Pop goes the weasel! Large Hadron Collider blown up by critter chomping 66kV cable

Found on The Register on Saturday, 30 April 2016
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CERN's search for exotic particles has been put on hold for a couple of weeks – after a small mammal gnawed through a power cable, incinerated itself and killed current to the world's most expensive scientific instrument.

It's not the first time the LHC has run into trouble from wildlife. In 2009 The Reg broke the story of a bird shutting down the LHC after a bird dropped a piece of bread into one of the LHC's outside substation, temporarily disabling it.

You would think that a bunch of scientists could come up with ways to protect they expensive hardware.

BioViva’s Liz Parrish makes progress in controversial gene quest to reverse aging

Found on GeekWire on Saturday, 23 April 2016
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Last fall, the 45-year-old Seattle-area woman underwent an experimental type of gene therapy aimed at addressing some of the big effects of aging, including loss of muscle mass and a shortening of the chromosomes’ telomeres.

“Over 100,000 people die every day of aging diseases,” she said. “Somebody told me today, they said, ‘You’re so brave.’ Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. What’s brave is knowing that there could be a cure for aging diseases, and not taking it, and deciding that you’re going to wither away. I’m not that brave.”

While for most people reversing the aging process isn't something they would dislike, the possible effects need to be kept in mind too. If humans live two or three times as long as they do now, it will have a drastic effect on everyday life.

Shipwrecked silk dress survives 400 years under water

Found on CNet on Friday, 15 April 2016
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The silk gown is now on display at the Kaap Skil Maritime and Beachcombers Museum on Texel Island in the Netherlands. Divers explored a wreck near the island in 2014 and found the dress buried in the sand.

The dress, woven from silk with a floral pattern, is complete and seems to have belonged to a noblewoman. The museum dates it back to the first half of the 17th century.

Now imagine how a dress made today would survive.

Mounting data suggest antibacterial soaps do more harm than good

Found on Ars Technica on Saturday, 09 April 2016
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Scientists report that common antibacterial compounds found in those soaps, namely triclosan and triclocarban, may increase the risk of infections, alter the gut microbiome, and spur bacteria to become resistant to prescription antibiotics. Meanwhile, proof of the soaps’ benefits is slim.

“There’s evidence that there is no improvement with using soaps that have these chemicals relative to washing your hands under warm water for 30 seconds with soaps without these chemicals,” he said.

You only need to tell people that they need it, and that every single germ has to be killed in the most efficient way possible. Just don't tell them that a sterile environment does actually harm more harm than good. Too many people are stupid enough to believe all that.

Animal brought back to life from 30-year deep freeze

Found on CNet News on Sunday, 17 January 2016
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The researchers first collected two waterbears in 1983 from an Antarctican moss sample. They then stored them at minus-20 degrees C (roughly minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit). They defrosted them in 2014.

The researchers' report offers this explanation for the waterbears' survival: "This considerable extension of the known length of long-term survival of tardigrades recorded in our study is interpreted as being associated with the minimum oxidative damage likely to have resulted from storage under stable frozen conditions."

Now they only need to apply it to humans.

Mathematicians left baffled after three-year struggle over proof

Found on New Scientist on Thursday, 17 December 2015
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Last week dozens of mathematicians met at the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford to discuss Mochizuki’s “inter-universal Teichmuller” (IUT) theory, a 500-page proof that he posted online in August 2012.

There is a growing consensus that Mochizuki has over-engineered his work, contributing to the confusion. “Most of the large theories that he builds are not essential. He could have written things in a much more streamlined way,” says Voloch.

That's what most pupils think: the teacher makes it too complex, just because he can.

Bye, bye, bananas

Found on Washington Post on Sunday, 06 December 2015
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In the mid 1900s, the most popular banana in the world—a sweet, creamy variety called Gros Michel grown in Latin America—all but disappeared from the planet. At the time, it was the only banana in the world that could be exported. But a fungus, known as Panama Disease, which first appeared in Australia in the late 1800s, changed that after jumping continents.

Now, half a century later, a new strain of the disease is threatening the existence of the Cavendish, the banana that replaced the Gros Michel as the world's top banana export, representing 99 percent of the market, along with a number of banana varieties produced and eaten locally around the world.

The Cavendish is less desirable, more susceptible to other diseases, has a tendency to bruise, doesn't ripen easily or last very long before spoiling, and is "lamentably bland," as Mike Peed wrote in a 2011 piece for the New Yorker.

Biodiversity, ever heard of it? Obviously companies like Dole and Chiquita haven't. Of course neither did Monsanto. That's why as many different varieties as possible should be cultivated; not only would it reduce the effects of a disease, but it also would make shopping much more interesting.

Nitrogen oxides in car exhaust kill tens of thousands in UK

Found on New Scientist on Monday, 28 September 2015
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We have long known that NOx, and in particular NO2 – which form part of the discharge from car exhausts – are indirectly harmful.

To put that in context, PM2.5 prematurely killed an estimated 430,000 people in the 28 EU countries in 2012, according to the European Environment Agency.

When diesel is burned in an engine instead of petrol, more NOx is produced overall, and 70 per cent of the NOx produced is NO2, compared with only 10 to 15 per cent when petrol is burned.

The car industry will need some really good lawyers in the future now that more and more admit cheating.

Company Acquires Rights To Drug Used By AIDS/Cancer Patients; Raises Price From Under $14 To $750

Found on Techdirt on Monday, 21 September 2015
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Turing Pharmaceuticals of New York raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill last month, shortly after purchasing the rights to the drug from Impax Laboratories.

The patents behind the drug -- all granted between 1951 and 1954 -- should be dead. Conveniently for Turing (and other rights holders before it), no company is offering a generic version.

Turing, of course, realizes this price jump -- which puts one month's supply in the new vehicle range ($45-50,000) at minimum -- is going to be tough on those expected to pay for it, but claims to have support in place to help absorb some of the ridiculous increase.

This huge price jump has more to do with the man running Turing, Martin Shkreli. Shkreli doesn't have a background in pharmaceuticals, but he does know how to run a hedge fund. And he's used this expertise to become highly-unpopular very quickly.

Before another company will produce a cheap generic version and steal Shkreli's revenue, their R&D section will cough up an "improvement" which actually does nothing (the drug worked fine for 60+ years), but it will allow him to request a new patent to lock out competition. So, take his excuses explanations with some serious grain of salt.

Could diesel made from air help tackle climate change?

Found on BBC News on Tuesday, 01 September 2015
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The chemistry to make fuel from CO2 isn't especially hard - split water into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis, add the hydrogen to CO2 to make carbon monoxide and water, then bung in more hydrogen to build up hydrocarbon chains.

But a lot depends on government policy. The actual price of the fuel can be as low as 30% of what we pay at the pump - the rest of the cost is made up of fuel duty, VAT, and the retailer's profit margin.

But it's the cost of electricity that could make or break e-diesel's commercial viability, because the process requires a lot of energy.

Even with just an efficiency of 13% it is useful. Currently storing excess electricty is still a problem, but diesel can be easily transported and stored for long times. So if you create the electricity where it most efficient, for example in a desert, those 13% can be quite profitable.