turing0 writes "As a former bioinformatics researcher and CTO I have some sad news to start 2012 with. Though I am sure not a surprise to the Slashdot crowd, it appears we — or our demographic — made up more than 75% of the Google Health userbase. Today marks the end of Google Health. (Also see this post for the official Google announcement and lame excuse for the reasoning behind this myopic decision.) The decision of Google to end this excellent service is a fantastic example of what can represent the downside of cloud services for individuals and enterprises. The cloud is great when and while your desired application is present — assuming it's secure and robust — but you are at the mercy of the provider for longevity." (Read more, below.)
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First time accepted submitter ZoCool writes "No doubt to the deep relief of the Russian and Arianespace engineers, and the investors buying their services, Anatoly Zac's RussianSpaceWeb reports that on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, at 21:09 Moscow Time (17:09 GMT) a Soyuz-2-1a launch vehicle carrying the third tranche of the 2nd Generation Globalstar network, in the form of 6 satellites, was delivered successfully to orbit. This launch from Baikonur's Site 31, pad 6, has broken the recent unusual string of malfunctions that has bugged this usually rock solid workhorse. I imagine that the troops in the space station might be breathing a little more easily too, as the Soyuz is the backbone of the world's space missions these days, when it comes to medium lift."
MrSeb writes "For the last six months, orangutans — those great, hairy, orange apes that go 'ook' a lot — at Milwaukee Zoo have been playing games and watching videos on Apple's iPad, but now their keepers and the charity Orangutan Outreach want to go one step further and enable ape-to-ape video chat via Skype or FaceTime. 'The orangutans loved seeing videos of themselves — so there is a little vanity going on — and they like seeing videos of the orangutans who are in the other end of the enclosure,' Richard Zimmerman of Orangutan Outreach said. 'So if we incorporate cameras, they can watch each other.' And thus the idea of WiFi video chat between orangutans — and eventually between zoos — was born. It might seem like folly, but putting (ruggedized!) iPads into the hands of apes could really revolutionize our understanding of great ape behavior."
astroengine writes "The term 'Earth-like worlds' is a vastly overused and hopelessly incorrect term that is popularly bandied about to explain some recent exoplanet discoveries. Although some of the distant small worlds being discovered by the Kepler space telescope may be of Earth-like size, orbiting their sun-like star in Earth-like orbits, calling those worlds 'Earth-like' gives the impression these alien planets are filled with liquid water. It turns out that we have only a vague idea as to where Earth got its water, and it will take a long time until we have any hint of this life-giving resource on worlds orbiting stars thousands of light-years away."
Kilrah_il writes "A recent New England Journal of Medicine editorial talks about the mini-mental state examination — a standardized screening test for cognitive impairment. After years of being widely used, the original authors claim to own copyright on the test and 'a licensed version of the MMSE can now be purchased [...] for $1.23 per test. The MMSE form is gradually disappearing from textbooks, Web sites, and clinical tool kits.' The article goes on to describe the working of copyright law and various alternative licenses, including GNU Free Documentation License, and ends with the following suggestion: 'We suggest that authors of widely used clinical tools provide explicit permissive licensing, ideally with a form of copyleft. Any new tool developed with public funds should be required to use a copyleft or similar license to guarantee the freedom to distribute and improve it, similar to the requirement for open-access publication of research funded by the National Institutes of Health.'"
MrSeb writes "Altering the very fabric of technophilic society, a multinational team of material scientists have created electric circuits and transistors out of cotton fibers (abstract). Two kinds of transistor were created: a field-effect transistor (FET), much like the transistors found in your computer's CPU; and an electrochemical transistor, which is similar but capable of switching at lower voltages, and thus better suited for wearable computers. Cotton itself is an insulator, but by using various coatings, the team from Italy, France, and the United States was able to make conductor and semiconductor cotton 'wires' that retained most of their flexibility. The immediate use-cases are clothes with built-in sensors (think radiation or heartbeat monitors), but ultimately, think of how many thousands of interconnections are in every piece of cotton clothing — you could make a fairly powerful computer!"
PolygamousRanchKid writes "China plans to launch space labs and manned ships and prepare to build space stations over the next five years, according to a plan released Thursday that shows the country's space program is gathering momentum. China's space program has already made major breakthroughs in a relatively short time, although it lags far behind the United States and Russia in space technology and experience. The country will continue exploring the moon using probes, start gathering samples of the moon's surface, and 'push forward its exploration of planets, asteroids and the sun.' Some elements of China's program, notably the firing of a ground-based missile into one of its dead satellites four years ago, have alarmed American officials and others who say such moves could set off a race to militarize space. That the program is run by the military has made the U.S. reluctant to cooperate with China in space, even though the latter insists its program is purely for peaceful ends."
Harperdog writes "Here's an in-depth analysis of what constitutes defense R&D spending and how some of those projects are classified. From the article: 'But much of what transpires in the name of military research and development is not research in the sense that it produces scientific and technical knowledge widely applicable inside and outside the Defense Department. A large part of defense R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.'"
Hugh Pickens writes "Dr. Ken Murray, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at USC, writes that doctors don't die like the rest of us. What's unusual about doctors is not how much treatment they get when faced with death themselves, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves because they know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. 'Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call "futile care" being performed on people,' writes Murray. 'What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly, "Promise me if you find me like this that you'll kill me."' Feeding into the problem are unrealistic expectations of what doctors can accomplish. Many people think of CPR as a reliable lifesaver when, in fact, the results are usually poor. If a patient suffers from severe illness, old age, or a terminal disease, the odds of a good outcome from CPR are infinitesimal, while the odds of suffering are overwhelming."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The FDA recognized, 35 years ago, that feeding animals low-doses of certain antibiotics used in human medicine — namely, penicillin and tetracyclines — could promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria capable of infecting people who eat meat, and proposed to withdraw approval for the use of those antibiotics in animal feed. Instead of acting upon the proposal, the FDA has now withdrawn it. Although admitting that it continues to have 'concerns' about the safety of the use of antibiotics in animal feed, the FDA says that it will just continue to rely on 'voluntary self-policing' by the industry, the same method which hasn't worked out too well during the past 35 years, as antibiotic use in livestock and antibiotic resistance have continued to rise throughout the entire period."
DrHeasley writes "BT corn, which contains the DNA for Bacillus thuringensis toxin, was once hailed as the final solution for insect predators on this valuable crop. Now it turns out that insects, and evolution, are smarter than we thought, and the corn that contains the built in pesticide is no longer reliably protected."
PolygamousRanchKid writes "December 21, 2012 marks the end of the current cycle of the Mayan 'Long Count' calendar. And while this has had some fearful types preparing for the end of the world, others have been preparing to travel. The Mexican government is expecting 52 million tourists as part of their "Mundo Maya 2012," campaign to visit the five regions — Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Campeche, over the next 12 months. So, if you're wondering where to spend the last tourist dollars you'll have as a breathing human being or just want to see the looks on those faces when December 21 comes and goes uneventfully, President Felipe Calderon hopes you'll choose Mexico."
smitty777 writes "The recent discovery of the Tower of Babel stele by a team of scholars shows what might be the earliest depiction of the ancient Tower of Babel. The stele belongs to Martin Schøyen, who also owns a large number of pictographic and cuneiform tablets, some of the earliest known written documents. The tablet (reconstruction) depicts King Nebuchadnezzar II, under whom Babylon was a cultural leader in astronomy, mathematics, literature and medicine. It's also interesting to note the somewhat recent Slashdot article linking the common ancestry of languages to this area."
theodp writes "On IBM's Smarter Planet, at least as envisioned in Big Blue's recently-granted patent for 'providing consumers with incentives for healthy eating habits', the FDA will team up with employers and insurers to determine your final paycheck based upon what you eat. IBM explains that whether a given food item is considered healthy may vary based on a number of factors, including 'individual health histories, family health histories, food intake, exercise routines, medications, and other health related factors', and may even be time dependent ('incentives are greater for consumption of a particular food item during a designated lunch time and less for consumption of the particular food item during other periods of time'). Before being issued, IBM's patent request languished for ten years and was only granted after a Patent Examiner's rejection was overturned on appeal. IBM CEO Sam Palmisano has been a cheerleader for pay-for-monitored-healthy-eating on a national level, which seems to be neatly aligned with the goals of his fellow CEOs on the Business Rountable, who told President Obama in 2009, 'It's very important that we don't have a government [healthcare] plan competing with a private plan and finding out that our employees or the citizens in general could go to a plan that doesn't have the same incentives and requirements and behavioral characteristics to make sure that they do the right things long term'."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In a story that may repeat itself in all mountainous areas dependent on glaciers for their water supply, the glaciers in Peru's Cordillera Blanca mountain range are melting so quickly (PDF) that the water they supply to the arid region is being threatened 20-30 years earlier than expected. Of the time needed for the region to adapt to the coming water shortages, previously thought to be decades, researchers now believe, 'those years don't exist.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered a way to make time stand still — at least when it comes to the yearly calendar. Using computer programs and mathematical formulas, an astrophysicist and an economist have created a new calendar in which each new 12-month period is identical to the one which came before, and remains that way from one year to the next in perpetuity."
astroengine writes "Although we have an entire universe to seek out the proverbial alien needle in a haystack, perhaps looking in our own backyard would be a good place to start. That's the conclusions reached by Paul Davies and Robert Wagner of Arizona State University, anyway. The pair have published a paper in the journal Acta Astronautica detailing how SETI could carry out a low-cost crowdsourcing program (a la SETI@Home) to scour the lunar surface for alien artifacts, thereby gaining clues on whether intelligent aliens are out there and whether they've paid the solar system a visit in the moon's recent history."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Here's a good article about how playing politics with science puts our country at risk — a review of Shawn Otto's book Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America. Today's policy-makers, Otto shows, are increasingly unwilling to pursue many of the remedies science presents. They take one of two routes: deny the science, or pretend the problems don't exist."