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Curious Tilt of the Sun Traced To Undiscovered Planet ( 156

An anonymous reader writes: Planet Nine - the undiscovered planet at the edge of the solar system that was predicted by the work of Caltech's Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown in January 2016 -- appears to be responsible for the unusual tilt of the Sun, according to a new study. The large and distant planet may be adding a wobble to the solar system, giving the appearance that the Sun is tilted slightly. "Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment," says Elizabeth Bailey, a graduate student at Caltech and lead author of a study announcing the discovery. All of the planets orbit in a flat plane with respect to the Sun, roughly within a couple degrees of each other. That plane, however, rotates at a six-degree tilt with respect to the Sun -- giving the appearance that the Sun itself is cocked off at an angle. Until now, no one had found a compelling explanation to produce such an effect. "It's such a deep-rooted mystery and so difficult to explain that people just don't talk about it," says Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy.

Global CO2 Concentration Passes Threshold of 400 ppm -- and That's Bad for the Climate ( 283

The average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere hit the symbolic level of 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 2015 and has continued to surge in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization. From a report on Time:Scientists say humans may need to take some carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to stop global warming. The carbon dioxide concentration is unlikely to dip below the 400 ppm mark for at least several decades, even with aggressive efforts to reduce global carbon emissions, according to the WMO report, which confirms similar findings reported last month. Carbon dioxide can last in the atmosphere for thousands of years without efforts to remove it. "The year 2015 ushered in a new era of optimism and climate action," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, referring to the landmark Paris Agreement to address climate change. "The real elephant in the room is carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years and in the oceans for even longer."

Harvard Researchers Print World's First Heart-On-A-Chip ( 19

Harvard University researchers have successfully 3D printed the first heart-on-a-chip with integrated sensors that are capable of measuring the beating of the heart. Gizmodo reports: The printed organ is made of synthetic material designed to mimic the structure and function of native tissue. It is not designed to replace failing human organs, but it can be used for scientific studies, something that is expected to rapidly increase research on new medicine. The medical breakthrough may also allow scientists to rapidly design organs-on-chips to match specific disease properties or even a patient's cells. Organs-on-chips, also known by the more technical name microphysiological systems, replicate the structure and function of living human organs. Each is made of a translucent, flexible polymer that lets scientists replicate biological environments of living organs. The chips are also clear so that the scientists can see an inner-working into how the organs work. A large part of the breakthrough was actually developing six different printable inks capable of integrating sensors within the tissue being printed. In one continuous printing process, the team 3D printed materials into a heart-on-a-chip with integrated sensors. The sensors were capable of measuring the beating of the heart. The new study has been published today in Nature Materials.

Study Finds Little Lies Lead To Bigger Ones ( 172

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Telling little fibs leads down a slippery slope to bigger lies -- and our brains adapt to escalating dishonesty, which makes deceit easier, a new study shows. Neuroscientists at the University College London's Affective Brain Lab put 80 people in scenarios where they could repeatedly lie and get paid more based on the magnitude of their lies. They said they were the first to demonstrate empirically that people's lies grow bolder the more they fib. The researchers then used brain scans to show that our mind's emotional hot spot -- the amygdala -- becomes desensitized or used to the growing dishonesty, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience. And during this lying, brain scans that show blood supply and activity at the amygdala decrease with increasing lies, said study co-author and lab director Tali Sharot. "The more we lie, the less likely we are to have an emotional response" -- say, shame or guilt -- "that accompanies it," Sharot said. Garrett said he suspects similar escalation factors happen in the "real world," which would include politics, infidelity and cheating, but he cautioned that this study was done in a controlled lab setting so more research would be needed to apply it to other situations. The study found that there is a segment of people who don't lie and don't escalate lies, but Sharot and Garrett weren't able to determine how rare those honest people are. It also found that people lie more when it benefits both them and someone else than when they just profit alone.

Climate Change Could Cross Key Threshold in a Decade, Scientists Say ( 328

The planet could pass a key target on world temperature rise in about a decade, prompting accelerating loss of glaciers, steep declines in water availability, worsening land conflicts and deepening poverty, scientists said this week. But the planet is already two-thirds of the way to that lower and safer goal, and could begin to pass it in about a decade, according to Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre. Reuters reports: With world emissions unlikely to slow quickly enough to hit that target, it will probably be necessary to remove some carbon pollution from the atmosphere to stabilize the planet, scientists said. That could happen by planting forests or by capturing and then pumping underground emissions from power plants. But other changes -- such as reducing food waste and creating more sustainable diets, with less beef and fewer imported greenhouse vegetables -- could also play a big role in meeting the goal, without so many risks, he said.

Internet is Becoming Unreadable Because of a Trend Towards Lighter, Thinner Fonts ( 312

An anonymous reader writes: The internet is becoming unreadable because of a trend towards lighter and thinner fonts, making it difficult for the elderly or visually-impaired to see words clearly, a web expert has found. Where text used to be bold and dark, which contrasted well with predominantly white backgrounds, now many websites are switching to light greys or blues for their type. Award winning blogger Kevin Marks, founder of Microformats and former vice president of web services at BT, decided to look into the trend after becoming concerned that his eyesight was failing because he was increasingly struggling to read on screen text. He found a 'widespread movement' to reduce the contrast between the words and the background, with tech giants Apple, Google and Twitter all altering their typography. True black on white text has a contrast ratio of 21:1 -- the maximum which can be achieved. Most technology companies agree that it is good practice for type to be a minimum of 7:1 so that the visually-impaired can still see text. But Mr Marks, found that even Apple's own typography guidelines, which recommended 7:1 are written in a contrast ratio of 5.5:1.

Elon Musk's Mars Colony Would Have a Horde of Mining Robots ( 212

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: If it wasn't already clear that Elon Musk has considered virtually every aspect of what it would take to colonize Mars, it is now. As part of his Reddit AMA session, the SpaceX founder has revealed that his vision of a permanent colony would entail a huge number of "miner/tunneling droids." The robots would build large volumes of underground pressurized space for industrial activity, leaving geodesic domes (made of carbon fiber and glass) for everyday living. As a resident, you might never see the 'ugly' side of settling the Red Planet. Musk also explained how his colony would get to the point where it can reliably refuel spacecraft all by itself. Dragon capsules would serve as scouts, helping find the "best way" to extract water for fuel reactions. An unmanned Heart of Gold spaceship would then deliver the basics for a propellant plant, while the first crewed mission would finish that plant. After that, SpaceX would double the number of flights between each ideal Earth-Mars rendezvous (every 26 months) until the colony can reliably produce fuel by itself. Oh, and don't worry about today's Falcon 9 rockets being consigned to the history books. Although the main booster for interplanetary travel will "have an easier time of things," Musk believes that the final iteration of Falcon 9 (Block 5) could be used "almost indefinitely" if properly maintained. Production on Block 5 should fly in the next 6 to 8 months.

Researchers Predict Next-Gen Batteries Will Last 10 Times Longer ( 167

Lithium-metal electrodes could increase the storage capacity of batteries 10-fold, predict researchers at the University of Michigan, allowing electric cars to drive from New York to Denver without recharging. Using a $100 piece of technology, the team is now peeking inside charging batteries to study the formation of "dendrites," which consume liquid electrolytes and reduce capacity. Slashdot reader Eloking quotes New Atlas: Battery cells are normally tested through cycles of charge and discharge, testing the capacity and flow potential of the cells before being dissected. Dasgupta and his team...added a window to a lithium cell so that they could film the dendrites forming and deforming during charge and discharge cycles.
In a video interview they're reporting that dendrites can actually help a battery if they form a small, even "carpet" inside of the battery which "can keep more lithium in play." According to the article, "The future of lithium-ion batteries is limited, says University of Michigan researcher Neil Dasgupta, because the chemistry cannot be pushed much further than it already has. Next-generation lithium cells will likely use lithium air and lithium sulfur chemistries."

"Splat" of Schiaparelli Mars Lander Likely Found ( 104

Long-time Slashdot reader Tablizer quotes Space Flight Now: Views from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter released Friday show the crash site where Europe's experimental Schiaparelli lander fell to the red planet's surface from a height of several miles, leaving a distinct dark patch on the Martian landscape...The image from MRO's context camera shows two new features attributed to the Schiaparelli spacecraft, including a large dark scar spanning an estimated 50 feet (15 meters) by 130 feet (40 meters). Schiaparelli's ground team believes it is from the high-speed impact of the lander's main body... A little more than a half-mile (1 kilometer) to the south, a bright spot appears in the image, likely the 39-foot-diameter (12-meter) supersonic parachute and part of Schiaparelli's heat shield, which released from the lander just before ESA lost contact."

A British Supercomputer Can Predict Winter Weather a Year In Advance ( 175

The national weather service of the U.K. claims it can now predict the weather up to a year in advance. An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: The development has been made possible thanks to supercomputer technology granted by the UK Government in 2014. The £97 million high-performance computing facility has allowed researchers to increase the resolution of climate models and to test the retrospective skill of forecasts over a 35-year period starting from 1980... The forecasters claim that new supercomputer-powered techniques have helped them develop a system to accurately predict North Atlantic Oscillation -- the climatic phenomenon which heavily impacts winters in the U.K.
The researchers apparently tested their supercomputer on 36 years worth of data, and reported proudly that they could predict winter weather a year in advance -- with 62% accuracy.

Quantum Researchers Achieve 10-Fold Boost In Superposition Stability ( 86

An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: A team of Australian researchers has developed a qubit offering ten times the stability of existing technologies. The computer scientists claim that the new innovation could significantly increase the reliability of quantum computing calculations... The new technology, developed at the University of New South Wales, has been named a 'dressed' quantum bit as it combines a single atom with an electromagnetic field. This process allows the qubit to remain in a superposition state for ten times longer than has previously been achieved. The researchers argue that this extra time in superposition could boost the performance stability of quantum computing calculations... Previously fragile and short-lived, retaining a state of superposition has been one of the major barriers to the development of quantum computing. The ability to remain in two states simultaneously is the key to scaling and strengthening the technology further.
Do you ever wonder what the world will look like when everyone has their own personal quantum computer?

'Anonymous' Hacker Indicted As His Hunger Strike Continues ( 67

Eight months after being rescued at sea near Cuba and then arrested, Anonymous hacker Martin Gottesfeld now faces prosecution as well as death by hunger. Newsweek reports: A member of Anonymous has been indicted on hacking charges while on the third week of a prison hunger strike protesting perceived institutionalized torture and political prosecutions. Martin Gottesfeld, 32, was charged this week in relation to the hacking of Boston Children's Hospital in 2014 following the alleged mistreatment of one of its patients. Gottesfeld has previously admitted to targeting the hospital, though says he did it in defense of "an innocent, learning-disabled, 15-year-old girl"...

Since beginning his hunger strike on October 3, Gottesfeld tells Newsweek from prison he has lost 16.5 pounds. He says he will continue his hunger strike until two demands are met: a promise from the presidential candidates that children are not mistreated in the way he claims Pelletier was; and an end to the "political" style of prosecution waged by Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.

The indictment claims that the hospital spent more than $300,000 to "mitigate" the damage from the 2014 attack.

Russians Seek Answers To Central Moscow GPS Anomaly ( 173

stevegee58 writes: Russians have been noticing that their GPS doesn't work in Moscow near the Kremlin. Everyone from taxi drivers to Pokemon Go players suddenly notice that they're transported 18 miles away at the airport when they near the Kremlin. While this may be an annoyance to the public it seems like a reasonable countermeasure to potential terrorist threats. Is it only a matter of time before other vulnerable sites such as the White House or the Capitol in Washington start doing the same? "A programmer for Russian internet firm Yandex, Grigory Bakunov, said Thursday his research showed a system for blocking GPS was located inside the Kremlin, the heavily guarded official residence of Russian President Vladimir Putin," reports Yahoo. "The first anomaly was recorded in June, according to Russian media reports, which have also suggested that the GPS interference comes and goes in a pattern. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday he did not know why the malfunction was occurring and admitted experiencing the problem himself when driving recently. Peskov redirected questions to Russia's Federal Guards Service, which is responsible for protecting the Kremlin and senior Russian officials."

Chemical-Releasing Bike Lock Causes Vomiting To Deter Thieves ( 279

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The "Skunklock" is a U-shaped steel bicycle lock with a pressurized, stinking gas inside. The gas escapes in a cloud if someone attempts to cut the lock. The company claims its "noxious chemical" is so disgusting it "induces vomit in the majority of cases." Even better, it claims, the gas causes "shortness of breathing" and impaired eyesight. The idea, which tries to make stealing a bike as unpleasant as possible, is raising money for production on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. "Our formula irreversibly ruins the clothes worn by the thief or any of the protection they may be wearing," the company claims on its crowdfunding page. Since stolen bikes sell for a fraction of their true cost, replacing clothing or equipment could make the theft more trouble than it's worth. Skunklock says it has tested its foul gas, and it even penetrates high-end gas masks -- though most thieves are unlikely to go to such lengths. But the company said that the compressed gas is perfectly safe -- and can only be released "by trying to cut through it with an angle grinder." If the chemical countermeasure is released, it is a one-time only use, and the lock, which costs over $100, will have to be replaced. But the hope is that the unpleasant experience will cause them to abandon the attempted theft, leaving the bicycle behind.

Schiaparelli Mars Lander May Have Exploded On Impact, European Agency Says ( 112

Instead of drifting gently onto Mars' surface, the Schiaparelli Mars lander hit the planet hard -- and possibly exploded, the European Space Agency said today. NPR adds: The NASA images, taken on Oct. 20, show two recent changes to the landscape on Mars' surface -- one dark blotch, and one white speck -- which are being interpreted as Schiaparelli's parachute and its crash site. With the warning that analysis is still ongoing, here are the details the ESA is sharing Friday: "Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometers, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 km/h [186 mph]. The relatively large size of the feature would then arise from disturbed surface material. It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full." That sequence of events followed the lander's largely trouble-free approach to the Martian surface, a trip that was being widely watched on Wednesday, when the craft lost contact with the ESA and its Mars mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, just before its touchdown.

Stephen Hawking: AI Will Be Either the Best or the Worst Thing To Humanity ( 210

At the opening of the new Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (LCFI) at Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking offered his insight into the positive and negative implications of creating a true AI. He said, via BetaNews:We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let's face it, is mostly the history of stupidity. So it's a welcome change that people are studying instead the future of intelligence. The potential benefits of creating intelligence are huge... With the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one -- industrialization. And surely we will aim to fully eradicate disease and poverty. Every aspect of our lives will be transformed. In short, success in creating AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. But it could also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. Alongside the benefits, AI will also bring dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It will bring great disruption to our economy. AI will be either the best, or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which.

Facebook Bans Animated Breast Cancer Awareness Video Showing Circle-Shaped Breasts ( 98

Last month, Facebook deleted a historic Vietnam war photo of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack, claiming it violated Facebook's restrictions on nudity. Now it appears that the company has removed a video on breast cancer awareness posted in Sweden after deeming the images offensive, the Swedish Cancer Society said on Thursday. The Guardian reports: The video, displaying animated figures of women with circle-shaped breasts, was aimed at explaining to women how to check for suspicious lumps. Sweden's Cancerfonden said it had tried in vain to contact Facebook, and had decided to appeal against the decision to remove the video. "We find it incomprehensible and strange how one can perceive medical information as offensive," Cancerfoden communications director Lena Biornstad told Agence France-Presse. "This is information that saves lives, which is important for us," she said. "This prevents us from doing so." The Guardian went on to report in a separate article that the the Swedish Cancer Society decided to make the round breasts square to evade Facebook's censorship of female anatomy. The group issued an open letter to Facebook featuring the pair of pair of breasts constructed of pink squares as opposed to pink circles. Facebook did apologize for banning the video, saying in a statement to the Guardian: "We're very sorry, our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads. This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ads."

Nurses In Australia Face Punishment For Promoting Anti-Vaccination Messages Via Social Media ( 635 writes: Medical Express reports that nurses and midwives promoting anti-vaccination messages in Australia could face punishment including being slapped with a caution and having their ability to practice medicine restricted. Serious cases could be referred to an industry tribunal, where practitioners could face harsher penalties such as having their registration suspended or cancelled. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia released the vaccination standards in response to what it described as a small number of nurses and midwives promoting anti-vaccination via social media. The statement also urges members of the public to report nurses or midwives promoting anti-vaccination. Promoting false, misleading or deceptive information is an offense under national law and is prosecutable by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. "The board will consider whether the nurse or midwife has breached their professional obligations and will treat these matters seriously," the statement said. However Dr. Hannah Dahlen, a professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney and the spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, worries the crackdown may push people with anti-vaccination views further underground. "The worry is the confirmation bias that can occur, because people might say: 'There you go, this is proof that you can't even have an alternative opinion.' It might in fact just give people more fuel for their belief systems."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Thinks Space Can Be the New Internet ( 90

Speaking at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco today, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said space is essentially a new internet, as it is the next frontier that needs new infrastructure to support new entrepreneurs. He said the purpose of Blue Origin is to build out a similar kind of infrastructure for space that Amazon used to operate during the days of the early internet, such as the United States Postal Service and long distance phone network. The Verge reports: "Two kids in their dorm room can reinvent an industry," Bezos said, referring to the strengths of the modern internet. "Two kids in their dorm room cannot do anything interesting in space." Bezos says rocket reusability needs to be improved, and both Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX are working toward the goal of vastly reducing the cost of sending payloads to space. Bezos said there's also a number of restraints right now that prevent the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that helped create Amazon do the same for a next-generation space venture. "We need to be able to put big things in space at low cost." Bezos talked of his earliest days at Amazon more than 20 years ago, where he was driving packages himself to the post office with a 10-person team. "We were sitting on a bunch of a heavy lifting infrastructure," he said. "For example, there was already a gigantic network called United States Postal Service. The internet itself was sitting on time of the long distance phone network." This is the kind of infrastructure Bezos hopes to build out with Blue Origin. "Every time you figure out some way of providing tools and services that allow other people to deploy their creativity, you're really onto something," Bezos said. But building that infrastructure space is still the grandest dream. "I think space is about to enter a golden age."

First New US Nuclear Reactor In 20 Years Goes Live ( 343

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: The Tennessee Valley Authority is celebrating an event 43 years in the making: the completion of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. In 1973, the TVA, one of the nation's largest public power providers, began building two reactors that combined promised to generate enough power to light up 1.3 million homes. The first reactor, delayed by design flaws, eventually went live in 1996. Now, after billions of dollars in budget overruns, the second reactor has finally started sending power to homes and businesses. Standing in front of both reactors Wednesday, TVA President Bill Johnson said Watts Bar 2, the first U.S. reactor to enter commercial operation in 20 years, would offer clean, cheap and reliable energy to residents of several southern states for at least another generation. Before Watts Bar 2, the last time an American reactor had fired up was in 1996. It was Watts Bar 1 -- and according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it cost $6.8 billion, far greater than the original price tag at $370 million. In the 2000s, some American power companies, faced with growing environmental regulations, eyed nuclear power again as a top alternative to fossil fuels such as coal and oil. A handful of companies, taking advantage of federal loan guarantees from the Bush administration, revived nuclear reactor proposals in a period now known as the so-called "nuclear renaissance." Eventually, nuclear regulators started to green light new reactors, including ones in Georgia and South Carolina. In 2007, the TVA resumed construction on Watts Bar 2, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The TVA originally said it would take five years to complete. The TVA, which today serves seven different southern states, relies on nuclear power to light up approximately 4.5 million homes. Watts Bar 2, the company's seventh operating reactor, reaffirms its commitment to nukes for at least four more decades, Johnson said Wednesday. In the end, TVA required more than five years to build the project. The final cost, far exceeding its initial budget, stood at $4.7 billion.

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