Saying "Wasted" On Facebook Can Affect Your Credit Score

Slashdot - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 5:07am
JustAnotherOldGuy writes: According to a recent report by the Financial Times (paywalled), some of the top credit rating companies are now using people's social media accounts to assess their ability to repay debt. "If you look at how many times a person says 'wasted' in their profile, it has some value in predicting whether they're going to repay their debt," Will Lansing, chief executive at credit rating company FICO, told the Financial Times. "It's not much, but it's more than zero." According to the Financial Times, both FICO and TransUnion have had to find "alternative ways" to assess people who don't have a traditional credit profile — including people who haven't borrowed enough to give creditors an idea of what kind of risk they pose.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Engineers design enhanced magnetic protein nanoparticles to better track cells

Kurzweil AI - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 4:46am


X-ray crystal structure of iron storage ferritin PFt displaying the internal cavity of the protein in which one of the subunits is highlighted in yellow (credit: Yuri Matsumoto/Nature Communications)

MIT engineers have designed magnetic protein nanoparticles that can be used to track cells or to monitor interactions within cells. The particles, described Monday (Nov. 2) in an open-access paper in Nature Communications, are an enhanced version of a naturally occurring, weakly magnetic protein called ferritin.

“We used the tools of protein engineering to try to boost the magnetic characteristics of this protein,”  says Alan Jasanoff, an MIT professor of biological engineering and the paper’s senior author.

The new “hypermagnetic” protein nanoparticles can be produced within cells, allowing the cells to be imaged or sorted using magnetic techniques. This eliminates the need to tag cells with synthetic particles and allows the particles to sense other molecules inside cells.

Genetically encoded magnetic particles

Previous research has yielded synthetic magnetic particles for imaging or tracking cells, but it can be difficult to deliver these particles into the target cells.

In the new study, Jasanoff and colleagues set out to create magnetic particles that are genetically encoded. With this approach, the researchers deliver a gene for a magnetic protein into the target cells, prompting the cells to start producing the protein on their own.

“Rather than actually making a nanoparticle in the lab and attaching it to cells or injecting it into cells, all we have to do is introduce a gene that encodes this protein,” says Jasanoff, who is also an associate member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

As a starting point, the researchers used ferritin, which carries a supply of iron atoms that every cell needs as components of metabolic enzymes. In hopes of creating a more magnetic version of ferritin, the researchers created about 10 million variants and tested them in yeast cells.

After repeated rounds of screening, the researchers used one of the most promising candidates to create a magnetic sensor consisting of enhanced ferritin modified with a protein tag that binds with another protein called streptavidin. This allowed them to detect whether streptavidin was present in yeast cells; however, this approach could also be tailored to target other interactions.

The mutated protein appears to successfully overcome one of the key shortcomings of natural ferritin: it’s difficult to load with iron, says Alan Koretsky, a senior investigator at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

“To be able to make more magnetic indicators for MRI would be fabulous, and this is an important step toward making that type of indicator more robust,” says Koretsky, who was not part of the research team.

Sensing cell signals

Because the engineered ferritins are genetically encoded, they can be manufactured within cells that are programmed to make them respond only under certain circumstances, such as when the cell receives some kind of external signal, when it divides, or when it differentiates into another type of cell. Researchers could track this activity using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), potentially allowing them to observe communication between neurons, activation of immune cells, or stem cell differentiation, among other phenomena.

Such sensors could also be used to monitor the effectiveness of stem cell therapies, Jasanoff says.

“As stem cell therapies are developed, it’s going to be necessary to have noninvasive tools that enable you to measure them,” he says. Without this kind of monitoring, it would be difficult to determine what effect the treatment is having, or why it might not be working.

The researchers are now working on adapting the magnetic sensors to work in mammalian cells. They are also trying to make the engineered ferritin even more strongly magnetic.

Abstract of Engineering intracellular biomineralization and biosensing by a magnetic protein

Remote measurement and manipulation of biological systems can be achieved using magnetic techniques, but a missing link is the availability of highly magnetic handles on cellular or molecular function. Here we address this need by using high-throughput genetic screening in yeast to select variants of the iron storage ferritin (Ft) that display enhanced iron accumulation under physiological conditions. Expression of Ft mutants selected from a library of 107 variants induces threefold greater cellular iron loading than mammalian heavy chain Ft, over fivefold higher contrast in magnetic resonance imaging, and robust retention on magnetic separation columns. Mechanistic studies of mutant Ft proteins indicate that improved magnetism arises in part from increased iron oxide nucleation efficiency. Molecular-level iron loading in engineered Ft enables detection of individual particles inside cells and facilitates creation of Ft-based intracellular magnetic devices. We demonstrate construction of a magnetic sensor actuated by gene expression in yeast.

Categories: Science

Semantic Scholar uses AI to transform scientific search

Kurzweil AI - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 4:34am

Example of the top return in a Semantic Scholar search for “quantum computer silicon” constrained to overviews (52 out of 1,397 selected papers since 1989) (credit: AI2)

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) launched Monday (Nov. 2) its free Semantic Scholar service, intended to allow scientific researchers to quickly cull through the millions of scientific papers published each year to find those most relevant to their work.

Semantic Scholar leverages AI2’s expertise in data mining, natural-language processing, and computer vision, according to according to Oren Etzioni, PhD, CEO at AI2. At launch, the system searches more than three million computer science papers, and will add scientific categories on an ongoing basis.

With Semantic Scholar, computer scientists can:

  • Home in quickly on what they are looking for, with advanced selection filtering tools. Researchers can filter search results by author, publication, topic, and date published. This gets the researcher to the most relevant result in the fastest way possible, and reduces information overload.
  • Instantly access a paper’s figures and findings. Unique among scholarly search engines, this feature pulls out the graphic results, which are often what a researcher is really looking for.
  • Jump to cited papers and references and see how many researchers have cited each paper, a good way to determine citation influence and usefulness.
  • Be prompted with key phrases within each paper to winnow the search further.

Example of figures and tables extracted from the first document discovered (“Quantum computation and quantum information”) in the search above (credit: AI2)

How Semantic Scholar works

Using machine reading and vision methods, Semantic Scholar crawls the web, finding all PDFs of publicly available scientific papers on computer science topics, extracting both text and diagrams/captions, and indexing it all for future contextual retrieval.

Using natural language processing, the system identifies the top papers, extracts filtering information and topics, and sorts by what type of paper and how influential its citations are. It provides the scientist with a simple user interface (optimized for mobile) that maps to academic researchers’ expectations.

Filters such as topic, date of publication, author and where published are built in. It includes smart, contextual recommendations for further keyword filtering as well. Together, these search and discovery tools provide researchers with a quick way to separate wheat from chaff, and to find relevant papers in areas and topics that previously might not have occurred to them.

Semantic Scholar builds from the foundation of other research-paper search applications such as Google Scholar, adding AI methods to overcome information overload.

“Semantic Scholar is a first step toward AI-based discovery engines that will be able to connect the dots between disparate studies to identify novel hypotheses and suggest experiments that would otherwise be missed,” said Etzione. “Our goal is to enable researchers to find answers to some of science’s thorniest problems.”

Categories: Science

Self-Driving Delivery Robots To Hit Sidewalks of London In 2016

Slashdot - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 3:10am
An anonymous reader writes: Estonian start-up Starship Technologies is taking a different approach to automated delivery with a ground-based self-driving robot. Headquartered in London and launched by two ex-Skype founders, the robotics company has unveiled its suburban pavement-strolling bot which can travel at a speedy 4mph. Starship claims that the 40-pound machine could deliver packages in 5 to 30 minutes from local retailers and restaurants. The company argues that a grounded approach to automated delivery will remove some of the safety concerns linked to flying drone systems, as the robot is much less likely to cause harm.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

First complete pictures of cells’ DNA-copying machinery

Kurzweil AI - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 2:46am

These cartoons show the old “textbook” view of the replisome, left, and the new view, right, revealed by electron micrograph images in the current study. Prior to this study, scientists believed the two polymerases (green) were located at the bottom (or back end) of the helicase (tan), adding complementary DNA strands to the split DNA to produce copies side by side. The new images reveal that one of the polymerases is actually located at the front end (top) of the helicase. The scientists are conducting additional studies to explore the biological significance of this unexpected location. (credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory)

The first-ever electron microscope images of the protein complex that unwinds, splits, and copies double-stranded DNA reveal something rather different from the standard textbook view.

The images, created by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory with partners from Stony Brook University and Rockefeller University, offer new insight into how this molecular machinery functions, including new possibilities about its role in DNA “quality control” and cell differentiation.

Huilin Li, a biologist with a joint appointment at Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University says the new images show the fully assembled and fully activated helicase protein complex — which encircles and separates the two strands of the DNA double helix as it passes through a central pore in the structure — and how the helicase coordinates with the two polymerase enzymes that duplicate each strand to copy the genome.

Three blind men and an elephant

Studying this molecular machinery, known collectively as a “replisome,” and the details of its DNA-copying process can help scientists understand what happens when DNA is miscopied — a major source of mutation that can lead to cancer. Scientists can also learn more about how a single cell can eventually develop into the many cell types that make up a multicellular organism.

“All the textbook drawings and descriptions of how a replisome should look and work are based on biochemical and genetic studies,” Li said, likening the situation to the famous parable of the three blind men trying to describe an elephant, each looking at only one part.

To test these assumptions, Li’s group turned to electron microscopy (EM). The team’s first-ever images of an intact replisome revealed that only one of the polymerases is located at the back of the helicase.

The other is on the front side of the helicase, where the helicase first encounters the double-stranded helix. This means that while one of the two split DNA strands is acted on by the polymerase at the back end, the other has to thread itself back through or around the helicase to reach the front-side polymerase before having its new complementary strand assembled.

Unforeseen functions?

The counterintuitive position of one polymerase at the front of the helicase suggests that it may have an unforeseen function. The authors suggest several possibilities, including keeping the two “daughter” strands separate to help organize them during replication and cell division. It might also be possible that, as the single strand moves over other portions of the structure, some “surveillance” protein components check for lesions or mistakes in the nucleotide sequence before it gets copied — a sort of molecular quality control.

This architecture could also potentially play an important role in developmental biology by providing a pathway for treating the two daughter strands differently. Many modifications to DNA, including how it is packaged with other proteins, control which of the many genes in the sequence are eventually expressed in cells. An asymmetric replisome may result in asymmetric treatment of the two daughter strands during cell division, an essential step for making different tissues within a multicellular organism.

“Clearly, further studies will be required to understand the functional implications of the unexpected replisome architecture reported here,” concludes the researchers’ paper published Monday (Nov. 2) online by the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

Brookhaven National Laboratory | Three-dimensional structure of the active DNA helicase bound to the front-end DNA polymerase (Pol epsilon). The DNA polymerase epsilon (green) sits on top rather than the bottom of the helicase.

Abstract of The Architecture of a Eukaryotic Replisome

At the eukaryotic DNA replication fork, it is widely believed that the Cdc45–Mcm2–7–GINS (CMG) helicase is positioned in front to unwind DNA and that DNA polymerases trail behind the helicase. Here we used single-particle EM to directly image a Saccharomyces cerevisiae replisome. Contrary to expectations, the leading strand Pol ε is positioned ahead of CMG helicase, whereas Ctf4 and the lagging-strand polymerase (Pol) α–primase are behind the helicase. This unexpected architecture indicates that the leading-strand DNA travels a long distance before reaching Pol ε, first threading through the Mcm2–7 ring and then making a U-turn at the bottom and reaching Pol ε at the top of CMG. Our work reveals an unexpected configuration of the eukaryotic replisome, suggests possible reasons for this architecture and provides a basis for further structural and biochemical replisome studies.

Categories: Science

Nearly one in five oral penicillin doses given to children in NHS hospitals may be too high or too low

Science Daily - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 2:42am
Many children may be getting an inappropriate dose of antibiotics as doctors use guidelines that just use age not weight when choosing the dose of drugs, say researchers.
Categories: Science

New computational approach to predicting adverse drug reactions with higher confidence

Science Daily - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 2:38am
A new integrated computational method helps predicting adverse drug reaction -- which are often lethal -- more reliably than with traditional computing methods. This improved ability to foresee the possible adverse effects of drugs may entail saving many lives in the future.
Categories: Science

Depression, weight gain in pregnancy linked to sitting down

Science Daily - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 2:37am
A link between depression in pregnancy and long periods of sitting down has been identified by researchers. The study found those suffering from symptoms of depression during pregnancy are more likely to sit down for long periods of time in the second trimester. The academics also found this puts them at risk of greater weight gain and contracting gestational diabetes.
Categories: Science

3-D printed 'building blocks' of life

Science Daily - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 2:37am
Scientists have developed a 3-D printing method capable of producing highly uniform 'blocks' of embryonic stem cells. These cells -- capable of generating all cell types in the body -- could be used as the 'Lego bricks' to build tissue constructs, larger structures of tissues, and potentially even micro-organs.
Categories: Science

The better to eat you with? How dinosaurs' jaws influenced diet

Science Daily - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 2:37am
Just how bad was T. rex's bite? New research has found that the feeding style and dietary preferences of dinosaurs was closely linked to how wide they could open their jaws.
Categories: Science

Guidelines first to focus on children with pulmonary hypertension

Science Daily - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 2:36am
The first guidelines developed for children with pulmonary hypertension are the result of a collaboration between heart and lung experts and their review of 600 studies. The causes and treatment of pulmonary hypertension in children is often different than in adults.
Categories: Science

Etsy Has An Uphill Battle to Make Artisanal Mainstream

Wired News - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 2:22am

The Brooklyn-based company reported another loss today as it struggles to make artisanal goods an everyday experience.

The post Etsy Has An Uphill Battle to Make Artisanal Mainstream appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Science

Just one junk-food snack triggers signals of metabolic syndrome

Kurzweil AI - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 1:50am

(credit: iStock)

Just one high-calorie milkshake was enough to make metabolic syndrome worse for some people. And overindulgence in just a single meal or snack (especially junk food) is enough to trigger the beginnings of metabolic syndrome, which is associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes (obesity around the waist and trunk is the main sign).

That finding by researchers at the Microbiology and Systems Biology Group of the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) was reported in the online edition of the Nov. 2015 issue of The FASEB Journal.

For some people, “acute effects of diet are mostly small, but may have large consequences in the long run,” said TNO researcher Suzan Wopereis, Ph.D., senior author of the report.

The researchers gave male volunteers in two groups a high-fat milkshake consisting of 53% whipping cream, 3% sugar, and 44% water (1.6 g protein, 16 g fat, and 3.2 g carbohydrates).

The first group included 10 healthy male volunteers. They were also given a snack diet consisting of an additional 1300 kcal per day, in the form of sweets and savory products such as candy bars, tarts, peanuts, and crisps for four weeks.

The second group included nine volunteers with metabolic syndrome and who had a combination of two or more risk factors for heart disease, such as unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high blood lipids, and abdominal fat.

Test results: not good

Both groups had blood samples taken, before and after the snacks. In these blood samples, the researchers measured 61 biomarkers, such as cholesterol and blood sugar.

For the subjects with metabolic syndrome, the blood tests showed that biochemical processes related to sugar metabolism, fat metabolism, and inflammation were abnormal.

For the 10 healthy male volunteers, the blood tests showed that signaling molecules such as hormones regulating the control of sugar and fat metabolism and inflammation were changed, resembling the very subtle start of negative health effects similar to those found at the start of metabolic disease.

“Eating junk food is one of those situations where our brains say ‘yes’ and our bodies say ‘no,’” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “Unfortunately for us, this report shows that we need to use our brains and listen to our bodies. Even one unhealthy snack has negative consequences that extend far beyond any pleasure it brings.”

Abstract of Quantifying phenotypic flexibility as the response to a high-fat challenge test in different states of metabolic health

Metabolism maintains homeostasis at chronic hypercaloric conditions, activating postprandial response mechanisms, which come at the cost of adaptation processes such as energy storage, eventually with negative health consequences. This study quantified the metabolic adaptation capacity by studying challenge response curves. After a high-fat challenge, the 8 h response curves of 61 biomarkers related to adipose tissue mass and function, systemic stress, metabolic flexibility, vascular health, and glucose metabolism was compared between 3 metabolic health stages: 10 healthy men, before and after 4 wk of high-fat, high-calorie diet (1300 kcal/d extra), and 9 men with metabolic syndrome (MetS). The MetS subjects had increased fasting concentrations of biomarkers representing the 3 core processes, glucose, TG, and inflammation control, and the challenge response curves of most biomarkers were altered. After the 4 wk hypercaloric dietary intervention, these 3 processes were not changed, as compared with the preintervention state in the healthy subjects, whereas the challenge response curves of almost all endocrine, metabolic, and inflammatory processes regulating these core processes were altered, demonstrating major molecular physiologic efforts to maintain homeostasis. This study thus demonstrates that change in challenge response is a more sensitive biomarker of metabolic resilience than are changes in fasting concentrations.—Kardinaal, A. F. M., van Erk, M. J., Dutman, A. E., Stroeve, J. H. M., van de Steeg, E., Bijlsma, S., Kooistra, T., van Ommen, B., Wopereis, S. Quantifying phenotypic flexibility as the response to a high-fat challenge test in different states of metabolic health.

Categories: Science

Activision Buys Candy Crush Developer For $5.9B

Slashdot - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 12:25am
ForgedArtificer writes: Activision Blizzard purchased Candy Crush Saga developer King Interactive Entertainment last night for a cool $5.9 billion USD; about 20% above market value. The move likely leaves them owning five of the top grossing franchises in the industry. "Candy Crush is one of the most lucrative games in the world, earning some $1.33 billion in revenue in 2014 alone according to a King financial statement. The studio, which operates Candy Crush and a number of similar games including Bubble Witch and Farm Heroes, grossed $529 million in the second quarter of 2015."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

How DMCA Rulemaking Has a Chilling Effect On Security Research

Slashdot - Tue, 03/11/2015 - 11:42pm
citadrianne writes: Jay Radcliffe is a security researcher with diabetes. In 2011, he gave a talk at Black Hat, showing how his personal insulin pump could be hacked—with potentially deadly consequences. As a result of his 2011 presentation, he worked with the Department of Homeland Security and the Food and Drug Administration to address security vulnerabilities in insulin pumps. "The specific technical details of that research have never been published in order to protect patients using those devices," he wrote in his testimony to the Librarian of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office. Every three years, the Librarian of Congress puts a whole bunch of people through a twisted bureaucratic process called DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) rulemaking. Technically speaking, DMCA rulemaking doesn't make things illegal or legal per se, but many people—like Jay Radcliffe—look to the rulemaking for a green light to do their work.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Analog Still Big In Japan

Slashdot - Tue, 03/11/2015 - 11:00pm
An anonymous reader writes: BBC News reports that Japan, the island nation famous for robotics, 4G phones, bullet trains and corporate tech giants, is actually run by fax machines, human traffic lights, and 4.2 million small to medium-sized companies. Wary of connecting to networks for fear of data theft and hacking, Japanese office workers average just half the productivity of their American counterparts. Whether this conservativism in IT can prevent automation and robots from replacing people remains to be seen. However, the use of cassette tape recorders, hand-written data disk mailers, and 1997-era e-mail systems with near zero storage definitely hurts competitiveness in the global market.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Fedora 23 Released

Slashdot - Tue, 03/11/2015 - 10:17pm
An anonymous reader writes: Today marks the release of Fedora 23 for all three main editions: Workstation, Cloud, and Server. This release brings GNOME 3.18, Libre Office 5.0, and Fedora Spins — alternate desktops that provide a different experience. Fedora 23 also includes a version optimized for running on ARM-based systems. You can read the full release notes on their website. "Fedora 23 also has important under-the-hood security improvements, with increased hardening for all compiled software and with insecure SSL3 and RC4 protocols disabled. We've also updated all of the software installed by default in Fedora Cloud Base Image and Fedora Workstation to use Python version 3, and the Mono .NET compatible framework is now at version 4. Perhaps most importantly, Unicode 8.0 support now enables the crucial U1F32D character."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

How the FBI Can Detain, Render and Threaten Without Risk

Slashdot - Tue, 03/11/2015 - 9:37pm
schwit1 writes: Patrick Eddington has a disturbing article in the NY Times about a court decision that seems to give U.S. law enforcement agencies the ability to have an American citizen sent from one foreign country to another for interrogation, to do that interrogation themselves, and to threaten the use of torture to get them to talk. "If this decision stands, it will mean that an American citizen overseas who is unlawfully targeted by the United States government for rendition, interrogation and detention with the help of a local government will have no form of redress in the courts." The case centers around Amir Meshal, a U.S. citizen who lived in New Jersey. While Meshal was traveling abroad, he got caught up in a wave of refugees leaving Somalia for Kenya. There Kenyan authorities detained him, and FBI agents interrogated him. He was transported back to Somalia, and then to Ethiopia, where he had never visited. In Ethiopia, FBI agents once again quickly got access to Meshal, accusing him of being trained for terrorism in Al-Qaeda camps. They threatened him and denied access to lawyers. Months later, when he was released, he returned to the U.S. He has never been accused of a terrorism-related offense. He filed a lawsuit based on his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, but U.S. courts have thus far denied his claims. Eddington concludes, "The appellate court decision means that American citizens have no means available to hold the government accountable for violating their constitutional rights, simply because the United States conveniently denied those rights in another country of its choosing."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Radar images provide details on Halloween asteroid

Science Daily - Tue, 03/11/2015 - 9:36pm
The highest-resolution radar images of asteroid 2015 TB145's safe flyby of Earth have been processed and yield new information about its surface features.
Categories: Science