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  (SPIDs: [586..626]) --martyb

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Voting is on for the Nebula Awards, with the winner to be announced May 21st. Who do we think should win Best Novel?

  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
  • Borderline by Mishell Baker
  • The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Everfair by Nisi Shawl

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:23 | Votes:5

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday March 23, @09:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the bigger-is-better dept.

Bees latch on to similarly-sized nectarless flowers to unpick pollen – like keys fitting into locks, University of Stirling scientists have discovered.

Research, published in Ecology and Evolution, shows the right size of bee is needed to properly pollinate a flower. The insect fits tightly with the flower's anthers, to vibrate and unlock pollen sealed within.

Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin, from Stirling's Faculty of Natural Sciences, said: "We found that a pollinator's size, compared to the flower, significantly influences how much pollen is deposited."

Experts found more pollen grains are deposited when the pollinator's body is the same size or wider than the space between the flower's reproductive organs.

Dr Vallejo-Marin said: "Some plants, particularly those that are buzz-pollinated – a technique where bees hold onto the flower and vibrate to shake out the pollen – require a close physical interaction between their floral sexual organs and their visitors.

"The closer the bee fits to the flower, allowing it to touch both the male and female sexual organs, the more efficiently the insect can transfer pollen between plants."

Bees that are too small, relative to the size of the flower, transfer fewer pollen grains to other flowers and act 'pollen thieves', extracting the pollen they need without pollinating the flower.

Size does matter.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday March 23, @07:45AM   Printer-friendly
from the checking-your-swimmers dept.

A smartphone attachment has been developed to test sperm count:

Men may soon be able to take their own sperm count — at home. With a smartphone. Yes, there's an app for that. You may be asking yourself, why? Low sperm count is a marker for male infertility, a condition that is actually a neglected health issue worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Current methods to diagnose male infertility require laboratory equipment that can cost up to $100,000. On top of that, standard methods often require a specially trained technician. A team of researchers at Harvard is trying to change that. Led by Hadi Shafiee, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who works on developing new tools for patient care, researchers have developed a rapid infertility diagnostic tool that attaches to a smartphone.

[...] The process is fairly simple. First, you load a small amount of a semen sample onto a disposable microchip. Then you put the microchip into the cell phone attachment through a slot. The attachment turns the phone's camera into a microscope. After the sample is loaded, you run the app, which allows the user to see a video of the sample. Then hit record, and the app analyzes the video to identify sperm cells and track their movements. At no point does semen touch the smartphone.

An automated smartphone-based diagnostic assay for point-of-care semen analysis (open, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai7863) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Thursday March 23, @06:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the where's-the-pole? dept.

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the diameter of the Milky Way, they host a large number of such stellar systems, along with hot gas, magnetic fields, charged particles, embedded in large haloes of dark matter, the composition of which is unknown. Collision of galaxy clusters leads to a shock compression of the hot cluster gas and of the magnetic fields. The resulting arc-like features are called "relics" and stand out by their radio and X-ray emission. Since their discovery in 1970 with a radio telescope near Cambridge/UK, relics were found in about 70 galaxy clusters so far, but many more are likely to exist. They are messengers of huge gas flows that continuously shape the structure of the universe.

Radio waves are excellent tracers of relics. The compression of magnetic fields orders the field lines, which also affects the emitted radio waves. More precisely, the emission becomes linearly polarized. This effect was detected in four galaxy clusters by a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn (MPIfR), the Argelander Institute for Radio Astronomy at the University of Bonn (AIfA), the Thuringia State Observatory at Tautenburg (TLS), and colleagues in Cambridge/USA. They used the MPIfR's 100-m radio telescope near Bad Münstereifel-Effelsberg in the Eifel hills at wavelengths of 3 cm and 6 cm. Such short wavelengths are advantageous because the polarized emission is not diminished when passing through the galaxy cluster and our Milky Way. Fig.1 shows the most spectacular case.

Relics in galaxy clusters at high radio frequencies (open, DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201629570) (DX) (arXiv)

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Thursday March 23, @04:26AM   Printer-friendly
from the netflix-and-chilling-properly dept.

If your Linux-using mates suddenly disappear for a day or two, we can explain why: Netflix has just revealed it's fully and formally available on the OS

As the streamer points out, Chrome's worked for in-browser playback since 2014. But not officially.

As of Tuesday, however, "users of Firefox can also enjoy Netflix on Linux."

Netflix reckons this is "a huge milestone for us and our partners, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Mozilla that helped make it possible."

HTML 5 had a lot to do with it, too, because by enabling plugin-free video playback it meant Linux users were spared the the recurring security nightmare that is Adobe Flash, which recently made a meaningful Penguin-land after ignoring Linux for years.

The reason you haven't switched to Linux is:

  • 1. Games
  • 2. Netflix

[editors note: the game situation isn't all that bad now, with over 3,000 games now available for Linux on Steam]

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday March 23, @02:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the whole-lotta-nothin' dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Some Kansas City residents who have been waiting years for Google Fiber to install service at their homes recently received e-mails canceling their installations, with no word on whether they'll ever get Internet service from the company.

KSHB 41 Action News in Kansas City, Missouri, "spoke to several people, living in different parts of the metro, all who have recently received cancellation e-mails," the station reported last week. "The e-mails do not provide a specific reason for the cancellations. Instead they say the company was 'unable to build our network to connect your home or business at this time.'"

Further Reading Google Fiber division cuts staff by 9%, "pauses" fiber plans in 11 cities

While Google Fiber refuses to say how many installations have been canceled, KSHB said, "there is speculation the number of cancellations in the metro is as high as 2,700."

"The company says it has slowed down in some areas to experiment with new techniques," such as wireless technology, the report also said. Google Fiber is still hooking up fiber for some new customers in parts of the Kansas City area.

One resident who had his installation canceled is Larry Meurer, who was seeing multiple Google Fiber trucks in his neighborhood nearly two years ago, in the spring of 2015. "I'm left wondering what's going on," he told KSHB after getting the cancellation e-mail. Meurer lives in Olathe, Kansas, one of the largest cities in the Kansas City metro area. Residents only five houses away and around the corner have Google Fiber service, the report said. But Meurer said he and several neighbors who never got service were "terminated."

The entirety of the cancellation letter is quoted in the original article, but is pretty vague.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by charon on Thursday March 23, @01:08AM   Printer-friendly
from the on-the-market-in-just-five-years dept.

Adding elasticity to the impressive properties of materials known as thermoelectrics could help us conserve more power, KAUST researchers have shown.

From laptop chips and automobile exhaust pipes to industrial machinery, for most devices, a lot of the energy they consume is lost as heat. Flexible thermoelectric materials can mop up this heat and turn it back into useful electricity that they could use to maximize electrical output.

The key to the useful behavior of thermoelectric materials, such as bismuth telluride and antimony telluride, is that when one side of the material is hot and the other side is cold, they spontaneously generate an electrical voltage. The greater the temperature gradient, the more power they generate. But to date, thermoelectric generators (TEGs) have almost invariably been made from solid blocks of thermoelectric materials.

"We envisioned that a stretchable TEG would achieve more output power as it can easily maintain a longer distance between the hot end and the cold end," said Muhammad Hussain, Professor of Electrical Engineering at KAUST, who led the research. The cold end of the stretchable TEG can be pulled further away from the heat source, maximizing the temperature gradient.

Original Submission

posted by charon on Wednesday March 22, @11:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the i-resign dept.

Movies and television shows are full of blunders, some more noticeable than others, and each with their specific guild of victims. Ornithologists fume when British period dramas are overdubbed with American birdsongs. Government employees will tell you that the supposed main White House staffer in Contact has a nonexistent job. Archeologists hate movie shipwrecks, and marine biologists are already mad about the zombie sharks in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean installment, which, as cartilaginous fishes, should not have ribs—even ghostly ones.

But these are merely occasional grievances. There's one group of experts who can barely flip on the television without being exposed to egregious, head-on-desk mistakes: chess players.

"There are a ton of chess mistakes in TV and in film," says Mike Klein, a writer and videographer for While different experts cite different error ratios, from "20 percent" to "much more often than not," all agree: Hollywood is terrible at chess, even though they really don't have to be. "There are so many [errors], it's hard to keep track," says Grandmaster Ilja Zaragatski, of chess24. "And there are constantly [new ones] coming out."

[...] Peter Doggers of notes another Dramatic Checkmate move: the felled king. "Tipping over your king as a way of resigning the game is only done in movies," he says. (See Mr. Holland's Opus, in which Jay Thomas slaps his king down after being owned by Richard Dreyfuss).A normal chess player will just go in for a good-game-style handshake. "This falling king thing has somehow become a strong image in cinematography," he says, "But chess players always think: 'Oh no, there we go again...'"

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by charon on Wednesday March 22, @10:07PM   Printer-friendly
from the if-only-you-knew-the-power-of-the-dark-side dept.

Dark matter, long theorised but remaining controversial, may have found yet another piece of evidence in its favour. The theory of dark matter has it that billions of years ago, not so much dark matter should have fallen into the galaxies yet, so instead of the flat rotation curves that are observed in the galaxies of today, younger galaxies should exhibit falling rotation curves that slow further from the centre. The measurement of the rotation curves of such younger, more distant galaxies has so far been elusive, but astronomers have now succeeded in doing so. In a paper just submitted to the Astrophysical Journal, they show how they have measured the rotation curves of 101 distant galaxies with redshifts between 0.6 to 2.6 (or 7.2 billion to 19 billion light years away comoving distance, 8 billion to 2.5 billion years after the Big Bang). These galaxies all show a precipitous drop-off in rotational velocity as one goes further away from the centre. From an article by Ethan Siegel:

When they use a technique called "stacking" — where they calibrate each galaxy to one another to examine their overall, average properties — they find that there is, in fact, a precipitous drop-off in rotational velocity as you move away from the center of these galaxies.

This is, remarkably, a strong piece of evidence that points to dark matter and not to modified gravity! As Philipp Lang and his coauthors write in a paper just submitted to the Astrophysical Journal:

Our stacked rotation curve exhibits a decrease in rotation velocity beyond the turn-over radius down to ∼ 62% of the maximum normalized velocity Vmax, confirming the drop [...] as a representative feature for our sample of high-z disk galaxies. The drop seen in our stacked rotation curve strikingly deviates from the average rotation curves of local spirals at the same mass at > 3σ significance level.

This is just a 3-sigma effect so far, but it should be improved upon by future telescopes like the Giant Magellan Telescope, E-ELT, and WFIRST that are coming in the 2020s.

Related: Dark Matter Is Missing From Young Galaxies

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday March 22, @08:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the believe-it-when-I-see-it dept.

As the world ends, will you lock arms and sing "Kumbayah" or embark on a path of law-breaking, anti-social behavior?

A new study, based upon the virtual actions of more than 80,000 players of the role-playing video game ArcheAge, suggests you'll be singing.

The study, conducted by a University at Buffalo-led team of computer scientists, will be presented next month at the International World Wide Web Conference in Australia. It found that despite some violent acts, most players tended toward behavior that was helpful to others as their virtual world came to an end.

Researchers acknowledge that the results have limitations -- namely that they are based upon a video game, not real life. Nevertheless, researchers argue that the study offers a realistic view into the behavior of people in an end-times scenario that is useful to both the game industry and other research communities.

"We realize that, because this is a video game, the true consequences of the world ending are purely virtual. That being said, our dataset represents about as close as we can get to an actual end-of-the-world scenario," says Ahreum Kang, postdoctoral researcher at UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the study's lead author.

What would happen if the world was ending? As with most questions in life, Nicolas Cage has already supplied us with the answer.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday March 22, @07:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the bacterial-predator-list dept.

Antibiotic resistance is one of medicine's most pressing problems. Now, a team from Korea is tackling this in a unique way: using bacteria to fight bacteria.

Before the discovery of penicillin in 1928, millions of lives were lost to relatively simple microbial infections. Since then, antibiotics have transformed modern medicine. The World Health Organization estimates that, on average, antibiotics add 20 years to each person's life. However, the overuse of antibiotics has put pressure on bacteria to evolve resistance against these drugs, leading to the emergence of untreatable superbugs.

Now, researchers at South Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) aim to fight fire with fire by launching predatory bacteria capable of attacking other bacteria without harming human cells. "Bacteria eating bacteria. How cool is that?" asks Professor Robert Mitchell, the team leader. He and his colleagues are also developing a natural compound called violacein to tackle Staphylococcus, a group of around 30 different bacteria known to cause skin infections, pneumonia and blood poisoning. Some Staphylococcus bacteria such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are resistant to antibiotics, making infections harder to treat.

Violacein is a so-called 'bisindole': a metabolite produced by bacteria from the condensation of two molecules of tryptophan (an essential amino acid used in many organisms to ensure normal functioning and avoid illness and death). This compound is vibrant purple in colour and of interest to researchers for its anticancer, antifungal and antiviral properties. Researchers have discovered that it can stop bacteria from reproducing, and even kill the multidrug resistant bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, when used in the right doses. It also works well in conjunction with other existing antibiotics.

Previously on SoylentNews: Predatory Bacteria could be a New Weapon Against Superbugs

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday March 22, @05:23PM   Printer-friendly
from the some-good-news dept.

2016 was the third year in a row that global carbon emissions remained stable, even as the overall economy grew. Although 32.1 Gigatonnes of emissions is certainly not good news for future climates, there is some cause for optimism within the numbers, as some major economies saw their emissions drop. And controlling emissions didn't come at the expense of the world's finances, as preliminary estimates show that the global economy grew by over three percent.

[...] China was one of those countries, starting up five new reactors to increase its nuclear capacity by 25 percent. Nuclear combined with renewables to handle two-thirds of the country's rising demand. China also shifted some of its fossil fuel use from coal to natural gas. The net result was a drop in emissions of about one percent, even as demand grew by over five percent (and the economy grew by nearly seven percent). Gas still represents a small fraction of China's energy economy, so there's the potential for further displacement of coal.

In the US, the process of shifting from coal to natural gas is already well advanced. Coal use was down by 11 percent last year, the IEA estimates, allowing natural gas to displace it as the US' largest single source of energy. This, along with booming renewables, allowed the US to drop its carbon emissions by three percent in 2016. That takes emissions to levels not seen since 1992, even though the economy is now 80 percent larger than it was then.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday March 22, @03:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the what-about-caffeine? dept.

Zinc is a vital micronutrient involved in many cellular processes: For example, in learning and memory processes, it plays a role that is not yet understood. By using nanoelectrochemical measurements, Swedish researchers have made progress toward understanding by demonstrating that zinc influences the release of messenger molecules. As reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, zinc changes the number of messenger molecules stored in vesicles and the dynamics of their release from the cell.

When signals are transmitted by synapses, messenger molecules (neurotransmitters) are released from storage chambers (synaptic vesicles) into the synaptic cleft, where they are "recognized" by neighboring nerve cells. This release is based on exocytosis: The vesicle docks at the cell membrane, opens at the point of contact, releases part of its contents to the outside, closes, and separates from the plasma membrane so it can be refilled.

Treatment with zinc results in more messenger molecules being released.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday March 22, @02:26PM   Printer-friendly
from the spin-me-a-tale dept.

Over 200 years after steamships first began crossing the ocean, wind power is finding its way back into seafaring. Global shipping firm Maersk is planning to fit spinning "rotor sails" to one of its oil tankers as a way of reducing its fuel costs and carbon emissions. The company behind the technology, Finnish firm Norsepower, says this is the first retrofit installation of a wind-powered energy system on a tanker.

Yet the idea of using these spinning cylinders on ships to generate thrust and drive them forward was first trialled in 1924 – and shortly after disregarded. So why do Norsepower and Maersk (and the UK government, which is providing most of the £3.5m of funding), think this time the technology will be more of a success?

The rotor sail was invented by German engineer Anton Flettner. It is effectively a large, spinning metal cylinder that uses something called the Magnus effect to harness wind power and propel a ship.

How does it work?

When wind passes the spinning rotor sail, the air flow accelerates on one side and decelerates on the opposite side. This creates a thrust force that is perpendicular to the wind flow direction. Although it takes energy in the form of electricity to spin the sail, the thrust it produces means the engines can be significantly throttled back, so it reduces overall fuel use and emissions.

Original Submission

posted by charon on Wednesday March 22, @12:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the the-man-knows-what-you're-watching dept.

Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), a mechanism by which HTML5 video providers can discover and enable DRM providers offered by a browser, has taken the next step on its contentious road to standardization. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards body that oversees most Web-related specifications, has moved the EME specification to the Proposed Recommendation stage.

The next and final stage is for the W3C's Advisory Committee to review the proposal. If it passes review, the proposal will be blessed as a full W3C Recommendation.

Ever since W3C decided to start working on a DRM proposal, there have been complaints from those who oppose DRM on principle. The work has continued regardless, with W3C director and HTML inventor Tim Berners-Lee arguing that—given that DRM is already extant and, at least for video, unlikely to disappear any time soon—it's better for DRM-protected content to be a part of the Web ecosystem than to be separate from it.

Berners-Lee argued that, for almost all video providers, the alternative to DRM in the browser is DRM in a standalone application. He also argued that these standalone applications represent a greater risk to privacy and security than the constrained, sandboxed environment of the Web. He acknowledges that DRM has problems, chiefly the difficulties it imposes for fair use, derivative works, and backups. He notes, however, that a large body of consumers don't appear overly concerned with these issues, as they continue to buy or subscribe to DRM-protected content.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by charon on Wednesday March 22, @11:24AM   Printer-friendly
from the microwaving-the-books dept.

This article is a review of the new book, "The End of Accounting and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers." After reviewing hundreds of earnings conference calls, the authors have concluded that investors are much more interested in the future than in current returns (traditional measures like earnings per share, etc).

A couple of quotes from the interview with author Feng Gu:

Financial analysts are widely regarded as the most sophisticated investors. They spend their whole life and career tracking the performance of publicly traded companies. Their main job is to help investors understand the performance and the changing risk of each company, so this way investors can make decisions about whether or not they want to invest in a given company.

It turned out the majority of analysts' questions and interests are not along the line of traditional financial reports. So for example, when a company like Sirius XM comes out with its quarterly earnings, the CEO or CFO starts with a quick mention of the earnings per share, which is really one of the key numbers that is included in companies' financial reports. Quickly, everybody forgets about earnings per share and they talk about something else that is not required by the system financial reporting, that is not included in the standard financial reports. ... After reading 200, 300 such examples, we got a very clear sense that investors are not interested in what is included in the standard financial reports. They are interested in something more important, something that is not being reported by companies today.

I think in our book, we made a point very clear that regulators have to require companies to treat investment in their strategic assets as investment for accounting purposes. ... Most of the investment in strategic assets like R&D, advertising, branding and so on, are not being treated as an asset on the balance sheet of the company. They're being treated as just a one-time expense. ... This is the least that regulators can do to correct the information problem that we have documented and other people have documented.

Original Submission