Space

17-Year-Old Radio Astronomy Mystery Traced Back To Kitchen Microwave 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the give-it-another-30-secs dept.
New submitter Bo'Bob'O writes: The BBC reports that the scientists at the Parkes and Bleien Radio Observatories in New South Whales, Australia, have tracked down earth-based signals that had been eluding observation for 17 years. These signals, which came to be called Perytons "occurred only during office hours and predominantly on weekdays." The source, as it turned out, was located right inside the antenna's tower where impatient scientists had been opening the kitchen microwave door before its cycle had finished. As the linked paper concludes, this, and a worn magnetron caused a condition that allowed the microwaves to emit a burst of frequencies not expected by the scientists, only compounding the original mystery.
Mars

NASA Will Award You $5,000 For Your Finest Mars City Idea 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-to-mars dept.
coondoggie writes: NASA this week said it would look to the public for cool ideas on how to build a sustainable environment on Mars with the best plan earning as much as $5,000. With the Journey to Mars Challenge, NASA wants applicants to describe one or more Mars surface systems or capabilities and operations that are needed to set up and establish a technically achievable, economically sustainable human living space on the red planet. Think air, water, food, communications systems and the like.
Biotech

Apple's Plans For Your DNA 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the download-a-parkinson's-cure-from-itunes dept.
An anonymous reader writes: MIT's Technology Review breaks news that Apple is working with scientists to create apps that collect and evaluate users' DNA. "The apps are based on ResearchKit, a software platform Apple introduced in March that helps hospitals or scientists run medical studies on iPhones by collecting data from the devices' sensors or through surveys." A source says Apple's plan is to enable users to easily share their DNA information with medical workers and researchers performing studies. "To join one of the studies, a person would agree to have a gene test carried out—for instance, by returning a "spit kit" to a laboratory approved by Apple. The first such labs are said to be the advanced gene-sequencing centers operated by UCSF and Mount Sinai."
Space

SpaceX Launch Abort Test Successful 48

Posted by Soulskill
from the failed-correctly dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As we discussed yesterday, SpaceX launched a prototype this morning to test its Dragon passenger capsule in an aborted launch. The test was a success — the capsule separated cleanly, propelled itself to a safe distance, deployed its parachutes, and lowered gently down to a water landing, where it remained floating. You can watch video of the test on SpaceX's website — skip to 15:40 to get right to it. Externally, everything seems to have gone fine. I'm sure we'll hear in the coming weeks whether the downrange distance was ideal, whether they hit their splashdown target, and how the crash test dummy inside the capsule weathered the abort!
Medicine

The Medical Bill Mystery 436

Posted by Soulskill
from the $70-convenience-charge-to-process-the-convenience-charge dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Elisabeth Rosenthal writes in the NY Times that she has spent the past six months trying to figure out a medical bill for $225 that includes "Test codes: 105, 127, 164, to name a few. CPT codes: 87481, 87491, 87798 and others" and she really doesn't want to pay it until she understands what it's for. "At first, I left messages on the lab's billing office voice mail asking for an explanation. A few months ago, when someone finally called back, she said she could not tell me what the codes were for because that would violate patient privacy. After I pointed out that I was the patient in question, she said, politely: 'I'm sorry, this is what I'm told, and I don't want to lose my job.'" Bills variously use CPT, HCPCS or ICD-9 codes. Some have abbreviations and scientific terms that you need a medical dictionary or a graduate degree to comprehend. Some have no information at all. A Seattle resident received a $45,000 hospital bill with the explanation "miscellaneous."

So what's the problem? "Medical bills and explanation of benefits are undecipherable and incomprehensible even for experts to understand, and the law is very forgiving about that," says Mark Hall. "We've not seen a lot of pressure to standardize medical billing, but there's certainly a need." Hospitals and medical clinics say that detailed bills are simply too complicated for patients and that they provide the information required by insurers. But with rising copays and deductibles, patients are shouldering an increasing burden. One recent study found that up to 90 percent of hospital bills contain errors. An audit by Equifax found that hospital bills totaling more than $10,000 contained an average error of $1,300. "There are no industry standards with regards to what information a patient should receive regarding their bill," says Cyndee Weston, executive director of the American Medical Billing Association. "The software industry has pretty much decided what information patients should receive, and to my knowledge, they have not had any stakeholder input. That would certainly be a worthwhile project for our industry."
Space

As Hubble Breaks a Distance Record, We Learn Its True Limits 51

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-can't-find-my-sunglasses dept.
StartsWithABang writes: You might think that, when it comes to finding the most distant objects in the Universe, all we need is a good telescope, to leave the shutter open, and wait. As we accumulate more and more photons, we're bound to find the most distant, faint objects out there. Sure, Hubble just broke its own cosmic distance record, but it's certainly not the most distant. Thinking so misses an important fact: the Universe is expanding! And with that expansion, the wavelength of the light we can see gets redshifted. Ultraviolet light winds up in the infrared, infrared light winds up in the microwave, and the most distant galaxies that are out there are invisible, even to Hubble. Here are Hubble's limits, and how the James Webb Space Telescope will overcome them.
Science

Mysterious Sounds Recorded During Near Space Balloon Flight 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.
An anonymous reader writes: LiveScience reports on strange sounds recorded by microphones on board a high altitude balloon. The sounds were captured at altitudes of up to 36 kilometers, higher than any such experiment to date. Most of the noises are in Infrasound frequencies — below 20 Hz. Researchers aren't sure what caused the noises, but they have a few theories: "a wind farm under the balloon's flight path, crashing ocean waves, wind turbulence, gravity waves, clear air turbulence, and vibrations caused by the balloon cable."
Space

SpaceX Testing Passenger Escape System Tomorrow 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the coming-home-safely dept.
An anonymous reader writes: On Wednesday, SpaceX will be performing the first test of a prototype for its passenger capsule escape system. Most rockets have a launch abort system that will save the lives of its crew within the first few minutes of launch, but not beyond a relatively low altitude. SpaceX is designing the new system to be able to return astronauts safely whether they're close to the ground or near orbit.

The Dragon capsule will fire eight SuperDraco thrusters, capable of producing 120,000 lbs of axial thrust between them in under a second. With that amount of thrust, the capsule can get half a kilometer away from a failing rocket in under 5 seconds. SpaceX will have 270 sensors aboard the prototype, including a crash test dummy. The main mission goals include: determining the best sequencing for the launch abort timeline, getting all eight thrusters to fire in unison, and seeing how an aborted launch affects both the inside of the capsule and the area around it. The test is planned to start at 7 a.m. EDT (11:00 UTC), but they have a 7.5-hour window if there are minor delays.
Mars

Opportunity Rover Reaches Martian Day 4,000 of Its 90-Day Mission 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the awesome-engineers-doing-awesome-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Let's take a moment to appreciate the incredible engineering, scientific, and planning skill that went into the construction and deployment of the Opportunity rover. It landed on Mars with the goal of surviving 90 sols (Martian days), and it has just logged its 4,000th sol of harvesting valuable data and sending it back to us. The Planetary Society blog has posted a detailed update on Opportunity's status, and its team's plans for the future. The rover's hardware, though incredibly resilient, is wearing down. They reformatted its flash drive to block off a corrupted sector, and that solved some software problems that had cropped up. They're currently trying to figure out why the rover unexpectedly rebooted itself. Those events are incredibly dangerous to the rover's survival, so their highest priority right now is diagnosing that issue.

Fortunately, weather on Mars is good where the rover is, and it's still able to harvest upwards of 500 Watt-hours of energy from its solar panels. Opportunity recently completed a marathon on Mars and took an impressive picture of the Spirit of St. Louis crater, and the rover will soon be on its way to enormous clay deposits that could provide valuable information about where we can look for water when we eventually put people on Mars. As always, you can look through Opportunity's images at the official website.
Space

Extreme Exoplanet Volcanism Possibly Detected On 55 Cancri E 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the fun-place-to-visit-but-i-wouldn't-want-to-live-there dept.
astroengine writes: Using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have revealed wild atmospheric changes on a well studied exoplanet — changes that they suspect are driven by extreme volcanic activity. Over a period of two years, the team, led by University of Cambridge researchers, noted a three-fold change in temperature on the surface of 55 Cancri e. The super-Earth planet orbits a sun-like star 40 light-years away in the constellation of Cancer. It is twice the size of Earth and 8-times our planet's mass. 55 Cancri e is well-known to exoplanet hunters as the "diamond planet" — a world thought to be carbon-rich, possibly covered in hydrocarbons. But this new finding, published in the arXiv pre-print service, has added a new dimension to the planet's weird nature. "This is the first time we've seen such drastic changes in light emitted from an exoplanet, which is particularly remarkable for a super-Earth," said co-author Nikku Madhusudhan, of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy, in a press release. "No signature of thermal emissions or surface activity has ever been detected for any other super-Earth to date."
Earth

Recent Paper Shows Fracking Chemicals In Drinking Water, Industry Attacks It 312

Posted by timothy
from the they-never-factor-in-the-tastiness dept.
eldavojohn writes: A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences turned up 2-Butoxyethanol from samples collected from three households in Pennsylvania. The paper's level headed conclusion is that more conservative well construction techniques should be used to avoid this in the future and that flowback should be better controlled. Rob Jackson, another scientist who reviewed the paper, stressed that the findings were an exception to normal operations. Despite that, the results angered the PR gods of the Marcellus Shale Gas industry and awoke beltway insider mouthpieces to attack the research — after all, what are they paying them for?
Science

New Findings On Whale Tongues May Lead To Insight On Human Nerve Damage 47

Posted by samzenpus
from the bend-me-shape-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story about the discovery of stretchy nerves in whales. Researchers from the University of British Columbia have discovered that the largest animals alive – whales – have nerves in their tongues that can double in length and then recoil like a bungee cord. The researchers were studying specimens at a commercial whaling station in Iceland when they stumbled upon the discovery reported Monday in Current Biology. Researchers say it could have important implications for study into human nerve damage. "I had never seen a nerve like that," said Wayne Vogl, of UBC's Cellular and Physiological Sciences department.
NASA

No, NASA Did Not Accidentally Invent Warp Drive 403

Posted by samzenpus
from the impulse-power dept.
StartsWithABang writes: As Slashdot has previously reported, NASA Spaceflight has claimed to have vetted the EM Drive in a vacuum, and found there is still an anomalous thrust/acceleration on the order of 50 microNewtons for the device. While some are claiming this means things like warp drive and 70-day-trips-to-Mars are right on the horizon, it's important to view this from a scientist's point of view. Here's what it will take to turn this from a speculative claim into a robust one.
United States

House Panel Holds Hearing On "Politically Driven Science" - Without Scientists 345

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-got-politics-in-my-science dept.
sciencehabit writes: Representative Louie Gohmert (R–TX) is worried that scientists employed by the U.S. government have been running roughshod over the rights of Americans in pursuit of their personal political goals. So this week Gohmert, the chair of the oversight and investigations subpanel of the U.S. House of Representatives' Natural Resources Committee, held a hearing to explore "the consequences of politically driven science." Notably absent, however, were any scientists, including those alleged to have gone astray.
Lord of the Rings

Why Scientists Love 'Lord of the Rings' 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the even-the-very-wise-cannot-see-all-the-ends dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Julie Beck writes in The Atlantic that though science and fantasy seem to be polar opposites, a Venn diagram of "scientists" and "Lord of the Rings fans" have a large overlap which could (lovingly!) be labeled "nerds." Several animal species have been named after characters from the books, including wasps, crocodiles, and even a dinosaur named after Sauron, "Given Tolkien's passion for nomenclature, his coinage, over decades, of enormous numbers of euphonious names—not to mention scientists' fondness for Tolkien—it is perhaps inevitable that Tolkien has been accorded formal taxonomic commemoration like no other author," writes Henry Gee. Other disciplines aren't left out of the fun—there's a geologically interesting region in Australia called the "Mordor Alkaline Igneous Complex," a pair of asteroids named "Tolkien" and "Bilbo," and a crater on Mercury also named "Tolkien."

"It has been documented that Middle-Earth caught the attention of students and practitioners of science from the early days of Tolkien fandom. For example, in the 1960s, the Tolkien Society members were said to mainly consist of 'students, teachers, scientists, or psychologists,'" writes Kristine Larsen, an astronomy professor at Central Connecticut State University, in her paper "SAURON, Mount Doom, and Elvish Moths: The Influence of Tolkien on Modern Science." "When you have scientists who are fans of pop culture, they're going to see the science in it," says Larson. "It's just such an intricate universe. It's so geeky. You can delve into it. There's the languages of it, the geography of it, and the lineages. It's very detail oriented, and scientists in general like things that have depth and detail." Larson has also written papers on using Tolkien as a teaching tool, and discusses with her astronomy students, for example, the likelihood that the heavenly body Borgil, which appears in the first book of the trilogy, can be identified as the star Aldebaran. "I use this as a hook to get students interested in science," says Larson. "I'm also interested in recovering all the science that Tolkien quietly wove into Middle Earth because there's science in there that the casual reader has not recognized."
Space

High School Students Discover Pulsar With Widest-Known Orbit 19

Posted by timothy
from the dancing-light dept.
Science 2.0 reports that A team of high school students analyzed data from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and discovered a never-before-seen pulsar which has the widest orbit of any around a neutron star - one among only a handful of double neutron star systems. ... This pulsar, which received the official designation PSR J1930-1852, was discovered in 2012 by Cecilia McGough, who was a student at Strasburg High School in Virginia at the time, and De'Shang Ray, who was a student at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland. These students were participating in a summer Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) workshop, which is an NSF-funded educational outreach program that involves interested high school students in analyzing pulsar survey data collected by the GBT. Students often spend weeks and months poring over data plots, searching for the unique signature that identifies a pulsar. Those who identify strong pulsar candidates are invited to Green Bank to work with astronomers to confirm their discovery.
Earth

Empty Landscape Looms, If Large Herbivores Continue to Die Out 146

Posted by timothy
from the slimming-diet dept.
From the BBC comes this depressing excerpt: Populations of some of the world's largest wild animals are dwindling, raising the threat of an "empty landscape", say scientists. About 60% of giant herbivores - plant-eaters - including rhinos, elephants and gorillas, are at risk of extinction, according to research. Analysis of 74 herbivore species, published in Science Advances, blamed poaching and habitat loss. A previous study of large carnivores showed similar declines. Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University, led the research looking at herbivores weighing over 100kg, from the reindeer up to the African elephant. "This is the first time anyone has analysed all of these species as a whole," he said. "The process of declining animals is causing an empty landscape in the forest, savannah, grasslands and desert." Here's the study, published in Science Advances, on which the BBC article is based.
Privacy

Hacking the US Prescription System 78

Posted by timothy
from the quite-a-dose-you're-taking dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It appears that most pharmacies in the US are interconnected, and a breach in one leads to access to the other ones. A security advisory released [Friday] shows how a vulnerability in an online pharmacy granted access to prescription history for any US person with just their name and date of birth. From the description linked above: During the signup process, PillPack.com prompts users for their identifying information. In the end of the signup rocess, the user is shown a list of their existing prescriptions in all other pharmacies in order to make the process of transferring them to PillPack.com easier. ... To replicate this issue, an attacker would be directed to the PillPack.com website and choose the signup option. As long as the full name and the date of birth entered during signup match the target, the attacker will gain access to the target's full prescription history.
Space

NASA Gets Its Marching Orders: Look Up! Look Out! 179

Posted by timothy
from the well-those-might-be-more-like-suggestions dept.
TheRealHocusLocus writes: HR 2039: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 (press release, full text, and as a pretty RGB bitmap) is in the House. In $18B of goodies we see things that actually resemble a space program. The ~20,000 word document is even a good read, especially the parts about decadal cadence. There is more focus on launch systems and manned exploration, also to "expand the Administration's Near-Earth Object Program to include the detection, tracking, cataloguing, and characterization of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects less than 140 meters in diameter." I find it awesome that the fate of the dinosaurs is explicitly mentioned in this bill. If it passes we will have a law with dinosaurs in it. Someone read the T-shirt. There is also a very specific six month review of NASA's "Earth science global datasets for the purpose of identifying those datasets that are useful for understanding regional changes and variability, and for informing applied science research." Could this be an emerging Earth Sciences turf war between NOAA and NASA? Lately it seems more of a National Atmospheric Space Administration. Mission creep, much?