We had two submissions on non-water-based life forms; the study and images are available at: https://cornell.box.com/azotosome
The search for extra-terrestrial life focuses quite heavily on the presence of liquid water. That's because all life on earth depends on water, using it as a medium for all cells, and an ingredient for many biological processes.
Is life without water possible? A chemical engineer and others at Cornell University devised a hypothetical model for life that could instead use liquid methane as its medium, opening more possibilities for simple life on Titan and on other cold moons and planets.
A new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form that can metabolize and reproduce similar to life on Earth has been modeled by a team of Cornell University researchers.
The main reason why the U.S. military can promote global peace is because of the aura of invincibility it gained in World War II, because of the end of the Cold War, and because of its overwhelming military spending and technological advantage. But an aura of invincibility is a dangerous thing. And unfortunately, there are signs of rot.
Today, the U.S. military has fallen under the Bureaucracy Rule. The U.S. has no great power rivals, and thank God for that. Iraq and Afghanistan have not caused an identity crisis for the U.S. military because many senior commanders view these as "freakshow" wars — counterinsurgency wars, not the kind of "real" wars that militaries fight.
What are the signs that an organization has become a bureaucracy?
The first is excessive PowerPoint. Every organization should ban PowerPoint ( http://theweek.com/audio/442552/ban-powerpoint ). But it has become particularly endemic in the military ( http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html?_r=0 ).
The fact that the new Defense secretary has banned PowerPoint from some senior briefings is a step in the right direction ( http://www.forbes.com/sites/pascalemmanuelgobry/2015/02/23/the-war-on-powerpoint-in-the-military-continues/ ).
Common Dreams reports
Public schools are outperforming charter schools in Minnesota, in some cases "dramatically," according to a new analysis by the state's Star-Tribune newspaper.
In addition, many charter schools fail to adequately support minority students, close examination of the data revealed.
[...]Education analyst Diane Ravitch notes: "Minnesota was the home of the charter movement, which began with high expectations as a progressive experiment but has turned into a favorite mechanism in many states to promote privatization of public education and to generate profits for charter corporations like Imagine, Charter Schools USA, and K12. Today, charter advocates claim that their privately managed charters will 'save low-income students from failing public schools,' but the Minnesota experience suggests that charters face the same challenges as public schools, which is magnified by high teacher turnover in charter schools."
The findings back up a report (PDF) put out last fall by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School, which examined the success and failures of the charter school system in Chicago, Illinois.
That study concluded:
Sadly, the [charter] schools, which on average score lower that the Chicago public schools, have not improved the Chicago school system, but perhaps made it even weaker.
Further, charters, which are even more likely to be single-race schools than the already hyper-segregated Chicago school system, have not increased interracial contact, an often-stated goal of charter systems.
Finally, the fact that Chicago charters use expulsion far more often that public schools deserves further study. In the end, it is unlikely that the Chicago charter school experience provides a model for improving urban education in other big city school districts.
Despite notable differences in appearance and governance, ancient human settlements functioned in much the same way as modern cities, according to new findings by researchers at the Santa Fe Institute and the University of Colorado Boulder.
Previous research has shown that as modern cities grow in population, so do their efficiencies and productivity. A city's population outpaces its development of urban infrastructure, for example, and its production of goods and services outpaces its population. What's more, these patterns exhibit a surprising degree of mathematical regularity and predictability, a phenomenon called "urban scaling."
But has this always been the case?
[Working Paper]: http://www.santafe.edu/media/workingpapers/14-11-041.pdf
John Schwartz reports at The New York Times that prominent members of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate are demanding information from universities, companies and trade groups about funding for scientists who publicly dispute widely held views on the causes and risks of climate change. In letters sent to seven universities, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who is the ranking member of the House committee on natural resources, sent detailed requests to the academic employers of scientists who had testified before Congress about climate change. "My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships.” Grijalva asked for each university’s policies on financial disclosure and the amount and sources of outside funding for each scholar, “communications regarding the funding” and “all drafts” of testimony. Meanwhile Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island sent 100 letters to fossil fuel companies, trade groups and other organizations asking about their funding of climate research and advocacy asking for responses by April 3. “Corporate special interests shouldn’t be able to secretly peddle the best junk science money can buy,” said Senator Markey, denouncing what he called “denial-for-hire operations.”
The letters come after evidence emerged over the weekend that Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, had failed to disclose the industry funding for his academic work. The documents also included correspondence between Dr. Soon and the companies who funded his work in which he referred to his papers and testimony as “deliverables.” Soon accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work. “What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change,” says Kert Davies.
See our earlier story: Climate Change Denying Scientist Paid Millions by Energy Companies.
Starting March 1, China will ban internet accounts that impersonate people or organizations, and enforce the requirement that people use real names when registering accounts online, its internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), said on Wednesday.
The new regulations are part of efforts to impose real-name registration requirements on internet users and halt the spread of rumors online, the CAC said. Internet companies will have the responsibility to enforce the rules.
On Tuesday, the CAC accused NetEase Inc, a U.S.-listed Chinese web portal, of spreading rumors and pornography. And last month, 133 WeChat accounts were shut down for "distorting history", state media reported.
A new report, by the journal Scientific Reports, finds that marijuana is far safer than other recreational drugs, including and especially alcohol.
Pot may be as much as 114 times safer than booze, say the researchers. The study also maintains that past research into alcohol has systematically underestimated the risks associated with its use.
The study sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of common recreational drugs. Alcohol, they found, was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine. The safest drug was marijuana; it was also the only drug in the study that had a low mortality risk for users.
Unlike other studies into drug toxicity, the study did not use historical death counts associated with recreational drug used to come to its findings. Instead, the study weighed the potential lethal doses of a substance compared with the amount a typical user might consume. Booze posed the greatest risk to its users when comparing a fatal dose to typical recreational use.
This is not the first study to find that marijuana is significantly safer than other recreational drugs, including booze. A 2003 study by the School of Behavioral and Organizational Science at Claremont Graduate University produced similar results and rankings.(PDF)
 The link in the article is crap.
From the MEGA blog:
"PayPal has ceased processing MEGA customer payments effective immediately.
MEGA is aware of a report published by NetNames (partially funded from the MPAA supported Digital Citizens Alliance) that incorrectly claims MEGA's business to not be a legitimate cloud storage service. MEGA is aware that Senator Leahy (Vermont, Chair Senate Judiciary Committee) then pressured Visa and MasterCard to cease providing payment services to the companies named in that report.
Visa and MasterCard then pressured PayPal to cease providing payment services to MEGA."
Spotted on Hackaday is this neat clock project which writes the time on a whiteboard.
This device runs on a PIC16F1454 microcontroller. The code for the project is available on GitHub. The micro is also connected to a 433MHz receiver. This allows a PC to keep track of the time, instead of having to include a real-time clock in the circuit.
There's also a link to a similar clock plotter project.
Verizon is just so mad at the Federal Communications Commission today that a normal press release wouldn't do. After all, Verizon issues so many press releases denouncing the FCC for trying to regulate telecommunications that today's vote on net neutrality required a special one to make sure it would be remembered. So Verizon wrote it in Morse code and set the date as "1934" to make the point that the FCC is taking us backward in time. Verizon sent out the press release in this e-mail: http://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/verizon-morse-code.png
Despite this protest, Verizon hasn't been shy about using Title II to its benefit. The company was already a Title II carrier for its wireline telephone and mobile voice networks, and used the benefits of its Title II status to help build its fiber network, which carries phone, TV, and Internet service.
Of course, this is the same Verizon that in 2012 claimed that net neutrality violates its First and Fifth Amendment rights. That happened after Verizon sued to overturn the FCC's 2010 net neutrality rules, which relied on authority granted to the FCC by Congress in both 1934 and 1996. (Verizon won that case, leading directly to today's FCC decision.)
The BBC reports Leonard Nimoy's death by end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The actor, famous for playing the role of Mr Spock in the long-running sci-fi series, passed away at his Bel Air home on Friday Feb 27th.
fritsd: I'll never forget Spitting Image's mangling of his words: "To be, or not to be.. isn't that quite logical, captain?"
infodragon: The iconic Vulcan will be missed!
The Center for American Progress reports
According to a national analysis conducted by an employee at the Vermont-based Physicians Computer Company (PCC), the majority of U.S. pediatricians will turn away patients who refuse to vaccinate their children. The findings come on the heels of California's ongoing measles outbreak, which has renewed a broader dialogue over vaccine policy, making doctors' approach to the issue a national concern.
Chip Hart, the company's Director of Strategic marketing and principal author of the study, discovered that 54 percent of the nearly 500 practices surveyed have some vaccine requirement, and will refuse treatment to parents who don't comply.
[...]Hart [mailed] his survey out to roughly 5,000 pediatricians across the country, of which 497 responded.
[...]Considering the fact that waiting rooms are particularly high-risk environments for disease transmission, especially very contagious diseases like measles, some doctors have started refusing to accept anti-vaccine patients.
[...]among the practices that made the switch to a vaccine requirement, 58 percent lost a few patients. But 61 percent of practices received a positive reaction from the patients who remained, while only 2 percent noted a negative reaction.
Perhaps the most provocative finding involves parents' response to doctors taking a stand. Of the practices that switched to a vaccine requirement, 68 percent reported that some new families opted to comply, and 17 percent answered that many new families permitted their children be vaccinated.
Astronomers have identified a mammoth black hole weighing as much as 12 billion suns.
It's not the biggest black hole ever found, but it's astonishingly young. The giant appears to have swelled to its enormous size only 875 million years after the big bang, when the universe was just 6 percent of its current age. That's a surprise, astronomers report Wednesday in the journal Nature, because giant black holes are thought to grow relatively slowly by vacuuming up gas and even stars that venture too close."
Don't you think it odd that 875 million years after the big bang could be called "astonishingly young?"
Today we stand proud, fellow Soylentils. Two stories have been received to explain why:
Slashdot.org switches accounts to Classic-like interface
It now appears that Slashdot has now completely changed its interface to the new "beta" interface - which looks almost the same as the "old" interface. Users can no longer view the non-beta classic site, which is being reported by users all around the site.
The only official news on the matter is in the form of a journal entry.
Does this mean it's time to go after our original mission and let them know we're here?
"Beta" Delenda est!
Remember Slashdot? Remember Beta? This blog post might be tagged "sudden outbreak of common sense," if it wasn't well over a year too late:
...effective today, we've jettisoned the Slashdot Beta platform out the side portal. [...] After heavily experimenting on the Beta platform and splitting traffic between Classic and Beta, we've made some decisions about which platform changes ultimately make sense: starting today, we're unifying users back on our Classic platform.
A raft of minor changes came along with this announcement. Still no comment, though, on whether those users are a "community" or an "audience."
And frankly, that's why soylentnews is better.
Climate change deniers have often claimed that heating from carbon dioxide has never been "proven" but rather only seen in the lab or models.
Here is one more blow to the deniers. For the first time ever, global warming from anthropogenic carbon dioxide production has been demonstrated in nature. This just a day after this study measured a huge increase in sea level rise in the northern US over just 2 years.
Will this evidence finally silence the deniers and motivate policy makers into action?