ISS

Video Urthecast Brings You Earth Images and Videos from the ISS (Video) 16 16

Most of us probably won't ever visit the International Space Station (ISS) and look down at the Earth (motto: "The only planet we know has beer, so let's not ruin it"). Looking at pictures and videos made by cameras mounted on the ISS is about as close as we're going to get. There's already an ISS HD Earth Viewing Experiment on Ustream, but Urthecast is putting out higher-definition images than what you see on Ustream, and has plans to put out even clearer images and video before long. While Urthecast is likely to accumulate plenty of "oohs" and "aahhs" as it rolls along, according to CEO Scott Larson their real objective is to sell imagery -- and not necessarily just from the visible light band of the overall spectrum -- to industrial and government users. People like us are still invited to look at (and marvel at) lovely images of our planetary home.

NOTE: Today's video is about 4:30 long. If you want to watch and listen to more of Mr. Larson, we have a second "bonus" (Flash) video for you. Or you can read the transcript, which covers both videos.
Shark

Researchers Demonstrate the World's First White Lasers 118 118

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists and engineers at Arizona State University, in Tempe, have created the first lasers that can shine light over the full spectrum of visible colors. The device's inventors suggest the laser could find use in video displays, solid-state lighting, and a laser-based version of Wi-Fi. Although previous research has created red, blue, green and other lasers, each of these lasers usually only emitted one color of light. Creating a monolithic structure capable of emitting red, green, and blue all at once has proven difficult because it requires combining very different semiconductors. Growing such mismatched crystals right next to each other often results in fatal defects throughout each of these materials. But now scientists say they've overcome that problem. The heart of the new device is a sheet only nanometers thick made of a semiconducting alloy of zinc, cadmium, sulfur, and selenium. The sheet is divided into different segments. When excited with a pulse of light, the segments rich in cadmium and selenium gave off red light; those rich in cadmium and sulfur emitted green light; and those rich in zinc and sulfur glowed blue.
Technology

Pocket SCiO Spectrometer Sends Chemical Composition of Anything To Smartphones 82 82

MojoKid writes: Is that a tricorder in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? All joking aside, the handheld SCiO could truly make you feel like a member Bones McCoy's medical team. The SCiO turns science fiction into science fact by shrinking mass spectrometry technology used in traditional lab settings into a device small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. While pricey handheld spectrometers have been available for researchers, the SCiO is the first such device marketed directly at consumers. To get the SCiO down to a reasonable price point, Consumer Physics uses near-IR spectroscopy and optics typically found in smartphones to measure the light reflected from any given object. Held at a distance of 5 to 15 mm from the intended target, SCiO captures reflected spectrum data and uploads it to its own cloud platform. The company's proprietary algorithms then analyze the data and send the information back down to your smartphone (SCiO require a Bluetooth connection). Reportedly, this whole process occurs within 1.5 seconds. The hope is to empower consumers to learn more about the world around them and even about the things that we put in our mouth. You'll be able to ascertain nutritional information about the foods you eat without having to rely on labels, or even determine the ripeness of fruits and vegetables with the push of a button. The Whole Foods crowd will be all over this, one would think.
Space

Stephen Hawking and Russian Billionaire Start $100 Million Search For Aliens 208 208

An anonymous reader writes: Stephen Hawking is joining forces with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to start a $100 million effort to search the skies for signs of alien life. The initiative is called Breakthrough Listen, which will pay for large amounts of access to the Green Bank Telescope and the Parkes Telescope to scan the skies for signals over the next 10 years. They say the search will be 50 times more sensitive than previous attempts, cover 10 times more of the sky, and scan a greater portion of the radio spectrum 100x faster. They add, "All data will be open to the public. This will likely constitute the largest amount of scientific data ever made available to the public. The Breakthrough Listen team will use and develop the most powerful software for sifting and searching this flood of data. All software will be open source." The project is also supported by Frank Drake, Ann Druyan, and Lord Martin Rees.
Supercomputing

Ask Slashdot: Best Bang-for-the-Buck HPC Solution? 150 150

An anonymous reader writes: We are looking into procuring a FEA/CFD machine for our small company. While I know workstations well, the multi-socket rack cluster solutions are foreign to me. On one end of the spectrum, there are companies like HP and Cray that offer impressive setups for millions of dollars (out of our league). On the other end, there are quad-socket mobos from Supermicro and Intel, for 8-18 core CPUs that cost thousands of dollars apiece.

Where do we go from here? Is it even reasonable to order $50k worth of components and put together our own high-performance, reasonably-priced blade cluster? Or is this folly, best left to experts? Who are these experts if we need them?

And what is the better choice here? 16-core Opterons at 2.6 GHz, 8-core Xeons at 3.4 GHz? Are power and thermals limiting factors here? (A full rack cupboard would consume something like 25 kW, it seems?) There seems to be precious little straightforward information about this on the net.
Government

Antineutrino Detectors Could Be Key To Monitoring Iran's Nuclear Program 79 79

agent elevator writes: Tech that analyzes antineutrinos might be the best way to keep tabs on Iran's nuclear program. The technology, which can tell how much of and what kind of plutonium and uranium are nearby, should be ready to serve as a nuclear safeguard in less than two years, according to IEEE Spectrum. In a simulation of the Arak nuclear plant, which the Iran deal requires be redesigned to make less plutonium, a detector parked outside in a shipping container could do the job.
Transportation

Plastic Roads Sound Like a Crazy Idea, Maybe Aren't 183 183

schwit1 writes with news that the Dutch city of Rotterdam is looking at partnering with a company called VolkerWessels to test a prototype plastic road for safety and durability. "They envision pulling waste plastic out of the oceans, and then processing it into prefabricated sections of road with integrated utility channels and drainage. The composition and structure of the plastic makes it more durable than traditional asphalt, and VolkerWessels estimates that their plastic roads should last about three times as long as traditional roads." The roads are manufactured at a factory, and then hauled in a mostly finished state to where they'll end up. This could dramatically reduce the time during which drivers are inconvenienced by road construction efforts.
Technology

Paralyzed Man Hits the Streets of NYC In a New Exoskeleton 38 38

the_newsbeagle writes: Robert Woo was paralyzed in 2007 when a construction crane dropped a load of steel on him. Yesterday, he put on the newest "exoskeleton," essentially a pair of smart robotic legs, and strolled out into a busy Manhattan sidewalk. He was demoing the ReWalk 6.0, a $77,000 device that he plans to buy for home use.
Medicine

Robot Performs Prostate Surgery Inside an MRI 64 64

the_newsbeagle writes: Researchers have developed a non-metallic robot with ceramic piezoelectric motors that functions inside an MRI machine, allowing surgeons to perform procedures guided by real-time imaging. It's now being tested in prostate biopsies. Doctors say this system will let them aim their needles more precisely and reduce the number of times they stick them in. The NIH thinks such systems could come in handy for neurosurgery too. Gregory Fischer, a professor of mechanical engineering at WPI whose Automation and Interventional Medicine Robotics Lab led the research says: "You can bring it into any MRI room and have it up and running in an hour. It can locate the target, track the needle, and if it deflects during insertion, it can steer the needle to hit the target. We’re taking baby steps to get the robot into clinical use."
Technology

The Real-Life Dangers of Augmented Reality 52 52

Tekla Perry writes: Today's augmented reality devices have yet to go through extensive tests of their impact on their wearers' health and safety. But by looking at existing research involving visual and motor impairments, two Kaiser Permanente researchers find they can draw conclusions about the promise and perils of augmented reality, and point to ways wearable developers can make these devices safer. The researchers write: "Peripheral vision is more important than you might think, because it provides a wealth of information about speed and distance from objects. Central vision, despite the great detail it offers, gives you only a rough estimate of movement toward or away from you, based on changes in size or in the parallax angle between your eyes. But objects moving within your peripheral vision stimulate photoreceptors from the center of the retina to the edge, providing much better information about the speed of motion. Your brain detects objects in your peripheral field and evaluates if and how they (or you) are moving. Interfering with this process can cause you to misjudge relative motion and could cause you to stumble; it might even get you hit by a car one day."
Space

Black Hole Awakens After 26 Years 58 58

schwit1 writes: For the first time since 1989, the black hole in V404 Cygni, a system comprising a black hole and a star, has reawakened, suddenly emitting high energy outbursts beginning on June 15. The outbursts are probably occurring because the black hole is gobbling up material that has fallen into it. While the 1989 outburst helped astronomers gain their first understand of the behavior of a black hole in a star system, this outburst will help them understand how such systems evolve and change over time. The European Space Agency (ESA) reports: "First signs of renewed activity in V404 Cygni were spotted by the Burst Alert Telescope on NASA's Swift satellite, detecting a sudden burst of gamma rays, and then triggering observations with its X-ray telescope. Soon after, MAXI (Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image), part of the Japanese Experiment Module on the International Space Station, observed an X-ray flare from the same patch of the sky. These first detections triggered a massive campaign of observations from ground-based telescopes and from space-based observatories, to monitor V404 Cygni at many different wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum."
Medicine

Triggering a Mouse's Happy Memories With Lasers Gives It the Will To Struggle On 66 66

the_newsbeagle writes: With optogenetics, scientists can tag neurons with light-responsive proteins, and then trigger those neurons to "turn on" with the pulse of a light. In the latest application, MIT researchers used light to turn on certain neurons in male mice's hippocampi that were associated with a happy memory (coming into contact with female mice!), and then tested whether that artificially activated memory changed the mice's reactions to a stressful situation (being hung by their tails). Mice who got jolted with the happy memory struggled to get free for longer than the control mice. This tail-suspension test was developed to screen potential antidepressant drugs: If a rodent struggles longer before giving up, it's considered less depressed.
Medicine

Computer Modeling Failed During the Ebola Outbreak 193 193

the_newsbeagle writes: Last fall, the trajectory of the Ebola outbreak looked downright terrifying: Computational epidemiologists at Virginia Tech predicted 175,000 cases in Liberia by the end of 2014, while the CDC predicted 1.4 million cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone. They were way off. The actual tally as of January 2015: A total of 20,712 cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone combined, and in all three countries, the epidemic was dying down. But the modelers argue that this really wasn't a failure, because their predictions served as worst-case scenarios that mobilized international efforts.
The Almighty Buck

Cool Tool: The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Cost Calculator 169 169

Lasrick writes: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has launched a very cool new tool that will excite anyone interested in understanding the per kilowatt cost of nuclear energy. Developed over the last two years in a partnership between the Bulletin and the University of Chicago, the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Cost Calculator estimates the cost of electricity produced by three configurations of the nuclear fuel cycle:

1. The once-through fuel cycle used in most US nuclear power plants, in which uranium fuel is used once and then stored for later disposal.
2. A limited-recycle mode in which a mix of uranium and plutonium (that is, mixed oxide, or MOX) is used to fuel a light water reactor.
3. A full-recycle system, which uses a fast neutron spectrum reactor that can be configured to 'breed' plutonium that can subsequently be used as either nuclear fuel or weapons material.

This online tool lets users test how sensitive the price of electricity is to a full range of components—more than 60 parameters that can be adjusted for the three configurations of the nuclear fuel cycle considered. The results provide nuanced cost assessments for the reprocessing of nuclear fuel and can serve as the basis for discussions among government officials, industry leaders, and public interest groups.
Medicine

How Biostamps Can Replace Clunky Biomedical Sensors 43 43

An anonymous reader writes: The biostamp--a type of temporary tattoo that feels like skin, yet is laden with electronics--is just about ready for prime time. The technology has entered clinical trials for medical use, and consumer versions, costing just tens of cents, are coming soon. A visit to the University of Illinois researchers developing the technology reveals details about how biostamps work and how they are manufactured. A year from now, don't be surprised if you're wearing one--or two, or three--yourself.
Medicine

Tiny Fantastic Voyage Inspired Robots Are Starting To Get Reasonably Mature 27 27

szotz writes: No shrinking machine in an underground military lab (as far as we know). And no Raquel Welch. Still there is a growing microrobotics movement underway, looking at ways that tiny, untethered robots might be used to perform medical interventions in the human body. There have been piecemeal reports for years now of various designs, such as microscallops that can swim through the eye and bots that can be pushed around by bacteria flagella. This article in IEEE Spectrum gives a round-up of recent progress and looks at some of the difficulties that arise when you try to make things tiny and still have them retain a modicum (or give them more than a modicum) of function.
Medicine

The Artificial Pancreas For Diabetics Is Nearly Here 95 95

the_newsbeagle writes: It's the tech that type 1 diabetics have long been waiting for: An implanted "closed-loop" system that monitors a person's blood-sugar level and adjusts injections from an insulin pump. Such a system would liberate diabetics from constant self-monitoring and give parents of diabetic children peace of mind. Thanks to improvements in glucose sensors and control algorithms, the first artificial pancreas systems are now in clinical trials.
Technology

First Ultraviolet Quantum Dots Shine In an LED 47 47

ckwu with word that South Korean researchers have created the first UV-emitting quantum dots, and employed them in the creation of a flexible LED. Their achievement is notable because no one has previously succeeded in making quantum dots capable of emitting light at wavelengths shorter than 400 nm, which defines the upper range of the UV spectrum. Writes ckwu: To get quantum dots that emit UV, the researchers figured out how make them with light-emitting cores smaller than 3 nm in diameter. They did it by coating a light-emitting cadmium zinc selenide nanoparticle with a zinc sulfide shell, which caused the core to shrink to 2.5 nm. The quantum dots give off true UV light, at 377 nm. An LED made with the quantum dots could illuminate the anticounterfeiting marks on a paper bill. The article names a few applications of the technology, besides, including water sterilization and industrial applications.
Biotech

Hacking Your Body Through a Nerve In Your Neck 82 82

agent elevator writes: IEEE Spectrum has a feature (part of its Hacking the Human OS issue) on the future of vagus nerve stimulation, a device-based therapy with the potential to treat a ridiculously wide variety of ailments: epilepsy, depression, stroke, tinnitus, heart failure, migraines, asthma, the list goes on. One problem is that, because it required an implant (a bit like a pacemaker), it was never anybody's first-choice therapy. But now there's a non-invasive version, a device you just hold to your neck twice a day for a few minutes. It's being trialed first for migraines and cluster headaches (which sound horrible). If it works, vagus nerve stimulation could compete directly with drug treatments on cost and convenience and it would let doctors find new ways to hack human physiology.