An anonymous reader sends this quote from a press release at Eurekalert: "UC San Francisco scientists working in the lab used a chemical found in an anti-wrinkle cream to prevent the death of nerve cells damaged by mutations that cause an inherited form of Parkinson's disease. A similar approach might ward off cell death in the brains of people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, the team suggested in a study reported online in the journal Cell on August 15 (abstract). ... Mutations that cause malfunction of the targeted enzyme, PINK1, are directly responsible for some cases of early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Loss of PINK1 activity is harmful to the cell’s power plants, called mitochondria, best known for converting food energy into another form of chemical energy used by cells, the molecule ATP. In Parkinson’s disease, poorly performing mitochondria have been associated with the death of dopamine-producing nerve cells in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra, which plays a major role in control of movement. Loss of these cells is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease and the cause of prominent symptoms including rigidity and tremor. A UCSF team led by Shokat, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, used the chemical, called kinetin, to increase mutant PINK1 enzyme activity in nerve cells to near normal levels. 'In light of the fact that mutations in PINK1 produce Parkinson’s disease in humans, the finding that kinetin can speed mutated PINK1 activity to near normal levels raises the possibility that kinetin may be used to treat these patients,' Shokat said."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Gary Marcus writes in the New Yorker about the state of artificial intelligence, and how we take it for granted that AI involves a very particular, very narrow definition of intelligence. A computer's ability to answer questions is still largely dependent on whether the computer has seen that question before. Quoting: "Siri and Google’s voice searches may be able to understand canned sentences like 'What movies are showing near me at seven o’clock?,' but what about questions—'Can an alligator run the hundred-metre hurdles?'—that nobody has heard before? Any ordinary adult can figure that one out. (No. Alligators can’t hurdle.) But if you type the question into Google, you get information about Florida Gators track and field. Other search engines, like Wolfram Alpha, can’t answer the question, either. Watson, the computer system that won “Jeopardy!,” likely wouldn’t do much better. In a terrific paper just presented at the premier international conference on artificial intelligence (PDF), Levesque, a University of Toronto computer scientist who studies these questions, has taken just about everyone in the field of A.I. to task. ...Levesque argues that the Turing test is almost meaningless, because it is far too easy to game. ... To try and get the field back on track, Levesque is encouraging artificial-intelligence researchers to consider a different test that is much harder to game ..."
mcgrew writes "Forbes has an article about a new type of fuel cell that is 90% less costly than current cells at one tenth the size (making it the size of a dishwasher), with far higher efficiency than current cells. It runs at only 149 degrees Celsius (300F) . It was jointly developed by Diverse Energy and the University of Maryland. 'The first-generation Cube runs off natural gas, but it can generate power from a variety of fuel sources, including propane, gasoline, biofuel and hydrogen. The system is a highly efficient, clean technology, emitting negligible pollutants and much less carbon dioxide than conventional energy sources. It uses fuel far more efficiently than an internal combustion engine, and can run at an 80 percent efficiency when used to provide both heat and power.' It produces enough power to run a moderate-sized grocery store, or five homes. A smaller, home-sized unit is on the way. Is the municipal power plant on the way out?"
jfruh writes "Data visualization tools are finally putting a longtime dream within reach: offering the ability to make beautiful, slick-looking charts out of datasets almost automatically. But are our psyches ready for the shift? Data scientist Pete Warden quickly put together a visualization of Facebook name geography. Though he didn't consider it to be a scientific sample that could drive major decisions, he quickly found that it drove discussion at the New York Times and on white supremacist websites. 'There is an element of "wow, it's so professionally presented that it must be true,"' said Jim Bell, chief marketing officer for Jaspersoft."
One of the things Google is known for is giving their employees so-called '20% time' — that is, the freedom to use a fifth of their working hours to pursue their own projects. Many of these projects have directly improved Google's existing products, and some have spawned new products entirely. An article at Quartz on Friday made that claim that 20% time was all but dead at Google, largely due to interference from upper management. Some Google engineers responded, and said that it has essentially turned into 120% time — they're still free to undertake their own projects, but they typically need their whole normal work week to meet productivity goals. "What 20% time really means is that you- as a Google eng- have access to, and can use, Google’s compute infrastructure to experiment and build new systems. The infrastructure, and the associated software tools, can be leveraged in 20% time to make an eng far more productive than they normally would be." An article at Ars makes the case that this is not necessarily a bad thing, because Google has enough good products that simply need iteration now, making the more innovative 20% time less useful. "Google wasn’t hurting for successful products when it started to tout its 20 percent time: off the backs of its pre-IPO services, it earned a market cap of over $23 billion. But if it was a company that wanted to grow and diversify beyond products that were either related to search or derivative of what already existed, it needed more ideas, better ideas, as quickly as possible. Hence, liberal use of 20 percent time made a lot of sense. Now, Google is not only an enormous company of nearly 45,000 employees with a market cap twelve times that of its first IPO ($286 billion), it has a lot of big products that it wants to make work. More than it needs more ideas, it needs to make the ideas it has great."
An anonymous reader writes "The FCC is looking to put regulatory fees on a per-subscriber basis for IPTV providers. 'We will assess regulatory fees on Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) licensees and we will create a new fee category that will include both cable television and IPTV,' says the report. What services they consider IPTV is yet to be seen; they call it simply 'digital television delivered through a high speed Internet connection.' We can only hope it doesn't affect too many internet video sites. "
New submitter digitalFlack writes "Apparently Martin Manley has been a popular blogger and newspaper journalist for many years. For his own reasons, no indication of illness, he decided sixty years on this planet was enough. He designed a 40-page website with sections such as: 'Why Suicide?' and 'Why Age 60?.' Martin planned his suicide meticulously, but to manage his legacy, he picked Yahoo. He even pre-paid for five years. After he left this mortal coil on his 60th birthday, Yahoo decided they don't want his traffic, so they took the site down. Sorry, Martin."
msheekhah writes "I have a friend who, when he gets out of college, has been promised a job at well known electronics company with a salary around $70k. However, he wants to instead go work for Blizzard or some other game company as a game programmer. I've read enough on here and on other tech websites to know that he should take the job he's been offered. Can you share with me your experiences so I can give him real life examples to convince him to take this job? If your experience is contrary to mine, I'd appreciate that input as well."
DeviceGuru writes "In light of the FAA's recent approval of two unmanned drones for commercial operation in U.S. airspace, it's interesting to see the bits and pieces for building commercial UAVs falling into place. For example, Airware demonstrated its line of autopilot computers for UAVs this week at AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2013 in Washington DC. The devices include multi-rotor capabilities, and support various radios, GPS and inertial systems, servo interfaces, and onboard interfaces such as USB and CAN. The autopilot controllers run a configurable, royalty-free AirwareOS embedded Linux OS, making them amenable to considerable customization. Adding to that, Airware recently received $10.7 million in funding from Google Ventures and several other investors. This raises the question of what's next for the fledgling commercial drone industry."
waderoush writes "Elon Musk thinks California should kill its $68 billion high-speed rail project and build his $7.5 billion Hyperloop instead. It's a false choice. We should pursue all promising new options for efficient mass transit, and let the chips fall where they may; if it turns out after a few years that Musk's system is truly faster and cheaper, there will still be time to pull the plug on high-speed rail. But why not make things interesting? Today Xconomy proposes a competition in the grand tradition of the Longitude Prize, the Orteig Prize, and the X Prizes: the $10 billion Smog to Fog Challenge. The money, to be donated by big corporations, would go to the first organization that delivers a live human from Los Angeles to San Francisco, over a fixed ground route, in 3 hours or less. Such a prize would incentivize both publicly and privately funded innovation in high-speed transit — and show that we haven't lost the will to think big."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Shakira F. Suglia and co-authors surveyed 2,929 mothers of five-year-olds (PDF) and found that 43 percent of the kids consumed at least one serving of soft drinks per day. About four percent of those children (or 110 of them), drank more than four soft drinks per day, and became 'more than twice as likely to destroy things belonging to others, get into fights, and physically attack people.' In the past, soda and its various strains have been related to depression, irritability, aggression, suicidal thoughts, and delusions of sweepstake-winning grandeur. Of course, this study didn't find out what types of soda the children had consumed."
schwit1 writes "Federal agents have launched a criminal investigation of instructors who claim they can teach job applicants how to pass lie detector tests as part of the Obama administration's unprecedented crackdown on security violators and leakers. The criminal inquiry, which hasn't been acknowledged publicly, is aimed at discouraging criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government by using the polygraph-beating techniques, which are said to include controlled breathing, muscle tensing, tongue biting and mental arithmetic. So far, authorities have targeted at least two instructors, one of whom has pleaded guilty to federal charges, several people familiar with the investigation told McClatchy. Investigators confiscated business records from the two men, which included the names of as many as 5,000 people who'd sought polygraph-beating advice. U.S. agencies have determined that at least 20 of them applied for government and federal contracting jobs, and at least half of that group was hired, including by the National Security Agency. By attempting to prosecute the instructors, federal officials are adopting a controversial legal stance that sharing such information should be treated as a crime and isn't protected under the First Amendment in some circumstances."
Zak3056 writes "NBC News is reporting that 'The owner of an encrypted email service used by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden said he has been threatened with criminal charges for refusing to comply with a secret surveillance order to turn over information about his customers. "I could be arrested for this action," Ladar Levison told NBC News about his decision to shut down his company, Lavabit LLC, in protest over a secret court order he had received from a federal court that is overseeing the investigation into Snowden.''"
Volanin writes "The Ubuntu Edge has now passed the $10.2 million mark, thus making it the most pledged-to crowd-funder in history. While the Ubuntu Edge campaign is to be commended for reaching such a mammoth milestone as this, it can't quite claim ultimate victory yet, since it's just short of making one-third of its $32 million goal with a little less than a week left."
First time accepted submitter alisonuw writes "So what if Google knows where I'm planning my next vacation and suggests hotels for me? Sure, it's creepy, but is there really any harm in companies tracking my info to target ads to me? Professor Ryan Calo (UW law) is out with a new paper that demonstrates the real harm behind these practices, making consumers vulnerable to making decisions that go against their self-interest (ie: predatory lending, price inflation, etc). The Atlantic has an article today that outlines the new research."
the_newsbeagle writes "When you've got a wacky high-tech idea that will cost a lot of money, head to China. Lockheed Martin is the latest company to heed this advice. For decades, Lockheed has investigated ocean thermal energy conversion, in which the temperature difference between warm surface water and cold deep water is leveraged to produce power. Just a few years ago, the company was working with the Navy and discussing a possible OTEC pilot project in Hawaii's Pearl Harbor. That idea has since been scrapped, and Lockheed is now partnering with a Chinese resort developer to build the 10-MW pilot plant off the coast of southern China. Lockheed hasn't disclosed the cost of building this plant, but outside experts say it might cost more than $300 million."