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Enceladus "Sea" Mystery Deepens 166

Smivs writes "The BBC reports that an ocean may not be the source of the jets emanating from Saturn's moon Enceladus. Controversial research questions the moon's promise as a target in the search for life beyond Earth. A chemical analysis of Enceladus, led by University of Colorado planetary scientist Nick Schneider, failed to detect sodium, an element scientists say should be present in any body of water that has been in contact with rock for billions of years. Spectral analysis with the Keck Telescope found no sodium in the plumes or in the vapor in orbit around the moon. At stake is whether Saturn's moon could support alien life and is thus a worthy target for a NASA exploratory mission to detect it. Such a mission to Enceladus is one of four currently under review for further development."

Synthetic DNA About To Yield New Life Forms 240

mlimber sends along a Washington Post story about the immanence of completely artificial life: "The cobbling together of life from synthetic DNA, scientists and philosophers agree, will be a watershed event, blurring the line between biological and artificial — and forcing a rethinking of what it means for a thing to be alive... Some experts are worried that a few maverick companies are already gaining monopoly control over the core 'operating system' for artificial life and are poised to become the Microsofts of synthetic biology. That could stifle competition, they say, and place enormous power in a few people's hands."

Black Hole Blasts Neighbor Galaxy with Deadly Jet 222

butterwise writes to mention that astronomers have, for the first time, witnessed a super-massive black hole hitting a nearby galaxy with a "death-star-like" beam of energy. The story also has a video with simulations, pictures, and explanations. "The 'death star galaxy,' as NASA astronomers called it, could obliterate the atmospheres of planets but also trigger the birth of stars in the wake of its destructive beam. Fortunately, the cosmic violence is a safe distance from our own neck of the cosmos."

Cause of Aurora Borealis Confirmed 172

An anonymous reader writes "There are reports that satellites have aided scientists in confirming why the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) exists. 'New data from NASA's Themis mission, a quintet of satellites launched this winter, found the energy comes from a stream of charged particles from the sun flowing like a current through twisted bundles of magnetic fields connecting Earth's upper atmosphere to the sun. The energy is then abruptly released in the form of a shimmering display of lights.'"

Computer Model Points To the Missing Matter 97

eldavojohn writes "There exists a little-known problem of missing regular matter that has perhaps been overshadowed by the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. Computer models show that there should be about 40% more regular matter than we see... so where is it? From the article: 'The study indicated a significant portion of the gas is in the filaments — which connect galaxy clusters — hidden from direct observation in enormous gas clouds in intergalactic space known as the Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium, or WHIM, said CU-Boulder Professor Jack Burns... The team performed one of the largest cosmological supercomputer simulations ever, cramming 2.5 percent of the visible universe inside a computer to model a region more than 1.5 billion light-years across.' This hypothesis will be investigated and hopefully proved/disproved when telescopes are completed in Chile and the Antarctic. The paper will be up for review in this week's edition of the the Astrophysical Journal."

The Home Library Problem Solved 328

Zack Grossbart writes "About 18 months ago I posted the following question to Ask Slashdot: 'How do you organize a home library with 3,500 books?' I have read all the responses, reviewed most of the available software, and come up with a good solution described in the article The Library Problem. This article discusses various cataloging schemes, reviews cheap barcode scanners, and outlines a complete solution for organizing your home library. Now you can see an Ask Slashdot question with a definitive answer."

Minor Leak Being Investigated Aboard the ISS 219

Josh Fink writes " is reporting that the International Space Station has a minor atmosphere leak. 'An inspection of a vestibule bridging the station's new Harmony connecting module and NASA's Destiny laboratory indicated a slight air leak of about three pounds (1.3 kilograms) per day ..A close-up inspection of the vestibule seal by the station's three-astronaut Expedition 16 crew using an ultrasonic leak detector found no trace of a leak on Wednesday, [NASA spokesperson Lynette Madison] said. Studies of the station's overall internal pressure also found no signs of decay, she added.' While this is yet another technical issue with the ISS, when will this end? I am all for the space program, but there have been some major issues lately."

A New Theory of Everything? 511

goatherder writes "The Telegraph is running a story about a new Unified Theory of Physics. Garrett Lisi has presented a paper called "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" which unifies the Standard Model with gravity — without using string theory. The trick was to use E8 geometry which you may remember from an earlier Slashdot article. Lisi's theory predicts 20 new particles which he hopes might turn up in the Large Hadron Collider."

Microsoft EU Decision Protects OSS Projects From Suits 186

rfc1394 writes "An article in Australia's IT News mentions that under its antitrust agreement with the European Union, 'Microsoft will publish an irrevocable pledge not to assert any patents it may have over the interoperability information against non-commercial open source software development projects.' Essentially, in addition to getting them to comply with the anti-trust decision, the EU has forced Microsoft to back off of its saber-rattling when it comes to EU open source projects. That protection in no way extends to US projects, of course."

Can String Theory Accommodate Inflation? 243

David Shiga writes "String theory is the leading contender for a "theory of everything" that could unite all the forces of physics. But a recent study suggests that it may be more difficult than scientists had hoped to square string theory with inflation — the widely accepted notion that the early universe had a period of especially rapid expansion. Some say this could even lead to the abandonment of either string theory or inflation, though no one is ruling out a possible resolution yet."

Believe the Occupational Outlook Handbook? 518

concerned00 writes "In their latest Occupational Outlook Handbook, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that employment of software engineers and system analysts is expected to increase 'much faster than the average' through 2014 (here, and here). In contrast, employment of programmers is expected to increase 'more slowly than the average,' with outsourcing given as one of the major reasons why (here). However, from the stories I read from American programmers on the Net, the profession is lost. Is the government wrong, or lying, then, when it implies that software engineers and system analysts can expect to have a good future? As an American, am I a fool if I decide to undertake this for a living?" Read more for details of concerned00's analysis.

Copyright Alliance Says Fair Use Not a Consumer Right 504

KingSkippus writes "In response to a complaint to the FCC filed by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) to change copyright warnings before movies and sporting events, Executive Director Patrick Ross of the Copyright Alliance tells us in an editorial that 'fair use is not a consumer right.' The Copyright Alliance is backed by such heavy-hitters as the MPAA, RIAA, Disney, Business Software Alliance, and perhaps most interestingly, Microsoft, who is also backing the CCIA's complaint."

Blockbuster Chooses Blu-ray 351

s31523 writes "The format war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray has posted another battle, this time the victor seems to be the Blu-ray side. Blockbuster has announced it has chosen Blu-ray as the HD format to rent out in the majority of its stores. This decision comes after rental data was looked at for the 250 stores that carry both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray with the majority of rentals being Blu-Ray. Blockbuster now plans to stock Blu-ray only in 1450 of it's stores, but says the 250 stores with the HD-DVD movies will be kept on the shelf."

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