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Science

Aurora Enthusiasts Discover A Strange New Light In The Sky And Named It Steve (bbc.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes the BBC: A group of aurora enthusiasts have found a new type of light in the night sky and named it Steve. Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary in Canada spotted the feature in photos shared on a Facebook group. He did not recognise it as a catalogued phenomenon and although the group were calling it a proton arc, he knew proton auroras were not visible. Testing showed it appeared to be a hot stream of fast-flowing gas in the higher reaches of the atmosphere.

The European Space Agency sent electric field instruments to measure it 300km (190 miles) above the surface of the Earth and found the temperature of the air was 3,000C (5,400F) hotter inside the gas stream than outside it. Inside, the 25km-wide ribbon of gas was flowing at 6 km/s (13,000mph), 600 times faster than the air on either side.

One official at the European Space Agency made sure to thank the "army of citizen scientists" who helped with the discovery, saying "It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we hadn't noticed it before." The name apparently came from a scene in the movie "Over the Hedge."

Comment Students in distant relationships feel love more (Score 1) 279

Seeing a lover every day spoils the illusion.

(From the book)

Note there's almost no evidence presented that social media makes people dislike each other more. Oversharing leads to being disliked but we don't follow those we dislike.
My guess is that living in a social (media) bubble may nevertheless make us less tolerant of dissenting views.

Comment Re:Gut flora and artificial sweeteners (Score 1) 5

This is probably the most recent, well-cited article on the topic. The authors looked at the effects of saccharin in mice, and were able to determine that there was a significant elevation in blood-glucose level for the mice that were fed saccharin instead of actual glucose over the course of nine weeks. This suggests a mechanism for previous findings that suggest artificial sweeteners cause insulin insensitivity, weight gain, type II diabetes, et cetera. The difference between the two diets went away when both groups were raised with antibiotics, strongly suggesting the underlying cause was gut microbiota. They also found evidence that the saccharin diet led to changes in gut microbiome composition:

In agreement with the experiments with antibiotics, next generation sequencing of the microbiome indicated that mice drinking saccharin had distinct compositions from controls. This distinct microbiome was characterized by enrichment of taxa belonging to the Bacteroides genus or the Clostridiales order, with under-representation of Lactobacilli and other members of the Clostridiales. Several of the bacterial taxa that changed following saccharin consumption were previously associated with type 2 diabetes in humans.

Keep in mind that everyone has different gut flora, so in general these impacts will vary from person to person, which is why the effect is inconsistent, as with obesity and type II diabetes in general. I can't say for certain that these results would directly transfer into humans, but since the bacteria are the same, it's unreasonable to assume they wouldn't. Less clear is whether this effect transfers to other sweeteners; the paper includes a table showing a number of studies pertaining to a diversity of chemicals, some of which found an effect, and some of which didn't.

Non-professionally, my advice would be to avoid artificial sweeteners, and ideally all liquid candy. Some people find that drinking normal, sugary soda produces a state of lethargy, and I'm pretty sure this is a result of the long-term exposure to sucralose. It's sort of a trap!

Social Networks

Startup Still Working On 'Immortal Avatars' That Will Live Forever (cnet.com) 89

Startup Eternime, founded by MIT fellow Marius Ursache, is still working on "immortal avatars" that, after your death, will continue interacting with your loves ones from beyond the grave. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Give Eternime access to your social media profiles and the startup's algorithms will scrape your posts and interactions to build a profile... The algorithms will study your memories and mannerisms. They'll learn how to be "you"... Eternime was announced in 2014 after Ursache developed the idea during the MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program. He wasn't entirely sure if he should develop the project further and wanted to get a sense of public reaction.

In the first four days, 3,000 people signed up at Eterni.me, the company's website, for a private beta. Then, Urasche received an email from a man dying of terminal cancer. "Eternime, he wrote, was the last chance to leave something behind for friends and family," Urasche told me. "That was the moment I decided that this was something worth dedicating my life to"... Since 2014, the Eternime website has largely been silent, although it continues to take names of people who want to test the service. Ursache says the Eternime team has been refining the product over the last two years, testing features, figuring out what will work and what won't.

"The private beta test is ongoing," according to the article, "and Ursache says the feedback has been positive." But unfortunately, the service still isn't operational yet.

Comment Re:Which type of graft is best? (Score 1) 5

That's fairly straightforward; as this summary article explains, a synthetic allograph (or xenograph; the terms overlap) that maintains bone mineral density is ideal, as it means no harvesting from elsewhere on your body (eek), no risk of rejection, and good bone density. I'd say start a conversation with your dentist about hydrogel-hydroxyapatite composites and mention you're concerned about sustaining bone density long-term.

Submission + - Ubuntu to use Wayland by default

An anonymous reader writes: From the school of expected things following its decision to drop Unity, Ubuntu will use Wayland by default for user sessions in Ubuntu 17.10 onwards. Mir had been Canonical’s home-spun alternative to Wayland but was recently put out to pasture.

Comment Re:Smartphones are great driving aids. . . (Score 2) 343

Good point. Here is a comprehensive list of states with stupid laws.

Regarding Texas, I have the following points:
- The law specifically mentions "attached to windshield" but not "rear view mirror." It also mentions "Obstruction." Accordingly, the law would make for an interesting case for "rear view mirror" mounted devices. Would like to check case law when I have some time.
- The way the law is stated, if "rear view mirror" mounted smartphones are "obstruction" then so is every single rear window sticker, rear view mirror charm, and dashboard bob-head. . . I want to say that ~30% of the cars I see have something like this, so perhaps this is just another dumb Texas law that is almost never enforced.
- If they are actively enforcing this for people who are using apps like Waze, then they are killing people every year by their stupidity, and I feel morally obligated to resist this out-of-date and very stupid law. I hope I do get a ticket so that I can be the first to loudly fight it.

Comment Smartphones are great driving aids. . . (Score 1) 343

you just have to use them correctly. Here are the steps I have taken:
1) Installed Waze
2) Bought a proper smart phone mount. I have had success with the rear view mirror mounted type.
3) Enter my destination into Waze every time I am about to go somewhere.

I have noticed the following with this approach:
- I have no motivation to do stupid things like text while driving if I am using my phone for navigation and the cars around me can easily see my phone screen.
- Even if I were to do something stupid on my smartphone, at least I would be looking up, instead of down, and would have a significantly better chance to avoid an accident (plus, other cars would more easily be able to see that I was doing something stupid on my rear view mirror mounted smartphone and could do a better job avoiding me)
- Waze is excellent for getting a heads up that traffic is about to slow down or there is an object on the road that I need to avoid. Unfortunately, they do not seem to have an option for reporting stupid drivers that are using their smartphones wrong while driving.

Anyway, cars are starting to notice me typing this post while driving, so I better end my post here. . . (I kid).

Submission + - HOWTO move your Linux /home to ZFS (freedompenguin.com)

Wolfrider writes: ZFS has many advantages over traditional Linux filesystems such as ext4 — when it came time to expand /home in a Virtualbox VM, using ZFS was easier than expanding disk allocation and repartitioning. I didn't even need to reboot! It also helps to future-proof additional filesystem expansion, provides compression and Samba+NFS file sharing.

How to install Ubuntu 14.04 and ZFS on Linux:
https://freedompenguin.com/art...

How to move your Linux /home to ZFS on Linux:
https://freedompenguin.com/art...

( Disclaimer: I am the author of these articles )

Earth

Dingo Wins The World's Most Interesting Genome Competition (smithsonianmag.com) 14

An anonymous reader shares a report: It sounds like an argument scientists might have during a night of drinking: Which creature has the most interesting genome in the world? But the question is more than a passing musing. San Francisco biotech company Pacific Biosciences held a public competition to determine which critter should receive the honor. The winner: Sandy Maliki, an Australian desert dingo. The company will now sequence the dingo's genome to help researchers study animal domestication. Sandy beat out four other interesting finalists in the competition, receiving 41 percent of the public votes, which were cast from around the world. This is the fourth year the company has sponsored the competition. The company invites researchers to send in grant proposals explaining why the interesting plants and animals they study should be sequenced. Then a committee of scientists whittles the entries down to five finalists for the final public vote.

Comment Impressed so many people said Gattaca (Score 2) 1222

Normally, everyone says Bladerunner. The latter is truly great, but it lacks the story and character development of Gattaca.

The only real competition to Gattaca is Donnie Darko, but few think of it as sci-fi. Amazing they both came out in 2001.

Matrix clearly superb, as is 2001: A Space Odyssey.
"Her" is a great little film, the best sci-fi since Gattaca.
Empire Strikes Back, Terminator (original) and The Thing -- all these are either perfect or borderline perfect.

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