China

Many Nations Pin Climate Hopes On China, India As Hopes For Trump Fade (reuters.com) 333

Twelve readers share a Reuters report: Many countries are pinning their hopes on China and India to lead efforts to slow climate change amid a growing sense of resignation that U.S. President Donald Trump will either withdraw from a global pact or stay and play a minimal role. Delegates at the May 8-18 negotiations in Bonn on a detailed "rule book" for the 2015 Paris Agreement, the first U.N. talks since Trump took office, say there is less foreboding than when Washington last broke with global climate efforts in 2001. Trump doubts global warming has a human cause and says he will decide on a campaign threat to "cancel" the Paris Agreement, the first to bind all nations to set goals to curb emissions, after a group of Seven summit in Italy on May 26-27. "The time when one big player could affect the whole game is past," said Ronald Jumeau, climate ambassador for the Seychelles. "There would be a void without the U.S., but China and India seem to be increasing their effort." Big emitters led by China, the European Union and India have reaffirmed their commitment to Paris, which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century by shifting to clean energies. By contrast, Trump wants to favor U.S. coal.
Biotech

Scientists 3D-Print Ovaries To Allow Infertile Mice To Mate and Give Birth (theguardian.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Infertile mice have given birth to healthy pups after having their fertility restored with ovary implants made with a 3D printer. Researchers created the synthetic ovaries by printing porous scaffolds from a gelatin ink and filling them with follicles, the tiny, fluid-holding sacs that contain immature egg cells. In tests on mice that had one ovary surgically removed, scientists found that the implants hooked up to the blood supply within a week and went on to release eggs naturally through the pores built into the gelatin structures. The work marks a step towards making artificial ovaries for young women whose reproductive systems have been damaged by cancer treatments, leaving them infertile or with hormone imbalances that require them to take regular hormone-boosting drugs. Of seven mice that mated after receiving the artificial ovaries, three gave birth to pups that had developed from eggs released by the implants. The mice fed normally on their mother's milk and went on to have healthy litters of their own later in life. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists describe how they printed layered lattices of gelatin strips to make the ovary implants. The sizes and positions of the holes in the structures were carefully controlled to hold dozens of follicles and allow blood vessels to connect to the implants. Mature eggs were then released from the implants as happens in normal ovulation.
Earth

SpaceX Launches Super-Heavy Satellite Atop Falcon 9 Rocket (usatoday.com) 85

SpaceX has successfully launched a heavy commercial communications satellite atop one of its Falcon 9 rockets today. "Weighing in at nearly 13,500 pounds atop the rocket, the fourth Inmarsat-5 satellite was the heaviest load lofted by a Falcon 9 yet," reports USA Today. From the report: The 230-foot rocket delivered the spacecraft larger than a double-decker bus to an orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator. As a result, SpaceX did not attempt to land the rocket's first stage either at Cape Canaveral or at sea, and the Falcon 9 booster was not equipped with landing legs. The Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 satellite, built by Boeing, completes Inmarsat's four-satellite Global Xpress constellation focused on delivering high-speed broadband data to mobile customers, including commercial aircraft and ships and the U.S. military.
Medicine

38,000 People a Year Die Early Because of Diesel Emissions Testing Failures (theverge.com) 194

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Diesel cars, trucks, and other vehicles in more than 10 countries around the world produce 50 percent more nitrogen oxide emissions than lab tests show, according to a new study. The extra pollution is thought to have contributed to about 38,000 premature deaths in 2015 globally. In the study, published today in Nature, researchers compared emissions from diesel tailpipes on the road with the results of lab tests for nitrogen oxides (NOx). The countries where diesel vehicles were tested are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S., where more than 80 percent of new diesel vehicle sales occurred in 2015. The researchers found that 5 million more tons of NOx were emitted than the lab-based 9.4 million tons, according to the Associated Press. Nitrogen oxides are released into the air from motor vehicle exhaust or the burning of coal and fossil fuels, producing tiny soot particles and smog. Breathing in all this is linked to heart and lung diseases, including lung cancer, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, which took part in the research. Governments routinely test new diesel vehicles to check whether they meet pollution limits. The problem is that these tests fail to mimic real-life driving situations, and so they underestimate actual pollution levels. The researchers estimate that the extra pollution is linked to about 38,000 premature deaths worldwide in 2015 -- mostly in the European Union, China, and India. (The U.S. saw an estimated 1,100 deaths from excess NOx.)
United States

The Reign of the $100 Graphing Calculator Required By Every US Math Class Is Finally Ending (engadget.com) 281

If you took a math class at some point in the US, there is likely a bulky $100 calculator gathering dust somewhere in your closet. Fast forward to today, and the Texas Instruments 84 -- or the TI 84-Plus, or the TI-89 or any of the other even more expensive hardware variants -- is quickly losing relevance. Engadget adds: Thanks to a new deal, they'll soon get a free option. Starting this spring, pupils in 14 US states will be able to use the TI-like Desmos online calculator during standardized testing run by the Smarter Balanced consortium. "We think students shouldn't have to buy this old, underpowered device anymore," Desmos CEO Eli Luberoff said. The Desmos calculator will be embedded directly into the assessments, meaning students will have access during tests with no need for an external device. It'll also be available to students in grades 6 through 8 and high school throughout the year. The calculator is free to use, and the company makes money by charging organizations to use it, according to Bloomberg.
Biotech

Researcher Hacks Nine Sleep-Tracking Devices To Test Their Accuracy (brown.edu) 44

A determined researcher at Brown University extracted "the previously irretrievable sleep tracking data from the Hello Sense, from the Microsoft Band, and nine other popular devices," according to an anonymous reader, "by decompiling the apps and using man-in-the-middle attacks." Then they compared each device's data to that from a research-standard actigraph. Their results? The Fitbit Alta seems to be the most accurate among the other nine in terms of sleep versus awake data... Our findings tell that these consumer-level sleep reports should be taken with a grain of salt, but regardless we're happy to see more and more people investing in improving their sleep.
Government

Nuclear Experts Form International 'Nuclear Crisis Group' (teenvogue.com) 63

Slashdot reader Dan Drollette shares an article by the executive director and publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:On Friday, an elite group of the world's nuclear experts and advisers launched a Nuclear Crisis Group, to help manage the growing risk of nuclear conflict. The group includes leading diplomats with decades of experience, and retired military officers who were once responsible for launching nuclear weapons if given the order to do so. China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States, all countries that have nuclear weapons, are represented. The group intends to create a "shadow security council," or an expert group capable of providing advice to world leaders on nuclear matters...

Building on grass-roots support, the Nuclear Crisis Group could serve as a brake on nuclear escalation and be an early step in reversing the downward nuclear security spiral. Not only will they be able to offer expertise to inexperienced leaders who are dabbling in nuclear security, but they will be able to develop and endorse proposals that could make the world safer such as expanding the decision time that leaders have to respond to a nuclear threat, further protecting nuclear systems against cyber attacks and unintended escalations, reenergizing the appetite for arms control negotiations, and questioning global nuclear upgrade programs.

Science

Scientists Achieve Direct Counterfactual Quantum Communication For The First Time (sciencealert.com) 117

schwit1 shares an article from ScienceAlert: Quantum communication is a strange beast, but one of the weirdest proposed forms of it is called counterfactual communication -- a type of quantum communication where no particles travel between two recipients. Theoretical physicists have long proposed that such a form of communication would be possible, but now, for the first time, researchers have been able to experimentally achieve it -- transferring a black and white bitmap image from one location to another without sending any physical particles... It works based on the fact that, in the quantum world, all light particles can be fully described by wave functions, rather than as particles. So by embedding messages in light the researchers were able to transmit this message without ever directly sending a particle.
It's different than quantum entanglement (which Einstein described as "spooky action at a distance.") The article describes it as "a pretty cool demonstration of just how bizarre and unexplored the quantum world is."
Moon

NASA Won't Fly Astronauts On First Orion-SLS Test Flight Around the Moon (space.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: The first flight of NASA's next-generation heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), is now scheduled for 2019 and will not include a human crew, agency officials said today (May 12). As of 2016, NASA had planned for the SLS' first flight to take place in 2018, without a crew on board. But the transition team that the Trump administration sent to the agency earlier this year asked for an internal evaluation of the possibility of launching a crew atop the SLS inside the agency's Orion space capsule. Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said during a news conference today that, based on the results of this internal evaluation, a crewed flight would be "technically feasible," but the agency will proceed with its initial plan to make the rocket's first flight uncrewed. The internal evaluation "really reaffirmed that the baseline plan we had in place was the best way for us to go," Lightfoot said. "We have a good handle on how that uncrewed mission will actually help [the first crewed mission of SLS] be a safer mission when we put crew on there." SLS' first flight will be called Exploration Mission 1, or EM-1, and will send an uncrewed Orion capsule (which has already made one uncrewed test flight, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket) on a roughly three-week trip around the moon. The first crewed flight, EM-2, was originally scheduled to follow in 2021.
Science

Human Sense of Smell Rivals That of Dogs, Says Study (theguardian.com) 143

One scientific analysis is arguing that the human sense of smell has not only been underestimated over the years, but that it may rival that of dogs and rodents. John McGann, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the paper's author, said: "For so long people failed to stop and question this claim, even people who study the sense of smell for a living. The fact is the sense of smell is just as good in humans as in other mammals, like rodents and dogs." McGann has reached this unexpected conclusion after spending 14 years studying the olfactory system. The Guardian reports: McGann identifies a 19th century brain surgeon, Paul Broca, as the primary culprit for introducing the notion of inferior human olfaction into the scientific literature. Broca noted that the olfactory bulb -- the brain region that processes odor detection -- is smaller, relative to total brain volume, in people compared with dogs or rats. The discovery inspired Freud's belief that human sexual repression may be linked to our "usually atrophied" sense of smell. In the latest paper, published in Science, McGann points out that in absolute terms the human olfactory bulb is bigger than in many mammals and a literature search revealed that the absolute number olfactory neurons is remarkably consistent across mammals. McGann goes on to deconstruct other metrics that have been used to support the idea that human smelling abilities are limited. Humans have approximately 1,000 odor receptor genes, for instance, compared to 1,100 in mice, which some had taken as confirmation of mouse superiority. However, other work suggests there is not a tight relationship between the number of olfactory genes and smelling ability. One study found that cows have 2,000 such genes - far more than dogs.
Communications

Cyberattack Hits England's National Health Service With Ransom Demands (theguardian.com) 200

Hospitals across England have been hit by a large-scale cyber-attack, the NHS has confirmed, which has locked staff out of their computers and forced many trusts to divert emergency patients. The IT systems of NHS sites across the country appear to have been simultaneously hit, with a pop-up message demanding a ransom in exchange for access to the PCs. NHS Digital said it was aware of the problem and would release more details soon. Details of patient records and appointment schedules, as well as internal phone lines and emails, have all been rendered inaccessible. From a report: "The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor. At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed. We will continue to work with affected organisations to confirm this. NHS Digital is working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England to support affected organisations and to recommend appropriate mitigations. "This attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organisations from across a range of sectors. "Our focus is on supporting organisations to manage the incident swiftly and decisively, but we will continue to communicate with NHS colleagues and will share more information as it becomes available." NPR adds: The problem erupted around 12:30 p.m. local time, the IT worker says, with a number of email servers crashing. Other services soon went down -- and then, the unidentified NHS worker says, "A bitcoin virus pop-up message had been introduced on to the network asking users to pay $300 to be able to access their PCs. You cannot get past this screen." The attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organizations from across a range of sectors, it appears. The report adds: Images that were posted online of the NHS pop-up look nearly identical to pop-up ransomware windows that hit Spain's Telefonica, a powerful attack that forced the large telecom to order employees to disconnect their computers from its network -- resorting to an intercom system to relay messages. Telefonica, Spain's largest ISP, has told its employees to shut down their computers.

Update
: BBC is reporting that similar attacks are being reported in the UK, US, China, Russia, Spain, Italy, Vietnam, Taiwan today.
Power

Germany Sets New National Record With 85 Percent of Its Electricity Sourced From Renewables (digitaltrends.com) 404

Germany was able to set a new national record for the last weekend of April with 85 percent of all electricity consumed in the country being produced from renewables -- wind, solar, biomass, and hydroelectric power. Digital Trends reports: Aided by a seasonal combination of windy but sunny weather, during that weekend the majority of Germany's coal-fired power stations weren't even operating, while nuclear power stations (which the country plans to phase out by the year 2022) were massively reduced in output. To be clear, this is impressive even by Germany's progressive standards. By comparison, in March just over 40 percent of all electricity consumed in the country came from renewable sources. However, while the end-of-April weekend was an aberration, the hope is that it won't be for too much longer. According to Patrick Graichen of the country's sustainability-focused Agora Energiewende Initiative, German renewable energy percentages in the mid-80s should be "completely normal" by the year 2030.
Medicine

Apple Watch Can Detect An Abnormal Heart Rhythm With 97 Percent Accuracy, UCSF Study Says (techcrunch.com) 102

According to a study conducted through heartbeat measurement app Cardiogram and the University of California, San Francisco, the Apple Watch is 97 percent accurate in detecting the most common abnormal heart rhythm when paired with an AI-based algorithm. TechCrunch reports: The study involved 6,158 participants recruited through the Cardiogram app on Apple Watch. Most of the participants in the UCSF Health eHeart study had normal EKG readings. However, 200 of them had been diagnosed with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heartbeat). Engineers then trained a deep neural network to identify these abnormal heart rhythms from Apple Watch heart rate data. Cardiogram began the study with UCSF in 2016 to discover whether the Apple Watch could detect an oncoming stroke. About a quarter of strokes are caused by an abnormal heart rhythm, according to Cardiogram co-founder and data scientist for UCSF's eHeart study Brandon Ballinger. Cardiogram tested the deep neural network it had built against 51 in-hospital cardioversions (a procedure that restores the heart's normal rhythm) and says it achieved a 97 percent accuracy in the neural network's ability to find irregular heart activity. Additional information available via a Cardiogram blog post.
Education

'The Traditional Lecture Is Dead' (wired.com) 233

Rhett Allain, an Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, writing for Wired: What is the traditional lecture? It is a model of learning in which a teacher possesses the knowledge on a given topic and disseminates it to students. This model dates to the beginning of education, when it was the only way of sharing information. In fact, you occasionally still see the person presenting the lecture called a reader, because way back before the internet and even the printing press, a teacher would literally read from a book so students could copy it all down. Now, don't get me wrong. The traditional lecture model worked wonderfully for eons. But it is an outdated idea (free pass for adblockers). Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a college physics course with a professor giving a traditional lecture. Now open your eyes. Did you envision The Best Physics Lecture EVAR? I doubt it. You probably pictured someone droning on and on in front of a chalkboard or PowerPoint presentation. No way that is more engaging or interesting than an episode of The Mechanical Universe , and if you're a teacher who uses traditional lectures, just stop and play the show instead. Everyone will be better off. You may think by now that I think most physics professors are dolts. I promise that's not the case. But traditional lectures simply aren't effective. Research shows students don't learn by hearing or seeing, they learn by doing, a model often called active learning. Physics faculty should start thinking about how they can go beyond just a traditional lecture. There are some easy things they can do (or students can ask them to do) to make learning more engaging. First, make students read the book outside of class, rather than in class. If your lecture merely covers the material in the textbook, why make students buy the textbook? Now, you may put a different spin on the material, but still. You're merely repeating what students can read on their own. Let them do that on their own time, and use the classroom for experiments and demonstrations and so forth.
ISS

Buzz Aldrin To NASA: Retire the International Space Station ASAP To Reach Mars (space.com) 349

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: If NASA and its partner agencies are serious about putting boots on Mars in the near future, they should pull the plug on the International Space Station (ISS) at the earliest opportunity, Buzz Aldrin said. "We must retire the ISS as soon as possible," the former Apollo 11 moonwalker said Tuesday (May 9) during a presentation at the 2017 Humans to Mars conference in Washington, D.C. "We simply cannot afford $3.5 billion a year of that cost." Instead, Aldrin said, NASA should continue to hand over activities in low Earth orbit (LEO) to private industry partners. Indeed, the space agency has been encouraging that move by awarding contracts to companies such as SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Boeing to ferry cargo and crew to and from the ISS. Bigelow Aerospace, Axiom Space or other companies should build and operate LEO space stations that are independent of the ISS, he added. Ideally, the first of these commercial outposts would share key orbital parameters with the station that China plans to have up and running by the early 2020s, to encourage cooperation with the Chinese, Aldrin said. Establishing private outposts in LEO is just the first step in Aldrin's plan for Mars colonization, which depends heavily on "cyclers" -- spacecraft that move continuously between two cosmic destinations, efficiently delivering people and cargo back and forth.
Medicine

A Baffling Brain Defect Is Linked to Gut Bacteria, Scientists Say (sciencealert.com) 55

Gina Kolata from The New York Times writes about a baffling brain disorder that is linked to a particular type of bacteria living in the gut (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternate source) The new study, published on Wednesday in Nature, is among the first to suggest convincingly that these bacteria may initiate disease in seemingly unrelated organs, and in completely unexpected ways. The researchers studied hereditary cerebral cavernous malformations -- blood-filled bubbles that protrude from veins in the brain and can leak blood or burst at any time. When Dr. Mark Kahn, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, began this work, the microbiome was the last thing on his mind. Dr. Kahn and his colleagues studied cerebral cavernous malformations as part of a larger effort to understand the development and function of blood vessels. Three genes have been linked to the disorder, and Dr. Kahn and his colleagues tried to figure out what these mutations really do. The scientists were able to mimic the condition in mice by deleting a gene that is mutated in many patients. A year ago, the scientists moved to a new building, and something unexpected happened. The experimental mice stopped developing the brain malformations. Dr. Kahn's student, Alan T. Tang, had been deleting the gene by injecting a drug into the abdomens of the mice. Sometimes a mouse would get an infection that would lead to an abscess, and bacteria leaked from the gut into the blood. In the new building, only those mice still developed the brain defect. The other gene-deleted mice did not. He and his colleagues finally identified the culprit: Gram-negative bacteria, named for the way they stain, that carry a molecule in their cell walls, a lipopolysaccharide. Without a functioning gene, the lipopolysaccharide can signal veins in the brain to form blood bubbles.
Medicine

Microsoft's Emma Watch Is a Game-Changer For People With Parkinson's (betanews.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: Called "Emma," it is a wrist wearable that can help people suffering with Parkinson's disease. The device is named after the Parkinson's sufferer that helped Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft Research, create the device. What exactly does it do? Well, the incurable disease causes body tremors in those inflicted, and as a result, Emma has very shaky hands. This disease makes it impossible for her to draw straight lines or write legibly. With the wearable on her wrist, however, normal writing and drawing is possible. Remarkably, how it works isn't 100 percent known. "While the wait for a cure continues, Zhang has created what she hopes could be a 'revolutionary' aid for reducing tremors. The Emma Watch uses vibrating motors -- similar to those found in mobile phones -- to distract the brain into focusing on something other than trying to control the patient's limbs. Put simply, Zhang believes Lawton's brain is at war with itself -- half is trying to move her hand, the other half is trying to stop it. The two signals battle and amplify each other, causing the tremors. The device stops that feedback loop," says Microsoft. You will want to watch this video.
Printer

Researchers Devise New Printing Technique To Produce High-Resolution Color Images Without Using Ink (gizmodo.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark have taken inspiration from creatures like butterflies and peacocks, whose wings and feathers create bright, iridescent colors not through light-absorbing pigments, but by bending and scattering light at the molecular level, creating what's known as structural color. The new printing method the team has developed starts with sheets of plastic covered in thousands of microscopic pillars spaced roughly 200 nanometers apart. To get those tiny plastic pillars to produce color, or at least appear to, they're first covered with a thin layer of germanium -- a shiny, grayish-white metalloid material. An ultra-fine laser blasts the germanium until it melts onto each pillar, strategically changing their shape and thickness (Editor's note: original research paper). This is then followed by a protective coating that helps preserves the shape and structure of all those tiny pillars. When light hits this modified plastic surface, the lightwaves bounce around amongst the various pillars, which end up changing their wavelength as they're reflected, producing different colors. The researchers were able to predict what colors would be produced by those nanoscale pillars, and by creating specific patterns, they were able to generate recognizable, high-contrast images.
Transportation

The Intelligent Intersection Could Banish Traffic Lights Forever (arstechnica.com) 305

Jonathan M. Gitlin reports via Ars Technica: With a degree of coordination -- between vehicles, and with traffic infrastructure -- traffic chaos should theoretically be banished, and less congestion means fewer pollutants. Clemson researcher Ali Reza Fayazi has provided a tantalizing glimpse at that future, a proof-of-concept study showing that a fully autonomous four-way traffic intersection is a hundred times more efficient at letting traffic flow than the intersections you and I currently navigate. Because cars don't sit idling at the lights, Fayazi calculated it would also deliver a 19 percent fuel saving. Fayazi designed an intersection controller for a four-way junction that tracks vehicles and then uses an algorithm to control their speeds such that they can all pass safely through the junction with as few coming to a halt as possible. What makes the study particularly interesting is that Fayazi demonstrated it by interspersing his own physical car among the simulated traffic -- the first use of a vehicle-in-the-loop simulator for this kind of problem. Fayazi drove his real car at the International Transportation Innovation Center in Greenville, South Carolina, where a geofenced area was set up to use as the simulated intersection. Using GPS sensors, his car was just as visible to the intersection controller as the virtual autonomous vehicles that were also populating its memory banks. Ideally, Fayazi says he'd like to have tested it with an autonomous vehicle, but they are hard to come by, particularly in South Carolina. Instead, the intersection controller directly governed his speed in the study (as it did with the simulated vehicles), and this controller sent him a speed to maintain in order to safely cross the junction. Over the course of an hour, the intelligent intersection only required 11 vehicles to come to a complete halt. By contrast, when the simulation was run with a traffic light instead, more than 1,100 vehicles had to stop at the junction over the course of an hour.
Space

The Vatican Invites World's Leading Scientists To Discuss Cosmology (independent.co.uk) 305

In 2014, Pope Francis declared that God is not "a magician with a magic wand" and that evolution and the Big Bang theory are real. Now, the Vatican has sent an invitation to the world's leading scientists and cosmologists to try and understand the Big Bang. The Independent reports: Astrophysicists and other experts will attend the Vatican Observatory to discuss black holes, gravitational waves and space-time singularities as it honors the late Jesuit cosmologist considered one of the fathers of the idea that the universe began with a gigantic explosion. The conference honoring Monsignor George Lemaitre is being held at the Vatican Observatory, founded by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 to help correct the notion that the Roman Catholic Church was hostile to science. In 1927, Lemaitre was the first to explain that the receding of distant galaxies was the result of the expansion of the universe, a result he obtained by solving equations of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Lemaitre's theory was known as the "primeval atom," but it is more commonly known today as the big-bang theory. The head of the Vatican Observatory, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, says Lemaitre's research proves that you can believe in God and the big-bang theory.

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