Note: You can take 10% off all Slashdot Deals with coupon code "slashdot10off." ×
NASA

In Hawaii, a 6-Person Crew Begins a Year-Long Mars Isolation Experiment 58

The BBC reports that six volunteers have begun a planned year-long stint "without fresh air, fresh food or privacy" in a NASA simulation of what life might be like for a group of Mars colonists. The volunteers are to spend the next 12 months in the dome (11 meters in diameter, 6 meters high), except for space-suited out-of-dome excursions, where they will eat space-style meals, sleep on tiny cots, and keep up a science schedule. The current mission is the fourth (and longest yet) from the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation; you can read more about this mission's crew here.
Space

JAXA Prepares To Try Making Whiskey In Space 67

schwit1 writes: An experiment to test how whiskey ages in weightlessness is about to begin on ISS: "H-II Transfer Vehicle No. 5, commonly known as "Kounotori5" or HTV5, was launched on Wednesday from JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center carrying alcohol beverages produced by Suntory to the Japanese Experiment Module aboard the International Space Station, where experiments on the "development of mellowness" will be conducted for a period of about one year in Group 1 and for two or more years (undecided) in Group 2." Don't worry, the astronauts on ISS won't be getting drunk. After the test period is complete the samples will then returned to Earth, untasted, where they will then be compared with control samples.
The Courts

Germany Says Taking Photos Of Food Infringes The Chef's Copyright 280

xPertCodert writes: According to this article in Der Welt (Google translate from German), in Germany if you take a picture of a dish in a restaurant without prior permission, you are violating chef's copyright for his creation and can be liable to pay a hefty fine. If this approach to foodporn will become universal, what will we put in our Instagrams? Techdirt reports: "Apparently, this situation goes back to a German court judgment from 2013, which widened copyright law to include the applied arts too. As a result, the threshold for copyrightability was lowered considerably, with the practical consequence that it was easier for chefs to sue those who posted photographs of their creations without permission. The Die Welt article notes that this ban can apply even to manifestly unartistic piles of food dumped unceremoniously on a plate if a restaurant owner puts up a notice refusing permission for photos to be taken of its food."
Medicine

MIT Researchers Discover "Metabolic Master Switch" To Control Obesity 380

New submitter ahbond writes: The meme of the chubby nerd alone in the basement may be a thing of the past. Well, at least the chubby part, if recent work at MIT pans out and we're able to use a biological "master switch" to "dial-in" a persons metabolic rate. “Obesity has traditionally been seen as the result of an imbalance between the amount of food we eat and how much we exercise, but this view ignores the contribution of genetics to each individual’s metabolism,” said senior author Manolis Kellis, a professor of computer science and a member of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and of the Broad Institute.
ISS

HTV-5 On Its Way To the ISS 87

nojayuk writes: There's another launcher delivering cargo to the ISS apart from US and Russian vehicles, and it's Japanese. The fifth Koutonori (White Stork) cargo vehicle was successfully launched today at from pad 2 of the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima south of Tokyo at 11:50:49 UTC, carrying over 5 tonnes of food, spare parts and scientific equipment to the ISS in a pressurised cabin and an external racking system. This is the fifth successful launch in a row for the Japanese H2B launcher. The Koutonoris have carried over 20 tonnes of cargo in total to the ISS, more than double the amount of SpaceX's six successful CRS resupply flights.
Mars

Mars One CEO Insists, Our Mars Colonization Plan Is Feasible 147

szotz writes: Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp has a bizarre definition of the word "plan". Last week he debated two MIT aerospace engineers who were co-authors on a report that said that astronauts would suffocate on Mars if they tried to grow their own food with existing tech. The question on the table: Is the Mars One plan feasible? And the answer seemed to be "it depends on what your definition of a plan is". The stated plan is to send the first humans to Mars for $6 billion by 2027 (twice delayed already). Lansdorp admits they probably won't stick to that schedule or that budget, but that has nothing to do with whether they're going or not. IEEE Spectrum has a write-up of the debate and a link to the MIT team's presentation. It seems the company's looking for $15 million now to fund--you guessed it--more studies.
Medicine

Health Watchdog To Bring Legal Action Against Soylent Over Lead, Cadmium Levels 135

An anonymous reader writes: We've previously discussed Soylent, the self-proclaimed "meal replacement." The product has not been without controversy, and now it's likely to see some more: As You Sow, a non-profit foundation dedicated to corporate responsibility, plans to bring legal action against Soylent for failing to provide sufficient warning about the amount of lead and cadmium in it. They allege that a serving of Soylent contains 12 to 25 times the concentration of lead at which point consumers in the state of California must be warned. The concentration of cadmium, they say, is four times the current maximum. Soylent has acknowledged the results of heavy metal tests but says the levels present in Soylent are not toxic. As You Sow maintains that Soylent's marketing focus on replacing food suggests chronic exposure, which is more of an issue than an occasional indulgence.
Businesses

The Challenge of Working At Amazon 396

An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times has a lengthy exposé on the working conditions within Jeff Bezos's Amazon. "Even as the company tests delivery by drone and ways to restock toilet paper at the push of a bathroom button, it is conducting a little-known experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers, redrawing the boundaries of what is acceptable." Over 100 current and former employees were interviewed for the article, and they painted a picture of a demanding and punishing workplace that people tolerate in exchange for the ability to create. "In contrast to companies where declarations about their philosophy amount to vague platitudes, Amazon has rules that are part of its daily language and rituals, used in hiring, cited at meetings and quoted in food-truck lines at lunchtime. Some Amazonians say they teach them to their children." Of course, this attitude causes problems for people whose lives don't allow them extreme levels of effort: "The mother of the stillborn child soon left Amazon. 'I had just experienced the most devastating event in my life,' the woman recalled via email, only to be told her performance would be monitored 'to make sure my focus stayed on my job.'"
ISS

Growing Vegetables In Space, NASA Astronauts Tweet Their Lunch 39

An anonymous reader writes: Astronauts on the International Space Station got their first taste of space-grown lettuce today. It took the astronauts about an hour to harvest and prepare the lettuce both plain and with oil and vinegar. The Times reports: "The vegetable experiment had been a long-awaited harvest for the astronauts, who say that the ability to grow and sustain crops in space may someday aid travelers on long space trips. Cultivating crops is seen as a critical step in the path to traveling to Mars, for instance. Before the harvest, the astronauts did what any sensible Earthling with a Wi-Fi connection would do: They celebrated lunch in an exclusive locale by tweeting a picture of the goods."
The Almighty Buck

Coca-Cola To Fund Research That Shifts Blame For Obesity Away From Bad Diets 663

An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times reports that Coca-Cola is teaming up with influential scientists to support research into fighting obesity through other means than improving diet. They've provided funding to a new nonprofit called the Global Energy Balance Network. Its president said, "Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, 'Oh they're eating too much, eating too much, eating too much' — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on. And there's really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause." Health experts say it's an attempt by Coca-cola to deflect criticism of the sugary drinks that are the lifeblood of its business. "This clash over the science of obesity comes in a period of rising efforts to tax sugary drinks, remove them from schools and stop companies from marketing them to children. In the last two decades, consumption of full-calorie sodas by the average American has dropped by 25 percent."
Biotech

Scotland To Ban GM Crops 361

An anonymous reader writes: Scotland's rural affairs minister has announced the country will ban the growing of genetically modified crops. He said, "I am concerned that allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14 billion food and drink sector." Many Scottish farmers disapprove of the ban, pointing out that competing farms in nearby England face no such restriction. "The hope was to have open discussion and allow science to show the pros and cons for all of us to understand either the potential benefits or potential downsides. What we have now is that our competitors will get any benefits and we have to try and compete. It is rather naïve."
Medicine

Dr. Frances Kelsey, Who Saved American Babies From Thalidomide, Dies At 101 278

circletimessquare writes: Plenty of regulations are bad (some because big business corrupts them) but the simple truth is modern society cannot function without effective government regulation. It keeps are food safe, our rivers clean, and our economy healthy. Passing away at age 101 Friday was a woman who personified this lesson. In 1960 the F.D.A. tasked Dr. Frances Kelsey with evaluating a drug used in Europe for treating morning sickness. She noticed something troubling, and asked the manufacturer William S. Merrell Co. for more data. "Thus began a fateful test of wills. Merrell responded. Dr. Kelsey wanted more. Merrell complained to Dr. Kelsey's bosses, calling her a petty bureaucrat. She persisted. On it went. But by late 1961, the terrible evidence was pouring in. The drug — better known by its generic name, thalidomide — was causing thousands of babies in Europe, Britain, Canada and the Middle East to be born with flipperlike arms and legs and other defects." Without Dr. Kelsey's scientific and regulatory persistence in the face of mindless greed, thousands of Americans would have suffered a horrible fate.
Oracle

U.K. Government Seeking To End Reliance On Oracle 190

jfruh writes: The U.K. Cabinet Office has reportedly asked government departments and agencies to try to find ways to end their reliance on Oracle software, a move motivated by the truly shocking number of Oracle licenses currently being paid for by the British taxpayer. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs alone has paid £1.3 million (US$2 million) per year for some 2 million Oracle licenses, or about 200 licenses per staff member.
The Courts

Idaho Law Against Recording Abuses On Factory Farms Ruled Unconstitutional 363

onproton writes: An Idaho law that made it illegal to record and document animal abuse or dangerous hygienic practices in agricultural facilities, often referred to as an 'ag-gag' law, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge on Monday. The judge concluded that the law restricted constitutionally protected free speech, and contradicted "long-established defamation and whistleblowing statutes by punishing employees for publishing true and accurate recordings on matters of public concern." Idaho is just one of several states to pass this type of law, which allow food production facilities to censor some unfavorable forms of speech at their convenience. Under the Idaho statute, an employee that witnessed and recorded an incident, even if it depicted true and life-threatening health or safety violations, could be faced with a year in jail and fines of up to "twice the economic loss the owner suffers." In his ruling (PDF), the judge stated that this was "precisely the type of speech the First Amendment was designed to protect." This decision has raised questions about the constitutionality of these types of laws in other states as well, and it's likely that there will be more legal battles ahead.
Medicine

FDA Approves First 3D-Printed Drug Tablet 64

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has for the first time approved a 3D-printed pill for human consumption. The printing technique allows higher and more precise dosages to be layered into a smaller tablet size. This is an early step toward a new method of drug distribution. Right now, pills are made in a factory and shipped to hospitals. With 3D printers, hospitals could simply store a bulk supply of the drug in a pure form, and then print out tablets — containing whatever dosage they desire — as they need them. If patients needs to increase or decrease their dosage, the hospital can do so without changing the appearance of the pills, which could help those with memory impairments.
Earth

Why Bill Gates Is Dumping Another $1 Billion Into Clean Energy 248

An anonymous reader writes: A little over a month ago, Bill Gates made headlines when he decided to double down on his investments in renewable energy. Now, he's written an article for Quartz explaining why: "I think this issue is especially important because, of all the people who will be affected by climate change, those in poor countries will suffer the most. Higher temperatures and less-predictable weather would hurt poor farmers, most of whom live on the edge and can be devastated by a single bad crop. Food supplies could decline. Hunger and malnutrition could rise. It would be a terrible injustice to let climate change undo any of the past half-century's progress against poverty and disease — and doubly unfair because the people who will be hurt the most are the ones doing the least to cause the problem." He also says government is not doing enough to fund such research, and that energy markets aren't doing a good enough job of factoring the negative effects of carbon emissions.
Power

Giving Up Alternating Current 466

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday we discussed Soylent, the artificial food substitute created by Rob Rhinehart and his team. As it turns out, this isn't Rhinehart's only unusual sustainability project. In a new post, he explains how he gave up on alternating current — a tough proposition for anyone living in the U.S. and still interested in using all sorts of modern technology. Rhinehart says, "Most power in the US is generated by burning coal, immediately squandering 67% of its energy, then run through a steam turbine, losing another 50%, then sent across transmission lines, losing another 5%, then to charge a DC device like a cell phone another 50% is lost in conversion. This means for 100 watts of coal or oil burned my phone gets a mere 16."

The biggest hindrance was the kitchen. As you might expect for the creator of Soylent, he doesn't cook, and was able to get rid of almost all kitchen appliances because of that. He uses a butane stove for hot beverages. He powers a small computer off batteries, which get their energy from solar panels. For intensive tasks, he remotes to more powerful machines. He re-wired his apartment's LED lighting to run off direct current. Have any of you made similar changes? How much of an effect does this really have?
Earth

Soylent 2.0 Comes Bottled and Ready To Drink 397

An anonymous reader writes: Soylent has announced today their latest product, Soylent 2.0. It comes premixed and ready to drink in recyclable bottles. Each bottle is one fifth of a scientifically balanced daily meal plan, will last up to a year unrefrigerated, and will cost you $2.42. A Soylent blog post reads in part: "Not only are its ingredients vegan, Soylent 2.0 reaches an unprecedented level of environmental sustainability with half of its fat energy coming from farm-free, algae sources. This next generation agricultural technology has the potential to reduce the ecological impact of food production by orders of magnitude, signifying a major step towards a future of abundance, a world where optimal nutrition is the new normal."
The Internet

Unicode Consortium Looks At Symbols For Allergies 194

AmiMoJo writes: A proposal (PDF) submitted by a Google engineer to the Unicode Consortium asks that food allergies get their own emojis and be added to the standard. The proposal suggests the addition of peanuts, soybeans, buckwheat, sesame seeds, kiwi fruit, celery, lupin beans, mustard, tree nuts, eggs, milk products and gluten. According to TNW: "This proposal will take a little longer to become reality — it's still in very early stages and needs to be reviewed by the Unicode Consortium before it can move forward, but it'll be a great way for those with allergies to quickly express them."