Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment An expert comments (Score 5, Informative) 141

I am not well versed in regenerative biology, but my girlfriend happens to be getting her PhD in that field. I sent her this link for comment and here's what she said:

From article: "The wounded Marine's recovery is particularly exciting for scientists as it involves the regeneration of skeletal muscle which ordinarily does not grow back"

From any book in any regenerative scientist's library: "It has been known for more than a century that skeletal muscle, the most abundant tissue of the body, has the ability to regenerate new muscle fibers after it has been damaged by injury or as a consequence of diseases such as muscular dystrophy (1)"
        (in this case the reference = Carlson BM. The regeneration of skeletal muscle. A review. Am J Anat. 1973;137(2):119–149. View this article via: PubMed CrossRef)

Annoying! Maybe he is on to something that really does help quicken the natural regeneration response or promotes better healing or something, but no one will ever know because there are no controls. He has no mouse controls... he obviously can't do human controls and people are just slapping this stuff on there because... "at least it doesn't hinder the response". (but he could be charging billions for a placebo!)

Oh well. Science is stupid. The media is even dumber.

In other words: Slashdot, please stop posting articles from the Daily Mail. Also, on background, I know the doctor mentioned in the article, Badylak, was kicked out of his group for poor research practices that included trial by media instead of peer review. This sort of publicity piece is his MO.

Comment Re:800 employees? (Score 1) 106

They don't test shuttle tanks in Mississippi.
They could have tested in Florida and in fact did do some testing for a 240" solid booster in south Florida and they test Centaurs in West Palm to this day.
The large space? They where building the VAB so building a production building in Florida would have been simple.
There is a good reason for it to be Louisiana instead of say AZ. But the reason that it wasn't in Florida was to spread the "wealth" around.
In many ways it isn't a bad idea if you look at maximizing the economic benefits or a program. But if you look at just the cost it adds up.
That is one of the good things about a lot of big government programs like that.
Yes they cost a lot of tax dollars but a good amount of that money gets recycled from the jobs that it creates.
You also have the RnD benefit as well.
I am not even saying that this is the worst or best way to do these projects. Just that is the way they are done.

Actually, they DID test the space shuttle tanks in Mississippi. See here: They don't test every tank there, but they tested the early ones and they test tanks that have certain kinds of problems, such as leaks.

As for building the tanks in Florida, the Kennedy VAB in Florida is 8 acres. The Michoud facility in New Orleans is vastly larger: more than 43 acres. Saying "because they built the VAB in Florida they could have built a manufacturing facility for large scale boosters" shows little knowledge of how the tanks are produced and how much space it takes to produce them. There was an existing 43 acre facility laid out to produce large scale industrial products in LA that the government already owned. The only additional cost of putting production there was barge traffic to Mississippi/Florida. Compare that to the cost of building a new 43-acre environmentally controlled facility from scratch in Florida, and I don't think that's a trivial decision. You can convince me, but you haven't thus far.

I'll freely admit that most of the Michoud space is not currently used. Original production plans were to produce one or two tanks per month, which grossly overestimated the Space Shuttle's turnaround efficiency. In the end, much of the Michoud capacity was not needed. But if you want to make the argument that Michoud was selected wholly or even primarily as a political favor, you have more homework to do.

Comment Re:800 employees? (Score 4, Informative) 106

I can't speak to the other cases, but they built the first stage of the Saturn V in Louisiana because... 1. They needed a very large industrial space. The factory is a converted aircraft production facility built during WWII. 2. They needed deep water access to ship the giant vehicles. External Tanks and the Saturn S-IC cannot be shipped by road or rail. 3. The selection was tied to accessibility of both Kennedy Space Center in Florida (for launching) and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi (for testing). Once you start to pick a few locations, logistics become non-trivial and your next choice becomes more constrained. I can't assure you that graft had nothing to do with it (can you assure me that any part of any government program in history didn't have some back-deal component?), but the locations were not selected purely for political effect.

Writing By Hand Helps Train the Brain 1

jhoomjhoom writes "Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development. Studies suggest there's real value in learning and maintaining this ancient skill, even as we increasingly communicate electronically via keyboards big and small. Indeed, technology often gets blamed for handwriting's demise. But in an interesting twist, new software for touch-screen devices, such as the iPad, is starting to reinvigorate the practice."
Hardware Hacking

Nobel Prize in Physics For Discovery of Graphene 139

bugsbunnyak writes "The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded for the discovery of graphene to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov. Graphene is a novel one-atom-thick lattice state of carbon which has demonstrated unique quantum mechanical properties. These properties derive in part from the 2-dimensional nature of the material: quantum interactions are constrained to the effectively planar dimension of the lattice. Graphene holds promise for physical applications including touch screens, light cells, and potentially solar panels. Geim becomes the first scientist to achieve a Nobel prize despite earlier winning the highly-coveted Ig Nobel in 2000 for his studies of diamagnetic levitation — also known as The Flying Frog." Slashdot originally mentioned the frog almost exactly 10 years ago.

TheSpaceGame — Design Your Route To Jupiter 76

An anonymous reader writes "The Advanced Concepts Team of the European Space Agency is celebrating World Space Week (4-10 October 2010) with the release of 'The Space Game,' an online game for interplanetary trajectory design. The Space Game is an online crowdsourcing experiment where you are given the role of a mission designer to seek the best path to travel through space. The interactive game, coded in HTML5, challenges the players to devise fuel-efficient trajectories to various bodies of the Solar System via a user-friendly interface. The aim of the experiment is get people from all ages and backgrounds to come up with better strategies that can help improve the effectiveness of the current computer algorithms. As part of the events organized worldwide for Space Week, the first problem of the game is to reach Jupiter with the lowest amount of propellant. The best scores by 10 October will be displayed on the Advanced Concepts Team website and the three best designs will also receive some ESA prizes."

Brilliant Pics of Bizarre Sea Critters 63

An anonymous reader writes "Today, scientists have announced the completion of the first ever Census of Marine Life. The colossal 10-year effort involved 2,700 researchers from 80 countries. To mark the occasion, Discover's blog 80beats has a photo gallery of some of the most marvelously strange sea creatures photographed in the course of the census. The blog post also explains some of the census's most important findings, including the dramatic decline of many commercially important large marine animals, and troubling new evidence of a decline in the phytoplankton that serves as the base of the marine food chain."

Submission + - Gliese 581g in smack-dab middle of habitable zone (

saburai writes: Gliese 581 just keeps spitting out planets, and the newest one is a doozy: tidally locked at just the right distance to allow liquid water to flourish on the surface. If you think you're excited, just listen to the discoverer, who pegs the odds of life on such a world at "100 percent".

Submission + - Red Hat urges USPTO to deny most software patents (

Julie188 writes: The United States Patent and Trademark Office asked for public input on how it should use the Supreme Court's Bilski decision to guide it when granting new patents. Not surprisingly, Red Hat took them up on it. The USPTO should use Bilski and the fact that the machine transformation test is "important" to Just Say No to most software patents, it advised. Rob Tiller, Red Hat's Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, IP, is hopeful that the patent office will listen and put an end to the crazy software patent situation that has turned patents into weapons that hinder innovation. I guess he didn't see this story last week Patent Office Ramps Up Patent Approvals.

Submission + - Ex-CIA Boss Wants Internet Kill Switch (

An anonymous reader writes: Michael Hayden, the former boss of the CIA has said that it makes sense to give the federal government an internet kill switch because "cyberterrorism" is just that serious. Of course, it's not clear how shutting down a tool that was designed to stay up in the event of a catastrophic attack actually helps anyone, but there must be some reason.... Oh, did we mention that Hayden now works for the Chertoff Group — a security firm of ex-gov't honchos who now make money from keeping everyone scared?

Submission + - BitTorrent only movie denied listing on IMDB (

Ransak writes: The Tunnel (a publicly funded movie being paid for a frame at a time) movie is currently in production and despite pleas from the makers, IMDb won’t allow it on their site. The creators of this horror movie believe that because they have shunned an official distributor and chosen a BitTorrent model instead, this has put them at a disadvantage with the Amazon-owned site.

Submission + - Engineered silkworms to produce spider silk (

An anonymous reader writes: A research and development effort by the University of Notre Dame, the University of Wyoming, and Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, Inc. has succeeded in producing transgenic silkworms capable of spinning artificial spider silks.

“This research represents a significant breakthrough in the development of superior silk fibers for both medical and non-medical applications,” said Malcolm J. Fraser Jr., a Notre Dame professor of biological sciences. “The generation of silk fibers having the properties of spider silks has been one of the important goals in materials science.â

Until this breakthrough, only very small quantities of artificial spider silk had ever been produced in laboratories, but there was no commercially viable way to produce and spin these artificial silk proteins. Kraig Biocraft believed these limitations could be overcome by using recombinant DNA to develop a bio-technological approach for the production of silk fibers with a much broader range of physical properties or with pre-determined properties, optimized for specific biomedical or other applications.

Comment Re:I actually spent the 2 hours to RTFA (Score 1) 467

I totally agree; I too was left very concerned after reading his thoughtful and thorough analysis. And I'm really disappointed that (practically) no one on Slashdot took a look at it. Especially after reading his analysis of confirmation bias and so on, the knee-jerk responses on this thread are particularly disheartening.

Comment Raise your hand if you read the actual paper (Score 1) 467

The law review article upon which the linked story is written is 80 pages long. It is, as best I can tell, totally consistent with known science (it doesn't postulate "black holes destroying the universe" or any such nonsense). It is an attempt to do 3 things:

1. Ask how a court ought to address a science experiment that could, by some very unlikely chance, destroy the earth. He uses LHC as an example, but also suggests Strong AI and nanotechnology as possible future examples.

2. Analyze how a non-expert court can, or should, evaluate highly technical and possibly controversial scientific claims for and against the safety of a bleeding-edge research project.

3. Analyze how logical or cognitive errors could realistically lead a scientist to accidentally or intentionally understate or mischaracterize the risks of her research.

Anyone on this board droning on about "Shut-up-the-LHC-can't-destroy-the-world" either DRTFA or totally misunderstood it. I will now quote the author:

My motivation in writing is certainly not to engender fear. I have no apprehension to share...

It is part of our 21st Century reality that we must take seriously a number of surreal planetary disaster scenarios. In that sense, the synthetic-black-hole disaster is not unique. For some time now, we have been confronted with the possibility of nuclear war and global climate change. In the future, we may have to remove still more scenarios from the science fiction category and place them on a list of real worries. Someday, we may need to seriously consider catastrophic threats from nanotechnology, genetic engineering, or artificial intelligence. Each one of these human-made global disaster scenarios involves incredibly complex questions of science, engineering, and mathematics. Courts must develop tools to deal meaningfully with such complexity. Otherwise, the wildly expanding sphere of human knowledge will overwhelm the institution of the courts and undo the rule of law—just when we need it most.

If he had chosen anthropogenic global climate change as his topic of analysis, I think there would have been a more interesting debate on Slashdot, but apparently any mention of "LHC" in the same breath as "black hole" causes some sort of hysterical allergic reaction in some people.

Slashdot Top Deals

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell