Jeremiah Cornelius writes "Researchers with the European Food Safety Authority discovered variants of the Cauliflower mosaic virus 35S in the most widely harvested varieties of genetically-modified crops, including Monsanto's RoundupReady Soy and Maze. According to the researchers, Podevin and du Jardin, the particular 'Gene VI' is responsible for a number of possible consequences that could affect human health, including inhibition of RNA silencing and production of proteins with known toxicity. The EFSA is endorsing 'retrospective risk assessment' of CaMV promoter and its Gene VI sequences — in an attempt to give it a clean bill of health. It is unknown if the presence of the hidden viral genes were the result of laboratory contamination or a possible recombinant product of the resultant organism. There are serious implications for the production of GMO for foodstuffs, given either possibility."
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coondoggie writes "A new company intends by 2015 to send a fleet of tiny satellites to mine passing asteroids for high-value metals. Deep Space Industries Inc.'s asteroid mining proposal begins in 2015, when the company plans to send out a squadron of 55lb cubesats, called Fireflies, that will explore near-Earth space for two to six months looking for target asteroids. The company's CEO said, 'Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development. More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year. They can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century — a key resource located near where it was needed. In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century. That is our strategy.'"
MTorrice writes "About 320,000 soldiers returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have struggled with neurological problems associated with traumatic brain injury, according to the Rand Corporation. Some veterans experience symptoms, such as memory loss and anxiety, without noticeable physical signs of brain injury. Now researchers report a possible chemical signature: Levels of a certain lipid spike in the brains of mice exposed to mild explosions (abstract; full article paywalled). This lipid could serve as a way to diagnose people who are at risk of developing neurological disorders after a blast, the scientists say."
An anonymous reader writes "Radical Islamist hackers have been harassing Egyptologist Kate Phizackerley's online journal Egyptological and her blog KV64. Phizackerley and her team finally got tired of it and shut their online work down. As blogger Roger Pearse says, 'A bunch of violent scumbags... who never have contributed in any way to the web, have successfully interfered with the scientific effort of the entire human race... Next year there will be more.' How do we route around damage like this?"
carmendrahl writes "A science historian has collaborated with a publisher to digitize a one-of-a kind collection of chemists' signatures. In the shadow of World War II, a Japanese chemist named Tetsuo Nozoe traveled outside his land for the first time, and collected autographs from the people he met on the way. This turned into a forty year hobby, and a 1200-page collection. The digital collection sucks chemists in for hours — it's full of cartoons, jokes, haikus, and scribbles the signers admit to having scrawled 'in a drunken state.' Nobel Prizewinners and ordinary chemists signed side-by-side. The Nozoe notebook collection will be open access for at least three years, with a big goal being to identify all the 'mystery' signatures in the collection with help from readers."
ananyo writes "Scrounging chemicals and equipment in their spare time, a team of chemistry bloggers is trying to replicate published protocols for making molecules. The researchers want to check how easy it is to repeat the recipes that scientists report in papers — and are inviting fellow chemists to join them. Blogger See Arr Oh, chemistry graduate student Matt Katcher from Princeton, New Jersey, and two bloggers called Organometallica and BRSM, have together launched Blog Syn, in which they report their progress online. Among the frustrations that led the team to set up Blog Syn are claims that reactions yield products in greater amounts than seems reasonable, and scanty detail about specific conditions in which to run reactions. In some cases, reactions are reported which seem too good to be true — such as a 2009 paper which was corrected within 24 hours by web-savvy chemists live-blogging the experiment; an episode which partially inspired Blog Syn. According to chemist Peter Scott of the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK, synthetic chemists spend most of their time getting published reactions to work. 'That is the elephant in the room of synthetic chemistry.'"
lukej writes "Over eleven years ago, the possibility of using the retired Homestake Mine as an underground science laboratory was first proposed. Today the local newspaper gives a science-filled tour of that facility, along with a short photo tour, and decent descriptions of some of the experiments it hosts (Majorana, LUX, Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment). Some fairly interesting deep, dirty, and real physical science!"
The Bad Astronomer writes "Studies of carbon-14 in Japanese trees and beryllium-10 in Antarctic ice indicate the Earth was hit by a big radiation blast in 775 AD. Although very rare, occurring only once every million years or so, the most likely culprit is a gamma-ray burst, a cosmic explosion accompanying the birth of a black hole. While a big solar flare is still in the running, a GRB from merging neutron stars produces the ratio of carbon and beryllium observed, and also can explain why no bright explosion was seen at the time, and no supernova remnant is seen now."
Zothecula writes "Scientists based at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, have set a new efficiency record for thin-film copper indium gallium (di)selenid (or CIGS) based solar cells on flexible polymer foils, reaching an efficiency of 20.4 percent. This is an increase from a previous record of 18.7 percent set by the team back in 2011."
SternisheFan notes that scientists at Cambridge University have found four-stranded DNA in human cells for the first time. "If you've ever studied genetics in school or college, you'll know that the structure of DNA is a double helix. You likely know that DNA carries all of our genetic code. While traditionally we think of only double helix DNA, scientists from Cambridge University in England have made an interesting discovery. According to the researchers, a quadruple helix is also present in some cells and is believed to relate to cancer in some ways. According to the researchers, controlling these quadruple helix structures could provide new ways to fight cancer. The scientists believe the quadruple helix may form when the cell has a certain genotype or operates in a certain dysfunctional state. Scientists have been able to produce quadruple helix material in test tubes for years. The material produced is called the G-quadruplex. The G refers to guanine, which is one of the base pairs that hold DNA together. The new research performed at the University is believed to be the first to firmly pinpoint quadruple helix in human cells."
riverat1 writes "The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature studies latest release finds that land surface temperature changes since 1750 are nearly completely explained by increases in greenhouse gases and large volcanic eruptions. They also said that including solar forcing did not significantly improve the fit. Unlike the other major temperature records BEST used nearly all available temperature records instead of just a representative sample. Yet to come is an analysis that includes ocean temperatures."
hypnosec writes "Stephen Hawking's ability to communicate has been deteriorating over the years and as it stands, he is only able to communicate at the rate of 1 word per minute. Intel CTO Justin Rattner has revealed that they are working on an interface that will boost the scientist's speech to up to 10 words per minute. Beyond twitching his cheek, Hawking is also capable of other voluntary facial expressions which can be tapped to achieve faster communications with the help of a better character interface and a better word predictor."
dgharmon writes in with an interesting article about how much (or how little) beef is in a UK burger. "The presence of horsemeat in value beefburgers has caused a furore. But what is usually in the patties? It has been a sobering week for fans of the beefburger. Tesco have used full-page adverts in national newspapers to apologize for selling burgers in the UK that were found to contain 29% horsemeat. Traces of horse DNA were also detected by the Food Standards Agency of Ireland in products sold by Iceland, Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes. But a beefburger rarely contains 100% beef."
First time accepted submitter ggrocca writes "Using human mucus as a testbed for how well influenza virus thrives in different humidity conditions, researchers at Virginia Tech found that the virus survived best if humidity is below 50%, a typical indoor situation during the winter in temperate climates due to artificial heating. The virus begins to find itself at home again only when humidity reaches almost 100%. Unsurprisingly, the latter finding explains flu spikes during rainy season in tropical climates. Full paper on PLOS ONE."
MightyMartian writes "NASA scientists say Cassini has discovered that far fewer craters are visible on Titan than on the other moons of Saturn. The craters they have discovered are far shallower than other moons' craters and appear to be filling with hydrocarbon sand. On top of being another reason Titan's active geology is very cool, it adds to the mystery of where all the methane on Titan is coming from. 'The rain that falls from Titan's skies is not water, but contains liquid methane and ethane, compounds that are gases at Earth's temperatures. ... The source of Titan's methane remains a mystery because methane in the atmosphere is broken down over relatively short time scales by sunlight. Fragments of methane molecules then recombine into more complex hydrocarbons in the upper atmosphere, forming a thick, orange smog that hides the surface from view. Some of the larger particles eventually rain out onto the surface, where they appear to get bound together to form the sand.'"