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The Media

What Does It Actually Cost To Publish a Scientific Paper? 166

ananyo writes "Nature has published an investigation into the real costs of publishing research after delving into the secretive, murky world of science publishing. Few publishers (open access or otherwise-including Nature Publishing Group) would reveal their profit margins, but they've pieced together a picture of how much it really costs to publish a paper by talking to analysts and insiders. Quoting from the piece: '"The costs of research publishing can be much lower than people think," agrees Peter Binfield, co-founder of one of the newest open-access journals, PeerJ, and formerly a publisher at PLoS. But publishers of subscription journals insist that such views are misguided — born of a failure to appreciate the value they add to the papers they publish, and to the research community as a whole. They say that their commercial operations are in fact quite efficient, so that if a switch to open-access publishing led scientists to drive down fees by choosing cheaper journals, it would undermine important values such as editorial quality.' There's also a comment piece by three open access advocates setting out what they think needs to happen next to push forward the movement as well as a piece arguing that 'Objections to the Creative Commons attribution license are straw men raised by parties who want open access to be as closed as possible.'"

Submission + - Next-Generation Body Armor Could be Based on ... Sponges? (

Zothecula writes: Chances are that if you were heading into battle, you wouldn’t wish that you were covered in sponges. It turns out that the sea sponge, however, has a unique structure that allows it to be flexible while remaining relatively impervious to predators. Scientists have now simulated this structure, in a lab-created material that may someday find use in body armor.

Submission + - Software lets scientists program new life forms (

Velcroman1 writes: Biochemical engineers can now download a piece of software and with a few simple clicks, assemble the DNA for new life forms through their laptops. “With the proper computer tools, biologists can write their own genetic code — and then turn that code into life,” said biochemist Omri Amirav-Drory, who founded Genome Compiler Corp., the company that sells the software. He demonstrated for at a Starbucks early one morning by manipulating a bacteria's genes on his MacBook. The synthetic biology app is still in beta; on Jan. 15, the company added an undo feature and support for new DNA file formats. Building creatures is increasingly like word processing, it would seem. But such is the strange reality in the age of cheap genome sequencing, DNA synthesizing and "bioinformatics."

Submission + - Minority Report's Legacy Of Terrible Interfaces (

jfruh writes: "More than a decade ago, the special effects artists working the Steven Speilberg film "Minority Report" synthesized experimental thinking about GUIs to produce a floating interface that Tom Cruise manipulated with his hands in one of the film's "wow" moments. In 2013, surrounded by iOS and Android and Windows 8 devices, we use stripped down versions of this interface every day — and commercial artist Christian Brown thinks that's a bad thing. Such devices may look cinematic, he argues, but they completely ignore the kinds of haptic and textured feedback that have defined how we interact with devices for centuries."

Submission + - Could the Election of the New Pope be Hacked? 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The rules for papal elections are steeped in tradition. John Paul II last codified them in 1996, and Benedict XVI left the rules largely untouched. The "Universi Dominici Gregis on the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff" is surprisingly detailed. Now as the College of Cardinals prepares to elect a new pope, security people like Bruce Schneier wonder about the process. How does it work, and just how hard would it be to hack the vote? First, the system is entirely manual, making it immune to the sorts of technological attacks that make modern voting systems so risky. Second, the small group of voters — all of whom know each other — makes it impossible for an outsider to affect the voting in any way. The chapel is cleared and locked before voting. No one is going to dress up as a cardinal and sneak into the Sistine Chapel. In short, the voter verification process is about as good as you're ever going to find. A cardinal can't stuff ballots when he votes. Then the complicated paten-and-chalice ritual ensures that each cardinal votes once — his ballot is visible — and also keeps his hand out of the chalice holding the other votes. Ballots from previous votes are burned, which makes it harder to use one to stuff the ballot box. What are the lessons here? First, open systems conducted within a known group make voting fraud much harder. Every step of the election process is observed by everyone, and everyone knows everyone, which makes it harder for someone to get away with anything. Second, small and simple elections are easier to secure. This kind of process works to elect a pope or a club president, but quickly becomes unwieldy for a large-scale election. And third: When an election process is left to develop over the course of a couple of thousand years, you end up with something surprisingly good."

Submission + - Virtual Superpowers Translate to Real Life (

sciencehabit writes: You don't have to be Superman to help those in need, but you might be more willing to do so if you get a taste of his powers. When subjects in a new study strapped on virtual reality helmets, half of them were given the ability to fly around a simulated city, while the others sat passively in helicopters. Some were allowed to merely explore the city from their aerial vantage points; others were told they needed to find a missing diabetic child and deliver his lifesaving insulin. Regardless of which task they performed, the subjects granted the superpower of flight were more likely to help a researcher pick up spilled pens after the experiment was. The results have researchers wondering if our brains might react to the memory of a virtual experience as though it had really happened. If so, we may be able to use virtual reality and gaming to effectively treat psychological disorders such as PTSD.

Submission + - Scientists Create New Gasoline Substitute Out of Plants (

destinyland writes: California scientists have just created a new biofuel using plants that burns just as well as a petroleum-based fuel. "The discovery, published in the journal Nature, means corn, sugar cane, grasses and other fast-growing plants or trees, like eucalyptus, could be used to make the propellant, replacing oil," writes the San Francisco Chronicle, and the researchers predict mass marketing of their product within 5 to 10 years. They created their fuel using a fermentation process that was first discovered in 1914, but which was then discontinued in 1965 when petroleum became the dominant source of fuel. The new fuel actually contains more energy per gallon than is currently contained in ethanol, and its potency can even be adjusted for summer or winter driving.

Submission + - Students calculate what hyperspace travel would actually look like (

cylonlover writes: The two Star franchises (Wars and Trek) and countless science fiction movies have given generations of armchair space travelers an idea of what to expect when looking out the window of a spaceship that's traveling faster than the speed of light. But it appears these views are – if you’ll excuse the pun – a bit warped. Four students from the University of Leicester have used Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity to calculate what faster than light (FTL) travel would actually look like to Han and Chewie at the controls of the Millennium Falcon. The fourth year physics students – Riley Connors, Katie Dexter, Joshua Argyle, and Cameron Scoular – say that the crew wouldn’t see star lines stretching out past the ship during the jump to hyperspace, but would actually see a central disc of bright light.

Submission + - Disney Wants to Track You With RFID ( 3

Antipater writes: Disney parks and resorts have long had a system that combined your room key, credit card, and park ticket into a single card. Now, they're taking it a step further by turning the card into an RFID wristband (called a "MagicBand"), tracking you, and personalizing your park experience, targeted-ad style.

"Imagine booking guaranteed ride times for your favorite shows and attractions even before setting foot in the park," wrote Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, in a blog posting on Monday. "With MyMagic+, guests will be able to do that and more, enabling them to spend more time together and creating an experience that’s better for everyone."

Disney does go on to talk about all the things you can opt out of if you have privacy concerns, and the whole system seems to be voluntary or even premium.


Submission + - Ultrathin, flexible PaperTab redefines tablet form and function (

cylonlover writes: Despite their portability and popularity, the slab of glass form factor of tablets has its downsides. Most notably for the less coordinated among us is the propensity for the display to crack or shatter when dropped. A team at Canada’s Queen’s University working in collaboration with Intel Labs and Plastic Logic is looking not only to redefine the tablet's form, but the way people use them with the development of a flexible touchscreen computer called the PaperTab. Featuring plastic transistor technology developed by Plastic Logic, the PaperTab is powered by a second generation Intel core i5 processor and boasts a 10.7-inch, high resolution E-ink touchscreen display that is flexible, shatterproof and looks and feels like a sheet of paper.

Submission + - Record Temperature Set: Colder than Absolute Zero (

DaemonDan writes: "Some German researchers have recently published in the journal Science a method for taking atoms to a negative absolute temperature, below 0 Kelvin.
"They first cooled about 100,000 atoms to a positive temperature of a few nanokelvin, or billionth of a kelvin. They cooled the atoms within a vacuum chamber, which isolated them from any environmental influence that could potentially heat them up accidentally. They also used a web of laser beams and magnetic fields to very precisely control how these atoms behaved, helping to push them into a new temperature realm."

The scientists theorize that an understanding of absolute negative temperature could essentially allow us to escape the constraints of entropy and create engines that are more than 100% efficient.

Here's the link to the Science article (paywalled):"

Submission + - Global Warming Really Just a Statistical Fluke? (

J Story writes: Matt Asher, a statistics wonk, in a blog posting (The surprisingly weak case for global warming) claims that: "Based solely on year-over-year changes in surface temperatures, the net increase since 1881 is fully explainable as a non-independent random walk with no trend."

For the programmer/statistics junkie, R code is provided.


Submission + - Virtual brain simulates human behaviour (

ananyo writes: "Spaun, a simulated brain containing 2.5 million virtual neurons, can recognize lists of numbers, do simple arithmetic and solve reasoning problems. Described for the first time in Science, Spaun — the Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network — stands apart from other attempts to simulate a brain, such as the ambitious Blue Brain Project, because it produces complex biological behaviors with fewer neurons.
A pure computer simulation, Spaun simulates the physiology of each of its neurons, from spikes of electricity that flow through them to neurotransmitters that cross between them. The computing cells are divided into groups, corresponding to specific parts of the brain that process images, control movements and store short-term memories. These regions are wired together in a realistic way, and even respond to inputs that mimic the action of neurotransmitters. The researchers also killed off Spaun's virtual neurons at the same rate as those in an ageing brain, and saw the same cognitive decline."


Submission + - Polymer implants could help heal brain injuries (

cylonlover writes: Using implants made from porous biocompatible materials, scientists have recently been successful in regrowing things such as teeth, tendons and heart tissue, plus bone and cartilage. The materials act as a sort of nanoscale three-dimensional scaffolding, to which lab-cultivated cells can be added, or that the recipient’s own cells can colonize. Now, a Spanish research team has used the same principle to grow new brain tissue – the technique could ultimately be used to treat victims of brain injuries or strokes.

Submission + - Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell generates electricity from living plants (

cylonlover writes: Wetlands are estimated to account for around six percent of the earth’s surface and a new Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell technology developed at Wageningen University & Research in The Netherlands could see some of these areas become a viable source of renewable energy. More than that, the developers believe that their technology could be used to supply electricity to remote communities and in green roofs to supply electricity to households. Unlike biogas, which is produced by the anaerobic digestion or fermentation of biomass, the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell generates electricity while the plants continue to grow. Importantly, the researchers say the system doesn’t affect the plant’s growth of harm its environment.

The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning, and does not stop until you get to work.