Space

The Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility: Where Spacecraft Go To Die (bbc.com) 74

dryriver writes: Whether you launch a satellite into space or an entire space station like the Russian Mir, the Chinese Tiangong-1 or the International Space Station, what goes up must eventually come down -- re-enter earth's atmosphere. The greater the mass of what is in space -- Mir weighed 120 tons, the ISS weighs 450 tons and will be decommissioned in a decade -- the greater the likelihood that larger parts will not burn up completely during re-entry and crash to earth at high velocity. So there is a need for a place on earth where things falling back from space are least likely to cause damage or human casualties. The Oceanic Pole Of Inaccessibility is one of two such places.

The place furthest away from land -- it lies in the South Pacific some 2,700km (1,680 miles) south of the Pitcairn Islands -- somewhere in the no-man's land, or rather no-man's-sea, between Australia, New Zealand and South America, has become a favorite crash site for returning space equipment. "Scattered over an area of approximately 1,500 sq km (580 sq miles) on the ocean floor of this region is a graveyard of satellites. At last count there were more than 260 of them, mostly Russian," reports the BBC. "The wreckage of the Space Station Mir also lies there... Many times a year the supply module that goes to the International Space Station burns up in this region incinerating the station's waste." The International Space Station will also be carefully brought down in this region when its mission ends. No one is in any danger because of this controlled re-entry into our atmosphere. The region is not fished because oceanic currents avoid the area and do not bring nutrients to it, making marine life scarce.

Idle

Data Science Meets Sports Gambling: How Researchers Beat the Bookies (newscientist.com) 65

"A trio of data scientists developed a betting strategy to beat bookmakers at football games," writes austro. [The game Americans call soccer.] New Scientist reports: The team studied 10 years' worth of data on nearly half a million football matches and the associated odds offered by 32 bookmakers between January 2005 and June 2015. When they applied their strategy in a simulation, they made a return of 3.5 per cent. Making bets randomly resulted in a loss of 3.32 per cent. Then the team decided to try betting for real. They developed an online tool that would apply their odds-averaging formula to upcoming football matches. When a favorable opportunity arose, a member of the team would email Kaunitz and his wife, one of whom then placed a bet.

They kept this up for five months, placing $50 bets around 30 times a week. And they were winning. After five months the team had made a profit of $957.50 -- a return of 8.5 per cent. But their streak was cut short. Following a series of several small wins, the trio were surprised to find that their accounts had been limited, restricting how much they could bet to as little as $1.25. The gambling industry has long restricted players who appear to show an edge over the house, says Mark Griffiths at Nottingham Trent University, UK.

The paper "illustrates how the sports gambling industry compensates market inefficiencies with discriminatory practices against successful clients," adds austro, noting that the researchers posted a paper explaining their methodology on arxiv last week. "They also made the dataset and source code available on github. And best of all, they made an online publicly available dashboard that shows a live list of bet recommendations on football matches based on their strategy here or here for anyone to try."
Space

Blue Origin Successfully Test Fires Game-Changing BE-4 Rocket Engine (geekwire.com) 95

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture has successfully test-fired its BE-4 rocket engine, marking a key step in the development of its own New Glenn rocket as well as United Launch Alliance's next-generation rocket. GeekWire reports: ULA has been waiting for months to get good news about the BE-4 tests in West Texas. The company wanted to see a successful full-scale test before going ahead with plans to use the BE-4 engine on its Vulcan rocket, which is due to have its first flight in 2019. A Blue Origin competitor, Aerojet Rocketdyne, has been waiting in the wings with its AR1 engine, which ULA saw as a "Plan B" for the Vulcan in case the BE-4 faltered. Wednesday's initial hot-firing didn't reach full power or full duration, but the test's success nevertheless reduces the likelihood that ULA would turn to the AR1. The BE-4 engine, which uses liquefied natural gas as fuel, is built at Blue Origin's production facility in Kent, Wash., and shipped down to Texas for testing. Assuming that it's accepted for ULA's use, engine production will eventually shift to a factory in Huntsville, Ala. Engines for the orbital-class New Glenn rocket will go to Blue Origin's rocket factory in Florida, which is due to be completed by the end of this year.
Medicine

Doctors To Breathalyse Smokers Before Allowing Them NHS Surgery (bbc.com) 482

Smokers in Hertfordshire, a county in southern England, are to be breathalysed to ensure they have kicked the habit before they are referred for non-urgent surgery. From a report, shared by several readers: Smokers will be breath-tested before they are considered for non-urgent surgery, two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have decided. Patients in Hertfordshire must stop smoking at least eight weeks before surgery or it may be delayed. Obese patients have also been told they must lose weight in order to have non-urgent surgery. The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said the plan seemed to be "against the principles of the NHS (the publicly funded national healthcare system for England)." A joint committee of the Hertfordshire Valleys and the East and North Hertfordshire CCGs, which made the decisions, said they had to "make best use of the money and resources available." Patients with a body mass index (BMI) of over 40 must lose 15% of their weight and those with a BMI of over 30 must lose 10%, or reduce it to under a 40 BMI or a 30 BMI - whichever is the greater amount. The lifestyle changes to reduce weight must take place over nine months.
Moon

Discovery of 50km Cave Raises Hopes For Human Colonisation of Moon (theguardian.com) 139

New submitter Zorro shares a report: Scientists have fantasised for centuries about humans colonising the moon. That day may have drawn a little closer after Japan's space agency said it had discovered an enormous cave beneath the lunar surface that could be turned into an exploration base for astronauts. The discovery, by Japan's Selenological and Engineering Explorer (Selene) probe, comes as several countries vie to follow the US in sending manned missions to the moon. Using a radar sounder system that can examine underground structures, the orbiter initially found an opening 50 metres wide and 50 metres deep, prompting speculation that there could be a larger hollow. This week scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) confirmed the presence of a cave after examining the hole using radio waves. The chasm, 50km (31 miles) long and 100 metres wide, appears to be structurally sound and its rocks may contain ice or water deposits that could be turned into fuel, according to data sent back by the orbiter, nicknamed Kaguya after the moon princess in a Japanese fairytale. Jaxa believes the cave, located from a few dozen metres to 200 metres beneath an area of volcanic domes known as the Marius Hills on the moon's near side, is a lava tube created during volcanic activity about 3.5bn years ago.
Earth

Turning the Optical Fiber Network Into a Giant Earthquake Sensor (ieee.org) 15

Tekla Perry writes: Researchers at Stanford have demonstrated that they can use ordinary, underground fiber optic cables to monitor for earthquakes, by using innate impurities in the fiber as virtual sensors. "People didn't believe this would work," said one of the researchers. "They always assumed that an uncoupled optical fiber would generate too much signal noise to be useful." They plan a larger test installation in 2018. Their biggest challenge, they say, will not be perfecting the algorithms but rather convincing telcos to allow the technology to piggyback on existing telecommunications lines. Meanwhile, the same data is being used for an art project that visualizes the activity of pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and fountains on the surface above the cables.
Earth

Flying Insects Have Been Disappearing Over the Past Few Decades, Study Shows (theguardian.com) 178

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists. Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is "on course for ecological Armageddon," with profound impacts on human society. The new data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany but has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture, the researchers said. The cause of the huge decline is as yet unclear, although the destruction of wild areas and widespread use of pesticides are the most likely factors and climate change may play a role. The scientists were able to rule out weather and changes to landscape in the reserves as causes, but data on pesticide levels has not been collected. The research, published in the journal Plos One, is based on the work of dozens of amateur entomologists across Germany who began using strictly standardized ways of collecting insects in 1989.
Medicine

Intelligent People More At Risk of Mental Illness, Study Finds (independent.co.uk) 274

schwit1 shares a report from The Independent: The stereotype of a tortured genius may have a basis in reality after a new study found that people with higher IQs are more at risk of developing mental illness. A team of U.S. researchers surveyed 3,715 members of American Mensa with an IQ higher than 130. An "average IQ score" or "normal IQ score" can be defined as a score between 85 and 115. The team asked the Mensa members to report whether they had been diagnoses with mental illnesses, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They were also asked to report mood and anxiety disorders, or whether the suspected they suffered from any mental illnesses that had yet to be diagnosed, as well as physiological diseases, like food allergies and asthma. After comparing this with the statistical national average for each illness they found that those in the Mensa community had considerably higher rates of varying disorders. While 10 per cent of the general population were diagnosed with anxiety disorder, that rose to 20 percent among the Mensa community, according to the study which published in the Science Direct journal.
Science

Over 30,000 Published Studies Could Be Wrong Due To Contaminated Cells (sciencealert.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Alert: Researchers warn that large parts of biomedical science could be invalid due to a cascading history of flawed data in a systemic failure going back decades. A new investigation reveals more than 30,000 published scientific studies could be compromised by their use of misidentified cell lines, owing to so-called immortal cells contaminating other research cultures in the lab. The problem is as serious as it is simple: researchers studying lung cancer publish a new paper, only it turns out the tissue they were actually using in the lab were liver cells. Or what they thought were human cells were mice cells, or vice versa, or something else entirely. If you think that sounds bad, you're right, as it means the findings of each piece of affected research may be flawed, and could even be completely unreliable.

Horback and fellow researcher Willem Halffman wanted to know how extensive the phenomenon of misidentified cell lines really was, so they searched for evidence of what they call "contaminated" scientific literature. Using the research database Web of Science, they looked for scientific articles based on any of the known misidentified cell lines as listed by the International Cell Line Authentication Committee's (ICLAC) Register of Misidentified Cell Lines.There are currently 451 cell lines on this list, and they're not what you think they are -- having been contaminated by other kinds of cells at some point in scientific history. Worse still, they've been unwittingly used in published laboratory research going as far back as the 1950s.

Science

Peer Pressure Forced Whales and Dolphins To Evolve Big Brains Like Humans, Says Study (qz.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: The human brain has evolved and expanded over millennia to accommodate our ever-more-complex needs and those of our societies. This process is known as "encephalization" and has given us the big brain we need to communicate, cooperate, reach consensus, empathize, and socialize. The same is true for cetaceans, like whales and dolphins, it seems. These sea creatures also grew big brains in order to better live in societies, according to a study published on Oct. 16 in Nature Ecology & Evolution. According to Michael Muthukrishna, an economic psychologist at the London School of Economics and co-author of the study, the researchers used two related theories, the Social-Brain Hypothesis and the Cultural-Brain Hypothesis, to make predictions about various relationships between brain size, societal organization, and the breadth of behaviors the cetaceans would display. Then they tested these predictions by creating and evaluating a comprehensive database of cetacean brain size, social structures, and cultural behaviors across species using data from prior studies on 90 types of whales and dolphins.

The study found that cetaceans had complex alliances and communications, played and worked together for mutual benefit, and could even work with other species, like humans. Some also have individual signifiers, sounds that set them apart from others, and can mimic the sounds of others. In addition, it found that brain size predicted the breadth of social and cultural behaviors of these marine creatures (though ecological factors, like prey diversity and latitudinal range, also played a role). The researchers concluded there was a tie between cetacean encephalization, social structure, and group size.

Google

Google Maps Now Lets You Explore Your Local Planets and Moons (cnet.com) 53

Google has added three planets and nine moons to Google Maps. "The heavenly bodies include Saturn moons Dione, Enceladus, Iapetus, Mimas, Rhea and Titan, and Jupiter moons Europa, Ganymede and Io," reports CNET. "Google also added dwarf-planets Pluto and Ceres and full-planet Venus." From the report: Once inside Google Maps for planets, you can spin the space objects around, get more information on their place names and zoom in for a closer look. The new worlds are possible thanks to imagery from NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's dearly departed Cassini spacecraft sent back a treasure trove of views of Saturn's moons. If you have a few moments to spare, fire up a browser, go to your current location on Google Maps, enter satellite mode and hit the zoom-out button until you've left the planet and are "floating" in space. A list of available planets and moons pops up on the side and you're off on your space adventure.
Android

Essential Is Getting Sued For Allegedly Stealing Wireless Connector Technology (gizmodo.com) 43

"Keyssa, a wireless technology company backed by iPod creator and Nest founder Tony Fadell, filed a lawsuit against Essential on Monday, alleging that the company stole trade secrets and breached their nondisclosure agreement," reports Gizmodo. Keyssa has proprietary technology that reportedly lets users transfer large files in a matter of seconds by holding two devices side by side. From the report: According to the lawsuit, Keyssa and Essential engaged in conversations in which the wireless tech company "divulged to Essential proprietary technology enabling every facet of Keyssa's wireless connectivity," all of which was protected under a non-disclosure agreement. More specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Keyssa "deployed a team 20 of its top engineers and scientists" to educate Essential on its proprietary tech, sending them "many thousands of confidential emails, hundreds of confidential technical documents, and dozens of confidential presentations." Essential ended this relationship after over 10 months and later told Keyssa that its engineers would use a competing chip in the Essential Phone. But Keyssa is accusing Essential of including techniques in its phone that were gleaned from their relationship, despite their confidentiality agreement. Central to this lawsuit is one of the Essential Phone's key selling points: the option to swap in modular add-ons, made possible thanks to the phone's unique cordless connector. In short, if Keyssa's claims hold water, then one of the phone's defining factors is a product of theft.
Earth

Ophelia Became a Major Hurricane Where No Storm Had Before (arstechnica.com) 180

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The system formerly known as Hurricane Ophelia is moving into Ireland on Monday, bringing "status red" weather throughout the day to the island. The Irish National Meteorological Service, Met Eireann, has warned that, "Violent and destructive gusts of 120 to 150km/h are forecast countrywide, and in excess of these values in some very exposed and hilly areas. There is a danger to life and property." Ophelia transitioned from a hurricane to an extra-tropical system on Sunday, but that only marginally diminished its threat to Ireland and the United Kingdom on Monday, before it likely dissipates near Norway on Tuesday. The primary threat from the system was high winds, with heavy rains. Forecasters marveled at the intensification of Ophelia on Saturday, as it reached Category 3 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale and became a major hurricane. For a storm in the Atlantic basin, this is the farthest east that a major hurricane has been recorded during the satellite era of observations. Additionally, it was the farthest north, at 35.9 degrees north, that an Atlantic major hurricane has existed this late in the year since 1939.
United States

Leave It To the Heat to Dull Autumn's Glory (wsj.com) 140

It's autumn. Somebody tell the trees. From a report: Ordinarily, two signals alert deciduous trees that it's time to relinquish the green hues of summer in favor of autumn's yellows, oranges and reds. First, the days begin to grow shorter. Second, the temperature begins to drop. But this year, unseasonably warm weather across most of the U.S. has tricked trees into delaying the onset of fall's color extravaganza. Temperatures in the eastern half of the country have been as much as 15 degrees above normal since mid-September, and the warmth is expected to persist through the end of October. The unfortunate result for leaf peepers is a lackluster fall. Two kinds of pigments produce the season's liveliest foliage. Carotenoid, responsible for yellows and oranges, is always present in leaves but is usually masked by chlorophyll. The initial trigger for its appearance is shorter days. Anthocyanin, responsible for reds and deep purples, is different. Not all deciduous trees have this pigment, and those that do manufacture it from scratch in the fall. The primary trigger for its appearance is lower temperatures. Without that cooling cue, the colors of maple and other species that generally ignite New England with brilliant reds this time of year are likely to fizzle.
Science

Astronomers Strike Gravitational Gold In Colliding Neutron Stars (npr.org) 109

For the first time, scientists have caught two neutron stars in the act of colliding, revealing that these strange smash-ups are the source of heavy elements such as gold and platinum. From a report: The discovery, announced today at a news conference and in scientific reports written by some 3,500 researchers, solves a long-standing mystery about the origin of these heavy elements -- which are found in everything from wedding rings to cellphones to nuclear weapons. It's also a dramatic demonstration of how astrophysics is being transformed by humanity's newfound ability to detect gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time that are created when massive objects spin around each other and finally collide. "It's so beautiful. It's so beautiful it makes me want to cry. It's the fulfillment of dozens, hundreds, thousands of people's efforts, but it's also the fulfillment of an idea suddenly becoming real," says Peter Saulson of Syracuse University, who has spent more than three decades working on the detection of gravitational waves. Albert Einstein predicted the existence of these ripples more than a century ago, but scientists didn't manage to detect them until 2015. Until now, they'd made only four such detections, and each time the distortions in space-time were caused by the collision of two black holes. That bizarre phenomenon, however, can't normally be seen by telescopes that look for light. Neutron stars, by contrast, spew out visible cosmic fireworks when they come together. These incredibly dense stars are as small as cities like New York and yet have more mass than our sun. Further reading: 'A New Rosetta Stone for Astronomy' (The Atlantic), and Gravitational Wave Astronomers Hit Mother Lode (Scientific American).
China

China's Scientists Set New International Record -- For Faked Peer Reviews (nytimes.com) 74

China now has more laboratory scientists than any other country in the world, reports Amy Qin in the New York Times, and spends more on research than the entire European Union. But in its rush to dominance, China has stood out in another, less boastful way. Since 2012, the country has retracted more scientific papers because of faked peer reviews than all other countries and territories put together, according to Retraction Watch, a blog that tracks and seeks to publicize retractions of research papers... In April, a scientific journal retracted 107 biology research papers, the vast majority of them written by Chinese authors, after evidence emerged that they had faked glowing reviews of their articles. Then, this summer, a Chinese gene scientist who had won celebrity status for breakthroughs once trumpeted as Nobel Prize-worthy was forced to retract his research when other scientists failed to replicate his results. At the same time, a government investigation highlighted the existence of a thriving online black market that sells everything from positive peer reviews to entire research articles...

In part, these numbers may simply reflect the enormous scale of the world's most populous nation. But Chinese scientists also blame what they call the skewed incentives they say are embedded within their nation's academic system.

Social Networks

Elon Musk Teases Reddit With Bad Answers About BFR Rocket (reddit.com) 100

Long-time Slashdot reader Rei writes: On Saturday evening, Elon Musk took questions in a Reddit AMA (Ask-Me-Anything) concerning SpaceX's new design for the BFR (Big F* Rocket). But unlike the 2016 IAC conference where many audience questions seemed to be trolling Musk, this time the tables were turned. Asked why Raptor thrust was reduced from 300 tons to 170, Musk replied, "We chickened out." He responded to a statement about landing on the moon by quoting Bob the Builder, while responding to a user's suggestion about caching internet data from Mars by writing simply "Nerd." A question as to whether BFR autogenous pressurization would be heat-exchanger based, Musk replied that they planned to utilize the Incendio spell from Harry Potter -- helpfully providing a Wikipedia link for the spell.

A technical question about the lack of a tail? "Tails are lame." A question about why the number of landing legs was increased from 3 to 4? "Because 4." After one Redditor observed "This is one bizarre AMA so far," Musk replied "Just wait..." While Musk ultimately did follow up some of the trolling with some actual responses, the overall event could be best described as "surreal".

To be fair, Musk provided some serious answers. (And his final comment ended with "Great questions nk!!") But one Redditor suggested Musk's stranger answers were like a threat, along the lines of "Just wait. It will get way more bizarre than that. Let me finish my whiskey."

Musk replied, "How did you know? I am actually drinking whiskey right now. Really."
Biotech

Scientists Selectively Trigger Suicide In Cancer Cells (scitechdaily.com) 47

Long-time Slashdot reader Baron_Yam quotes SciTechDaily: A team of researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine reveals the first compound that directly makes cancer cells commit suicide while sparing healthy cells. The new treatment approach was directed against acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells but may also have potential for attacking other types of cancers.... AML accounts for nearly one-third of all new leukemia cases and kills more than 10,000 Americans each year. The survival rate for patients has remained at about 30 percent for several decades, so better treatments are urgently needed.
The team's computer screened a million compounds to determine the 500 most likely to bind to the "executioner protein" in cells. They then synthesized them all in their lab and evaluated their effectiveness.
China

8.5-Ton Chinese Space Station Will Crash To Earth In a Few Months (cnbc.com) 104

dryriver writes: China launched a space laboratory named Tiangong 1 into orbit in 2011. The space laboratory was supposed to become a symbol of China's ambitious bid to become a space superpower. After two years in space, Tiangong 1 started experiencing technical failure. Last year Chinese officials confirmed that the space laboratory had to be scrapped. The 8.5 ton heavy space laboratory has begun its descent towards Earth and is expected to crash back to Earth within the next few months.

Most of the laboratory is expected to burn up in earth's atmosphere, but experts believe that pieces as heavy as 100 kilograms (220 pounds) may survive re-entry and impact earth's surface. Nobody will be able to predict with any precision where those chunks of space laboratory will land on Earth until a few hours before re-entry occurs. The chance that anyone would be harmed by Tiangong-1's debris is considered unlikely.


When NASA's SkyLab fell to earth in 1979, an Australian town fined them $400 -- for littering.
Data Storage

Microwave Tech Could Produce 40TB Hard Drives In the Near Future (gizmodo.com) 151

Western Digital has announced a potential game changer that promises to expand the limits of traditional HDDs to up to 40TBs using a microwave-based write head, and the company says it will be able to the public in 2019. Gizmodo reports: Western Digital's new approach, microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR), can utilize the company's existing production chain to cram a lot more storage onto a 3.5-inch disk. In a technical overview, Western Digital says it has managed to overcome the biggest issue with traditional HDD drive storage -- the size of the write head. These days, an average hard drive maxes out in the 10-14TB range. But by integrating a new write head, "a spin torque oscillator," microwaves can create the energy levels necessary for copying data within a lower magnetic field than was ever previously possible. There's a more thorough white paper for those who want to dive in. According to Western Digital, MAMR has "the capability to extend areal density gains up to 4 Terabits per square inch." By the year 2025, it hopes to be packing 40TBs into the same size drive it offers today.

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