Science & Tech News

Astronomers scramble as ‘alien megastructure’ star dims again

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 10:16am
Tabby’s star’s weird behaviour has been blamed on everything from asteroids to aliens. Now astronomers are racing to watch its dimming in action
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A classic quantum test could reveal the limits of the human mind

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 10:12am
Using human consciousness as the trigger in a test of ‘spooky action at a distance’ could tell us whether mind is made of different stuff than matter
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'Without Action on Antibiotics, Medicine Will Return To the Dark Ages'

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 10:00am
Four years ago professor Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, gave the world a sombre warning of the growing threat posed by bacteria evolving resistance to life-saving antibiotics. If this were left unaddressed, she argued, it would lead to the erosion of modern medicine as we know it. Doctors and scientists had long warned of the problem, but few outside medicine were taking real heed. Consumption of antibiotics rose 36% between 2000 and 2010, writes Ed Whiting, director of policy and chief of staff at Wellcome, a biomedical research charity based in London. He notes that much of the progress in the field is yet to be made: We urgently need new antibiotics. No new classes of antibiotics have been approved since the early 1980s. Between 1940 and 1962 about 20 classes were produced, but industry backing has decreased significantly since that golden age. The pipeline of new treatments is all but dry, the void fast exploited by resistant bacteria. A concerning number are now resistant to drugs reserved as the last line of defence, and the most vulnerable are in greatest danger -- the young, old and critically ill. Blood infections caused by drug-resistant microbes kill more than 200,000 newborn babies each year. The reason for the lack of interest from the pharmaceutical industry is simple: the economics don't add up. Developing new antibiotics is scientifically challenging, time-consuming and costly. The medicines we so badly need cannot be allowed to be sold in volume; they must be conserved for real need, with fair access guaranteed. This limits their retail value. Many early-stage projects will fail, making them a risky bet. Even those that are successful will take at least a decade to produce medicines that are safe for human use.

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Our brains prefer invented visual information to the real thing

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 9:51am
When making sense of a visual blind spot, our brains fill in the gaps. We’re more likely to believe its version of what’s in front of us than a real image
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A Tip for Apple in China: Your Hunger for Revenue May Cost You

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 9:20am
Li Yuan, writing for the WSJ: Apple's latest predicament centers on its App Store. Last month, Apple told several Chinese social-networking apps, including the wildly popular messaging platform WeChat, to disable their "tip" functions to comply with App Store rules (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), according to executives at WeChat and other companies. That function allows users to send authors and other content creators tips, from a few yuan to hundreds, via transfers from mobile-wallet accounts. Those transfers are offered by the social-networking apps free of charge, as a way to inspire user engagement. Now, those tips will be considered in-app purchases, just like buying games, music and videos, entitling Apple to a 30% cut. For Apple, which has been observing slowing growth in mature markets, China is increasingly becoming important. But the company's my way or high-way approach might hurt the company's image in China. And that image as well as fortunes of local companies, is what the Chinese authorities deeply care about. As Yuan adds, "while it's understandable that Apple wants to tap the App Store for more money, its pressure on the app platforms risks alienating powerful Chinese companies, turning off Chinese iPhone users and drawing unnecessary attention from the regulators." Executives of these IM messaging apps tell WSJ that Apple has threatened that it would kick their apps out of the App Store if they don't comply. The problem is, WeChat is way more popular in China than Apple -- or its iPhones or its services or both combined, analysts say. WeChat is insanely popular in China, and people love to use the app to pay for things they purchase and send money to friends. Apple's greed could end up resulting in millions of new Android users, analysts said.

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Hopping miniature parrots suggest how birds first got airborne

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 9:15am
Parrotlets save energy when foraging by jumping from perch to perch with a few wingbeats, a technique that might have predated true flight
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IBM is Telling Remote Workers To Get Back in the Office Or Leave

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 8:40am
For the last few years, IBM has built up a remote work program for its 380,000 employees. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that IBM is "quietly dismantling" this option, and has told its employees this week that they either need to work in the office or leave the company (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: IBM is giving thousands of its remote workers in the U.S. a choice this week: Abandon your home workspaces and relocate to a regional office -- or leave the company. The 105-year-old technology giant is quietly dismantling its popular decades-old remote work program to bring employees back into offices, a move it says will improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work. The changes comes as IBM copes with 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue and rising shareholder ire over Chief Executive Ginni Rometty's pay package. The company won't say how many of its 380,000 employees are affected by the policy change, which so far has been rolled out to its Watson division, software development, digital marketing, and design -- divisions that employ tens of thousands of workers. The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world's staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it calls "the anytime, anywhere workforce," and its researchers have published numerous studies on the merits of remote work.

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Call obesity a disease and food a pathological agent? No thanks

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 8:15am
There is a rising trend to label obesity as a disease and even to liken tempting food to a pathogen. That's very unhelpful, says Lara Williams
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Facebook and Twitter 'Harm Young People's Mental Health'

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 8:00am
Instagram and Snapchat are really bad for young people's mental health, according to research by two health organisations. Virtually all major social media platforms have a negative impact on the well-being of 14-24-year-olds, the study adds. Instagram was the worst -- followed by Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. From a report on The Guardian: Instagram has the most negative impact on young people's mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people's feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact. The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children's and young people's body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

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LIGO could detect gravitational waves’ permanent space-time warp

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 7:33am
When gravitational waves permanently distort space-time, it causes a “memory” signal – which may help LIGO find some of the universe’s most exotic objects
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French Researchers Find Last-ditch Cure To Unlock WannaCry Files

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 7:20am
French researchers said on Friday they had found a last-chance way for technicians to save Windows files encrypted by WannaCry, racing against a deadline as the ransomware threatens to start locking up victims' computers first infected a week ago. From a report: WannaCry, which started to sweep round the globe last Friday and has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 nations, threatens to lock out victims who have not paid a sum of $300 to $600 within one week of infection. A loose-knit team of security researchers scattered across the globe said they had collaborated to develop a workaround to unlock the encryption key for files hit in the global attack, which several independent security researchers have confirmed. The researchers warned that their solution would only work in certain conditions, namely if computers had not been rebooted since becoming infected and if victims applied the fix before WannaCry carried out its threat to lock their files permanently. Also see: Windows XP PCs Infected By WannaCry Can Be Decrypted Without Paying Ransom.

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Brain stent to let five paralysed people control exoskeleton

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 6:50am
The implant travels to the brain via the blood and could provide a permanent way of recording signals used to direct an exoskeleton that helps paralysed people walk
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America's Cars Are Suddenly Getting Faster and More Efficient

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 6:40am
Kyle Stock and David Ingold, writing for Bloomberg: Sometime in the next couple of months, the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and its 808 horsepower will show up in dealership windows like some kind of tiny, red, tire-melting factory. Yes, 808 horsepower. There's no typo. Last year, U.S. drivers on the hunt for more than 600 horsepower had 18 models to choose from, including a Cadillac sedan that looks more swanky than angry. Meanwhile, even boring commuter sedans are posting power specifications that would have been unheard of during the Ford Administration. The horses in the auto industry are running free. We crunched four decades of data from the Environmental Protection Agency's emission tests and arrived at a simple conclusion: All of the cars these days are fast and furious -- even the trucks. If a 1976 driver were to somehow get his hands on a car from 2017, he'd be at grave risk of whiplash. Since those days, horsepower in the U.S. has almost doubled, with the median model climbing from 145 to 283 stallions. Not surprisingly, the entire U.S. fleet grew more game for a drag-race: The median time it took for a vehicle to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour was halved, from almost 14 seconds to seven.

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2B Pages On Web Now Use Google's AMP, Pages Now Load Twice As Fast

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 6:00am
At its developer conference I/O 2017 this week, Google also shared an update on its fast-loading Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). The company says that over 900,000 domains on the web have enabled AMP, and over two billion pages now load faster because of it. Taking things forward, Google says AMP access from Google Search is now twice as fast. From a report: Google first unveiled the open source AMP Project in October 2015. Since then, the company has been working hard to add new features and push AMP across not just its own products, but the larger web. Google Search only launched AMP support out of developer preview in September 2016. Eight months later, Google has already cut the time it takes to render content in half. The company explains that this is possible due to several key optimizations made to the Google AMP Cache. These include server-side rendering of AMP components and reducing bandwidth usage from images by 50 percent without affecting the perceived quality. Also helpful was the Brotli compression algorithm, which made it possible to reduce document size by an additional 10 percent in supported browsers (even Edge uses it). Google open-sourced Brotli in September 2015 and considers it a successor to the Zopfli algorithm.

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Plasma jet engines that could take you from the ground to space

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 5:50am
Jet engines that compress gas into a plasma have been successfully tested at ground level for the first time
Categories: Science & Tech News

ReactOS 0.4.5 Released

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 5:00am
An anonymous reader shares Colin Finck's forum post announcing ReactOS version 0.4.5: The ReactOS Project is pleased to release version 0.4.5 as a continuation of its three month cadence. Beyond the usual range of bug fixes and syncs with external dependencies, a fair amount of effort has gone into the graphical subsystem. Thanks to the work of Katayama Hirofumi and Mark Jansen, ReactOS now better serves requests for fonts and font metrics, leading to an improved rendering of applications and a more pleasant user experience. Your continued donations have also funded a contract for Giannis Adamopoulos to fix every last quirk in our theming components. The merits of this work can be seen in ReactOS 0.4.5, which comes with a smoother themed user interface and the future promises to bring even more improvements. In another funded effort, Hermes Belusca-Maito has got MS Office 2010 to run under ReactOS, another application from the list of most voted apps. On top of this, there have been several major fixes in the kernel and drivers that should lead to stability improvements on real hardware and on long-running machines. The general notes, tests, and changelog for the release can be found at their respective links. ISO images and prepared VMs for testing can be downloaded here.

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Human blood stem cells grown in the lab for the first time

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 3:30am
Two labs have found a way to create cells that can form new blood – paving the way for donor-free blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants
Categories: Science & Tech News

Mussel gloop can be used to make wounds knit without any scars

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 3:00am
Secretions from mussels together with a synthesised skin protein create the ultimate glue – one that seamlessly meshes together skin wounds in rats
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China Successfully Mines Gas From Methane Hydrate In Production Run

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 2:00am
hackingbear writes from a report via OilPrice.com: In a world's first, China has successfully extracted gas from gas hydrates in production run in the northern part of the South China Sea. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), global estimates vary, but the energy content of methane in hydrates, also known as "fire ice" or "flammable ice," is "immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels." But no methane production other than small-scale field experiments has been documented so far. The China Geographical Survey said that it managed to collect samples from the Shenhu area in the South China Sea in a test that started last Wednesday. Every day some 16,000 cubic meters (565,000 cubic feet) of gas, almost all of which was methane, were extracted from the test field, exceeding goals for production mining. This is expected to help cut down China's coal-induced pollution greatly and reduce reliance on politically sensitive petroleum imports controlled by the US. "The production of gas hydrate will play a significant role in upgrading China's energy mixture and securing its energy security," Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming said on Thursday.

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Rising Seas Set To Double Coastal Flooding By 2050, Says Study

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 11:00pm
Coastal flooding is about to get dramatically more frequent around the world as sea levels rise from global warming, researchers said Thursday. Phys.Org reports, "A 10-to-20 centimeter (four-to-eight inch) jump in the global ocean watermark by 2050 -- a conservative forecast -- would double flood risk in high-latitude regions, they reports in the journal Scientific Reports." From the report: Major cities along the North American seaboard such as Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with the European Atlantic coast, would be highly exposed, they found. But it would only take half as big a jump in ocean levels to double the number of serious flooding incidents in the tropics, including along highly populated river deltas in Asia and Africa. Even at the low end of this sea rise spectrum, Mumbai, Kochi and Abidjan and many other cities would be significantly affected. To make up for the lack of observational data, Vitousek and his colleagues used computer modeling and a statistical method called extreme value theory. "We asked the question: with waves factored in, how much sea level rise will it take to double the frequency of flooding?" Sea levels are currently rising by three to four millimeters (0.10 to 0.15 inches) a year, but the pace has picked up by about 30 percent over the last decade. It could accelerate even more as continent-sized ice blocs near the poles continue to shed mass, especially in Antarctica, which Vitousek described as the sea level "wild card." If oceans go up 25 centimeters by mid-century, "flood levels that occur every 50 years in the tropics would be happening every year or more," he said.

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