First time accepted submitter GrimAndBearIt writes "NASA's Curiosity rover is poised to settle years of debate on the question of atmospheric methane on Mars, which would be a sign of microbial life. With parts per trillion sensitivity, it's not so much a question of whether the rover will be able to smell trace amounts of methane, but rather a question of how much. NASA has announced that Grotzinger's team will discuss atmospheric measurements at a briefing on 2 November. If the rover has detected methane at sufficiently high concentration, or exhibiting temporal variations of the kind that suggests microbial activity, then it will surely motivate a desire to identify and map the sources."
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Zothecula writes "For people who are unable to walk under their own power, exoskeletons offer what is perhaps the next-best thing. The devices not only let their users stand, but they also move their legs for them, allowing them to walk. While groups such as Berkeley Bionics, NASA, Rex Bionics, and ReWalk are all working on systems, Nashville's Vanderbilt University has just announced the development of its own exoskeleton. It is claimed to offer some important advantages over its competitors."
willith writes "I was recently given the opportunity to spend several hours on the floor of Historic Mission Operations Control Room #2, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. MOCR2 was used to control almost manned Gemini and Apollo mission, including Apollo 11 & 13. More, my tour guide was none other than famous Apollo mission controller Sy Liebergot, one of the fellows behind the solution that saved Apollo 13. I go in-depth on the role of the flight controller during Apollo, and focus on how and why Mission Control functioned, and I spend a lot of time talking about the consoles and how they worked. The feature includes a ton of anecdotes and stories from Mr. Liebergot about mission control in general, and about what he did during Apollo 12 & 13 specifically. I also put together a supplemental report that goes through each and every station and describes their Apollo-era layout."
chicksdaddy writes "The steady drumbeat of disturbing news about vulnerable, IP enabled medical devices continues this week, after medical device maker Hospira said it has issued a voluntary recall of its Symbiq-brand drug infusion pumps after discovering a software error that may cause touch interfaces on the pumps to not respond to user touches or to display dosage information that is inaccurate. The problem was detected in around 1.5% of Symbiq One Channel and Two Channel Infusers (model numbers 16026 and 16027), but could potentially affect 'all Symbiq infusion systems currently in the field.' The software bug could result in 'a delayed response and or the screen registering a different value from the value selected by the user,' the company said in a statement."
SchrodingerZ writes "The now decommissioned Space Shuttle Enterprise appears to have been damaged by super storm Sandy, as it blew through New York City. The shuttle is currently on display on the deck of the USS Intrepid, as part of the Sea, Air, and Space museum on pier 86. The storm tore through the shuttle's inflatable pavilion which housed it, leaving a deflated mess over the space craft. It appears that the pavilion has damaged the vertical stabilizer on the tail of the craft. The museum has yet to comment on the situation. This is not the first time the Enterprise has been damaged however. As it was being towed through Jamaica Bay en route to its new home in Manhattan, the barge was hit by wind and forced the spacecraft's wingtip into a railroad bridge pylon ."
concealment writes in with a story about a man who has been crowned the world's happiest. "Tibetan monk and molecular geneticist Matthieu Ricard is the happiest man in the world according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin. The 66-year-old's brain produces a level of gamma waves — those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory — never before reported in neuroscience. The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard's brain produces a level of gamma waves — those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory — 'never reported before in the neuroscience literature,' Davidson said. The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain's left pre-frontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, researchers believe."
coondoggie writes "NASA today said it would work with a team of researchers on a three-year, $1.8 project to build gyroscope systems that are more than 1,000 times as sensitive as those in use today. The Fast Light Optical Gyroscope project will marry researchers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center; the US Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center and Northwestern University to develop gyroscopes that could find their way into complex spacecraft, aircraft, commercial vehicles or ships in the future."
An anonymous reader writes "Mathematician Benjamin K. Tippett has written a fascinating and deadpan paper (Pdf) giving insights into Cthulhu. A 'Bubble' of warped Space-Time makes alarmingly consistent sense of the dead God's cyclopean city under the sea. From the paper: 'We calculate the type of matter which would be required to generate such exotic spacetime curvature. Unfortunately, we determine that the required matter is quite unphysical, and possess a nature which is entirely alien to all of the experiences of human science. Indeed, any civilization with mastery over such matter would be able to construct warp drives, cloaking devices, and other exotic geometries required to conveniently travel through the cosmos.'"
First time accepted submitter Kwyj1b0 writes "I.B.M's Watson is headed to the Cleavland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University for training. Clinicians and students will answer and correct Watson's questions, in an attempt to crowdsource its education. From the article: '“Hopefully, we can contribute to the training of this technology,” said Dr. James K. Stoller, chairman of the Education Institute at Cleveland Clinic. The goal, he added, was for Watson to become a “very smart assistant.” Part of Watson’s training will be to feed it test questions from the United States Medical Licensing Exam, which every human student must pass to become a practicing physician. The benefit for Watson should be to have a difficult but measurable set of questions on which to measure the progress of its machine-learning technology.'"
MTorrice writes "Researchers have demonstrated a way to make high performance, flexible integrated circuits using almost exclusively standard equipment and materials already needed to make conventional chips. Such a method could allow electronics manufacturers to build new devices, such as smart medical implants and flexible displays, without needing to significantly overhaul current production protocols. The method, developed by researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, started with researchers patterning integrated circuits on silicon wafers using a standard production line. They then cut off the top 20 to 30 micrometers of the wafer using a thin wire—like slicing a block of cheese—to produce a thin, flexible platter of circuits."
hessian sends this quote from a Case Western Reserve University news release: "New research shows a simple reason why even the most intelligent, complex brains can be taken by a swindler's story – one that upon a second look offers clues it was false. When the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis, a pivotal study led by a Case Western Reserve University researcher shows (abstract). ... At rest, our brains cycle between the social and analytical networks. But when presented with a task, healthy adults engage the appropriate neural pathway, the researchers found. The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time. The work suggests that established theories about two competing networks within the brain must be revised. More, it provides insights into the operation of a healthy mind versus those of the mentally ill or developmentally disabled."
sciencehabit writes with this excerpt from Science: "The dungeon is pitch black — until the dungeon master blazes a torch, confirming your worst fears. A Beholder monster lurches at you, its eyeballs wriggling on tentacular stems. As you prepare to wield your Vorpal sword, where do you focus your gaze: at the monster's head or at its tentacle eyes? Such a quandary from the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons may seem like a meaningless trifle, but it holds within it the answer to a tricky scientific question: Do people focus their gaze on another person's eyes or on the center of the head? In fact, a father-son team has used D&D monsters to show that most people will look to another creature's eyes, even if they're not attached to a head."
Zothecula writes "NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has completed its first soil analysis of the Red Planet. The unmanned explorer used an advanced, miniaturized X-ray diffraction instrument that is part of the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) of its internal laboratory. The soil, collected at a site designated 'Rocknest' in Gale Crater, reveals that Martian soil is a weathered volcanic type similar to soils found in the Hawaiian Islands." And, of course, a shot of the area because it looks cool.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Vaccines for most diseases typically work for years or decades but with the flu, next fall it will be time to get another dose. Now Carl Zimmer writes that a flurry of recent studies on the virus has brought some hope for a change as flu experts foresee a time when seasonal flu shots are a thing of the past, replaced by long-lasting vaccines. 'That's the goal: two shots when you're young, and then boosters later in life' says Dr. Gary Nabel, predicting that scientists would reach that goal before long: 'in our lifetime, for sure, unless you're 90 years old.' Today's flu vaccines protect people from the virus by letting them make antibodies in advance but a traditional flu vaccine can protect against only flu viruses with a matching hemagglutinin protein. If a virus evolves a different shape, the antibodies cannot latch on, and it escapes destruction. Scientists have long wondered whether they could escape this evolutionary cycle with a universal flu vaccine that would to attack a part of the virus that changes little from year to year so now researchers are focusing on target antigens which are highly conserved between different influenza A virus subtypes. 'Universal vaccination with universal vaccines would put an end to the threat of global disaster that pandemic influenza can cause,' says Dr. Sara Gilbert."
ananyo writes "The world's largest scientific project is threatened with further delays, as agencies struggle to complete the design and sign contracts worth hundred of millions of euros with industrial partners. Sources familiar with the project warn that the complex system for buying ITER's many pieces could put the fusion reactor project even further behind schedule. Rather than providing cash, ITER's partners have pledged 'in kind' contributions of pieces of the machine. Magnets, instruments and reactor sections will arrive from around the world to be cobbled together at the central site in St-Paul-lès-Durance in southern France. Because no one body holds the purse strings, designs for the machine's components face a tortuous back-and-forth between the central ITER Organization and national 'domestic agencies', which ensure that local companies secure contracts for ITER's components. Managers say the project remains on schedule. But it would hardly be the first time that ITER had been delayed or faced budgetary difficulties."