Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Google Successfully Uses Machine Learning To Detect Diabetic Retinopathy ( 30

BrianFagioli writes from a report via BetaNews: Diabetic eye disease is caused by retinopathy. Affected diabetics can have small tears inside the eye, causing bleeding. Over time, they can lose vision, and ultimately, they can go blind. Luckily, Google has been trying to use machine learning to detect diabetic retinopathy. Guess what? The search giant has seen much success. Not only are the computers able to detect the disease at the same level as ophthalmologists, but Google is actually slightly better! "A few years ago, a Google research team began studying whether machine learning could be used to screen for diabetic retinopathy (DR). Today, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we've published our results: a deep learning algorithm capable of interpreting signs of DR in retinal photographs, potentially helping doctors screen more patients, especially in underserved communities with limited resources," says Lily Peng, MD Ph.D., Product Manger at Google. She goes on to say "our algorithm performs on par with the ophthalmologists, achieving both high sensitivity and specificity. [...] For example, on the validation set described in Figure 2, the algorithm has a F-score of 0.95, which is slightly better than the median. F-score of the 8 ophthalmologists we consulted (measured at 0.91)."

Russia Falls Behind In Annual Space Launches For First Time Ever ( 93

From a report on the Moscow Times: This year, for the first time in history, Russia has fallen behind the United States and China as the world's leading launcher of space rockets. Russia will finish 2016 with just 18 launches, according to open source data, compared to China's 19 and America's 20 launches. Alexander Ivanov, deputy chief of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, said on Nov. 29 that the launch rate has decreased because Moscow's space strategy has changed. Currently, it's top priority is reviving existing and aging satellite groupings. But there are other reasons Russia's launch rate may be falling behind. Since the 1957 launch of Sputnik, the world's first satellite, Russia has been the undisputed leader in annual launch rates -- a figure that spoke to the general health of its space program and aerospace industry. At the peak of the Soviet space program, Russia often launched around 100 rockets a year. Since 1957, Russia has launched over 3,000 rockets -- roughly twice as many as the U.S. But with the Russian economy in crisis, space budgets have plummeted. Funding for the next decade of Russian space activity stands at just 1.4 trillion rubles ($21.5 billion), a figure that was only finalized after three rounds of cuts to proposed funding, which began at 3.4 trillion rubles ($52.3 billion). The U.S. space agency, NASA, received a budget of $19.3 billion in 2016 alone. To make matters worse, Russian rockets are becoming uncharacteristically undependable.

Spinal Fluid Changes In Space May Impair Astronauts' Vision, Study Finds ( 77

A condition called visual impairment inter cranial pressure syndrome (VIIP) that has been impairing astronauts' vision on the International Space Station is believed to be caused by a build up of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in their brains. The long-duration astronauts had significantly more CSF in their brains than the short-trip astronauts. Previously, NASA suspected that the condition was caused by the lack of gravity in space. Science Alert reports: The researchers compared before and after brain scans from seven astronauts who had spent many months in the ISS, and compared them to nine astronauts who had just made short trips to and from the U.S. space shuttle, which was decommissioned in 2011. The one big difference between the two was that the long-duration astronauts had significantly more cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in their brains than the short-trip astronauts, and the researchers say this - not vascular fluid - is the cause of the vision loss. Under normal circumstances, CSF is important for cushioning the brain and spinal cord, while also distributing nutrients around the body and helping to remove waste. It can easily adjust to changes in pressure that our bodies experience when transitioning from lying down to sitting or standing, but in the constant microgravity of space, it starts to falter. "On earth, the CSF system is built to accommodate these pressure changes, but in space the system is confused by the lack of the posture-related pressure changes," says one of the team, Noam Alperin. Based on the high-resolution orbit and brain MRI scans taken of their 16 astronauts, the team found that the long-duration astronauts had far higher orbital CSF volume - CSF pooling around the optic nerves in the part of the skull that holds the eye. They also had significantly higher ventricular CSF volume, which means they had more CSF accumulating in the cavities of the brain where the fluid is produced.

Microbiome Changes Drive the Dieting Yo-Yo Effect, Study Finds ( 254

wheelbarrio writes: We've known for a long time that diet-induced weight loss is rarely permanent but until now what has been a frustration for dieters has also been largely a mystery to scientists. A paper published today in the prestigious journal Nature presents good evidence that your gut microbiome may be to blame. Studying mice fed cycles of high-fat and normal diets, the authors found that the particular bacterial population that thrives in the high-fat regime persists in the gut even once the mice have returned to normal weight and normal metabolic function after a dieting cycle. This leaves them more susceptible to weight gain than control mice who were never overweight, when both populations are exposed to a cycle of high-fat diet. The details are fascinating, including the suggestion that dietary flavonoid supplementation might mitigate the effect. My guess is that this may end up being one of the most cited papers of the year, if not the decade.

NASA X-Ray Tech Could Enable Superfast Communication In Deep Space ( 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New technology could use X-rays to transmit data at high rates over vast distances in outer space, as well as enable communications with hypersonic vehicles during re-entry, when radio communications are impossible, NASA scientists say. The technology would combine multiple NASA projects currently in progress to demonstrate the feasibility of X-ray communications from outside the International Space Station. The radio waves used by mobile phones, Wi-Fi and, of course, radios, are one kind of light. Other forms of light can carry data as well; for instance, fiber-optic telecommunications rely on pulses of visible and near-infrared light. The effort to use another type of light, X-rays, for communication started with research on NASA's proposed Black Hole Imager. That mission is designed to analyze the edges of the supermassive black holes that previous research suggested exist at the centers of most, if not all, large galaxies. One potential strategy to enable the Black Hole Imager was to develop a constellation of precisely aligned spacecraft to collect X-rays emitted from the edges of those black holes. Keith Gendreau, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, thought of developing X-ray emitters that these spacecraft could use as navigational beacons to make sure they stayed in position relative to one another. The system would keep them aligned down to a precision of just 1 micron, or about one-hundredth the average width of a human hair. Gendreau then reasoned that by modulating or varying the strength or frequency of these X-ray transmissions on and off many times per second, these navigational beacons could also serve as a communication system. Such X-ray communication, or XCOM, might, in theory, permit gigabit-per-second data rates throughout the solar system, he said. One advantage that XCOM has compared to laser communication in deep space is that X-rays have shorter wavelengths than the visible or infrared light typically used in laser communication. Moreover, X-rays can penetrate obstacles that impede radio communication.

Great Barrier Reef Has Worst Coral Die-Off Ever, Report Finds ( 235

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered from its worst coral die-off ever recorded, according to a new study from the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University. "Stress from the unusually warm ocean water heated by man-made climate change and the natural El Nino climate pattern caused the die-off," reports USA Today. At more than 1,400 miles long, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef and the planet's biggest structure made by living organisms. In the northernmost section of the reef, which had been considered the most "pristine," some 67% of the coral died. The good news, scientists said, was that central and southern sections of the reef fared far better, with "only" 6% and 1% of the coral dead, respectively. Coral reefs result from the work of little polyps, creatures only a few millimeters long, budded on top of one another. Over centuries, the shells of these creatures combine to form the exotic shapes of coral reefs. Tiny differences in the anatomy of each polyp species affect the shape of their shells and produce the exotic shapes of each reef. The vibrant colors that draw thousands of tourists to the Great Barrier Reef each year come from algae that live in the corals tissue. When water temperatures become too high, coral becomes stressed and expels the algae, which leave the coral a bleached white color. Mass coral bleaching is a new phenomenon and was never observed before the 1980s as global warming ramped up. Besides their beauty, reefs shelter land from storms, and are also a habitat for myriads of species.

Japan Fukushima Nuclear Plant 'Clean-Up Costs Double,' Approaching $200 Billion ( 299

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Japan's government estimates the cost of cleaning up radioactive contamination and compensating victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has more than doubled, reports say. The latest estimate from the trade ministry put the expected cost at some 20 trillion yen ($180 billion). The original estimate was for $50 billion, which was increased to $100 billion three years later. The majority of the money will go towards compensation, with decontamination taking the next biggest slice. Storing the contaminated soil and decommissioning are the two next greatest costs. The compensation pot has been increased by about 50% and decontamination estimates have been almost doubled. The BBC's Japan correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says it is still unclear who is going to pay for the clean up. Japan's government has long promised that Tokyo Electric Power, the company that owns the plant, will eventually pay the money back. But on Monday it admitted that electricity consumers would be forced to pay a portion of the clean up costs through higher electricity bills. Critics say this is effectively a tax on the public to pay the debt of a private electricity utility.

Scientists Turn Nuclear Waste Into Diamond Batteries ( 154

Scientists at the University of Bristol have found a way to convert thousands of tons of nuclear waste into man-made diamond batteries that can generate a small electric current for thousands of years. New Atlas reports: How to dispose of nuclear waste is one of the great technical challenges of the 21st century. The trouble is, it usually turns out not to be so much a question of disposal as long-term storage. Disposal, therefore is more often a matter of keeping waste safe, but being able to get at it later when needed. One unexpected example of this is the Bristol team's work on a major source of nuclear waste from Britain's aging Magnox reactors, which are now being decommissioned after over half a century of service. These first generation reactors used graphite blocks as moderators to slow down neutrons to keep the nuclear fission process running, but decades of exposure have left the UK with 104,720 tons of graphite blocks that are now classed as nuclear waste because the radiation in the reactors changes some of the inert carbon in the blocks into radioactive carbon-14. Carbon-14 is a low-yield beta particle emitter that can't penetrate even a few centimeters of air, but it's still too dangerous to allow into the environment. Instead of burying it, the Bristol team's solution is to remove most of the c-14 from the graphite blocks and turn it into electricity-generating diamonds. The nuclear diamond battery is based on the fact that when a man-made diamond is exposed to radiation, it produces a small electric current. According to the researchers, this makes it possible to build a battery that has no moving parts, gives off no emissions, and is maintenance-free. The Bristol researchers found that the carbon-14 wasn't uniformly distributed in the Magnox blocks, but is concentrated in the side closest to the uranium fuel rods. To produce the batteries, the blocks are heated to drive out the carbon-14 from the radioactive end, leaving the blocks much less radioactive than before. c-14 gas is then collected and using low pressures and high temperatures is turned into man-made diamonds. Once formed, the beta particles emitted by the c-14 interact with the diamond's crystal lattice, throwing off electrons and generating electricity. The diamonds themselves are radioactive, so they are given a second non-radioactive diamond coating to act as a radiation shield.

EPA Increases Amount of Renewable Fuel To Be Blended Into Gasoline ( 351

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its final renewable fuel standards for 2017, requiring that fuel suppliers blend an additional 1.2 billion gallons of renewable fuel into U.S. gas and diesel from 2016 levels. The rule breaks down the requirements to include quotas for cellulosic biofuels, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and traditional renewable fuel. Reuters points out that the aggressive new biofuel standards will create a dilemma for an incoming Trump administration, given that his campaign courted both the gas and corn industries. While the EPA under the Obama administration has continually increased so-called renewable fuel standards (RFS), the standards were first adopted by a majority-Republican Congress in 2005 and then bolstered in 2007 with a requirement to incorporate 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel into the fuel supply by 2022, barring "a determination that implementation of the program is causing severe economic or environmental harm," as the EPA writes. Some biofuels are controversial not just for oil and gas suppliers but for some wildlife advocates as well. Collin O'Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement that the corn ethanol industry that most stands to benefit from the EPA's expansion of the renewable fuel standards "is responsible for the destruction of millions of acres of wildlife habitat and degradation of water quality." Still, the EPA contends that biofuels made from corn and other regenerating plants offer reductions in overall fuel emissions, if the processes used to make and transport the fuels are included. "Advanced biofuels" will offer "50 percent lifecycle carbon emissions reductions," and their share of the new standards will grow by 700 million gallons in 2017 from 2016 requirements, the EPA says. Cellulosic biofuel will be increased by 81 million gallons and biomass-based diesel will be increased by 100 million gallons. "Non-advanced or 'conventional' renewable fuel" will be increased to 19.28 billion gallons from 18.11 billion gallons in 2016. Conventional renewable fuel "typically refers to ethanol derived from corn starch and must meet a 20 percent lifecycle GHG [greenhouse gas] reduction threshold," according to EPA guidelines. Other kinds of renewable fuels include sugarcane-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol derived from the stalks, leaves, and cobs leftover from a corn harvest, and compressed natural gas gleaned from wastewater facilities.

Sugar-Free Products Might Actually Stop Us From Getting Slimmer ( 172

Nutritionists suspected that artificial sweeteners weren't really helping people lose weight, according to a new article submitted by schwit1. Now there's hints of proof in a new aspartame study by the Massachusetts General Hospital. "We found that aspartame blocks a gut enzyme called intestinal alkaline phosphatase," explains Professor Hodin. IAP is produced in the small intestine. "We previously showed [this enzyme] can prevent obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome [a disease characterized by a combination of obesity, high blood pressure, a metabolic disorder and insulin resistance]. So, we think that aspartame might not work because, even as it is substituting for sugar, it blocks the beneficial aspects of IAP...."

The researchers confirmed their suspicions via a variety of tests on mice. In one case, they fed IAP directly to mice, who were also on a high-fat diet. It turned out that the IAP could effectively prevent the emergence of the metabolic syndrome. It also helped relieve symptoms in animals that were already suffering from the obesity-related illness.


Researchers Successfully Achieve Suspended Animation With Mouse Embryos ( 28

"It was completely surprising. We were standing around in the tissue culture room, scratching our heads, and saying 'Wow, what do we make of this?'" An anonymous reader quotes Engadget's report on new research with "huge implications": A team of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco only wanted to slow down mice embryos' cell growth in the lab. Instead, they managed to completely pause their development, putting the blastocysts (very early embryos) in suspended animation for a month. What's more, they found that the process can put stem cells derived from the blastocysts in suspended animation as well, [and] the researchers were able to prove that the embryos can develop normally even after a pause in their growth. Team member Ramalho-Santos from the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research said... "To put it in perspective, mouse pregnancies only last about 20 days, so the 30-day-old 'paused' embryos we were seeing would have been pups approaching weaning already if they'd been allowed to develop normally."
The new research could lead to better treatments for damaged organs and even aging, according to the article. (Besides, of course, its science fiction-y implications for long-distance space travel...)

Brain Cancer Patients Live Longer By Sending Electric Fields Through Their Heads ( 74

IEEE Spectrum reports on a "radical new weapon" against brain tumors -- only available since 2015. They profile a typical patient who "wears electrodes on her head all day and night to send an electric field through her brain, trying to prevent any leftover tumor cells from multiplying [and] goes about her business with a shaved head plastered with electrodes, which are connected by wires to a bulky generator she carries in a shoulder bag." the_newsbeagle writes: The Optune system, which bathes the brain tumor in an AC electric field, is the first new treatment to come along that seems to extend some patients' lives. New data on survival rates from a major clinical trial showed that 43% of patients who used Optune were still alive at the 2-year mark, compared to 30% of patients on the standard treatment regimen. At the 4-year mark, the survival rates were 17% for Optune patients and 10% for the others.
Patients have to re-shave their heads every few days and re-apply all the electrodes, but that's never been a problem, according to one patient. "If you have a condition which has no cure, it's a great motivator."

Scientists Believe There's Finally A Cure For The Common Cold ( 193

schwit1 writes: After decades of research, the fabled cure for the common cold could be on its way in the form of a nasal spray called SynGEM, the brainchild of a Dutch biotechnology company. After successful tests on mice and rats (yes, they get colds too), 36 human volunteers at London's Imperial College are now trying out the spray.
While colds can be caused by hundreds of different viruses, just three viruses are responsible for 80% of them -- and yet colds are responsible for 40% of the sick days taken in the U.S., according to another article, as well as 75 million doctor visits (costing $7.7 billion) every year, plus another $2.9 billion for cold medications. One experimental medicine professor at London's Imperial College London has spent the last 30 years researching colds and flu, and though a cure has never been found, he now tells the Daily Mail, "I think we are on the verge of it. I really do."

Science Journals Caught Publishing Fake Research For Cash ( 137

Tuesday a Canadian journalist described his newest victory in his war on fake-science journals. An anonymous reader writes: In 2014, journalist Tom Spears intentionally wrote "the world's worst science research paper...a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble" -- then got it accepted by eight different journals. ("I copied and pasted one phrase from a geology paper online, and the rest from a medical one, on hematology...and so on. There are a couple of graphs from a paper about Mars...") He did it to expose journals which follow the publish-for-a-fee model, "a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate."

But earlier this year, one such operation actually purchased two prominent Canadian medical journals, and one critic warns they're "on a buying spree, snatching up legitimate scholarly journals and publishers, incorporating them into its mega-fleet of bogus, exploitative, and low-quality publications.â So this summer, Spears explains to Vice, "I got this request to write for what looked like a fake journal -- of ethics. Something about that attracted me... one morning in late August when I woke up early I made extra coffee and banged out some drivel and sent it to them."

He's now publicizing the fact that this formerly-respectable journal is currently featuring his submission, which was "mostly plagiarized from Aristotle, with every fourth or fifth word changed so that anti-plagiarism software won't catch it. But the result is meaningless. Some sentences don't have verbs..."

An Underground Ice Deposit On Mars Is Bigger Than New Mexico ( 113

schwit1 quotes a report from Popular Mechanics: A single underground deposit of ice on Mars contains about as much water as there is in Michigan's Lake Superior, according to new research from NASA. The deposit rests in the mid-northern latitudes of the Red Planet, specifically in the Utopia Planitia region. Discovered by the Shallow Subsurface Radar (SHARD) instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the deposit is "more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico," according to a NASA press release. It ranges in thickness from about 260 feet to about 560 feet, and has a composition that's 50 to 85 percent water ice, with what appears to be dust or larger rocky particles mixed in as well. None of the ice is exposed to the surface. At various points the dirt covering it is in between 3 and 33 feet thick.

6 Major Countries Have Recently Announced Plans To Phase-Out All Coal-Fired Power Plants ( 275

At least 6 major countries, including Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland, have all recently -- several within the past few weeks -- announced the imminent phase-out of all coal-fired power plants. Electrek reports: Earlier this week, Canada, which has already significantly reduced its use of coal to about 7% of its energy generation, announced a phase of the resource by 2030. The country's strong hydropower should keep dominating its energy generation, but the country has also been investing in wind and solar to make up the difference. A week before Canada's announcement, France announced a more aggressive timeline of 2023 for its own phase-out of coal, but it should be more easily achievable since they have already reduced the use of coal to 3% of their electricity generation -- thanks to a strong local nuclear industry. Finland is the latest country to join the group, but it also announced a more aggressive solution of simply banning entirely the use of coal to produce energy by 2030. The country gets about 12% of its electricity from coal, which it has to import. Peter Lund, a researcher at Aalto University and chair of the energy program at the European Academies' Science Advisory Council, told New Scientist: "These moves are important forerunners to enforce the recent positive signals in coal use. The more countries join the coal phase-out club, the better for the climate as this would force the others to follow." As for the U.S., it gets about 33% of its total electricity generation from coal and will likely grow the coal industry rather than phase it out under President-elect Donald Trump.

Toyota's Battery 'Breakthrough' Can Lead To More Range, Longer Life ( 29

Toyota thinks it's found a way to create more efficient EV batteries. The car company is calling its method, which allows a free flow of lithium ions from the cathode to the anode, the "world's first behavior observation method for lithium ions in electrolyte." CNET adds:Charging and discharging batteries can create lithium ion deviation. Some of these ions can get bunched up, which can affect a battery's performance over time. In order to help reduce that bunching, scientists need to see what's happening as the ions flow through the battery's electrolyte. That observation wasn't possible until now. Toyota made has replaced the phosphorous in a traditional lithium-ion battery electrolyte with heavier elements. These heavier elements, which ferry the ions through the electrolyte, are then bombarded with powerful x-rays, which allows researchers to observe how the ions flow through. So what does this all mean? By observing the lithium ions in the electrolyte, research and development dollars can be spent on preventing the bunching that degrades battery performance. Toyota believes its breakthrough can improve electric vehicle range by up to 15 percent and improve the battery's life simultaneously.

For the First Time, Living Cells Have Formed Carbon-Silicon Bonds ( 87

From a ScienceDaily alert: Scientists have managed to coax living cells into making carbon-silicon bonds, demonstrating for the first time that nature can incorporate silicon -- one of the most abundant elements on Earth -- into the building blocks of life. While chemists have achieved carbon-silicon bonds before -- they're found in everything from paints and semiconductors to computer and TV screens -- they've so far never been found in nature, and these new cells could help us understand more about the possibility of silicon-based life elsewhere in the Universe. After oxygen, silicon is the second most abundant element in Earth's crust, and yet it has nothing to do with biological life. Why silicon has never be incorporated into any kind of biochemistry on Earth has been a long-standing puzzle for scientists, because, in theory, it would have been just as easy for silicon-based lifeforms to have evolved on our planet as the carbon-based ones we know and love. Not only are carbon and silicon both extremely abundant in Earth's crust - they're also very similar in their chemical make-up.

Security Researchers Can Turn Headphones Into Microphones ( 121

As if we don't already have enough devices that can listen in on our conversations, security researchers at Israel's Ben Gurion University have created malware that will turn your headphones into microphones that can slyly record your conversations. TechCrunch reports: The proof-of-concept, called "Speake(a)r," first turned headphones connected to a PC into microphones and then tested the quality of sound recorded by a microphone vs. headphones on a target PC. In short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking up audio in a room. It essentially "retasks" the RealTek audio codec chip output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can still listen in. This isn't a driver fix, either. The embedded chip does not allow users to properly prevent this hack which means your earbuds or nice cans could start picking up conversations instantly. In fact, even if you disable your microphone, a computer with a RealTek chip could still be hacked and exploited without your knowledge. The sound quality, as shown by this chart, is pretty much the same for a dedicated microphone and headphones. The researchers have published a video on YouTube demonstrating how this malware works.

ESA: European Mars Lander Crash Caused By 1-Second Glitch ( 110

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The European Space Agency (ESA) on Nov. 23 said its Schiaparelli lander's crash landing on Mars on Oct. 19 followed an unexplained saturation of its inertial measurement unit (IMU), which delivered bad data to the lander's computer and forced a premature release of its parachute. Polluted by the IMU data, the lander's computer apparently thought it had either already landed or was just about to land. The parachute system was released, the braking thrusters were fired only briefly and the on-ground systems were activated. Instead of being on the ground, Schiaparelli was still 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) above the Mars surface. It crashed, but not before delivering what ESA officials say is a wealth of data on entry into the Mars atmosphere, the functioning and release of the heat shield and the deployment of the parachute -- all of which went according to plan. In its Nov. 23 statement, ESA said the saturation reading from Schiaparelli's inertial measurement unit lasted only a second but was enough to play havoc with the navigation system. ESA said the sequence of events "has been clearly reproduced in computer simulations of the control system's response to the erroneous information." ESA's director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, David Parker, said in a statement that ExoMars teams are still sifting through the voluminous data harvest from the Schiaparelli mission, and that an external, independent board of inquiry, now being created, would release a final report in early 2017.

Slashdot Top Deals