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Medicine

Dr. Frances Kelsey, Who Saved American Babies From Thalidomide, Dies At 101 278

circletimessquare writes: Plenty of regulations are bad (some because big business corrupts them) but the simple truth is modern society cannot function without effective government regulation. It keeps are food safe, our rivers clean, and our economy healthy. Passing away at age 101 Friday was a woman who personified this lesson. In 1960 the F.D.A. tasked Dr. Frances Kelsey with evaluating a drug used in Europe for treating morning sickness. She noticed something troubling, and asked the manufacturer William S. Merrell Co. for more data. "Thus began a fateful test of wills. Merrell responded. Dr. Kelsey wanted more. Merrell complained to Dr. Kelsey's bosses, calling her a petty bureaucrat. She persisted. On it went. But by late 1961, the terrible evidence was pouring in. The drug — better known by its generic name, thalidomide — was causing thousands of babies in Europe, Britain, Canada and the Middle East to be born with flipperlike arms and legs and other defects." Without Dr. Kelsey's scientific and regulatory persistence in the face of mindless greed, thousands of Americans would have suffered a horrible fate.
Science

Short Sleepers Might Be Benefiting From a DNA Mutation 159

An anonymous reader writes: As someone definitely not in that category, I envy people who can get along with little sleep. I have sometimes secretly believed they're exaggerating. Maybe not. The BBC reports on DNA research that says there might be a genetic basis for the very low sleep needs that some people have. The article says that UC-San Francisco researchers "compared the genome of different family members. They discovered a tiny mutation in a gene called DEC2 that was present in those who were short-sleepers, but not in members of the family who had normal length sleep, nor in 250 unrelated volunteers. When the team bred mice to express this same mutation, the rodents also slept less but performed just as well as regular mice when given physical and cognitive tasks." If it's stuck in the genes, though, I guess I'll still want more hours in a row if I don't want to start hallucinating. So how many hours do you need? I seem to get along with six or seven, but sleep past noon on the occasional weekend day. Update: 07/09 19:24 GMT by T : The latest Freakonomics podcast has some interesting things to say about the economics of sleep, and hours-per-night is a big part of it.
Supercomputing

Supercomputing Cluster Immersed In Oil Yields Extreme Efficiency 67

1sockchuck writes: A new supercomputing cluster immersed in tanks of dielectric fluid has posted extreme efficiency ratings. The Vienna Scientific Cluster 3 combines several efficiency techniques to create a system that is stingy in its use of power, cooling and water. VSC3 recorded a PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) of 1.02, putting it in the realm of data centers run by Google and Facebook. The system avoids the use of chillers and air handlers, and doesn't require any water to cool the fluid in the cooling tanks. Limiting use of water is a growing priority for data center operators, as cooling towers can use large volumes of water resources. The VSC3 system packs 600 teraflops of computing power into 1,000 square feet of floor space.
Earth

Judge Orders Dutch Government To Finally Take Action On Climate Promises 242

New submitter Errol backfiring writes: Although the Dutch government has promised to make sure carbon emissions are lowered considerably, they have consistently failed to take action. Dutch climate group Urgenda and Dutch citizens have gone to court to force the government to take action, and the verdict (linked page is in Dutch) is that the government must reduce emissions by at least 25% compared to 1990 leves.

This 25% cut is seen as the minimum effort needed to keep the people safe from climate change dangers. 25% to 40% is the norm in international climate policy. The verdict is also important for similar climate groups in other countries.

Comment how about some logical consistency? (Score 4, Insightful) 212

Not only was science not "wrong," but if science was wrong there would be no story. The science says that this was a statistically improbable event. If the science was wrong, this would happen all the time and the fact that it happened again wouldn't be newsworthy. So not only is this the dumb clickbait that we know it to be, but contradictory to the whole premise. No internal logical consistency; complete garbage.

NASA

Costs Soar on NASA Communications Upgrade Program 47

schwit1 writes A new GAO report has found that NASA's effort to upgrade the ground-based portion of its satellite communications system, used by both military satellites and manned spacecraft, is more than 30 percent over budget, with its completion now delayed two years to 2019. Worse, the GAO found that this problem program was actually one of three that have had budget problems. And that doesn't include the disastrously overbudget James Webb Space Telescope. "In its latest assessment of NASA's biggest programs, the U.S. Government Accountability Office identified the Space Network Ground Segment Sustainment (SGSS) as one of three — not counting the notoriously overbudget James Webb Space Telescope — that account for most of the projected cumulative cost growth this year. The others are the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, which launched March 12, and the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, mission, the congressional watchdog agency said."

Comment Misleading Summary (Score 5, Insightful) 681

Summary is misleading. Nye basically says US as a whole is failing when it comes to educating average people about science. He admits that, sure, we have top top-tier institutions and scientists, but we need to do a better job educating the average person.

Hardly the swipe aimed specifically at Slashdotters that TFS makes it out to be. Furthermore, if we use /. as a case study, given some of the gems I've seen here recently, I think "semi-science-literate" isn't a bad estimate of the average.

Earth

SpaceX Launch of "GoreSat" Planned For Today, Along With Another Landing Attempt 75

The New York Times reports that SpaceX will again attempt to recover a Falcon 9 launch vehicle, after the recent unsuccessful try; the company believes the lessons from the earlier launch have been learned, and today's launch will be loaded with more hydraulic fluid. This evening, the rocket is to loft the satellite nicknamed "GoreSat," after Al Gore, who envisioned it as a sort of permanent eye in space beaing back pictures of Earth from afar. The purpose of the satellite has evolved, though: Writes the Times: The observatory, abbreviated as Dscovr and pronounced “discover,” is to serve as a sentinel for solar storms: bursts of high-energy particles originating from the sun. The particles from a gargantuan solar storm could induce electrical currents that might overwhelm the world’s power grids, possibly causing continent-wide blackouts. Even a 15-minute warning could let power companies take actions to limit damage.

Comment Used in conjunction with other sats... (Score 3, Interesting) 25

I'm excited to see data from this and the atmospheric CO2 satellite which was launched (again) not long ago overlayed. Seeing how CO2 and soil moisture correspond is important for understanding limitations on microbial communities which make up a large part of the global carbon budget. It will be particularly interesting to measure changes to how these correspond over time -- it'd be a great way to get solid data for future modelling and for quantifying changes currently happening.

Also particularly interesting is the ability to monitor changes as a result of permafrost thaw globally. There's currently some discussion whether and where permafrost thaw will be a net C sink or source. Throw in some data from a Leaf Area Index satellite (which is/are also in orbit currently) and you've got some pretty compelling global/landscape data.

Education

The Luxury of a Bottomless Bucket of Bandwidth For Georgia Schools 117

Lemeowski writes: The IT departments at all the University System of Georgia institutions have a luxury that most CIOs could only dream of — access to about 2,800 miles of free fiber and a private cloud that they an always count on. The private cloud configuration allows the perk of not focusing on bandwith. "Our local CIOs even take some pleasure in telling telecom company representatives, 'If you can beat free, then I'm willing to listen.' That tends to shut down most conversations,"writes USG CIO Curt Carver, who explains how the technology is now becoming an educational equalizer across the state. In 2015, Georgia school districts are expected to have a 33-fold increase in bandwdith available to them through the program. "This will help to flatten the state. No more haves or have-nots in terms of bandwidth going into the school districts."

Comment Start low or re-educate (Score 1) 280

In my position I hire a lot of students for a lab work. I've come to realize that the best workers aren't necessarily the people with STEM majors; the best workers are generally people who are interested and feel a little over their head. I've had many terrible pre-meds, and always had good luck with my English majors. If you're willing to start low in the food web, get a job as a lab technician somewhere (universities are often a decent bet). If you can, prioritize places that look like they have work or instruments that you'd enjoy working on. You can amass a pretty good amount of technical skill from a decent lab job.

If you have higher ambitions for aerospace technologies... probably means going back to school. But that would have meant going back to school regardless of your undergrad degree.

Comment Why overengineer? (Score 1) 367

I'm sure that it's partially because Slashdot is a high-tech oriented site, but it seems like everyone skips to bizarre schemes before considering any of the really simple, really tame geoengineering options available. There doesn't need to be a fleet of aircraft spaying a mysterious chemical to increase Earth's albedo. There doesn't need to be a techniological marvel at the poles freezing CO2 out of the air. As with most things, simple is better.

Look at endeavors like the Marin Carbon Project (links to published peer-review articles within) which diverts waste, composts it, puts it on managed grasslands and improves plant productivity. Some fraction of the plant biomass gets stored below ground for decades or centuries. The dairy farmers don't need to buy/import as much feed which saves them money (and is an additional CO2 offset). Initial numbers look like 1 ton of CO2 per hectare over a 3 year period from one application.

I'm just not certain why we're looking so hard for lots of difficult solutions when there is so much low-hanging fruit. Some pretty simple changes in management practices (I'm looking at you, agriculture) can go a huge way to not only lowering CO2 emissions, but making land be significant net carbon sinks without compromising productivity.

Disclaimer: In the past I worked with one of the lab groups involved with the Marin Carbon Project.

Facebook

NY Magistrate: Legal Papers Can Be Served Via Facebook 185

New submitter Wylde Stile writes with an interesting case that shows just how pervasive social networking connections have become, including in the eyes of the law. A Staten Island, NY family court support magistrate allowed a Noel Biscoch to serve his ex-wife legal papers via Facebook. Biscoch tried to serve his ex-wife Anna Maria Antigua the old-fashioned way — in person and via postal mail — but his ex-wife had moved with no forwarding address. Antigua maintains an active Facebook account, though, and had even liked some photos on the Biscoch's present wife's Facebook page days before the ruling. The magistrate concluded that the ex-wife could be served through Facebook. If this catches on, I bet a lot of people will end up with legally binding notices caught by spam filters or in their Facebook accounts' "Other" folders.
Democrats

Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout 392

An anonymous reader writes with this report from The Verge linking to and excerpting from a newly released report created for a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, including portions of eight "damning emails" that offer an unflattering look at the rollout of the Obamacare website. The Government Office of Accountability released a report earlier this week detailing the security flaws in the site, but a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released yesterday is even more damning. Titled, "Behind the Curtain of the HealthCare.gov Rollout," the report fingers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the development of the site, and its parent Department of Health and Human Services. "Officials at CMS and HHS refused to admit to the public that the website was not on track to launch without significant functionality problems and substantial security risks," the report says. "There is also evidence that the Administration, to this day, is continuing its efforts to shield ongoing problems with the website from public view." Writes the submitter: "The evidence includes emails that show Obamacare officials more interested in keeping their problems from leaking to the press than working to fix them. This is both both a coverup and incompetence."

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.

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