Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).

×
Earth

Resistance To Antibiotics Found In Isolated Amazonian Tribe 48

Posted by timothy
from the strong-willed-organisms dept.
sciencehabit writes When scientists first made contact with an isolated village of Yanomami hunter-gatherers in the remote mountains of the Amazon jungle of Venezuela in 2009, they marveled at the chance to study the health of people who had never been exposed to Western medicine or diets. But much to their surprise, these Yanomami's gut bacteria have already evolved a diverse array of antibiotic-resistance genes, according to a new study, even though these mountain people had never ingested antibiotics or animals raised with drugs. The find suggests that microbes have long evolved the capability to fight toxins, including antibiotics, and that preventing drug resistance may be harder than scientists thought.
The Military

Scientists Locate Sunken, Radioactive Aircraft Carrier Off California Coast 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-you-leave-behind dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Aaron Kinney reports in the San Jose Mercury News that scientists have captured the first clear images of the USS Independence, a radioactivity-polluted World War II aircraft carrier that rests on the ocean floor 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay. The Independence saw combat at Wake Island and other decisive battles against Japan in 1944 and 1945 and was later blasted with radiation in two South Pacific nuclear tests. Assigned as a target vessel for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half-mile of ground zero and was engulfed in a fireball and heavily damaged during the 1946 nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll. The veteran ship did not sink, however (though her funnels and island were crumpled by the blast), and after taking part in another explosion on 25 July, the highly radioactive hull was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests and was finally scuttled off the coast of San Francisco, California, on 29 January 1951. "This ship is an evocative artifact of the dawn of the atomic age, when we began to learn the nature of the genie we'd uncorked from the bottle," says James Delgado. "It speaks to the 'Greatest Generation' — people's fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who served on these ships, who flew off those decks and what they did to turn the tide in the Pacific war."

Delgado says he doesn't know how many drums of radioactive material are buried within the ship — perhaps a few hundred. But he is doubtful that they pose any health or environmental risk. The barrels were filled with concrete and sealed in the ship's engine and boiler rooms, which were protected by thick walls of steel. The carrier itself was clearly "hot" when it went down and and it was packed full of fresh fission products and other radiological waste at the time it sank. The Independence was scuttled in what is now the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, a haven for wildlife, from white sharks to elephant seals and whales. Despite its history as a dumping ground Richard Charter says the radioactive waste is a relic of a dark age before the enviornmental movement took hold. "It's just one of those things that humans rather stupidly did in the past that we can't retroactively fix.""
Science

Newly Discovered Sixth Extinction Rivals That of the Dinosaurs 87

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-line dept.
sciencehabit writes Earth has seen its share of catastrophes, the worst being the 'big five' mass extinctions scientists traditionally talk about. Now, paleontologists are arguing that a sixth extinction, 260 million years ago, at the end of a geological age called the Capitanian, deserves to be a member of the exclusive club. In a new study, they offer evidence for a massive die-off in shallow, cool waters in what is now Norway. That finding, combined with previous evidence of extinctions in tropical waters, means that the Capitanian was a global catastrophe.
Technology

The Crazy-Tiny Next Generation of Computers 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-small dept.
An anonymous reader writes University of Michigan professors are about to release the design files for a one-cubic-millimeter computer, or mote. They have finally reached a goal set in 1997, when UC Berkeley professor Kristopher Pister coined the term "smart dust" and envisioned computers blanketing the Earth. Such motes are likely to play a key role in the much-ballyhooed Internet of Things. From the article: "When Prabal Dutta accidentally drops a computer, nothing breaks. There’s no crash. The only sound you might hear is a prolonged groan. That’s because these computers are just one cubic millimeter in size, and once they hit the floor, they’re gone. 'We just lose them,' Dutta says. 'It’s worse than jewelry.' To drive the point home, Dutta, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan, emails me a photo of 50 of these computers. They barely fill a thimble halfway to its brim."
Mars

Road To Mars: Solving the Isolation Problem 137

Posted by Soulskill
from the cryostasis-is-not-just-for-sci-fi-and-weekly-meetings dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As space technology matures, new missions are being funded and humanity is setting its goals ever further. Space agencies are tackling some of the new problems that crop up when we try to go further away than Earth's moon. This New Yorker article takes a look at research into one of the biggest obstacles: extended isolation. Research consultant Jack Stuster once wrote, "Future space expeditions will resemble sea voyages much more than test flights, which have served as the models for all previous space missions." Long-duration experiments are underway to test the effects of isolation, but it's tough to study. You need many experiments to derive useful conclusions, but you can't just ship 100 groups of a half-dozen people off to remote areas of the globe and monitor all of them. It's also borderline unethical to expose the test subjects to the kind of stress and danger that would be present in a real Mars mission. The data collected so far has been (mostly) promising, but we have a long way to go. The technology and the missions themselves will probably come together long before we know how to deal with isolation. At some point, we'll just have to hope our best guess is good enough.
Earth

Can Civilization Reboot Without Fossil Fuels? 362

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-start-breeding-dinosaurs dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We often talk about our dependence on fossil fuels, and vigorously debate whether and how we should reduce that dependence. This article at Aeon sidesteps the political bickering and asks an interesting technological question: if we had to rebuild society, could we do it without all the fossil fuels we used to do it the first time? When people write about post-apocalyptic scenarios, the focus is usually on preserving information long enough for humanity to rebuild. But actually rebuilding turns out to be quite a challenge when all the easy oil has been bled from the planet.

It's not that we're running out, it's that the best spots for oil now require high tech machinery. This would create a sort of chicken-and-egg problem for a rebuilding society. Technological progress could still happen using other energy production methods. But it would be very slow — we'd never see the dramatic accelerations that marked the industrial age, and then the information age. "A slow-burn progression through the stages of mechanization, supported by a combination of renewable electricity and sustainably grown biomass, might be possible after all. Then again, it might not. We'd better hope we can secure the future of our own civilization, because we might have scuppered the chances of any society to follow in our wake."
Earth

Mystery "Warm Blob" In the Pacific Ocean Could Be Causing California's Drought 173

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
Mr D from 63 writes A mysterious "warm blob" in the Pacific Ocean could be the reason why US West coast states like California are experiencing their worst ever drought, a new study says. From the article: "Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington, began watching the blob a year and a half ago. 'In the fall of 2013 and early 2014, we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn't cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year,' Bond said in a news release about the studies appearing in Geophysical Research Letters."
Earth

California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water 332

Posted by samzenpus
from the taking-the-salt-out dept.
HughPickens.com writes Justin Gillis writes in the NYT that as drought strikes California, residents can't help noticing the substantial reservoir of untapped water lapping at their shores — 187 quintillion gallons of it, more or less, shimmering invitingly in the sun. Once dismissed as too expensive and harmful to the environment desalination is getting a second look. A $1 billion desalination plant to supply booming San Diego County is under construction and due to open as early as November, providing a major test of whether California cities will be able to resort to the ocean to solve their water woes. "It was not an easy decision to build this plant," says Mark Weston, chairman of the agency that supplies water to towns in San Diego County. "But it is turning out to be a spectacular choice. What we thought was on the expensive side 10 years ago is now affordable."

Carlsbad's product will sell for around $2,000 per acre-foot (the amount used by two five-person U.S. households per year), which is 80 percent more than the county pays for treated water from outside the area. Water bills already average about $75 a month and the new plant will drive them up by $5 or so to secure a new supply equal to about 7 or 8 percent of the county's water consumption. Critics say the plant will use a huge amount of electricity, increasing the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming, which further strains water supplies. And local environmental groups, which fought the plant, fear a substantial impact on sea life. "There is just a lot more that can be done on both the conservation side and the water-recycling side before you get to [desalination]," says Rick Wilson, coastal management coordinator with the environmental group Surfrider Foundation. "We feel, in a lot of cases, that we haven't really explored all of those options."
Power

The Myth of Going Off the Power Grid 279

Posted by Soulskill
from the tell-that-to-my-hamster-wheel-colony dept.
Lasrick writes: Dawn Stover uses Elon Musk's announcement that Tesla will soon be unveiling plans for a battery that could power your home as a starting point to explore the idea that "going off the grid" is going to solve climate change. "The kind of in-house energy storage he is proposing could help make renewables a bigger part of the global supply. But headlines announcing that a Tesla battery 'could take your home off the grid' spread misconceptions about what it takes to be self-sufficient — and stop global warming." Stover worries that shifting responsibility for solutions to climate change from governments to individuals creates an 'every-man-for-himself' culture that actually works against energy solutions and does little to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, "smart grid" technology would be much more efficient: "With a smarter grid, excess electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines could be distributed to a network of on-the-grid home and car batteries. Some utilities have also experimented with using home water heaters as an economical substitute for batteries."
Earth

The Last Time Oceans Got This Acidic This Fast, 96% of Marine Life Went Extinct 417

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-not-easy-being-green dept.
merbs writes: The biggest extinction event in planetary history was driven by the rapid acidification of our oceans, a new study concludes (abstract). So much carbon was released into the atmosphere, and the oceans absorbed so much of it so quickly, that marine life simply died off, from the bottom of the food chain up. That doesn't bode well for the present, given the similarly disturbing rate that our seas are acidifying right now. A team led by University of Edinburgh researchers collected rocks in the United Arab Emirates that were on the seafloor hundreds of millions of years ago, and used the boron isotopes found within to model the changing levels of acidification in our prehistoric oceans. They now believe that a series of gigantic volcanic eruptions in the Siberian Trap spewed a great fountain of carbon into the atmosphere over a period of tens of thousands of years. This was the first phase of the extinction event, in which terrestrial life began to die out.
NASA

America's Methane Mystery: NASA Set To Investigate Hotspot Over the 4 Corners 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the hot-spot dept.
schwit writes A "hot spot" of the largest concentration of methane seen over the United States is in the area near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah and covers 2,500 square miles. The hotspot predates widespread fracking in the area. Researchers from several institutions are now in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest with a suite of airborne and ground-based instruments, aiming to uncover reasons for a mysterious methane "hot spot" detected from space. "With all the ground-based and airborne resources that the different groups are bringing to the region, we have the unique chance to unequivocally solve the Four Corners mystery," said Christian Frankenberg, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who is heading NASA's part of the effort.
Earth

Did Natural Selection Make the Dutch the Tallest People On the Planet? 298

Posted by timothy
from the my-grandmother-could've-told-you-that dept.
sciencehabit writes The Dutch population has gained an impressive 20 centimeters in the past 150 years and is now officially the tallest on the planet. Scientists chalk up most of that increase to rising wealth, a rich diet, and good health care, but a new study suggests something else is going on as well: The Dutch growth spurt may be an example of human evolution in action. The study shows that tall Dutch men on average have more children than their shorter counterparts, and that more of their children survive. That suggests genes that help make people tall are becoming more frequent among the Dutch. "This study drives home the message that the human population is still subject to natural selection," says Stephen Stearns, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University who wasn't involved in the work. "It strikes at the core of our understanding of human nature, and how malleable it is."
Moon

Collision With Earth's "Little Sister" Created the Moon 83

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-that's-left dept.
astroengine writes The primordial planet believed to have smashed into baby Earth, creating a cloud of debris that eventually formed into the moon, was chemically a near-match to Earth, a new study shows. The finding, reported in this week's Nature, helps resolve a long-standing puzzle about why Earth and the moon are nearly twins in terms of composition. Computer models show that most of the material that formed the moon would have come from the shattered impactor, a planetary body referred to as Theia, which should have a slightly different isotopic makeup than Earth.
Space

Organic Molecules Found Circling Nearby Star 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the solar-nursery dept.
sciencehabit writes Astronomers have detected chemical precursors of building blocks of life in the large disk of dust and gas whirling around a young nearby star. These complex organic molecules, two forms of cyanide and one chemically related compound, likely formed after the protoplanetary disk collapsed, the researchers say. The same chemicals are found in roughly similar proportions in comets circling our sun, which may have brought them to Earth billions of years ago. "We know that the solar system isn't unique in its number of planets or abundance of water," says Karin Öberg, an astrochemist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "Now we know that we're not unique in organic chemistry. From a life in the universe point of view, this is great news."
Earth

Obama Says Climate Change Is Harming Americans' Health 304

Posted by Soulskill
from the mexicans-and-canadians-sure-dodged-a-bullet dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The Washington Post reports on new comments from President Obama, who says global warming isn't just affecting the weather — it's harming Americans' health. He has announced steps government and businesses will take to better understand and deal with the problem. Obama said hazards of the changing climate include wildfires sending more pollution into the air, allergy seasons growing longer, and rising cases of insect-borne diseases. "We've got to do better in protecting our vulnerable families," said Obama. "You can't cordon yourself off from air."

Speaking at Howard University Medical School, Obama announced commitments from Google, Microsoft and others to help the nation's health system prepare for a warmer, more erratic climate. Google has promised to donate 10 million hours of advanced computing time on new tools, including risk maps and early warnings for things like wildfires and oil flares using the Google Earth Engine platform, the White House said. Google's camera cars that gather photos for its "Street View" function will start measuring methane emissions and natural gas leaks in some cities this year. Microsoft's research arm will develop a prototype for drones that can collect large quantities of mosquitoes, then digitally analyze their genes and pathogens. The goal is to create a system that could provide early warnings about infectious diseases that could break out if climate change worsens.
Space

NASA's Chief Scientist Predicts Evidence For Life Beyond Earth By 2025 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-it'll-take-just-a-few-years-after-that-to-make-them-angry-at-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA, predicts we're not far off from finding evidence for alien life. At a panel discussion yesterday, she said, "I think we're going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years." She added, "We know where to look. We know how to look. In most cases we have the technology, and we're on a path to implementing it." Stofan thinks putting astronauts on Mars will be a big part of that goal. As efficient as robot missions are, she thinks it'll take humans digging and cracking rocks to find definitive evidence for life on other worlds.
Earth

"Brontosaurus" Name Resurrected Thanks To New Dino Family Tree 68

Posted by timothy
from the usps-has-a-stopped-geologic-clock dept.
sciencehabit writes In, the U.S. Postal Service issued colorful dinosaur stamps, including one for Brontosaurus. Paleontologists and educators loudly protested that the correct scientific name for the iconic beast was Apatosaurus—a fact that even lay dino aficionados and many 8-year-olds took pride in knowing. But now, a dinosaur-sized study of the family tree of the Diplodocidae, the group that includes such monstrous beasts as Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, and Barosaurus, finds that USPS got it right: The fossils originally called Brontosaurus show enough skeletal differences from other specimens of Apatosaurus that they rightfully belong to a different genus. The study, published online this week in the journal PeerJ, brings the long-banished name back into scientific respectability as a genus coequal with Apatosaurus.
Earth

The Dystopian Lake Filled By the World's Tech Sludge 215

Posted by Soulskill
from the scifi-waiting-to-happen dept.
New submitter trevc sends this story from the BBC: Hidden in an unknown corner of Inner Mongolia is a toxic, nightmarish lake created by our thirst for smartphones, consumer gadgets and green tech. The city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Stretching into the distance, lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge. ... You may not have heard of Baotou, but the mines and factories here help to keep our modern lives ticking. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals. These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs.
Earth

The World Lost an Oklahoma-Sized Area of Forest In 2013, Satellite Data Show 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-many-oklahomas-are-left? dept.
merbs writes Oklahoma spans an area in the American South that stretches across almost 70,000 square miles. That's almost exactly the same area of global forest cover that was lost in a single year. High resolution maps from Global Forest Watch, tapping new data from a partnership between the University of Maryland and Google, show that 18 million hectares (69,500 square miles) of tree cover were lost from wildfires, deforestation, and development the year before last. The maps were created by synthesizing 400,000 satellite images collected by NASA's Landsat mission.
Mars

Planetary Society Pushes For Mars Orbital Mission Before NASA Landing 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-some-advice dept.
MarkWhittington writes The Planetary Society announced Thursday the results of the "Humans Orbiting Mars" workshop that brought in a number of space experts to develop helpful suggestions for how NASA can fulfill its mandate to send humans to Mars in the 2030s and return them safely to the Earth. The plan is to send a mission to orbit Mars in 2033 in advance of the landing mission in the late 2030s. The workshop believes that this could be done for a NASA budget that increases about two percent a year after the International Space Station is decommissioned in 2024.