Medicine

Study Confirms No Link Between MMR Vaccine and Autism 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-that-evidence-is-helpful-with-those-people dept.
An anonymous reader sends word of a new study (abstract) into the relationship between the MMR vaccine and kids who develop autism. In short: there is no relationship, even for kids at high risk of developing autism. From the article: [Researchers] examined records from a large health insurer to search for such an association. They checked the status of children continuously enrolled in the health plan from birth to at least 5 years old during 2001 to 2012. The children also had an older brother or sister continuously enrolled for at least six months between 1997 and 2012. "Consistent with studies in other populations, we observed no association between MMR vaccination and increased ASD risk among privately insured children.We also found no evidence that receipt of either 1 or 2 doses of MMR vaccination was associated with an increased risk of ASD among children who had older siblings with ASD." ... [An accompanying editorial said,] "Taken together, some dozen studies have now shown that the age of onset of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, the severity or course of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, and now the risk of ASD recurrence in families does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children."
Medicine

Protein Converts Pancreatic Cancer Cells Back Into Healthy Cells 25

Posted by Soulskill
from the cellular-reset-button dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Scientists working in the area of pancreatic cancer research have uncovered a technique that sees cancerous cells transform back into normal healthy cells. The method relies in the introduction of a protein called E47, which bonds with particular DNA sequences and reverts the cells back to their original state. The study (abstract) was a collaboration between researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, University of California San Diego and Purdue University. The scientists are hopeful that it could help combat the deadly disease in humans.
AI

Concerns of an Artificial Intelligence Pioneer 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the nobody-program-it-to-think-humans-can-be-used-as-batteries dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In January, the British-American computer scientist Stuart Russell drafted and became the first signatory of an open letter calling for researchers to look beyond the goal of merely making artificial intelligence more powerful. "We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robust and beneficial," the letter states. "Our AI systems must do what we want them to do." Thousands of people have since signed the letter, including leading artificial intelligence researchers at Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other industry hubs along with top computer scientists, physicists and philosophers around the world. By the end of March, about 300 research groups had applied to pursue new research into "keeping artificial intelligence beneficial" with funds contributed by the letter's 37th signatory, the inventor-entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Russell, 53, a professor of computer science and founder of the Center for Intelligent Systems at the University of California, Berkeley, has long been contemplating the power and perils of thinking machines. He is the author of more than 200 papers as well as the field's standard textbook, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (with Peter Norvig, head of research at Google). But increasingly rapid advances in artificial intelligence have given Russell's longstanding concerns heightened urgency.
The Courts

Update: No Personhood for Chimps Yet 313

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-have-standing dept.
sciencehabit writes: In a decision that effectively recognizes chimpanzees as legal persons for the first time, a New York judge [Monday] granted a pair of Stony Brook University lab animals the right to have their day in court. The ruling marks the first time in U.S. history that an animal has been covered by a writ of habeus corpus, which typically allows human prisoners to challenge their detention. The judicial action could force the university, which is believed to be holding the chimps, to release the primates, and could sway additional judges to do the same with other research animals. Update: 04/21 21:39 GMT by S : Science has updated their article with news that the court has released an amended order (PDF) with the words "writ of habeas corpus" removed, no longer implying that chimps have legal personhood. The order still allows the litigation to go forward, but we'll have to wait for resolution.
Science

3.46-Billion-Year-Old 'Fossils' Were Not Created By Life Forms 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the stupid-tricksy-fossilses dept.
sciencehabit writes: What are the oldest fossils on Earth? For a long time, a 3.46-billion-year-old rock from Western Australia seemed to hold the record. A 1993 Science paper (abstract) suggested that the Apex chert contained tiny, wormy structures that could have been fossilized cell walls of some of the world's first cyanobacteria. But now there is more evidence that these structures have nothing to do with life. The elongated filaments were instead created by minerals forming in hydrothermal systems, researchers report (abstract). After the minerals were formed, carbon glommed on to the edges, leaving behind an organic signature that looked suspiciously like cell walls.
NASA

NASA's Rocket Maker To Begin 3D Printing Flight-Ready Components 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-their-3d-printers-are-way-better-than-yours dept.
Lucas123 writes: United Launch Alliance (ULA), the company that makes rockets for NASA and the U.S. Air Force, plans to 3D print more than 100 flight-ready components for its next-gen Vulcan rocket. The company also just printed its first flight-ready component, a new Environmental Control System for its current Atlas V rocket. The ECS assembly had previously contained 140 parts that were made by third party suppliers, but ULA was able to reduce the parts to just 16, resulting in a 57% part-cost reduction. Along with cost reduction, ULA said 3D printing frees it from contracts with parts providers who may or may not deliver on time depending on whether the deem the rocket maker a priority at any given time. The company, which launches 12 rockets each year, is also hoping to use 3D printing for a more traditional role — rapid prototyping of parts. "We have a long list of [parts] candidates to evaluate — over 100 polymer parts we're considering and another 50 or so metal parts we're considering," said Greg Arend, program manager for additive manufacturing at ULA.
Space

Mysterious "Cold Spot": Fingerprint of Largest Structure In the Universe? 89

Posted by samzenpus
from the biggest-there-is dept.
astroengine writes At the furthest-most reaches of the observable universe lies one of the most enigmatic mysteries of modern cosmology: the cosmic microwave background (CMB) Cold Spot. Discovered in 2004, this strange feature etched into the primordial echo of the Big Bang has been the focus of many hypotheses — could it be the presence of another universe? Or is it just instrumental error? Now, astronomers may have acquired strong evidence as to the Cold Spot's origin and, perhaps unsurprisingly, no multiverse hypothesis is required. But it's not instrumental error either. It could be a vast "supervoid" around 1.8 billion light-years wide that is altering the characteristics of the CMB radiation traveling through it.
Science

Old Marconi Patent Inspires Tiny New Gigahertz Antenna 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-small dept.
agent elevator writes Gehan Amaratunga and a group of engineers in England noted that the Guglielmo Marconi's famous British patent application from 1900 had an interesting and little noticed detail. It depicted a transmitter linked to an antenna connected to a coil, which had one end dangling while the RF signal was fed to the middle of the coil. That detail inspired them to develop a way to reduce the size of a GHz antenna without significant transmission loss by using dielectrics as the radio wave emitting material instead of conductors.
Science

Colors Help Set Body's Internal Clock 50

Posted by samzenpus
from the sleepy-blue dept.
First time accepted submitter MakeItGlow writes A new study by researchers from the University of Manchester found that mice use the color of light to set their body clock. The researchers investigated whether color signals from the eyes wound up in the suprachiasmatic nucleus—the part of the brain in vertebrates that keeps time using electrical and chemical signals. From the article: "Scientists have long known about the role light plays in governing circadian rhythms, which synchronize life’s ebb and flow with the 24-hour day. But they weren’t sure how different properties of light, such as color and brightness, contributed to winding up that clock. 'As a sort of common sense notion people have assumed that the clock somehow measures the amount of light in the outside world,' says Tim Brown, a neuroscientist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and an author of the new study. 'Our idea was that it might be doing something more sophisticated than that.'”
ISS

ISS Could Be Fitted With Lasers To Shoot Down Space Junk 167

Posted by samzenpus
from the point-and-shoot dept.
An anonymous reader writes Japan's Riken research institute has suggested a new idea for dealing with space junk. They say a fiber optic laser mounted onto the International Space Station could blast debris out of the sky. From the article: "To combat the increasingly dense layer of dead satellites and miscellaneous space debris that are enshrouding our planet, no idea — nets, lassos, even ballistic gas clouds — seems too far-fetched to avoid. Now, an international team of researchers led by Japan's Riken research institute has put forward what may be the most ambitious plan to date. They propose blasting an estimated 3,000 tons of space junk out of orbit with a fiber optic laser mounted on the International Space Station."
Earth

Pull-Top Can Tabs, At 50, Reach Historic Archaeological Status 118

Posted by timothy
from the remember-making-giant-chains-of-these dept.
New submitter kuhnto writes A simple relic of 20th century life has taken on new meaning for archaeologists: The ring-tab beer can — first introduced 50 years ago — is now considered an historic-era artifact, a designation that bestows new significance on the old aluminum cans and their distinctive tabs that are still found across the country.
Math

Mandelbrot Zooms Now Surpass the Scale of the Observable Universe 154

Posted by timothy
from the from-here-you-can-see-forever dept.
StartsWithABang writes You're used to real numbers: that is, numbers that can be expressed as a decimal, even if it's an arbitrarily long, non-repeating decimal. There are also complex numbers, which are numbers that have a real part and also an imaginary part. The imaginary part is just like the real part, but is also multiplied by i, or the square root of -1. It's a simple definition: the Mandelbrot set consists of every possible complex number, n, where the sequence n, n^2 + n, (n^2 + n)^2 + n, etc.—where each new term is the prior term, squared, plus n—does not go to either positive or negative infinity. The scale of zoom visualizations now goes well past the limits of the observable Universe, with no signs of loss of complexity at all.
Earth

If Earth Never Had Life, Continents Would Be Smaller 59

Posted by timothy
from the war-of-concretion dept.
sciencehabit writes It may seem counterintuitive, but life on Earth, even with all the messy erosion it creates, keeps continents growing. Presenting here this week at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, researchers say it's the erosion itself that makes the difference in continental size. Plant life, for example, can root its way through rock, breaking rocks into sediment. The sediments, like milk-dunked cookies, carry liquid water in their pores, which allows more water to be recycled back into Earth's mantle. If not enough water is present in the mantle about 100 to 200 km deep to keep things flowing, continental production decreases. The authors built a planetary evolution model to show how these processes relate and found that if continental weathering and erosion rates decreased, at first the continents would remain large. But over time, if life never evolved on Earth, not enough water would make its way to the mantle to help produce more continental crust, and whatever continents there were would then shrink. Now, continents cover 40% of the planet. Without life, that coverage would shrink to 30%. In a more extreme case, if life never existed, the continents might only cover 10% of Earth.
Transportation

How Uber Surge Pricing Really Works 92

Posted by timothy
from the has-a-catchy-name-regardless dept.
minstrelmike writes with this analysis from Nicholas Diakopoulos of the Washington Post: At the core of Uber's wild success and market valuation of over $41 billion is its data and algorithmically fueled approach to matching supply and demand for cars. It's classic economics, supposedly....but is Uber's surge pricing algorithm really doing what they claim? Do surge prices really get more cars on the road?

My analysis suggests that rather than motivating a fresh supply of drivers, surge pricing instead re-distributes drivers already on the road.
Adds minstrelmike: The writer goes on to analyze 4 weeks of pricing info from 5 areas in D.C. and plotted prices versus wait times. "Price surging can work in any of three ways: by reducing demand for cars (less people want a car for a higher price), by creating new supply (providing an incentive for new drivers to hit the roads), or by shifting supply (drivers) to areas of higher demand."

It moves current drivers from one side of town to the other. It does not put new drivers on the road. It can't because the prices change every 3-5 minutes."
The Courts

DIA Polygraph Countermeasure Case Files Leaked 113

Posted by timothy
from the well-someone-is-fibbing dept.
George Maschke writes AntiPolygraph.org (of which I am a co-founder) has published a set of leaked Defense Intelligence Agency polygraph countermeasure case files along with a case-by-case analysis. The case files, which include polygraph charts and the exact questions used, suggest that the only people being "caught" trying to beat the polygraph are those using crude, unsophisticated methods that anyone who actually understood polygraph procedure and effective countermeasures (like, say, a real spy, saboteur, or terrorist) would ever use. AntiPolygraph.org has previously published polygraph community training materials on countermeasures that indicate they lack the ability to detect countermeasures like those described in our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (PDF) or in former police polygraph examiner Doug Williams' manual, How to Sting the Polygraph. Williams, who was indicted last year after teaching undercover federal agents how to pass a polygraph, is scheduled to stand trial on May 12 in Oklahoma City.