Science Professors (arstechnica.com) 437

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: There have been some well-publicized incidents in which student groups or other protesters have interfered with scheduled appearances by right-wing speakers at U.S. universities. In response, a number of states have considered "campus free speech" bills based on model legislation produced by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank. Different bills introduce specific penalties for students who shout down the speech of others and prevent college administrators from disinviting speakers, to give two examples. One such bill is being debated in Wisconsin. Faculty and university officials in the state are concerned about what else might be prevented by the bill's overly vague language, according to the local Cap Times. As often happens with bills relevant to science education, the debate has also elicited some rather bizarre comments from the bill's sponsors. The trouble comes from this section of the bill: "That each institution shall strive to remain neutral, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day, and may not take action, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day in such a way as to require students or faculty to publicly express a given view of social policy." While the bills' scope is focused on public events involving invited speakers, there are a couple key questions here. University officials want to know how far this requirement "to remain neutral" extends. For example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has spoken out against proposed bans on stem cell research on campus. Would the university run afoul of this law if it did so again?
Businesses

E-cigarettes 'Potentially As Harmful As Tobacco Cigarettes' (uconn.edu) 362

An anonymous reader shares a report: A study by chemists at the University of Connecticut offers new evidence that electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are potentially as harmful as tobacco cigarettes. Using a new low-cost, 3-D printed testing device, UConn researchers found that e-cigarettes loaded with a nicotine-based liquid are potentially as harmful as unfiltered cigarettes when it comes to causing DNA damage. The researchers also found that vapor from non-nicotine e-cigarettes caused as much DNA damage as filtered cigarettes, possibly due to the many chemical additives present in e-cigarette vapors. Cellular mutations caused by DNA damage can lead to cancer.
Medicine

US Government Task Force Urges Cash Incentives For Ditching Insecure Medical Devices (securityledger.com) 64

chicksdaddy shares this report from The Security Ledger: The healthcare sector in the U.S. is in critical condition and in dire need of an overhaul to address widespread and systemic information security weakness that puts patient privacy and even safety at risk, a Congressional Task Force has concluded... On the controversial issue of medical device security, the report suggests that the Federal government and industry might use incentives akin to the "cash for clunkers" car buyback program to encourage healthcare organizations to jettison insecure, legacy medical equipment...

The report released to members of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Friday concludes that the U.S. healthcare system is plagued by weaknesses, from the leadership and governance of information security within healthcare organizations, to the security of medical devices and medical laboratories to hiring and user awareness. Many of the risks directly affect patient safety, the group found. It comes amid growing threats to healthcare organizations, including a ransomware outbreak that affected scores of hospitals in the United Kingdom.

Joshua Corman, the Director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at The Atlantic Council, argues that currently "Healthcare is target rich and resource poor," adding a special warning about the heavy usage of internet-connected healthcare equipment. "If you can't afford to protect it, you can't afford to connect it."
Space

SpaceX Releases Ultra-HD 4K Footage Of Falcon 9 Landing (4k.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes 4K.com: On June 3, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket was placed into low-orbit for the sake of launching its Dragon spacecraft into their eleventh Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-11) to the International Space Station... Last week SpaceX shared on their Youtube channel the remarkable 4K UHD footage of the landing, and since many of us are not used to watching this kind of footage except for Sci-Fi movies or video games, the landing seems almost Hollywood-level surreal, especially since it happens so quickly and accurately. You can watch the video at 4k and 60 fps here if you happen to own a 4K TV or UHD PC monitor with the right hardware specs... The footage above isn't SpaceX's first 4K video of one of its launches. The company has also previously released other videos of even more impressive landings directly onto the surfaces of drone ships.
The article also reminds readers that "If you are by any chance looking to send something or someone out of space, Elon Musk's company offers reasonable prices for their launching services, starting at $62 million for its Falcon 9 and $90 million for the Falcon Heavy."
Space

Has the 40-year Old Mystery of the 'Wow!' Signal Been Solved? (newatlas.com) 83

"Astronomers have confirmed that the Wow! signal, thought to be the most promising detection by SETI of alien life, was actually caused by a comet," writes schwit1. New Atlas reports: Last year, a group of researchers from the Center of Planetary Science proposed a new hypothesis that argued a comet might be the culprit. The frequency could be caused by the hydrogen cloud they carry, and the fact that they move accounts for why it seemingly disappeared. Two comets, named 266/P Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs), happened to be transiting through that region of space when the Wow! signal was detected, but they weren't discovered until after 2006. To test the hypothesis, the team made 200 radio spectrum observations between November 2016 and February 2017. Sure enough, 266/P Christensen was found to emit radio waves at a frequency of 1,420 MHz, and to double check, the researchers moved their radio telescope by one degree. As expected, the signal vanished, and only returned when the telescope was trained back on the comet.
Medicine

Cancer Drug Proves To Be Effective Against Multiple Tumors (nytimes.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: 86 cancer patients were enrolled in a trial of a drug that helps the immune system attack tumors. Though they had different kinds of tumor -- pancreas, prostate, uterus or bone -- they all shared a genetic mutation that disrupts their cells' ability to fix damaged DNA, found in 4% of all cancer patients. But tumors vanished and didn't return for 18 patients in the study, reports the New York Times, while 66 more patients "had their tumors shrink substantially and stabilize, instead of continuing to grow." The drug trial results were "so striking that the Food and Drug Administration already has approved the drug, pembrolizumab, brand name Keytruda, for patients whose cancers arise from the same genetic abnormality. It is the first time a drug has been approved for use against tumors that share a certain genetic profile, whatever their location in the body."
The researchers say that just in the U.S. there are 60,000 new patients every year who could benefit from the new drug.
Medicine

Home Blood Pressure Monitors Are Wrong 70 Percent of the Time, Says Study (arstechnica.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In a study out this week, about 70 percent of home blood-pressure devices tested were off by 5 mmHg or more. That's enough to throw off clinical decisions, such as stopping or starting medication. Nearly 30 percent were off by 10 mmHg or more, including many devices that had been validated by regulatory agencies. The findings, published in The American Journal of Hypertension, suggest that consumers should be cautious about picking out and using such devices -- and device manufacturers need to step up their game. Lead author Raj Padwal and his colleagues set out to test the accuracy of the devices themselves. Funded by the University of Alberta Hospital Foundation, they compared the home blood-pressure monitors of 85 patients with a gold-standard blood-pressure measurement technique. The patients' monitors varied by type, age, and validation-status. But they all used an automated oscillometric method, which measures oscillations in the brachial artery and uses an algorithm to calculate blood pressure. The gold-standard method was the old-school auscultatory method, which involves the arm-squeezing sphygmomanometer and a clinician listening for thumps with a stethoscope. Of the 85 home devices, 59 were inaccurate by 5 mmHg or more in either their systolic (the top number that's the maximum pressure of a heart beat) or diastolic (the bottom number that's the minimum between-beat pressure). That's 69 percent inaccurate. Of those, 25 (or 29 percent) were off by 10 mmHg or more. And six devices (seven percent) were off by 15 mmHg or more.
The Almighty Buck

US Pays Farmers Billions To Save The Soil. But It's Blowing Away (npr.org) 186

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: Soil has been blowing away from the Great Plains ever since farmers first plowed up the prairie. It reached crisis levels during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when windblown soil turned day into night. In recent years, dust storms have returned, driven mainly by drought. But Shook -- and others -- say farmers are making the problem worse by taking land where grass used to grow and plowing it up, exposing vulnerable soil. This is where federal policy enters the picture. Most of that grassland was there in the first place because of a taxpayer-funded program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture rents land from farmers across the country and pays them to grow grass, trees and wildflowers in order to protect the soil and also provide habitat for wildlife. It's called the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP. Ten years ago, there was more land in the CRP than in the entire state of New York. In North Dakota, CRP land covered 5,000 square miles. But CRP agreements only last 10 years, and when farming got more profitable about a decade ago, farmers in North Dakota pulled more than half of that land out of the CRP to grow crops like corn and soybeans. Across the country, farmers decided not to re-enroll 15.8 million acres of farmland in the CRP when those contracts expired between 2007 and 2014.
Space

SpaceX Will Launch Secretive X-37B Spaceplane's Next Mission (latimes.com) 83

schwit1 quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: SpaceX will launch the Air Force's X-37B experimental spaceplane later this year, in the military's latest vote of confidence in the Elon Musk-led space company. This will be the first time SpaceX has launched the uncrewed robotic vehicle. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., has launched the spaceplane's previous four missions atop one of its Atlas V rockets. The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is responsible for the X-37B's experimental operations, said it was "very excited" for the fifth flight, which will test how special electronics and heat pipes will fare during a long-duration space mission. The Air Force has two of the spaceplanes, which look like miniature versions of the space shuttle and are known officially as X-37B Orbital Test Vehicles. The first X-37B was launched in 2010.
Space

Astronomers Prove To Einstein That Stars Can Warp Light (theverge.com) 96

Astronomers have observed for the first time ever a distant star warp the light of another star, "making it seem as though the object changed its position in the sky," reports The Verge. The discovery is especially noteworthy as Albert Einstein didn't think such an observation would be possible. From the report: These events require stars that are very far apart to line up perfectly. That's why Einstein once wrote that "there is no hope of observing this phenomenon directly." Our telescope technology has become far more sophisticated than in Einstein's day -- which is what allowed us to observe something he thought we'd never see. In 2014, a group of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope spotted a rare type of microlensing, when a dense white dwarf star passed in front of another star thousands of light-years away. The stars weren't exactly aligned, but they were close enough that the white dwarf made it seem like the background star performed a small loop in the sky. "It looks like the white dwarf pushed it out of the way," Terry Oswalt, an astronomer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University who was not involved in this discovery but wrote a perspective piece in Science, tells The Verge. "That's not what happened, of course. It just looks like that." The astronomers also used the apparent movement of the background star to measure the mass of the passing white dwarf, a novel technique detailed in a paper published today in Science. And they say this isn't the last time they'll make measurements like this either. Now that they've figured out how to spot these kinds of lensing events, they're hoping to find even more with new ground- and space-based telescopes that are coming online soon.
Science

Oldest Fossils of Homo Sapiens Found in Morocco, Altering History of Our Species (nytimes.com) 156

Carl Zimmer, writing for The New York Times: Fossils discovered in Morocco are the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens, scientists reported on Wednesday. Dating back roughly 300,000 years, the bones indicate that mankind evolved earlier than had been known, experts say, and open a new window on our origins. The fossils also show that early Homo sapiens had faces much like our own, although their brains differed in fundamental ways (alternative source). Until now, the oldest fossils of our species, found in Ethiopia, dated back just 195,000 years. The new fossils suggest our species evolved across Africa. "We did not evolve from a single cradle of mankind somewhere in East Africa," said Phillipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liepzig, Germany. Today, the closest living relatives to Homo sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share a common ancestor that lived over six million years ago. After the lineages split, our ancient relatives evolved into many different species, known as hominins. For millions of years, hominins remained very ape-like. They were short, had small brains, and could fashion only crude stone tools. Original research paper here.
Medicine

Moderate Drinking Can Damage the Brain, Claim Researchers (theguardian.com) 325

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can damage the brain and impair cognitive function over time, researchers have claimed. Writing in the British Medical Journal, researchers from the University of Oxford and University College London, describe how they followed the alcohol intake and cognitive performance of 550 men and women over 30 years from 1985. At the end of the study the team took MRI scans of the participants' brains. None of the participants were deemed to have an alcohol dependence, but levels of drinking varied. After excluding 23 participants due to gaps in data or other issues, the team looked at participants' alcohol intake as well as their performance on various cognitive tasks, as measured at six points over the 30 year period. The team also looked at the structure of the participants' brains, as shown by the MRI scan, including the structure of the white matter and the state of the hippocampus -- a seahorse-shaped area of the brain associated with memory. After taking into account a host of other factors including age, sex, social activity and education, the team found that those who reported higher levels of drinking were more often found to have a shrunken hippocampus, with the effect greater for the right side of the brain. While 35% of those who didn't drink were found to have shrinkage on the right side of the hippocampus, the figure was 65% for those who drank on average between 14 and 21 units a week, and 77% for those who drank 30 or more units a week.
Earth

Google Maps Is Being Used To Track Air Pollution In Oakland and Other Cities (androidauthority.com) 24

The functionality of Google Maps is expanding to include air pollution levels. Depending on where you live, you will soon be able to see the specific air quality in your neighborhood. Oakland, California is the first city to have air quality information, but data should be released soon for the Los Angeles and Central Valley regions of California. Android Authority reports: In a blog post, Google says it has been working with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Aclima since 2015 on this project. Google Street View cars were equipped with devices from Aclima to monitor the levels of nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and black carbon in the city of Oakland, California. You can now see those modified Google Maps on the EDF website. The Google Maps that have this information show how pollution levels can change in Oakland based on specific locations, street activity, and more. The idea is that posting this data in an easy visual way will assist communities to campaign for better air quality standards in their neighborhoods to their local and state governments.
Medicine

Price-gouging Maker of EpiPen Literally Said That Critics Can Go Fuck Themselves (gizmodo.com) 459

Back in August of 2016, the pharmaceutical company Mylan came under fire for jacking up prices of the EpiPen from $57 in 2007 to roughly $600 in 2016. The public backlash has been significant. Gizmodo adds: But the chairman of Mylan has a message for any critics: Go fuck yourself. Well, at least that's what we think he said. The New York Times has a new article about the fact that prices for the live-saving allergy medication haven't actually come down since last year. And the article has a rather strange way of describing the attitude of Mylan chairman Robert Coury. This is how the New York Times describes Coury's reaction to critics of Mylan's price gouging: "Mr. Coury replied that he was untroubled. He raised both his middle fingers and explained, using colorful language, that anyone criticizing Mylan, including its employees, ought to go copulate with themselves. Critics in Congress and on Wall Street, he said, should do the same. And regulators at the Food and Drug Administration? They, too, deserved a round of anatomically challenging self-fulfillment."
Space

Astronomers Discover Alien World Hotter Than Most Stars (vanderbilt.edu) 59

Science_afficionado writes: An international team of astronomers has discovered a planet like Jupiter zipping around its host star every day and a half, boiling at temperatures hotter than most stars and sporting a giant, glowing gas tail like a comet. From a report via Vanderbilt University: "With a day-side temperature peaking at 4,600 Kelvin (more than 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit), the newly discovered exoplanet, designated KELT-9b, is hotter than most stars and only 1,200 Kelvin (about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than our own sun. In fact, the ultraviolet radiation from the star it orbits is so brutal that the planet may be literally evaporating away under the intense glare, producing a glowing gas tail. The super-heated planet has other unusual features as well. For instance, it's a gas giant 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter but only half as dense, because the extreme radiation from its host star has caused its atmosphere to puff up like a balloon. Because it is tidally locked to its star -- as the moon is to Earth -- the day side of the planet is perpetually bombarded by stellar radiation and, as a result, it is so hot that molecules such as water, carbon dioxide and methane can't form there." The findings have been published in the journal Nature.
Medicine

Dozens of Recent Clinical Trials May Contain Wrong or Falsified Data, Claims Study (theguardian.com) 66

John Carlisle, a consultant anesthetist at Torbay Hospital, used statistical tools to conduct a review of thousands of papers published in leading medical journals. While a vast majority of the clinical trials he reviewed were accurate, 90 of the 5,067 published trials had underlying patterns that were unlikely to appear by chance in a credible dataset. The Guardian reports: The tool works by comparing the baseline data, such as the height, sex, weight and blood pressure of trial participants, to known distributions of these variables in a random sample of the populations. If the baseline data differs significantly from expectation, this could be a sign of errors or data tampering on the part of the researcher, since if datasets have been fabricated they are unlikely to have the right pattern of random variation. In the case of Japanese scientist, Yoshitaka Fuji, the detection of such anomalies triggered an investigation that concluded more than 100 of his papers had been entirely fabricated. The latest study identified 90 trials that had skewed baseline statistics, 43 of which with measurements that had about a one in a quadrillion probability of occurring by chance. The review includes a full list of the trials in question, allowing Carlisle's methods to be checked but also potentially exposing the authors to criticism. Previous large scale studies of erroneous results have avoided singling out authors. Relevant journal editors were informed last month, and the editors of the six anesthesiology journals named in the study said they plan to approach the authors of the trials in question, and raised the prospect of triggering in-depth investigations in cases that could not be explained.
Businesses

Silicon Valley Is Too Focused On Taking the Easy Path in Health Care (cnbc.com) 135

Silicon Valley investors are increasingly looking at health space, but they are mostly eyeing for opportunities on the fringes of the traditional health care system to avoid long and complicated regulatory cycles, an analysis on CNBC shows. As a result of this, these start-ups will not help low-income and chronically ill patients who need innovation most. From the article: Founders often talk about about how challenging it can be to break into the multi-trillion dollar medical sector. Health care startups face regulatory hurdles, long sales cycles and a high burden of proof -- and that means it can take more than a decade to make a return. As a result, many venture-backed entrepreneurs are looking instead at opportunities on the fringes of the health care system, such as cash-only health services that don't require insurance or tests and apps that aren't regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For tech investors, these opportunities hold the chance of an outsized return in five years or less. That often valuations on par with consumer Internet start-ups. [...] Many entrepreneurs acknowledge this, but justify their approach by promising to focus on more at-risk groups once they've nailed the product.

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