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United Kingdom

WWII Bomb Shelter Becomes Hi-Tech Salad Farm 31

asjk points out a story of how a World War II bomb shelter, situated 33 meters beneath the streets of London, has been turned into a high-tech hydroponic farm. "The growing system uses energy-efficient LEDs instead of sun, no pesticides, needs 70 percent less water than growing plants in open fields, and less energy than a greenhouse." The computer-controlled environment is designed to shorten the growth cycle of plants like coriander and radishes. They're currently only using about a quarter of the gear necessary to fill up the shelter, but they can produce 5,000-20,000 kilograms of food per year, depending on what they raise. Co-founder Steven Dring said, "We've got to utilize the spaces we've got. There's a finite amount of land and we can grow salads and herbs — which start losing flavor and quality as soon as you cut them — in warehouses and rooftops in cities near the people who will eat them. Use the rural land for things like carrots, potatoes and livestock."
Earth

60,000 Antelope Died In 4 Days, and No One Knows Why 70

An anonymous reader writes: The Saiga antelope has been hunted to near extinction. They've been put on the endangered species list, and they play a vital role in the ecosystems around Russia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, where their grazing helps get rid of fallen plant matter, which is prevented from decomposing by the cold temperatures. But earlier this year, a huge die-off hit the Saiga antelope herd in Kazakhstan, felling over 120,000 of them in a few short weeks. Scientists say an entire group of 60,000 died within a four-day span. The cause of this die-off is still a mystery. The researchers suspect some sort of bacteria, and early on pointed to Pasteurella strains. But those bacteria don't usually cause this much damage unless something else has weakened the antelope. "There is nothing so special about it. The question is why it developed so rapidly and spread to all the animals," one researcher said. They're looking into environmental factors, but nothing else seems too far out of the ordinary.
Biotech

New Russian Laboratory To Study Mammoth Cloning 36

An anonymous reader writes: While plans to clone a woolly mammoth are not new, a lab used in a joint effort by Russia and South Korea is. The new facility is devoted to studying extinct animal DNA in the hope of creating clones from the remains of animals found in the permafrost. IBtimes reports: "The Sakha facility has the world's largest collection of frozen ancient animal carcasses and remains, with more than 2,000 samples in its possession, including some that are tens of thousands years old, such as a mammoth discovered on the island of Maly Lyakhovsky; experts believe it may be more than 28,000 years old."
United Kingdom

UK Health Clinic Accidentally Publishes HIV Status of 800 Patients 54

An anonymous reader writes: A sexual health clinic in London accidentally disclosed the HIV positive status of almost 800 patients. The Guardian reports: "The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has ordered an inquiry into how the NHS handles confidential medical information after the “completely unacceptable” breach of the privacy of hundreds of HIV patients. The 56 Dean Street clinic in London apologized on Wednesday after sending a newsletter on Tuesday which disclosed the names and email addresses of about 780 recipients. The newsletter is intended for people using its HIV and other sexual health services, and gives details of treatments and support.
Programming

You Don't Have To Be Good At Math To Learn To Code 458

HughPickens.com writes: Olga Khazan writes in The Atlantic that learning to program involves a lot of Googling, logic, and trial-and-error—but almost nothing beyond fourth-grade arithmetic. Victoria Fine explains how she taught herself how to code despite hating math. Her secret? Lots and lots of Googling. "Like any good Google query, a successful answer depended on asking the right question. "How do I make a website red" was not nearly as successful a question as "CSS color values HEX red" combined with "CSS background color." I spent a lot of time learning to Google like a pro. I carefully learned the vocabulary of HTML so I knew what I was talking about when I asked the Internet for answers." According to Khazan while it's true that some types of code look a little like equations, you don't really have to solve them, just know where they go and what they do. "In most cases you can see that the hard maths (the physical and geometry) is either done by a computer or has been done by someone else. While the calculations do happen and are essential to the successful running of the program, the programmer does not need to know how they are done." Khazan says that in order to figure out what your program should say, you're going to need some basic logic skills and you'll need to be skilled at copying and pasting things from online repositories and tweaking them slightly. "But humanities majors, fresh off writing reams of term papers, are probably more talented at that than math majors are."
Medicine

Can Living In Total Darkness For 5 Days "Reset" the Visual System? 132

the_newsbeagle writes: That's what one neuroscientist is aiming to find out. He wants to put patients with a type of amblyopia, the vision problem commonly called lazy eye, into the dark for 5 days. His hypothesis: When they emerge, their brains' visual cortices will be temporarily "plastic" and changeable, and may begin to process the visual signals from their bad eyes correctly. Before he could do this study, though, he had to do a test run to figure out logistics. So he himself lived in a pitch black room for 5 days. One finding: Eating ravioli in the dark is hard.
China

China Preparing To Send Crewed Shenzhou 11 To Tiangong 2 Space Station In 2016 54

MarkWhittington writes: China has not sent people into space since the mission of the Shenzhou 10 to the prototype space station Tiangong 1 in June 2013. Since then the Chinese have accomplished the landing of the Chang'e 3 on the lunar surface. According to a story in Space Daily, the hiatus in Chinese crewed spaceflight is about to end with the launch of the Tiangong-2 prototype space station in 2016 with the subsequent visit by a crew of Chinese astronauts on board the Shenzhou 11. The mission will be a prelude to the construction of a larger Chinese space station, slated to be completed by 2022.
Medicine

Hacking Medical Mannequins 35

An anonymous reader writes: A team of researchers at the University of South Alabama is investigating potential breaches of medical devices used in training, taking the mannequin iStan as its prime target in its scenario-based research. Identifying the network security solution and network protocol as the vulnerable components, the team was able to carry out brute force attacks against the router PIN, and denial of service (DDoS) attacks, using open source tools such as BackTrack.
Math

Machine Learning Could Solve Economists' Math Problem 146

An anonymous reader writes: Noah Smith argues that the field of economics frequently uses math in an unhealthy way. He says many economists don't use math as a tool to describe reality, but rather as an abstract foundation for whatever theory they've come up with. A possible solution to this, he says, is machine learning: "In other words, econ is now a rogue branch of applied math. Developed without access to good data, it evolved different scientific values and conventions. But this is changing fast, as information technology and the computer revolution have furnished economists with mountains of data. As a result, empirical analysis is coming to dominate econ. ... [Two economists pushing this change] stated that machine learning techniques emphasized causality less than traditional economic statistical techniques, or what's usually known as econometrics. In other words, machine learning is more about forecasting than about understanding the effects of policy. That would make the techniques less interesting to many economists, who are usually more concerned about giving policy recommendations than in making forecasts."
ISS

Soyuz Heads To Space Station With New Crew 35

An anonymous reader writes: Last night, a Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to deliver three astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia's Sergey Volkov, Denmark's Andreas Mogensen, and Kazakhstan's Aidyn Aimbetov reached orbit without incident, and they'll dock with the ISS in the wee hours of Friday morning. Mogensen and Aimbetov will only stay until 11 September, at which point they and Expedition 44 commander Gennady Padalka will undock and return to Earth. (Here's a neat time-lapse of changing a Soyuz craft's parking space at the ISS.) Padalka was in charge for the current expedition, but he'll be passing command of Expedition 45 to NASA's Scott Kelly. Kelly and Oleg Kornienko will soon reach the halfway point of their one-year mission at the space station. It's worth noting that this was the 500th rocket launch from the Gagarin launchpad at Baikonur.
Medicine

Lack of Sleep Puts You At Higher Risk For Colds, First Experimental Study Finds 83

sciencehabit writes: Moms and sleep researchers alike have stressed the importance of solid shuteye for years, especially when it comes to fighting off the common cold. Their stance is a sensible one—skimping on sleep weakens the body's natural defense system, leaving it more vulnerable to viruses. But the connection relied largely on self-reported, subjective surveys—until now (abtract). For the first time, a team of scientists reports that they have locked down the link experimentally, showing that sleep-deprived individuals are more than four times more likely to catch a cold than those who are well-rested.
Science

Carbon Dating Shows Koran May Predate Muhammad 609

HughPickens.com writes: Brian Booker writes at Digital Journal that carbon dating suggests the Koran, or at least portions of it, may actually be older than the prophet Muhammad himself, a finding that if confirmed could rewrite early Islamic history and shed doubt on the "heavenly" origins of the holy text. Scholars believe that a copy of the Koran held by the Birmingham Library was actually written sometime between 568 AD and 645, while the Prophet Mohammad was believed to have been born in 570 AD and to have died in 632 AD. It should be noted, however, that the dating was only conducted on the parchment, rather than the ink, so it is possible that the Koran was simply written on old paper. Some scholars believe, however, that Muhammad did not receive the Koran from heaven, as he claimed during his lifetime, but instead collected texts and scripts that fit his political agenda. "This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran's genesis, like that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from heaven," says Keith Small, from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library. "'It destabilises, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged," says Historian Tom Holland. "and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions." Update: 09/01 17:32 GMT by S : There was a typo in the dates used by the original linked article — in the press release from the University of Birmingham, the date range given for the parchment is between 568 AD and 645 AD, which overlaps more closely with Muhammad's lifetime. The dates and link have been fixed now in the summary. Historians say this new information highlights the uncertainty surrounding the emergence of such religious texts, rather than being a major upheaval.
Medicine

Sensor Predicts Which Donated Lungs Will Fail After Transplant 21

the_newsbeagle writes: A lung transplant can be a life-saving intervention—but sometimes the donated lung stops working inside the recipient's body. This "graft dysfunction" is the leading cause of death for transplant patients in the early days after surgery. While lab tests can look for genetic biomarkers of inflammation and other warning signs in a donated lung, such tests take 6-12 hours in a typical hospital. That's too slow to be useful. Now, researchers at University of Toronto have invented a chip-based biosensor that can do quick on-the-spot genetic tests, providing an assessment of a lung's viability within 30 minutes.
Earth

Nearly Every Seabird May Be Eating Plastic By 2050 147

sciencehabit writes: According to a new study almost every ocean-foraging species of birds may be eating plastic by 2050. In the five large ocean areas known as "garbage patches," each square kilometer of surface water holds almost 600,000 pieces of debris. Sciencemag reports: "By 2050, about 99.8% of the species studied will have eaten plastic, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Consuming plastic can cause myriad problems, Wilcox says. For example, some types of plastics absorb and concentrate environmental pollutants, he notes. After ingestion, those chemicals can be released into the birds’ digestive tracts, along with chemicals in the plastics that keep them soft and pliable. But plastic bits aren’t always pliable enough to get through a gull’s gut. Most birds have trouble passing large bits of plastic, and they build up in the stomach, sometimes taking up so much room that the birds can’t consume enough food to stay healthy."
Space

World's Most Powerful Digital Camera Sees Construction Green Light 88

An anonymous reader writes: The Department of Energy has approved the construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telecscope's 3.2-gigapixel digital camera, which will be the most advanced in the world. When complete the camera will weigh more than three tons and take such high resolution pictures that it would take 1,500 high-definition televisions to display one of them. According to SLAC: "Starting in 2022, LSST will take digital images of the entire visible southern sky every few nights from atop a mountain called Cerro Pachón in Chile. It will produce a wide, deep and fast survey of the night sky, cataloging by far the largest number of stars and galaxies ever observed. During a 10-year time frame, LSST will detect tens of billions of objects—the first time a telescope will observe more galaxies than there are people on Earth – and will create movies of the sky with unprecedented details. Funding for the camera comes from the DOE, while financial support for the telescope and site facilities, the data management system, and the education and public outreach infrastructure of LSST comes primarily from the National Science Foundation (NSF)."
Earth

3 Category 4 Hurricanes Develop In the Pacific At Once For the First Time 291

Kristine Lofgren writes: For the first time in recorded history, three Category 4 hurricanes were seen in the Pacific Ocean at the same time. Climatologists have been warning that climate change may produce more extreme weather situations, and this may be a peek at the future to come. Eric Blake, a specialist with the National Hurricane Center summed it up with a tweet: "Historic central/eastern Pacific outbreak- 3 major hurricanes at once for the first time on record!"
Books

Neurologist and Author Oliver Sacks Dead at 82 30

Physician, writer and humanist Oliver Sacks has died of cancer at age 82. Sacks was famous for "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat" and other books, including his account in "Awakenings" (later made into a well-recieved film) of administering treatment which resulted in several patients emerging from their comas. The Guardian reports: When he revealed that he had terminal cancer, Sacks quoted one of his favourite philosophers, David Hume. On discovering that he was mortally ill at 65, Hume wrote: “I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution. I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company. “I am ... a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.”
Media

Lights, Camera, Experiment! 14

theodp writes: The New Yorker's Jamie Holmes takes a look at How Methods Videos Are Making Science Smarter, helping scientists replicate elaborate experiments in a way that the text format of traditional journals simply can't. The Journal of Visualized Experiments (JOVE), for instance, is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that now has a database of more than four thousand videos that are usually between ten and fifteen minutes long, ranging in subject from biology and chemistry to neuroscience and medicine. "Complexity was always an issue," JOVE co-founder, Moshe Pritsker explains. "Even when biology was a much smaller enterprise, it relied on a degree of specialized craft in the laboratory. But, since the end of the nineties, we've seen a huge influx of new technologies into biology: genomics, proteomics, technologies like microarrays, complex genetic methods, and sophisticated microscopy and imaging techniques." And, as the popularity of the decidedly non-peer reviewed Crazy Russian Hacker's YouTube videos shows, methods videos aren't just for research scientists.
Biotech

Magnet-Steered Nano-Fish Could Deliver Drugs and Sweep Body Toxins 37

dkatana writes: David Warner writes on InformationWeek how "nanoengineers" from UC San Diego have created microscopic fish powered by hydrogen peroxide that use magnets to steer themselves. "The "fish" are powerful enough to swim through your bloodstream, removing toxins or bringing medicine directly to crucial parts of your body, as cells in your blood stream do. Given enough time, the fish could be used to deliver drugs directly to cancer tumors or parts of your body that are too fragile for surgery."
Mars

New Horizons' New Target: Kuiper Belt Ice Chunk 2014 MU69 43

Vox reports on the next target destination for NASA's New Horizons probe, an ice chunk in the Kuiper Belt designated 2014 MU69. The plan is not yet final; like any space mission, complications are bound to come up. But if this selection sticks, New Horizons should reach 2014 MU69 in 2019. (Re/Code has the story, too.)