Press2ToContinue writes "Scientists have found a relatively straightforward way to persuade the cells discarded in human urine to turn into valuable neurons. The technique, described online in a study in Nature Methods this week (abstract), does not involve embryonic stem cells. These come with serious drawbacks when transplanted, such as the risk of developing tumors. Instead, the method uses ordinary cells present in urine, and transforms them into neural progenitor cells — the precursors of brain cells. Researchers routinely reprogram cultured skin and blood cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, which can go on to form any cell in the body. But urine is a much more accessible source."
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Press2ToContinue writes "Dubbed the Python Challenge, the month-long contest will award $1,000 for the longest python and $1,500 for the most pythons caught between Jan. 12 and Feb. 10 in any of four hunting areas north of Everglades National Park and at the Big Cypress National Preserve. Pythons have been spreading through the Everglades for years, posing a threat to the sensitive ecosystem by preying on native species. Some estimates put their number in the tens of thousands. Last year, 272 pythons were removed from the wild, state figures show."
SternisheFan writes "In Southwestern France, a group of fish have learned how to kill birds. As the River Tarn winds through the city of Albi, it contains a small gravel island where pigeons gather to clean and bathe. And patrolling the island are European catfish—1 to 1.5 meters long, and the largest freshwater fish on the continent. These particular catfish have taken to lunging out of the water, grabbing a pigeon, and then wriggling back into the water to swallow their prey. In the process, they temporarily strand themselves on land for a few seconds. Other aquatic hunters strand themselves in a similar way, including bottlenose dolphins from South Carolina, which drive small fish onto beaches, and Argentinian killer whales, which swim onto beaches to snag resting sealions. The behavior of the Tarn catfishes is so similar that Julien Cucherousset from Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse describes them as 'freshwater killer whales.'"
First time accepted submitter Press2ToContinue writes "Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is the use of a pacemaker-like device implanted in the brain to treat the symptoms of diseases like Parkinson's, or other maladies such as depression. For the first time in the US, surgeons at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland have used this technique to attempt to slow memory loss in a patient suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The fornix, a vital part of the brain that brings data to the hippocampus, is being targeted with this device. Essentially, the fornix is the area of the brain that converts electrical activity into chemical activity. Holes are drilled into the skull, and wires are placed on both sides of the brain. Then, the stimulator device pumps in small and unnoticeable electrical impulses upwards of 130 times per second. Half of the patients will begin the electrical treatment two weeks post-surgery, but the other half won't have their pacemakers turned on until a full year after the surgery to provide comparison data for the study."
ogre7299 writes "Astronomers have found direct evidence of a forming proto-solar system and 'weighed' the forming star for the first time The results were reported in Nature (abstract) and the pre-print is available at the arXiv. 'The star, called L1527 IRS, is only one-fifth the mass of the sun, and is expected to keep growing as the swirling disk of matter surrounding it falls into its surface. Astronomers estimated the star formed around the same time that Neanderthals evolved on Earth: just 300,000 years ago. ... Generally, a star forms from a cloud of gas that collapses into itself. Material streams inward from the cloud and forms a protostar in the center of a disk of gas and dust. Over millions of years, material falls on the protostar and releases quite a bit of energy. In L1527, 90 percent of its energy comes from material landing on the surface of the protostar. The remaining 10 percent comes from the star itself.' Measurements for the research came from the Submillimeter Array and the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy."
An anonymous reader writes "A study recently published in Nature (abstract) looked at how personal beliefs altered a person's perception of climate change. Surveying a sample of people in 2008 and then the same people again in 2011, the study looked for 'motivated reasoning,' where 'high belief certainty influenced perceptions of personal experience,' and 'experiential learning,' where 'perceived personal experience of global warming led to increased belief certainty.' According to the article, 'When you categorize individuals by engagement — essentially how confident and knowledgeable they feel about the facts of the issue — differences are revealed. For the highly-engaged groups (on both sides), opinions about whether climate is warming appeared to drive reports of personal experience. That is, motivated reasoning was prevalent. On the other hand, experience really did change opinions for the less-engaged group, and motivated reasoning took a back seat.None of that is truly surprising, but it leads to a couple interesting points. First, the concrete here-and-now communication strategy is probably a good one for those whose opinions aren't firmly set — fully 75 percent of Americans, according to the polling. But second, that tack is unlikely to get anywhere with the 8 percent or so of highly-engaged Americans who reject the idea of a warming planet, and are highly motivated to disregard anything that says otherwise.'"
sciencehabit writes "Scientists are expressing fresh concerns about the carbon locked in the Arctic's vast expanse of frozen soil. New field studies quantify the amount of soil carbon at 1.9 trillion metric tons, suggesting that previous estimates underestimated the climate risk if this carbon is liberated. Meanwhile, a new analysis of laboratory experiments that simulate carbon release by thawed soil is bolstering worries that continued carbon emissions could unleash a massive Arctic carbon wallop."
grrlscientist writes "Proving that robots aren't just for people any longer, an African grey parrot, Pepper, has learned to drive a robot that was specially designed for him. Pepper, whose wings are clipped to preventing him from flying around his humans' house and destroying their things, now manipulates the joystick on his riding robot to guide it to where ever he wishes to go. This robotic 'bird buggy' was the brainchild of his human companion, Andrew Gray, a 29-year-old electrical and computer engineering graduate student at the University of Florida."
MrSeb writes "An international team of engineers, physicists, and chemists have created the first fiber-optic solar cell. These fibers are thinner than human hair, flexible, and yet they produce electricity, just like a normal solar cell. The U.S. military is already interested in weaving these threads into clothing, to provide a wearable power source for soldiers. In essence, the research team started with optical fibers made from glass — and then, using high-pressure chemical vapor deposition, injected n-, i-, and p-type silicon into the fiber, turning it into a solar cell (abstract). Functionally, these silicon-doped fiber-optic threads are identical to conventional solar cells, generating electricity from the photovoltaic effect. Whereas almost every solar cell on the market is crafted out of 2D, planar amorphous silicon on a rigid/brittle glass substrate, though, these fiber-optic solar cells have a 3D cross-section and retain the glass fiber's intrinsic flexibility. The lead researcher, John Badding of Penn State University, says the team has already produced 'meters-long fiber,' and that their new technique could be used to create 'bendable silicon solar-cell fibers of over 10 meters in length.' From there, it's simply a matter of weaving the thread into a fabric."
pigrabbitbear writes "A new study (abstract) from Michigan State University shows that media multitasking exhibits a strong correlation with social anxiety and depression. Importantly, the direction of causality remains to be seen: Does multi-tasking make us more anxious and depressed? Or, as the study's leader, Mark W. Becker, an assistant professor of psychology, put it in an email, 'are depressed and anxious [people] turning toward media multitasking as a form of distraction?' The results of this study aren't conclusive in that regard, he says. But they're an important step. 'While that question will not be easy to answer, it is worth pursing because the practical implications of the findings depend on the causal direction,' he said."
An anonymous reader writes "Ars reports that commercial space company SpaceX has gotten its first launch contracts from a military organization. The United States Air Force has hired SpaceX to launch the NASA DSCOVR satellite aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, and several other satellites aboard a Falcon Heavy. (The Heavy isn't finished yet, and SpaceX currently has no place to launch it, but the contract gives them three years to do so.) 'According to the mission requirements, the Falcon Heavy must carry its payload up to an orbit of 720 km and deploy a COSMIC-2 weather- and atmospheric-monitoring satellite, up to six auxiliary payloads (probably microsats), and up to eight P-POD CubeSat deployers. The rocket should then restart and continue all the way up to a 6,000 x 12,000 km orbit and deploy the ballast, more science experiments and more microsats.'"
theodp writes "If you've got Google CEO Larry Page's billions, you can reduce your chances of getting sick this winter by personally providing free flu shots to all San Francisco Bay Area kids at Target pharmacies. 'Vaccinating children,' explains the Shoo the Flu initiative's website, 'will not only improve children's health, it will also dramatically reduce the risk of the flu spreading to adults.' But Tim Olshansky doesn't have Page's money, so he'll have to settle for trying to get it through people's thick heads that they really have to stay home when they're sick. 'Why do people still come to the office when they're coughing up a lung?' asks the exasperated Olshansky. 'Because unfortunately, there is a still a strong perverse culture that equates staying at home when sick with weakness. This is a flawed belief and should be questioned. Given that we have the tools now to complete most tasks from home, there is no strong reason to compel people to come to the workplace.' So, does your employer encourage employees to stay home when they're sick? How?"
astroengine writes "It's 40 years to the day that the final mission to the moon launched. Discovery News speaks with Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt about where he thinks the Earth's only satellite came from and why he thinks a NASA manned asteroid mission is a mistake. 'I think an asteroid is a diversion,' said Schmitt. 'If the ultimate goal is to get to Mars, you have a satellite only three days away that has a great deal of science as well as resources. The science of the moon has just been scratched. We've hardly explored the moon.'" The National Research Council came out with a report a few days ago which found that the inability for the U.S. to find a consensus on where to go is damaging its ability to get there. Bill Nye spoke about the issue, saying, "I believe, as a country, we want to move NASA from [being] an engineering organization to a science organization, and this is going to take years, decades. Now, through investment, we have companies emerging that are exploring space on their own and will ultimately lower the cost of access to low-Earth orbit, which will free up NASA to go to these new and exciting places."
sciencehabit writes "Gliese 581 is a red dwarf star just 21 light-years from Earth that boasts a number of planets. Now astronomers are reporting another feature that earthlings would find familiar: a ring of dust far from the star which resembles the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, a zone of objects, each much smaller than Earth, that lies beyond Neptune's orbit and includes Pluto. The newfound debris disk is about as large as the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, even though Gliese 581 is small and all of its known planets lie closer to their sun than Earth does to ours. The scientists speculate that the little red star harbors a more remote planet whose gravity stirs up the belt's small objects, causing them to collide and spew the dust that Herschel has discerned."
First time accepted submitter deathcow writes "After forty years, a fresh perspective on old Pioneer data leads to new conclusions as to why the Pioneer probes are decelerating. Many theories to the slowing probes have persisted over the years — was it gravity? some type of unforeseen radiation? dark matter? Thanks to the data backup preservation efforts of a NASA Ames Research engineer, mountains of old telemetry data were still available for studying this curious anomaly."
medcalf writes "NBC reports that Alan Stern's Golden Spike Company is planning commercial trips to the Moon. From the article: 'A group of space veterans and big-name backers today took the wraps off the Golden Spike Company, a commercial space venture that aims to send paying passengers to the moon and back at an estimated price of $1.4 billion or more for two. The venture would rely on private funding, and it's not clear when the first lunar flight would be launched — but the idea reportedly has clearance from NASA, which abandoned its own back-to-the-moon plan three and a half years ago. Golden Spike's announcement came on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 17, the last manned moonshot. Backers of the plan, including former NASA executive Alan Stern and former Apollo flight director Gerry Griffin, were to discuss the company's strategy at a National Press Club briefing at 2 p.m. ET, but some of the details were laid out in a news release issued before the briefing. "A key element that makes our business achievable and compelling is Golden Spike's team of nationally and internationally known experts in human and robotic spaceflight, planetary and lunar science, exploration, venture capital formation, and public outreach," Stern said in the news release.'"
Having the ability to create a 20 liter cloud of slime and tie themselves in knots, hagfish have always been one of my favorite deep-sea denizens. Being a living slime dispenser has not won the species many fans however, with the notable exceptions of Mike Rowe and Dr. Egon Spengler. All that is about to change thanks to the work of a research team at Canada’s University of Guelph. They've found that hagfish slime might be used to make new plastics and even super-strong fabrics. From the article: "A research team at Canada’s University of Guelph managed to harvest the slime from the fish, dissolve it in liquid, and then reassemble its structure by spinning it like silk. It’s an important first step in being able to process the hagfish slime into a useable material, according to Atsuko Negishi, a research assistant and lead author on the paper in this week’s journal Biomacromolecules. 'We’re trying to understand how they make these threads and how we can learn from that to make protein-based fibers that have excellent mechanical properties,' Negishi said. 'The first step is can we harvest the threads. It turns out that is doable.'"
Nikola Tesla, and has been collecting antique electric devices of a particular kind: ones that send electricity through the human body to effect medical benefits, many of which do so with the aid of Tesla coils. Tesla's not the only inventor involved, of course, but his influence overlapped and widely influenced the golden age of electrotherapy. Behary's day job as a machinist means he has the skills to rehabilitate and restore these aging beasts, too, along with a growing family of related devices. He's assembled them now, in West Palm Beach, Florida, into the Turn of the Century Electrotherapy Museum. This is a museum of my favorite kind: home-based and intimate, but with serious depth. Though it's open only by appointment, arranging a visit there is worth it, whether you're otherwise part of the Tesla community or not. Behary knows his collection inside and out, with the kind of deep knowledge it takes to fabricate replacement parts and revamp the internal wiring. The devices themselves are accessible, with original and restored pieces up close and personal — you need to be mindful about which ones are humming and crackling at any given moment. (There's also an archive with books, papers, and other effects relating to Tesla and other electric pioneers, not to mention glowing tubes that predate the modern vacuum tube, and the oldest known surviving Tesla coils, recovered from beneath their maker's Boston mansion. Electrotherapy is the organizing principle, but not the extent of this assembly.) And while Behary isn't fooled by all the therapeutic claims made by some machines' makers about running current through your limbs or around your body, he also doesn't discount them all, either, and points out that some of them really do affect the body as claimed. Yes, he's tried most of the machines himself, though he admits he's never dared taking the juice of his personal Tesla-powered electric chair. View the first video for a tour of part of this astounding collection; the second video is an interview with Jeff Behary.
Capt.Albatross writes "Thorium has attracted interest as a potentially safer fuel for nuclear power generation. In part, this has been because of the absence of a route to nuclear weapons, but a group of British scientists have identified a path that leads to uranium-233 via protactinium-233 from irradiated thorium. The protactinium separation could possibly be done with standard lab equipment, which would allow it to be done covertly, and deliver the minimum of U233 required for a weapon in less than a year. The full article is in Nature, but paywalled."
SternisheFan writes "A self-controlled swimming robot has completed a journey from San Francisco to Australia. The record-breaking 9,000 nautical mile (16,668km) trip took the PacX Wave Glider just over a year to achieve. Liquid Robotics, the U.S. company behind the project, collected data about the Pacific Ocean's temperature, salinity and ecosystem from the drone. The company said its success demonstrated that such technology could 'survive the high seas.' The robot is called Papa Mau in honor of the late Micronesian navigator Pius 'Mau' Piailug, who had a reputation for finding ways to navigate the seas without using traditional equipment. 'During Papa Mau's journey, [it] weathered gale-force storms, fended off sharks, spent more than 365 days at sea, skirted around the Great Barrier Reef, and finally battled and surfed the east Australian current to reach his final destination in Hervey Bay, near Bundaberg, Queensland,' the company said in a statement. Some of the data it gathered about the abundance of phytoplankton -plant-like organisms that convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and provide food for other sea life -could already be monitored by satellite. However, the company suggested that its equipment offered more detail, providing a useful tool for climate model scientists."