London museum is livestreaming a key 21st-century artifact—festering sewage

Science - Posted On:2018-08-18 14:45:00 Source: arstechnica

You can now feast your eyes on a festering chunk of solidified sewage as it ages, not-so-gracefully, inside a specially-designed isolation case that is being livestreamed from a museum in London.

Is there anything more 21st century than that?

The rancid refuse was chipped off an infamous sewer clog discovered in London late last year called the Whitechapel “Fatberg”—the preferred term for such muck monsters. The complete clog clocked in as an epic 250-meter-long, 130-metric ton mass of congealed excrement and waste, thought to be one of the largest—if not the largest—fatbergs ever identified. Authorities found it blocking a Victorian-era sewer line in the eastern Whitechapel area of the city. They spent nine long weeks in a subterranean war, hacking and blasting away the hardened blob of feces, fats, wet wipes, and various other detritus.

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Stinky, festering sewage now 21st-century artifact—watch the livestream!

Science - Posted On:2018-08-18 14:30:00 Source: arstechnica

You can now feast your eyes on a festering chunk of solidified sewage as it ages, not-so-gracefully, inside a specially-designed isolation case that is being livestreamed from a museum in London.

Is there anything more 21st century than that?

The rancid refuse was chipped off an infamous sewer clog discovered in London late last year called the Whitechapel “Fatberg”—the preferred term for such muck monsters. The complete clog clocked in as an epic 250-meter-long, 130-metric ton mass of congealed excrement and waste, thought to be one of the largest—if not the largest—fatbergs ever identified. Authorities found it blocking a Victorian-era sewer line in the eastern Whitechapel area of the city. They spent nine long weeks in a subterranean war, hacking and blasting away the hardened blob of feces, fats, wet wipes, and various other detritus.

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Two Months Later: NASA's Opportunity Rover Is Still Lost On Mars After Huge Dust Storm

science - Posted On:2018-08-18 06:14:58 Source: slashdot

Two months have passed since NASA's Opportunity Mars rover last phoned home. The last time we reported on the rover was on June 12th, when it was trying to survive an intensifying dust storm that was deemed "much worse than a 2007 storm that Opportunity weathered," according to NASA. "The previous storm had an opacity level, or tau, somewhere above 5.5; this new storm had an estimated tau of 10.8." Space.com reports on Opportunity's current status: Opportunity hasn't made a peep since June 10, when dust in the Red Planet's air got so thick that the solar-powered rover couldn't recharge its batteries. Opportunity's handlers think the six-wheeled robot has put itself into a sort of hibernation, and they still hope to get a ping once the dust storm has petered out. And there are good reasons for this optimism, NASA officials said. "Because the batteries were in relatively good health before the storm, there's not likely to be too much degradation," NASA officials wrote in an Opportunity update Thursday (Aug. 16). "And because dust storms tend to warm the environment -- and the 2018 storm happened as Opportunity's location on Mars entered summer -- the rover should have stayed warm enough to survive." Engineers are trying to communicate with Opportunity several times a week using NASA's Deep Space Network, a system of big radio dishes around the globe. They hail the robot during scheduled "wake-up times" and then listen for a response. And team members are casting a wider net, too: Every day, they sift through all radio signals received from Mars, listening for any chirp from Opportunity, NASA officials said. Even if Opportunity does eventually wake up and re-establish contact, its long ordeal may end up taking a toll on the rover. "The rover's batteries could have discharged so much power -- and stayed inactive so long -- that their capacity is reduced," NASA officials wrote in the update. "If those batteries can't hold as much charge, it could affect the rover's continued operations. It could also mean that energy-draining behavior, like running its heaters during winter, could cause the batteries to brown out." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Low-Carb Diets Could Shorten Life, Study Suggests

science - Posted On:2018-08-17 23:44:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: In the study, published in The Lancet Public Health, 15,400 people from the U.S. filled out questionnaires on the food and drink they consumed, along with portion sizes. From this, scientists estimated the proportion of calories they got from carbohydrates, fats, and protein. After following the group for an average of 25 years, researchers found that those who got 50-55% of their energy from carbohydrates (the moderate carb group) had a slightly lower risk of death compared with the low and high-carb groups. Researchers estimated that, from the age of 50, people in the moderate carb group were on average expected to live for another 33 years. This was: four years more than people who got 30% or less of their energy from carbs (extra-low-carb group); 2.3 years more than the 30%-40% (low-carb) group; and 1.1 years more than the 65% or more (high-carb) group. The scientists then compared low-carb diets rich in animal proteins and fats with those that contained lots of plant-based protein and fat. They found that eating more beef, lamb, pork, chicken and cheese in place of carbs was linked with a slightly increased risk of death. But replacing carbohydrates with more plant-based proteins and fats, such as legumes and nuts, was actually found to slightly reduce the risk of mortality. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Science Confirms That Women's Pockets Suck For Smartphones

science - Posted On:2018-08-17 21:59:59 Source: slashdot

It's a well-documented, often criticized phenomenon that women's pockets are too small to fit a smartphone, but "there's been very little data to back up a wealth of anecdotal evidence," writes Megan Farokhmanesh via The Verge. Now, The Pudding has used scientific findings to fill this absence. From the report: According to The Pudding's findings, pockets in women's jeans are, on average, 48 percent shorter and 6.5 percent narrower than those of men's. To put this into a perspective we all care about, the site says that only 40 percent of women's front pockets can completely fit a iPhone X. The number only goes down for the Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel (20 percent and 5 percent, respectively, though the report doesn't specify which model) of the flagships). As for men's pockets? The Pudding marks a 100 percent success rate for the iPhone X, 95 percent for the Samsung Galaxy, and 85 percent for the Google Pixel. "If you're thinking 'But men are bigger than women,' then sure, on average that's true," the site adds. "But here we measured 80 pairs of jeans that all boasted a 32 inch waistband, meaning that these jeans were all made to fit the same size person." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Russia is down to a single female cosmonaut, and she may never fly

Science - Posted On:2018-08-17 16:45:00 Source: arstechnica

The Russian space program gets a lot of credit for flying the first woman in space. In fact, the Soviet Union flew the first two women: Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982. NASA waited until the space shuttle era before selecting female astronauts, and Sally Ride did not become the first American woman in space until 1983.

However, since Ride broke the US space gender barrier 35 years ago, 50 other American women have flown into space. By contrast, just two other women from Russia have flown into space since then, Yelena Kondakova (1994 and 1997) and Yelena Serova (2014). Two women from China, Japan, and Canada have also flown into space, as well as one woman each from the countries France, India, Italy, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

This disparity seems likely to only widen in the future. Of NASA's last two astronaut classes, in 2013 and 2017, nine of the 20 chosen candidates were women. Of Russia's last two classes in 2012 and 2018, just a single woman, Anna Kikina, was picked. Selected in 2012, Kikina was subsequently expelled from the cosmonaut corps in 2014 for unspecified reasons. After a public outcry, Kikina was reinstated, but it is not clear whether she will ever fly.

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African palm oil expansion is bad news for the continent’s primates

Science - Posted On:2018-08-17 12:30:00 Source: arstechnica

Palm oil is ubiquitous and is set to become more so over the next few decades. The oil is used in food, cleaning, and beauty products and as biofuel, so demand is set to grow rapidly. With this skyrocketing demand comes a need for the land on which to grow more oil palms—and a threat to the ecosystems currently using that land.

Currently, Southeast Asia is the oil palm hotspot, and the deforestation and ensuing damage in the region have been well publicized. But much of the future expansion may happen in Africa, introducing the likelihood of new conservation problems. A paper published in this week’s PNAS argues that there's a huge overlap between the land where oil palms could be grown and the land that houses the continent’s primates. “Large-scale expansion of oil palm cultivation in Africa will have unavoidable, negative effects on primates,” write Giovanni Strona and his colleagues.

The tree that provides us with palm oil (which is pressed from its fruit) is a tropical species. Currently, palm oil agriculture uses approximately 20 million hectares. One million hectares (or 10,000 km2) is about half the area of New Jersey; 20 million is about the area of Nebraska. Most of these plantations are in Indonesia and Malaysia.

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Reveal metal objects with Wi-Fi; overexcited engineers think security

Science - Posted On:2018-08-17 10:44:57 Source: arstechnica

One of the least fun jobs when writing a scientific paper is coming up with a motivation. It should be easy and fun: look at this awesomely cool thing we did—aren’t the results interesting? Instead, we typically have to claim to reveal the secrets of the Universe, cure cancer, or protect the public. Preferably all three at the same time.

A recent paper (PDF) on using Wi-Fi as an environmental sensor has some really exciting results. But my heart shrunk three sizes after reading the following: “Traditional baggage check involves either high manpower for manual examinations or expensive and specialized instruments, such as X-ray and CT. As such, many public places (i.e., museums and schools) that lack of strict security check are exposed to high risk.”

As I said, the research is totally cool. It's just not likely to ever help with security unless molesting people with hip replacements is your version of improved security.

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Years after Mylan’s epic EpiPen price hikes, it finally gets a generic rival

Science - Posted On:2018-08-17 10:29:56 Source: arstechnica

Mylan’s life-saving epinephrine auto-injector, EpiPen, now has a generic rival, the Food and Drug Administration triumphantly announced.

Teva Pharmaceuticals USA now has FDA approval to market a direct generic competitor of the device, as well as a version for pediatric patients, a generic EpiPen Jr. Both products are used in emergency situations to auto-inject a dose of epinephrine into a person’s thigh to thwart deadly allergic reactions, namely anaphylactic shock.

The approval comes years after Mylan outraged patients and lawmakers by ruthlessly hiking the price of its product by more than 400 percent. Mylan purchased the rights to EpiPen in 2007 and gradually raised the list price from about $50 per auto-injector to slightly over $600 for a two-pack. The move boosted EpiPen profits to $1.1 billion a year. In step, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch saw her salary soar by millions, reaching nearly $19 million in 2015—a point lawmakers hammered her for during a House Oversight committee hearing in September of 2016.

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FDA approves generic version of Mylan’s $600 EpiPens—but the price is TBD

Science - Posted On:2018-08-17 10:14:57 Source: arstechnica

Mylan’s life-saving epinephrine auto-injector, EpiPen, now has a generic rival, the Food and Drug Administration triumphantly announced.

Teva Pharmaceuticals USA now has FDA approval to market a direct generic competitor of the device, as well as a version for pediatric patients, a generic EpiPen Jr. Both products are used in emergency situations to auto-inject a dose of epinephrine into a person’s thigh to thwart deadly allergic reactions, namely anaphylactic shock.

The approval comes years after Mylan outraged patients and lawmakers by ruthlessly hiking the price of its product by more than 400 percent. Mylan purchased the rights to EpiPen in 2007 and gradually raised the list price from about $50 per auto-injector to slightly over $600 for a two-pack. The move boosted EpiPen profits to $1.1 billion a year. In step, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch saw her salary soar by millions, reaching nearly $19 million in 2015—a point lawmakers hammered her for during a House Oversight committee hearing in September of 2016.

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Rocket Report: China aims for the Moon, SpaceX gets approval for load-and-go

Science - Posted On:2018-08-17 07:29:57 Source: arstechnica

Welcome to Edition 1.13 of the Rocket Report! This week's issue covers a lot of ground, from more commercial space activity in China, to new Russian launch pads, and finally a not-so-brief history of SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket. We're also looking forward to the next flight of the Vega rocket, carrying an important weather satellite.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Chinese startup raises $44 million. The Chinese rocket company OneSpace, which aims to attempt its first orbital launch late this year, has raised $43.6 million in Series B financing, SpaceNews reports. This fourth round of financing brings the total raised since the founding of OneSpace in August 2015 to $116 million.

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Rocket Report: Vega ready, India may soon launch people, a history of the BFR

Science - Posted On:2018-08-17 07:14:57 Source: arstechnica

Welcome to Edition 1.13 of the Rocket Report! This week's issue covers a lot of ground, from more commercial space activity in China, to new Russian launch pads, and finally a not-so-brief history of SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket. We're also looking forward to the next flight of the Vega rocket, carrying an important weather satellite.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Chinese startup raises $44 million. The Chinese rocket company OneSpace, which aims to attempt its first orbital launch late this year, has raised $43.6 million in Series B financing, SpaceNews reports. This fourth round of financing brings the total raised since the founding of OneSpace in August 2015 to $116 million.

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The Psychedelic Drug DMT Can Simulate a Near-Death Experience, Study Suggests

science - Posted On:2018-08-17 03:14:58 Source: slashdot

dmoberhaus writes: In the first study of its kind, [published this week in the journal Frontiers in Psychology,] researchers dosed 13 people with the potent psychedelic dimethyltryptamine (DMT) to investigate its similarity to near-death experiences. As the researchers found, DMT does in fact induce experiences that are qualitatively similar to NDEs, [but the intensity of these NDEs largely depend on context]. Motherboard spoke with an independent researcher who pioneered DMT research in the 90s to discuss the possible implications of this research. While tricky to define due to their subjective nature, "NDEs tend to share many common elements, such as feelings of inner peace, the experience of traveling through a tunnel, out of body experiences, and encounters with sentient beings," reports Motherboard. A psychiatrist not involved with the study "suggested that the overlap between DMT and NDEs could possibly be explained on a biological level since DMT is naturally produced in small quantities by the human body and has been shown to minimize neuronal damage due to hypoxia (insufficient oxygen) in test tubes," reports Motherboard. "Thus, [the psychiatrist said] 'one could construct a coherent scenario where endogenous DMT rises in response to cardiac arrest/hypoxia in order to protect the brain as long as possible.'" Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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FDA Approves First Generic Version of EpiPen

science - Posted On:2018-08-16 18:14:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first generic version of the EpiPen and EpiPen Jr auto injector for the emergency treatment of allergic reactions. The approval is part of the FDA's "longstanding commitment" to providing access to low-cost generic alternatives, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. It is unclear how much the generic product -- manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals -- will cost. In August 2016, Mylan Pharmaceuticals was criticized for raising the price of a two-pack of EpiPens to $600. The price of two EpiPens was about $100 in 2009. The brand name version is by far the most popular epinephrine auto-injector on the market. "This approval means patients living with severe allergies who require constant access to life-saving epinephrine should have a lower-cost option, as well as another approved product to help protect against potential drug shortages," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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The nightmarishly complex wheat genome finally yields to scientists

Science - Posted On:2018-08-16 17:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Bread, like wine, is pivotal in Judeo-Christian rituals. Both products exemplify the use of human ingenuity to re-create what nature provides, and the fermentation they both require must have seemed nothing less than magical to ancient minds. When toasted, rubbed with garlic and tomato, doused with olive oil and sprinkled with salt like the Catalans do, there are few things more delicious than bread.

Wheat is the most widely cultivated crop on the planet, accounting for about a fifth of all calories consumed by humans and more protein than any other food source. Although we have relied on bread wheat so heavily and for so long (14,000 years-ish), an understanding of its genetics has been a challenge. Its genome has been hard to solve because it is ridiculously complex. The genome is huge, about five times larger than ours. It's hexaploid, meaning it has six copies of each of its chromosomes. More than 85 percent of the genetic sequences among these three sets of chromosome pairs are repetitive DNA, and they are quite similar to each other, making it difficult to tease out which sequences reside where.

The genomes of rice and corn—two other staple grain crops—were solved in 2002 and 2009, respectively. In 2005, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium determined to get a reference genome of the bread wheat cultivar Chinese Spring. Thirteen years later, the consortium has finally succeeded.

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Give us this day our daily bread… wheat genome

Science - Posted On:2018-08-16 17:00:00 Source: arstechnica

Bread, like wine, is pivotal in Judeo-Christian rituals. Both products exemplify the use of human ingenuity to re-create what nature provides, and the fermentation they both require must have seemed nothing less than magical to ancient minds. When toasted, rubbed with garlic and tomato, doused with olive oil and sprinkled with salt like the Catalans do, there are few things more delicious.

Wheat is the most widely cultivated crop on the planet, accounting for about a fifth of all calories consumed by humans and more protein than any other food source. Although we have relied on bread wheat so heavily and for so long (14,000 years-ish), an understanding of its genetics has been a challenge. Is genome has been hard to solve because it is ridiculously complex. It is huge, about five times larger than ours. It is hexaploid, meaning it has six copies of each of its chromosomes. More than 85 percent of the genetic sequences among these three sets of chromosome pairs are repetitive DNA, and they are quite similar to each other, making it difficult to tease out which sequences reside where.

The genomes of rice and corn—two other staple grain crops—were solved in 2002 and 2009, respectively. In 2005, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium determined to get a reference genome of the bread wheat cultivar Chinese Spring. Thirteen years later, the consoritum has finally succeeded.

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After coffee brewhaha, CA fears cancer warnings have “gone seriously wrong”

Science - Posted On:2018-08-16 16:44:59 Source: arstechnica

After a judge ruled in March that coffee should be served with jolting labels that alert drinkers to a cancer risk, the state of California seems to have woken up to the concern that its pervasive health warnings may have gone too far.

There’s a danger to overwarning—it’s important to warn about real health risks,” Sam Delson told The New York Times.

Delson is the deputy director for external and legislative affairs for California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. The office proposed a regulation shortly after a March ruling that would unequivocally declare that any cancer-linked components of roasted and brewed coffee “pose no significant risk of cancer.” Today, August 16, the proposed regulation is getting a public hearing in Sacramento.

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A Paper Posted Last Month Claims To Have Achieved Superconductivity at Room Temperature, But Other Physicists Say the Data May Be Incorrect

science - Posted On:2018-08-16 16:44:59 Source: slashdot

dmoberhaus writes: Last month, two Indian physicists posted a paper to arxiv claiming to have demonstrated superconductivity at room temperature. If this paper is legitimate, it would represent a breakthrough in a problem that has existed for superconductivity for 100 years. Understandably, the paper shook the physics world, but when researchers started digging into the data they noticed something wasn't quite right -- the noise patterns in two independent measurements exactly correlated, which is basically impossible in a random system. The Indian researchers have doubled down on their data, and things only got weirder from there. This is a look inside what could be the biggest drama to happen in physics in nearly a decade. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Ancient Egyptians had been making mummies longer than anyone thought

Science - Posted On:2018-08-16 10:29:56 Source: arstechnica

Ancient Egyptians started embalming their dead about 1,500 years earlier than archaeologists previously realized, according to chemical analysis of the funerary wrappings of a young man who died in Upper Egypt around 3600 BCE. University of York archaeologist Stephen Buckley and his colleagues identified embalming compounds in organic residues from the mummy’s linen wrappings. They also examined the microscopic structure of the wrappings’ fibers and radiocarbon dated the mummy to between 3700 and 3500 BCE.

That’s about 500 years before Egypt was even a unified country. It took until 3100 BCE for an Upper (southern) Egyptian ruler named Narmer to conquer Lower (northern) Egypt, merging the two into a single kingdom.

Egyptian embalming is thought to have gotten its start in that predynastic period, or even earlier, when people noticed that the arid heat of the sand tended to dry and preserve bodies buried in the desert. Eventually, the idea of preserving the body after death worked its way into Egyptian religious beliefs. When people began to bury the dead in rock tombs, away from the desiccating sand, they used chemicals like natron salt and plant-based resins for embalming.

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High-energy protons emitted after hooking up with neutrons

Science - Posted On:2018-08-16 10:14:57 Source: arstechnica

If you hit an atom's nucleus hard enough, it will fall apart. But exactly how it falls apart tells us something about the internal structure of the nucleus and perhaps about the interior of neutron stars. One of the unexpected things we seem to be learning is that the way particles in the nucleus pair up allows them to reach higher energies than expected, and having excess neutrons only encourages this behavior.

To someone like me—I never took any courses on nuclear physics—the nucleus is a bit like visiting a familiar beach and discovering a colony of dragons. The nucleus consists of protons, which are positively charged. These should repel each other, but the nucleus doesn’t explode because of neutrons. Neutrons are, as the name suggests, neutral. However, they are the glue that binds the protons together.

This description makes the nucleus sound like a disorganized mess of protons and neutrons, but it isn’t. The nucleus has a structure remarkably similar to the electrons orbiting the nucleus.

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