Zothecula writes Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a new procedure to increase the length of human telomeres. This increases the number of times cells are able to divide, essentially making the cells many years younger. This not only has useful applications for laboratory work, but may point the way to treating various age-related disorders – or even muscular dystrophy.
An anonymous reader writes with news that the NFL has reached out for some help answering the questions raised by deflate-gate. "Yep, it's for real. The law firm representing the NFL (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison) has reached out to Columbia University's department of physics to recruit an expert on 'gas physics' to help determine, as has been reported, the 'environmental impacts on inflated footballs.' This is one of those rare times when the jocks turn to the nerds, so fellow fans of molecules and momentum — climb out of that gym locker you were stuffed into — this is our moment. Stand tall. And do the wave....They want to talk to a physicist, I presume, to help determine if a drop in temperature — a slowing of the air molecules inside the football — can explain the low pressure that was found in some of the balls used in the A.F.C. championship game two weeks ago between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts."
DillyTonto writes The "state of the art" in big-data (text) analysis turns out to use a method of categorizing words and documents that, when tested, offered different results for the same data 20% of the time and was flat wrong another 10%, according to researchers at Northwestern. The Researchers offered a more accurate method, but only as an example of how to use community detection algorithms to improve on the leading method (LDA). Meanwhile, a certain percentage of answers from all those big data installations will continue to be flat wrong until they're re-run, which will make them wrong in a different way.
First time accepted submitter bronger writes After six years of closed-source development, the Research Centre Jülich published its database solution for laboratory samples and processes as open source, while continuing maintaining it. JuliaBase is a framework written in Python/Django that enables research institution or research group to set up browser-based samples tracking and measurement management easily. Next to Bika and LabLey, this is one of the very few open source LIMS systems, and in contrast to the others, not specialized in biomedicine or service labs.
An anonymous reader sends word that NASA has launched an Earth-observing satellite, which will measure the amount of moisture in soil. "In one of the space agency's bolder projects, a newly launched NASA satellite will monitor western drought and study the moisture, frozen and liquid in Earth's soil. It's true that a satellite can't possibly fix the devastating drought that has been plaguing the American West for the last years. It is also true that it can't possibly change the fact that California has just gone through the driest month in recorded history. But what NASA plans to do is to provide the possibility of understanding the patterns of this extreme weather and, perhaps, foresee how much worse it could actually become. Called the SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive Satellite), this new, unmanned project was successfully launched on Saturday atop the United Launch Alliance Delta II Rocket. The launch took place at the California Vandenberg Air Force base at exactly 9:22 AM EST. With the successful launch, NASA just kick started a three year, $916 million mission focused on measuring and forecasting droughts, floods and other possible natural disasters that might come our way in the future."
hypnosec writes: The European Space Agency has made a joint analysis of data gathered by the ground-based BICEP2 and Keck Array experiments and its own Planck satellite to try to verify previous reports of BICEP2's primordial gravitational wave detection. However, the ESA was unable to find evidence of primordial gravitational waves, and they think the earlier report was simply based on an outdated model that didn't take interstellar dust into account.
"The Milky Way is pervaded by a mixture of gas and dust shining at similar frequencies to those of the CMB, and this foreground emission affects the observation of the most ancient cosmic light. Very careful analysis is needed to separate the foreground emission from the cosmic background. Critically, interstellar dust also emits polarized light, thus affecting the CMB polarization as well. ... The BICEP2 team had chosen a field where they believed dust emission would be low, and thus interpreted the signal as likely to be cosmological. However, as soon as Planck’s maps of the polarized emission from Galactic dust were released (PDF), it was clear that this foreground contribution could be much higher than previously expected."
An anonymous reader writes "I've never been able to work up a fear of the robot apocalypse," admits R.U. Sirius, who more than 20 years after Mondo 2000's original guide to geek culture has again collaborated on a new encyclopedia of emerging technologies. As we progress to a world where technology actually becomes invisible, he argues that "everything about how we will define the future is still in play," suggesting that the transhumanist movement is "a good way to take isolated radical tech developments and bundle them together". While his co-author argues transhumanists "like to solve everything," Sirius points out a much bigger concern is a future of technologies dominated by the government or big capital.
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Ever since quantum mechanics first came along, we've recognized how tenuous our perception of reality is, and how — in many ways — what we perceive is just a very small subset of what's going on at the quantum level in our Universe. Then, along came cosmic inflation, teaching us that our observable Universe is just a tiny, tiny fraction of the matter-and-radiation filled space out there, with possibilities including Universes with different fundamental laws and constants, differing quantum outcomes existing in disconnected regions of space, and even the fantastic one of parallel Universes and alternate versions of you and me. But is that last one really admissible? The best modern evidence teaches us that even with all the Universes that inflation creates, it's still a finite number, and an insufficiently large number to contain all the possibilities that a 13.8 billion year old Universe with 10^90 particles admits."
mdsolar points out this report in the NY Times:
An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future. In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They are less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science of human-caused global warming.
Among Republicans, 48 percent said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, a result that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called "the most powerful finding" in the poll. Many Republican candidates either question the science of climate change or do not publicly address the issue.
An anonymous reader writes: When we talk about how the NSA operates, it's typically about the policymakers and what the agency should or should not do. It's worth remembering that the NSA is built upon the backs of world-class mathematicians, whom they aggressively recruit to make all their underlying surveillance technology work. A new piece in Science discusses how the relationship between mathematicians and the NSA has changed following the Snowden leaks (PDF). But as Peter Woit points out, these ethical conundrums are not actually spurring any change. This is perhaps due to the NSA's generous funding of mathematics-related research.
The article talks about the American Mathematical Society, which until recently was led by David Vogan: "...after all was said and done, no action
was taken. Vogan describes a meeting about the matter last year with an AMS governing committee as 'terrible,' revealing little interest among the rest of the society's leadership in making a public statement about
NSA's ethics, let alone cutting ties. Ordinary AMS members, by and large, feel the same way, adds Vogan, who this week is handing over the presidency to Robert Bryant, a mathematician at Duke University in Durham,
North Carolina. For now, U.S. mathematicians aren't willing to disown their shadowy but steadfast benefactor."
HughPickens.com writes The NYT reports on a new study from a prominent environmental think tank that concludes turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand. They add that continuing to pursue this strategy is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world's growing population. "I would say that many of the claims for biofuels have been dramatically exaggerated," says Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a global research organization based in Washington that is publishing the report. "There are other, more effective routes to get to a low-carbon world." The report follows several years of rising concern among scientists about biofuel policies in the United States and Europe, and is the strongest call yet by the World Resources Institute, known for nonpartisan analysis of environmental issues, to urge governments to reconsider those policies.
Timothy D. Searchinger says recent science has challenged some of the assumptions underpinning many of the pro-biofuel policies that have often failed to consider the opportunity cost of using land to produce plants for biofuel. According to Searchinger, if forests or grasses were grown instead of biofuels, that would pull carbon dioxide out of the air, storing it in tree trunks and soils and offsetting emissions more effectively than biofuels would do. What is more, as costs for wind and solar power have plummeted over the past decade, and the new report points out that for a given amount of land, solar panels are at least 50 times more efficient than biofuels at capturing the energy of sunlight in a useful form. "It's true that our first-generation biofuels have not lived up to their promise," says Jason Hill said. "We've found they do not offer the environmental benefits they were purported to have, and they have a substantial negative impact on the food system."
First time accepted submitter burtosis writes Despite similar views about the overall place of science in America, the general public and scientists often see science-related issues through a different lens, according to a new pair of surveys by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). From FiveThirtyEight: "The surveys found broad support for government to spend money on science, but that doesn't mean the public supports the conclusions that scientists draw. The biggest gap between scientists and the public came on issues that may elicit fear: the safety of genetically modified (or GMO) foods (37 percent of the public said GMOs were safe, compared to 88 percent of scientists) and the use of pesticides in agriculture (28 percent of the public said foods grown with pesticides were safe to eat, versus 68 percent of scientists). There was also disagreement over the cause of climate change (50 percent of the public said it is mostly due to human activity, compared to 87 percent of scientists). Here’s a full list, via Pew Research Center, of the scientific issues the survey asked about."
MikeChino writes In an attempt to curb outbreaks of two devastating tropical diseases in the Florida Keys, the FDA is proposing the release of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into the area. Scientists have bred male mosquitoes with virus gene fragments, so when they mate with the females that bite and spread illness, their offspring will die. This can reduce the mosquito population dramatically, halting the spread of diseases like dengue fever.
Zothecula writes Weather forecasting is a notoriously inexact science. According to San Francisco-based tech startup Spire, this is partially because there are currently less than 20 satellites responsible for gathering all of the world's weather data – what's more, some of the older ones are using outdated technology. Spire's solution? Establish a linked network of over 100 shoebox-sized CubeSats, that will use GPS technology to gather 100 times the amount of weather data than is currently possible. The first 20 of those satellites are scheduled to launch later this year.
KentuckyFC writes One of the extraordinary features of quantum mechanics is that one quantum system can simulate the behaviour of another that might otherwise be difficult to create. That's exactly what a group of physicists in Australia have done in creating a quantum system that simulates a quantum time machine. Back in the early 90s, physicists showed that a quantum particle could enter a region of spacetime that loops back on itself, known as a closed timelike curve, without creating grandfather-type paradoxes in which time travellers kill their grandfathers thereby ensuring they could never have existed to travel back in time in the first place. Nobody has ever built a quantum closed time-like curve but now they don't have to. The Australian team have simulated its behaviour by allowing two entangled photons to interfere with each other in a way that recreates the behaviour of a single photon interacting with an older version of itself. The results are in perfect agreement with predictions from the 1990s--there are no grandfather-type paradoxes. Interestingly, the results are entirely compatible with relativity, suggesting that this type of experiment might be an interesting way of reconciling it with quantum mechanics.
StartsWithABang writes If you want to map the entire sky — whether you're looking in the visible, ultraviolet, infrared or microwave, your best bet is to go to space. Only high above the Earth's atmosphere can you map out the entire sky, with your vision unobscured by anything terrestrial. But that costs millions of dollars for the launch alone! What if you've got new technology you want to test? What if you still want to defeat most of the atmosphere? (Which you need to do, for most wavelengths of light.) And what if you want to make observations on large angular scales, something by-and-large impossible from the ground in microwave wavelengths? You launch a balloon! The Spider telescope has just completed its data-taking operations, and is poised to take the next step — beyond Planck and BICEP2 — in understanding the polarization of the cosmic microwave background.