cold fjord writes "A healthcare provider has sued the Internal Revenue Service and 15 of its agents, charging they wrongfully seized 60 million medical records from 10 million Americans ... [The unnamed company alleges] the agency violated the Fourth Amendment in 2011, when agents executed a search warrant for financial data on one employee – and that led to the seizure of information on 10 million, including state judges. The search warrant did not specify that the IRS could take medical information, UPI said. And information technology officials warned the IRS about the potential to violate medical privacy laws before agents executed the warrant, the complaint said." Also at Nextgov.com.
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The Associated Press (as carried by the Washington Post) reports that a living payload of newts and mice has been retrieved after a month orbiting earth in a Russian space capsule at an altitude of 345 miles, far higher than the ISS's orbital distance of 205 miles. Says the story: "Fewer than half of the 53 mice and other rodents who blasted off on April 19 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome survived the flight, Russian news agencies reported, quoting Vladimir Sychov, deputy director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems and the lead researcher. Sychov said this was to be expected and the surviving mice were sufficient to complete the study, which was designed to show the effects of weightlessness and other factors of space flight on cell structure. All 15 of the lizards survived, he said. The capsule also carried small crayfish and fish."
New submitter GoJays writes "An 18-year-old from Saratoga, California has won an international science fair for creating an energy storage device that can be fully juiced in 20 to 30 seconds. The fast-charging device is a so-called supercapacitor, a gizmo that can pack a lot of energy into a tiny space, charges quickly and holds its charge for a long time. What's more, it can last for 10,000 charge-recharge cycles, compared with 1,000 cycles for conventional rechargeable batteries, according to the inventor Eesha Khare." This one in particular has been used so far only to power an LED, rather than a phone or laptop, but I hope in a few years near-instant charging of portable electronics will be the norm as supercapacitors grow more common.
From a NASA press release published Friday: "For the past 8 years, NASA astronomers have been monitoring the Moon for signs of explosions caused by meteoroids hitting the lunar surface. 'Lunar meteor showers' have turned out to be more common than anyone expected, with hundreds of detectable impacts occurring every year. They've just seen the biggest explosion in the history of the program." Watch the flash for yourself.
New submitter SessionExpired writes "Five 9th graders from Denmark have shown that garden cress won't germinate when placed near a router (Google Translation of Danish original). Article text is in Danish, but the pictures illustrate their results. The exact mechanism is still unknown (Danish original), but experts have shown interest in reproducing the experiment."
An anonymous reader writes "A meta-study published yesterday looked at over 12,000 peer-reviewed papers on climate science that appeared in journals between 1991 and 2011. The papers were evaluated and categorized by how they implicitly or explicitly endorsed humans as a contributing cause of global warming. The meta-study found that an overwhelming 97.1% of the papers that took a stance endorsed human-cause global warming. They also asked the 1,200 of the scientists involved in the research to self-evaluate their own studies, with nearly identical results. In the interest of transparency, the meta-study results were published in an open access journal, and the researchers set up a website so that anybody can check their results. From the article: '... a memo from communications strategist Frank Luntz leaked in 2002 advised Republicans, "Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate." This campaign has been successful. A 2012 poll from U.S. Pew Research Center found less than half of Americans thought scientists agreed humans were causing global warming. The media has assisted in this public misconception, with most climate stories "balanced" with a "skeptic" perspective. However, this results in making the 2–3% seem like 50%. In trying to achieve "balance," the media has actually created a very unbalanced perception of reality. As a result, people believe scientists are still split about what's causing global warming, and therefore there is not nearly enough public support or motivation to solve the problem.'"
astroengine writes "After nine years of hard Mars roving, Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity has broken a 40-year-old extraterrestrial distance record. On Thursday, the tenacious six-wheeled robot drove 80 meters (263 feet), nudging the total distance traveled since landing on the red planet in 2004 to 35.760 kilometers (22.220 miles). NASA's previous distance record was held by Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt when, in December 1972, they drove their Lunar Roving Vehicle 35.744 kilometers (22.210 miles) over the lunar surface. Although it's broken the NASA distance record, it hasn't surpassed the international record, yet. The Soviet Lunokhod 2 remote-controlled moon rover roved 37 kilometers (23 miles) across the lunar surface and, so far, remains the undisputed champion of distance driving on an extraterrestrial surface."
sciencehabit writes "If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic, simple tasks like splitting the dinner bill can be excruciating. Now, a new study suggests that a gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain can boost math performance for up to 6 months. Researchers don't fully understand how it works, however, and there could be side effects." We've covered various other potential benefits to having your brain shocked.
jfruh writes "Larry Page revealed that he'd been suffering from a vocal cord ailment that impaired his ability to speak for more than a year. The positive feedback he got from opening up about it inspired him to tell attendees at Google I/O that we should all be less uptight about keeping our medical records private. As far as Page is concerned, pretty much the only legitimate reason for worry on this score is fear of being denied health insurance. 'Maybe we should change the rules around insurance so that they have to insure people,' he said."
astroengine writes "Dust devils are a well-known atmospheric phenomena on Mars, and as these new HiRISE observations show, the devilish vorticies can carve beautiful patterns in the Martian dust. What's more — in side-by-side comparisons of observations of the same Mars region years apart — it appears that the active Mars atmosphere acts like an Etch A Sketch, rubbing out the dust devils' tracks, only for the dust devils to make brand new tracks years later."
ananyo writes "Scientists working 2.4 kilometers below Earth's surface in a Canadian mine have tapped a source of water that has remained isolated for at least a billion years. The researchers say they do not yet know whether anything has been living in it all this time, but the water contains high levels of methane and hydrogen — the right stuff to support life. Micrometer-scale pockets in minerals billions of years old can hold water that was trapped during the minerals' formation. But no source of free-flowing water passing through interconnected cracks or pores in Earth's crust has previously been shown to have stayed isolated for more than tens of millions of years (paper abstract)."
ananyo writes "D-Wave, the small company that sells the world's only commercial quantum computer, has just bagged an impressive new customer: a collaboration between Google, NASA and the non-profit Universities Space Research Association. The three organizations have joined forces to install a D-Wave Two, the computer company's latest model, in a facility launched by the collaboration — the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab at NASA's Ames Research Center. The lab will explore areas such as machine learning — useful for functions such as language translation, image searches and voice-command recognition. The Google-led collaboration is only the second customer to buy computer from D-Wave — Lockheed Martin was the first."
davecb writes "The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has recently published two notices for patent examiners relating to patent interpretation, and in particular computer-related/business method type patents saying: 'for example, what appears on its face to be a claim for an "art" or a "process" may, on a proper construction, be a claim for a mathematical formula and therefore not patentable subject matter.'"
cyachallenge writes "Scientists say they have, for the first time, cloned human embryos capable of producing embryonic stem cells. 'We had to find the perfect combination,' Mitalipov says. As it turned out, that perfect combination included something surprising: caffeine. That ingredient, plus other tweaks in the process, including using fresh eggs and determining the optimal stage of each egg's development, Mitalipov says."
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Wired: "[Henry] Markram was proposing a project that has bedeviled AI researchers for decades, that most had presumed was impossible. He wanted to build a working mind from the ground up. ... The self-assured scientist claims that the only thing preventing scientists from understanding the human brain in its entirety — from the molecular level all the way to the mystery of consciousness — is a lack of ambition. If only neuroscience would follow his lead, he insists, his Human Brain Project could simulate the functions of all 86 billion neurons in the human brain, and the 100 trillion connections that link them. And once that's done, once you've built a plug-and-play brain, anything is possible. You could take it apart to figure out the causes of brain diseases. You could rig it to robotics and develop a whole new range of intelligent technologies. You could strap on a pair of virtual reality glasses and experience a brain other than your own."
HyperbolicParabaloid writes "According to the New York Times, an equipment failure on the Kepler spacecraft may mean the end of its planet-hunting mission. One of the reaction wheels that maintains the craft's orientation — critical to long-exposure imaging — has failed. 'In January engineers noticed that one of the reaction wheels that keep the spacecraft pointed was experiencing too much friction. They shut the spacecraft down for a couple of weeks to give it a rest, in the hopes that the wheel’s lubricant would spread out and solve the problem. But when they turned it back on, the friction was still there. Until now, the problem had not interfered with observations, which are scheduled to go on until at least 2016. Kepler was launched with four reaction wheels, but one failed last year after showing signs of erratic friction. Three wheels are required to keep Kepler properly and precisely aimed. Loss of the wheel has robbed it of the ability to detect Earth-size planets, although project managers hope to remedy the situation. The odds, astronomers said, are less than 50-50.'"
sciencehabit writes "From the human perspective, few events in evolution were more momentous than the split among primates that led to apes (large, tailless primates such as today's gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans) and Old World monkeys (which today include baboons and macaques). DNA studies of living primates have estimated that the rift took place between 25 million and 30 million years ago, but the earliest known fossils of both groups date no earlier than 20 million years ago. Now, a team working in Tanzania has found teeth and partial jaws from what it thinks are 25-million-year-old ancestors of both groups. If the interpretations hold up (abstract), the finds would reconcile the molecular and fossil evidence and possibly provide insights into what led to the split in the first place."
MTorrice writes "A low-cost chemical process can turn hemp fiber into carbon nanomaterials. Researchers used the materials to make devices called supercapacitors that provide quick bursts of electrical energy. Supercapacitors made with the hemp nanosheets put out more power than commercial devices can." According to one of the authors, "Hemp bast is a nanocomposite made up of layers of lignin, hemicellulose, and crystalline cellulose ... If you process it the right way, it separates into nanosheets similar to graphene." Perhaps the process could be applied to related plants (hops?) too.
ananyo writes "Global warming is changing the location of Earth's geographic poles, according to a study published this week. Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, report that increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet — and to a lesser degree, ice loss in other parts of the globe — helped to shift the North Pole several centimeters east each year since 2005. From 1982 to 2005, the pole drifted southeast towards northern Labrador, Canada, at a rate of about 2 milliarcseconds — or roughly 6 centimetres — per year. But in 2005, the pole changed course and began galloping east towards Greenland at a rate of more than 7 milliarcseconds per year (abstract). The results suggest that tracking polar shifts can serve as a check on current estimates of ice loss. Scientists can locate the north and south poles to within 0.03 milliarcseconds by using Global Positioning System measurements to determine the angle of Earth's spin. When mass is lost in one part of a spinning sphere, its spin axis will tilt directly towards the position of the loss — exactly as the team observed for Greenland."
theodp writes "Last summer, unspecified voice problems caused Google CEO Larry Page to miss Google's Annual Shareholder Meeting, the I/O conference, and a quarterly earnings call. Now, Page has come forward and revealed that he suffers from partial paralysis of each of his vocal chords, an 'extremely rare' condition. Not unlike what Sergey Brin and his wife are doing with Parkinson's research, Page and his wife will be funding and overseeing 'a significant research program' led by Dr. Steven Zeitels of Harvard Medical School."