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How Melinda Gates Got Her Daughters Excited About Science ( 106

theodp writes: GeekWire reports that Melinda Gates concluded a Davos panel discussion about gender parity with a personal story about her own family, explaining how she originally became interested in computer science, and how she later played Lab Manager to Bill's Mr. Wizard to help pass along their passion for science and math to their kids. "On Saturday mornings," Gates explained, "I wanted to sleep late. So you know what I did? I made sure there were science projects available, and that's what he did with our two daughters and our son. And guess what my two daughters are interested in? Science and math."

YouTube and the Modern Mad Scientist ( 223

szczys writes: Making change for $1.00 and getting $1.10 back. That's the premise of overunity, free energy, and perpetual motion experiments. Using money as the the analogy is fitting because these concepts are heavily aligned with scams trying to land a payday for their "research". But there is another branch of people working on them: tinkerers who believe they can actually solve the problem. Laws of thermodynamics say otherwise, but this isn't necessarily wasted time. Other breakthroughs are waiting to be discovered as these mad scientists try to remove all efficiency losses from their doomed systems. YouTube can be an interesting place to look for ideas on low-friction, high efficiency fabrication.

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures In 2015 ( 507

vikingpower writes: Earth's 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much. The British Met office also reports on the same phenomenon, even forecasting that global temperatures are very soon going to reach the one-degree-Celsius marker. According to Stephen Belcher, Director of the Met Office Hadley Centre, "We've had similar natural events in the past, yet this is the first time we're set to reach the 1 C marker and it's clear that it is human influence driving our modern climate into uncharted territory."

Fraud Detected In Science Research That Suggested GMO Crops Were Harmful ( 357

An anonymous reader writes: Three science papers that had suggested that genetically modified crops were harmful to animals and have been used by activist groups to argue for their ban have been found to contain manipulated and possibly falsified data. Nature reports: "Papers that describe harmful effects to animals fed genetically modified (GM) crops are under scrutiny for alleged data manipulation. The leaked findings of an ongoing investigation at the University of Naples in Italy suggest that images in the papers may have been intentionally altered. The leader of the lab that carried out the work there says that there is no substance to this claim. The papers' findings run counter to those of numerous safety tests carried out by food and drug agencies around the world, which indicate that there are no dangers associated with eating GM food. But the work has been widely cited on anti-GM websites — and results of the experiments that the papers describe were referenced in an Italian Senate hearing last July on whether the country should allow cultivation of safety-approved GM crops. 'The case is very important also because these papers have been used politically in the debate on GM crops,' says Italian senator Elena Cattaneo, a neuroscientist at the University of Milan whose concerns about the work triggered the investigation.

Are Some Things About the Universe Fundamentally Unknowable? ( 225

StartsWithABang writes: As we peel back the layers of information deeper and deeper into the Universe's history, we uncover progressively more knowledge about how everything we know today came to be. The discovery of distant galaxies and their redshifts led to expanding Universe, which led to the Big Bang and the discovery of very early phases like the cosmic microwave background and big bang nucleosynthesis. But before that, there was a period of cosmic inflation that left its mark on the Universe. What came before inflation, then? Did it always exist? Did it have a beginning? Or did it mark the rebirth of a cosmic cycle? Maddeningly, this information may forever be inaccessible to us, as the nature of inflation wipes all this information clean from our visible Universe.

Kite Power: The Latest In Green Technology ( 103

New submitter Dan Drollette writes: The solution to producing energy without contributing to global warming may be to go fly a kite. Literally. Researchers in Switzerland and Italy — high-altitude places where the winds are strong, steady and predictable — have been working on ways to generate electricity from kites that fly hundreds or thousands of meters high. The scientists already have a prototype cranking out 27 megawatts; they expect to have a 100-megawatt plant big enough to power 86,000 households. And they say that they can produce electricity for less that 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is better than fossil fuel. Plus, the kites look really cool (as does the "Darrieus rotor vertical axis wind turbine" at the base of the St Bernard Pass, on the Swiss side, which I've seen in operation in person).

Urban Death Project Aims To Rebuild Our Soil By Composting Corpses ( 197

An anonymous reader writes: The Urban Death Project utilizes the process of composting to safely and gently turn our deceased into soil-building material, creating a meaningful, equitable and ecological urban alternative to existing options for the disposition of the dead," said Katrina Spade, a designer based in Seattle. "The project is a solution to the overcrowding of city cemeteries, a sustainable method of disposing of our dead, and a new ritual for laying our loved ones to rest."

Grisly Find Suggests Humans Inhabited Arctic 45,000 Years Ago ( 138

sciencehabit points out this story which may rewrite the early history of humans in North America. From the Sciencemag story: "In August of 2012, an 11-year-old boy made a gruesome discovery in a frozen bluff overlooking the Arctic Ocean. While exploring the foggy coast of Yenisei Bay, about 2000 kilometers south of the North Pole, he came upon the leg bones of a woolly mammoth eroding out of frozen sediments. Scientists excavating the well-preserved creature determined that it had been killed by humans: Its eye sockets, ribs, and jaw had been battered, apparently by spears, and one spear-point had left a dent in its cheekbone—perhaps a missed blow aimed at the base of its trunk. When they dated the remains, the researchers got another surprise: The mammoth died 45,000 years ago. That means that humans lived in the Arctic more than 10,000 years earlier than scientists believed, according to a new study. The find suggests that even at this early stage, humans were traversing the most frigid parts of the globe and had the adaptive ability to migrate almost everywhere."

Nanotech Could Make Incandescent Light Bulbs As Efficient As LEDs ( 338

sciencehabit writes: Thomas Edison would be pleased. Researchers have come up with a way to dramatically improve the efficiency of his signature invention, the incandescent light bulb. The approach uses nanoengineered mirrors to recycle much of the heat produced by the filament and convert it into additional visible light. The new-age incandescents are still far from a commercial product, but their efficiency is already nearly as good as commercial LED bulbs, while still maintaining a warm old-fashioned glow.
United Kingdom

Massive Marine Reserve Created In Atlantic ( 81

An anonymous reader writes: The British government has announced that it will create a marine reserve slightly smaller than the UK in the waters off Ascension Island. The South Atlantic reserve totals 234,291 sq km and is being funded with the help of a £300,000 grant from the charitable Bacon Foundation. Charles Clover, Blue Marine Foundation chairman, said: "Ascension has been at the frontiers of science since Charles Darwin went there in the 19th Century, so it is entirely appropriate that it is now at the centre of a great scientific effort to design the Atlantic's largest marine reserve."

New Maps Show Spread and Impact of Drought On California Forests ( 88

An anonymous reader writes: According to a new study 58 million trees are dead or dying due to the California drought and hundreds of millions could die if the conditions persist. The LA Times reports: "The researchers used an airplane, high-tech remote sensing technology and satellite imagery to produce the first maps that show how much water the state's trees have lost. Virtually every forest has been affected in some way, said study leader Greg Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University. Asner said he was struck by the 'sheer degree of loss and mortality' in Southern California forests as he flew over the depleted trees."

Last Operating Magnox Nuclear Reactor Closes 98

nojayuk writes: The world's last operating Magnox nuclear reactor, Wylfa 1 in Anglesey, Wales was closed yesterday after providing carbon-free power for over 40 years. Wylfa1 was originally scheduled to shut in 2012 along with the adjacent Wylfa 2 reactor but it was kept operating for another three years with the innovative use of partially-burnt fuel from Wylfa 2 and remaining stocks of fresh Magnox fuel. The reactor will be defuelled and move into its decommissioning phase over the next year. The Magnox design used gas-cooling and a carbon moderator with the capability to produce weapons-grade plutonium depending on how it was fuelled and operated. Its design fed into the next-generation AGRs which provide about 6GW of Britain's electricity supply today.

Interviews: Ask Ray Kurzweil a question 174

Ray Kurzweil is one of the world’s leading authors, inventors, and futurists. Kurzweil was the principal inventor of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. Among Kurzweil’s many honors, he received the 2015 Technical Grammy Award for outstanding achievements in the field of music technology; he is the recipient of the National Medal of Technology, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, holds twenty honorary Doctorates, and honors from three U.S. presidents. He has given us some of his time to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

Before Google There Was the Chemical Rubber Company ( 143

szczys writes: The CRC Handbook is one great example of how access to information has changed over the years. Now, you open up Google and find your answers. In decades past, hard data needed to solve engineering problems was embodied in volumes of text known as Databooks. One of the best known was the Chemical Rubber Company Handbook. Don't let the name fool you, the CRC Handbook contained traits, properties, equations, and much more on all kinds of materials and techniques for using them. It's still around today and has one big advantage over our searchable digital lives: you know you can trust the accuracy of the information in those books at face value while online information requires validation.

Can Electric Signals In Earth's Atmosphere Predict Earthquakes? ( 71

sciencehabit writes with interesting news about a possible new avenue for earthquake prediction. Sciencemag reports: "Ask seismologists when they'll be able to predict earthquakes, and the answer is generally: sometime between the distant future and never. Although there have been some promising leads over the years, the history of earthquake forecasting is littered with false starts and pseudoscience. However, some scientists think that Earth's crust may give hints before it ruptures, in the form of electromagnetic anomalies in the ground and atmosphere that occur minutes to days before an earthquake. Now, researchers are sharing their evolving understanding of these phenomena—and how they might be used to predict deadly quakes."

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