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The Almighty Buck

Scientist Union's Talks Stall Over Pay 60 60

HughPickens.com writes: The Sacramento Bee reports that the labor contract between California's state government and the 2,800 employees represented by the California Association of Professional Scientists expired this week, spotlighting yet again the long-running feud over whether the tiny union's members should earn as much as their peers in federal and local governments and private industry. "It's a challenge to keep people motivated," says Rita Hypnarowski. "We talk about retaining the best and the brightest, but I can see that's not going to happen." A recent survey by the Brown administration found that the total compensation for half of state-employed chemists is less than $8,985 per month ($5,715 in salary, plus $3,270 in benefit costs). That's 33 percent less than the median total compensation for federal chemists, nearly 13 percent less than the midpoint for local-government chemists and almost 6 percent below the private sector.

Members of the union perform a wide variety of tasks, everything from fighting food-borne illnesses to mopping up the Refugio State Beach oil spill. For example, Cassandra McQuaid left a job last year at the Department of Public Health's state-of-the-art Richmond laboratories where she tracked foodborne illnesses. It's the kind of vital, behind-the-scenes work that goes unnoticed until an E. coli outbreak makes headlines and local health officials need a crack team of scientists to unravel how it happened. "It really came down to money," says McQuaid. "I just couldn't live in the Bay Area on a state salary."
Medicine

Pass the Doritos, Scientists Develop Computer Game Targeted At Healthy Choices 81 81

MojoKid writes: Psychologists at the University of Exeter and Cardiff University have published a study that demonstrates how a simple computer game can help people lose weight. Participants in the study who played the specialized game lost and average of 1.5 pounds in the first seven days, and 4.5 pounds after six months. They also reduced their daily caloric consumption by 220 calories. Dr. Natalia Lawrence led the team of researchers that developed the computer game for the study. It was designed to train people to resist unhealthy food snack foods through a "stop versus go" process. Participants sat in front of a Pentium 3 PC running Matlab software on a 17-inch monitor. They were then instructed to press certain keys when images of things like fruits and clothes would appear, indicating a "go." But for images of calorie-dense foods (chips and cake, for example) they were instructed not to do anything, indicating a "stop" action.
ISS

A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension 308 308

MouseR writes with bad news about this morning's SpaceX launch: About 2:19 into its flight, Falcon 9 exploded along stage 2 and the Dragon capsule, before even the stage 1 separation. Telemetry and videos are inconclusive, without further analysis as to what went wrong. Everything was green lights. This is a catastrophe for SpaceX, which enjoyed, until now, a perfect launch record. TechCrunch has coverage of the failure, which of course also means that today's planned stage one return attempt has failed before it could start; watch this space for more links. Update: 06/28 15:06 GMT by T : See also stories at NBC News, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press (via ABC News). According to the Washington Post, what was a catastrophe for this morning's launch is only a setback for the ISS and its crew, rather than a disaster: A NASA slide from an April presentation said that with current food levels, the space station would reach what NASA calls “reserve level” on July 24 and run out by Sept. 5, according to SpaceNews. [NASA spokeswoman Stephanie] Schierholz said, however, that the supplies would last until the fall, although she could not provide a precise date. Even if something were to go wrong with the SpaceX flight, she said, there are eight more scheduled this year, including several this summer, “so there are plenty of ways to ensure the station continues to be well-supplied.” Of note: One bit of cargo that was aboard the SpaceX craft was a Microsoft Hololens; hopefully another will make it onto one of the upcoming supply runs instead.

Elon Musk has posted a note on the company's Twitter channel: "Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown. Will provide more info as soon as we review the data."
Medicine

High-Fat, High-Sugar Diet Can Lead To Cognitive Decline 244 244

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Oregon State University have completed a study into how the sugar and fat content of a diet relates to cognitive flexibility. They found that diets with high amounts of either led to a decline in cognitive function. "This effect was most serious on the high-sugar diet, which also showed an impairment of early learning for both long-term and short-term memory." After four weeks on a high-fat or high-sugar diet, the performance of mice on various mental and physical tests started dropping. One of the scientists, Kathy Magnusson, said, "We've known for a while that too much fat and sugar are not good for you. This work suggests that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that's one of the reasons those foods aren't good for you. It's not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes."
Science

General Mills To Drop Artificial Ingredients In Cereal 163 163

schwit1 writes: General Mills announced Monday that it will be removing artificial colors and flavoring from its cereal products over the next two to three years. The company said that Trix and Reese's Puffs will be some of the first cereals to undergo the changes adding that cereals like Lucky Charms that have marshmallows may take longer to reformulate. They say 90 percent of their cereals will have no artificial ingredients by the end of 2016. "We've continued to listen to consumers who want to see more recognizable and familiar ingredients on the labels and challenged ourselves to remove barriers that prevent adults and children from enjoying our cereals," said Jim Murphy, president of General Mills cereal division, in a statement.
United States

FDA Bans Trans Fat 851 851

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finally come to a conclusion about artificial trans fat: it must be removed from the U.S. food supply over the next three years. According to their final determination (PDF), there's no longer a scientific consensus that partially hydrogenated oils are safe to consume. Trans fat must be gone from food in the U.S. by June, 2018, unless a petitioner is granted specific approval by the FDA to continue using it. "Many baked goods such as pie crusts and biscuits as well as canned frosting still use partially hydrogenated oils because they help baked goods maintain their flakiness and frostings be spreadable. As for frying, palm oil is expected to be a go-to alternative, while modified soybean oil may catch on as well." The food industry is expected to spend $6.2 billion over the next two decades to formulate replacements, but the money saved from health benefits is expected to be more than 20 times higher.
Security

Malware Attacks Give Criminals 1,425% Return On Investment 124 124

An anonymous reader writes: Trustwave released a new report which reveals the top cybercrime, data breach and security threat trends. According to their findings, attackers receive an estimated 1,425 percent return on investment for exploit kit and ransomware schemes ($84,100 net revenue for each $5,900 investment). Retail was the most compromised industry making up 43 percent of investigations followed by food and beverage (13 percent) and hospitality (12 percent).
Earth

As Drought Worsens, California Orders Record Water Cuts 599 599

New submitter GordonShure.com writes: The State of California has made an unprecedented move by uniformly restricting water supplies across the entire state as demand outstrips supply. Farms are most affected, though food prices aren't anticipated to rise in any hurry: imports from out of state continue apace. Notably, this is a problem Silicon Valley hasn't much helped to solve.

Will this move induce meaningful modernization upon the infrastructure supporting the state's thirty-eight million residents? Or will things continue to be corn, corn, corn for the time being?
Censorship

France Claims Right To Censor Search Results Globally 337 337

Lauren Weinstein writes: I've been waiting for this, much the way one waits for a violent case of food poisoning. France is now officially demanding that Google expand the hideous EU 'Right To Be Forgotten' (RTBF) to Google.com worldwide, instead of just applying it to the appropriate localized (e.g. France) version of Google. And here's my official response as a concerned individual:

To hell with this ...
Weinstein's page links to the paywalled WSJ coverage; you might prefer The New York Times or Politico. Related: a court in Canada, according to TechDirt, would like to do something similar, when it comes to expanding its effect on Google results for everyone, not just those who happen to live within its jurisdiction.
Power

Ex-CIA Director: We're Not Doing Nearly Enough To Protect Against the EMP Threat 182 182

An anonymous reader writes: Last week saw the release of an open letter written to President Obama by a committee of notable political, security and defense experts — which includes past and present members of Congress, ambassadors, CIA directors, and others — on the country's concerning level of vulnerability to a natural or man-made Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP). An EMP has very real potential for crippling much of our electrical grid instantaneously. Not only would that immediately throw the social order into chaos, but the timeline to repair and restart the grid in most estimated scenarios would take months to a year or more.

Executive Director of the EMP Task Force Dr Peter Pry said, "Well, the short answer to [why we aren't defending against EMPs] is called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. They used to be a trade association or a lobby for the 3,000 electric utilities that exist in this country. ... There is no part of the U.S. government that has the legal powers to order them to protect the grid. This is unusual, because in the case of every other critical infrastructure, there's an agency in the U.S. government that can require them to take actions for public safety. For example, the Food & Drug Administration can order certain medicines kept off shelves to protect the public safety. ... The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn't have those legal powers or authorities."
Science

Placenta Eating Offers No Benefit To Mom 110 110

Dave Knott writes: While some celebrity moms swear by it and have made it trendy, a new study says that consuming the placenta after birth offers women and their babies no benefit. In fact, the practice — known as placentophagy — may even pose unknown risks to mothers and infants, according to a team from Northwestern University in Chicago, who pored over the accumulated research on the issue. They found no data to support that eating the placenta — either raw, cooked or in pill form — protects against postpartum depression, reduces pain after childbirth, increases a woman's energy, helps with lactation, improves mother-child bonding, replenishes iron in the body, or improves skin elasticity. The researchers also said that there are no studies examining the risks associated with eating the placenta, which acts as a filter to absorb and protect fetuses from toxins and pollutants.
Advertising

Billboard Advertising Banned Products In Russia Hides If It Recognizes Cops 86 86

m.alessandrini writes: In response to a ban of food imported from the European Union, an Italian grocery in Russia hired an ad agency to create a billboard with a camera and facial recognition software, that's able to change to a different ad when it recognizes the uniform of Russian cops. Gizmodo reports: "With the aid of a camera and facial recognition software, the technology was slightly tweaked to instead recognize the official symbols and logos on the uniforms worn by Russian police. And as they approached the billboard featuring the advertisement for Don Giulio Salumeria’s imported Italian goods, it would automatically change to an ad for a Matryoshka doll shop instead."
Earth

Ask Slashdot: What Happens If We Perfect Age Reversing? 692 692

ourlovecanlastforeve writes: With biologists getting closer and closer to reversing the aging process in human cells, the reality of greatly extended life draws closer. This brings up a very important conundrum: You can't tell people not to reproduce and you can't kill people to preserve resources and space. Even at our current growth rate there's not enough for everyone. Not enough food, not enough space, not enough medical care. If — no, when — age reversal becomes a reality, who gets to live? And if everyone gets to live, how will we provide for them?
The Media

How a Scientist Fooled Millions With Bizarre Chocolate Diet Claims 260 260

__roo writes: Did you know chocolate helps you lose weight? You can read all about this great news for chocoholics in the Daily Star, Daily Express, Irish Examiner, and TV shows in Texas and Australia, and even the front page of Bild, Europe's largest daily newspaper. The problem is that it's not true. A researcher who previously worked with Science to do a sting operation on fee-charging open access journals ran a real—but obviously flawed—study rigged to generate false positives, paid €600 to get it published in a fee-charging open access journal, set up a website for a fake institute, and issued press releases to feed the ever-hungry pool of nutrition journalists. The doctor who ran the trial had the idea to use chocolate, because it's a favorite of the "whole food" fanatics. "Bitter chocolate tastes bad, therefore it must be good for you. It's like a religion."
Businesses

Here Comes the Keurig of Everything 270 270

Tekla Perry writes: Keurig made a huge business out of single-serving coffee machines. Now, as more complex machinery shrinks in size and cost, many companies are trying to duplicate that success for other types of food and drink. Startups are introducing the Keurig of cocktails, the Keurig of Jell-O shots, and the Keurig of dinner (it makes stir fries, stews, and risottos). The question is: does having a single- or limited-purpose device make really make sense for consumables that aren't coffee? Counter space is not infinite, and most people want more variety out of their lunches, dinners, and nightcaps than they do for their morning pick-me-up. (Also, let's retire this metaphor before we get a Keurig for cats.)
Biotech

Biologists Create Self-Healing Concrete 94 94

Mr.Intel writes: A team of microbiologists from the Delft University of Technology claims to have invented "bioconcrete" — concrete that heals cracks and breaks using bacteria. The goal was to find a type of bacteria that could live inside concrete and also produce small amount of limestone that could re-seal cracks. This is a difficult prospect because concrete is quite dry and strongly alkaline. The bacteria needed to be able to stay alive for years in those conditions before being activated by water. The bacteria also need a food source — simply adding sugar to concrete will make it weak. The scientists used calcium lactate instead, adding biodegradable capsules of it to the concrete mix. "When cracks eventually begin to form in the concrete, water enters and open the capsules. The bacteria then germinate, multiply and feed on the lactate, and in doing so they combine the calcium with carbonate ions to form calcite, or limestone, which closes up the cracks."
ISS

ISS Crew Stuck In Orbit While Russia Assesses Rocket 105 105

astroengine sends word that the astronauts aboard the International Space Station will be staying up there longer than expected while engineers for Russia's space program try to figure out if it's safe to launch more rockets. The recent Russian cargo mission that spun out of control and eventually fell back into the atmosphere sparked worries that a vessel sent to retrieve the astronauts wouldn't make it all the way to the ISS's orbit. Roscosmos and NASA said the next rocket launch will be postponed at least two months. Even though the Russian cargo ship failed to reach the ISS, they have plenty of food, water, and air to last them to the next scheduled supply run — a SpaceX launch in late June.
Image

Woman Alerts Police of Hostage Situation Through Pizza Hut App 105 Screenshot-sm 105

mpicpp writes with this ABC News story about how a Pizza Hut app may have saved a woman's life. "A Florida mother held hostage by her boyfriend used the Pizza Hut app to notify police she needed help, authorities said. Cheryl Treadway, 25, was allegedly being held at knife point in her home by Ethan Nickerson, 26, in Avon Park on Monday, the Highlands County Sheriff's Office told ABC News today. 'She was held hostage by him all day,' Public Information Officer Nell Hays said. Nickerson took away Treadway's phone, police said, but she was eventually able to persuade him to let her order a pizza using her Pizza Hut app. 'She told him, "The kids are hungry. Let's order a pizza. Let's get them some food,"' Hays said, noting that's when Treadway was able to sneak in a written message through the delivery. Along with her order of a small, classic pepperoni pizza, she wrote: 'Please help. Get 911 to me,' according to police. She also wrote: '911hostage help!'"
Mars

NASA Will Award You $5,000 For Your Finest Mars City Idea 156 156

coondoggie writes with this snippet from Network World: 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.
Wikipedia

An Open Ranking of Wikipedia Pages 39 39

vigna writes: The Laboratory for Web Algorithmics of the Università degli studi di Milano did it again: after creating the first open ranking of the World Wide Web they have put together the first entirely open ranking of Wikipedia, using Wikidata to categorize pages. The ranking is based on classic and easily explainable centrality measures or page views, and it is entirely open — all data (Wikipedia and Wikidata dumps) and all software used is publicly available. Just in case you wonder, the most important food is chocolate, the most important band are the Beatles and the most important idea is atheism.