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Half of American Doctors Often Prescribe Placebos 238

damn_registrars writes "'Half of all American doctors responding to a nationwide survey say they regularly prescribe placebos to patients. The results trouble medical ethicists, who say more research is needed to determine whether doctors must deceive patients in order for placebos to work.' The study just quoted goes on to say that the drugs most often used as placebo are headache pills, vitamins, and antibiotics. Studies on doctors in Europe and New Zealand have found similar results."
The Almighty Buck

$700 Billion Bailout Signed Into Law 857

Many readers reminded us of what no-one can have failed to hear: that the Congress passed and the President signed a $700B bailout bill in an attempt to avert the meltdown of the US economy. The bill allocates $700 billion to the Treasury Department for the purchase of so-called "toxic assets" that have been weighing down Wall Street balance sheets. This isn't particularly a tech story, though tech will be affected as will virtually all parts of the economy, and not just in the US. Among the $110B in so-called pork added to the bill to sway reluctant legislators are extensions of popular tax benefits for business R&D and alternative energy, relief for the growing pool of people subject to the alternative minimum tax, and a provision raising the FDIC's ceiling of guaranteed deposits to $250,000. Some limits were also imposed on executive compensation, though it's unclear whether they will be effective.
The Almighty Buck

South Korea's Free Computer Game Business Model Hits the US 159

Anti-Globalism writes with this excerpt from AFP via Yahoo! News: "Seoul-based 'free-to-play' computer game titan Nexon on Wednesday blasted into the US videogame arena with a 'Combat Arms' online first-person shooter title that makes its cash from optional 'micro-transactions' by players. The game makes its money from players that buy animated helmets, outfits, emblems or other virtual items to customize in-game characters. To keep the battlefield even, players earn experience or advanced weaponry by skill so people essentially can't pay for power. ... Startups and established game makers including Japanese goliath Sony are venturing into the free computer game market, according to DFC Intelligence analyst David Cole. 'It looks like it could be very big,' Cole told AFP. 'It's one of the things everybody seems to be looking at. The challenge is it is a very new model and it remains to be seen whether customers used to a free model will be tight when it comes to actually spending money on it.'"

Do We Live In a Giant Cosmic Bubble? 344

Khemisty writes "Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter. Scientists say this condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe's expansion, for which dark energy currently is the leading explanation. Until now, there has been no good way to choose between dark energy or the void explanation, but a new study outlines a potential test of the bubble scenario. If we were in an unusually sparse area of the universe, then things could look farther away than they really are and there would be no need to rely on dark energy as an explanation for certain astronomical observations. 'If we lived in a very large under-density, then the space-time itself wouldn't be accelerating,' said researcher Timothy Clifton of Oxford University in England. 'It would just be that the observations, if interpreted in the usual way, would look like they were.'"
Social Networks

Submission + - Nancy Pelosi vs. the Internet (

selil writes: "A story popped up on the ChicagoBoyz Blog. It says "Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who would like very much to reimpose the old, so-called, "Fairness Doctrine" that once censored conservative opinion on television and radio broadcasting, is scheming to impose rules barring any member of Congress from posting opinions on any internet site without first obtaining prior approval from the Democratic leadership of Congress. No blogs, twitter, online forums — nothing.""

Submission + - Best Way to Start Programming? 1

Caboosian writes: Recently, I've become interested in programming. I have friends and family who are programmers, and when I ask what the best way to break into programming is, they all recommend various languages and tell me to Google for a tutorial. Despite many attempts at starting into Python, Java, or recently C#, I am yet to understand even the very basics of coding. Online tutorials are confusing, and my high school doesn't offer any sort of programming class. Am I just incompetent? Am I just finding bad tutorials? Or is there a different, better way to begin coding?

Submission + - No Slashdot April Fools Jokes in 2008 8

An anonymous reader writes: Slashdot will not be participating in the April Fools jokes this year due to a lawsuit that was settled out of court with undisclosed terms stemming from the 2007 April 1st stunts. The false stories were determined to be too egregious by a yet to be named individual. Slashdot's parent company SourceForge, Inc. found it wiser to settle out of court then a lengthy battle that was obviously going to span several months.

The ponies will be missed.

Submission + - Newly discovered fungus threatens world wheat crop 5

RickRussellTX writes: "The UN reports that a variety of the rust fungus originally detected in Uganda in 1999 has already spread as far north as Iran, threatening wheat production across its range. The fungus infects wheat stems and affects 80% of wheat varieties, putting crops at risk and threatening the food sources for billions of people across central Asia. Although scientists believe they can develop resistant hybrids, the fungus is moving much faster than anticipated and resistant hybrids may still be years away.

Meanwhile, national governments in the path of the fungus are telling folks that there is nothing to worry about."
The Courts

Submission + - Class action complaint against RIAA online (

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes: "Recommended reading for all interested in the RIAA's litigation war against p2p file sharing is the amended class action complaint just filed in Oregon in Andersen v. Atlantic. This landmark 109-page document (pdf) tells both the general story of the RIAA's campaign against ordinary folks, and the specific story of its harassment of Tanya Andersen, and even of her young daughter. The complaint includes federal and state RICO claims, as well as other legal theories, and alleges that "The world's four major recording studios had devised an illegal enterprise intent on maintaining their virtually complete monopoly over the distribution of recorded music." The point has been made by one commentator that the RIAA won't be able to weasel its out of this one by simply withdrawing it; this one, they will have to answer for. If the relief requested in the complaint is granted, the RIAA's entire campaign will be shut down for good."

Submission + - Japanese ISPs to cut Net access for file sharers (

modemac writes: "Four major Japanese telecom organizations, which represent 'about 1,000 major and smaller' domestic ISPs, have agreed to forcibly cut the Internet connection of users found to repeatedly use Winny and other file-sharing programs to illegally copy gaming software and music. The article states that a new set of ISP guidelines will be drawn up on how to cut off users who 'leak illegally copied material onto the Net.'"

Submission + - Brain Ischemia - slow progress (

Geoffrey.landis writes: "Researchers have been slowly building up a picture of exactly what occurs during a stroke (or, in medical jargon, "brain ischemia," defined as "a pathophysiological state in which cerebral blood flow to the brain is insufficient to meet the metabolic demands"), and the mechanisms by which it damages the brain. For the most part we're talking real science here, which is to say a slow and painstaking accumulation of understanding, and not the headline-making moments of "eureka," right or wrong, which are so beloved by journalists. Nevertheless, there is real progress going on here. Jonathon Sullivan of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Wayne State University has just put up a site summarizing the most recent understanding, including both the technical details that will interest biochemistry nerds, and also a good summary of recent science readable for the rest of us.

One of the hard-won new insights that Sullivan elucidates is the idea that the most devastating events of brain ischemia occur not during the actual oxygen deprivation, but happen when oxygen is reintroduced to the blood-starved brain. (in his words, "Ischemia Cocks the Hammer, Reperfusion Pulls the Trigger.")

Sullivan blames the problem on the peroxynitrite radical, O=NOO-. (Which can be pronounced "O Noo!" if you like). Quoting the text: "You are looking at a truly evil molecule. If we didn't have it caged in this little white box right now, it would jump right out of the screen and nitrosylate your face." (although that's not the only molecule Sullivan doesn't like. About the calpain molecule, he says, "calpain is like one of those white supremacy biker dudes on an overdose of meth. He goes insane and starts tweaking on all kinds of molecules.")

Bottom line is that while he says that there's no silver bullet, he notes that there are many promising strategies that work better than "take a lot of aspirin and hope for the best." Two approaches that look promising for the future include hypothermia and insulin injection, separately or in combination."

The Courts

Submission + - Trees Shading Solar Panels Ordered Cut Down 3

Makarand writes: A landmark case pitting trees against solar panels was fought in the courts of sunny California recently. A judge ordered some towering redwoods cut down so that sunlight could shine on solar panels installed by a neighbor even though the redwoods were planted before the solar panels were installed. A three decade old Solar Shade Control Act passed in California when solar systems were rare now requires homeowners to keep their trees from shading more than 10 percent of their neighbor's solar panels between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The solar system owner is happy with the outcome of this judgment because he thinks that it would take around three acres of similar trees to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as much as the solar panels he has installed.

Submission + - No Big Bang? Endless Universe Model ( 3

esocid writes: Following a theory put forward by Cambridge Univeristy's Neil Turok about the origins of the universe, a new cosmological model demonstrates that the universe can endlessly expand and contract, providing a rival to Big Bang theories and solving a thorny modern physics problem, according to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists Dr. Paul Frampton, Louis J. Rubin Jr. and physics grad student Lauris Baum, which can be summed up in four parts:expansion, turnaround, contraction and bounce.
At the turnaround, each fragmented patch collapses and contracts individually instead of pulling back together in a reversal of the Big Bang. The patches become an infinite number of independent universes that contract and then bounce outward again, reinflating in a manner similar to the Big Bang. One patch becomes our universe. "This cycle happens an infinite number of times, thus eliminating any start or end of time," Frampton said. "There is no Big Bang."
This follows the theory by physicists Neil Turok and Paul Steinhardt, published in a book titled Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang which theorizes that neither time nor the universe has a beginning or end.

The Matrix

Submission + - How to install and boot 145 operating systems 1 pc (

ChillinInSD writes: "Saikee gives his recipe for installing 145 different operating systems on one computer using 2 hard drives and 154 partitions. 'This thread is to show how booting is laughingly simple in Linux. Since nearly all Linux, BSD and some Solaris are free there is a trend of increasing number of Linux users booting more than one system. I hope my thread can allay fear of handling multiple systems.' I am wondering, does this qualify as a world record?"

"Help Mr. Wizard!" -- Tennessee Tuxedo