When supplies of drugs run low, drug prices mysteriously rise, data shows

Science - Posted On:2018-09-24 10:29:57 Source: arstechnica

When nearly 100 drugs became scarce between 2015 and 2016, their prices mysteriously increased more than twice as fast as their expected rate, an analysis recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reveals. The price hikes were highest if the pharmaceutical companies behind the drugs had little competition, the study also shows.

The authors—a group of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and one at Harvard Medical School—can’t say for sure why the prices increased just based off the market data. But they can take a shot at possible explanations. The price hikes “may reflect manufacturers' opportunistic behavior during shortages, when the imbalance between supply and demand increases willingness to pay,” they conclude.

“There aren’t a lot of industries where if a manufacturer botches the production of a product and is responsible for a reduction in supply that they are able to profit from that... It is the federal government, underinsured, and uninsured patients that are picking up the tab," co-author William Shrank of the University of Pittsburgh noted in an interview with Bloomberg.

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Neutrinos may decay invisibly, resolving problems in IceCube data

Science - Posted On:2018-09-24 10:29:57 Source: arstechnica

I’ve largely given up writing stories about new dark-matter candidates. Theoretical physicists keep coming up with ever-more-elaborate scenarios to make dark matter more interesting and less inert. It all seems a bit forced: about the only thing that dark matter has to do is provide mass. A particle that doesn’t interact with electromagnetism at all fits the bill almost perfectly (and does practically nothing else).

Still, when there is experimental data to support it, I get interested in dark-matter candidates again. My cynicism aside, there are actually a few results hanging around that seem hard to be explain. For instance, the hydrogen in the early Universe seems to have absorbed less light than expected. The center of the galaxy emits an unexpected amount of gamma rays (though they might be due to ordinary matter). And the neutrinos observed by IceCube in the Antarctic seem to be a bit weird too.

Out of all of these, a recent explanation for the IceCube data has caught my attention because it is reasonably simple. This is in contrast to a recent proposal for a Bose-Einstein condensate of dark matter to explain the lack of hydrogen absorption, which seems hideously complex.

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Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour found off the coast of Rhode Island

Science - Posted On:2018-09-24 10:14:57 Source: arstechnica

250 years ago, Captain Cook and naturalist Sir Joseph Banks set sail in HMS Endeavour to find the rumored southern continent (of course, indigenous Australians had known about it for tens of thousands of years at that point). In 1770, the voyage arrived at Botany Bay, on the Australian coast, as part of three of Cook's famed voyages. He was killed in Hawaii during the last of them.

Cook's famous ship had a somewhat less-dramatic ending after it returned to Britain in the early 1770s. The Royal Navy sold her in 1775 to a private owner, and the ship that had once been a vehicle of exploration spent the first half of the Revolutionary War as a contracted troop transport and prison ship under the name Lord Sandwich. Then, in 1778, besieged British forces deliberately sank (or “scuttled” in nautical parlance) her, along with a dozen other ships, to help block the entrance of Rhode Island Harbor from French ships.

Now archaeologists with the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, or RIMAP, say they’ve found her again, although they have more work ahead to demonstrate it.

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Financial document reveals Vulcan rocket engine competition is over

Science - Posted On:2018-09-24 09:14:56 Source: arstechnica

The latest financial release from aerospace manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne reveals that the company spent none of its own money on development of the AR1 rocket engine this spring. Moreover, the quarterly 10-Q filing that covers financial data through June 30, 2018 indicates that Aerojet may permanently stop funding the engine with its own money altogether—a sign the company has no immediate customers.

Although Aerojet will continue to receive some funding from the US military through next year to develop its large, new rocket engine, this money won't be enough to bring it to completion. Instead of having a flight-ready engine for use by the end of 2019, the filing indicates that Aerojet now intends to have just a single prototype completed within the time frame.

Aerojet has been developing the AR1 engine under a cost-share agreement with the US Air Force, which had agreed to pay two-thirds of the cost. Aerojet originally agreed to pay nearly all of the remainder, with a small contribution from rocket manufacturer United Launch Alliance. This agreement, valued at $804 million, was in line with Aerojet's estimate of $800 million to $1 billion to develop the new engine.

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Alcohol Causes One In 20 Deaths Worldwide, Says WHO

science - Posted On:2018-09-24 06:14:57 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Alcohol is responsible for more than 5% of all deaths worldwide, or around 3 million a year, new figures have revealed. The data, part of a report from the World Health Organization, shows that about 2.3 million of those deaths in 2016 were of men, and that almost 29% of all alcohol-caused deaths were down to injuries -- including traffic accidents and suicide. The report, which comes out every four years, reveals the continued impact of alcohol on public health around the world, and highlights that the young bear the brunt: 13.5% of deaths among people in their 20s are linked to booze, with alcohol responsible for 7.2% of premature deaths overall. It also stresses that harm from drinking is greater among poorer consumers than wealthier ones. While the proportion of deaths worldwide that have been linked to alcohol has fallen to 5.3% since 2012, when the figure was at 5.9%, experts say the findings make for sobering reading. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Famed Mathematician Claims Proof of 160-Year-Old Riemann Hypothesis

science - Posted On:2018-09-24 03:14:58 Source: slashdot

Slashdot reader OneHundredAndTen writes: Sir Michael Atiyah claims to have proved the Riemann hypothesis. This is not some internet crank, but one the towering figures of mathematics in the second half of the 20th century. The thing is, he's almost 90 years old. According to New Scientist, Atiyah is set to present his "simple proof" of the Riemann hypothesis on Monday at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany. Atiyah has received two awards often referred to as the Nobel prizes of mathematics, the Fields medal and the Abel Prize; he also served as president of the London Mathematical Society, the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. "[T]he hypothesis is intimately connected to the distribution of prime numbers, those indivisible by any whole number other than themselves and one," reports New Scientist. "If the hypothesis is proven to be correct, mathematicians would be armed with a map to the location of all such prime numbers, a breakthrough with far-reaching repercussions in the field." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Japan's Two Hopping Rovers Successfully Land On Asteroid Ryugu

science - Posted On:2018-09-23 21:14:59 Source: slashdot

sharkbiter shares a report from Space.com: The suspense is over: Two tiny hopping robots have successfully landed on an asteroid called Ryugu -- and they've even sent back some wild postcards from their new home. The tiny rovers are part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return mission. Engineers with the agency deployed the robots early Friday (Sept. 21), but JAXA waited until today (Sept. 22) to confirm the operation was successful and both rovers made the landing safely. In order to complete the deployment, the main spacecraft of the Hayabusa2 mission lowered itself carefully down toward the surface until it was just 180 feet (55 meters) up. After the rovers were on their way, the spacecraft raised itself back up to its typical altitude of about 12.5 miles above the asteroid's surface (20 kilometers). The agency still has two more deployments yet to accomplish before it can rest easy: Hayabusa2 is scheduled to deploy a larger rover called MASCOT in October and another tiny hopper next year. And of course, the main spacecraft has a host of other tasks to accomplish during its stay at Ryugu -- most notably, to collect a sample of the primitive world to bring home to Earth for laboratory analysis. JAXA tweeted on Saturday: "We are sorry we have kept you waiting! MINERVA-II1 consists of two rovers, 1a & 1b. Both rovers are confirmed to have landed on the surface of Ryugu. They are in good condition and have transmitted photos & data. We also confirmed they are moving on the surface." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Researchers Create 'Spray-On' 2D Antennas

science - Posted On:2018-09-23 19:30:00 Source: slashdot

In a study published in Science Advances, researchers in Drexel's College of Engineering describe a method for spraying invisibly thin antennas, made from a type of two-dimensional, metallic material called MXene, that perform as well as those being used in mobile devices, wireless routers and portable transducers. Phys.Org reports: The researchers, from the College's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, report that the MXene titanium carbide can be dissolved in water to create an ink or paint. The exceptional conductivity of the material enables it to transmit and direct radio waves, even when it's applied in a very thin coating. Preserving transmission quality in a form this thin is significant because it would allow antennas to easily be embedded -- literally, sprayed on -- in a wide variety of objects and surfaces without adding additional weight or circuitry or requiring a certain level of rigidity. Initial testing of the sprayed antennas suggest that they can perform with the same range of quality as current antennas, which are made from familiar metals, like gold, silver, copper and aluminum, but are much thicker than MXene antennas. Making antennas smaller and lighter has long been a goal of materials scientists and electrical engineers, so this discovery is a sizable step forward both in terms of reducing their footprint as well as broadening their application. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Solar panels replaced tarmac on a motorway. Here are the results.

Science - Posted On:2018-09-23 12:45:00 Source: arstechnica

Four years ago a viral campaign wooed the world with a promise of fighting climate change and jump-starting the economy by replacing tarmac on the world’s roads with solar panels. The bold idea has undergone some road testing since then. The first results from preliminary studies have recently come out, and they’re a bit underwhelming.

A solar panel lying under a road is at a number of disadvantages. As it’s not at the optimum tilt angle, it’s going to produce less power and it’s going to be more prone to shading, which is a problem as shade over just 5 percent of the surface of a panel can reduce power generation by 50 percent.

The panels are also likely to be covered by dirt and dust, and would need far thicker glass than conventional panels to withstand the weight of traffic, which will further limit the light they absorb.

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MIT Develops New Type of Battery That Gobbles Up Carbon Dioxide

science - Posted On:2018-09-23 12:30:00 Source: slashdot

MIT has developed a new type of battery that could be made partly from carbon dioxide captured from power plants. "Rather than attempting to convert carbon dioxide to specialized chemicals using metal catalysts, which is currently highly challenging, this battery could continuously convert carbon dioxide into a solid mineral carbonate as it discharges," reports SciTechDaily. From the report: While still based on early-stage research and far from commercial deployment, the new battery formulation could open up new avenues for tailoring electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion reactions, which may ultimately help reduce the emission of the greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. The battery is made from lithium metal, carbon, and an electrolyte that the researchers designed. The findings are described today in the journal Joule, in a paper by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Betar Gallant, doctoral student Aliza Khurram, and postdoc Mingfu He. [...] Gallant and her co-workers, whose expertise has to do with nonaqueous (not water-based) electrochemical reactions such as those that underlie lithium-based batteries, looked into whether carbon-dioxide-capture chemistry could be put to use to make carbon-dioxide-loaded electrolytes -- one of the three essential parts of a battery -- where the captured gas could then be used during the discharge of the battery to provide a power output. This approach is different from releasing the carbon dioxide back to the gas phase for long-term storage, as is now used in carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS. That field generally looks at ways of capturing carbon dioxide from a power plant through a chemical absorption process and then either storing it in underground formations or chemically altering it into a fuel or a chemical feedstock. Instead, this team developed a new approach that could potentially be used right in the power plant waste stream to make material for one of the main components of a battery. While interest has grown recently in the development of lithium-carbon-dioxide batteries, which use the gas as a reactant during discharge, the low reactivity of carbon dioxide has typically required the use of metal catalysts. Not only are these expensive, but their function remains poorly understood, and reactions are difficult to control. By incorporating the gas in a liquid state, however, Gallant and her co-workers found a way to achieve electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion using only a carbon electrode. The key is to preactivate the carbon dioxide by incorporating it into an amine solution. "What we've shown for the first time is that this technique activates the carbon dioxide for more facile electrochemistry," Gallant says. "These two chemistries -- aqueous amines and nonaqueous battery electrolytes -- are not normally used together, but we found that their combination imparts new and interesting behaviors that can increase the discharge voltage and allow for sustained conversion of carbon dioxide." The approach reportedly works, producing a lithium-carbon dioxide battery with voltage and capacity that are competitive with that of state-of-the-art lithium-gas batteries," reports SciTechDaily. "Moreover, the amine acts as a molecular promoter that is not consumed in the reaction." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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“Rainbow” weevil could hold the secret to generating nature’s colors in the lab

Science - Posted On:2018-09-23 11:15:00 Source: arstechnica

There are many insects that boast one or two bright colors on their cells. But the so-called "rainbow weevil" is unique because it has many different colored spots. Now researchers from Yale-NUS College and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland have discovered the mechanism behind this rainbow effect, and it is very like the way that squid or cuttlefish shift color for camouflage. They described their results in a recent paper in the journal Small.

Nature produces color in its creatures in various ways. For instance, the bright colors in butterfly wings don't come from any pigment molecules but from how the wings are structured. The scales of chitin (a polysaccharide common to insects) are arranged like roof tiles. Essentially they form a diffraction grating, except photonic crystals only produce certain colors, or wavelengths, of light, while a diffraction grating will produce the entire spectrum, much like a prism.

This is a naturally occurring example of what physicists call photonic crystals, or photonic bandgap materials. That's because photonic crystals are "tunable," precisely ordered in such a way as to block certain wavelengths of light while letting others through. Alter the structure by changing the size of the tiles, and the crystals become sensitive to a different wavelength. Even better (from an applications standpoint), the perception of color doesn't depend on the viewing angle.

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AI learns to decipher images based on spoken words—almost like a toddler

Science - Posted On:2018-09-23 09:14:57 Source: arstechnica

Babies learn words by matching images to sounds. A mother says "dog" and points to a dog. She says "tree" and points to a tree. After repeating this process thousands of times, babies learn to recognize both common objects and the words associated with them.

Researchers at MIT have developed software with the same ability to learn to recognize objects in the world using nothing but raw images and spoken audio. The software examined about 400,000 images, each paired with a brief audio clip describing the scene. By studying these labels, the software was able to correctly label which portions of the picture contained each object mentioned in the audio description.

For example, this image comes with the caption "a white and blue jet airliner near trees at the base of a low mountain."

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Space Junk Successfully Captured In Orbit For the First Time (with Video)

science - Posted On:2018-09-22 14:44:59 Source: slashdot

"The Surrey Space Center successfully used a net to capture a piece of artificial space junk in orbit for the first time in history on Sunday," writes Slashdot reader dmoberhaus. "The video was just released Wednesday and is quite stunning." "Not only does the net look cool as hell, it's addressing a major problem for the future of space exploration," reports Motherboard: The test was carried about by the RemoveDEBRIS satellite, an experimental space debris removal platform built by an international consortium of space companies and university research centers. There are tens of thousands of pieces of fast-moving space junk in orbit, which range from the centimeter-scale all the way to entire rocket stages. Some of these pieces are moving faster than a bullet and all of them pose a serious danger to other satellites and crewed capsules... Removing this junk from orbit is particularly challenging because of the various sizes of the debris, its erratic tumbling motion, and the fact that some pieces are moving as fast as 30,000 miles per hour. The successful experiment follows six years of Earth-based testing, according to a professor at the lead research institution, the Surrey Space Centre. "While it might sound like a simple idea, the complexity of using a net in space to capture a piece of debris took many years of planning, engineering and coordination." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Two Japanese robots are now happily hopping on an asteroid [Updated]

Science - Posted On:2018-09-22 10:29:57 Source: arstechnica

Saturday update: More than 24 hours after they were released by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, the Japanese Space Agency has finally provided an update on the fate of the two tiny robots released to fly down to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. And they're doing quite well indeed.

"We are sorry we have kept you waiting!," the space agency, JAXA, tweeted. "MINERVA-II1 consists of two rovers, 1a & 1b. Both rovers are confirmed to have landed on the surface of Ryugu. They are in good condition and have transmitted photos & data. We also confirmed they are moving on the surface."

Then, they shared some pictures, including these two.

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Japan Has Attempted To Land Two Tiny Rovers On a Distant Asteroid

science - Posted On:2018-09-22 03:14:57 Source: slashdot

On Friday, Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft attempted to deploy two miniature rovers on an asteroid that it's been orbiting since mid-August. Ars Technica reports: Each weighed only about a kilogram, and after separating from the main spacecraft they approached the asteroid named Ryugu. Japanese mission scientists think the rovers touched down successfully, but are not completely sure. Communication with the two landers stopped near the moment of touchdown. This is presumably because Ryugu's rotation took the rovers out of view from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, but scientists won't know for sure until later Friday (or Saturday morning, in Japan) when they attempt to download images from the rovers. And thus we are left with a suspenseful situation. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Massive Undersea Walls Could Stop Glaciers From Melting, Scientists Say

science - Posted On:2018-09-21 23:44:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Building walls on the seafloor could prevent glaciers from melting and sea levels rising due to global warming, scientists say. Barriers of sand and rock positioned at the base of glaciers would stop ice sheets sliding and collapsing, and prevent warm water from eroding the ice from beneath, according to research published this week in the Cryosphere journal, from the European Geosciences Union. The audacious idea centers on the construction of "extremely simple structures, merely piles of aggregate on the ocean floor, although more advanced structures could certainly be explored in the future," said the report's authors, Michael Wolovick, a researcher at the department of geosciences at Princeton University, and John Moore, professor of climate change at the University of Lapland in Finland. Using computer models to gauge the probable impact of walls on erosion of the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica, one of the world's largest, Wolovick and Moore hoped to test the efficiency of "a locally targeted intervention." They claimed the simplest designs would allow direct comparison with existing engineering projects. "The easiest design that we considered would be comparable to the largest civil engineering projects that humanity has ever attempted," they said. "An ice sheet intervention today would be at the edge of human capabilities." For example, building four isolated walls would require between 0.1 and 1.5 cubic km of material. "That is comparable to the 0.1 km3 that was used to create Palm Jumeirah in Dubai ($12 billion)...(and) the 0.3 km3 that was used to create Hong Kong International Airport ($20 billion)," the report said. The authors say there's only a 30% probability of success due to the harsh environment, but did mention that the scientific community could work on a plan that was both achievable and had a high probability of success. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Southern California Sees Its Longest Streak of Bad Air In Decades

science - Posted On:2018-09-21 22:14:59 Source: slashdot

According to state monitoring data, Southern California violated federal smog standards for 87 consecutive days -- the longest stretch of bad air in at least 20 years. "The streak is the latest sign that Souther California's battle against smog is faltering after decades of dramatic improvement," reports San Francisco Chronicle. From the report: The ozone pollution spell began June 19 and continued through July and August, with every day exceeding the federal health standard of 70 parts per billion somewhere across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It didn't relent until Sept. 14, when air pollution dipped to "moderate" levels within federal limits for ozone, the lung-damaging gas in smog that triggers asthma and other respiratory illnesses. It's not unusual for Southern California summers to go weeks without a break in the smog, especially in inland communities that have long suffered the nation's worst ozone levels. But environmentalists and health experts say the persistence of dirty air this year is a troubling sign that demands action. Regulators blame the dip in air quality in recent years on hotter weather and stronger, more persistent inversion layers that trap smog near the ground. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Divers Are Attempting To Regrow Great Barrier Reef With Electricity

science - Posted On:2018-09-21 17:30:00 Source: slashdot

A trial is underway to restore damaged coral on the Great Barrier Reef using electricity. From a report: The reef has been severely assaulted in recent years by cyclones and back-to-back heatwaves. Nathan Cook at conservation group Reef Ecologic and his colleagues are attempting to regrow surviving coral fragments on steel frames. The frames are placed on damaged parts of the reef and stimulated with electricity to accelerate the coral's growth. Electrified metal frames have previously been used to encourage coral growth on reefs in South-East Asia, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. They have been shown to attract mineral deposits that help corals grow 3 to 4 times faster than normal. The technique is being trialed at a section of the reef 100 kilometres north of Cairns that was badly affected by the 2016 and 2017 mass coral bleaching events. Some coral is starting to grow back naturally, but it will take at least a decade for even the fastest-growing species to fully recover. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Giant Spiderweb Cloaks Land in Aitoliko, Greece

science - Posted On:2018-09-21 13:00:00 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader shares a report: Warmer weather conditions in western Greece have led to the eerie spectacle of a 300m-long spiderweb in Aitoliko. A vast area of greenery has been covered by the web, reports the Daily Hellas. Experts say it is a seasonal phenomenon, caused by Tetragnatha spiders, which can build large nests for mating. An increase in the mosquito population is also thought to have contributed to the rise in the number of spiders. Maria Chatzaki, professor of molecular biology and genetics at Democritus University of Thrace, Greece said high temperatures, sufficient humidity and food created the ideal conditions for the species to reproduce in large numbers. She told Newsit.gr: "It's as if the spiders are taking advantage of these conditions and are having a kind of a party. They mate, they reproduce and provide a whole new generation. "These spiders are not dangerous for humans and will not cause any damage to the area's flora. The spiders will have their party and will soon die." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Drugged puppies blamed for spreading diarrhea superbugs in multi-state outbreak

Science - Posted On:2018-09-21 12:30:00 Source: arstechnica

Puppies given a startling amount of antibiotics have spurred a multi-state outbreak of diarrhea-causing bacterial infections that are extensively drug resistant, federal and state health officials report this week.

The finding, published in the September 21 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests that the dog industry is in serious need of training and obedience classes. The “widespread administration of multiple antibiotic classes” to puppies, including all of the classes commonly used to treat diarrhea infections in humans, is an alarming finding, the officials suggested. They called for fairly simple fixes including better hygiene and animal husbandry practices, as well as veterinary oversight of antibiotic use.

“Implementation of antibiotic stewardship principles and practices in the commercial dog industry is needed,” they concluded bluntly.

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