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Medicine

Another Neurodegenerative Disease Linked To a Prion 3

MTorrice writes: A new study concludes that a brain protein causes the rare, Parkinson's-like disease called multiple systems atrophy (MSA) by acting like a prion, the misbehaving type of protein infamously linked to mad cow disease. The researchers say the results are the most definitive demonstration to date that proteins involved in many neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, exhibit prion-like behavior: They can misfold into shapes that then coax others to do the same, leading to protein aggregation that forms neurotoxic clumps. If these other diseases are caused by prion-like proteins, then scientists could develop treatments that slow or stop disease progression by designing molecules that block prion propagation.
Math

Ada Lovelace and Her Legacy 25

nightcats writes: Nature has an extensive piece on the legacy of the "enchantress of abstraction," the extraordinary Victorian-era computer pioneer Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron. Her monograph on the Babbage machine was described by Babbage himself as a creation of "that Enchantress who has thrown her magical spell around the most abstract of Sciences and has grasped it with a force that few masculine intellects (in our own country at least) could have exerted over it." Ada's remarkable merging of intellect and intuition — her capacity to analyze and capture the conceptual and functional foundations of the Babbage machine — is summarized with a historical context which reveals the precocious modernity of her scientific mind. "By 1841 Lovelace was developing a concept of 'Poetical Science', in which scientific logic would be driven by imagination, 'the Discovering faculty, pre-eminently. It is that which penetrates into the unseen worlds around us, the worlds of science.' She saw mathematics metaphysically, as 'the language of the unseen relations between things;' but added that to apply it, 'we must be able to fully appreciate, to feel, to seize, the unseen, the unconscious.' She also saw that Babbage's mathematics needed more imaginative presentation."
Transportation

Pioneer Looks To Laserdisc Tech For Low-Cost LIDAR 23

itwbennett writes: Pioneer is developing a 3D LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensor for use in autonomous vehicles that could be a fraction of the cost of current systems (the company envisions a price point under $83). Key to this is technology related to optical pickups once used in laserdisc players, which Pioneer made for 30 years. From the ITWorld story: "The system would detect objects dozens of meters ahead, measure their distance and width and identify them based on their shape. Pioneer, which makes GPS navigation systems, is working on getting the LIDAR to automatically produce high-precision digital maps while using a minimum of data compared to the amount used for standard maps for car navigation."
Transportation

Copenhagen's New All-Electric Public Carsharing Programming 49

dkatana writes: Residents in Copenhagen have a new all-electric, free-floating, carsharing service. DriveNow is launching 400 brand new BMW i3 electric cars in the Danish city. The service is one-way, and metered by the minute. The big news is that residents can sign-up on the spot taking a picture of their drivers' license and a selfie and use their public transport accounts to pay. There will be a car available every 300 meters, the same distance as bus stops. The cost will be 3.50 kroner ($0.52) per minute driven. If members decide to park the car for a few minutes continuing the rental, those stationary minutes are charged at 2.5 kroner ($0.37). The maximum charge per hour is capped at 190 kroner ($28.50). There is no annual fee.
Earth

Congressional Testimony: A Surprising Consensus On Climate 138

Lasrick writes: Many legislators regularly deny that there is a scientific consensus, or even broad scientific support, for government action to address climate change. Researchers recently assessed the content of congressional testimony related to either global warming or climate change from 1969 to 2007. For each piece of testimony, they recorded several characteristics about how the testimony discussed climate. For instance, noting whether the testimony indicated that global warming or climate change was happening and whether any climate change was attributable (in part) to anthropogenic sources. The results: Testimony to Congress—even under Republican reign—reflects the scientific consensus that humans are changing our planet's climate.
The Internet

Connecting the Unwired World With Balloons, Satellites, Lasers & Drones 11

1sockchuck writes: New projects are seeking to connect the unwired world using balloons, drones, lasers and satellites to deliver wireless Internet. There are dueling low-earth orbit satellite initiatives backed by billionaires Elon Musk (SpaceX) and Richard Branson (OneWeb), while Google's Project Loon is using balloons (which sometimes crash) and Facebook is building a solar-powered UAV (Project Aquila). “The Connectivity Lab team is very focused on the technical challenges of reaching those people who are typically in the more rural, unconnected parts of the world,” Jay Parikh, vice president of engineering at Facebook says. “I think that we need to get them access. My hope is that we are able to deliver a very rich experience to them, including videos, photos and—some day—virtual reality and all of that stuff. But it’s a multi-, multi-, multi-year challenge, and I don’t see any end in sight right now.”
Earth

Easy-To-Clean Membrane Separates Oil From Water 29

ckwu writes: A steel mesh with a novel self-cleaning coating can separate oil and water, easily lifting oil from an oil-water mixture and leaving the water behind. Unlike existing oil-water separation membranes, if the coated mesh gets contaminated with oil, it can be simply rinsed off with water and reused, without needing to be cleaned with detergents. The team was able to use the mesh to lift crude oil from a crude oil-seawater mixture, showcasing the feasibility of oil-spill cleanup. The membrane could also be used to treat oily wastewater and as a protective barrier in industrial sewer outlets to avoid oil discharge.
United Kingdom

14-Year-Old Boy Placed On Police Register After Sending Naked Picture To Classmate 150

Ewan Palmer reports: A teenage boy in the UK has had a crime of making and distributing indecent images recorded against him after he sent a naked picture of himself to one of his female classmates. The 14-year-old was not formally arrested after he sent the explicit image to a girl of the same age via Snapchat. The police file against the boy will now remain active for 10 years, meaning any future employer conducting an advanced Criminal Records Bureau check will be aware of the incident. However, it is not clear whether a police file was recorded for the girl who saved and shared the image. Under new legislation, if she had been over 18, the girl could have been convicted under the so called 'revenge porn' law in the UK.
Medicine

Completely Paralyzed Man Walks In Robotic Exoskeleton 17

Zothecula writes: Working with a team of UCLA scientists, a man with protracted and complete paralysis has recovered sufficient voluntary control to take charge of a bionic exoskeleton and take many thousands of steps. Using a non-invasive spinal stimulation system that requires no surgery, this is claimed (abstract) to be the first time that a person with such a comprehensive disability has been able to actively and voluntarily walk with such a device.
Power

Slowing Wind Energy Production Suffers From Lack of Wind 159

HughPickens.com writes: Gregory Meyer reports at the Financial Times that electricity generated by U.S. wind farms fell 6 per cent in the first half of the year, even as the nation expanded wind generation capacity by 9 per cent. The reason was some of the softest air currents in 40 years, cutting power sales from wind farms to utilities. The situation is likely to intensify into the first quarter of 2016 as the El Niño weather phenomenon holds back wind speeds around much of the U.S. "We never anticipated a drop-off in the wind resource as we have witnessed over the past six months," says David Crane. Wind generated 4.4 per cent of US electricity last year, up from 0.4 per cent a decade earlier. But this year U.S. wind plants' "capacity factor" has averaged just a third of their total generating capacity, down from 38 per cent in 2014.

EIA noted that slightly slower wind speeds can reduce output by a disproportionately large amount. "Capacity factors for wind turbines are largely determined by wind resources," says a report from the Energy Information Administration. "Because the output from a turbine varies nonlinearly with wind speed, small decreases in wind speeds can result in much larger changes in output and, in turn, capacity factors." In January of 2015, wind speeds remained 20 to 45 percent below normal on areas of the west coast, but it was especially bad in California, Oregon, and Washington, where those levels dropped to 50 percent below normal during the month of January.
Hardware Hacking

How To Build With Delrin and a Laser Cutter 23

szczys writes: Laser cutters are awesome, but you have to bring your mechanical engineering A-game if you want to build resilient stuff using laser-cut parts. Joshua Vasquez has been building up his bag of tricks using Delrin and a laser cutter to build with techniques like press-fitting, threading, snap-fits, etc. that aren't possible or are non-ideal with the laser-cutting steadfasts of plywood and acrylic. Delrin (PDF) won't shatter like acrylic, and it has more give to it, so even the less precise entry-level lasers can cut joints that will have a snug fit.
Media

Sultan of Sound, Dr. James Flanagan, Passed Away Aged 89 10

An anonymous reader writes: A pioneer in the field of acoustics, Dr. James L. Flanagan provided "the technical foundation for speech recognition, teleconferencing, MP3 music files, and the more efficient digital transmission of human conversation." The NYTimes covered his recent passing: "His innovations included preserving the sound of a human voice while crunching it digitally, as well as teaching computers to articulate — converting sound waves into digital pulses. He also helped devise a 'force-feedback' tactile glove, similar to today’s video game accessories, that enabled medical students to simulate hands-on examinations when a live patient or cadaver was not available (or to mimic a game of handball). Dr. Flanagan also played a minor role in the drama surrounding the downfall of President Richard M. Nixon." An older (2005) article from IEEE Spectrum titled "Sultan of Sound" provides background on his work and impact. An interview (1997) discussing his WWII service, research at AT&T Bell Labs & Rutgers University is part of the IEEE oral history series.
Programming

Survey: More Women Are Going Into Programming 229

itwbennett writes: We've previously discussed the dearth of women in computing. Indeed, according to U.S. Bureau and Labor Statistics estimates, in 2014 four out of five programmers and software developers in the U.S. were men. But according to a survey conducted this spring by the Application Developers Alliance and IDC, that may be changing. The survey of 855 developers worldwide found that women make up 42% of developers with less than 1 year of experience and 30% of those with between 1 and 5 years of experience. Of course, getting women into programming is one thing; keeping them is the next big challenge.
Medicine

Brain-Eating Amoeba Scoffs At Chlorine In Water Pipes 125

An anonymous reader writes: The Naegleria fowleri amoeba typically feeds on bacteria in water and soil. Human digestive systems have no problem killing it, but inhaling water that carries the amoeba gives it the opportunity to work its way into the brain after it sneaks through the nasal mucus. It happens rarely, but 97% of people whose brains start swelling because of this amoeba end up dying. Like most microorganisms, N. fowleri can be neutralized with concentrated chlorine. However, the systems we use to deliver tap water aren't so clean. Researchers found that N. fowleri can easily survive for 24 hours when it's mixed with the types of biofilm that tend to reside in water pipes. Increasing chlorine levels isn't a good option, since its reaction with these biofilms can generate carcinogens.
Earth

Earth Home To 3 Trillion Trees, Half As Many As When Human Civilization Arose 225

sciencehabit writes: Earth today supports more than 3 trillion trees—eight times as many as we thought a decade ago. But that number is rapidly shrinking, according to a global tree survey released today (abstract). We are losing 15 billion trees a year to toilet paper, timber, farmland expansion, and other human needs. So even though the total count is large, the decline is "a cause for concern," says Tom Spies, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Corvallis, Oregon, who was not involved with the work.