Medicine

Research Finds 1 In 3 American Cats and Dogs Are Overweight (arstechnica.com) 110

After surveying 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats in the U.S. last year, a group of researchers found that about one in three were overweight or obese. "Looking over data from the last decade, the researchers say the new figures reveal a 169-percent increase in hefty felines and a 158-percent increase in chunky canines," reports Ars Technica. From the report: All the data is from researchers at Banfield, which runs a chain of veterinary hospitals across 42 states. The researchers surveyed animals that checked into one of Banfield's 975 locations, putting them through a five-point physical and visual exam. Animals were considered overweight if their ribs were not clearly visible or easily felt and if their waists were also hard to see. Pets were dubbed obese if their ribs couldn't be felt at all and they had no visible waist. As in humans, being overweight makes pets more prone to chronic health conditions. Also similar to humans, doctors blame pets' weight problems on overfeeding and lack of exercise. Other contributing factors include genetics and health issues such as arthritis, which can make play painful. Last, some pet owners may not be able to spot weight issues in their pets -- particularly because so many more dogs and cats are now overweight, making chubby pets the new norm. Dog breeds with the highest prevalence of obesity are Labrador Retrievers, Cairn Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels, the researchers report. For cats, the fattest breeds are Manx and Maine Coons.
Earth

Mayors of 7,400 Cities Vow To Meet Obama's Climate Commitments (theguardian.com) 210

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Mayors of more than 7,400 cities across the world have vowed that Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord will spur greater local efforts to combat climate change. At the first meeting of a "global covenant of mayors," city leaders from across the US, Europe and elsewhere pledged to work together to keep to the commitments made by Barack Obama two years ago. Cities will devise a standard measurement of emission reductions to help them monitor their progress. They will also share ideas for delivering carbon-free transport and housing. Kassim Reed, the mayor of Atlanta, told reporters he had travelled to Europe to "send a signal" that US states and cities would execute the policies Obama committed to, whether the current White House occupants agreed or not. Reed, whose administration has promised that the city of Atlanta will use 100% renewable energy by 2035, said 75% of the US population and GDP lay in urban areas, where local leaders were committed to fighting climate change. "We have the ability to still achieve between 35% and 45% CO2 emission reductions without the involvement of the national government and it is why I chose to be here at this time to send a signal to 7,400 cities around the world that now should be a time of optimism, passion and action," he said.
Beer

Researchers Create New Probiotic Beer That Boosts Immunity (upi.com) 73

randomErr writes: A new patent has been filed for a innovative brewing technique that incorporates a live strain of good bacteria into the brewing process. Researchers at NUS (National University of Singapore) have created a probiotic sour beer that may boost immunity and improve gut health. The bacteria Lactobacillus paracasei L26 is capable of neutralizing toxins and viruses and regulating the immune system. Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, of the Food Science and Technology Program at NUS said, "While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics. As a believer of achieving a healthy diet through consuming probiotics, this is a natural choice for me when I picked a topic for my final-year project."
Space

Blue Origin To Build Its BE-4 Rocket Engine In Alabama, Creating Hundreds of Jobs (theverge.com) 53

Blue Origin has recently announced its plans to manufacture the company's new rocket engine, the BE-4, at a state-of-the-art facility in Huntsville, Alabama. According to The Verge, the benefits for Blue Origin are both practical and political. From the report: On the surface, it's a seemingly innocuous decision meant to capitalize on Huntsville's decades-long history of rocket development. The city is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where the Saturn V rocket was developed and where NASA's future massive deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, will also be worked on. Plus, many private space contractors are based in Huntsville, making spaceflight a key part of the city's economy and a huge jobs creator. It's why Huntsville has been nicknamed Rocket City. But the move is most likely motivated by politics as well, given Blue Origin's plans for the BE-4. The company ultimately hopes to use seven BE-4 engines to power its future massive rocket called the New Glenn, which is supposed to launch sometime before 2020. But that's not the only rocket that the BE-4 could fly on. The United Launch Alliance -- a company responsible for launching most of the satellites for the U.S. military -- is developing a new rocket called Vulcan, and it needs new U.S.-made engines for the vehicle. Blue Origin's move to Huntsville will supposedly generate 342 jobs at the new facility, with salaries averaging $75,000, reports The Verge. Given the city's history, the company should have no problem finding aerospace experts in the area. The only problem that could arise would be if ULA doesn't select the BE-4 as the Vulcan's main engine. "ULA is also considering a second option in case the BE-4 doesn't work out: an engine being developed by longtime manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne called the AR-1," reports The Verge. "Aerojet is only meant to be Plan B for ULA. But it has one advantage that Blue Origin didn't have until now: it's building its engine in Huntsville, Alabama -- and that comes with some very key political protection."
Communications

August Solar Eclipse Could Disrupt Roads and Cellular Networks 88

GeoGreg writes: On August 21, 2017, the contiguous United States will experience its first total solar eclipse since 1979. According to GreatAmericanEclipse.com's Michael Zeiler, approximately 200 million people live within one day's drive of the eclipse. Zeiler projects that between 1.85 to 7.4 million people will attempt to visit the path of totality. As the eclipse approaches, articles are appearing predicting the possibility of automobile traffic jamming rural roads. There is also concern about the ability of rural cellular networks to handle such a large influx. AT&T is bringing in Cell On Wheel (COW) systems to rural locations in Kentucky, Idaho, and Oregon, while Verizon is building a temporary tower in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The disruption could be frustrating to those trying to get to the eclipse or share their photos via social networking. If cellular networks can't handle the data, apps like Waze won't be much help in avoiding the traffic. If communication is essential near the eclipse path, Astronomy Magazine recommends renting a satellite phone.
Businesses

Vegan Mayonnaise Company Starts Growing Its Own Meat In Labs, Says It Will Get To Stores First (qz.com) 382

Chase Purdy reports via Quartz: The maker of vegan mayonnaise has been working on getting lab-made meat onto dinner tables everywhere. It's just that nobody knew about it. Hampton Creek -- a company that built its name on plant-based condiments and vegan-friendly cookie doughs -- today revealed that, for the last year, it has been secretly developing the technology necessary for producing lab-made meat and seafood, or as the industry likes to call it, "clean meat." Perhaps even more surprising is that Hampton Creek expects to beat its closest competitor to market by more than two years. Since it was founded in 2015, Memphis Meats has raised at least $3 million from five investors for the development of its meat products, according to Crunchbase. By contrast, Hampton Creek -- just a 20-mile drive from its Silicon Valley rival -- has raised more than $120 million since 2011. It's one of Silicon Valley's unicorns -- a company that has a valuation that exceeds $1 billion.
Earth

World's First Floating Windfarm To Take Shape Off Coast of Scotland (theguardian.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world's first floating windfarm has taken to the seas in a sign that a technology once confined to research and development drawing boards is finally ready to unlock expanses of ocean for generating renewable power. After two turbines were floated this week, five now bob gently in the deep waters of a fjord on the western coast of Norway ready to be tugged across the North Sea to their final destination off north-east Scotland. The ~$256 million Hywind project is unusual not just because of the pioneering technology involved, which uses a 78-meter-tall underwater ballast and three mooring lines that will be attached to the seabed to keep the turbines upright. It is also notable because the developer is not a renewable energy firm but Norway's Statoil, which is looking to diversify away from carbon-based fuels.
Earth

New Study Confirms the Oceans Are Warming Rapidly (theguardian.com) 327

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Guardian, written by John Abraham, who discusses the rising ocean temperatures and the important factors that affect ocean-temperature accuracy: The most important measurement of global warming is in the oceans. In fact, "global warming" is really "ocean warming." If you are going to measure the changing climate of the oceans, you need to have many sensors spread out across the globe that take measurements from the ocean surface to the very depths of the waters. Importantly, you need to have measurements that span decades so a long-term trend can be established. These difficulties are tackled by oceanographers, and a significant advancement was presented in a paper just published in the journal Climate Dynamics. That paper, which I was fortunate to be involved with, looked at three different ocean temperature measurements made by three different groups. We found that regardless of whose data was used or where the data was gathered, the oceans are warming. In the paper, we describe perhaps the three most important factors that affect ocean-temperature accuracy. First, sensors can have biases (they can be "hot" or "cold"), and these biases can change over time. Another source of uncertainty is related to the fact that we just don't have sensors at all ocean locations and at all times. Some sensors, which are dropped from cargo ships, are densely located along major shipping routes. Other sensors, dropped from research vessels, are also confined to specific locations across the globe. Finally, temperatures are usually referenced to a baseline "climatology." So, when we say temperatures have increased by 1 degree, it is important to say what the baseline climatology is. Have temperatures increased by 1 degree since the year 1990? Since the year 1970? Since 1900? The choice of baseline climatology really matters.
Science

Physicists Have Created the Brightest Light Ever Recorded (vice.com) 96

Jason Koebler writes: A group of physicists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Extreme Light Laboratory announced Monday that they have created the brightest light ever produced on Earth using Diocles, one of the most powerful lasers in the United States. When this high intensity laser pulse, which is one billion times brighter than the surface of the sun, strikes the electron, it causes it to behave differently. By firing this laser at individual electrons, the researchers found that past a certain threshold, the brightness of light will actually change an object's appearance rather than simply making it brighter. The x-rays that are produced in this fashion have an extremely high amount of energy, and Umstadter and his colleagues think this could end up being applied in a number of ways. For starters, it could allow doctors to produce x-ray medical images on the nanoscale, which would allow them to detect tumors and other anomalies that regular x-rays might have missed. Moreover, it could also be used for more sophisticated x-ray scanning at airports and other security checkpoints.
Earth

'Infarm' Startup Wants To Put a Farm In Every Grocery Store (techcrunch.com) 85

Infarm, a 40-plus person startup based in Berlin, imagines a future where every grocery store has its own farm packed with herbs, vegetables and fruit. "The plants themselves are being monitored by multiple sensors and fed by an internet-controlled irrigation and nutrition system," reports TechCrunch. "Growing out from the center, the basil is at ascending stages of its life, with the most outer positioned ready for you, the customer, to harvest." From the report: The concept might not be entirely new -- Japan has been an early pioneer in vertical farming, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population has encouraged innovation -- but what potentially sets Infarm apart, including from other startups, is the modular approach and go-to-market strategy it is taking. This means that the company can do vertical farming on a small but infinitely expandable scale, and is seeing Infarm place farms not in offsite warehouses but in customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves. In contrast, the Infarm system is chemical pesticide-free and can prioritize food grown for taste, color and nutritional value rather than shelf life or its ability to sustain mass production. Its indoor nature means it isn't restricted to seasonality either and by completely eliminating the distance between farmer and consumer, food doesn't get much fresher. When a new type of herb or plant is introduced, Infarm's plant experts and engineers create a recipe or algorithm for the produce type, factoring in nutrition, humidity, temperature, light intensity and spectrum, which is different from system to system depending on what is grown. The resulting combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics is akin to "Farming-as-a-Service," whilst , space permitting, Infarm's modular approach affords the ability to keep adding more farming capacity in a not entirely dissimilar way to how cloud computing can be ramped up at the push of a button.
NASA

Sorry, But Anonymous Has No Evidence That NASA Has Found Alien Life (popsci.com) 152

From a Popular Science article: In a new video, the hacker group known as Anonymous claims that NASA has discovered alien life. But before you freak out, let's talk. Sadly, the group of activists and hacktivists doesn't seem to have found any new evidence to support their extraordinary claim. The video is mainly based on NASA quotes taken out of context, and what appear to be videos and information from conspiracy theory websites. The crux of the argument is based on something Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, said during a hearing in April. These sorts of hearings are organized to educate the House Science Committee on the latest research in a particular field of study. During this one, Zurbuchen said: "Taking into account all of the different activities and missions that are specifically searching for evidence of alien life, we are on the verge of making one of the most profound, unprecedented, discoveries in history." That's the quote Anonymous is pegging their video on. But if you watch his opening statement, he actually explains his reasoning just before he gets to that part. He mentions the Mars 2020 rover, which will look for signs of past life on the red planet. The Europa Clipper mission is slated to search for conditions suitable to life on Jupiter's ocean-filled moon. In a statement, Zurbuchen said, "While we're excited about the latest findings from NASA's Kepler space observatory, there's no pending announcement regarding extraterrestrial life. For years NASA has expressed interest in searching for signs of life beyond Earth. We have a number of science missions that are moving forward with the goal of seeking signs of past and present life on Mars and ocean worlds in the outer solar system. While we do not yet have answers, we will continue to work to address the fundamental question, 'are we alone?'"
Education

The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows (utexas.edu) 144

An anonymous reader shares a study: Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach -- even if it's off. That's the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they're not using them. In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants' available cognitive capacity -- that is, the brain's ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent. The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.
Security

Anthem To Pay $115 Million In The Largest Data Breach Settlement Ever (cnet.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Anthem, the largest health insurance company in the U.S., has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over a 2015 data breach for a record $115 million, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs. The settlement still has to be approved by US District Court Judge Lucy Koh, who is scheduled to hear the case on August 17 in San Jose, California. And Anthem, which didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation and comment, isn't admitting any admitting any wrongdoing, according to a statement it made to CyberScoop acknowledging the settlement.

But if approved, it would be the largest data breach settlement in history, according to the plaintiffs' lawyers, who announced the agreement Friday. The funds would be used to provide victims of the data breach at least two years of credit monitoring and to reimburse customers for breach-related expenses. The settlement would also guarantee a certain level of funding for "information security to implement or maintain numerous specific changes to its data security systems, including encryption of certain information and archiving sensitive data with strict access controls," the plaintiff attorneys said.

The breach compromised data for 80 million people, including their social security numbers, birthdays, street addresses (and email addresses) as well as income data. The $115 million settlement averages out to $1.43 for every person who was affected.
Space

SpaceX Livestreams Sunday's Rocket Launch (space.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes Space.com: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the 10 satellites for Iridium Communications is scheduled to liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1:25 p.m. PDT (4:25 p.m. EDT/2025 GMT). The live webcast is expected to begin about 1 hour before the opening of the launch window, and you can watch it on SpaceX's website, or at Space.com. This is the second of eight planned Iridium launches with SpaceX. The launches will deliver a total of 75 satellites into space for the $3 billion Iridium NEXT global communications network. "Iridium NEXT will replace the company's existing global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space," according to a statement from Iridium. "It represents the evolution of critical communications infrastructure that governments and organizations worldwide rely upon to drive business, enable connectivity, empower disaster relief efforts and more."
After the mission the booster rocket will attempt to land on a droneship. The droneships name is "Just Read The Instructions."
Space

FCC Grants OneWeb Approval To Launch Over 700 Satellites For 'Space Internet' (theverge.com) 89

OneWeb has been granted approval from the FCC to launch a network of internet-beaming satellites into orbit. FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement: "Humans have long sought inspiration from the stars, from the ancient Egyptians orienting the pyramids toward certain stars to the Greeks using constellations to write their mythology. In modern times, we've done the same, with over 1,000 active satellites currently in orbit. Today, the FCC harnesses that inspiration as we seek to make the promise of high-speed internet access a reality for more Americans, partly through the skies..." The Verge reports: OneWeb plans to launch a constellation of 720 low-Earth orbit satellites using non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) technology in order to provide global, high-speed broadband. The company's goal has far-reaching implications, and would provide internet to rural and hard-to-reach areas that currently have little access to internet connectivity. Additionally, OneWeb has a targets of "connecting every unconnected school" by 2022, and "bridging the digital divide" by 2027. According to OneWeb, the company plans to launch an initial 10 production satellites in early 2018, which, pending tests, will then be followed by a full launch as early as 2019.

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