Capt.Albatross writes "A couple of months ago, the New York Times published political scientist Andrew Hacker's opinion that teaching algebra is harmful. Today, it has followed up with an article that is clearly intended to indicate the usefulness of basic mathematics by suggesting useful exercises in a variety of 'real-world' topics. While the starter questions in each topic involve formula evaluation rather than symbolic manipulation, the follow-up questions invite readers to delve more deeply. The value of mathematics education has been a (recurring issue on Slashdot)."
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New mareacaspica writes with this snippet from Nature: "Researchers have constructed 3D models of two different insects, in their nymph stage by scanning their fossils with a novel technique called X-ray microtomography. They obtained sections, two centimeters long, and from the sections constructed the models. Such fossils of juvenile insects are very rare during that ancient period, and the research could provide a better understanding not only of insects, but also other animals, as the technique develops." Original Paper.
astroengine writes "A new analysis of recent observations finds evidence for a protoplanetary disk around a red dwarf star plunging in the direction of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Ruth Murray-Clay and Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics did the theoretical work. Stefan Gillessen of the Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics made the observations using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. The red dwarf star will make its closest approach in the summer of 2013, hurtling only 270 billion miles from black hole. (Or roughly 54 solar system diameters, as measured from the furthest edge of the Kuiper belt.) It won't get sucked into the black hole, but it will be flung back along its elliptical orbit out to a distance of a little more than 1/10 light-years."
jamstar7 writes "From the article: 'NASA is reportedly mulling the construction of a floating Moon base that would serve as a launching site for manned missions to Mars and other destinations more distant than any humans have traveled to so far. The Orlando Sentinel reported over the weekend that the proposed outpost, called a "gateway spacecraft," would support "a small astronaut crew and function as a staging area for future missions to the moon and Mars."' This is actually a good idea, using the Moon as a staging base for exploring the cosmos. Once we build manufacturing capability there, why not build spacecraft there? We can build bigger, more spacious craft so as to not lock up future astronauts in a closet for months or years at a time." Moon base isn't quite accurate: it would be a space station at the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange point about 60000 km from the surface of the dark side of the moon.
bdking writes "A typeface family commonly found on the devices installed in many modern cars is more likely to cause drivers to spend more time looking away from the road than an alternative typeface tested in two studies, according to new research from MIT's AgeLab." It seems that the closed letter forms of Grotesque type faces require slightly more time to read than open letter forms of Humanist type faces, just enough that it could be problematic at highway speeds.
bbianca127 writes "A study has found that fast-food logos are branded into the minds of children at an early age, perhaps fueling the U.S.'s obesity epidemic. The study showed children 60 logos from popular food brands and 60 logos from popular non-food brands. Researchers found that, when shown images of fast-food brands, the parts of kids' brains linked with pleasure and appetite lit up. This is concerning because marketers tap into those portions of the brain long before children develop self-control, and most foods marketed to kids are high in calories, sugar, sodium, and fat."
Cutting_Crew writes "Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will attempt a supersonic free fall on October 8th as the worlds highest skydive. According to the Christian Science Monitor 'The current record for world's highest skydive stands at 102,800 feet (31,333 m). It was set in 1960 by U.S. Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger, who serves as an adviser for Baumgartner's mission. If Baumgartner succeeds on Oct. 8, he will break not only that mark but also the sound barrier, becoming the first skydiver ever to fall at supersonic speeds, Red Bull Stratos officials said. During the July 25 jump, Baumgartner's top freefall speed was 537 mph (864 kph) — about as fast as a commercial airliner.' Let's hope that the weather on the 8th is as good as they hope for. It would be awesome to have a real time camera feed from his helmet."
The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers have unveiled what may be the deepest image of the Universe ever created: the Hubble Extreme Deep Field, a 2 million second exposure that reveals galaxies over 13 billion light years away. The faintest galaxies in the images are at magnitude 31, or one-ten-billionth as bright as the faintest object your naked eye can detect. Some are seen as they were when they were only 500 million years old."
ananyo writes with great news for particle physicists and those interested in the field everywhere: "The entire field of particle physics is set to switch to open-access publishing, a milestone in the push to make research results freely available to readers. Particle physics is already a paragon of openness, with most papers posted on the preprint server arXiv. But peer-reviewed versions are still published in subscription journals, and publishers and research consortia at facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider have previously had to strike piecemeal deals to free up a few hundred articles. After six years of negotiation, the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics is now close to ensuring that nearly all particle-physics articles — about 7,000 publications last year — are made immediately free on journal websites. Upfront payments from libraries will fund the access and the contracts will be renegotiated in 2016. The idea of all this maneuvering is to minimize the hassle for the scientists themselves and ensure that every paper is open access. The alternative is the 'author pays' model, where the researchers pay to publish. But that would require all authors to comply — a difficult rule to enforce. The new deal, however, also preserves publishers' profits — for now."
fangmcgee writes "Lab-grown leather apparel could hit the runways in as little as five years—all without harming a hair on a single animal's head, according to Andras Forgacs, co-founder and CEO of Modern Meadow, a Missouri-based startup that's approaching meat-and-leather production from a tissue-bioengineering, rather than farming, point of view. Backed by Breakout Labs, the grant-awarding foundation headed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Modern Meadow seeks to combine regenerative medicine with three-dimensional printing to synthesize leather and ultimately meat."
DevotedSkeptic writes "Curiosity will be getting a software upgrade called Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) which will allow it to take on the go photos to save precious time while exploring our red neighbor. Another interesting feature AGEIS may be able to provide is the ability for Curiosity to call home when it sees something interesting. It won't be a quick upgrade: AEGIS, which has been used on the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity since 2009, will be installed on Curiosity in the next nine to 12 months, Estlin said in an interview with InformationWeek. The AEGIS software, developed by JPL, was named NASA's 'software of the year' in 2011. Opportunity uses the software to take a wide-angle image with a low-resolution camera, then picks out rocks in the image to see if there's something of interest. If so, it takes a high-resolution image using an on-board science camera that's capable of zooming in on the subject. The software has potential beyond picture taking. Its see-and-react code could be adapted to other instruments." There's a paper on the software as used in the Opportunity rover.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "BBC reports that on a robot snake that, guided by a skilled surgeon and designed to get to places doctors are unable to reach without opening a patient up, could help spot and remove tumors more effectively. Robot snakes could be as minimally invasive using body orifices or local incisions as points of entry. 'Surgery is a cornerstone treatment for cancer so new technologies making it even more precise and effective are crucial,' says Safia Danovi from Cancer Research UK. 'Thanks to research, innovations such as keyhole surgery and robotics are transforming the treatment landscape for cancer patients and this trend needs to continue.' Robot snakes could complement a robotic surgical system that has been used for the past decade — the Da Vinci surgical system — that is controlled by a surgeon sitting in a nearby chair and looking at a screen displaying the area of the body where the surgery is taking place. The surgeon manipulates the robot by pressing pedals and moving levers. Natural orifice surgery (warning: pictures of the inside of a person) has the potential to revolutionize surgery in the same way that laparoscopic surgery replaced open surgery. The objective is to enter the abdomen through an internal organ rather than through the skin — e.g. access via the mouth, esophagus and stomach, and then through the stomach wall. 'We are at the earliest stage of establishing the problems and proposing solutions,' says Rob Buckingham of OC Robotics, developer of the robot snake (video). 'Our prototype signals a direction of travel and is a milestone towards exploring a new surgical paradigm.'"
New submitter kelk1 writes "If the size and mass of this gas halo is confirmed, it also could be an explanation for what is known as the 'missing baryon' problem for the galaxy [...] a census of the baryons present in stars and gas in our galaxy and nearby galaxies shows at least half the baryons are unaccounted for [...] Although there are uncertainties, the work by Gupta and colleagues provides the best evidence yet that the galaxy's missing baryons have been hiding in a halo of million-kelvin gas that envelopes the galaxy."
RocketAcademy writes "The Romney-Ryan campaign has released a white paper on space policy, which observers find to be long on criticisms of the Obama Administration but short on specific recommendations. The policy promises 'a robust role for commercial space,' but it's clearly a supporting role: 'NASA will set the goals and lead the way in human space exploration.' When it comes to space, both parties put government ahead of private enterprise. Some see a parallel with the policies which are driving space companies out of California. Newt Gingrich, one of the few politicians who thinks seriously about space, says the policy is a step in the right direction but not enough."
quax writes "In the wake of the Fukushima disaster the nuclear industry again faces massive opposition. Germany even decided to abandon nuclear energy altogether and the future of the industry is under a cloud of uncertainty in Japan. But one thing seems to be here to stay for a very, very long time: radioactive waste that has half-lives measured in thousands of years. But there is a technology under development in Belgium that could change all this: A sub-critical reactor design, driven by a particle accelerator can transmute the nuclear waste into something that goes away in about two hundred years. Could this lead to a revival of the nuclear industry and the reprocessing of spent reactor fuel?"
ericjones12398 writes "Every year, around 250,000 women die due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth. New research developing cheap, portable ultrasounds could help reduce that number. From the article: 'Although diagnostic imaging is scarce in much of the developing world (mostly related to cost and portability), ultrasound imaging is a feasible technology for prototyping in low-resource settings such as developing countries. Indeed, many notable technology giants, such as GE and Siemens, are working on low-cost portable ultrasound models. GE’s Vscan is a handheld, pocket-sized visualization tool that allows for non-invasive ultrasounds. Mobisante, a startup in Seattle, takes portable ultrasound technology one step further with the MobiUS SP1 system, an ultrasound that wirelessly connects to the Internet or a smartphone for viewing results at an affordable price tag. By comparison, the large, clunky ultrasound machine most people associate with hospitals can cost anywhere from $32,000-$160,000.'"
PolygamousRanchKid writes "As the worst drought in half a century has ravaged this year's U.S. corn crop and driven corn prices sky high, the market for alternative feed rations for beef and dairy cows has also skyrocketed. Brokers are gathering up discarded food products and putting them out for the highest bid to feed lot operators and dairy producers, who are scrambling to keep their animals fed. In the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries. Cattlemen are feeding virtually anything they can get their hands on that will replace the starchy sugar content traditionally delivered to the animals through corn. Operators must be careful to follow detailed nutritional analyses for their animals to make sure they are getting a healthy mix of nutrients, animal nutritionists caution. But ruminant animals such as cattle can safely ingest a wide variety of feedstuffs that chickens and hogs can't. The candy and cookies are only a small part of a broad mix of alternative feed offerings for cattle. Many operators use distillers grains, a byproduct that comes from the manufacture of ethanol."
szyzyg writes "I've created some popular science videos showing how asteroid discoveries have happened over the last few decades. However I've run into a problem with a religious organization which borrowed my video and redubbed it to promote their religious message. Ultimately I filed a DMCA takedown request via YouTube's site, it's as easy as filling in a form and the video was removed. But this organization has since submitted a counterclaim claiming 'under penalty of perjury' that they do in fact have the rights to this work, and YouTube has reinstated the video. It looks like the only way I can pursue this further is to spend the money to take the organization to court and get an injunction, but even if I did so I'd have to pay court costs up front and since they're based in another country I'd have a difficult time actually collecting any money from the other party. It feels like this other group is simply gambling that I won't spend the time and resources to take further legal action, the DMCA is supposed to provide equal protection but the more lawyer you have the more 'equal' you are. So does anyone have any suggestions for how I should proceed here?"
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that Tom Welton, a professor of sustainable chemistry at Imperial College, London, believes that a global shortage of helium means it should be used more carefully — and since helium cools the large magnets inside MRI scanners it is wrong to use it for balloons used at children's parties. 'We're not going to run out of helium tomorrow — but on the 30 to 50 year timescale we will have serious problems of having to shut things down if we don't do something in the meantime,' says Welton. 'When you see that we're literally just letting it float into the air, and then out into space inside those helium balloons, it's just hugely frustrating. It is absolutely the wrong use of helium.' Two years ago, the shortage of helium prompted American Nobel Prize winner Robert Richardson to speak out about the huge amounts of helium wasted every day because the gas is kept artificially cheap by the U.S. government and to call for a dramatic increase in helium's price. But John Lee, chairman of the UK's Balloon Association, insists that the helium its members put into balloons is not depriving the medical profession of the gas. 'The helium we use is not pure,' says Lee. 'It's recycled from the gas which is used in the medical industry, and mixed with air. We call it balloon gas rather than helium for that reason.'"
hessian writes with this news from the New York Times: "Since 2000, Dr. [Steven] Running and his colleagues have monitored how much plant growth covers terra firma, using two NASA satellites in the agency's Earth Observing System. After they crunched the numbers, combining the current monitoring system's data with satellite observations dating back to 1982, they noticed that terrestrial plant growth, also known as net primary production, remained relatively constant. Over the course of three decades, the observed plant growth on dry land has been about 53.6 petagrams of carbon each year, Dr. Running writes in the article. This suggests that plants' overall productivity — including the corn that humans grow and the trees people log for paper products — is changing little now, no matter how mankind tries to boost it, he said."