IBM To Trace Food Contamination With Blockchain

science - Posted On:2017-08-22 18:14:59 Source: slashdot

Thelasko shares a report from CNBC: IBM has been joined by a group of global food giants including the likes of Nestle, Unilever and Walmart in an effort to reduce food contamination by using blockchain. The corporation announced Tuesday that it would enable global food businesses to use its blockchain network to trace the source of contaminated produce. IBM said that the problem of consumer health suffering at the hands of toxic food could be solved using its distributed ledger technology, which maintains a digital record of transactions rather than a physical one. It would enable food suppliers to source information about the origin, condition and movement of food, and to trace contaminated produce in mere seconds. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Getting NASA To Comply With Simple FOIA Requests Is a Nightmare

science - Posted On:2017-08-22 16:44:59 Source: slashdot

From a report on Motherboard: Freedom of Information Act requests are used by journalists, private citizens, and government watchdogs to acquire public documents from government agencies. FOIAing NASA, however, can be an exercise in futility. In one recent case, Motherboard requested all emails from a specific NASA email address with a specific subject line. Other government agencies have completed similar requests with no problems. NASA, however, said it was "unclear what specific NASA records you are requesting." Possibly the only way to be more specific is to knock on NASA's door and show them a printout of what an email is. JPat Brown, executive editor of public records platform MuckRock, explained similarly frustrating experiences with NASA. "Even in cases where we've requested specific contracts by name and number, NASA has claimed that our request was too broad, and added insult to injury with a form letter rejection that includes the sentence 'we are not required to hunt for needles in bureaucratic haystacks,'" Brown told Motherboard in an email. Brown added that NASA has refused to process records unless presented with a requester's home address, something that is not included in the relevant code; and makes it more difficult for requests to obtain 'media' status. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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When it comes to controversial science, a little knowledge is a problem

Science - Posted On:2017-08-22 14:00:00 Source: arstechnica

For a lot of scientific topics, there's a big gap between what scientists understand and what the public thinks it knows. For a number of these topics—climate change and evolution are prominent examples—this divide develops along cultural lines, typically religious or political identity.

It would be reassuring to think that the gap is simply a matter of a lack of information. Get the people with doubts about science up to speed, and they'd see things the way that scientists do. Reassuring, but wrong. A variety of studies have indicated that the public's doubts about most scientific topics have nothing to do with how much they understand that topic. And a new study out this week joins a number of earlier ones in indicating that scientific knowledge makes it easier for those who are culturally inclined to reject a scientific consensus.

The new work was done by two social scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fishchoff. They relied on a large, regular survey called the General Social Survey, which attempts to capture the public's perspective on a large variety of issues (they used data from the 2006 and 2010 iterations of the survey). The survey included a number of questions on general education and scientific education, as well as a number of questions that determined basic scientific literacy. In addition, it asked for opinions on a number of scientific issues: acceptance of the evidence for the Big Bang, human evolution, and climate change; thoughts on the safety of GMOs and nanotechnology; and the degree to which the government should fund stem cell research.

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The solar eclipse produced some fantastic photos—here are our favorites

Science - Posted On:2017-08-22 09:44:57 Source: arstechnica

On Monday, Ars writers shared some thoughts about the total solar eclipse that spanned the United States with readers and took some backyard photographs of the event. But let's be honest, none of us are professional photographers, and didn't possess the right equipment to do the celestial event justice.

Fortunately, there's a space agency for that. Two, even. And on Monday NASA and the European Space Agency deployed their resources on the ground and in space to capture the eclipse, doing so in stunning fashion. This gallery highlights everything from the International Space Station transiting the Sun during the eclipse, to astronauts on board the station itself taking pictures of the event back on Earth.

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Scientists Create Smart Labels To Tell You When To Throw Away Expired Food and Makeup

science - Posted On:2017-08-21 18:44:59 Source: slashdot

At the 254th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, researchers are presenting a low-cost, portable, paper-based sensor that can let you know when to toss food and cosmetics. The sensor can detect antioxidants in tea and wine, and be used to explore remote locations, such as the Amazon rainforest, in search of natural sources of antioxidants. "I've always been interested in developing technologies that are accessible to both industry and the general population," Silvana Andreescu, Ph.D., says. "My lab has built a versatile sensing platform that incorporates all the needed reagents for detection in a piece of paper. At the same time, it is adaptable to different targets, including food contaminants, antioxidants and free radicals that indicate spoilage." Phys.Org reports: What sets Andreescu's sensors apart from others, she says, are the nanostructures they use to catch and bind to compounds they're looking for. "Most people working on similar sensors use solutions that migrate on channels," Andreescu says. "We use stable, inorganic particles that are redox active. When they interact with the substances we want to detect, they change color, and the intensity of the change tells us how concentrated the analyte is." Additionally, because all of the reagents needed to operate the device are incorporated in the paper, users don't need to add anything other than the sample being tested. The American Chemical Society has published a video detailing the sensor. Their paper has been published in the journal Analyst. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Miss the totality? Google Maps will make you feel better

Science - Posted On:2017-08-21 17:44:59 Source: arstechnica

Earlier today, millions of Americans flocked to a strip of land about 70 miles wide stretching from Portland, Oregon to Columbia, South Carolina to view a once-a-decade total solar eclipse.

Now the totality is over, and everyone is trying to go home. And as these screenshots from Google maps demonstrate, it's causing traffic jams on North-South interstates throughout the path of the totality:

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Miss the totality? Google Maps will make you feel better.

Science - Posted On:2017-08-21 16:45:00 Source: arstechnica

Earlier today, millions of Americans flocked to a strip of land about 70 miles wide, stretching from Portland, Oregon to Columbia, South Carolina, to view a once-a-decade total solar eclipse.

Now the totality is over, and everyone is trying to go home. And as these screenshots from Google maps demonstrate, it's causing traffic jams on North-South interstates throughout the path of the totality:

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Total eclipse of the Ars

Science - Posted On:2017-08-21 15:45:00 Source: arstechnica

Our staff is sharing its eclipse stories and photos from today. The post will be updated as more come in.

OAKLAND, CA—Oakland  and the surrounding Bay Area are well-known for morning fog, particularly in the summertime. So despite having two telescopes and the helpful staff at the Chabot Space & Science Center, the clouds unfortunately didn’t cooperate. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop hundreds of people from gathering along the observation deck, near the historic telescopes named Leah and Rachel. Most people had brought protective eyewear or had made pinhole boxes, but with the cloud cover blocking the Sun anyway, they quickly figured out that they wouldn’t be able to see the Sun with them on. Attendees squealed and yelped with joy as they attempted to view what was left of the Sun peeking out from behind the Moon and the thick white cloud cover. Your correspondent caught a few glimpses of the partially-eclipsed and cloud-covered Sun for just a few moments.

Meanwhile, my sister-in-law, Kelly Guyon, 28, who traveled north from Oakland, California, to Madras, Oregon, to observe totality, has declared herself an “eclipse chaser” now.

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How the Voyager Golden Record Was Made

science - Posted On:2017-08-21 11:30:00 Source: slashdot

Fascinating article on The New Yorker about how the Voyager Golden Record was made: The Voyagers' scientific mission will end when their plutonium-238 thermoelectric power generators fail, around the year 2030. After that, the two craft will drift endlessly among the stars of our galaxy -- unless someone or something encounters them someday. With this prospect in mind, each was fitted with a copy of what has come to be called the Golden Record. Etched in copper, plated with gold, and sealed in aluminum cases, the records are expected to remain intelligible for more than a billion years, making them the longest-lasting objects ever crafted by human hands. We don't know enough about extraterrestrial life, if it even exists, to state with any confidence whether the records will ever be found. They were a gift, proffered without hope of return. I became friends with Carl Sagan, the astronomer who oversaw the creation of the Golden Record, in 1972. He'd sometimes stop by my place in New York, a high-ceilinged West Side apartment perched up amid Norway maples like a tree house, and we'd listen to records. Lots of great music was being released in those days, and there was something fascinating about LP technology itself. A diamond danced along the undulations of a groove, vibrating an attached crystal, which generated a flow of electricity that was amplified and sent to the speakers. At no point in this process was it possible to say with assurance just how much information the record contained or how accurately a given stereo had translated it. The open-endedness of the medium seemed akin to the process of scientific exploration: there was always more to learn. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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So, you’re not seeing the eclipse today …

Science - Posted On:2017-08-21 09:14:57 Source: arstechnica

Despite all the hype surrounding Monday's solar eclipse—and it has become nearly inescapable—most Americans will not see the totality. This is unfortunate, because the Sun disappearing during the middle of the day is truly a moving experience. But if you're not seeing it today, don't feel too bad—you're not alone.

Only about 12 million people live within the 110km-wide path of totality that runs across the United States, from Oregon through South Carolina. By various estimates, an additional 1.8 to 7.4 million people will travel into the path of totality to view the eclipse. This means only about 6 percent of the United States population will see a total eclipse on Monday.

So if you're missing out, rest assured that most other Americans are, too. Also, you should start planning ahead. Because while it has been nearly a century since a total eclipse spanned the continental United States, we won't wait that long again. Here's a look at what lies ahead.

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A gallery of Voyager’s greatest hits—and they are truly great

Science - Posted On:2017-08-21 08:30:00 Source: arstechnica

Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2 which, at the time, confused the heck out of the press and public because it actually launched before Voyager 1. Why did they launch the second probe first? Because Voyager 2 was going to follow a longer trajectory to reach the Jupiter system, allowing it to fly by Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Voyager 1 launched 16 days later on a faster track optimized to fly by Jupiter, Saturn, and make a relatively close pass of Saturn's intriguing moon Titan.

The missions, of course, were smashing successes. Voyager 1 reached Jupiter on March 5, 1979, about four months before its twin. Scientists weren't sure what they would find out there. Pioneer 10 and 11 had given them some insights about Jupiter and Saturn as gas giants, but little information was known about the many moons of these worlds. Most scientists thought they would probably be a lot like the cold, dark, and lifeless moons of Earth and Mars.

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Get out of the office, see the eclipse

Science - Posted On:2017-08-20 12:30:01 Source: arstechnica

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that August 21 will treat much of the United States to a partial or total solar eclipse. The total eclipse will be visible along a path that stretches from the Oregon-Washington border to South Carolina.

But even if you're not on the path of totality, you'd have to be in northern Maine to see more than half the Sun during the eclipse. New York City is over 1,000 kilometers from South Carolina, but we're still going to have over 70 percent of the Sun hidden.

Rather than rehash all the details—or warning you again not to look at the Sun without protection—we here at Ars are simply going to urge you to stop what you're doing and step outside if you're anywhere in North America. Even if it's cloudy. Even if you haven't gotten organized enough to obtain eclipse glasses.

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Eclipse 2017: excited about a case of the Mondays

Science - Posted On:2017-08-20 12:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that August 21 will treat much of the United States to a partial or total solar eclipse. The total eclipse will be visible along a path that stretches from the Oregon-Washington border to South Carolina.

But even if you're not on the path of totality, you'd have to be in northern Maine to see more than half the Sun during the eclipse. New York City is over 1,000 kilometers from South Carolina, but we're still going to have over 70 percent of the Sun hidden.

Rather than rehash all the details—or warning you again not to look at the Sun without protection—we here at Ars are simply going to urge you to stop what you're doing and step outside if you're anywhere in North America. Even if it's cloudy. Even if you haven't gotten organized enough to obtain eclipse glasses.

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A gallery of Voyagers greatest hits—and they are truly great

Science - Posted On:2017-08-20 11:30:00 Source: arstechnica

Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2 which, at the time, confused the heck out of the press and public because it actually launched before Voyager 1. Why did they launch the second probe first? Because Voyager 2 was going to follow a longer trajectory to reach the Jupiter system, allowing it to fly by Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Voyager 1 launched 16 days later on a faster track optimized to fly by Jupiter, Saturn, and make a relatively close pass of Saturn's intriguing moon Titan.

The missions, of course, were smashing successes. Voyager 1 reached Jupiter on March 5, 1979, about four months before its twin. Scientists weren't sure what they would find out there. Pioneer 10 and 11 had given them some insights about Jupiter and Saturn as gas giants, but little information was known about the many moons of these worlds. Most scientists thought they would probably be a lot like the cold, dark, and lifeless moons of Earth and Mars.

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The Voyagers at 40: Their greatest hits still look amazingly great

Science - Posted On:2017-08-20 11:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2 which, at the time, confused the heck out of the press and public because it actually launched before Voyager 1. Why did they launch the second probe first? Because Voyager 2 was going to follow a longer trajectory to reach the Jupiter system, allowing it to fly by Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Voyager 1 launched 16 days later on a faster track optimized to fly by Jupiter, Saturn, and make a relatively close pass of Saturn's intriguing moon Titan.

The missions, of course, were smashing successes. Voyager 1 reached Jupiter on March 5, 1979, about four months before its twin. Scientists weren't sure what they would find out there. Pioneer 10 and 11 had given them some insights about Jupiter and Saturn as gas giants, but little information was known about the many moons of these worlds. Most scientists thought they would probably be a lot like the cold, dark, and lifeless moons of Earth and Mars.

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NASA's Cassini Probe Begins Its 'Grand Finale' Through Saturn's Atmosphere

science - Posted On:2017-08-20 10:29:56 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes Space.com: After orbiting Saturn for more than 13 years, NASA's Cassini spacecraft is getting ready to say goodbye. On Monday (August 14), Cassini made the first of five passes through Saturn's upper atmosphere, kicking off the last phase of the mission's "Grand Finale." After completing those five dives, Cassini will come back around again one last time, plunging into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15. This will be a suicide maneuver: Cassini will burn up in the ringed planet's thick air, turning into a meteor in the Saturn sky... Cassini's radar will be able to look into the atmosphere and see features as small as 16 miles (25 km) wide, about 100 times smaller than what it could see from its usual orbital positions. The Grand Finale will include one final swing by Saturn's largest moon, Titan, on Sept. 11. Titan's gravity will slow Cassini's orbit around Saturn and bend its path to send the spacecraft toward its September 15 encounter with the planet... Cassini will keep sending back data on September 15 until it gets to an altitude where atmospheric density is about twice what it encountered during its final five passes, NASA officials said. At that point, mission controllers will lose contact with the probe because its thrusters won't be able to keep Cassini's antenna pointed toward Earth; there will simply be too much air to push against. The second dip happens this weekend, and NASA has created a special web page tracking Cassini's current location for its final 28 days. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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NASA’s Voyagers: 35 years of inspiration [Update: Now it’s 40]

Science - Posted On:2017-08-19 13:15:00 Source: arstechnica

This weekend, NASA's historic Voyager spacecrafts celebrate their 40th year in space. The missions have given humanity many awe-inspiring discoveries in those four decades, and Voyager 1 and 2 have inspired infinite further initiatives or related works, too (such as a great new documentary debuting this week). To celebrate the occasion, we're resurfacing this appreciation from 2012 that details another thing Voyager forever inspired: our science editor.

August 20, 1977 turned out to be a before-and-after moment for me—and probably a lot of other people as well. None of us knew it at the time, though, since the launch of Voyager 2 (followed a few weeks later by Voyager 1) wasn't obviously a big deal to most people. In fact, I wouldn't fully appreciate the change until sometime in 1980.

To understand why, a bit of history is in order. NASA had been sending probes to other planets, like the Mariner and Pioneer series, since the 1960s. However, even the best technology of the time was pretty limited in terms of what it could do remotely. And for most of that time, they were badly overshadowed by manned exploration, first the Apollo missions and Skylab, and later the planning for the space shuttle. In fact, even as the Voyagers flew past Jupiter, I seem to recall more attention being paid to the impending de-orbit of Skylab, which scattered charred pieces of itself over Australia later that year.

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New surface is so slippery, shellfish can’t get a grip

Science - Posted On:2017-08-19 08:14:57 Source: arstechnica

When engineers look at mussels, they're typically looking in awe at how they anchor themselves to nearly every surface imaginable, all while under water. The fibers they use to attach themselves are incredibly strong, and the adhesive works wet or dry on all sorts of materials. For the most part, engineers are looking to create a substance with similar properties.

This week, however, brings an exception: engineers who want to try to keep mussels from sticking to everything. Zebra mussels, a species that has invaded the Great Lakes, is estimated to cost utilities hundreds of millions of dollars each year due to clogged pipes and intakes. Ships, buoys, and pretty much anything else we put in the water also ends up needing to have mussels cleared off.

The international team behind the new work has designed a material that mussels can't seem to get a grip on. It's not because the mussel's adhesive fail; instead, the mussel itself doesn't seem to know what it's touching when it's set down on the material.

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Atlas 5 Rocket Launches $400 Million NASA Satellite Into Space

science - Posted On:2017-08-19 06:14:57 Source: slashdot

A new communications hub has been successfully deployed in space today thanks to the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. "TDRS is a critical national asset have because of its importance to the space station and all of our science missions, primarily the Hubble Space Telescope and Earth science missions that use TDRS," said Tim Dunn, NASA's TDRS-M launch director. Spaceflight Now reports: With its main engine running at full throttle, the Atlas 5 booster lifted off at 8:29 a.m. EDT (1229 GMT) from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral. The 191-foot-tall rocket, generating 860,000 pounds of thrust, aimed eastward and accelerated out of the atmosphere with NASA's TDRS-M spacecraft. Within just five minutes, the rocket had shed 92 percent of its liftoff weight and transitioned to the high-energy Centaur upper stage. An elliptical parking orbit was achieved within 18 minutes of takeoff, beginning a 90-minute quiescent coast higher through space to reach the optimum conditions for the second burn by Centaur. That minute-long boost over the Indian Ocean propelled the 7,610-pound payload into a customized high-perigee geosynchronous transfer orbit. The spacecraft was deployed by the launcher at T+plus 1 hour, 53 minutes to cheers and handshakes all around. The $408 million TDRS-M was built and launched with the sole purpose to extend the useful life of NASA's constant communications infrastructure, supporting the astronauts around-the-clock aboard the International Space Station, supplying contact with the Hubble Space Telescope and transmitting the data from almost 40 science spacecraft studying Earth's environment and space. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Memories of Fear Could Be Permanently Erased, Study Shows

science - Posted On:2017-08-18 21:14:58 Source: slashdot

A new study unpicks why certain sounds can stir alarming memories, and reveals a new approach to wiping such memories from the brain. The Guardian reports: Published in the journal Neuron by Cho and his colleague Woong Bin Kim, the research reveals how the team used genetically modified mice to examine the pathways between the area of the brain involved in processing a particular sound and the area involved in emotional memories, known as the amygdala. In the first part of the experiment the team played both a high pitched and low-pitched tone to mice. But, when the high-pitched sound was played, the researchers also gave the mice a small electric shock to their feet. When the high-pitched tone was subsequently played on its own, the mice froze in fear; no such response was seen when the alternative, low-pitched, tone was played. The team then looked to see if there were differences between the high-pitch and low-pitch tone pathways in the brains of the mice, revealing that, among the mice exposed electric shocks, the connections within the "high-pitched" pathway had become stronger, while the other pathway remained unchanged. The team found that when mice were subsequently repeatedly exposed to high-pitched sounds without the shocks they lost their fear -- a process known as fear extinction. But the team discovered that using a technique called optogenetics, it was possible to truly erase the unpleasant memories. This technique involved the researchers using a virus to introduce genes into particular neurons in the brains of the mice that were involved in the "high-pitch" pathways. Once inside the cells, the genes result in the production of proteins which respond to light, allowing researchers to control the activity of the neurons. Taking mice with the fearful memories, the team exposed the neurons involved in the "high-pitch" pathway to low-frequency light -- an approach which weakens the connections between the neurons. The upshot was that the mice no longer appeared fearful when they heard the high-pitched tone. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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