Thursday, January 31, 2013

This Is What the First Lunar Base Could Really Look Like  

We have seen many concepts, but this is the most realistic plan yet for humanity's first Moon Base. It will be more efficient and cheaper to build than any other alternative, as it uses 3D printing to quickly transform raw lunar soil into habitable domes.

Also? It looks awesome.

The lunar soil structure will provide both radiation and temperature insulation. Inside, a lightweight pressurized inflatable with the same dome shape will be the living environment for the first human Moon settlers.

The European Space Agency and architectural firm Foster + Partners are now working on the technology to make this a reality. According to ESA's human spaceflight team's Scott Hovland: "3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth."

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How Worms Survived NASA's Columbia Shuttle Disaster

C. elegans nematodes, or roundworms, undergo examination by project scientists. The worms are descendants of those that were part of an experiment that flew on the shuttle Columbia's last mission, STS-107, in 2003. The new worms were flown to the International Space Station on the shuttle Endeavour during the STS-134 mission in May 2011. 

When the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated upon re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board, NASA scientists expected that the 80 science experiments aboard the shuttle were destroyed as well.

But in the days after the tragic Columbia shuttle disaster on Feb. 1, 2003, scientists began realizing that wasn't the case. Various salvageable experiments were recovered from the wreckage, including a live group of 1 millimeter-long roundworms, or nematodes, known as Caenorhabditis elegans.

NASA's Curiosity Rover Poised to Drill Into Mars

The percussion drill in the turret of tools at the end of the robotic arm of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has been positioned in contact with the rock surface in this image from the rover's front Hazard-Avoidance Camera (Hazcam). The drill was positioned for pre-load testing, and the Hazcam recorded this image during the 170th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Jan. 27, 2013).


NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is sizing up a target rock and flexing its robotic arm ahead of its first-ever drilling activity on the Red Planet, which should take place in the coming days.

The 1-ton Curiosity rover pressed down on the rock in four different places with its arm-mounted drill Monday (Jan. 27). These "pre-load" tests should allow mission engineers to see if the amount of force applied matches predictions, researchers said.

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Chimps Learn Tool Use by Watching Others

Chimpanzees can learn to use tools more efficiently by watching how others use them, new research suggests. The findings help illuminate ways that culture could evolve in nonhuman animals.

Private Space Plane Poised for Big Test Flight

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems' Dream Chaser flight vehicle is lifted by an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter near the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Jefferson County, Colo., on May 29, during a captive-carry test.  


A private space plane is slated to fly on its own for the first time in the next six to eight weeks, a key drop-test milestone in the vehicle's quest to fly astronauts on roundtrip space missions.

The Dream Chaser spacecraft, built by aerospace firm Sierra Nevada Corp., will be released by a carrier helicopter at an altitude of 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) or so, then fly back and land autonomously on a runway at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California.

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Virtual Superheroes May Change You … for the Better


It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a superhero flying in a virtual sky! Scientists now find that seeing superpowers in a virtual-reality game may lead people to act more virtuously in real life.

Virtual-reality technology uses video displays and other gear to immerse people in realistic digital environments. Virtual reality can lead to mind-bending experiences, such as making users think they have swapped bodies with someone else. The effects of virtual reality can endure long after these experiences, which psychologists hope can help in therapies for ailments such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Stand Back: Flu Virus Travels 6 Feet

If you know someone who is suffering from the flu, you might want to keep your distance. Infectious flu-containing particles exhaled by a sick person can travel at least 6 feet, according to a new study.


The study involved 94 people who visited the hospital for flu-like symptoms during the 2010 to 2011 flu season. While the patient lay in bed, the researchers sampled the air in the room using devices that were placed 1, 3 and 6 feet away from each patient.

The results showed that potentially infectious flu virus particles were found at each of the sample locations, the researchers said.

Venom: The Bite That Heals

Picture of venomous green mamba snake 

Scientists are unlocking the medical potential of venom.
Michael decided to go for a swim. He was on vacation with his family in Guerrero, Mexico, and it was hotter than blazes. He grabbed his swimming trunks from where they’d been drying on a chair, slid them on, and jumped into the pool. Instead of cool relief, a burning pain ripped through the back of his thigh. Tearing off his trunks, he leaped naked from the pool, his leg on fire.

Behind him a small, ugly, yellow creature was treading water. He scooped it into a Tupperware container, and the caretaker of the house rushed him to the local Red Cross facility, where doctors immediately identified his attacker: a bark scorpion, Centruroides sculpturatus, one of the most venomous species in North America. The fierce pain from a sting is typically followed by what feels like electric shocks racking the body. Occasionally victims die.

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Drones to Watch Over US Highways

The GUASS drone could help workers as they go about inspecting and maintaining the safety of public roads and highways.


Drones could help human workers safeguard the 4 million miles of U.S. highways crisscrossing the country. The flying robots could inspect bridges and roads, survey lands with laser mapping, and even alert officials to traffic jams or accidents.

One such project focused on studying the use of drones recently received $74,984 from the Federal Highway Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation. Researchers plan to spend the next year figuring out how drones could help workers as they go about inspecting and maintaining the safety of public roads and highways.

Will Your Waiter Give You the Flu?

Fifteen minutes before Victoria Bruton's lunch shift at a busy Philadelphia dining joint, she began to feel dizzy and hot. "I had gone to my boss and asked if I could leave because I wasn't feeling well," Bruton, now 41, remembers of her first case of what she assumed to be the flu. "They asked that I finish the shift. And frankly, I couldn't afford not to." The sole source of income for her two daughters, Bruton powered through the shiftand spent the next two days confined to a sickbed. 

Like most of the country, Philadelphia doesn't require restaurants to pay sick leave for its food handlers, though long-time food workers like Bruton, advocacy organizations, and lawmakers are currently fighting for a law to do so in Pennsylvania. Councilmen in Portland, Oregon are also currently debating a similar initiative. But these two proposals are the exception rather than the norm: According to a study from the Food Chain Workers Alliance, 79 percent of food workers in the United States don't have paid sick leave or don't know if they do. And it's not just flu that sick servers can spread—a study out this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the food industry's labor practices may be contributing to some of the nation's most common foodborne illness outbreaks, and moreso than previously thought.

Chinese Hackers Infiltrate The New York Times, Steal Every Employee's Password


A Cyberattack From China: TimesCast: Chinese hackers infiltrated The New York Times’s computer systems, getting passwords for its reporters and other.

SAN FRANCISCO — For the last four months, Chinese hackers have persistently attacked The New York Times, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees. 

After surreptitiously tracking the intruders to study their movements and help erect better defenses to block them, The Times and computer security experts have expelled the attackers and kept them from breaking back in. 

The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.

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Computer Scientists Find New Shortcuts for Infamous Traveling Salesman Problem


Not long ago, a team of researchers from Stanford and McGill universities broke a 35-year record in computer science by an almost imperceptible margin — four hundredths of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a percent, to be exact. The advance — made to that poster child for hard-to-solve computer science quandaries, the “traveling salesman” problem — was too minuscule to have any immediate practical significance, but it has breathed new life into the search for improved approximate solutions.

The traveling salesman problem asks: Given a collection of cities connected by highways, what is the shortest route that visits every city and returns to the starting place? The answer has practical applications to processes such as drilling holes in circuit boards, scheduling tasks on a computer and ordering features of a genome. 

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Hitler’s Toilet Is in New Jersey

For half a century, Greg’s Auto Repair has housed the commode from Aviso Grille, the Führer’s biggest yacht.


Florence, N.J., isn’t too different from other small towns in the Garden State, one marked, if anything, by a slew of very ordinary sights—chain flower shops at every major intersection, decidedly lower gas prices, and a few cozy diners. But it is also home to something else, acquired by Greg Kohfeldt when he bought Sam Carlani’s auto-repair shop here almost 20 years ago: Adolf Hitler’s toilet.

According to Kohfeldt, the toilet came off of Hitler’s biggest private yacht, the Aviso Grille, which was between 400 and 500 feet long, and at the time one of the biggest private boats in existence. “He wanted to ride it down the Thames in London and go live in Windsor Palace when he invaded,” Kohfeldt told me on a subzero morning last week as he pulled a sink—also from the ship, and now in pieces—out of a box and laid them out for me to examine each of the maker’s stamps and faucets. Another resident of Florence, Dick Glass—an expert on Hitler’s yacht—told me that the ship was armed, had a crew of 245 men, a private room for Eva Braun, and was bigger than J.P. Morgan’s ship Corsair. The Aviso Grille also played a significant role in one particular moment in history: Hitler’s Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz stood on the deck of the ship on May 1, 1945, and gave the first word of the Führer’s death and took command of Germany.

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China Is The New Thneedville As Canned Air Goes On Sale There

lorax chen China Is The New Thneedville As Canned Air Goes On Sale There  

Assuming you were not under a coconut shell for the past weeks, you would have read that China has been combating the problem of smog for a fair number of years already, and the latest occurrences have prompted more calls for something concrete to be done by the government of the day as the situation is not getting any better as each year passes by. Having said that, truth being stranger than fiction at times, we have a real life “Aloysius O’Hare” (of The Lorax movie fame) in the form of entrepreneur Chen Guangbiao who has begun to sell canned air. Of course, I am quite sure that rich as he is, the whole idea of selling canned air at 5 yuan each is not to make more money to add to his $740 million fortune, but rather, to stress on a point concerning the toll on the environment.

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Palestine: How Bad, & Good, Was British Rule?


The British rule over Palestine lasted roughly thirty years, from 1917 until 1948. In a country that has three thousand years of recorded history, thirty years is a tiny fraction. If we conceive of three thousand years on a scale of one day, the period of British rule takes barely eight minutes. In comparison, Turkish Ottoman rule over Palestine, which lasted four hundred years, takes an hour and forty minutes. Yet the influence of these thirty years was deep and wide-ranging.

Under British rule, Palestine became a political unit, not a marginal province of something else. The British made Jerusalem the capital city of Palestine; they introduced the idea of professional civil service, and they encouraged a lively civil society; they built roads and airfields, and provided sound legal institutions and reliable police.

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'Girls? Ladies? Folks?' Here's A Visual Guide To What You Should Call That Group Of Individuals.


I belong to an excellent list serv called the “Tech Lady Mafia.” One of its members, Shawna Hein, 28, a user experience designer from Berkeley, recently expressed annoyance on the list at the widespread use of the word “girls” to describe women long past elementary school age.

“I first started thinking about it when Girl With A Dragon Tattoo came out,” says Hein by phone. “It’s a whole action series where the main character is a bad ass, and yet she’s called a girl. You never see an action hero with boy in his name.”

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The Case for Torture

What really happened in the CIA’s “enhanced" interrogations? Three former officials tell their stories.

Michael Hayden at his swearing-in as CIA director in 2006 

Did “enhanced interrogation techniques” help us find Osama Bin Laden and destroy al-Qaida? Were they torture? Were they wrong? Yesterday, three former CIA officials grappled with those questions in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute. The discussion was supposed to be about Zero Dark Thirty. But it was really a chance to see in person the thinking of the people who ran and justified the detainee interrogation program. It’s also a chance to examine our own thinking. Do we really understand what the CIA did and why? Was the payoff worth the moral cost? And what can we learn from it?

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How Yahoo allowed hackers to hijack my neighbor's e-mail account

Web bugs can have serious risks, especially when they fester for eight months.


When my neighbor called early Wednesday morning, she sounded close to tears. Her Yahoo Mail account had been hijacked and used to send spam to addresses in her contact list. Restrictions had then been placed on her account that prevented her from e-mailing her friends to let them know what happened.

In a blog post published hours before my neighbor's call, researchers from security firm Bitdefender said that the hacking campaign that targeted my neighbor's account had been active for about a month. Even more remarkable, the researchers said the underlying hack worked because Yahoo's developer blog runs on a version of the WordPress content management system that contained a vulnerability developers addressed more than eight months ago. My neighbor's only mistake, it seems, was clicking on a link while logged in to her Yahoo account.

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Why We Took Cocaine Out of Soda

When cocaine and alcohol meet inside a person, they create a third unique drug called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene works like cocaine, but with more euphoria.


So in 1863, when Parisian chemist Angelo Mariani combined coca and wine and started selling it, a butterfly did flap its wings. His Vin Marian became extremely popular. Jules Verne, Alexander Dumas, and Arthur Conan Doyle were among literary figures said to have used it, and the chief rabbi of France said, "Praise be to Mariani's wine!" 

Pope Leo XIII reportedly carried a flask of it regularly and gave Mariani a medal.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Massive sinkhole in China swallows building

Look out, below. A massive sinkhole in Guangzhou, China, swallowed up buildings and knocked out power to thousands of residents.

According to Shanghaiist, the sinkhole is about 3,230 square feet and plenty deep. A video shows a crowd milling about the sinkhole before it expanded, causing a building to crumble as if it were detonated.

Neighboring buildings were evacuated and streets were blocked by police. "Gas could be smelt from over 30 metres away, and deafening noises could be heard as the land continued to crack and sink," the Shanghaiist reports.

Sinkholes are, unfortunately, nothing new. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, some sinkholes are human-induced. "New sinkholes have been correlated to land-use practices, especially from groundwater pumping and from construction and development practices." They also occur in areas where the rock beneath the land surface can be easily dissolved by groundwater.

Getting In Shape at Work Is Easier Than You Think


You may want to think twice before taking the elevator to your office or ordering in for lunch. New research has found that small periods of activity which add up to 30 minutes a day worth of exercise can be just as beneficial as longer bouts of physical activity.

That research found that small increments of exercise, even as short as one or two minutes at a time, can help to prevent metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and high cholesterol as long as the exercise adds up to a half hour a day.

"Our results suggest that engaging in an active lifestyle approach, compared to a structured exercise approach, may be just as beneficial in improving various health outcomes," said Paul Loprinzi, assistant professor at Bellarmine University and lead author of the study. "We encourage people to seek out opportunities to be active when the choice is available. For example, rather than sitting while talking on the phone, use this opportunity to get in some activity by pacing around while talking."


Teens More Likely to Drink If Their BFFs Do


Best friends might play the biggest role in influencing when teens have their first sip of alcohol, new research shows.

In the study, having pals who drank and had access to booze was the most important factor in predicting when a kid started drinking — trumping a teen's own troublemaking tendencies and family history of alcoholism.

"When you start drinking, even with kids who come from alcoholic families, they don't get their first drinks from their family," Samuel Kuperman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Iowa, said in a statement. "They get their first drinks from their friends. They have to be able to get it. If they have friends who have alcohol, then it's easier for them to have that first drink."

How the Columbia Shuttle Disaster Changed Spacecraft Safety Forever


Ten years after the devastating Columbia space shuttle accident that took the lives of seven astronauts, NASA is building a new spacecraft that will take humans farther into space than ever before, and will incorporate the safety lessons learned from the disaster that befell the agency Feb. 1, 2003.

That day, the shuttle Columbia was returning from a 16-day trip to space devoted to science research. But what began as a routine re-entry through Earth's atmosphere ended disastrously as the orbiter disintegrated about 200,000 feet (61 kilometers) over Texas.

Later analysis found that Columbia was doomed during its launch, when a small bit of foam insulation broke off the shuttle's external fuel tank and tore a hole in the orbiter's wing. That hole prevented Columbia from withstanding the scorching heat of re-entry.

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Babies Start 'Mind Reading' Earlier Than Thought

In a modified version of the false-beliefs test, even toddlers seem to understand what other people know.


Even babies as young as a year-and-a-half can guess what other people are thinking, new research suggests.

The results, published today (Jan. 29) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: B, come from a study of children spanning the globe, from rural China to the more remote islands of Fiji. Previously, scientists thought this ability to understand other people's perspectives emerged much later in children.

The findings may shed light on the social abilities that differentiate us from our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, said study author H. Clark Barrett, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The study used a form of the false-belief test, one of the few cognitive tasks that young children, but not primates, can do.

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Are Ghosts Real? Science Says No-o-o-o

If you believe in ghosts, you're not alone: A 2005 Gallup poll found that 37 percent of Americans believe in haunted houses, and about one-third believe in ghosts. Tens of thousands of people around the world actively search for ghosts as a hobby. Researcher Sharon Hill of the Doubtful Newsblog counted about 2,000 active amateur ghost-hunting groups in America.

ghost in woods  

Ghosts have been a popular subject for millennia, appearing in countless stories, from "Macbeth" to the Bible, and even spawning their own folklore genre: ghost stories. Ghosts are perhaps the most common paranormal belief in the world. Part of the reason is that belief in ghosts is part of a larger web of related paranormal beliefs, including near-death experience, life after death, and spirit communication.

'Habitable Zone' for Alien Planets, and Possibly Life, Redefined

A new definition of the habitable zone around planets, denoting where liquid water could exist, shifts Earth toward the very edge of the solar system's own habitable zone.


One of the most important characteristics of an alien planet is whether or not it falls into what's called the habitable zone ­— a Goldilocks-like range of not-too-close, not-too-far distances from the parent star that might allow the planet to host life.

Now scientists have redefined the boundaries of the habitable zone for alien planets, potentially kicking out some exoplanaets that were thought to fall within it, and maybe allowing a few that had been excluded to squeeze in.

"This will have a significant impact on the number of exoplanets that are within habitable zone," said research team leader Ravi Kumar Kopparapu of Penn State University. 

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Military to Use Brain Scans in Dog Training

Staff Sgt. Philip Mendoza and his military working dog, Rico, wearing "doggles," during training aboard a helicopter at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. 


Cry havoc, Shakespeare wrote, and let slip the dogs of war. The U.S. military has taken the Bard's words to heart, but with a new, high-tech way of finding the very best dogs for military operations.

DARPA, the military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is planning to use functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI) to scan the brains of puppies. Those that show a lot of neural activity in the ventral caudate — a brain region associated with positive rewards — will be selected for training, Wired reports.

By selecting those pups, the military hopes their enhanced reward impulses will make it easier, faster and cheaper to train the dogs to carry out complex tasks. "Belly rubs won’t cut it anymore," said Wired. 

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The One Math Skill You Need to Succeed at Work

The key to improving today's workforce could lie in the elementary school math class, new research shows.


A study by University of Missouri researchers identified how a lack of a specific math skill in first grade correlated to lower scores on a seventh-grade math test used to determine employability and wages in adults.

David Geary, a Missouri professor and the study's lead author, said the research made a connection between child psychology and labor economics in order to examine the roots of America's shortage of mathematically proficient workers. Data from the United States Center for Educational Statistics revealed that one in five adults lacks the math competency expected of an eighth-grader. 

The Brain Retroactively Edits Conscious Experience


The brain apparently edits a person's conscious experience retroactively.

Up to a half-second after an object disappears from view, the brain can "edit" the experience to retain that object, a new study from France shows. The finding may partly explain the weird feeling of being able to recall something you heard even when you don't consciously remember hearing it.

The finding also contradicts the notion that the brain sequentially takes in sensory information, processes it and then consciously experiences it, said Tufts University cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, whose books include "Consciousness Explained."

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Article: Venus Can Have 'Comet-Like' Atmosphere

When the solar wind dies down, an outer layer of Venus's atmosphere billows outward (illustrated on right), making the second planet from the sun look like a comet.


The planet Venus sometimes looks less like a planet and more like a comet, scientists say.

Scientists with the European Space Agency have discovered that a part of the upper atmosphere of Venus — its ionosphere — acts surprisingly different depending on daily changes in the sun's weather. The side of Venus' ionosphere that faces away from the sun can billow outward like the tail of a comet, while the side facing the star remains tightly compacted, researchers said.

The discovery was made using ESA's Venus Express spacecraft, which observed Venus's ionosphere during a period of low solar wind in 2010 to see exactly how the sun affects the way the planet's atmosphere functions. In 2013, the sun is expected to reach the peak of its 11-year solar activity cycle.

Photographer Captures Stunning Footage of Silhouettes in Front of a Rising Moon

Full Moon Silhouettes from Mark Gee on Vimeo.

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Where Is The Most Plastic Surgery Performed?

Plastic makes perfect

MORE people than ever are turning to the knife or the needle in the hope of physical perfection. Over 14.7m tucks, peels, jabs and lifts were performed by licensed plastic surgeons in 2011, according to a new study from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. The society estimates procedures by taking survey data received by licensed plastic surgeons and combining these with the official numbers of surgeons in a country. Non-invasive treatments to plump out wrinkles, smooth lines and remove hair account for more than half of all procedures: over 3m of these are for botox alone. America is home to more cosmetic enhancement than anywhere else, but accounting for population reveals a different story.

That Daily Shower Can Be a Killer

The other morning, I escaped unscathed from a dangerous situation. No, an armed robber didn’t break into my house, nor did I find myself face to face with a mountain lion during my bird walk. What I survived was my daily shower.  


You see, falls are a common cause of death in older people like me. (I’m 75.) Among my wife’s and my circle of close friends over the age of 70, one became crippled for life, one broke a shoulder and one broke a leg in falls on the sidewalk. One fell down the stairs, and another may not survive a recent fall. 

“Really!” you may object. “What’s my risk of falling in the shower? One in a thousand?” My answer: Perhaps, but that’s not nearly good enough.

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'Habitable zone' redefined for alien planets — and maybe life


One of the most important characteristics of an alien planet is whether or not it falls into what's called the habitable zone ­— a Goldilocks-like range of not-too-close, not-too-far distances from the parent star that might allow the planet to host life. 

Now scientists have redefined the boundaries of the habitable zone for alien planets, potentially kicking out some exoplanets that were thought to fall within it, and maybe allowing a few that had been excluded to squeeze in.

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NASA Is Still Trying To Figure Out This Whole IT Security Thing

Reader note: "Thought you might find this sadly amusing. I am NASA contractor. I just received notice today [29 Jan 2013] that my personal data was compromised in the Laptop theft from a NASA HQ employee on 10/31/12. The letter I received notes that NASA understands the 'seriousness' of this matter - so much so that it only took 3 months to notify me of this breach. Apparently the idiocy of their 'concern' is self-evident to all except the NASA bureaucracy."

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The Real, and Simple, Equation That Killed Wall Street

“If it weren’t for those meddling kids!” That was the punch line for every Scooby Doo episode. It also is the overly simple narrative that many in the media have spun about the last financial crisis. Smart meddling kids armed with math hoodwinked us all. 

One article, from the March 2009 Wired magazine, even pinpointed an equation and a mathematician. The article “Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street,” accused the Gaussian Copula Function.

It was not the first piece that made this type of argument, but it was the most aggressive. Since then it has been a common theme in the media that mathematics, especially obscure advanced mathematics, is largely responsible for the catastrophe that doomed the world to the last five years of recession and slow growth.
 This theme plays on the fallacy that danger always comes from complexity. It’s a fabrication that obscures the real causes, that makes it easier to say, “Hey, it wasn’t my fault, I was blinded by science.”

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Hackers Infect Government Websites with 'Asteroids' Game

Angry NyanCat in action on the homepage of the U.S. Probation Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.


Hackers angry over the suicide of Internet activist Aaron Swartz took over the website of the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) twice over the weekend, finally infecting the homepage with a playable version of the classic arcade game "Asteroids."

The hackers, claiming affiliation with the online movement Anonymous, also claimed to release a list of people in the federal Witness Security Program, also known as the Witness Protection Program, but that was quickly discovered to be a hoax.

Are You Carrying the Redhead Gene?

The redhead gene is recessive and can skip several generations. 


Some parents worry that their children will be born with a rare disease or a hidden genetic disorder. Other parents, however, wonder if their children will possess something more obvious: red hair.

A British ancestry company, BritainsDNA, is now offering parents the chance to see if their children might inherit the so-called "ginger gene," the Telegraph reports. The test will scan each parent's DNA for signs of the so-called MC1R gene that causes redheadedness.

Identity of Famous 19th-Century Brain Discovered

The speechless patient called 'Tan' who allowed Paul Broca to tie a specific brain region to language has been identified as Louis Leborgne.


The identity of a mysterious patient who helped scientists pinpoint the brain region responsible for language has been discovered, researchers report.

The new finding, detailed in the January issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, identifies the famous patient as Monsieur Louis Leborgne, a French craftsman who battled epilepsy his entire life.

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Future Disasters: 10 Lessons from Superstorm Sandy

Waves crash ashore near the Verrazano Bridge in Brooklyn, N.Y., ahead of Hurricane Sandy's landfall on Monday, Oct. 29.

NEW YORK — For most in the New York City area, life has returned to normal since Superstorm Sandy wrought devastation last fall. Now, the city and other communities must attempt to glean lessons from the storm, as well as other disasters, and use them to plan for the future.

These disastrous natural events are not isolated anomalies; there's reason to expect more in the future. 

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US Military Wants 'Mission Impossible' Self-Destructing Devices

An Army Evaluation Task Force Soldier at Fort Bliss conducts training with an unattended ground sensor. Future sensors could be smaller and vanish upon command.

Self-destructing tapes from the "Mission Impossible" TV series and films served fictional spies well during the Cold War. Today, the U.S. military wants a modern version of vanishing electronics that are able to disappear upon command in the environment or a human body.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for such spy craft technology at a time when swarms of electronic sensors and communication devices already help U.S. troops hunt enemies, keep track of friendly forces and monitor threats from nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Futuristic electronics able to self-destruct upon command would help prevent devices from falling into enemy hands and littering the environment.

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Loads of Microbes Found High in Atmosphere

Georgia Tech graduate student Natasha DeLeon-Rodriguez shows agar plates on which bacteria taken from tropospheric air samples are growing. 

 Many miles above the ground, microbes thrive in the sky.

A large number and wide variety of microorganisms were detected in the atmosphere 5 to 10 miles (8 to 15 kilometers) above the Earth's surface, according to a study published today (Jan. 28) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The results suggest that the community of high-atmosphere life is large and ever-changing. 

Some of the microbes appear to be transient visitors, while others seem stick around; a significant number of these little life-forms are likely able to survive by breaking down and making a meal of organic (or carbon-containing) chemicals floating in the high atmosphere, said study co-author Kostas Konstantinidis, an environmental microbiologist at Georgia Tech.

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Monkeys Spontaneously Sync Up Movements

Without even thinking, people often coordinate their movements with others around them, from clapping to walking to making facial expressions. 

New research shows monkeys might spontaneously sync up with their peers as well.

A group of Japanese scientists trained three macaques to press two buttons in front of them repeatedly and alternately with one hand. During the first set of trials, the monkeys were paired up and seated facing each other as the timing of their button-pushing was recorded. Then, instead a live partner, each monkey was seated across from a video screen that showed another monkey performing the button-pushing task, which allowed researchers to control the speed of the movements. In other experiments, the researchers cut either the audio or visual elements of the monkey's video-partner.

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Brain Circuitry Behind Cigarette Cravings Revealed

Scientists have found that brain regions involved in self-control play a role in cigarette cravings.

Addiction to cigarettes and other drugs may result from abnormal wiring in the brain's frontal cortex, an area critical for self-control, a new study finds.

Drug cravings can be brought on by many factors, such as the sight of drugs, drug availability and lack of self-control. Now, researchers have uncovered some of the neural mechanisms involved in cigarette craving. Two brain areas, the orbitofrontal cortex and the prefrontal cortex, interact to turn cravings on or off depending on whether drugs are available, the study reports today (Jan. 28) in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Overworked Doctors May Jeopardize Patient Safety


Some doctors say they care for more hospitalized patients than they can handle, which may compromise patient safety, a new study finds.

The study surveyed about 500 hospitalists, physicians who manage patients' care in hospitals. Forty percent of respondents said that, at least once a month, they took on more patients than they could safely handle. And, often, this occurred more frequently.

About a quarter of doctors said their high workload prevented them from fully discussing treatment options with patients, and 22 percent said they sometimes ordered unnecessary tests because they didn't have enough time to examine the patients' cases.

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Alien Solar System May Exist in Nearby Star Cluster

An artist's impression of a massive asteroid belt in orbit around a star. The new work with SDSS data shows that similar rubble around many white dwarfs contaminates these stars with rocky material and water.

At 150 light-years from Earth, the Hyades cluster is the nearest star cluster to Earth's solar system and scientists have long wondered if some of those stars are home to alien planets.

Now, that particular mystery might be solved.

Astronomer Ben Zuckerman,  a physics and astronomy professor at UCLA, and his team have discovered evidence that the atmosphere of a white dwarf star in the Hyades cluster is "polluted" with rocky material from pulverized asteroids pulled into orbit around the dying, super-dense star.

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Iran Launches Monkey Into Space: Reports

Iranian space officials announced Monday (Jan. 28, 2013) that they have successfully launched a live monkey into space.


Iranian space officials announced Monday (Jan. 28) that they have successfully launched a live monkey into space, inching closer to the Islamic republic's goal of a manned mission, according to news reports.

The space capsule, called Pishgam, which means "pioneer" in Farsi, reportedly returned the monkey alive after a suborbital flight to space and back, according to Iranian news agencies.

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Earthquake Early Warning in California Shifts Closer


An early warning system for California earthquakes could soon get a much-needed dose of money, a state lawmaker announced today (Jan 28).

State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) introduced legislation to fund a California-wide earthquake early warning system during a press conference at Caltech.

The technology for a warning system already exists, through a prototype called the California Integrated Seismic Network, but scientists need more money to take it public. Other earthquake-prone countries with public warning systems include Japan, Mexico, Taiwan and Turkey.

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How Running For Our Lives May Have Made Humans Smarter

This image shows a 3-D reconstruction of a mouse brain based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The forebrain is seen in green, the midbrain in yellow and the cerebellum in orange.


(ISNS) -- Could athletic prowess be linked to the size of our brains? Some new research suggests that exercise-loving mice have larger midbrains then their more mellow counterparts.

Scientists now think that the ability to run far and fast helped us evolve both physically and mentally. For evidence, look to the common house mouse.

Scientists at the University of California, Riverside have taken house mice, bred for both their propensity and abilities on treadmill wheels, and found they had a larger section of their brain called the midbrain and other parts of the brain outside the cerebellum -- the motor control center -- than plain house mice. But the overall size of their brains did not vary significantly.

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Eating Late May Stymie Weight Loss

When you eat, not just what you eat, may play a role in weight loss, finds a new study from Spain.


During the study, which investigated overweight women participating in a weight-loss program, those who ate lunch later in the day (after 3 p.m.) lost 25 percent less weight over a 20-week period than women who ate lunch earlier.

Researchers found this difference even though the two groups did not differ in the number of calories they ate each day, the amount of physical activity they engaged in, their levels of appetite hormones or their sleep duration, all factors known to influence weight regulation.

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