The Internet

Unicode Consortium Looks At Symbols For Allergies 60 60

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."
Biotech

Genetically Modified Rice Makes More Food, Less Greenhouse Gas 292 292

Applehu Akbar writes: A team of researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences has engineered a barley gene into rice, producing a variety that yields 50% more grain while producing 90% less of the powerful greenhouse gas methane. The new rice pulls off this trick by putting more of its energy into top growth. In countries which depend on rice as a staple, this would add up to a really large amount of increased rice and foregone methane.
Japan

Olympic Organizer Wants To Feed Athletes Fukushima Produce 128 128

New submitter Grady Martin writes: Toshiaki Endo, Japan's government-appointed parliament member in charge of planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has expressed hopes of supplying the Olympic/Paralympic village with foods grown in Fukushima [Google's autotranslation], stating, 'Using foods from Fukushima in the village is another possibility. I wish to strengthen ties with ground zero in numerous ways.' Would you eat it?
News

Scientists Identify Sixth Taste: Fat 89 89

New submitter shuheng writes with news that a study out of Purdue claims to have identified the sixth distinct taste known to humans: fat. The scientists say it should be called oleogustus which means "fatty taste" in Latin (abstract). Professor Richard Mattes said, Most of the fat we eat is in the form of triglycerides, which are molecules comprised of three fatty acids. Triglycerides often impart appealing textures to foods like creaminess. However, triglycerides are not a taste stimulus. Fatty acids that are cleaved off the triglyceride in the food or during chewing in the mouth stimulate the sensation of fat. The taste component of fat is often described as bitter or sour because it is unpleasant, but new evidence reveals fatty acids evoke a unique sensation satisfying another element of the criteria for what constitutes a basic taste, just like sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.
Science

The Science and Politics Behind Colony Collapse Disorder; Is the Crisis Over? 174 174

iONiUM writes: An article at the Globe and Mail claims that there is no longer any Honeybee crises, and that the deaths of the Honeybees previously was a one-off, or possibly non-cyclical occurrence (caused by neonics or nature — the debate is still out). The data used is that from Stats Canada which claims "the number of honeybee colonies is at a record high [in Canada]." Globally, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization says that "worldwide bee populations have rebounded to a record high." The story reports: "I have great news for honey lovers everywhere. The Canadian honeybee industry is thriving. Despite those headlines about mass die-offs and and killer pesticides, the number of honeybee colonies is at a record high. Last year, according to Statistics Canada, nearly 700,000 honeybee colonies produced $200-million worth of honey. Bee survival rates have rebounded even in Ontario, which was hard hit by unusually high winter die-offs."
Mars

Interviews: Shaun Moss Answers Your Questions About Mars and Space Exploration 48 48

Recently the founder of the Mars Settlement Research Organization and author of The International Mars Research Station Shaun Moss agreed to sit down and answer any questions you had about space exploration and colonizing Mars. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
Science

Scientists Develop Nutritious Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon 174 174

cold fjord writes: According to a New Zealand Herald report, "Researchers at Oregon State University have patented a new strain of succulent red marine algae that tastes like bacon when it's cooked. The protein-packed algae sea vegetable called dulse grows extraordinarily fast and is wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. It has been sold for centuries in a dried form around northern Europe, used in cooking and as a nutritional supplement. ... Chris Langdon has created a new strain of the weed which looks like a translucent red lettuce. An excellent source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, the "superfood" contains up to 16 per cent protein in dry weight. ... It has twice the nutritional value of kale." Langdon says, "When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon, not seaweed. And it's a pretty strong bacon flavor."
United States

US House Committee Approves Anti-GMO Labeling Law 446 446

An anonymous reader writes: The House Agriculture Committee approved a measure banning mandatory GMO labeling as well as local efforts to regulate genetically engineered crops. The decision is a major victory for U.S. food companies and other opponents of labeling genetically modified foods. "This... legislation will ensure that Americans have accurate, consistent information about their food rather than a 50 state patchwork of labeling laws that will only prove costly and confusing for consumers, farmers and food manufacturers," said Pamela Bailey, CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), said in a statement.
Earth

Mini Ice Age: Nothing To Worry About 195 195

Geoffrey.landis writes: Last week a news story suggested that a new model of sunspot activity predicted a dramatic drop in solar activity coming up, possibly resulting in coming a mini-ice age. Take that prediction with a bit of skepticism, though-- later news analysis suggests that the story may be more media hype than science. Valentina Zharkova, the scientist whose research is being quoted, made no mention of a "mini Ice age"-- her work was only on modelling the solar dynamo. And, in any case, the solar minimum predicted was estimated to last only three solar cycles-- far less than the 17th century Maunder Minimum.

Phil Plait, known for his "bad astronomy" column, does a more detailed analysis of the claims, pointing out that the effect, if it even exists at all, is weak-- and the much discussed "Little Ice Age" is currently believed to most likely have been triggered by volcanic action, not sunspots. And, in any case, any predicted cooling is small compared to already-present global warming. So, probably no need to stock up on firewood, dried food, and ammunition quite yet-- the mini ice age isn't likely to be coming quite yet.
Shark

CIA Shares Julia Child's Shark Repellent Recipe 41 41

coondoggie writes: Sometimes some of the coolest stories get lost in history. The CIA recently noted one of them – famous French food chef and author Julia Child's critical involvement in developing a shark repellent recipe for military personnel during WWII. The CIA reports: "Julia McWilliams (better known by her married name, Julia Child) joined the newly-created OSS in 1942 in search of adventure. This was years before she became the culinary icon of French cuisine that she is known for today. In fact, at this time, Julia was self-admittedly a disaster in the kitchen. Perhaps all the more fitting that she soon found herself helping to develop a recipe that even a shark would refuse to eat....After trying over 100 different substances—including common poisons—the researchers found several promising possibilities: extracts from decayed shark meat, organic acids, and several copper salts, including copper sulphate and copper acetate. After a year of field tests, the most effective repellent was copper acetate."
Earth

Philips Is Revolutionizing Urban Farming With New GrowWise Indoor Farm 279 279

Kristine Lofgren writes: With arable land dwindling and the cost — both economically and environmentally — of growing and transporting food increasing, it's time to redefine farming. So Philips is creating a revolution with their new GrowWise indoor farm, which uses customized 'light recipes' in high-tech cells to grow plants that don't need pesticides or chlorine washes, and use a fraction of the water that traditional farming requires. The system can churn out 900 pots of basil a year in just one square meter of floor space, and bees keep things humming year-round for farming that is truly local, even in the middle of a city.
Build

When Nerds Do BBQ 149 149

Rick Zeman writes: On this 4th of July, the day when Americans flock to their grills and smokers, Wired has a fascinating article on a computerized smoker designed by Harvard engineering students. They say, "In prototype form, the smoker looks like a combination of a giant pepper mill, a tandoori oven, and V.I.N.CENT from The Black Hole. It weighs 300 pounds. It has a refueling chute built into the side of it. And it uses a proportional-integral-derivative controller, a Raspberry Pi, and fans to regulate its own temperature, automatically producing an ideal slow-and-low burn."

After cooking >200 lbs of brisket while fine-tuning the design, the students concluded, "Old-school pitmasters are like, 'I cook mine in a garbage can,' and there's a point of pride in that. A lot of the cutting edge is when you take an art form and drag it back onto scientific turf and turn it into an algorithm. I don't think we've diluted the artistic component with this."
ISS

Russian Cargo Ship Successfully Makes Orbit, Will Supply ISS 50 50

An anonymous reader writes: Early this morning, a Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket carried a Progress capsule containing 2,700kg of supplies for the International Space Station. It's a much-needed victory after a series of launch failures that saw ISS resupply missions from Orbital ATK, Russia, and SpaceX end in failure. "The station, a joint project involving 15 nations which is staffed by a crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts, currently has a four-month supply of food and water, NASA said. The arrival of the Russian cargo ship, and the planned launch of a Japanese HTV freighter in August, should replenish the station's pantries through the end of the year, NASA said. Friday's successful launch clears the way for three new crew members to fly to the station later this month."
The Almighty Buck

Scientist Union's Talks Stall Over Pay 80 80

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 316 316

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).