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Submission + - Link Between Salt and High Blood Pressure 'Overstated' (

An anonymous reader writes: Diagnosed with high blood pressure? If so, you were probably told to moderate or avoid the use salt in your food. Well, a new study (abstract found that salt is not associated with systolic blood pressure after controlling for other factors. The study found that BMI, age, and alcohol consumption all strongly influenced blood pressure, and concluded that maintaining a healthy body weight was the best way to counteract it. The publication of this research follows a CDC report from Tuesday decrying the amount of salt in children's diets — a report that lists high blood pressure as one of its main concerns. The debate on this issue is far from over, and it'll take years to sort out all the contradictory evidence.

Submission + - Exomoon Detection Technique Greatly Expands List of Potential Habitable Systems

Luminary Crush writes: Most of the detected exoplanets thus far have been gas giants which aren't great candidates for life as we know it. However, many of those planets are in fact in the star's habitable zone and could have moons with conditions more favorable. Until now, methods to detect the moons of such gas giants have been elusive, but researchers at the University of Texas, Arlington have discovered a way to detect the interaction of a moon's ionosphere with the parent gas giant from studies of Jupiter's moon Io. The search for 'Pandora' has begun.

Submission + - Munich Council say talk of LiMux demise is greatly exaggerated (

ndogg writes: The rumors of Munich city going back to Microsoft seem to have been greatly exaggerated. There was a review of the city's IT systems that was called for by the mayor, but it wasn't solely just to decide on whether to move back to Microsoft. And while there have been complaints about LiMux, they mostly seem to concern compatibility with, which may well be resolved by switching to LibreOffice.

Submission + - SLS needs more money ... (

schwit1 writes: Surprise, surprise! A GAO report finds that SLS is over budget and that NASA will need an additional $400 million to complete its first orbital launch in 2017.

NASA isn’t meeting its own requirements for matching cost and schedule resources with the congressional requirement to launch the first SLS in December 2017. NASA usually uses a calculation it calls the “joint cost and schedule confidence level” to decide the odds a program will come in on time and on budget. “NASA policy usually requires a 70 percent confidence level for a program to proceed with final design and fabrication,” the GAO report says, and the SLS is not at that level. The report adds that government programs that can’t match requirements to resources “are at increased risk of cost and schedule growth.”

In other words, the GAO says SLS is at risk of costing more than the current estimate of $12 billion to reach the first launch or taking longer to get there. Similar cost and schedule problems – although of a larger magnitude – led President Obama to cancel SLS’s predecessor rocket system called Constellation shortly after taking office.

The current $12 billion estimate for the program’s cost to achieve one unmanned launch. That is four times what it is costing NASA to get SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to build their three spaceships, all scheduled for first manned launch before 2017. SLS not only can’t get off the ground before 2017, it can’t even get built for $12 billion!

If this isn’t the definition of a wasteful, boondoggle designed merely as pork, then what is? There is no way SLS is going to ever get the USA back into space. It should be shut down, now.

Submission + - How Hard Is It to Shoot Down a Plane? (

astroengine writes: Ukrainian government officials say Russian-backed rebel forces shot down a Malaysian Airlines flight with 295 passengers and crew over the embattled border region on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The commercial flight was cruising at 33,000 feet, making it too high for a shoulder-launched missile and more likely that it was targeted by a radar-guided missile defense system, according to military experts. “It does seem depressingly likely,” said Mark Galeotti, a professor of global affairs at New York University currently studying Russian security issues in Moscow. “We know the rebels have the Buk missile system. We know they have shot down planes in the past. They may have believed it was a legitimate target.” Although the Buk system is designed to shoot down fast-moving military aircraft, a high-flying jetliner would have been an easy target. And although it would have been carrying a civilian transponder, if the anti-aircraft missile was being operated by a novice controller, mistakes were most likely made.

Submission + - Want To Ensure Your Personal Android Data Is Truly Wiped? Turn On Encryption ( 1

MojoKid writes: We've been around the block enough times to know that outside of shredding a storage medium, all data is recoverable. It's just matter of time, money, and effort. However, it was still sobering to find out exactly how much data security firm Avast was able to recover from Android devices it purchased from eBay, which included everything from naked selfies to even a completed loan application. Does this mean we shouldn't ever sell the old handset? Luckily, the answer is no. Avast's self-serving study was to promote its Anti-Theft app available on Google Play. The free app comes with a wipe feature that overwrites all files, thereby making them invisible to casual recovery methods. That's one approach. There's another solution that's incredibly easy and doesn't require downloading and installing anything. Before you sell your Android phone on eBay, Craigslist, or wherever, enable encryption and wait for it to encrypt the on board storage. After that, perform a wipe and reset as normal, which will obliterate the encryption key and ensure the data on your device can't be read. This may not work on certain devices, which will ask you to decrypt data before wiping but most should follow this convention just fine.

Comment Re:Colder than Earth? Not so fast. (Score 1) 34

No depth of troposphere can turn a Neptune or Pluto warmer than Earth.

Neptune's interior temperature is thought to be 7000K. Venus, a bit smaller than Earth, has a surface >500K hotter than its tropopause. I see no physical reason that this super-Earth couldn't have much more atmosphere than Venus. 220K from tropopause to surface would get you to liquid water.

Comment Colder than Earth? Not so fast. (Score 3, Interesting) 34

We know nothing about this planet's atmosphere. The low flux of energy from its star tells us that its stratosphere (if present) must be very cold, but says nothing about its surface temperature. It could have a much deeper troposphere, and thus a much stronger greenhouse effect than Earth has.

Submission + - New chemical process could make ammonia a practical car fuel 1

overThruster writes: A article says UK researchers have made a breakthrough that could make ammonia a practical source of hydrogen for fueling cars.

From the article:

"Many catalysts can effectively crack ammonia to release the hydrogen, but the best ones are very expensive precious metals. This new method is different and involves two simultaneous chemical processes rather than using a catalyst, and can achieve the same result at a fraction of the cost."

"Professor Bill David, who led the STFC research team at the ISIS Neutron Source, said "Our approach is as effective as the best current catalysts but the active material, sodium amide, costs pennies to produce. We can produce hydrogen from ammonia 'on demand' effectively and affordably.""

"Ammonia is already one of the most transported bulk chemicals worldwide. It is ammonia that is the feedstock for the fertilisers that enable the production of almost half the world's food. Increasing ammonia production is technologically straightforward and there is no obvious reason why this existing infrastructure cannot be extended so that ammonia not only feeds but powers the planet."

Comment Re:It's a gene (Score 2) 125

Someone in molecular and computational biology (like me) would also call the controlling element a gene. Science journalism is far too often full of such odd definitions and misunderstandings.

The "gene encodes a protein" idea still seems quite common in educational efforts that at least *ought* to have real scientists behind them. See, for example, page 4 of One who monitors the science news also will frequently encounter press releases like "We sequenced organism X's genome and it contains (pick a number) genes, compared to the (human gene count du jour)." Presumably molecular biologists provided these numbers, but they appear to refer to protein coding sequences only. Oh, well, it's no sillier than counting galaxies (I'm an astrophysicist, and we pretend to do that frequently).

Comment Re:It's a gene (Score 2) 125

ORF (Open Reading Frame) is typically used for the case you described, and has been for some time now.

I don't think that's what I'm getting at. To switch to a different set of metaphors, "ORF" is a syntactic term while "gene" is a semantic term. Only a subset of ORFs are transcribed, as I understand it. A sequence of letters and spaces ending with a period is not necessarily a meaningful sentence.

In any case, the original article claimed that blondness was not controlled by a "gene". But by the old definition of "gene" that's nonsense. Someone working in, say, evolutionary dynamics would certainly call the controlling element here a "gene".

Comment It's a gene (Score 4, Informative) 125

Originally, "gene" meant "heritable element". Outside of molecular biology, it still does. That DNA can encode the construction of protein was the first connection molecular biologists discovered from genotype to phenotype. This caused them to mistakenly redefine "gene", because they supposed it was the only connection. Since they have now found other kinds of heritable elements in DNA, it is time for them to revert to the older definition, and come up with some other term for the subset of genes that encode protein.

Submission + - Male Scent May Be Compromising Biomedical Research (

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have found that mice feel 36% less pain when a male researcher is in the room, versus a female researcher. The rodents are also less stressed out. The effect appears to be due to scent molecules that male mammals (including humans, dogs, and cats) have been emitting for eons. The finding could help explain why some labs have trouble replicating the results of others, and it could cause a reevaluation of decades of animal experiments: everything from the effectiveness of experimental drugs to the ability of monkeys to do math. Male odor could even influence human clinical trials. If a male doctor injects you with a new kind of pain medication, do you feel better because of the drug—or because of his gender?

Submission + - The Hackers Who Recovered NASA's Lost Lunar Photos (

An anonymous reader writes: The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project has since 2007 brought some 2,000 pictures back from 1,500 analog data tapes. They contain the first high-resolution photographs ever taken from behind the lunar horizon, including the first photo of an earthrise (first slide above). Thanks to the technical savvy and DIY engineering of the team at LOIRP, it’s being seen at a higher resolution than was ever previously possible. ... The photos were stored with remarkably high fidelity on the tapes, but at the time had to be copied from projection screens onto paper, sometimes at sizes so large that warehouses and even old churches were rented out to hang them up. The results were pretty grainy, but clear enough to identify landing sites and potential hazards. After the low-fi printing, the tapes were shoved into boxes and forgotten. ... The drives had to be rebuilt and in some cases completely re-engineered using instruction manuals or the advice of people who used to service them. The data they recovered then had to be demodulated and digitized, which added more layers of technical difficulties.

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