Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Back for a limited time - Get 15% off sitewide on Slashdot Deals with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" (some exclusions apply)". ×

Submission + - Curiosity may have found precursor of life on Mars (

concealment writes: "NASA's Curiosity rover may have found a precursor to life on Mars, the director of the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Wednesday.
"Perhaps Curiosity has found simple organic molecules," Charles Elachi said at the fringes of a conference at Rome's La Sapienza University.
"It's preliminary data that must be checked (on) organic, not biological, molecules"."


Submission + - Geek Researcher Spends Three Years Living With Hackers (

concealment writes: "Coleman, an anthropologist who teaches at McGill University, spent three years living in the Bay Area, studying the community that builds the Debian Linux open source operating system and other hackers — i.e., people who pride themselves on finding new ways to reinvent software. More recently, she’s been peeling away the onion that is the Anonymous movement, a group that hacks as a means of protest — and mischief.

When she moved to San Francisco, she volunteered with the Electronic Frontier Foundation — she believed, correctly, that having an address would make people more willing to talk to her — and started making the scene. She talked free software over Chinese food at the Bay Area Linux User Group’s monthly meetings upstairs at San Francisco’s Four Seas Restaurant. She marched with geeks demanding the release of Adobe eBooks hacker Dmitry Sklyarov. She learned the culture inside-out."


Submission + - What makes us intelligent? (

concealment writes: "Research shows that people don't tend to rely on their memories for things they can easily access. Things like the world in front of our eyes, for example, can be changed quite radically without people noticing. Experiments have shown that buildings can somehow disappear from pictures we're looking at, or the people we're talking to can be switched with someone else, and often we won't notice – a phenomenon called “change blindness”. This isn't as an example of human stupidity – far from it, in fact – this is an example of mental efficiency. The mind relies on the world as a better record than memory, and usually that's a good assumption.

As a result, philosophers have suggested that the mind is designed to spread itself out over the environment. So much so that, they suggest, the thinking is really happening in the environment as much as it is happening in our brains. The philosopher Andy Clark called humans "natural born cyborgs", beings with minds that naturally incorporate new tools, ideas and abilities. From Clark's perspective, the route to a solution is not the issue – having the right tools really does mean you know the answers, just as much as already knowing the answer."


Submission + - How animals vote (

concealment writes: "Animals make collective decisions, too. While non-human species typically don't vote to choose their leaders, they do vote for other more routine decisions, like where to live or where to forage. But they don't have voting machines or ballots to determine the group's consensus, so how do they do it?

Some do it through the wisdom of crowds. Near the end of spring or the beginning of summer, honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies grow too large for their hives, so the group splits in two. The mother queen and half of the worker bees leave the hive to seek a new location, while the daughter queen and the remaining workers remain in place. Minutes later, the departed group identifies a temporary resting place on a nearby tree branch, and from there it surveys the local real estate. Several hundred scouts fan out in all directions in search of a suitable location for a new hive. On their return, each scout communicates the location of the space they found by performing a waggle dance in front of their hive mates."


Submission + - Early therapy can change brains of kids with autism (

concealment writes: "As the number of children with autism has risen dramatically over the past couple of decades, experts have learned that the earlier a child gets diagnosed, the earlier specialized therapy can be initiated, which can significantly improve outcomes.

Now researchers have been able to show that a particular type of behavioral therapy called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) not only improves autism symptoms, but actually normalizes brain activity and improves social behavior."


Submission + - Buddhist monk is the world's happiest man (

concealment writes: "Tibetan monk and molecular geneticist Matthieu Ricard is the happiest man in the world according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin. The 66-year-old’s brain produces a level of gamma waves — those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory — never before reported in neuroscience.

The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard's brain produces a level of gamma waves — those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory — "never reported before in the neuroscience literature", Davidson said.

The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain's left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, researchers believe.

Research into the phenomenon, known as "neuroplasticity," is in its infancy and Ricard has been at the forefront of ground-breaking experiments along with other leading scientists across the world."


Submission + - Does the soul exist as quantum microtubules? (

concealment writes: "A near-death experience happens when quantum substances which form the soul leave the nervous system and enter the universe at large, according to a remarkable theory proposed by two eminent scientists.

According to this idea, consciousness is a program for a quantum computer in the brain which can persist in the universe even after death, explaining the perceptions of those who have near-death experiences.

Dr Stuart Hameroff, Professor Emeritus at the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology and the Director of the Centre of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, has advanced the quasi-religious theory.

It is based on a quantum theory of consciousness he and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose have developed which holds that the essence of our soul is contained inside structures called microtubules within brain cells."


Submission + - Analyzing Big Data Is Returning an Edge to Microsoft (

concealment writes: "Next year’s version of the Excel spreadsheet program, part of the Office suite of software, will be able to comb very large amounts of data. For example, it could scan 12 million Twitter posts and create charts to show which Oscar nominee was getting the most buzz.

Microsoft’s machine-learning software will crawl internal corporate computer systems much the way the company’s Bing search engine crawls the Internet looking for Web sites and the links among them. The idea is to predict which software applications are most likely to fail when seemingly unrelated programs are tweaked.

If its new products work as advertised, Microsoft will find itself in a position it has not occupied for the last few years: relevant to where technology is going.

While researchers at M.S.R. helped develop Bing to compete with Google, the unit was widely viewed as a pretty playground where Bill Gates had indulged his flights of fancy. Now, it is beginning to put Microsoft close to the center of a number of new businesses, like algorithm stores and speech recognition services."


Submission + - Petition for Alan Turing on £10 note breaks 20,000 signatures (

concealment writes: "A petition to get British wartime crypto-boffin Alan Turing on the next ten-pound note has broken 20,000 signatures on the government's e-petition site.

At least 23,157 people have signed the pledge that praises his contribution to computer science, the nation and the world, and calls for Turing to replace Charles Darwin when the notes come up for a redesign.

After the petition passed the 10,000 mark the Treasury confirmed that Turing is on the list of people suggested by the public and is under consideration for inclusion on banknotes."


Submission + - China rare earths producer suspends output (

concealment writes: "State-owned Baotou Steel Rare Earth (Group) Hi-tech Co. said in a statement released through the Shanghai Stock Exchange that it suspended production Tuesday to promote "healthy development" of rare earths prices. It gave no indication when production would resume and phone calls to the company on Thursday were not answered.

Beijing is tightening control over rare earths mining and exports to capture more of the profits that flow to Western makers of lightweight batteries and other products made of rare earths. China has about 30 percent of rare earths deposits but accounts for more than 90 percent of production.

Beijing alarmed global manufacturers by imposing export quotas in 2009. It also is trying to force Chinese rare earths miners and processors to consolidate into a handful of government-controlled groups."


Submission + - How Slight Sleep Deprivation Could Add Extra Pounds (

concealment writes: "Perhaps some of the best-documented effects of sleep deprivation on weight are based on two powerful hormones: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is involved in sending hunger signals and leptin helps to tell you that you are full. In one study, after just two consecutive nights of four-hours' sleep, test subjects had a 28 percent higher ghrelin (hunger) hormone level and 18 percent lower leptin (satiety) hormone level in their blood compared with subjects who had spent 10 hours a night in bed. In the same study, for those who were sleep deprived, "self-reported hunger and appetite ratings significantly increased by 24 percent and 23 percent, respectively," noted the authors of the review paper, which was led by Julie Shlisky, a researcher at The New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at Saint Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center. "The greatest increase in appetite rating was for energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods," Shlisky and her co-authors noted."

Submission + - The bleeding edge of self-healing skin-like materials (

concealment writes: "Nancy Sottos, an engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been developing a novel approach that borrows from human physiology. Inspired by human skin, Sottos creates plastics that “bleed” when cut and can heal themselves over and over again. Her work is paving the way for new materials that can respond and react to all sorts of environmental stresses. At a mundane level, this could cut down on costly maintenance and inspections, but perhaps more importantly it could also help prevent catastrophic – and potentially deadly — failures.

When made-made structures fail, they often do so spectacularly—with, say, a bridge collapsing under the weight of rush hour traffic. But such dramatic breakdowns often have much smaller, humbler beginnings. “When a material fails, oftentimes it’s not a big catastrophic event that starts it,” Sottos says. “In most materials, a damage event starts at a very small crack.” The crack grows slowly, unnoticed, untilbam! Bridge collapse. “The goal of a self healing material is to try to prevent that,” Sottos says, “to keep those small cracks from growing.”"


Submission + - The mathematics that made Voyager possible (

concealment writes: "Nasa's Voyager spacecraft have enthralled everyone with their exploits at the edge of the Solar System, but their launch in 1977 was only possible because of some clever maths and the persistence of a PhD student who worked out how to slingshot probes into deep space.

On the 3 October, 1942, the nose cone of an early V2 test rocket soared high above the north German coast before falling back to a crash-landing in the Baltic Sea.

For the first time in history, an object built by humans had crossed the invisible Karman line, which marks the edge of space."

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.