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Science

Scientists Confirm Life Under Antarctic Ice 23

Posted by samzenpus
from the cold-living dept.
MikeChino writes A new paper by a group of researchers from Montana State University confirms that life can survive under antarctic ice. Researchers led by John Priscu drilled down into the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and pulled up organisms called Archaea. These organisms survive by converting methane into energy, enabling them to survive where there is no wind or sunlight, buried deep under the ice.
Space

The Star That Exploded At the Dawn of Time 21

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-the-beginning dept.
sciencehabit writes To probe the dawn of time, astronomers usually peer far away; but now they've made a notable discovery close to home. An ancient star a mere thousand light-years from Earth bears chemical elements that may have been forged by the death of a star that was both extremely massive and one of the first to arise after the big bang. If confirmed, the finding means that some of the universe's first stars were so massive they died in exceptionally violent explosions that altered the growth of early galaxies.
Earth

Cause of Global Warming 'Hiatus' Found Deep In the Atlantic 208

Posted by samzenpus
from the biggest-heatsink dept.
vinces99 writes with news about a study that may account for a slowdown in air temperature rises. Following rapid warming in the late 20th century, this century has so far seen surprisingly little increase in the average temperature at the Earth's surface. More than a dozen theories have now been proposed for the so-called global warming hiatus, ranging from air pollution to volcanoes to sunspots. New research from the University of Washington shows the heat absent from the surface is plunging deep in the north and south Atlantic Ocean, and is part of a naturally occurring cycle. The study is published in Science. Subsurface ocean warming explains why global average air temperatures have flatlined since 1999, despite greenhouse gases trapping more solar heat at the Earth's surface. "Every week there's a new explanation of the hiatus," said corresponding author Ka-Kit Tung, a UW professor of applied mathematics and adjunct faculty member in atmospheric sciences. "Many of the earlier papers had necessarily focused on symptoms at the surface of the Earth, where we see many different and related phenomena. We looked at observations in the ocean to try to find the underlying cause." What they found is that a slow-moving current in the Atlantic, which carries heat between the two poles, sped up earlier this century to draw heat down almost a mile (1,500 meters). Most previous studies focused on shorter-term variability or particles that could block incoming sunlight, but they could not explain the massive amount of heat missing for more than a decade.
Technology

Scientists Developing Remote-Control Cyborg Moths 20

Posted by samzenpus
from the stay-out-of-the-light dept.
Zothecula writes We've been hearing a lot about the development of tiny flying sensor-equipped robots, that could be sent into areas such as disaster sites to seek out survivors or survey the damage. However, why go to the trouble of designing those robots from scratch, when there are already ready-made insects that are about the right size? That's the thinking behind research being conducted at North Carolina State University, which is aimed at converting moths into "biobots".
Space

NASA's Space Launch System Searches For a Mission 43

Posted by Soulskill
from the attack-titan-for-its-oil dept.
schwit1 writes: Managers of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) are searching for a mission that they can propose and convince Congress to fund. "Once SLS is into the 2020s, the launch rate should see the rocket launching at least once per year, ramping up to a projected three times per year for the eventual Mars missions. However, the latter won’t be until the 2030s. With no missions manifested past the EM-2 flight, the undesirable question of just how 'slow' a launch rate would be viable for SLS and her workforce has now been asked." Meanwhile, two more Russian rocket engines were delivered yesterday, the first time that's happened since a Russian official threatened to cut off the supply. Another shipment of three engines is expected later this year. In Europe, Arianespace and the European Space Agency signed a contract today for the Ariane 5 rocket to launch 12 more of Europe’s Galileo GPS satellites on three launches. This situation really reminds me of the U.S. launch market in the 1990s, when Boeing and Lockheed Martin decided that, rather than compete with Russia and ESA for the launch market, they instead decided to rely entirely on U.S. government contracts, since those contracts didn’t really demand that they reduce their costs significantly to compete.
Medicine

New Research Suggests Cancer May Be an Intrinsic Property of Cells 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the kill-all-the-cells!-oh-wait dept.
cranky_chemist sends this report from NPR: "Cancer simply may be here to stay. Researchers at Kiel University, the Catholic University of Croatia and other institutions discovered that hydra — tiny, coral-like polyps that emerged hundreds of millions of years ago — form tumors similar to those found in humans. Which suggests that our cells' ability to develop cancer is "an intrinsic property" that has evolved at least since then — way, way, way before we rallied our forces to try to tackle it, said Thomas Bosch, an evolutionary biologist at Kiel University who led the study, published in Nature Communications in June (abstract) To get ahead of cancer, he said, "you have to interfere with fundamental pathways. It's a web of interactions," he said. "It's very difficult to do." That's why cancer "will probably never be completely eradicated."
Science

Metamaterial Superconductor Hints At New Era of High Temperature Superconductors 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the resistance-is-futile-at-extremely-low-temperatures dept.
KentuckyFC writes: Superconductors allow current to flow with zero resistance when cooled below some critical temperature. They are the crucial ingredients in everything from high-power magnets and MRI machines to highly sensitive magnetometers and magnetic levitation devices. But one big problem is that superconductors work only at very low temperatures — the highest is around 150 kelvin (-120 degrees centigrade). So scientists would dearly love to find ways of raising this critical temperature. Now a group of physicists say they've found a promising approach: to build metamaterial superconductors that steer electrons in the same way as other metamaterials steer light to create invisibility cloaks. The inspiration for the work comes from the observation that some high temperature superconductors consist of repeated layers of conducting and dielectric structures. So the team mixed tin — a superconductor at 3.7 kelvin — with the dielectric barium titanate and found that it raised the critical temperature by 0.15 kelvin. That's the first demonstration that superconductors can be thought of as metamaterials. With this proof of principle under their belts, the next step is to look for bigger gains at higher temperatures.
Medicine

Experimental Drug Stops Ebola-like Infection 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the side-effects-may-include-spontaneous-combustion dept.
sciencehabit writes: An experimental treatment against an Ebola-related virus can protect monkeys even when given up to 3 days after infection, the point at which they show the first signs of disease. The virus, known as Marburg, causes severe hemorrhagic fever—vomiting, diarrhea, and internal bleeding. In one outbreak, it killed 90% of people it infected. There are no proven treatments or vaccines against it. The new results raise hopes that the treatment might be useful for human patients even if they don't receive it until well after infection. The company that makes the compound, Tekmira, based in Burnaby, Canada, has started a human safety trial of a related drug to treat Ebola virus disease, and researchers hope that it, too, might offer protection even after a patient has started to feel ill. In other Ebola news, the two American aid workers who were infected with the virus while in Liberia have now recovered and been released from the hospital.
Science

The First Particle Physics Evidence of Physics Beyond the Standard Model? 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-way-of-thinking dept.
StartsWithABang writes It's the holy grail of modern particle physics: discovering the first smoking-gun, direct evidence for physics beyond the Standard Model. Sure, there are unanswered questions and unsolved puzzles, ranging from dark matter to the hierarchy problem to the strong-CP problem, but there's no experimental result clubbing us over the head that can't be explained with standard particle physics. That is, the physics of the Standard Model in the framework of quantum field theory. Or is there? Take a look at the evidence from the muon's magnetic moment, and see what might be the future of physics.
The Almighty Buck

National Science Foundation Awards $20 Million For Cloud Computing Experiments 25

Posted by samzenpus
from the paying-the-way-to-the-future dept.
aarondubrow writes The National Science Foundation today announced two $10 million projects to create cloud computing testbeds — to be called "Chameleon" and "CloudLab" — that will enable the academic research community to experiment with novel cloud architectures and pursue new, architecturally-enabled applications of cloud computing. While most of the original concepts for cloud computing came from the academic research community, as clouds grew in popularity, industry drove much of the design of their architecture. Today's awards complement industry's efforts and enable academic researchers to advance cloud computing architectures that can support a new generation of innovative applications, including real-time and safety-critical applications like those used in medical devices, power grids, and transportation systems.
Biotech

China Pulls Plug On Genetically Modified Rice and Corn 144

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-on-my-plate dept.
sciencehabit writes China's Ministry of Agriculture has decided not to renew biosafety certificates that allowed research groups to grow genetically modified (GM) rice and corn. The permits, to grow two varieties of GM rice and one transgenic corn strain, expired on 17 August. The reasoning behind the move is not clear, and it has raised questions about the future of related research in China.
Medicine

Study: Seals Infected Early Americans With Tuberculosis 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the seal-of-consumption dept.
mdsolar writes that a study suggests that tuberculosis first appeared in the New World less than 6,000 years ago and it was brought here by seals. After a remarkable analysis of bacterial DNA from 1,000-year-old mummies, scientists have proposed a new hypothesis for how tuberculosis arose and spread around the world. The disease originated less than 6,000 years ago in Africa, they say, and took a surprising route to reach the New World: it was carried across the Atlantic by seals. The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, has already provoked strong reactions from other scientists. "This is a landmark paper that challenges our previous ideas about the origins of tuberculosis," said Terry Brown, a professor of biomolecular archaeology at the University of Manchester. "At the moment, I'm still in the astonished stage over this."
Books

Do Readers Absorb Less On Kindles Than On Paper? Not Necessarily 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the kindles-absorb-less-spilled-beverage-than-paper-books dept.
An anonymous reader writes eBooks are great and wonderful, but as The Guardian reports, they might not be as good for readers as paper books. Results from a new study show that test subjects who read a story on a Kindle had trouble recalling the proper order of the plot events. Out of 50 test subjects, half read a 28-page story on the Kindle, while half read the same story on paper. The Kindle group scored about the same on comprehension as the control group, but when they were asked to put the plot points in the proper order, the Kindle group was about twice as likely to get it wrong.

So, is this bad news for ebooks? Have we reached the limits of their usefulness? Not necessarily. While there is evidence that enhanced ebooks don't enhance education, an older study from 2012 showed that students who study with an e-textbook on an ebook reader actually scored as well or higher on tests than a control group who did not. While that doesn't prove the newer research wrong, it does suggest that further study is required.
What has your experience been with both recall and enjoyment when reading ebooks?
Science

How To Read a Microbiome Study Like a Scientist. 52

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the dang-scientists-ruining-headlines dept.
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes Scientific reports have increasingly linked the bacteria in your gut to health and maladies, often making wild-sounding claims. Did you hear about the mice who were given fecal transplants from skinny humans and totally got skinny! Well, some of the more gut-busting results might not be as solid as they seem. Epidemiologist Bill Hanage offers five critical questions to ask when confronted by the latest microbiome research.
Mars

Wheel Damage Adding Up Quickly For Mars Rover Curiosity 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the wheels-on-the-rover-go-round-and-round dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The folks in charge of the Mars rover Curiosity have been trying to solve an increasingly urgent problem: what to do about unexpected wheel damage. The team knew from the start that wear and tear on the wheels would slowly accumulate, but they've been surprised at how quickly the wheels have degraded over the past year. Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society blog has posted a detailed report on the team's conclusions as to what's causing the damage and how they can mitigate it going forward. Quoting: "The tears result from fatigue. You know how if you bend a metal paper clip back and forth repeatedly, it eventually snaps? Well, when the wheels are driving over a very hard rock surface — one with no sand — the thin skin of the wheels repeatedly bends. The wheels were designed to bend quite a lot, and return to their original shape. But the repeated bending and straightening is fatiguing the skin, causing it to fracture in a brittle way. The bending doesn't happen (or doesn't happen as much) if the ground gives way under the rover's weight, as it does if it's got the slightest coating of sand on top of rock. It only happens when the ground is utterly impervious to the rover's weight — hard bedrock. The stresses from metal fatigue are highest near the tips of the chevron features, and indeed a lot of tears seem to initiate close to the chevron features."
Power

If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly 296

Posted by Soulskill
from the taming-a-small-star dept.
Lasrick writes: Yale's Jason Parisi makes a compelling case for fusion power, and explains why fusion is cleaner, safer, and doesn't provide opportunities for nuclear smuggling and proliferation. The only downside will be the transition period, when there are both fission and fusion plants available and the small amount of "booster" elements (tritium and deuterium) found in fusion power could provide would-be proliferators what they need to boost the yield of fission bombs: "The period during which both fission and fusion plants coexist could be dangerous, however. Just a few grams of deuterium and tritium are needed to increase the yield of a fission bomb, in a process known as 'boosting.'" Details about current research into fusion power and an exploration of relative costs make fusion power seem like the answer to a civilization trying to get away from fossil fuels.
ISS

Scientists Find Traces of Sea Plankton On ISS Surface 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-stations-like-to-swim dept.
schwit1 sends this report from the ITAR-TASS News Agency: An experiment of taking samples from illuminators and the ISS surface has brought unique results, as scientists had found traces of sea plankton there, the chief of an orbital mission on Russia's ISS segment told reporters. Results of the scope of scientific experiments which had been conducted for a quite long time were summed up in the previous year, confirming that some organisms can live on the surface of the International Space Station for years amid factors of a space flight, such as zero gravity, temperature conditions and hard cosmic radiation. Several surveys proved that these organisms can even develop. He noted that it was not quite clear how these microscopic particles could have appeared on the surface of the space station.
Mars

Modular Hive Homes Win Mars Base Design Competition 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.
In June, we discussed news that JPL and MakerBot were teaming up to host a competition for designing a futuristic Mars base. The competition is now over, and the top three designs have been chosen. First place went to Noah Hornberger, who designed a base with hexagonal rooms and shielding made of depleted uranium. Second place went to a martian pyramid with an aquaponics system on top, mirror-based solar collectors, central water storage, and compartmentalized living spaces. The third place award went to Chris Starr for his Mars Acropolis, which was styled upon the ancient Greek Acropolis. It has a water tower at the top of the structure, a series of greenhouses at the bottom, and living quarters in between. The full list of 227 entries is browse-able on Thingiverse.
China

Why Chinese Hackers Would Want US Hospital Patient Data 167

Posted by timothy
from the makes-great-gift-wrapping-too dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes In a follow-up to yesterday's story about the Chinese hackers who stole hospital data of 4.5 million patients, IDG News Service's Martyn Williams set out to learn why the data, which didn't include credit card information, was so valuable. The answer is depressingly simple: people without health insurance can potentially get treatment by using medical data of one of the hacking victims. John Halamka, chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network, said a medical record can be worth between $50 and $250 to the right customer — many times more than the amount typically paid for a credit card number, or the cents paid for a user name and password. "If I am one of the 50 million Americans who are uninsured ... and I need a million-dollar heart transplant, for $250 I can get a complete medical record including insurance company details," he said.
Earth

The Royal Society Proposes First Framework For Climate Engineering Experiments 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-can-make-it-better dept.
Jason Koebler writes The Royal Society of London, the world's oldest scientific publisher, has unveiled a proposal to create the first serious framework for future geoengineering experiments. It's a sign that what are still considered drastic and risky measures to combat climate change are drifting further into the purview of mainstream science. The scientific body has issued a call to create "an open and transparent review process that ensures such experiments have the necessary social license to operate."

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