Biotech

Study: Certain Vaccines Could Make Diseases More Deadly 41 41

sciencehabit writes: New research suggests that vaccines that don't make their hosts totally immune to a disease and incapable of spreading it to others might have a serious downside. According to a controversial study by Professor Andrew Read these so-called "imperfect" or "leaky" vaccines could sometimes teach pathogens to become more dangerous. Sciencemag reports: "The study is controversial. It was done in chickens, and some scientists say it has little relevance for human vaccination; they worry it will reinforce doubts about the merits or safety of vaccines. It shouldn't, says lead author Andrew Read, a biologist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park: The study provides no support whatsoever for the antivaccine movement. But it does suggest that some vaccines may have to be monitored more closely, he argues, or supported with extra measures to prevent unintended consequences."
NASA

German Scientists Confirm NASA's Controversial EM Drive 216 216

MarkWhittington writes: Hacked Magazine reported that a group of German scientists believe that they have confirmed that the EM Drive, the propulsion device that uses microwaves rather than rocket fuel, provides thrust. The experimental results are being presented at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' Propulsion and Energy Forum in Orlando by Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology. Tajmar has an interest in exotic propulsion methods, including one concept using "negative matter."
Math

For the Love of the Analytics of the Game: Before Beane, There Was AVM Systems 15 15

theodp writes: Those of you slugging your way through EdX's (free) Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics MOOC course might want to take a break from your R and SQL coding to check out Grantland's Before Beane, in which Ben Lindbergh tells the story of AVM Systems, the little-known company that jump-started sabermetrics and made Moneyball possible. Ken Mauriello, whose love-for-the-analytics-of-the-game led him to ditch a trading career to co-found AVM in the mid-90's, said of the early days, "Back in the day we weren't doing presentations [to skeptical MLB teams] with laptops. We were carrying around two enormous boxes with an enormous monitor and an enormous tower. It was like Planes, Trains & Automobiles traveling around with that stuff. Watching a great big Gateway box with your monitor come tumbling out upside down, and you pick it up and it's rattling. ... So we're in the hotel, saying, 'Please lord, let this thing work.'"
The Almighty Buck

Smithsonian Increases Goal For Spacesuit Crowdfunding Effort 99 99

An anonymous reader writes: The recently launched Kickstarter campaign by the Smithsonian to preserve Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit has surpassed its goal. As of Saturday, the campaign raised about $525,000, and now The National Air and Space Museum has increased its goal to $700,000 in order to save Alan Shepard's Mercury spacesuit.
Biotech

Eye Drops Could Dissolve Cataracts 62 62

An anonymous reader writes: As Slashdot readers age, more and more will be facing surgery for cataracts. The lack of cataract surgery in much of the world is a major cause of blindness. Researchers at University of California San Diego have identified lanosterol as a key molecule in the prevention of cataract formation that points to a novel strategy for cataract prevention and non-surgical treatment. The abstract is freely available from Nature. If you have cataracts, you might want to purchase a full reprint while you can still read it.
NASA

Pluto's Haze 63 63

Today brings another release of images from NASA's New Horizons probe. This time, it includes an image taken seven hours after closest approach, when the probe was looking back at Pluto. It captured the dwarf planet in silhouette: the body of the planet is in darkness, but the atmosphere is luminous with deflected sunlight. "A preliminary analysis of the image shows two distinct layers of haze -- one about 50 miles (80 kilometers) above the surface and the other at an altitude of about 30 miles (50 kilometers)." Before this picture, scientists didn't expect to see such haze more than 30 kilometers above the surface.

Other findings released today include preliminary indications that Pluto's atmospheric pressure has dropped sharply from early observations. This may indicate that the atmosphere is in the process of freezing and falling to Pluto's surface. Finally, new close-up pictures of the surface transmitted back to Earth show direct evidence of nitrogen ice floes reminiscent of glacier movement on Earth. The dwarf planet also seems to be rich in methane ice and carbon dioxide ice.
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Building an Open Source Community For a Proprietary Software Product? 85 85

An anonymous reader writes: I run a company that develops scientific computing software. Our core product is a traditional proprietary application — we develop the software and deliver the "binaries" to our customers. We're considering changing our deployment to include all of the source code and giving our customers some additional rights to explore and extend it. The codebase is HTML/JavaScript/Python/SQL, so a lot of the code is available in some form already, albeit minified or byte compiled.

Because we are in a scientific domain, most of our customers use Open Source software alongside our product. We also maintain Open Source projects and directly support others. We're strong supporters of Open Source and understand the value of having access to the source code.

We also support a free (as in beer) version of the software with a smaller feature set (production and enterprise elements that individual users don't need are removed). We'd like that version to use the same model as well to give users that don't need the full commercial version the ability to extend the software and submit patches back to us for inclusion in future releases.

Overall, we'd really like to find a model that allows our core product to work more like an Open Source product while maintaining control over the distribution rights. We'd like to foster a community around the product but still generate revenue to fund it. In our space, the "give the product away but pay for support" model has never really worked. The market is too small and, importantly, most customers understand our value proposition and have no problem with our annual license model.

We've looked at traditional dual licensing approaches, but don't think they're really right fit, either. A single license that gives users access to the code but limits the ability to redistribute the code and distribute patches to the "core" is what we'd prefer. My questions for the Slashdot community: Does anyone have direct experience with models like this? Are there existing licenses that we should look at? What companies have succeeded doing this? Who has failed?
News

Scientists Identify Sixth Taste: Fat 89 89

New submitter shuheng writes with news that a study out of Purdue claims to have identified the sixth distinct taste known to humans: fat. The scientists say it should be called oleogustus which means "fatty taste" in Latin (abstract). Professor Richard Mattes said, Most of the fat we eat is in the form of triglycerides, which are molecules comprised of three fatty acids. Triglycerides often impart appealing textures to foods like creaminess. However, triglycerides are not a taste stimulus. Fatty acids that are cleaved off the triglyceride in the food or during chewing in the mouth stimulate the sensation of fat. The taste component of fat is often described as bitter or sour because it is unpleasant, but new evidence reveals fatty acids evoke a unique sensation satisfying another element of the criteria for what constitutes a basic taste, just like sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.
Medicine

Malaria Vaccine Passes Key Regulatory Hurdle 34 34

An anonymous reader writes: The BBC reports that the European Medicines Agency has approved the world's first malaria vaccine for real-world use. The vaccine is far from perfect, and the World Health Organization still has to make a final decision on it, but it's a key victory for GlaxoSmithKline, who have been developing the vaccine for three decades. "The best protection was among children aged five to 17 months who received three doses of the vaccine a month apart, plus a booster dose at 20 months. In this group, cases of severe malaria were cut by a third over four years." Unfortunately, the boosters are quite necessary for protection, and it doesn't protect young babies from malaria. The disease "kills around 584,000 people a year worldwide, most of them children under five in sub-Saharan Africa."
Science

Four-legged Snake Fossil Stuns Scientists, Ignites Controversy 151 151

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have described what they say is the first known fossil of a four-legged snake. The limbs of the 120-or-so-million-year-old, 20-centimeter-long creature are remarkably well preserved and end with five slender digits that appear to have been functional (abstract). Thought to have come from Brazil, the fossil would be one of the earliest snakes found, suggesting that the group evolved from terrestrial precursors in Gondwana, the southern remnant of the supercontinent Pangaea. But although the creature's overall body plan—and indeed, many of its individual anatomical features—is snakelike, some researchers aren't so sure that it is a part of the snake family tree.
Science

The Science and Politics Behind Colony Collapse Disorder; Is the Crisis Over? 173 173

iONiUM writes: An article at the Globe and Mail claims that there is no longer any Honeybee crises, and that the deaths of the Honeybees previously was a one-off, or possibly non-cyclical occurrence (caused by neonics or nature — the debate is still out). The data used is that from Stats Canada which claims "the number of honeybee colonies is at a record high [in Canada]." Globally, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization says that "worldwide bee populations have rebounded to a record high." The story reports: "I have great news for honey lovers everywhere. The Canadian honeybee industry is thriving. Despite those headlines about mass die-offs and and killer pesticides, the number of honeybee colonies is at a record high. Last year, according to Statistics Canada, nearly 700,000 honeybee colonies produced $200-million worth of honey. Bee survival rates have rebounded even in Ontario, which was hard hit by unusually high winter die-offs."
United States

"Breaking Bad" At the National Institute of Standards and Technology 98 98

sciencehabit writes: Police are investigating whether an explosion inside a Maryland federal laboratory was the result of an effort to make drugs. Authorities who responded to the explosion at the National Institute of Standards and Technology found pseudoephedrine, Epsom salt and other materials associated with the manufacture of meth. Federal and local law enforcement agencies are investigating the cause of the explosion and if a security guard injured in the blast might have been involved. Sciencemag reports: "Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), chairman at the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, got involved today, expressing grave concern over the incident in a letter to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. NIST is part of the Commerce Department. 'I am troubled by the allegations that such dangerous and illicit activity went undetected at a federal research facility. It is essential that we determine exactly where the breakdown in protocol occurred and whether similar activities could be ongoing at other federal facilities,' wrote Smith in an accompanying press release. He has requested a briefing with NIST no later than 29 July."
Mars

Interviews: Shaun Moss Answers Your Questions About Mars and Space Exploration 48 48

Recently the founder of the Mars Settlement Research Organization and author of The International Mars Research Station Shaun Moss agreed to sit down and answer any questions you had about space exploration and colonizing Mars. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
Space

NASA Spies Earth-Sized Exoplanet Orbiting Sun-Like Star 133 133

An anonymous reader writes: NASA has announced that a new Earth-like planet has been discovered that may be the closest thing yet to a first true "Earth twin." Kepler 452b is located 1,000 light years away, is 60% larger than Earth, and orbits Kepler 452 at a distance similar to that between Earth and the Sun. "It is the first terrestrial planet in the habitable zone around a star very similar to the Sun," says Douglas Caldwell, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.
Space

Astronauts' Skin Gets Thinner In Space, Scientists Say 60 60

An anonymous reader writes: Living in space can be hard on the human body. Muscles atrophy, bones lose density and new research suggests that spending time in space can make your skin thinner. Professor Karsten Koenig from the Department of Biophotonics and Laser Technology at Saarland University, has used high-resolution skin imaging tomography to look into the skin cells of several astronauts before and after a trip into space. "NASA and ESA came to us and asked, 'is it possible to also look in the skin of astronauts? Because we want to know if there's any ageing process going on or what kind of modifications happened to astronauts as they work for six months out in space.' Because many astronauts complain about skin problems," he said.
Science

How Pentaquarks May Lead To the Discovery of New Fundamental Physics 64 64

StartsWithABang writes: Over 100 years ago, Rutherford's gold foil experiment discovered the atomic nucleus. At higher energies, we can split that nucleus apart into protons and neutrons, and at still higher ones, into individual quarks and gluons. But these quarks and gluons can combine in amazing ways: not just into mesons and baryons, but into exotic states like tetraquarks, pentaquarks and even glueballs. As the LHC brings these states from theory to reality, here's what we're poised to learn, and probe, by pushing the limits of quantum chromodynamics.
Shark

Since Receiving Satellite Tags, Some Sharks Have Become Stars of Social Media 31 31

Lucas123 writes: A research project that tags the world's most dangerous sharks with four different tracking devices and then offers all the data to the public has taken off, garnering hundreds of thousands of users; one shark even has more then 80,000 followers on Twitter. OCEARCH, a non-profit shark tracking project, has tagged about 130 sharks, from great whites and tigers to hammerheads and makos, and open sourced the data in the hope that it will create citizen scientists who will follow the animals and care about what happens to them. To further personify the apex predators, the researchers at OCEARCH have also given the sharks names such as Katharine and Mary Lee, two sharks that are more than 14 feet long and weight more than a ton. OCEARCH's shark tracker has garnered 10 times the traffic it had last year, and it's expected to grow 20 times more by the end of this year. Along with data from satellite, acoustic and accelerometer tags, the project expects to begin using big data analytics to offer more granular data about the animals and their lives to scientists and the public at large.
Australia

Studies Find Genetic Signature of Native Australians In the Americas 97 97

Applehu Akbar writes: Two new research papers claim to have found an Australo-Melanesian DNA signal in the genetic makeup of Native Americans, dating to about the time of the last glacial maximum. This may move the speculation around the Clovis people and Kennewick man to an entirely new level. Let's hope that it at least shakes loose some more funding for North American archaeology. Ars reports: "The exact process by which humanity introduced itself to the Americas has always been controversial. While there's general agreement on the most important migration—across the Bering land bridge at the end of the last ice age—there's a lot of arguing over the details. Now, two new papers clarify some of the bigger picture but also introduce a new wrinkle: there's DNA from the distant Pacific floating around in the genomes of Native Americans. And the two groups disagree about how it got there."
Medicine

Giving Doctors Grades Has Backfired 245 245

HughPickens.com writes: Beginning in the early 1990s a quality-improvement program began in New York State and has since spread to many other states where report cards were issued to improve cardiac surgery by tracking surgical outcomes, sharing the results with hospitals and the public, and when necessary, placing surgeons or surgical programs on probation. But Sandeep Jauhar writes in the NYT that the report cards have backfired. "They often penalized surgeons, like the senior surgeon at my hospital, who were aggressive about treating very sick patients and thus incurred higher mortality rates," says Jauhar. "When the statistics were publicized, some talented surgeons with higher-than-expected mortality statistics lost their operating privileges, while others, whose risk aversion had earned them lower-than-predicted rates, used the report cards to promote their services in advertisements."

Surveys of cardiac surgeons in The New England Journal of Medicine have confirmed that reports like the Consumer Guide to Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery have limited credibility among cardiovascular specialists, little influence on referral recommendations and may introduce a barrier to care for severely ill patients. According to Jauhar, there is little evidence that the public — as opposed to state agencies and hospitals — pays much attention to surgical report cards anyway. A recent survey found that only 6 percent of patients used such information in making medical decisions. "Surgical report cards are a classic example of how a well-meaning program in medicine can have unintended consequences," concludes Jauhar. "It would appear that doctors, not patients, are the ones focused on doctors' grades — and their focus is distorted and blurry at best."
Medicine

How Drug Companies Seek To Exploit Rare DNA Mutations 92 92

An anonymous reader writes: With so many people in the world, humanity can't help but generate a large amount of genetic outliers. Most random mutations are undetectable, and many of the rest lead to serious diseases. But there's another class of mutation that has drug companies salivating. For example: a few dozen people worldwide have a condition that prevents them from feeling any pain. Another condition called sclerosteosis affects less than 100 people, giving them incredibly dense bone structure. Both of these conditions have serious downsides, but drug companies are beginning to see the dollar signs behind isolating these mutations and making them safe.

"People with sclerosteosis lack a protein that acts as a brake on bone growth. Without that protein, bones grow abnormally thick. It stood to reason, researchers thought, that a drug that could block the protein in patients with osteoporosis would encourage bone regrowth. Amgen's scientists created hundreds of antibodies that they tested to determine which might be able to get in the way of the protein. It took them three and a half years of research before they were able to identify the best antibody to inhibit the protein. Then NASA came calling." It's an unfortunate situation for those with the rare conditions; there's a lot more potential profit in finding a way to genetically prevent pain for billions of people than it is to cure the handful with the condition.