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Submission + - Bronze Age inferno preserved an extraordinary view of life in the United Kingdom (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: Reconstructing daily life in the Bronze Age has been difficult in northern Europe. Most houses were poorly preserved, traced out by postholes or barren remains of hearths, and offer up only meager fragments of pottery. A major excavation near Peterborough, U.K., promises to fill in the picture. Archaeologists have dug up 3000-year-old roundhouses that were perched on stilts above a river, perhaps for defense or facilitating trade. The building materials and much of the contents are well-preserved because the five houses were quickly abandoned during a fire and then collapsed into a river. The rich array of artifacts includes textiles, wooden objects, metal tools, and complete sets of pottery. The arrangement of artifacts could indicate how various sections of the houses were used and perhaps new details about diet. The fact that all the buildings burned down, apparently at the same time, and the belongings were left behind, suggests the fires may have been part of an attack.

Submission + - Popular doping drug may not actually help cyclists (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: In June, Dutch scientists finished the largest study yet to find out if erythropoietin (EPO), a drug popular among professional cyclists, really enhances athletic performance. The researchers recruited 48 trained amateur cyclists and gave them either EPO or a placebo for 8 weeks. Participants were subjected to seven endurance tests, culminating in a race up the Mont Ventoux in France, one of cycling's legendary ascents. The researchers are still analyzing results but have already shared one key outcome: Riders on EPO weren't faster than those on placebo. Other researchers find it hard to believe that EPO would do nothing, based on previous studies and athletes' stories. But they applaud the team for subjecting EPO to a large randomized controlled trial, the gold standard in medicine.

Submission + - Massive neutrino experiment undermines our sense of reality (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: Data from a massive neutrino experiment show that the elusive subatomic particles must literally be of two mutually exclusive types at once—poking a hole in our intuitive sense of reality. The result is bedrock quantum mechanics. But it's the sort of thing typically shown with highly controlled quantum optics experiments and not with nearly undetectable neutrinos.

Submission + - Daredevil-like ability allows us to size up rooms—even when we can't see t (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: The blind comic book star Daredevil has a highly developed sense of hearing that allows him to “see” his environment with his ears. But you don’t need to be a superhero to pull a similar stunt, according to a new study. Researchers have identified the neural architecture used by the brain to turn subtle sounds into a mind’s-eye map of your surroundings.

Submission + - When is it OK for our cars to kill us? (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: Self-driving cars are already being tested on the road, but tricky questions about their ethics remain. Should autonomous vehicles protect their passengers at all costs? Or should they be programmed to sacrifice their passengers, if it means protecting others? A new study says “yes” and “yes.” Scientists asked 451 online survey-takers if—in the event of an inevitable accident—it was more appropriate to sacrifice passengers or bystanders, a quandary known as the trolley problem in ethics. When the ratio was one-to-one, that is, one passenger to one pedestrian, about 75% of respondents said the passenger should be saved, they report online today in Science. But as the number of pedestrians went up, survey-takers started to change their minds.

Submission + - Maverick scientist thinks he has discovered a magnetic sixth sense in humans (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: It is now widely accepted that many animals sense Earth’s magnetic field and use it for navigation, and researchers are getting ever closer to the cellular foundations of magnetoreception. But what about humans? Researchers in Tokyo and Pasadena, California, think they have found glimmers of a vestigial sense. Screening out electromagnetic noise, and applying weak magnetic fields on human subjects in a dark, metal box, the researchers think they have found brain waves that signal a passive response to the fields.

Submission + - 'Undead' genes come alive days after life ends (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: Does death really mean the end of our existence? Great thinkers from Plato to Blue Öyster Cult have weighed in on the question. Now, a study shows that that at least one aspect of life continues: Genes remain turned on days after animals die. Researchers may be able to parlay this postmortem activity into better ways of preserving donated organs for transplantation and more accurate methods of determining when murder victims were killed.

Submission + - Mother brown bears protect cubs with human shields (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: For a mother brown bear in Scandinavia, few sights are as terrifying as a strange male. Adult male bears are known to kill cubs that are not theirs—and sometimes the mother that defends them. A new study suggests that smart mama bears have found a surprising way to protect their young. To shield her cubs from male attacks, mom just has to raise them near an adult bear’s number one enemy: humans.

Submission + - SPAM: Common espresso machine can perform complex chemical analysis

sciencehabit writes: hemical analyses often take lots of time and require expensive equipment, not to mention substantial volumes of harsh solvents. But not if you use an espresso machine. Researchers have utilized an off-the-shelf, countertop coffeemaker to quickly and cheaply extract cancer-causing contaminants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from samples of polluted soil. Despite requiring hoses, seals, and other internal connections to be replaced regularly, the off-the-shelf espresso machine ends up being a low-cost option for quick analyses, the team notes. Currently, the brewmasters are checking to see whether their espresso machine can also be used to detect and measure pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and detergents in food or soil samples.
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Submission + - LIGO detects another black hole crash, more gravitational waves (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: The biggest discovery in science this year—the observation of ripples in space-time called gravitational waves—was no fluke. For a second time, physicists working with the two massive detectors in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have detected a pulse of such waves, the LIGO team reported on 15 June at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego, California. Once again the waves emanated from the merger of two black holes, the ultraintense gravitational fields left behind when massive stars collapse into infinitesimal points. The new observation suggests that after fine-tuning, LIGO will spot dozens or even hundreds of the otherwise undetectable events each year.

Submission + - First mirror image molecule spotted in interstellar space (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: A new find in deep space may explain one of the biggest mysteries here on Earth. Researchers have spotted the first evidence of a chiral molecule—a molecule with two mirror image “twins”—in interstellar space. The molecule, used on modern-day Earth to make polyethylene plastics, was found in a gas cloud about 28,000 light-years away from our planet. And though it isn’t directly involved in biochemical reactions, it may shed light on how the chiral molecules that ultimately led to life on Earth formed in the first place.

Submission + - New technology allows scientists to see through computer chips (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: Researchers have developed a way to see through silicon wafers, which among other things offers a powerful new tool for probing computer chips for tiny manufacturing defects. Using their technique, the scientists were able to spot circuit defects as small as 8 micrometers across (or about half the diameter of the finest human hair), they report online today in Science Advances. In the short term, the most likely use for the technique might be quality control in factories making computer chips. But in the longer term, the technique could be used to scrutinize thin sections of biological tissue for signs of disease, the researchers suggest.

Submission + - Mantis named after Ruth Bader Ginsburg may usher in new way to classify insects (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: A new species of praying mantis has been identified based on female genitals for the first time, a break from the traditional use of male genitalia for insect species classification. Male genitalia have long been preferred because of their seemingly wider—and more easily observed—variety of shapes and sizes. Ilomantis ginsburgae is a leaf-dwelling mantis from Madagascar, according to a new study. It was named in honor of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong supporter of gender equality and a regular wearer of jabot collars, which resemble the neck plate of the insect. The scientists hope that this new identification will help make species classification easier by increasing the number of possible ways to differentiate bugs.

Submission + - World War II, Opium Wars recorded in ocean's corals (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: On 7 January 1841, the U.K. iron steamer Nemesis exploded a Chinese ship with a rocket in a battle during the First Opium War—a conflict between China and the United Kingdom over trade. That shot, along with other explosions and gunfire, would have spewed the toxic metal mercury into the air. Now, a new study suggests that corals in the South China Sea may have taken up the metal, keeping a record of this and future wars locked in their skeletons. The finding provides a look at how humans have been polluting the ocean throughout history, and may help us understand how the metal travels in our atmosphere today.

Submission + - Subtle psychological manipulations help people make smarter financial decisions (sciencemag.org) 1

sciencehabit writes: Over the past 5 years, on behalf of state governments, nearly 100,000 Americans were gently manipulated by a team of social scientists. In 15 randomized, controlled trials, people in need of social services either encountered the standard application process or received a psychological nudge, in which the information was presented slightly differently—a postcard reminded them of deadlines, for example, or one choice was made easier than another. In 11 of the trials, the nudge modestly increased a person’s response rate or influenced them to make financially smarter choices.

The results, to be presented tomorrow at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Chicago, Illinois, add to the growing evidence that nudges developed by psychologists can make a real difference in the success of government programs. “These interventions have positive effects,” says Sim Sitkin, director of the Behavioral Science & Policy Center at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who was not involved with the nudge trials. “They should be applied now.”

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