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NASA

Isolated NASA Team Ends Year-Long Mars Simulation In Hawaii (bbc.com) 73

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the BBC: A team of six people have completed a Mars simulation in Hawaii, where they lived in near isolation for a year. Since August 29th, 2015, the group lived in close quarters in a dome, without fresh air, fresh food or privacy... Having survived their year in isolation, the crew members said they were confident a mission to Mars could succeed. "I can give you my personal impression which is that a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic," Cyprien Verseux, a crew member from France, told journalists. "I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome."

The team consisted of a French astro-biologist, a German physicist and four Americans -- a pilot, an architect, a journalist and a soil scientist... the six had to live with limited resources, wear a space-suit when outside the dome, and work to avoid personal conflicts. They each had a small sleeping cot and a desk inside their rooms. Provisions included powdered cheese and canned tuna.

Robotics

Recent College Grads Aim To Land A Robot On The Moon (thehindu.com) 52

Sunday the Indian Space Research Organization successfully test-launched a scramjet rocket, propelled by "an air-breathing propulsion system which uses hydrogen as fuel and oxygen from the atmosphere air as the oxidizer" rather than carrying a tank of liquid oxygen. "if the need for liquid oxygen is taken away, the space craft can be much lighter, hence cheaper to launch," notes one newspaper, adding that India is only the fourth country to flight-test a scramjet engine after the U.S., Russia and the European Space Agency.

But in addition, 15 former ISRO scientists are now helping Team Indus, one of the 16 teams remaining in Google's $30 million Lunar XPRIZE competition, who will use ISRO's polar satellite launch vehicle to send their spacecraft to the moon. GillBates0 writes: An official designated as "Skywalker", said that such space missions used to be limited to extremely elite people and PhDs in the past. That stereotype is now breaking. "I was just a college student a couple of years ago and now I am working on an actual space mission, how cool is that," said Karan Vaish, 23, who is helping the team to design the lunar rover. Eighty per cent of the team is reported to be less than five years out of college.
Biotech

'Longest Living Human' Says He Is Ready For Death At 145 (telegraph.co.uk) 204

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from The Telegraph: An Indonesian man who claims to be the longest living human in recorded history has described how he "just wants to die". Mbah Gotho, from Sragen in central Java, was born on December 31, 1870, according to the date of birth on his identity card. Now officials at the local record office say they have finally been able to confirm that remarkable date as genuine. If independently confirmed, the findings would make Mr Gotho a staggering 145 years old -- and the longest lived human in recorded history.
"One of Mr Gotho's grandsons said his grandfather has been preparing for his death ever since he was 122," according to the article. Though he lived long enough to meet his great-great grandchildren, he's already outlived four wives, all 10 of his brothers and sisters, and all of his children.
Democrats

US Patients Battle EpiPen Prices And Regulations By Shopping Online (cnn.com) 362

"The incredible increase in the cost of EpiPens, auto-injectors that can stop life-threatening emergencies caused by allergic reactions, has hit home on Capitol Hill," reports CNN. Slashdot reader Applehu Akbar reports that the argument "has now turned into civil war in the US Senate": One senator's daughter relies on Epi-Pen, while another senator's daughter is CEO of Mylan, the single company that is licensed to sell these injectors in the US. On the worldwide market there is no monopoly on these devices... Is it finally time to allow Americans to go online and fill their prescriptions on the world market?
Time reports some patients are ordering cheaper EpiPens from Canada and other countries online, "an act that the FDA says is technically illegal and potentially dangerous." But the FDA also has "a backlog of about 4,000 generic drugs" awaiting FDA approval, reports PRI, noting that in the meantime prices have also increased for drugs treating cancer, hepatitis C, and high cholesterol. In Australia, where the drug costs just $38, one news outlet reports that the U.S. "is the only developed nation on Earth which allows pharmaceutical companies to set their own prices."
United States

HAARP Holds Open House To Dispel Rumors Of Mind Control (adn.com) 143

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: HAARP -- the former Air Force/Navy/DARPA research program in Alaska -- will host an open house Saturday where "We hope to show people that it is not capable of mind control and not capable of weather control and all the other things it's been accused of..." said Sue Mitchell, spokesperson for the geophysical institute at the University of Alaska. "We hope that people will be able to see the actual science of it." HAARP, which was turned over to The University of Alaska last August, has been blamed for poor crop yields in Russia, with conspiracy theorists also warning of "a super weapon capable of mind control or weather control, with enough juice to trigger hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes."

The facility's 180 high-frequency antennas -- spread across 33 acres -- will be made available for public tours, and there will also be interactive displays and an unmanned aircraft 'petting zoo'. The Alaska Dispatch News describes it as "one of the world's few centers for high-power and high-frequency study of the ionosphere... important because radio waves used for communication and navigation reflect back to Earth, allowing long-distance, short-wave broadcasting."

Earth

Floating Solar Device Boils Water Without Mirrors (arstechnica.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Researchers from MIT and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, led by George Ni, describe a prototype design that boils water under ambient sunlight. Central to their floating solar device is a "selective absorber" -- a material that both absorbs the solar portion of the electromagnetic spectrum well and emits little back as infrared heat energy. For this, the researchers turn to a blue-black commercial coating commonly used in solar photovoltaic panels. The rest of the puzzle involves further minimizing heat loss from that absorber, either through convection of the air above it or conduction of heat into the water below the floating prototype. The construction of the device is surprisingly simple. At the bottom, there is a thick, 10-centimeter-diameter puck of polystyrene foam. That insulates the heating action from the water and makes the whole thing float. A cotton wick occupies a hole drilled through the foam, which is splayed and pinned down by a square of thin fabric on the top side. This ensures that the collected solar heat is being focused into a minute volume of water. The selective absorber coats a disc of copper that sits on top of the fabric. Slots cut in the copper allow water vapor from the wick to pass through. And the crowning piece of this technological achievement? Bubble wrap. It insulates the top side of the absorber, with slots cut through the plastic to let the water vapor out. Tests in the lab and on the MIT roof showed that, under ambient sunlight, the absorber warmed up to 100 degrees Celsius in about five minutes and started making steam. That's a first. The study has been published in two separate Nature articles: "Steam by thermal concentration" and "Steam generation under one sun enabled by a floating structure with thermal concentration."
Communications

Juno Probe To Get First Up-Close Look At Jupiter On Saturday (space.com) 32

NASA's Juno spacecraft will get its first up-close view at Jupiter this Saturday. Space.com reports: "At 8:51 a.m. EDT (1251 GMT) on Saturday (Aug. 27), Juno will zoom within 2,600 miles (4,000 kilometers) of Jupiter's cloud tops -- closer than the probe is scheduled to come during its entire mission, NASA officials said. And Juno will have all of its science instruments during Saturday's flyby. This was not the case during the spacecraft's only previous close approach to Jupiter, which occurred July 4 when Juno arrived in orbit around the giant planet. During Saturday's close pass, all eight of Juno's science instruments will be collecting data, and the probe's visible-light imager, known as JunoCam, will take close-up photos." You can also look forward to Venus-Jupiter Conjunction 2016, an event happening on August 27 where Venus and Jupiter's respective orbits will bring the two planets the closest that they'll be to each other until 2065. The two planets will be positioned roughly five degrees above the Western horizon on August 27.
Power

Dyson Will Spend $1.4 Billion, Enlist 3,000 Engineers To Build a Better Battery (digitaltrends.com) 232

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Among the 100 new products the company founder James Dyson wants to invent by 2020, the greatest investment in people and money is to improve rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, as reported by Forbes (Warning: paywalled). And Dyson is not planning incremental improvements. His opinion is that current Li-ion batteries don't last long enough and aren't safe enough -- the latter as evidenced by their propensity to spontaneously catch on fire, which is rare but does happen. Dyson believes the answer lies in using ceramics to create solid-state lithium-ion batteries. Dyson says he intended to spend $1.4 billion in research and development and in building a battery factory over the next five years. Last year Dyson bought Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Sakti3, which focuses on creating advanced solid-state batteries, for $90 million. The global lithium-ion battery market accounts for $40 billion in annual sales, according to research firm Lux as cited by Forbes. Dyson's company (which is an accurate description since he has 100-percent ownership) currently employs 3,000 engineers worldwide. He intends to hire another 3,000 by 2020. Their average age is 26. Dyson values young engineers, saying, "The enthusiasm and lack of fear is important. Not taking notice of experts and plowing on because you believe in something is important. It's much easier to do when you're young."
Earth

SpaceX Dragon Returns Home From ISS (floridatoday.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Florida Today: A SpaceX Dragon capsule that helped prepare the International Space Station for future commercial astronaut flights has returned to Earth after a stay of more than month-long mission. A robotic arm released the unmanned capsule packed with 3,000 pounds of cargo at 6:11 a.m. EDT, then fired thrusters several times to move a safe distance away from the station orbiting about 250 miles up. The departure began a less than six-hour journey that culminated in a Pacific Ocean splashdown at 11:47 a.m. EDT, about 300 miles southwest of Baja, California. The Dragon launched from Cape Canaveral early July 18 on a Falcon 9 rocket and berthed at the station two days later. Among the cargo brought back from space Friday were a dozen mice from a Japanese science experiment -- the first brought home alive in a Dragon. Samples from mice euthanized as part of an experiment by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly also were on board. Results were returned from an experiment that studied the behavior of heart cells in microgravity, and from research into the composition of microbes in the human digestive system, NASA said. Findings from both could help keep astronauts healthy during deep space exploration missions. SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next Saturday, Sept. 3.
Power

Alphabet's Nest Wants to Build a 'Citizen-Fueled' Power Plant (bloomberg.com) 154

Mark Chediak, reporting for Bloomberg:Alphabet Inc's Nest Labs is looking to enlist enough customers in California to free up as much power as a small natural gas-fired plant produces, helping alleviate potential energy shortages in the region following a massive gas leak that has restricted supplies. Nest, which supplies digital, wireless thermostats, is partnering with Edison International's Southern California Edison utility to get households enrolled in a state-established energy conservation program. The company wants to attract 50,000 customers through next summer that could shrink their total demand by as much as 50 megawatts when needed, Ben Bixby, Nest's director of energy businesses at Nest, said by phone. "We are building a citizen-fueled clean power plant," he said.
Australia

Robot Babies Not Effective Birth Control, Australian Study Finds (sky.com) 311

An anonymous reader writes: Girls given imitation babies to look after in an effort to deter teenage pregnancy could actually be more likely to get pregnant, according to a study. Researchers in Australia found 8% of girls who used the dolls were expecting by the age of 20, compared with 4% of those who did not. The number of girls having at least one abortion was also higher among girls given the dolls: 9% compared to 6%. 'Baby Think It Over' dolls were used in a Virtual Infant Parenting (VIP) programme which began in 57 schools in Western Australia in 2003. During the three-year study, published in The Lancet, 1267 girls aged 13 to 15 used the simulators -- which need to be fed and changed, while 1567 learned the normal health curriculum. The idea originated in the United States and is used in 89 countries. Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia are now warning that such programmes may be a waste of public money.
AI

Amazon, NVIDIA and The CIA Want To Teach AI To Watch Us From Space (technologyreview.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Satellite operator DigitalGlobe is teaming up with Amazon, the venture arm of the CIA, and NVIDIA to make computers watch the Earth from above and automatically map our roads, buildings, and piles of trash. MIT Technology Review reports: "In a joint project, DigitalGlobe today released satellite imagery depicting the whole of Rio de Janeiro to a resolution of 50 centimeters. The outlines of 200,000 buildings inside the city's roughly 1,900 square kilometers have been manually marked on the photos. The SpaceNet data set, as it is called, is intended to spark efforts to train machine-learning algorithms to interpret high-resolution satellite photos by themselves. DigitalGlobe says the SpaceNet data set should eventually include high-resolution images of half a million square kilometers of Earth, and that it will add annotations beyond just buildings. DigitalGlobe's data is much more detailed than publicly available satellite data such as NASA's, which typically has a resolution of tens of meters. Amazon will make the SpaceNet data available via its cloud computing service. Nvidia will provide tools to help machine-learning researchers train and test algorithms on the data, and CosmiQ Works, a division of the CIA's venture arm In-Q-Tel focused on space, is also supporting the project." "We need to develop new algorithms for this data," says senior vice president at DigitalGlobe, Tony Frazier. He goes on to say that health and aid programs are to benefit from software that is able to map roads, bridges and various other infrastructure. The CEO of Descartes Labs, Mark Johnson, a "startup that predicts crop yields from public satellite images," says the data that is collected "should be welcome to startups and researchers," according to MIT Technology Review. "Potential applications could include estimated economic output from activity in urban areas, or guiding city governments on how to improve services such as trash collections, he says."
NASA

NASA's Voyager 2 Flew By Saturn 35 Years Ago Today (space.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: Thirty-five years ago today, a NASA spacecraft got an up-close look at beautiful, enigmatic Saturn. On Aug. 25, 1981, the Voyager 2 probe zoomed within 26,000 miles (41,000 kilometers) of the ringed planet's cloud tops. The discoveries made by Voyager 2 -- and by its twin, Voyager 1, which had flown past Saturn nine months earlier -- reshaped scientists' understanding of the Saturn system and planted the seed for NASA's Cassini mission, which began orbiting the ringed planet in 2004, NASA officials said. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched a few weeks apart in 1977, tasked with performing a "grand tour" of the solar system's big planets -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The two spacecraft accomplished that goal, eyeing all four gaseous worlds up close, and also studying 48 of their moons. (Voyager 1 flew past Jupiter and Saturn, while Voyager 2 had close encounters with all four planets.) The Voyagers weren't the first spacecraft to fly by Saturn; that distinction belongs to NASA's Pioneer 11 probe, which did so in 1979. But the Voyagers broke a lot of new ground; they discovered four new Saturn moons, for example, and revealed an incredible diversity of landscapes on satellites such as Dione, Tethys and Iapetus, NASA officials said. August 25th appears to be a good day for nerds. You can view some out-of-this-world photos from NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 probes here.
Medicine

The Big Short: Security Flaws Fuel Bet Against St. Jude (securityledger.com) 78

chicksdaddy writes: "Call it The Big Short -- or maybe just the medical device industry's 'Shot Heard Round The World': a report from Muddy Waters Research recommends that its readers bet against (or 'short') St. Jude Medical after learning of serious security vulnerabilities in a range of the company's implantable cardiac devices," The Security Ledger reports. "The Muddy Waters report on St. Jude's set off a steep sell off in St. Jude Medical's stock, which finished the day down 5%, helping to push down medical stocks overall. The report cites the 'strong possibility that close to half of STJ's revenue is about to disappear for approximately two years' as a result of 'product safety' issues stemming from remotely exploitable vulnerabilities in STJ's pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. The vulnerabilities are linked to St. Jude's Merlin at home remote patient management platform, said Muddy Waters. The firm cited research by MedSec Holdings Ltd., a cybersecurity research firm that identified the vulnerabilities in St. Jude's ecosystem. Muddy Waters said that the affected products should be recalled until the vulnerabilities are fixed. In an e-mail statement to Security Ledger, St. Jude's Chief Technology Officer, Phil Ebeling, called the allegations 'absolutely untrue.' 'There are several layers of security measures in place. We conduct security assessments on an ongoing basis and work with external experts specifically on Merlin at home and on all our devices,' Ebeling said."

More controversial: MedSec CEO Justine Bone acknowledged in an interview with Bloomberg that her company did not first reach out to St. Jude to provide them with information on the security holes before working with Muddy Waters. Information security experts who have worked with the medical device industry to improve security expressed confusion and dismay. "If safety was the goal then I think (MedSec's) execution was poor," said Joshua Corman of The Atlantic Institute and I Am The Cavalry. "And if profit was the goal it may come at the cost of safety. It seems like a high stakes game that people may live to regret."

Social Networks

Researchers Create Algorithm That Diagnoses Depression From Your Instagram Feed (inverse.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: Harvard University's Andrew Reece and the University of Vermont's Chris Danforth crafted an algorithm that can correctly diagnose depression, with up to 70 percent accuracy, based on a patient's Instagram feed alone. After a careful screening process, the team analyzed almost 50,000 photos from 166 participants, all of whom were Instagram users and 71 of whom had already been diagnosed with clinical depression. Their results confirmed their two hypotheses: first, that "markers of depression are observable in Instagram user behavior," and second, that "these depressive signals are detectable in posts made even before the date of first diagnosis." The duo had good rationale for both hypotheses. Photos shared on Instagram, despite their innocent appearance, are data-laden: Photos are either taken during the day or at night, in- or outdoors. They may include or exclude people. The user may or may not have used a filter. You can imagine an algorithm drooling at these binary inputs, all of which reflect a person's preferences, and, in turn, their well-being. Metadata is likewise full of analyzable information: How many people liked the photo? How many commented on it? How often does the user post, and how often do they browse? Many studies have shown that depressed people both perceive less color in the world and prefer dark, anemic scenes and images. The majority of healthy people, on the other hand, prefer colorful things. [Reece and Danforth] collected each photo's hue, saturation, and value averages. Depressed people, they found, tended to post photos that were more bluish, unsaturated, and dark. "Increased hue, along with decreased brightness and saturation, predicted depression," they write. The researchers found that happy people post less than depressed people, happy people post photos with more people in them than their depressed counterparts. and that depressed participants were less likely to use filters. The majority of "healthy" participants chose the Valencia filter, while the majority of "depressed" participants chose the Inkwell filter. Inverse has a neat little chart embedded in their report that shows the usage of Instagram filters between depressed and healthy users.

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