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NASA

Venus May Have Been Habitable, Says NASA (sciencedaily.com) 211

EzInKy writes: Science Daily has an article speculating that Venus may have been habitable which is suggested by NASA climate modeling, which proposes that Venus may have had a shallow liquid-water ocean and habitable surface temperatures for up to two billion years of its early history. Talk about global climate change run amok. Venus may represent a near Earth example of what is in store for the future of our world if we don't make it a number one priority to address. Science Daily reports: "Venus today is a hellish world. It has a crushing carbon dioxide atmosphere 90 times as thick as Earth's. There is almost no water vapor. Temperatures reach 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius) at its surface. Scientists have long theorized that Venus formed out of ingredients similar to Earth's, but followed a different evolutionary path. Measurements by NASA's Pioneer mission to Venus in the 1980s first suggested Venus originally may have had an ocean. However, Venus is closer to the sun than Earth and receives far more sunlight. As a result, the planet's early ocean evaporated, water-vapor molecules were broken apart by ultraviolet radiation, and hydrogen escaped to space. With no water left on the surface, carbon dioxide built up in the atmosphere, leading to a so-called runaway greenhouse effect that created present conditions."
Earth

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight With Up To 200 Meteors Per Hour (latimes.com) 62

The Perseid meteor shower happens ever year in August, but this year it will be especially spectacular with twice as many shooting stars streaking across the night sky. Los Angeles Times reports: "In past years, stargazers would have seen up to one meteor each minute, on average, in a very dark sky. But this year, there's even more reason to stay up late or crawl out of bed in the middle of the night. 'We're expecting 160 to 200 meteors per hour,' said Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. This year's 'outburst' of shooting stars was set into motion more than a year ago, when Jupiter passed closer than usual to the stream of dusty debris left in the wake of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Jupiter's gravity field tugged a large clump of the tiny particles closer to Earth's eventual path. These intense displays happen once a decade or so, Cooke said. The next one won't be until 2027 or 2028." The best viewing experience will be away from the city. Since it takes roughly 30-45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, it's recommended you don't pull out your smartphone or excessively shine your flashlight around. The Los Angeles Times has a neat infographic of the Perseid meteor shower.
Medicine

8 Paralyzed Patients Learn To Walk Again Using Virtual Reality (gizmodo.com) 17

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: In a new study published in Scientific Reports, eight patients paralyzed with spinal cord injuries exhibited partial restoration of muscle control and sensations in their lower limbs following an extensive training regimen with non-invasive brain-controlled robotics and a virtual reality system. Developed by Duke University neuroscience Miguel Nicolelis and colleagues, the system tapped into the patients' own brain activity to simulate full control of their legs, causing the injured parts of their spinal cord to re-engage. Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) work by establishing direct communication between the brain and a computer, which then allows patients to control external devices with their thoughts, including prosthetic limbs or exoskeletons. Earlier this year, Nicolelis showed that it was possible for a monkey to control a wheelchair with its mind, though with an implanted brain chip. In the new experiment, the system non-invasively recorded hundreds of brain patterns emitted by the brain, collecting these motor commands from those signals, and then translating them into movements. During the year long experiment, Nicolelis and his team investigated the ways in which BMI-based training could influence the ability of paraplegics to walk using a brain-controlled exoskeleton. To augment this process, they turned to virtual reality, which assisted with visualization and mind-body awareness. While in a virtual reality environment, and when hooked up to the exoskeletons, the patients could see virtual representations of the own bodies, and even receive tactile feedback.
The Almighty Buck

A Bit of Cash Can Keep Someone Off the Streets For 2 Years or More (sciencemag.org) 618

An anonymous reader writes: If someone is about to become homeless, giving them a single cash infusion, averaging about $1000, may be enough to keep them off the streets for at least 2 years. That's the conclusion of a new study, which finds that programs that proactively assist those in need don't just help the victims -- they may benefit society as a whole. "I think this is a really important study, and it's really well done," says Beth Shinn, a community psychologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who specializes in homelessness but was not involved in the work. Homelessness isn't just bad for its sufferers -- it shortens life span and hurts kids in school -- it's a burden on everyone else. Previous studies have concluded that a single period of homelessness can cost taxpayers $20,000 or more, in the form of welfare, policing, health care, maintaining homeless shelters, and other expenses. To combat homelessness, philanthropic organizations have either tried to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place or help them regain housing after they are already destitute. But there aren't many data on whether giving cash to people on the brink of becoming homeless actually prevents them from living on the street.
Education

Bill Gates Has Spent $1+ Million To Get Mark Zuckerberg's Software In Schools 105

theodp writes: "Today is a milestone for personalized learning," boasted Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post Tuesday. "For the first time, more than 100 new schools will adopt personalized learning tools this school year. [...] A couple of years ago, our engineering team partnered with Summit [a Zuckerberg, Facebook, and Gates Foundation supported charter school network] to build out their personalized learning software platform so more schools could use it. [...] Congratulations to the Summit team, the new Basecamp schools and the entire personalized learning community on an exciting milestone!" Perhaps Zuckerberg should have also given a shout-out to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which awarded a $1.1 million grant last year "to support the Summit BaseCamp Program that will bring Next Generation learning at no cost to all partner schools that are accepted into the program." The New York Times characterized the Facebook-Summit partnership as "more of a ground-up effort to create a national demand for student-driven learning in schools." Before you scoff at that idea, consider that an earlier Gates-Zuckerberg collaboration helped give rise to a national K-12 Computer Science crisis!
Mars

NASA Awards Companies $65 Million To Develop Habitats For Deep Space (techcrunch.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: NASA has committed $65 million to six companies over the course of two years for the purpose of developing and testing deep-space habitats that could be used for future missions to Mars. TechCrunch reports: "It's part of the organization's NEXTStep, an ongoing partnership program under NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems that funds private research into technology for space exploration. Last year's NEXTStep contracts were for a variety of things, but this year they're all on the same track: "deep space habitats where humans will live and work independently for months or years at a time, without cargo supply deliveries from Earth." The lucky companies are all taking slightly different approaches to the problem of deep space habitation." The six companies include Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems and NanoRacks.
Businesses

Google Ventures CEO and Founder Bill Maris Is Leaving (recode.net) 13

According to a report from Recode, the founder and CEO of Google Ventures (GV), Bill Maris, is leaving the firm and its parent company, Alphabet. Recode reports: "Sources say Maris is being replaced by David Krane, a managing partner for the venture arm and one of the earliest corporate communications managers at Google. Maris, an early web entrepreneur, founded Google's venture capital arm in 2009 and quickly built it into a formidable presence in Silicon Valley. In 2015, the firm managed upwards of $2.4 billion in capital. Although GV cut back on investments in Europe and with early stage companies, the firm is still willing to cut checks. For the first six months of this year, it passed Intel Capital as the most active corporate venture arm, according to CB Insights. Under Maris, GV has had some high-profile misses -- most notably, the disastrous app Secret. But those were outweighed by early bets in gigantic startups like Uber, Nest, Slack and Jet.com, which just went to Walmart for $3 billion. Lately, GV has upped its investment in startups working on health and biotech, a strong interest of Maris's." Recode followed up with Maris in a separate report and asked him several questions. When asked why he is leaving, Maris said, "I'm leaving because everything is great."
Communications

Online Drug Sales Triple After Silk Road Closure, Says Report (nbcnews.com) 95

The closure of Silk Road -- a marketplace where internet users could purchase drugs and other illegal goods -- in 2013 has had little to no effect on drug sales. According to a new report from RAND, online drug sales have tripled since the site was shut down. NBC News reports: "Since then, an estimated 50 'cryptomarkets and vendor shops where vendors and buyers find each other anonymously to trade illegal drugs, new psychoactive substances, prescription drugs and other goods and services,' have emerged to fill the void, according to the report. The research, which was commissioned by the Netherlands Ministry of Security and Justice, examined data from January and found dealers in the United States had the largest market share with 35.9 percent, followed by the United Kingdom at 16.1 percent and Australia at 10.6 percent. Marijuana was the top seller in January, accounting for 33 percent of illicit drug sales online, followed by prescription medication at 19 percent and stimulants at 18 percent."
Medicine

Soylent Coffee: Nootropics, Fat, Carbs, Protein -- But Will It Give You The Toots? (arstechnica.com) 148

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Soylent has ventured in a new direction with its latest beverage: breakfast. Called Coffiest, the new offering has the same ingredient makeup, nutritional mix, and 47/33/20 percent fat/carb/protein calorie distribution as the 2.0 premixed version, but it also adds coffee flavoring, 150mg of caffeine per serving, and 75mg of the nootropic L-Theanine. According to Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart, a bottle of Coffiest supplies the drinker with about 400 kilocalories and about 20 percent of the daily recommended values for "all essential vitamins and minerals." "A lot of people are skipping breakfast," Rhinehart told Ars in a phone interview. "We wanted to provide a convenient and also really tasty option for them to enjoy in the morning." Additionally, the company will also be releasing a nutrition bar, called the Soylent Bar. This one will deliver 250 kilocalories per bar, and has a macronutrient breakdown of 38/43/19 percent fat/carb/protein. "Coffee flavor is extremely complex," Rhinehart told Ars. "The direction I gave was a little bit of a more darker, richer roast it's a little darker coffee. A little bit of cocoa powder, just a barely perceptible amount, but it rounds out the flavor nicely." "It was a huge challenge to develop a coffee flavor that would survive processing," he continued. "You can't take any risks with health or safety, so we have to eliminate any sources of contamination from the product and that involves heat. So we had some great food scientists and flavor scientists work out a flavor system that combines natural coffee extracts with an artificial flavor system. And it turned out pretty great." As for the toots, neither Coffiest nor the Soylent Bar will cause consumers to erupt with "horse-killing farts," a complaint made by many of Soylent's customers as well as Ars Technica writer Lee Hutchinson. For those interested in Soylent's latest concoction, Coffiest is available for purchase today at the Soylent site for about $40 for a pack of 12 servings (or $37.05 with a recurring subscription). The Soylent Bar will launch later for about $2 per bar. You can view Coffiest's nutrition facts here.
China

China To UK: 'Golden' Ties At Crucial Juncture Over Nuclear Delay (reuters.com) 170

mdsolar quotes a report from Reuters: China has cautioned Britain against closing the door to Chinese money and said relations were at a crucial juncture after Prime Minister Theresa May delayed signing off on a $24 billion nuclear power project. In China's sternest warning to date over May's surprise decision to review the building of Britain's first nuclear plant in decades, Beijing's ambassador to London said that Britain could face power shortages unless May approved the Franco-Chinese deal. "The China-UK relationship is at a crucial historical juncture. Mutual trust should be treasured even more," Liu Xiaoming wrote in the Financial Times. "I hope the UK will keep its door open to China and that the British government will continue to support Hinkley Point -- and come to a decision as soon as possible so that the project can proceed smoothly." The comments signal deep frustration in Beijing at May's move to delay, her most striking corporate intervention since winning power in the political turmoil which followed Britain's June 23 referendum to leave the European Union.
Mars

NASA Publishes a Thousand Photos of Mars (engadget.com) 62

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Engadget: NASA has released a huge number of high-resolution photos of Mars captured from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRise camera, which has been capturing images of the planet since 2005. The latest dump consists of over a thousand images that can familiarize you with the red planet's many craters, impact sites, dunes, mountains, ice caps and other features. You can view every single photo captured on HiRise's official website. Popular Science mentions that every 26 months or so, Mars and the sun are on the opposite sides of the Earth, allowing MRO to transmit a massive amount of photos from the planet's surface.
Earth

6 Million Americans Exposed To High Levels of Chemicals In Drinking Water, Says Study (businessinsider.com) 166

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: A new study out Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters looked at a national database that monitors chemical levels in drinking water and found that 6 million people were being exposed to levels of a certain chemical that exceed what the Environmental Protection Agency considers healthy. The chemicals, known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, are synthetic and resistant to water and oil, which is why they're used in things like pizza boxes and firefighting foam. They're built to withstand the environment. But PFASs also accumulate in people and animals and have been observationally linked to an increased risk of health problems including cancer. And they can't be easily avoided, like with a water filter, for example. You can view the chart to see the tested areas of the U.S. where PFASs exceed 70 ng/L, which is what's considered a healthy lifetime exposure.
Medicine

University Collects Medical Samples Via Drones In Madagascar (phys.org) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Stony Brook University is using drones to transport medical samples for laboratory analysis to and from remote parts of Madagascar. Phys.Org reports: "The drones are about the size of a large picnic table and have two sets of wings. They take off and land like helicopters and have a flight range of about 40 miles. Blood and other medical samples can be secured in small compartments in the body of the aircraft. Drones are being used in other parts of the developing world to deliver medications and other supplies to remote areas, but Stony Brook officials say theirs is one of the first efforts involving a small unmanned aircraft that actually lands in remote villages and returns quickly to a laboratory. Diagnosis of ailments, like tapeworm disease, which causes life-threatening seizures and contributes to malnutrition in villages on the island, can now be completed within a few hours, said Dr. Peter Small, founding director of Stony Brook's Global Health Institute. To reach these villages, medical workers have had to travel on foot -- there are no roads -- a trip that takes five to nine hours each way. By drone, they can dispatch the medical samples back to Stony Brook's Centre ValBio research station and get lab results within an hour or two, said Patricia Wright, the station's executive director."
Earth

Earth's Resources Used Up at Quickest Rate Ever in 2016 (france24.com) 323

An anonymous reader writes: In just over seven months, humanity has used up a full year's allotment of natural resources such as water, food and clean air -- the quickest rate yet, according to a new report. The point of "overshoot" will officially be reached on Monday, said environmental group Global Footprint Network -- five days earlier than last year. "We continue to grow our ecological debt," said Pascal Canfin of green group WWF, reacting to the annual update. "From Monday August 8, we will be living on credit because in eight months we would have consumed the natural capital that our planet can renew in a year."
Media

NASA: Revolutionary Camera Recording Propulsion Data Completes Test (theverge.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: NASA has created a camera that can film slow motion footage of booming rocket engines with higher dynamic range than ever before. It's called the High Dynamic Range Stereo X camera, or HiDyRS-X (PDF), and late last week the agency released some of its footage to the public for the first time. The three-minute clip shows the most recent test of one of the boosters for NASA's upcoming Space Launch System rocket in unprecedented detail. SLS will use two of these 17-story tall solid rocket boosters, each of which is capable of burning 5.5 tons of propellant per second to create 3.6 million pounds of thrust. The problem when it comes to filming tests like these (and eventually, launches) is that the plumes of fire they produce are extremely bright. This usually leaves camera operators with two choices. They can either expose the footage for the bright plume, which will leave everything else in the shot looking dark and underexposed. Or they can expose for everything else in the shot, which leaves the plume looking bright white and void of detail. The HiDyRS-X camera solves this problem because the camera can capture all of this detail in one shot, and it does this in a fairly clever way. Where regular high-speed cameras usually only captures video one exposure at a time, HiDyRS-X can capture multiple exposures at a time. NASA did however report some failures with the test: the camera's automatic timer failed to go off, thus failing to record the igniting of the rocket, and the pressure being generated from the booster knocked the camera's power source loose.
Earth

Being Lazy Is a Sign of High Intelligence, Study Suggests (independent.co.uk) 254

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Findings from a U.S.-based study seem to support the idea that people with a high IQ get bored less easily, leading them to spend more time engaged in thought. And active people may be more physical as they need to stimulate their minds with external activities, either to escape their thoughts or because they get bored quickly. Researchers from the Florida Gulf Coast University gave a classic test -- dating back three decades -- to a group of students. The 'need for cognition' questionnaire asked participants to rate how strongly they agree with statements such as "I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems," and "I only think as hard as I have to." The researchers, led by Todd McElroy, then selected 30 'thinkers' and 30 'non-thinkers' from the pool of candidates. Over the next seven days both groups wore a device on their wrist which tracked their movements and activity levels, providing a constant stream of data on how physically active they were. Results showed the thinking group were far less active during the week than the non-thinkers. "Ultimately, an important factor that may help more thoughtful individuals combat their lower average activity levels is awareness," said McElroy, according to The British Psychological Society. "Awareness of their tendency to be less active, coupled with an awareness of the cost associated with inactivity, more thoughtful people may then choose to become more active throughout the day."
Education

Immigration Attorneys: Industry Pushes Foreign Labor, Claiming 'US Students Can't Hack It In Tech' (breitbart.com) 472

geek writes: According to Caroline May from Breitbart News, "The tech industry is seeking to bolster its argument for more white-collar foreign tech workers with the insulting claim that the education system is insufficiently preparing Americans for tech fields, according to pro-American worker attorneys with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). [In an op-ed published at The Daily Caller, IRLI attorneys John Miano and Ian Smith take the tech industry to task for its strategy to promote the H-1B visa program -- alleging a labor shortage of apt American tech workers while importing thousands of foreign workers on H1-B visas from countries with lower educational results than the U.S.]" John Miano and Ian Smith write via The Daily Caller: "But if the H-1B program really is meant to correct the failings of our education system, as BigTech's new messaging-push implies, why is it importing so many people from India? According to results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a global standardized math and science assessment sponsored by the OECD, India scored almost dead last among the 74 countries tested. The results were apparently so embarrassing, the country pulled out of the program all together. Not surprisingly then, there isn't a single Indian university that appears within the top 250 spots of the World University Rankings Survey. And unlike American bachelor's degrees, obtaining a bachelor's in India takes only three years of study."
Software

'Faceless Recognition System' Can Identify You Even When You Hide Your Face (vice.com) 55

schwit1 quotes a report from Motherboard: By itself, the ability to instantly identify anyone just by seeing their face already creates massive power imbalances, with serious implications for free speech and political protest. But more recently, researchers have demonstrated that even when faces are blurred or otherwise obscured, algorithms can be trained to identify people by matching previously-observed patterns around their head and body. In a new paper uploaded to the ArXiv pre-print server, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Saarbrucken, Germany demonstrate a method of identifying individuals even when most of their photos are un-tagged or obscured. The researchers' system, which they call the "Faceless Recognition System," trains a neural network on a set of photos containing both obscured and visible faces, then uses that knowledge to predict the identity of obscured faces by looking for similarities in the area around a person's head and body. As for the accuracy of the system, "even when there are only 1.25 instances of the individual's fully-visible face, the system can identify an obscured face with 69.6 percent accuracy; if there are 10 instances of an individual's face, it increases to as high as 91.5 percent."
Education

Positive Link Between Video Games and Academic Performance, Study Suggests (theguardian.com) 100

Here's another report reaffirming that playing online video games doesn't necessarily hinder one with their grades. According to an analysis of data from over 12,000 high school students in Australia, children who play online video games tend to do better in academic science, maths and reading tests. The study says kids who played online games almost every day scored 15 points above average in maths and reading tests and 17 points above average in science. "The analysis shows that those students who play online video games obtain higher scores on Pisa (Program for International Student Assessment -- internationally recognized tests that are administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)) tests, all other things being equal," said Alberto Posso, from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology whp analyzed the data. "When you play online games you're solving puzzles to move to the next level and that involves using some of the general knowledge and skills in maths, reading and science that you've been taught during the day." The Guardian reports: The cause of the association between game playing and academic success is not clear from the research. It is possible that children who are gifted at maths, science and reading are more likely to play online games. Alternatively, it could be that more proficient students work more efficiently, and therefore have more free time, making online gaming a marker of possible academic ability rather than something that actively boosts performance. Posso also looked at the correlation between social media use and Pisa scores. He concluded that users of sites such as Facebook and Twitter were more likely to score 4% lower on average, and the more frequent the social networking usage, the bigger the difference. 78% of the teenagers said they used social networks every day. Other studies have found a link between heavy users of social networking and a low attention span, which is also linked to poorer academic performance, but the evidence is less than conclusive.
Biotech

Scientist Who Sparked 'A Revolution in Chemistry' Dies at 70 (washingtonpost.com) 41

Ahmed Zewail pioneered a technique for using lasers to monitor chemical reactions, which the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said sparked "a revolution in chemistry and adjacent sciences." Slashdot reader Provocateur writes, "The Washington Post has the story...citing his prizewinning research in femtochemistry..."

Slashdot covered Zewail's Nobel prize in 1999, as well as his 2001 claim to have resolved Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. "Mathematics, mechanics, and chemistry were among the fields that gave me a special satisfaction..." he says in the Post's article, adding "for reasons unknown (to me), my mind kept asking 'how' and 'why.' "

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