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Terrawatch: After the earthquake – the monsoon brings landslips

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-05 21:30

It has been just over two months since the devastating earthquake in Nepal and, for much of the world, the event has faded from memory. But for Nepalese people the nightmare continues and now that the monsoon rains have arrived a new threat looms.

Every year landslides are common in Nepal during the monsoon, which usually runs from June to September, but this year is likely to be particuarly bad. Steep hillsides have been seriously destabilised by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in April and its subsequent aftershocks, and it is feared that the heavy rains will trigger multiple landslides from these precarious slopes.

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Fog of cyberwar: How nations really attack each other online

New Scientist - news - Sun, 2015-07-05 20:00
This is the age of world web wars, with nation states engaged in an arms race of cyber weapons. But the game is more shadowy than warmongers make out (full text available to subscribers)

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Has physics cried wolf too often? | Jon Butterworth | Life & Physics

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-05 15:40

Mistakes are embarrassing, and getting over-excited about a statisitical anomaly is silly. But these things happen, and the answer to building public confidence in science is not to pretend that they don’t

Last week I wrote about a possible signal for exciting new physics, seen in data from the two big “general purpose detectors” at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. I was trying as carefully as I could to steer a course between being over-excited and overly conservative. It is difficult to be sure that your judgement is correct in such cases, but it is important to try. After all to quote Richard Feynman, in science

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool

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Nasa scientists work to revive Pluto-bound spacecraft after glitch

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-05 14:49

New Horizons craft suffered malfunction – which triggered an 81-minute break in radio communications – just nine days before it was due to fly past Pluto

Nasa scientists were working on Sunday to revive the New Horizons spacecraft, after it suffered a computer malfunction just nine days before it was due to fly past Pluto.

The probe has been barreling toward the dwarf planet and its primary moon, Charon, since January 2006.

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Heaven on earth: The multiverse made of rock and grass

New Scientist - news - Sun, 2015-07-05 10:00
A former coal mine in Scotland has been transformed into a vast cosmic homage, complete with galactic hills and megalithic universes

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Why your smartphone takes better photographs than the Hubble space telescope

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-05 08:00
Given that we’re living in a golden age for space photography, it’s surprising how antiquated the hardware responsible is…

For those who keep up with the latest developments in space exploration, the last couple of years have offered a rich feast of images: from close-up pictures of water-worn pebbles on the surface of Mars to the views of galaxies at the edge of the visible universe, by way of the cratered surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. We are becoming almost blase with the seemingly daily occurrence of a fresh view of a star or planet.

Back on Earth, we are also no longer amazed by the instant communication of social media or the ability to watch films in high definition on our smartphones. Rather, we tend to complain if our mobile signal drops out when going through a tunnel on a train journey or the internet speed slows because it can’t cope with the 10GB film you are streaming at the same time your kids are playing an online fantasy game ported through a server some thousand miles away. The latest developments in hi-tech communications incorporate 64bit architecture, 1GB RAM, 1.4 GHz speed, 20 megapixel cameras and so on. How does all this relate to the wonderful images produced by space instruments?

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Your phone is constantly betraying you

New Scientist - news - Sat, 2015-07-04 18:00
Chances are, your smartphone is broadcasting sensitive data to the world, says Glenn Wilkinson, who hacks people's phones to demonstrate the risk (full text available to subscribers)

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Songbirds Return to North America | @GrrlScientist

Guardian Science - Sat, 2015-07-04 16:35

The Migratory Connectivity Project seeks to connect people and cultures throughout the Americas by fostering the public’s love of and appreciation for migratory birds

Did you know the coast of Texas is a critically important place for migratory birds in the U.S. and Canada? This is where most migratory birds that breed in the eastern United States and throughout Canada first make landfall after a long migration across the Gulf of Mexico. This is where they seek food, water and rest before continuing northward on their migratory journeys.

But unfortunately, populations of North American migratory birds are declining, and in many cases, scientists aren’t exactly sure why. The Migratory Connectivity Project, a collaboration between the US Geological Survey bird banding lab and Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, is devoted to better understanding the migratory patterns of North American birds so they can learn how to protect them. They do this by analysing USGS bird band recovery data and using this data to construct migratory connectivity maps for all birds breeding in North America. Here’s a preliminary map for the tree swallow, Tachycineta bicolor:

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A welcome dose of environmental optimism

New Scientist - news - Sat, 2015-07-04 14:00
From rainforest revival and green technology to social changes, the age of humans is not necessarily a one-way ticket to eco-disaster, argue three new books

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Pluto: Nasa probe set for fly-past of frozen ‘dwarf planet’

Guardian Science - Sat, 2015-07-04 10:00
With much skill – and some luck – the New Horizons spacecraft is about to provide our closest glimpse yet of the frozen and little-understood world of Pluto

Pluto is so far away (4.8bn km) and so small (about two-thirds the size of the Earth’s moon) that we’ve never had a good look at it, not even with the Hubble space telescope. In Hubble images, Pluto has always been a tiny, pixelated blob. Until now.

Related: Target Pluto: fastest spaceship set for epic encounter with our remotest planet

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Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics by Richard H Thaler review – why don’t people pursue their own best interests?

Guardian Science - Sat, 2015-07-04 09:00

A gripping, novelistic intellectual history from the man behind ‘nudge’ economics

Professor Richard Thaler is a bit lazy, prone to procrastination and likes his booze: his observations, not mine. He is also the president of the American Economic Association, a role held in the past by such luminaries as Milton Friedman, JK Galbraith, Gary Becker and Amartya Sen.

That a person with such everyday flaws has scaled the unforgiving heights of the economics establishment is striking in itself. Even more so is the fact that he has done so by turning those weaknesses into the very subject of a new branch of economic science. Thaler has spent a career seeking to understand individuals as they really are – chock-full of weaknesses, irrationalities and idiosyncrasies. He labels these creatures “humans”, rather than as “econs”, walking calculators rationally optimising their utility.

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How to bring pi to life for your pupils - TES News

Marcus du Sautoy news - Sat, 2015-07-04 07:11

TES News

How to bring pi to life for your pupils
TES News
Maths is seen as a dry subject with a rigid structure: useful, important, but not much fun. Primary school maths, in particular, tends to be presented technically rather than creatively. But maths is a creative subject in its own right and can be ...

Categories: Marcus du Sautoy

Science of resistance: Heinrich Wieland, the biochemist who defied the Nazis

Guardian Science - Fri, 2015-07-03 19:24

Recognise his name? Few do. But Wieland wasn’t just the father of biochemistry and a Nobel prize winner. He was a scientist with the courage of his convictions

Despite finding international fame as one of Germany’s most renowned scientists in the first half of the 20th century, Heinrich Otto Wieland always shied away from the limelight, so the man now regarded as the father of modern biochemistry would probably have approved of the low key manner in which his 1927 Nobel prize was sold in April.

Auctioned off by a small memorabilia company in Los Angeles amongst a random collection of showbiz items such as curtain costumes from the Sound of Music, Wieland’s medal received just a single bid, raising a princely $395,000.

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Black Sheep: Why being bad isn't all bad

New Scientist - news - Fri, 2015-07-03 19:00
From swearing to skiving or getting drunk, breaking the rules has lots of upsides, as a wide-ranging new book explains

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Rider in the sky stars in first cloud movie

New Scientist - news - Fri, 2015-07-03 18:16
Eadweard Muybridge's famous galloping horses are projected directly onto clouds from an aircraft in ground-breaking art installation

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Forget the white/blue dress, is this seaweed blue or red?

New Scientist - news - Fri, 2015-07-03 17:57
Close-up views of this red alga show how it gets its iridescence and changes colour in the water

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Winning formula reveals if your team is too far ahead to lose

New Scientist - news - Fri, 2015-07-03 16:44
An analysis of over a million games predicts whether the leading side can be overtaken before the match ends

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UK maths prodigy sets out to prove his worth at international Olympiad

Guardian Science - Fri, 2015-07-03 16:15

16-year-old mathlete Joe Benton travels with UK team to Thailand next week to battle, against the odds, the powerhouses of China, USA and Taiwan

“I’ve always been interested in maths, since I can remember,” says 16-year-old Joe Benton. “I find it elegant. I really enjoy the kick you get when you solve a problem, when it’s something you’ve been thinking of as impossible for a long time, and it suddenly becomes obvious. That ‘a-ha’ moment – it’s fun.”

Joe is one of six gifted young mathematicians chosen for the British team who will compete next week in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The IMO is the world cup of mathematics competitions for secondary school-age students. It began in 1959 with seven countries competing in Bucharest, Romania. Now, it’s a global event with more than 500 teenagers from over 100 countries.

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Throughout history, debt and war have been constant partners | Giles Fraser: Loose canon

Guardian Science - Fri, 2015-07-03 15:55
As Greece’s spending on weapons shows, it’s not pensions or benefits that cripple economies, it’s the military-industrial complex

Somewhere in a Greek jail, the former defence minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, watches the financial crisis unfold. I wonder how partly responsible he feels? In 2013, Akis (as he is popularly known) went down for 20 years, finally succumbing to the waves of financial scandal to which his name had long been associated. For alongside the lavish spending, the houses and the dodgy tax returns, there was bribery, and it was the €8m appreciation he received from the German arms dealer, Ferrostaal, for the Greek government’s purchase of Type 214 submarines, that sent him to prison.

There is this idea that the Greeks got themselves into this current mess because they paid themselves too much for doing too little. Well, maybe. But it’s not the complete picture. For the Greeks also got themselves into debt for the oldest reason in the book – one might even argue, for the very reason that public debt itself was first invented – to raise and support an army. The state’s need for quick money to raise an army is how industrial-scale money lending comes into business (in the face of the church’s historic opposition to usury). Indeed, in the west, one might even stretch to say that large-scale public debt began as a way to finance military intervention in the Middle East – ie the crusades. And just as rescuing Jerusalem from the Turks was the justification for massive military spending in the middle ages, so the fear of Turkey has been the reason given for recent Greek spending. Along with German subs, the Greeks have bought French frigates, US F16s and German Leopard 2 tanks. In the 1980s, for example, the Greeks spent an average of 6.2% of their GDP on defence compared with a European average of 2.9%. In the years following their EU entry, the Greeks were the world’s fourth-highest spenders on conventional weaponry.

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Cinemagoer self-diagnoses illness after watching Stephen Hawking biopic

Guardian Science - Fri, 2015-07-03 15:50

Paul Whyley is receiving treatment for motor neurone disease after experiencing an epiphany during screening of Oscar-winning film The Theory of Everything

A moviegoer has told how he correctly diagnosed himself with motor neurone disease after watching the Oscar-winning Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything.

Paul Whyley, 62, a grandfather and former newspaper circulation rep from Hagley in the west midlands, is now being looked after full time by his wife Jayne after doctors agreed his symptoms were unmistakable.

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