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Medicine

Alzheimer's Gene Already Shrinking Brain By Age of Three (telegraph.co.uk) 62

schwit1 quotes a report from The Telegraph: The Alzheimer's gene, which dramatically raises the risk of developing dementia, is already affecting carriers by the age of three, shrinking their brains and lowering cognition, a new study suggests. Children who carry the APOEe4 gene mutation, which raises the chance of dementia by 15 fold, were found to do less well in memory, attention and function tests. Areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer's disease, such as the hippocampus and parietal gyri, were also found to be up to 22 percent smaller in volume. [Around 14 percent of people carry the APOEe4 mutation. The research is the first to show that genetic changes which can lead to Alzheimerâ(TM)s are already affecting the brain extremely early in life. Scientists from the University of Hawaii, Yale and Harvard say screening for the gene could help doctors identify which children could benefit from early interventions, such as educational help, preventative treatments, health monitoring and increased exercise. The study involved 1,187 youngsters between the age of three and 20 who took part in genetic tests and brain scans as well as undertaking a series of tests to measure their thinking and memory skills.] According to research from Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), infrequent use of a computer in later life could be an early sign of reduced cognitive ability.
NASA

How President Jimmy Carter Saved The Space Shuttle (blastingnews.com) 237

MarkWhittington writes: Eric Berger has published an account in Ars Technica about how President Jimmy Carter saved the space shuttle program. The article is well worth reading for its detail. In essence, around 1978 the space shuttle program had undergone a crisis with technical challenges surrounding its heat-resistant tiles and its reusable rocket engines and cost overruns. President Carter was not all that enthused about human space flight to begin with, adhering to the since discredited notion that robotic space probes were adequate for exploring the universe. His vice president, Walter Mondale, was a vehement foe of human space flight programs, maintaining that money spent on them were better used for social programs.
Medicine

Obesity Is Three Times As Deadly For Men Than Women, Says Study (telegraph.co.uk) 202

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Telegraph: Researchers at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard universities found in the biggest ever study into weight and death that obesity is three times more deadly for men than women, and that being slightly overweight raises the risk of dying early. Telegraph reports: "Obese people can expect to lose three years of life while the average overweight person will die 12 months sooner than they would have if they were a healthy size. Usually fewer than one in five men will die before the age of 70, but that jumps to nearly one in three for the moderately obese, and eight in 10 for the morbidly obese. In contrast around one in 10 women can expect to die early, with obesity raising the risk to one in seven. While obesity raises the risk of early death by just three per cent for women, it is 10 per cent for men, more than three times as much. Around 61 per cent of adults are currently overweight or obese and the average weight of Britons has been steadily increasingly since the 1970s. In 1975 the average Briton had a BMI of 23, which is considered a healthy weight. But today that has risen to 27, with the average person now overweight. It means that since the 1970s, every person in Briton has roughly gained more than three pounds (1.5kg) per decade. Ten types of cancer are linked to excess weight which can also lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and a range of other health problems. Researchers compiled data from 10.6 million people who took part in 239 studies between 1970 and 2015, in 32 different countries. The study found an increased risk of premature death for people who were underweight, as well as for people classed as overweight." According to a study published in the Lancet in April, obese people now outnumber the underweight population for perhaps the first time in history.
Power

CleanSpace CO Sensor Runs On Freevolt RF Harvesting 110

mspohr writes: A few years ago, a Kickstarter was set up to develop a locator tag powered by free radio frequency (RF) energy harvested from the environment. This was called a scam here on Slashdot and was shut down before it was funded on Kickstarter. However, it now appears that the concept is not as far-fetched as some predicted. A UK company CleanSpace has developed a carbon monoxide (CO) sensor which is powered by free RF. A review of the product has been posted on YouTube. It uses Freevolt technology to keep a battery charged and the CO sensor running. Since they have several thousand of these devices collecting data, they do appear to work and it seems to be in the 'not a scam' department.
Robotics

Parents Upset After Their Boy Was 'Knocked Down and Run Over' By A Security Robot (abc7news.com) 255

An anonymous reader writes from a report via KGO-TV: PSA: Beware of dangerous security robots at the Stanford Shopping Center! After a young boy was "knocked down and run over" by one of the Stanford Shopping Center security robots, the boy's parents want to help prevent others from getting hurt. KGO-TV reports: "They said the machine is dangerous and fear another child will get hurt. Stanford Shopping Center's security robot stands 5' tall and weighs 300 pounds. It amuses shoppers of all ages, but last Thursday, 16-month-old Harwin Cheng had a frightening collision with the robot. 'The robot hit my son's head and he fell down facing down on the floor and the robot did not stop and it kept moving forward,' Harwin's mom Tiffany Teng said. Harwin's parents say the robot ran over his right foot, causing it to swell, but luckily the child didn't suffer any broken bones. Harwin also got a scrape on his leg from the incident." Teng said, "He was crying like crazy and he never cries. He seldom cries." They are concerned as to why the robot didn't detect Harwin. "Garage doors nowadays, we're just in a day in age where everything has some sort of a sensor," shopper Ashle Gerrard said. "Maybe they have to work out the sensors more. Maybe it stopped detecting or it could be buggy or something," shopper Ankur Sharma said. The parents said a security guard told them another child was hurt from the same robot just days before. They're hoping their story will help other parents be more careful the next time they're at the Stanford Shopping Center. The robots are designed by Knightscope and come equipped with self-navigation, infra-red cameras and microphones that can detect breaking glass to support security services.
Cellphones

US Judge Throws Out Cell Phone 'Stingray' Evidence For The First Time (reuters.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: For the first time, a federal judge has suppressed evidence obtained without a warrant by U.S. law enforcement using a stingray, a surveillance device that can trick suspects' cell phones into revealing their locations. U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan on Tuesday ruled that defendant Raymond Lambis' rights were violated when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration used such a device without a warrant to find his Washington Heights apartment. Stingrays, also known as "cell site simulators," mimic cell phone towers in order to force cell phones in the area to transmit "pings" back to the devices, enabling law enforcement to track a suspect's phone and pinpoint its location. The DEA had used a stingray to identify Lambis' apartment as the most likely location of a cell phone identified during a drug-trafficking probe. Pauley said doing so constituted an unreasonable search. The ruling marked the first time a federal judge had suppressed evidence obtained using a stingray, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which like other privacy advocacy groups has criticized law enforcement's use of such devices. "Absent a search warrant, the government may not turn a citizen's cell phone into a tracking device," Pauley wrote. FBI Special Agent Daniel Alfin suggests in a report via Motherboard that decrypting encrypted data fundamentally alters it, therefore contaminating it as forensic evidence.
NASA

NASA's Juno Spacecraft Sends First Images From Jupiter (sciencedaily.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: After its patriotic arrival at Jupiter on July 4th, the Juno spacecraft has sent its first images of the planet back to earth via the JunoCam. The visible-light camera aboard Juno was first turned on roughly six days ago after Juno placed itself into orbit. "This scene from JunoCam indicates it survived its first pass through Jupiter's extreme radiation environment without any degradation and is ready to take on Jupiter," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "We can't wait to see the first view of Jupiter's poles." The color image, which was obtained on July 10th when the spacecraft was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter, shows atmospheric features on Jupiter, including the famous Great Red Spot, and three of the massive planet's four largest moons -- Io, Europa and Ganymede. "JunoCam will continue to take images as we go around in this first orbit," said Candy Hansen, Juno co-investigator from the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona. "The first high-resolution images of the planet will be taken on August 27 when Juno makes its next close pass to Jupiter."
Earth

Honda Unveils First Hybrid Motor Without Heavy Rare Earth Metals (engadget.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes: Honda has unveiled its new hybrid motor this week that doesn't use heavy rare earth metals like dysprosium and terbium -- though it still does contain neodymium. The motor was co-developed alongside Daido Steel and will use their magnets in replace of the rare earth metals because they cost 10 percent less and weigh 8 percent less. Honda is the first automaker to develop a hybrid motor that doesn't use heavy rare earth metals. The company says the new engines will reduce its reliance on the metals that are primarily supplied by China. They're expected to make their debut in the compact Freed minivan this fall, a vehicle that is already on the road in Asia.
Medicine

Study Shows Thumb-Sucking and Nail-Biting Can Be Good For Kids 75

HughPickens.com writes: Perri Klass M.D. writes in the NYT that according to a new study of children aged 5 to 11, thumb-suckers and nail-biters were less likely to have positive allergic skin tests later in life. In the study, parents were asked about their children's nail-biting and thumb-sucking habits when the children were 5, 7, 9 and 11 years old. skin testing for allergic sensitization to a range of common allergens including dust mites, grass, cats, dogs, horses and common molds was done when the children were 13 years old, and then later when they were 32. The study found that children who frequently sucked a thumb or bit their nails were significantly less likely to have positive allergic skin tests both at 13 and again at 32. Children with both habits were even less likely to have a positive skin test than those with only one of the habits. The question of such a connection arose because of the so-called hygiene hypothesis, an idea originally formulated in 1989, that there may be a link between atopic disease -- the revved-up action of the immune system responsible for eczema, asthma and allergy -- and a lack of exposure to various microbes early in life. Some exposure to germs, the argument goes, may help program a child's immune system to fight disease, rather than develop allergies. "The hygiene hypothesis is interesting because it suggests that lifestyle factors may be responsible for the rise in allergic diseases in recent decades," says Robert J. Hancox. "Obviously hygiene has very many benefits, but perhaps this is a downside. The hygiene hypothesis is still unproven and controversial, but this is another piece of evidence that it could be true." Although the results do not suggest that kids should take up these habits, the findings do suggest the habits help protect against allergies that persist into adulthood.
NASA

New Dwarf Planet Discovered In Outer Solar System (seeker.com) 119

astroengine quotes a report from Seeker: Astronomers have found another Pluto-like dwarf planet located about 20 times farther away from the sun than Neptune. The small planet, dubbed 2015 RR245, is estimated to be about 435 miles in diameter and flying in an elliptical, 700-year orbit around the sun. At closest approach, RR245 will be about 3.1 billion miles from the sun, a milestone it is expected to next reach in 2096. At its most distant point, the icy world is located about 7.5 billion miles away. It was found by a joint team of astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) on Maunakea, Hawaii, in images taken in September 2015 and analyzed in February. The discovery was announced on Monday in the Minor Planet Electronic Circular.
Businesses

Can Tech Workers Skip The Olympics As Easily As Athletes? (networkworld.com) 93

netbuzz writes: [Network World reports:] "Golfer Jordan Spieth announced this morning that he will not play in the Olympics, citing Zika, meaning the world's top four players in his sport have now opted out of going to Brazil. They're self-employed and answer to no one. But what of the rank-and-file employees who work for major technology companies sending large contingents to Brazil? Are they being asked -- or compelled -- to ignore the risks? Conversely, could women of child-bearing age be denied the opportunity to go at an employer's discretion?" Major vendors like Cisco and GE say they're not making anyone go, though at least one expert says that doing so wouldn't necessarily be a violation of employment law. When asked if anyone declined to go, a Cisco spokesperson said via email: "We're not in a position to confirm whether employees have opted out (that is between them and their manager), but we provide for that option." GE provided a similar response, saying, "No GE employees have opted out of going, but GE employees are free to opt out at any time." Patricia Pryor, an attorney at Jackson Lewis P.C. in Cincinnati who has addressed these issues in a piece for The National Law Review earlier this year, was asked by Network World as well. She says: "Employers are wise to be flexible with travel requirements to Zika-infested areas when they can and when doing so is reasonable. However, there are some jobs where the purpose of the job/or the essential functions of the job require travel to these areas. If it is not reasonable or possible to delay travel to the area, an employer generally can require employees to travel."
Medicine

A Medical Mystery of the Best Kind: Major Diseases Are In Decline (nytimes.com) 321

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from the New York Times: Something strange is going on in medicine. Major diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, are waning in wealthy countries, and improved diagnosis and treatment cannot fully explain it...it looks as if people in the United States and some other wealthy countries are, unexpectedly, starting to beat back the diseases of aging. The leading killers are still the leading killers -- cancer, heart disease, stroke -- but they are occurring later in life, and people in general are living longer in good health.
The Times cites one researcher's pet theory that the cellular process of aging itself may be gradually changing in humans' favor.
Space

Has Physics Gotten Something Really Important Really Wrong? (npr.org) 387

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from NPR: Some researchers now see popular ideas like string theory and the multiverse as highly suspect. These physicists feel our study of the cosmos has been taken too far from what data can constrain with the extra "hidden" dimensions of string theory and the unobservable other universes of the multiverse... it all adds up to muddied waters and something some researchers see as a "crisis in physics."
The article quotes Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin, the authors of a new book arguing that "Science is corrupted when it abandons the discipline of empirical validation or dis-confirmation. It is also weakened when it mistakes its assumptions for facts and its ready-made philosophy for the way things are." And according to this analysis of the book, what they're proposing is "to take a giant philosophical step back and see if a new and more promising direction can be found. For the two thinkers, such a new direction can be spelled out in three bold claims about the world. There is only one universe. Time is real. Mathematics is selectively real."
United States

Insect-Devouring Bats Now Welcomed in New York (nytimes.com) 115

Slashdot reader HughPickens.com shares an article from the New York Times: The town of North Hempstead on Long Island has approved the construction of bat houses in several parks to attract more bats to the area because despite their less-than-desirable reputation, bats possess a remarkable ability to control insects, especially disease-carrying mosquitoes. "Bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour," says Judi Bosworth. "That's extraordinary. A pesticide couldn't do that." As mosquito season heats up, bringing with it the threat of the West Nile and Zika viruses, the bats make very welcome neighbors.

[T]he Asian tiger mosquito is found on Long Island and is capable of transmitting Zika in a laboratory setting, and as of October, 490 cases of West Nile and 37 deaths resulting from it have been recorded in New York since 2000. "If you minimize the mosquito population you minimize the possible incidence of the Zika virus," says Larry Schultz. "If you reduce the mosquito population, you make parks more accessible."

"Bats really have been very maligned," says Bosworth -- noting they don't really swoop down on your head and get tangled in your hair.
Programming

Assembly Code That Took America to the Moon Now Published On GitHub (qz.com) 74

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "The code that took America to the moon was just published to GitHub, and it's like a 1960s time capsule," reports Quartz. Two lines of code include the comment "# TEMPORARY, I HOPE HOPE HOPE," and there's also a quote from Shakespeare's play Henry VI. In addition, the keyboard and display system program is named PINBALL_GAME_BUTTONS_AND_LIGHT, and "There's also code that appears to instruct an astronaut to 'crank the silly thing around.'"

A former NASA intern uploaded the thousands of lines of assembly code to GitHub, working from a 2003 transcription made from scans inherited by MIT from a Colorado airplane pilot, and developers are already using GitHub to submit funny issue tickets for the 40-year-old code -- for example, "Extension pack for picking up Matt Damon". Another issue complains that "A customer has had a fairly serious problem with stirring the cryogenic tanks with a circuit fault present." Because this issue succinctly describes the Apollo 13 mission in 1970, the issue has been marked "closed".

Government

Is A Rational Nation Ruled By Science A Terrible Idea? (newscientist.com) 609

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from Jeffrey Guhin, an assistant professor of sociology at UCLA: Imagine a future society in which everything is perfectly logical. What could go wrong...? Last week, US astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson offered up the perfect example of scientism when he proposed the country of Rationalia, in which "all policy shall be based on the weight of evidence". Tyson is a very smart man, but this is not a smart idea. It is even, we might say, unreasonable and without sufficient evidence... employing logic to consider the concept reveals that there could be no such thing...

First, experts usually don't know nearly as much as they think they do. They often get it wrong, thanks to their inherently irrational brains that -- through overconfidence, bubbles of like-minded thinkers, or just wanting to believe their vision of the world can be true -- mislead us and misinterpret information... And second, science has no business telling people how to live. It's striking how easily we forget the evil that following "science" can do. So many times throughout history, humans have thought they were behaving in logical and rational ways, only to realize that such acts have yielded morally heinous policies that were only enacted because reasonable people were swayed by "evidence".

Space

How Richard Feynman's Diagrams Almost Saved Space (quantamagazine.org) 42

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a fond remembrance of Richard Feynman written by Nobel prize-winner Frank Wilczek, describing not only the history of dark energy and field theory, but how Feynman's influential diagrams "embody a deep shift in thinking about how the universe is put together... a beautiful new way to think about fundamental processes". Richard Feynman looked tired when he wandered into my office. It was the end of a long, exhausting day in Santa Barbara, sometime around 1982... I described to Feynman what I thought were exciting if speculative new ideas such as fractional spin and anyons. Feynman was unimpressed, saying: "Wilczek, you should work on something real..."

Looking to break the awkward silence that followed, I asked Feynman the most disturbing question in physics, then as now: "There's something else I've been thinking a lot about: Why doesn't empty space weigh anything?"

Feynman replied "I once thought I had that one figured out. It was beautiful..." then launched into a "surreal" monologue about how "there's nothing there!" But Wilczek remembers that "The calculations that eventually got me a Nobel Prize in 2004 would have been literally unthinkable without Feynman diagrams, as would my calculations that established a route to production and observation of the Higgs particle." His article culminates with a truly beautiful supercomputer-generated picture showing gluon field fluctuations as we now understand them today, and demonstrating the kind of computer-assisted calculations which in coming years "will revolutionize our quantitative understanding of nuclear physics over a broad front."
NASA

First Water Clouds Reported Outside The Solar System (scientificamerican.com) 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: For the first time ever, astronomers have found strong evidence of water clouds on a body outside the solar system. New observations of a frigid object called WISE 0855, which lies 7.2 light-years from Earth, suggest that the "failed star" has clouds of water, or water ice, in its atmosphere, the researchers said. "We would expect an object that cold to have water clouds, and this is the best evidence that it does," study lead author Andrew Skemer, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement released by the university. Scientists discovered WISE 0855 in 2014, using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. A later paper in 2014 (co-authored by Skemer) uncovered some evidence of water clouds in the object's atmosphere, based on limited photometric data (how bright the object is in specific light wavelengths). In the new study, Skemer and his colleagues used the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii to study the brown dwarf for 13 nights. Gemini North is located on the highest Hawaiian mountain (Mauna Kea), at an altitude with little water vapor to interfere with telescopic observations. These observations allowed the astronomers to make the first spectroscopy (light fingerprint) measurements of WISE 0855. The team found water vapor and also confirmed the object's temperature, which is about minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 degrees Celsius, or 250 kelvins).
Movies

George Takei Opposes Gay Sulu In 'Star Trek Beyond' (hollywoodreporter.com) 354

HughPickens.com writes: Seth Abramovitch reports in the Hollywood Reporter that actor and LGBT activist George Takei says Paramount's plans to have Sulu's character in the upcoming 'Star Trek Beyond' the first LGBTQ lead character in Star Trek history is out of step with what creator Gene Roddenberry would have wanted. [Roddenberry] "was a strong supporter of LGBT equality," says Takei, now 79. "But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope -- and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air." Takei says he'd much prefer that Sulu stay straight. "I'm delighted that there's a gay character," says Takei. "Unfortunately, it's a twisting of Gene's creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it's really unfortunate." The timeline logic of the new revelation is enough to befuddle even the most diehard of Trek enthusiasts, as the rebooted trilogy takes place before the action of the original series. In other words, assuming canon orthodoxy, this storyline suggest Sulu would have had to have first been gay and married, only to then go into the closet years later. Simon Pegg, who has co-written the latest Star Trek movie, as well as starring as Scotty, has responded to criticism by the actor George Takei at the film-makers' decision to make the character he used to play openly gay. "He's right, it is unfortunate, it's unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn't featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the 'gay character,' rather than simply for who they are, and isn't that tokenism?" says Pegg. "Our Trek is an alternate timeline with alternate details. Whatever magic ingredient determines our sexuality was different for Sulu in our timeline. I like this idea because it suggests that in a hypothetical multiverse, across an infinite matrix of alternate realities, we are all LGBT somewhere."
Android

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active Fails Consumer Reports Water-Resistance Test (consumerreports.org) 83

An anonymous reader writes: The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is apparently not-so-active. It should be the more durable version of the Galaxy S7 family but apparently it's not. Because of this, Consumer reports is not going to mark it as "Recommended" even though it performed very well in all the other tests it ran. [Jerry Beilinson writes from Consumer Reports:] "Consumer Reports technicians placed a Galaxy S7 Active in a water tank pressurized to 2.12 pounds-per-square-inch, the equivalent of just under five feet of water, and set a timer for 30 minutes. When we removed the phone, the screen was obscured by green lines, and tiny bubbles were visible in the lenses of the front- and rear-facing cameras. The touchscreen wasn't responsive. Following our standard procedure when a sample fails an immersion test, we submitted a second Galaxy S7 Active to the same test. That phone failed as well. After we removed it from the tank, the screen cycled on and off every few seconds, and moisture could be seen in the front and back camera lenses. We also noticed water in the slot holding the SIM card. For a couple of days following the test, the screens of both phones would light up when the phones were plugged in, though the displays could not be read. The phones never returned to functionality." Samsung has said "The Samsung Galaxy S7 active device is one of the most rugged phones to date and is highly resistant to scratches and IP68 certified. There may be an off-chance that a defective device is not as watertight as it should be." Although, given the fact that Consumer Reports tested multiple devices, Samsung could have a widespread issue on their hands. They company said it is investigating the issue.

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