Feed aggregator

Autism - Possible Link to Gut Bacteria

Soylent New - 5 hours 6 min ago

In an article from Scientific American there is a call for more research into the link between the colonies of bacteria in your gut and Autism.

Autism is primarily a disorder of the brain, but research suggests that as many as nine out of 10 individuals with the condition also suffer from gastrointestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease and “leaky gut.” The latter condition occurs when the intestines become excessively permeable and leak their contents into the bloodstream. Scientists have long wondered whether the composition of bacteria in the intestines, known as the gut microbiome, might be abnormal in people with autism and drive some of these symptoms. Now a spate of new studies supports this notion and suggests that restoring proper microbial balance could alleviate some of the disorder's behavioral symptoms.

Arizona State University has already been doing this research, and has published a study [abstract] that shows there is a possible link between the gut bacteria and autism.

GI complications in children with ASD may contribute to the severity of the disorder. One study (10) found a strong correlation between GI symptoms and autism severity in a group of 58 children with ASD, consistent with the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) study (7). Abdominal pain, constipation, and/or diarrhoea are unpleasant and likely to produce frustration, decreased ability to concentrate on tasks, behavior problems, and possibly aggression and self-abuse, especially in children unable to communicate their discomfort. These problems also result in a decreased ability to learn toilet training, leading to increased frustration for the child and their parents/caregivers. However, given many recent studies that have linked the gut with the brain (11–13), there is also the intriguing possibility that correlations between ASD and GI symptoms may not alone be driven by discomfort, but rather by differences in function of the microbiota, such as the metabolites that they produce, that may affect neuronal processes.

The research into this is ongoing, but it is not a new theory (as pointed out in this 2005 article in the Journal of Medical Microbiology), and may lead to a better understanding of how autism effects the body, and how changes in the body may effect autism.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Material Made From Crustaceans Could Combat Battlefield Blood Loss

/. - 5 hours 56 min ago
MTorrice writes: A foam composed of a polymer derived from crustacean shells may prevent more soldiers from falling victim to the most prolific killer on the battlefield: blood loss. Pressure is one of the best tools that medics have to fight bleeding, but they can't use it on severe wounds near organs. Here, compression could do more harm than good. First responders have no way to effectively dam blood flows from these non-compressible injuries, which account for the majority of hemorrhagic deaths. The new foam could help stop bleeding in these types of injuries. It relies on chitosan, a biopolymer that comes from processed crustacean shells. By modifying the chitosan, the developers gave the material the ability to anchor blood cells into gel-like networks, essentially forming blood clots. The researchers dispersed the modified chitosan in water to create a fluid they could spray directly onto noncompressible wounds.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Date Palm Grown from 2,000 Year-Old Seed is Reproducing

Soylent New - 7 hours 11 min ago

A Judean date palm — a variety that was wiped out in the 6th century — has been grown from a 2,000 year-old seed found in an archeological excavation ten years ago, and is now reproducing:

Talk about perseverance, not to mention the mastery of nature’s design when it comes to plants. Decades ago a 2,000-year-old seed was plucked from an archaeological excavation near the Dead Sea. After many years lingering in a researcher's drawer in Tel Aviv, Elaine Solowey, director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel, decided to give germination a go. Ten years later, and “Methuselah” (why don’t all plants have names?) is thriving. And not only thriving, but reproducing. Mazel tov!

Methuselah is a Judean date palm, a variety that was wiped out sometime in the 6th century, making the lonely male long the only one of its kind. Genetic testing reveal that Methuselah is closely related to an ancient variety of date palm from Egypt called Hayany – which corresponds with the legend indicating that dates came to Israel with the Exodus, Solowey says.

No word on the nutrition and flavor of its dates, but it's a good argument for projects like the Global Seed Vault.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

UK Safari Users Can Sue Google in the UK for Tracking Browsing

Soylent New - 8 hours 58 min ago

According to the BBC UK Safari users can sue Google for working around Safari's Privacy Settings in a UK court.

Google has lost a Court of Appeal bid to stop consumers having the right to sue in the UK over alleged misuse of privacy settings.

A group of users claim that Google bypassed security settings on the Safari browser to install tracking cookies on their computers in order to target them with advertising.


The landmark case potentially opens the door to litigation from the millions of Britons who used Apple computers, iPhones, iPods and iPads during the relevant period, summer 2011 to spring 2012, said Jonathan Hawker who represents the Google Action Group, a not-for-profit company set up to manage claims against the internet giant for breach of privacy.

Also covered at Ars Technica and CNet.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Australian Government Outlines Website-Blocking Scheme

/. - 9 hours 1 min ago
angry tapir writes: The Australian government has revealed its (previously mooted) proposed legislation that will allow copyright holders to apply for court orders that will force ISPs to block access to pirate websites. It forms part of a broader Australian crackdown on online copyright infringement, which also includes a warning notice scheme for alleged infringers. They're not the only ones getting on board with website blocking — a judge in Spain ruled that local ISPs must block access to The Pirate Bay.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Deltawing Cars to Stretch the Reign of Internal Combustion Engine Manufacturers

Soylent New - 10 hours 13 min ago

Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) producers must be feeling the heat from electric vehicles (EVs) --enter the deltawing car, "half the weight, half the fuel, half the horsepower, all the speed.":

The Deltawing currently only exists as a race car, one that was designed under the mantra “half the weight, half the fuel, half the horsepower, all the speed.” But Panoz (a Georgia-based low-volume car company from the man who invented the nicotine patch) wants to make road-going Deltawings, saying that you don’t need 300 horsepower to go fast; 1.4 L and 138 horsepower should be enough. Oh, and it’ll get 57 mpg combined.

The concept originally appeared when IndyCar requested proposals for a new car for its series. The Deltawing promised speeds would be as fast as ever—about 230 mph at Indianapolis—with just 300 horsepower. An idea too radical for Indianapolis found a more welcoming reception in Le Mans, France, becoming a cult favorite. Viewed from above, it’s obvious why it’s called a Deltawing; the front track (the width between the front wheels) is tiny compared to the rear, with a pair of skinny tires that look far too small to go around corners quickly. Three quarters of the car’s weight is over the rear wheels, and there’s much less of that weight to begin with.


Panoz isn’t the only company who think the Deltawing is a good idea. Last year, Nissan revealed the Bladeglider concept car, built to the same idea.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Graphene Light Bulbs Coming To Stores Soon

/. - 28 March 2015 - 11:03pm
An anonymous reader writes: A light bulb made from graphene — said by its UK developers to be the first commercially viable consumer product using the super-strong carbon — is to go on sale later this year. The dimmable LED bulb with a graphene-coated filament was designed at Manchester University, where the material was discovered in 2004. It is said to cut energy use by 10% and last longer owing to its conductivity. It is expected to be priced lower than current LED bulbs, which cost about £15 (~$22) each.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

From Australia: Legislation for Counter Piracy and Data Retention

Soylent New - 28 March 2015 - 10:14pm

Two items of news from Australia which mirror similar stories from other countries in the West.

Australian legislation to counter piracy finally released

Kept under wraps until this morning [Mar 26], the site-blocking elements of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 are likely to please rights holders with their significant reach. The bill, which is set to cost telcos about $130,000 a year, contains no cap on the number of websites rights holders can request a judge to block in a single injunction.

Critics of the regime are likely to argue that having no cap on the scheme could result in what happened in India, where a number of legitimate websites were blocked, including Google services, when a judge agreed to block some 472 websites. An updated judgement fixed the error. But it appears consumers and rights groups won't be able to apply to a court to revoke blocks, as they are not listed as one of the types of parties that can do this.

The competition watchdog, the ACCC, and the communications regulator, the ACMA, are the only people envisaged by the government to be able to apply to revoke a block other than the people behind a blocked site, an internet service provider asked to block it, or a rights holder.

Mandatory Data Retention Becomes Law in Australia

The Australian Parliament has passed a series of amendments to the country's Telecommunications Interception and Access Act 1979, requiring "telecommunications service providers to retain for two years telecommunications data (not content) prescribed by regulations". The Coalition government and Labor party joined forces to pass the laws, ignoring a number of last-minute amendments from the Greens and other senators.

The Register reports that Attorney-General George Brandis continues to misrepresent the data retention requirement:

Brandis told ABC Radio's AM program this morning that “nothing is different to the way it has been for the last 20 years or so”. Yet Telstra recently told a Parliamentary Committee that it doesn't record IP addresses or missed call records for users of its mobile networks. So Telstra is clearly being asked to do something new.

The AM interview we've linked to above is worth a listen because Brandis, six months into the metadata debate, still can't speak with authority on the subject. He jitters and struggles to articulate his position. At times he makes little sense, such as when asked why we need metadata retention when there are so many alternative communications media for ne'er-do-wells to use. His response is that criminals always break the law and will continue to do so despite the new legislation.

Left unsettled is the cost of metadata retention to ISPs, which recently led them to write an open letter to George Brandis. One report suggests a cost of AU$3.98 per subscriber per year.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Measuring How Much "Standby Mode" Electricity For Game Consoles Will Cost You

/. - 28 March 2015 - 8:00pm
An anonymous reader writes: Modern game consoles have a "standby" mode, which you can use if you want the console to instantly turn on while not drawing full power the whole time it's idle. But manufacturers are vague about how much power it takes to keep the consoles in this standby state. After a recent press release claiming $250 million worth of electricity was used to power Xbox Ones in standby mode in the past year, Ars Technica decided to run some tests to figure out exactly how much power is being drawn. Their conclusions: the PS4 draws about 10 Watts, $10-11 in extra electricity charges annually. The Xbox One draws 12.9W, costing users $13-$14 in extra electricity charges annually. The Wii U draws 13.3W, costing users $14-$15 in extra electricity charges annually. These aren't trivial amounts, but they're a lot less than simply leaving the console running and shutting off the TV when you aren't using it: "Leaving your PS4 sitting on the menu like this all year would waste over $142 in electricity costs."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Graphene Allows Water to Form Ice at Room Temperature

Soylent New - 28 March 2015 - 7:41pm

As if graphene needed any more strange and wonderful properties to recommend its study, it has been shown that sandwiching water between two layers of graphene causes the water to form ice at room temperature:

An international team of scientists recently discovered some intriguing structural characteristics of water confined in graphene nanocapillaries. In these studies, the researchers deposited a graphene monolayer on a small grid, added a small amount of water, and then covered it with another monolayer of graphene. This sample was left overnight to allow excess water to evaporate, eventually bringing the graphene layers together so that only a small amount of adsorbed water remained between them. The water left behind showed some unusual structural properties.

[...] The water molecules formed layers with square lattices where each molecule interacted with the four molecules surrounding it, forming hydrogen bonds at 90° angles. This square lattice symmetry, which they also saw assembled into bilayers and trilayers, is strikingly different from the normal three-dimensional arrangement in ice, where hydrogen bonds exhibit a bond angle of approximately 109°. The researchers found that this lattice structure could be produced even after certain variables had been changed, including the capillary width, applied pressure, and rigidity of the graphene sheets.

Fascinating stuff. Wouldn't it be wonderful to mine it from the air and spin it into sheets and ropes and anything at all?

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Russia Wants To Work With NASA On a New Space Station

/. - 28 March 2015 - 6:56pm
HughPickens.com writes with news that Russian officials are talking about working with NASA to build a new space station as a replacement for the ISS after its operations end in 2024. Igor Komarov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, was unambiguous in his support for such a partnership. He added, "It will be an open project. It will feature not only the current members of the ISS." NASA, while careful not to discourage future cooperation, was not so enthusiastic. They said, "We are pleased Roscomos wants to continue full use of the International Space Station through 2024 -- a priority of ours -- and expressed interest in continuing international cooperation for human space exploration beyond that. The United States is planning to lead a human mission to Mars in the 2030s, and we have advanced that effort farther than at any point in NASA's history. We welcome international support for this ambitious undertaking." They reiterated that there are no formal agreements in place as of yet. These comments come as three crew members arrive at the ISS, two of whom will be up there for an entire year.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Citizen Scientists Develop Eye Drops That Provide Night Vision

/. - 28 March 2015 - 5:51pm
rtoz writes: A group of scientists in California have successfully created eye drops that temporarily enable night vision. They use mixture of insulin and a chemical known as Chlorin e6 (Ce6) to enable the user to view objects clearly in darkness up to 50 meters away. Ce6 is found in some deep-sea fish and often used to treat night blindness. The solution starts to work within an hour of being applied to the user's eyes, and lasts for several hours afterward. The test subject's eyesight returned to normal the next day. The organization Science for the Masses has released a paper detailing the experiment on their website.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

EU Announces Plans to Banish Geo-Blocking and Revise Copyright Law

Soylent New - 28 March 2015 - 5:26pm

Ars Technica is reporting on new regulations to limit region-based restrictions in the European Union:

At the heart of the European Union lies the Single Market—the possibility for people to buy and sell goods and services anywhere in the EU. So it is ironic that the European sector least constrained by geography—the digital market—is also the least unified. To remedy that situation, the European Commission has announced its Digital Single Market Strategy, which addresses three main areas.

The first is "Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services" and includes two of the thorniest issues: geo-blocking and copyright. As the EU's strategy notes, "too many Europeans cannot use online services that are available in other EU countries, often without any justification; or they are re-routed to a local store with different prices. Such discrimination cannot exist in a Single Market."

There is strong resistance to removing geo-blocking, particularly from copyright companies that have traditionally sold rights on a national basis and which therefore want geo-blocking to enforce that fragmentation. The Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Julia Reda, quoted a fellow MEP justifying geo-blocking as follows: "I can’t buy Finnish bread in any German supermarket or bakery. Far too few people here would buy it, so the market doesn't offer it to me. And you don’t see me demanding that the European Commission bloody-well make that product available to me."

Julia Reda responded to those who defend geo-blocking by actually buying Finnish bread online without incident or issue.

The European Union's Digital Single Market Strategy covers several other areas, including Telecom/network investment and management, copyright reform, and future goals for a single EU digital market.

As an American, it's hard to believe government could possibly work on behalf of voters, so let's see if this initiative can make it into law. But it is an enticing idea.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Europe Agrees On Regulatory Drone Framework

/. - 28 March 2015 - 4:49pm
Hallie Siegel writes: Not a week goes by where some aspect of drone regulation fails to make the news. But for any regulated industry where technology is advancing faster than new rules can be agreed upon, it will undoubtedly cause a few headaches. This week closes with a very positive announcement from European stakeholders on the future of drones. During a two-day conference in Riga, the European aviation community found broad agreement on the main principles to guide a regulatory framework to allow drone operations throughout Europe from 2016 onward.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Best Buy Kills Off Future Shop

/. - 28 March 2015 - 3:45pm
Lirodon writes: Future Shop, a Canadian electronics chain that was bought by Best Buy in 2001, but continued to operate in parallel with the newly-opened Canadian locations of the U.S. retailer, is no more. Today, the company abruptly announced the closure of the Future Shop chain, and the permanent closure of 66 of its remaining 131 locations. The remaining 65 Future Shop locations (specifically, those that weren't within driving, or even walking distance of a Best Buy to begin with) will be converted to Best Buy stores over the next few days. This is just the latest step in Best Buy's efforts to downsize its Canadian operations and focus on online retail. The new, downsized chain will consist of 136 Best Buy stores (and 56 of the small Best Buy Mobile stores) in Canada. Still, it's sad to see such an iconic brand killed off like this.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Engineering Students Use Infrasound Extinguisher to Snuff Out Fires

Soylent New - 28 March 2015 - 3:30pm

George Mason University engineering students have designed a hand-held infrasonic extinguisher to snuff out fires without chemicals or water:

When Seth Robertson and Viet Tran from George Mason University hatched their senior project plan, there were plenty of raised eyebrows. But the doubters no doubt ate their words when the two engineering students debuted their creation: a fire extinguisher that successfully puts out flames with sound waves.

Their initial idea was to employ high-pitched tones, but as it turned out, low-frequency sounds were the ticket, "like the thump-thump bass in hip-hop," Tran told the Washington Post.

By hitting fire with the low-frequency sound waves in the 30 to 60 hertz range, the device separates oxygen from fuel. “The pressure wave is going back and forth, and that agitates where the air is. That specific space is enough to keep the fire from reigniting,” Tran said.

Conventional fire extinguishers typically employ water or chemicals which cause damage that compounds the havoc wrought by the fire itself; by comparison, a sound-based extinguisher would be great. The article does not specify how many decibels the extinguisher projects or the frequency used, but let's hope its range doesn't drop into the 17Hz range or even the 5-9Hz range.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Commercial Flamethrower Successfully Crowdfunded

/. - 28 March 2015 - 2:40pm
ColdWetDog writes: You've always wanted one, of course. Zombies, the occasional alien infestation. The neighbor's smelly roses. You just need to be prepared for things. You can get freeze dried food, AR15's, enough ammo to start a small police action (at least here in the U.S. -- YMMV), but it has been difficult to get a modern, portable flamethrower until now. CNET has a brief explanation on the XM42, which doubled its Indiegogo funding target in just a few days.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Another Patent Pool Forms For HEVC

/. - 28 March 2015 - 1:36pm
An anonymous reader writes: A new patent pool, dubbed HEVC Advance, has formed for the HEVC video codec. This pool offers separate licensing from the existing MPEG LA HEVC patent pool. In an article for CNET, Stephen Shankland writes, "HEVC Advance promises a 'transparent' licensing process, but so far it isn't sharing details except to say it's got 500 patents it describes as essential for using HEVC, that it plans to unveil its license in the third quarter, and that expected licensors include General Electric, Technicolor, Dolby, Philips and Mitsubishi Electric. The group's statement suggested that some patent holders weren't satisfied with the money they'd make through MPEG LA's license. One of HEVC Advance's goals is 'delivering a balanced business model that supports HEVC commercialization.' ... HEVC Advance and MPEG LA aren't detailing what led to two patent pools, an outcome that undermines MPEG LA's attempt to offer a convenient 'one-stop shop' for companies needing a license." Perhaps this will lead to increased adoption of royalty-free video codecs such as VP9. Monty Montgomery of Xiph has some further commentary.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Tan Gold: the Global War for Sand

Soylent New - 28 March 2015 - 1:00pm

Wired reports:

Apart from water and air, humble sand is the natural resource most consumed by human beings. People use more than 40 billion tons of sand and gravel every year. There’s so much demand that riverbeds and beaches around the world are being stripped bare. (Desert sand generally doesn’t work for construction; shaped by wind rather than water, desert grains are too round to bind together well.) And the amount of sand being mined is increasing exponentially.

Though the supply might seem endless, sand is a finite resource like any other. The worldwide construction boom of recent years—all those mushrooming megacities, from Lagos to Beijing—is devouring unprecedented quantities; extracting it is a $70 billion industry. In Dubai enormous land-reclamation projects and breakneck skyscraper-building have exhausted all the nearby sources. Exporters in Australia are literally selling sand to Arabs.

It's a crazy, crazy world.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Ikea Refugee Shelter Entering Production

/. - 28 March 2015 - 12:33pm
jones_supa writes: Ikea's line of flatpack refugee shelters are going into production, the Swedish furniture maker announced this week. The lightweight Better Shelter was developed under a partnership between the Ikea Foundation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and beta tested among refugee families in Ethiopia, Iraq, and Lebanon. Each unit takes about four hours to assemble and is designed to last for three years — far longer than conventional refugee shelters, which typically last about six months. The product is an important tool in the prolonged refugee crisis that has unfolded across the Middle East. The war in Syria has spurred nearly 4 million people to leave their homes. The UNHCR has agreed to buy 10,000 of the shelters, and will begin providing them to refugee families this summer.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.