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Submission + - White guys dieing earlier in America

RockDoctor writes: In a change not seen in other countries, white middle-aged Americans are suffering increased mortality rates. http://www.theguardian.com/sci... The accumulated death toll, of deaths in excess of death rates seen in other demographic groups, amounts to about 500,000 deaths since the mortality gap started to open in the late 1990s.

[Trigger warning : numbers ahead!] They showed that from 1978 to 1998, the mortality rate for US whites aged 45 to 54 fell by 2% a year, a figure very much in line with the celebrated improvements in health seen in the other countries.

But after 1998, the death rates of US whites began to buck the trend. While other countries saw their mortality rates continue to fall, they began to rise among middle-aged white non-Hispanic Americans by 0.5% a year. The effect was not confined to the 45- to 54-year-olds. In the 35- to 44-year-old bracket, the mortality rate stopped falling in 2000. For 55- to 59-year-olds, the fall slowed to 0.5% a year.

The rise in death rates among middle-aged white Americans means half a million more people have died in the US since 1998 than if the previous trend had continued. The death toll is comparable to the 650,000 Americans who lost their lives during the Aids epidemic from 1981 to the middle of this year, the researchers said.

Submission + - Scottish Universities use computer gaming to model drug-resistant TB

RockDoctor writes: The BBC report that medical researchers at one Scottish university have teamed up with computing students at another Scottish university to develop a game which will help to model the treatment of tuberculosis.

Drug-resistant TB is an increasing problem around the world, but there are drugs in the pipeline to treat it. However both experience and medical common sense (based, as is everything in biology, on evolution) shows that to prevent the evolution of new resistances, drugs should be applied in combinations, and those combinations should be varied. With 10 drugs in the pipeline, that's potentially 90 combinations of two drugs and 720 combinations of three. That is to many to perform clinical trials on.

So, the medics and medical chemists at Saint Andrews turned to the nearby Abertay University (well-known for computing and gaming tuition, a mere 581 years after Saint Andrews was founded) to develop a game that models some of the human interactions involved in drug treatment, to try to understand better which combinations of treatments would be more effective at treating TB, and preventing the establishment of more drug resistant strains. As one of the sound designers says :

For the team's sound designer Mazen Magzoub, project Sanitarium has a special resonance. He's from Sudan.
"There isn't enough medication," he says.
"And even when there is enough medication the nature of living in Sudan does not allow the patient to continue (treatment) for the prescribed period.
"And that makes the tuberculosis bacteria tolerant towards that certain type of antibiotic.
"That's basically the challenge in the developing world."

The game is "Sanitarium."

Submission + - EU may become a single digital market of 500 million people.

RockDoctor writes: The Guardian is reporting that the EU is becoming increasingly vociferous in it's opposition to "geo-blocking" — the practice of making media services available in some areas but not in others.

“European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channel of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU,”

That adds up to a block of nearly 500 million first-world media consumers. They don't necessarily all speak the same language, but English is probably the most commonly understood single language. And the important thing for American media companies to remember is that they're not American in thought, taste or outlook.

Submission + - Crowdfunded satellite deploys solar sail.

RockDoctor writes: The LightSail experiment on the Planetary Society's ExplorePlanets mission has deployed, marking a substantial step forward on the progress of this space propulsion system.

Despite problems with software glitches, the motor for deploying the sail started operating very early on Monday (European time), and as of early morning on Monday reports were coming in that the orbit has perceptibly changed, suggesting the sail was causing noticeable drag on the satellite (as expected).

American newspapers are catching onto the event.

Submission + - Uber driver accused of rape in India

RockDoctor writes: BBC News are reporting that a 26-year old Indian woman is alleging rape against a driver for the embattled Uber transport-managing company.

In a post on the Uber blog, one "Saad Ahmed" implicitly admits that the driver was a Uber driver, the the lift was arranged through Uber's service, and that the full range of Uber's safety mechanisms had been applied to his employment, and by implication, that Uber accepts some culpability for putting this (alleged) rapist into contact with his (alleged) victim. (The police have reported that medical evidence is that a rape took place, though who performed the rape remains an allegation.)

Going on previous Uber performance, can we expect the driver to be working again tonight, and the spokesman making such inconvenient admissions to be unemployed? That would sound about the level of PR skill of Uber's senior management — as currently constituted. They've managed to turn me from a potential supporter to someone who will be voting against Uber being allowed into my city or country.

Submission + - Danish researchers develop oxygen absorbtion/release chemical

RockDoctor writes: Contrary to recent stories such as a "tankless SCUBA system" which depended on Unobtanium to filter oxygen from sea water, a team at University of Southern Denmark have been developing a range of materials that can reversibly bind onto oxygen, and then release it under different conditions. While still a distance from full implementation as a system, this is the sort of chemical that would work for breathing systems.

Very sensibly, they talk of initial uses in fault-tolerant circumstances such as providing enhanced oxygenated air from portable systems rather than going straight to highly critical (if attention-grabbing) products.

The compounds in use are a whole family of cobalt-organic compounds with some inorganic components. By varying the inorganic components they can change absorption and desorption rates by factors of around a thousand, suggesting ways that the necessary charge and discharge cycle could be achieved.

Submission + - Life insurance restrictions for Space Tourists

RockDoctor writes: Reuters are reporting that there are changes afoot in the terms of life insurance contracts which will require additional premiums for "space tourists". While not likely to be a disabling issue for the industry — the statistics for astronauts dying in flight are not that bad — it is an issue that people considering such a jaunt will need to address. Obviously this has been brought to the fore by the unfortunate crash of the Virgin Galactic craft under test.

Submission + - Car thieves and insurers vote on keyless car security

RockDoctor writes: The BBC are reporting that Britain's car thieves, rapidly followed by Britain's car insurance companies, have been expressing their opinions on the security of keyless car entry and/or control systems. The thieves are happy to steal them (often using equipment intended for dealer maintenance of the vehicles) and in consequence the insurance companies are refusing to insure such vehicles (or to accept new policies on such vehicles) unless they are parked overnight in underground (or otherwise secured) car parks.

So, I guess I won't be considering buying one of those for another generation. If ever.

Submission + - Micro$loth to sack 18,000 workers

RockDoctor writes: The Grauniad is reporting that Micro$loth are planning to sack 18,000 people in the near future. I'm sure that'll make them feel better. The sacked people, of course ; it'll be devastating to the managers who hand out the redundancy notices.

Submission + - International game tournaments segregated by sex/ gender.

RockDoctor writes: The Grauniad is reporting that a finnish heat of an international gaming competition is being segregated into male and female branches in accordance to international rules.

The International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) want "eSports" to be recognised as equivalent to physical sports. And that, it seems, requires that competitors be segregated on grounds of sex. Which may be appropriate for pole vaulters, but not necessarily appropriate for ePole vaulters. This leaves the organisers of national heats of eSports in a rather invidious position of having (in this case) a tournament only open to "Finnish male players."

So, support gender equality, or support the recognition of electronic sports as having the same status as kicking balls around? Pick one.

Submission + - French Railways order the wrong size of train. (bbc.co.uk)

RockDoctor writes: The BBC are reporting that SNCF, the French national railway system, has ordered several thousand new complete trains, but then discovered that they are


to fit into many railway stations.

For reasons that are not explained, the railway owning company (RFF) had to measure the sizes of it's platforms to find out what size they were (which begs the question of, why didn't they know the sizes of their stations already?), then tell the train operating company (SNCF) what size trains to buy. But RFF only measured the sizes of stations built in the last 30 years, and since discovered that stations built previously were noticeably different, and the new trains wouldn't fit into older stations.

At least they were both using metres, not cubits versus roods.

[The French] Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier blamed an "absurd rail system" for the problems.
"When you separate the rail operator from the train company," he said, "this is what happens."

The last quote is ominous for the Britons who pay for the BBC, as our railway system is similarly divided up between track-owning companies (many) and train-operating companies (also many), thanks to the the Maggon and her cronies.

Submission + - Pentagon : scope of intelligence compromised by Snowden 'staggering' (theguardian.com)

RockDoctor writes: The Grauniad are reporting that a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed a report (or 12 pages of a 37-page report, the remainder censored) that

“the scope of the compromised knowledge related to US intelligence capabilities is staggering”

Well isn't that just terribly sad for them. My heart bleeds. Ed Snowden, if we ever meet, the first beer is my shout.

Submission + - A new class of plastics : recyclable thermosetting polymers. (sciencemag.org)

RockDoctor writes: Plastics which form by chemical reactions in the presence of heat are very useful. They can be very strong, and if you incorporate appropriate "filler" materials (chalk, glass fibre, carbon fibre), they can have very attractive engineering properties. But .. that chemical reaction makes them very difficult to recycle, because the new chemical formed during the reaction will often char before it melts. We're not talking about thermo-plastic polymers here (e.g. nylon, polypropylene, PET), but thermo-setting ones including epoxies, phenol-formaldehyde resins, etc.

But no more : an international team have discovered a new class of polymer-forming reactions that produce a thermo-setting polymer, but they can recover the initial components by digesting the polymer with moderately strong acid (pH 2 ; I'd wear gloves. And glasses.), so after a component is used and obsolete, or broken, it can be separated reasonably easily into it's original components (including valuable reinforcing materials, such as carbon fibre) and these then re-used. That is a pretty big step forward.

Submission + - First diver dies in S.Korea ferry recovery efforts.

RockDoctor writes: The BBC are reporting that the Korean ferry disaster has claimed it's latest victim, a civilian diver engaged in body-recovery efforts.

Five minutes after commencing a dive to about 25m, diver Lee lost communication with other divers. His body was later recovered to the surface.

This is unlikely to be the final death. Last week another diver lost consciousness underwater, which is an extraordinarily bad situation. He had dived four times previously that morning. Several others have been treated with at a hyperbaric oxygen recompression facility after decompression events.

The initial search of the vessel is nearly completed, but the entire ship is to be re-searched. 40 bodies are still missing.

Machines take me by surprise with great frequency. - Alan Turing