Covers the period:
2017-01-01 .. 2017-03-29
(SPIDs: [586..633]) --martyb
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Women who undergo fertility therapy, but do not get pregnant, have a higher risk of developing long-term cardiovascular disease, compared with women who become pregnant, according to a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). "We found that two-thirds of women never became pregnant after being managed for fertility treatment and these women also had worse long-term cardiovascular risk, specifically higher risks of stroke and heart failure, compared with the remaining third of women who did become pregnant and delivered a baby," says Dr. Jacob Udell, lead author of the study, scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and cardiologist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Women's College Hospital.
[...] The study looked at data on 28 442 women under age 50 who underwent fertility therapy in Ontario during the study (April 1993 through March 2011). The women were followed until March 31, 2015, for adverse cardiovascular effects. About one-third (9349) gave birth within 1 year of final treatment, while the remaining two-thirds did not give birth. Fertility therapy failure was associated with a 19% increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, in particular, heart failure. However, the researchers stress the absolute risk was modest at about 10 events per 1000 women after 10 years for those where fertility therapy failed versus 6 events per 1000 women for those who became pregnant and delivered a child after fertility therapy. [...] "These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that fertility therapy may represent an early indication for future cardiovascular disease because it represents a unique cardiometabolic stress test," write the authors.
Failure of fertility therapy and subsequent adverse cardiovascular events (DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.160744) (DX)
Google has developed and open-sourced a new JPEG algorithm that reduces file size by about 35 percent—or alternatively, image quality can be significantly improved while keeping file size constant. Importantly, and unlike some of its other efforts in image compression (WebP, WebM), Google's new JPEGs are completely compatible with existing browsers, devices, photo editing apps, and the JPEG standard.
The new JPEG encoder is called Guetzli, which is Swiss German for cookie (the project was led by Google Research's Zurich office). Don't pay too much attention to the name: after extensive analysis, I can't find anything in the Github repository related to cookies or indeed any other baked good.
There are numerous ways of tweaking JPEG image quality and file size, but Guetzli focuses on the quantization stage of compression. Put simply, quantization is a process that tries to reduce a large amount of disordered data, which is hard to compress, into ordered data, which is very easy to compress. In JPEG encoding, this process usually reduces gentle colour gradients to single blocks of colour and often obliterates small details entirely.
The difficult bit is finding a balance between removing detail, and keeping file size down. Every lossy encoder (libjpeg, x264, lame) does it differently.
We have a fecal matter to discuss:
Frozen and freeze-dried products for Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) are nearly as effective as fresh product at treating patients with Clostridium difficile (C-diff) infection, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health and Kelsey Research Foundation. A new study, which proves that a pill form of treatment could be effective and more convenient for patients and physicians, was published in the most recent issue of Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics.
[...] For the study, UTHealth and Kelsey Research Foundation investigators enrolled 72 patients who had at least three bouts of recurrent C-diff in a clinical trial and treated them with either fresh, frozen or freeze-dried FMT product via colonoscopy. Fresh FMT product produced a 100 percent cure rate among participants; frozen product produced an 83 percent cure rate and freeze-dried product produced a 69 percent cure rate. Frozen and fresh product fully restored the microbiota diversity among participants within seven days after treatment. Researchers saw some improvement in microbiota diversity among participants treated with freeze-dried product after seven days and full restoration of healthy bacteria within 30 days.
[...] "Freeze-dried product can be put into a pill that can be given orally, which is much more convenient for patients and physicians," said DuPont, who is currently testing the safety and efficacy of a pill version of the product.
Randomised clinical trial: faecal microbiota transplantation for recurrent Clostridum difficile infection - fresh, or frozen, or lyophilised microbiota from a small pool of healthy donors delivered by colonoscopy (open, DOI: 10.1111/apt.13969) (DX)
It's official: The first use of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells in a human has proved safe, if not clearly effective. Japanese researchers reported in this week's issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that using the cells to replace eye tissue damaged by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) did not improve a patient's vision, but did halt disease progression. They had described the outcome at conferences, but publication of the details is an encouraging milestone for other groups gearing up to treat diseased or damaged organs with the versatile replacement cells, which are derived from mature tissues.
This initial success "is pretty momentous," says Alan Trounson, a stem cell scientist at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia. But the broader picture for iPS therapies is mixed, as researchers have retreated from their initial hopes of creating custommade stem cells from each patient's tissue. That strategy might have ensured that recipients' immune systems would accept the new cells. But it proved too slow and expensive, says Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan, who first discovered how to create iPS cells and is a co-author of the NEJM paper. He and others are now developing banks of premade donor cells. "Using stocks of cells, we can proceed much more quickly and cost effectively," he says.
[...] Immediately after surgery the first patient reported her eyesight was brighter. [Masayo] Takahashi says the surgery halted further deterioration of her eye, even without the drug injections still being used to treat her other eye, and there were no signs of rejection of the graft as of last December.
In related news, another article published on the same day in the same journal describes three elderly women who were blinded by an unproven stem cell treatment. They were treated at a for-profit clinic in Florida for the same condition as those in the Japanese study: age-related macular degeneration. In their case, stem cells derived from fat tissue were used. Visual acuity in the three patients ranged from 20/30 to 20/200 before the treatment, and 20/200 to "no light perception" a year later.
Autologous Induced Stem-Cell–Derived Retinal Cells for Macular Degeneration (DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1608368) (DX)
Vision Loss after Intravitreal Injection of Autologous "Stem Cells" for AMD (DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1609583) (DX)
Editorial discussing the previous papers:
The LHCb experiment at CERN is a hotbed of new and outstanding physics results. In just the last few months, the collaboration has announced the measurement of a very rare particle decay and evidence of a new manifestation of matter-antimatter asymmetry, to name just two examples.
In a paper released today, the LHCb collaboration announced the discovery of a new system of five particles all in a single analysis. The exceptionality of this discovery is that observing five new states all at once is a rather unique event.
The particles were found to be excited states – a particle state that has a higher energy than the absolute minimum configuration (or ground state) – of a particle called "Omega-c-zero", Ωc0. This Ωc0 is a baryon, a particle with three quarks, containing two "strange" and one "charm" quark. Ωc0 decays via the strong force into another baryon, called "Xi-c-plus", Ξc+ (containing a "charm", a "strange" and an "up" quark) and a kaon K-. Then the Ξc+ particle decays in turn into a proton p, a kaon K- and a pion π+.
From the analysis of the trajectories and the energy left in the detector by all the particles in this final configuration, the LHCb collaboration could trace back the initial event – the decay of the Ωc0 – and its excited states. These particle states are named, according to the standard convention, Ωc(3000)0, Ωc(3050)0, Ωc(3066)0, Ωc(3090)0 and Ωc(3119)0. The numbers indicate their masses in megaelectronvolts (MeV), as measured by LHCb.
Significant results, if a bit quarky.
Paper available online at arxiv.org.
As a kid, I always wanted to be on the TV show "Supermarket Sweep."
In the middle of a Lowe's store in 2017, my dream almost came true. The home improvement retailer is rolling out an augmented-reality app that tells you the fastest way to find items on your list.
It's powered by Google's Tango, an indoor-mapping technology using special cameras to sense depth in 3D space. Measure objects, map a room and see virtual objects in the real world with augmented reality.
With a phone in one hand and a shopping cart in the other, I'm rushing around the aisles pulling items off the shelf. On screen I see a yellow line overlaid on the camera image, navigating me to the next item on my list. There's an aisle and shelf number in case I get really confused, as well as an estimate step counter that tells me how far I have to go.
First, armed police seized some of its books. Next, its director was put on trial accused of stirring up ethnic hatred. And now, quietly, its shelves have been emptied and its volumes packed up, ready to be merged into another library's collection. A year and a half after Russia's only state-run Ukrainian language library, Moscow's Library of Ukrainian Literature, was dragged into a political dispute between the two countries, Reuters has learnt that authorities are quietly winding it down.
Officially, what is happening to the library -- its 52,000 books are being transferred to Russia's main foreign language library -- is "a change of address" not a closure. But the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, some of the library's employees, and members of Russia's large Ukrainian diaspora say it is a closure in all but name.
Tatyana Muntyan, a library employee, said that even before the transfer its director had reduced opening hours, stopped home lending, halted acquisitions, and made readers show passports to gain entry. The library's director declined to comment. The saga, along with other measures, suggests political differences between Moscow and Kiev are driving a wedge between two peoples whose cultures have been interwoven for centuries. It is likely to stoke Ukrainian fears that their culture, as well as their territorial integrity, is under siege.
Not movie stars, per se, but rather the streaming service's system for rating the programs they watched with one to five stars. Instead, users will soon be able to express their level of enjoyment with a thumbs up for favorable or a thumbs down for unfavorable.
"Five stars feels very yesterday now," Todd Yellin, Netflix's vice president of product innovation, told a group of journalists at the company's Los Gatos headquarters on Thursday. That system "really projects what you think you want to tell the world. But we want to move to a system where it's really clear, when members rate, that it's for them, and to keep on making the Netflix experience better and better."
The company had beta tested the Facebook-like system with hundreds of thousands of new users around the world last year, finding that more than 200 percent more ratings were logged with the thumb system than the star system.
They should make it fun. Use the 5 💩 rating system instead. Or perhaps a whole suite of symbols for a more fine-grained response. Any suggestions?
So the Dev Team has been hard at work fixing up issues with with the 17_02 release. We compiled all of your comments from the 17_02 Meta stories into a large bug and feature request list. We have been working on getting these issues fixed as soon as we can.
You may have noticed some changes over the last week that went out to fix some issues, and we just released some more fixes today.
Here is a list of the major fixes since the last story:
And here are the latest updates:
So if you see any new bugs that you think are related to these changes, or just want to let us know about an ongoing issue, please feel free to comment below.
Here are the currently known bugs that we are working on:
And here are the feature requests:
DESY, the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron research center, has created a transparent, extremely hard ceramic.
Scientists have synthesised the first transparent sample of a popular industrial ceramic at DESY. The result is a super-hard window made of cubic silicon nitride that can potentially be used under extreme conditions like in engines, as the Japanese-German team writes in the journal Scientific Reports. Cubic silicon nitride (c-Si3N4) forms under high pressure and is the second hardest transparent nanoceramic after diamond but can withstand substantially higher temperatures.
"Silicon nitride is a very popular ceramic in industry," explains lead author Dr. Norimasa Nishiyama from DESY who now is an associate professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology. "It is mainly used for ball bearings, cutting tools and engine parts in automotive and aircraft industry." The ceramic is extremely stable, because the silicon nitrogen bond is very strong. At ambient pressures, silicon nitride has a hexagonal crystal structure and sintered ceramic of this phase is opaque. Sintering is the process of forming macroscopic structures from grain material using heat and pressure. The technique is widely used in industry for a broad range of products from ceramic bearings to artificial teeth.
At pressures above 130 thousand times the atmospheric pressure, silicon nitride transforms into a crystal structure with cubic symmetry that experts call spinel-type in reference to the structure of a popular gemstone. Artificial spinel (MgAl2O4) is widely used as transparent ceramic in industry. "The cubic phase of silicon nitride was first synthesised by a research group at Technical University of Darmstadt in 1999, but knowledge of this material is very limited," says Nishiyama. His team used a large volume press (LVP) at DESY to expose hexagonal silicon nitride to high pressures and temperatures. At approximately 156 thousand times the atmospheric pressure (15.6 gigapascals) and a temperature of 1800 degrees Celsius a transparent piece of cubic silicon nitride formed with a diameter of about two millimetres. "It is the first transparent sample of this material," emphasises Nishiyama.
It's no transparent aluminum, but it'll do.
The lost townscape of sixteenth-century Edinburgh has been brought back to life by researchers at the University of St Andrews.
The new digital reconstruction is the first to be created of the period, and is based on a drawing from 1544, thought to be the earliest accurate depiction of the capital.
The virtual time travel technology – which will be released as an app in May – provides a unique window into the capital around the time of the birth of Mary Queen of Scots.
The technology is the result of a collaboration between St Andrews historians, art historians, computer scientists and University spinout company Smart History. The result is an interactive tour of the capital as it appeared in 1544, just before the city was sacked and burned by an English army led by Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford.
Dr Bess Rhodes, an expert on sixteenth-century Scottish history who collaborated on the reconstruction, said:
"For the first time visitors and residents can compare the city they know with the capital of James V and Mary Queen of Scots. It has been amazing seeing the recreation of a lost townscape. I hope this project makes the public more aware of the layers in the capital's history, and furthers understanding of the complex way in which Edinburgh evolved."
Virtual reproductions can be glitchy. In this one the president's hair is orange.
Google Chrome 57 restricts out-of-focus background tabs to 1% of a single core's CPU load, with exceptions for tabs that are playing music or maintaining a real-time connection to a server using WebRTC or WebSockets:
In September last year, the Chromium team said changes were coming to Chrome's handling of background tabs, but the changes have landed in the stable branch of Chrome a little sooner than expected. Basically, from now on, background tabs will be limited to an average CPU load of just 1 percent on a single core.
Chrome 57's actual mechanism for background tab throttling is a little more complex. After 10 seconds of being in the background (i.e. not in focus), each tab has a budget (in seconds) for how much CPU wall time it can use. (Wall time is the actual real-world time it takes for a process to start and complete.) The background tab is only allowed to use the CPU if it hasn't consumed its entire budget. Here's the kicker: the budget constantly regenerates, but only at a rate of 0.01 seconds per second.
Memory is notoriously fallible, but some experts worry that a new phenomenon is emerging. "Memories are shared among groups in novel ways through sites such as Facebook and Instagram, blurring the line between individual and collective memories," says psychologist Daniel Schacter, who studies memory at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "The development of Internet-based misinformation, such as recently well-publicized fake news sites, has the potential to distort individual and collective memories in disturbing ways."
Detecting the universe's earliest stars may be possible by looking for the supernovae of such stars, which should produce a color similar to the explosion of extremely metal-poor stars:
Similar to all supernovae, the luminosity of metal-poor supernovae shows a characteristic rise to a peak brightness followed by a decline. The phenomenon starts when a star explodes with a bright flash, caused by a shock wave emerging from its surface after its core collapses. This is followed by a long 'plateau' phase of almost constant luminosity lasting several months, followed by a slow exponential decay.
The team, [led by Alexey Tolstov from the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe], calculated the light curves of metal-poor blue versus metal-rich red supergiant stars. The shock wave and plateau phases are shorter, bluer and fainter in metal-poor supernovae. The team concluded that the colour blue could be used as an indicator of a first-generation supernova. In the near future, new, large telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope scheduled to be launched in 2018, will be able to detect the first explosions of stars and may be able to identify them using this method.
The U.S. Navy is enlisting the help of seals—but not the kind of highly trained special operatives with whom it usually associates.
Real seals, specifically their whiskers, may be the key to a new way for ships and underwater vehicles to sense their environment, scientists think.
When a fish swims by, a hungry seal senses the wake with its whiskers. It can tell characteristics of the fish, such as shape and size, and track the location even when it's murky or dark.
Despite the adorable possibilities, scientists aren't looking to outfit ships and vehicles with whiskers. They're studying how the whiskers function to learn how to reverse-engineer the system. The science could be applied to the development of a future sensor.
"If we want to design the best systems, it makes sense to take advantage of millions of years of work that nature has done for us," said Christin Murphy, a marine mammal biologist.
Why not simply weaponize catfish? Victory = lunch.
Microsoft Windows 7 or 8.1 users on Intel Kaby Lake or AMD Ryzen CPUs will not be able to download Windows updates.
Microsoft announced some time ago that new silicon as the company called it back then would not be officially supported on Windows 7 or 8.1.
This meant basically that only Windows 10 would support Intel's, AMD's and Qualcomm's new processors, while Windows 7 or 8.1 would not.
This does not mean that Windows 7 or 8.1 won't install on machines running these new processors, but that Microsoft (and the manufacturer) won't offer any form of support for those devices.
A new support page on the Microsoft website suggests that users who run an unsupported processor on an older version of Windows -- read Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 -- won't be able to scan for or download Windows updates anymore.
Users will get the following error message when they run the scan:
Your PC uses a processor that isn't supported on this version of Windows and you won't receive updates.
It looks like I'll be moving to BSD or Linux sooner than I planned.