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Is it possible to permanently delete a social media profile?

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-07-27 15:54
The 37 million people using the Ashley Madison adultery service have to pay to have their accounts deleted, but deleting yourself online might be impossible









Categories: Science news

In defence of the Research Excellence Framework

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-07-27 15:41

An as-yet-unannounced review of Business, Innovation and Skills-funded bodies raises a potential threat to the future of research funding. We need an intelligent, evidence-informed debate about the costs and benefits of assessment

In academic circles, it’s become fashionable to denounce the Research Excellence Framework (REF) as the sector’s very own spawn of satan. The REF, a six-yearly assessment of the qualities and impacts of UK research, is used to allocate around £1.6 billion of public funding on an annual basis. In these austere times, you might think that would be enough to win it a few friends. Instead, the critics are lining up.

The REF is “a bloated boondoggle”, a “Frankenstein monster” and “a Minotaur that must be appeased by bloody sacrifices”. It is responsible for a “blackmail culture”, a “fever” and a “toxic miasma” which hangs over our campuses, choking the dying gasps of creativity from academic life. Entire books have been devoted to its insidious “hypocrisies”. Sir Paul Nurse and Lord Stern, the presidents of our most eminent academies, query its “wasteful and distorting” influence. Even Jo Johnson, the science minister, is now trying to sell the virtues of teaching assessment on the basis that he has “no intention of replicating the individual and institutional burdens of the REF”.

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Categories: Science news

Bryan Nelson obituary

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-07-27 13:59
Ornithologist devoted to studying, filming and writing about seabirds, he became the ‘biographer’ of the gannet

Seabirds are to many ornithologists the most fascinating of all bird groups. For Bryan Nelson, who has died aged 83, they became a benign obsession, to which he devoted most of his professional and personal life as an author, zoologist and academic.

His passion for such birds found its outlet in several books, which ranged from a detailed and authoritative monograph on the gannet (The Gannet, 1978) to a concise introduction to the same species in the popular Shire Natural History series (1979). He once described himself as the “major biographer” of the gannet, but his masterwork, published in 2006, was a hefty volume entitled Pelicans, Cormorants, and their Relatives, produced by the Oxford University Press as part of its Bird Families of the World series. In addition to his books, Nelson also wrote numerous scientific papers and popular articles, appeared on radio and television, and made natural history films on seabirds.

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Categories: Science news

Bone idol: museum's quagga skeleton restored with 3D-printed leg

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-07-27 13:56

London’s Grant Museum of Zoology has completed work on its rare but neglected quagga skeleton – missing a leg and mistaken for a zebra for years

The tottering remains of one of the rarest zoological museum specimens in the world – a quagga whose ancestors were hunted to extinction in South Africa in the 19th century – is now standing firmly on four legs again through 3D printing, which recreated a flipped version of its right hind leg to replace the missing left leg.

Related: The quagga now standing on three legs is next in line for Bone Idol restoration

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Categories: Science news

Smart mirror monitors your face for telltale signs of disease

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-07-27 12:34
The European Union is funding a mirror-like device containing 3D scanners, multispectral cameras and gas sensors to read facial clues to health









Categories: Science news

Musk, Wozniak and Hawking urge ban on warfare AI and autonomous weapons

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-07-27 11:18

More than 1,000 experts and leading robotics researchers sign open letter warning of military artificial intelligence arms race

Over 1,000 high-profile artificial intelligence experts and leading researchers have signed an open letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”.

The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.

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Categories: Science news

Thirteen new spider species discovered in Australia's north

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-07-27 08:35

A team of scientists, teachers and Indigenous rangers find new arachnids during survey of the Cape York peninsula in Queensland’s far north

Thirteen new species of spider have been discovered on Queensland’s Cape York peninsula – adding to the thousands of known species that give Australian wildlife its fearsome reputation.

The new species were found by scientists, teachers and Indigenous rangers during a 10-day journey to the largely unsurveyed area.

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Categories: Science news

11 largely forgotten UK sci-fi sitcoms - Den Of Geek

Marcus du Sautoy news - Mon, 2015-07-27 07:31

Den Of Geek

11 largely forgotten UK sci-fi sitcoms
Den Of Geek
The roles of three mis-matched characters on a lengthy space mission, Commander Mattocks, Dr Foster and David Ackroyd, went respectively to Christopher Godwin, Carmen Du Sautoy and Barrie Rutter. The only Goodies star to recur was space-dog, Bimbo.

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Categories: Marcus du Sautoy

10 largely forgotten UK sci-fi sitcoms - Den Of Geek

Marcus du Sautoy news - Mon, 2015-07-27 07:31

Den Of Geek

10 largely forgotten UK sci-fi sitcoms
Den Of Geek
The roles of three mis-matched characters on a lengthy space mission, Commander Mattocks, Dr Foster and David Ackroyd, went respectively to Christopher Godwin, Carmen Du Sautoy and Barrie Rutter. The only Goodies star to recur was space-dog, Bimbo.

Categories: Marcus du Sautoy

Is my brain older than my body? – video

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-07-27 07:00
Fictional scientist Jeremy Bumble always thought he was wise beyond his Earth years – that somehow his brain was older than the rest of his body. Here he explains, with the help of Einstein's thinking on space time, and UCL professor of astronomy Ofer Lahav, that this is indeed the case. Go science!

• Special thanks to Richard Hunter, Jamie Maule-ffinch, Luke Roulstone, Phillippa Burgess, Stuart Mckechnie, Laura Mckechnie, UCL, Imperial College, Fabrics Galore, Vega Electronics

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Categories: Science news

Orangutan escapes from Perth zoo enclosure and mingles with visitors

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-07-27 02:25

Zoo is conducting a review after Teliti, a five-year-old female, appears to have climbed a shade sail and jumped over enclosure outer wall onto boardwalk

Perth zoo is conducting a security review of its award-winning orangutan enclosure after one curious inhabitant managed to escape and mingled with human visitors in the public viewing area on Sunday.

Teliti, a five-year-old female orangutan who was born at the zoo, appears to have climbed up one of the exhibit’s shade sails about 11.30am before jumping to the outer wall of the enclosure and climbing onto the boardwalk.

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Categories: Science news

Sleep sharpens power to recall memories, study finds

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-07-27 00:01

Sleep almost doubles chances of remembering previously forgotten information, according to new research

Last-minute “swotting” for an exam before going to bed might be a good tactic for students, according to research on the benefits of “sleeping on it”.

Sleep almost doubles the chances of remembering previously forgotten information, scientists found. They believe it makes memories more accessible and sharpens our powers of recall.

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Categories: Science news

Starwatch: The August night sky

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-26 21:30

August brings Britain’s best views of the summer night sky. Our charts show the Summer Triangle looming in the S, its corners marked (in order of brightness) by Vega in Lyra, Altair in Aquila and Deneb in Cygnus. Capella in Auriga twinkles low in the NNE, below and left of Perseus and the radiant point for the Perseids meteor shower.

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Categories: Science news

Pilot dies after home-made James Bond-style plane crashes in Ireland

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-26 19:30

Howard Cox was on his way to Foynes Air Show at Shannon Estuary in single-seat BD5 aircraft, similar to plane from Octopussy

A pilot killed in a plane crash in Ireland was flying a type of homebuilt mini-jet seen in the James Bond film Octopussy.

Howard Cox, 67, from Devon, was on his way to an air show in his unique single seat BD5 aircraft, when it came down on Saturday evening in a field near Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

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Categories: Science news

Some first results from the new, higher-energy Large Hadron Collider

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-26 12:16

On 3 June this year, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN began delivering particle collisions at an energy 63% higher than previously achieved. This week in Vienna, first physics results were presented. Here are some highlights

The European Physical Society High Energy Physics conference is taking place now in Vienna. This is the first big chance for the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to show off what they have managed to extract from the new data they have recorded since 3 June, when the LHC restarted particle collisions after a two-year break.

The new collisions are at a higher energy - 13 TeV¹ compared to the previous record of 8 TeV. Since we are bumping up against the speed-of-light barrier, this means the speed of the protons increases from 299 792 449 metres per second to 299 792 454 m/s (the speed of light is 299 792 458 m/s). An increase of only 5 m/s, which doesn’t sound terribly important. But speed is the wrong way to judge the significance of the increase. The main point of high energies in particle colliders is that they allow us to see into the heart of atoms and study the structure of matter at tiny distance scales; in a way the LHC is like a giant microscope. Turning up the energy is like turning up the power of the microscope, and we are eager to see what that might reveal.

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Categories: Science news

Making contact with alien worlds could make us care more about our own

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-26 06:59
The Breakthrough Message competition aims to build a digital portrait of life on Earth. Making it could increase respect for the preciousness of life

Related: Stephen Hawking launches $100m search for alien life beyond solar system

The scientific search for extraterrestrial civilisations has languished for more than a decade, as the hunt for habitable planets and simpler forms of life has thrived. Nasa’s stunningly successful Kepler mission has discovered a thousand new worlds orbiting other stars. Astrobiology is a burgeoning field. But the search for intelligent life, begun in 1960 by astronomer Frank Drake, somehow fell off the funding radar.

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Categories: Science news

Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History review – ennui and its origins

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-26 06:30

Francis O’Gorman’s study of why we worry covers everything from medieval monastic life to modern cultural theory without really providing any answers

Brooding in their cells, medieval monks identified a malaise they called accidie – not acid indigestion of the soul, but an apathetic and self-disgusted inertia. It overtook them in the static afternoons, so they called it “the noonday demon”. Francis O’Gorman has a bogey of his own, which attacks him in the middle of the night, and his book about anxiety begins at 4.06 am as he works through scenarios of imaginary disaster provoked by his uncertainty about whether he has locked the back door of his house. We have all been there; some of us spend a few hours there every night, watching a digital clock indifferently bat its eyelid as we wait for the bleary dawn to brighten the sky and wipe away our panic.

A monastic worrier in the fourth century, Evagrius the Solitary, said that accidie’s symptoms included “a hatred of manual labour”. O’Gorman – who is a literature professor, and as such a remote descendant of socially marginal self-flagellators like Evagrius – here sets himself a brisk therapeutic task by writing a book that attempts to cure or at least comprehend his misery. He alleviates his problem by sharing it with the rest of us: we are all, he claims, the victims of a metaphysical calamity. We worry because we no longer believe in the gods who used to control our destinies; responsible for ourselves, we are obliged to make existential choices that ought to propel us ahead but more often leave us feeling dejected, disappointed, wondering what we did wrong.

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Categories: Science news

Children hope Nasa space camp will take them one small step closer to Mars

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-26 00:05

Young would-be astronauts are flocking to Cape Canaveral to learn what it takes to be picked for the next US missions into space

On recent evidence at least, Space Camp, an all-American rite of passage for generations of young maths wizards, science geeks and wannabe astronauts, ought to have disappeared into a black hole.

Nasa no longer launches people into orbit, the US government’s investment in its space agency is as low as it has ever been, and the last rocket sent from Cape Canaveral with supplies for the International Space Station exploded last month seconds after lift-off. On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much for the next wave of explorers and adventurers to get excited about.

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Categories: Science news

Blame the nudge theory for your unbearably cute smoothie | Catherine Bennett

Guardian Science - Sun, 2015-07-26 00:02
Twee road signs, folksy labelling. It’s the latest kind of manipulation – and it’s not only maddening, but useless

In the 15 years since a new brand of smoothies introduced the style of packaging that addresses consumers as if they were the product’s ickle friends, the coming of the end of this cute, terminally patronising discourse, has continually been predicted. Even if Innocent can still get away with putting wee hand-knitted woolly hats on its refrigerated plastic bottles, for all the world as if it were run by dimwitted aunties as opposed to the Coca-Cola company, there are limits, learned advertisers have counselled, to the public’s tolerance for transparently manipulative baby talk. Especially now that so many consumers now know this tactic has a name – wackaging – and may even have begun to recoil from, rather than salivate over, formerly inoffensive words including – trigger alert – yummy, fun, respect, pure, good, planet, stuff, daddy, value and “us”.

For example: an over-familiarity that might work for fellow perpetrator Johnnie Boden, the sender of fun notey-woteys to the effect that one hasn’t been in touch for simply ages – as well as flogger of one’s personal details to random tat-purveyors – might not work, say, in the grittier context of road safety. The use of rhyming, though not scanning, ditties, as deployed by Transport for London, in intended mitigation of behavioural guidance, would surely not appeal to any organisation that respected its clients or wished to minimise homicidal ideation on the planet.

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Categories: Science news

‘Stopping my lifesaving drug will be my end,’ says woman with rare illness

Guardian Science - Sat, 2015-07-25 20:24

Sarah Long, oldest survivor of Morquio syndrome, pleads for NHS to provide expensive drug to treat condition

Every day Sarah Long becomes weaker. She cannot sleep for more than an hour at a time, loses concentration and struggles to speak.

“I don’t have much longer,” she says with a remarkable lack of self-pity. At 44, she is by far the oldest person to have Morquio syndrome, an extremely rare degenerative impairment, caused by missing enzymes, that has stopped her from growing since the age of six.

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