European Space Agency: Facts & Information

Space.com - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 5:18am
The European Space Agency coordinates space activities among 20 member states.
Categories: Science

Hacker Phineas Fisher is Trying To Start a 'Hack Back' Political Movement

Slashdot - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 3:30am
An anonymous reader writes: The hacker who breached Hacking Team and FinFisher is trying to get more people to "hack back" and fight "the system." For some, thanks to his targeted attacks and sophisticated political views, Phineas Fisher is quickly becoming the most influential hacktivist of the last few years. In response to his most recent hack where he released a 39-minute how-to video showing how to strip data from targeted websites, specifically a website of the Catalan police union, Phineas Fisher told Motherboard, "Everything doesn't have to be big. I wanted to strike a small blow at the system, teach a bit of hacking with the video, and inspire people to take action." Biella Coleman, professor at McGill University in Montreal, believes Phineas Fisher has a good chance of inspiring a new generation of hacktivists and "setting the stage for other hackers to follow in his footsteps." She says he has been better at choosing targets and justifying his actions with more rounded and sophisticated political and ethical views than Anonymous and LulzSec-inspired hackers. Phineas Fisher told Motherboard, "I don't want to be the lone hacker fighting the system. I want to inspire others to take similar action, and try to provide the information so they can learn how."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

No longer ‘junk DNA’ — shedding light on the ‘dark matter’ of the genome

Kurzweil AI - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 3:20am

The LIGR-seq method for global-scale mapping of RNA-RNA interactions in vivo to reveal unexpected functions for uncharacterized RNAs that act via base-pairing interactions (credit: University of Toronto)

What used to be dismissed by many as “junk DNA” has now become vitally important, as accelerating genomic data points to the importance of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) — a genome’s messages that do not specifically code for proteins — in development and disease.

But our progress in understanding these molecules has been slow because of the lack of technologies that allow for systematic mapping of their functions.

Now, professor Benjamin Blencowe’s team at the University of Toronto’s Donnelly Centre has developed a method called “LIGR-seq” that enables scientists to explore in depth what ncRNAs do in human cells.

The study, described in Molecular Cell, was published on May 19, along with two other papers, in Molecular Cell and Cell, respectively, from Yue Wan’s group at the Genome Institute of Singapore and Howard Chang’s group at Stanford University in California, who developed similar methods to study RNAs in different organisms.

So what exactly do ncRNAs do?

mRNAs vs. ncRNAs (credit: Thomas Shafee/CC)

Of the 3 billion letters in the human genome, only two per cent make up the protein-coding genes. The genes are copied, or transcribed, into messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules, which provide templates for building proteins that do most of the work in the cell. Much of the remaining 98 per cent of the genome was initially considered by some as lacking in functional importance. However, large swaths of the non-coding genome — between half and three quarters of it — are also copied into RNA.

So then what might the resulting ncRNAs do? That depends on whom you ask. Some researchers believe that most ncRNAs have no function, that they are just a by-product of the genome’s powerful transcription machinery that makes mRNA. However, it is emerging that many ncRNAs do have important roles in gene regulation — some ncRNAs act as carriages for shuttling the mRNAs around the cell, or provide a scaffold for other proteins and RNAs to attach to and do their jobs.

But the majority of available data has trickled in piecemeal or through serendipitous discovery. And with emerging evidence that ncRNAs could drive disease progression, such as cancer metastasis, there was a great need for a technology that would allow a systematic functional analysis of ncRNAs.

Up until now, with existing methods, you had to know what you are looking for because they all require you to have some information about the RNA of interest. The power of our method is that you don’t need to preselect your candidates; you can see what’s occurring globally in cells, and use that information to look at interesting things we have not seen before and how they are affecting biology,” says Eesha Sharma, a PhD candidate in Blencowe’s group who, along with postdoctoral fellow Tim Sterne-Weiler, co-developed the method.

A new ncRNA identification tool

The human RNA-RNA interactome, showing interactions detected by LIGR-seq (credit: University of Toronto)

The new ‘‘LIGation of interacting RNA and high-throughput sequencing’’ (LIGR-seq) tool captures interactions between different RNA molecules. When two RNA molecules have matching sequences — strings of letters copied from the DNA blueprint — they will stick together like Velcro. With LIGR-seq, the paired RNA structures are removed from cells and analyzed by state-of-the-art sequencing methods to precisely identify the RNAs that are stuck together.

Most researchers in the life sciences agree that there’s an urgent need to understand what ncRNAs do. This technology will open the door to developing a new understanding of ncRNA function,” says Blencowe, who is also a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics.

Not having to rely on pre-existing knowledge will boost the discovery of RNA pairs that have never been seen before. Scientists can also, for the first time, look at RNA interactions as they occur in living cells, in all their complexity, unlike in the juices of mashed up cells that they had to rely on before. This is a bit like moving on to explore marine biology from collecting shells on the beach to scuba-diving among the coral reefs, where the scope for discovery is so much bigger.

Actually, ncRNAs come in multiple flavors: there’s rRNA, tRNA, snRNA, snoRNA, piRNA, miRNA, and lncRNA, to name a few, where prefixes reflect the RNA’s place in the cell or some aspect of its function. But the truth is that no one really knows the extent to which these ncRNAs control what goes on in the cell, or how they do this.

Discoveries

Nonetheless, the new technology developed by Blencowe’s group has been able to pick up new interactions involving all classes of RNAs and has already revealed some unexpected findings.

The team discovered new roles for small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), which normally guide chemical modifications of other ncRNAs. It turns out that some snoRNAs can also regulate stability of a set of protein-coding mRNAs. In this way, snoRNAs can also directly influence which proteins are made, as well as their abundance, adding a new level of control in cell biology.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg; the researchers plan to further develop and apply their technology to investigate the ncRNAs in different settings.

“We would like to understand how ncRNAs function during development. We are particularly interested in their role in the formation of neurons. But we will also use our method to discover and map changes in RNA-RNA interactions in the context of human diseases,” says Blencowe.

Abstract of Global Mapping of Human RNA-RNA Interactions

The majority of the human genome is transcribed into non-coding (nc)RNAs that lack known biological functions or else are only partially characterized. Numerous characterized ncRNAs function via base pairing with target RNA sequences to direct their biological activities, which include critical roles in RNA processing, modification, turnover, and translation. To define roles for ncRNAs, we have developed a method enabling the global-scale mapping of RNA-RNA duplexes crosslinked in vivo, “LIGation of interacting RNA followed by high-throughput sequencing” (LIGR-seq). Applying this method in human cells reveals a remarkable landscape of RNA-RNA interactions involving all major classes of ncRNA and mRNA. LIGR-seq data reveal unexpected interactions between small nucleolar (sno)RNAs and mRNAs, including those involving the orphan C/D box snoRNA, SNORD83B, that control steady-state levels of its target mRNAs. LIGR-seq thus represents a powerful approach for illuminating the functions of the myriad of uncharacterized RNAs that act via base-pairing interactions.

Categories: Science

Facebook Acquires VR Audio Company, Launches 'Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation'

Slashdot - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 1:50am
An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Facebook is looking to improve its virtual-reality audio experience with the acquisition of Two Big Ears. Facebook is rereleasing Two Big Ears' "Spatial Workstation" software as the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation, reports VentureBeat. The software is designed to "make VR audio succeed across all devices and platforms," and Two Big Ears developers will be merged with Facebook's Oculus team of employees. The acquisition of Two Big Ears is being made by Facebook and not Oculus -- the program is branded as a Facebook product, focused on 360-degree video and VR. The Spatial Workstation was first released last fall and was a platform for mixing audio that sounded realistically three-dimensional. Two Big Ears will provide "support in accordance with your current agreement" for the next 12 months to those who purchased a paid license to the old workstation. The company says it "will continue to be platform and device agnostic," not being locked into the Rift or Gear VR. Facebook did not disclose the sum of the acquisition. Two Big Ears was previously partnered with YouTube to help bring 360-degree live streaming and spatial audio to the site.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Wearable fitness monitors don't motivate exercise says study

Science Daily - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 1:27am
The results of a new study on physical activity have researchers asking what in the world will it take to get people moving. It looks like even wearing a fitness monitor isn't enough to do the trick.
Categories: Science

Middle school intervention program leads to long-term BMI reduction for obese students

Science Daily - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 1:25am
A five-week obesity prevention program for seventh grade students in Southern California helped obese students lose weight over a long-term period. The average reduction in body mass index (BMI) measured for obese students of average height two years later when they entered high school translated into about nine pounds lower bodyweight.
Categories: Science

Teenage pregnancies hit record low, reflecting efforts of England's strategy to reduce under-18 conceptions

Science Daily - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 1:25am
Rates of teenage pregnancy in England have halved since the implementation of the Government's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy (TPS) in 1999, and the greatest effect is seen in areas of high deprivation and areas that received the most TPS funding, according to research.
Categories: Science

New disease gene will lead to better screening for pediatric heart disease

Science Daily - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 1:25am
Cardiomyopathy, or a deterioration of the ability of the heart muscle to contract, generally leads to progressive heart failure. It is frequently inherited, and, because approximately 40 percent of children born with it are likely to die within five years of diagnosis, being able to identify its genetic basis is particularly important. Now, an international team of researchers has identified a new disease gene which is implicated in the development of severe pediatric cardiomyopathies.
Categories: Science

Higher fluctuations in blood pressure linked to brain function decline

Science Daily - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 1:25am
Fluctuations in blood pressure readings over a five-year period resulted in faster declines in brain and cognitive function among older adults. Controlling this blood pressure instability may be a strategy to preserve cognitive function among older adults, researchers report.
Categories: Science

Loss of Y chromosome is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease: Why do men have shorter lives than women?

Science Daily - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 1:25am
The loss of the Y chromosome in batches of cells over time continues to develop as one biological explanation for why men, on average, live shorter lives than women. Researchers found that men with blood samples showing loss of chromosome Y developed Alzheimer's as often as people born with genes that put them at the most risk for the disease.
Categories: Science

Cancer-patient big data can save lives if shared globally

Kurzweil AI - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 1:22am

Data-sharing vision as facilitated by GA4GH through its working groups (credit: GA4GH)

Sharing genetic information from millions of cancer patients around the world could revolutionize cancer prevention and care, according to a paper in Nature Medicine by the Cancer Task Team of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH).

Hospitals, laboratories and research facilities around the world hold huge amounts of this data from cancer patients, but it’s currently held in isolated “silos” that don’t talk to each other, according to GA4GH, a partnership between scientists, clinicians, patients, and the IT and Life Sciences industry, involving more than 400 organizations in over 40 countries. GA4GH intends to provide a common framework for the responsible, voluntary and secure sharing of patients’ clinical and genomic data.

A searchable global cancer database

“Imagine if we could create a searchable cancer database that allowed doctors to match patients from different parts of the world with suitable clinical trials,” said GA4GH co-chair professor Mark Lawler, a leading cancer expert from Queen’s University Belfast. “This genetic matchmaking approach would allow us to develop personalized treatments for each individual’s cancer, precisely targeting rogue cells and improving outcomes for patients.

“This data sharing presents logistical, technical, and ethical challenges. Our paper highlights these challenges and proposes potential solutions to allow the sharing of data in a timely, responsible and effective manner. We hope this blueprint will be adopted by researchers around the world and enable a unified global approach to unlocking the value of data for enhanced patient care.”

GA4GH acknowledges that there are security issues, and has created a Security Working Group and a policy paper that documents the standards and implementation practices for protecting the privacy and security of shared genomic and clinical data.

Examples of current initiatives for clinico-genomic data-sharing include the U.S.-based Precision Medicine Initiative and the UK’s 100,000 Genomes Project, both of which have cancer as a major focus.

Professor Lawler is funded by the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

Abstract of Facilitating a culture of responsible and effective sharing of cancer genome data

Rapid and affordable tumor molecular profiling has led to an explosion of clinical and genomic data poised to enhance the diagnosis, prognostication and treatment of cancer. A critical point has now been reached at which the analysis and storage of annotated clinical and genomic information in unconnected silos will stall the advancement of precision cancer care. Information systems must be harmonized to overcome the multiple technical and logistical barriers to data sharing. Against this backdrop, the Global Alliance for Genomic Health (GA4GH) was established in 2013 to create a common framework that enables responsible, voluntary and secure sharing of clinical and genomic data. This Perspective from the GA4GH Clinical Working Group Cancer Task Team highlights the data-aggregation challenges faced by the field, suggests potential collaborative solutions and describes how GA4GH can catalyze a harmonized data-sharing culture.

Categories: Science

Gadget Lab Podcast: Google I/O Was Fun, Freaky, and Very Warm

Wired News - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 1:13am
Something happened last week. Maybe it was a Google thing? We talk about it. The post Gadget Lab Podcast: Google I/O Was Fun, Freaky, and Very Warm appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

Researchers Set World Record Wireless Data Transmission Rate of 6 GB/Sec Over 37 KM

Slashdot - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 1:05am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: Transmitting the contents of a conventional DVD in under ten seconds by radio transmission is incredibly fast -- and a new world record in wireless data transmission. With a data rate of 6 Gigabit per second over a distance of 37 kilometers, a collaborative project with the participation of researchers from the University of Stuttgart and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF exceeded the state of the art by a factor of 10. The extremely high data rates of 6 Gbit/s was achieved by the group through efficient transmitters and receivers at a radio frequency of 71-76 GHz in the so-called E band, regulated for terrestrial and satellite broadcasting. The circuits are based on two innovative transistor technologies developed and manufactured by the project partner Fraunhofer IAF. In the transmitter the broadband signals are amplified to a comparatively high transmission power of up to 1 W with the help of power amplifiers on the basis of the novel compound semiconductor gallium-nitride. A highly directive parabolic antenna emits the signals. Built into the receiver are low-noise amplifiers on the basis of high-speed transistors using indium-gallium-arsenide-semiconductor layers with very high electron mobility. They ensure the detection of the weak signals at high distance. The transmission of high quantities of data by radio over large distances serves a high number of important application areas: the next generation of satellite communication requires an ever-increasing data offload from earth observation satellites down to earth. Supplying the rural area and remote regions with fast Internet is possible as shown in the trial. Earlier this year, engineers at the University of Illinois were able to set a record for fiber-optic data transmission, transmitting 57Gbps of error-free data at room temperature.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Transistor-based biosensor detects molecules linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s

Kurzweil AI - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 12:40am

An inexpensive portable biosensor developed by researchers at Brazil’s National Nanotechnology Laboratory (credit: LNNano)

A novel nanoscale organic transistor-based biosensor that can detect molecules associated with neurodegenerative diseases and some types of cancer has been developed by researchers at the National Nanotechnology Laboratory (LNNano) in Brazil.

The transistor, mounted on a glass slide, contains the reduced form of the peptide glutathione (GSH), which reacts in a specific way when it comes into contact with the enzyme glutathione S-transferase (GST), linked to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and breast cancer, among other diseases.

Sensitive water-gated copper phthalocyanine (CuPc) thin-film transistor (credit: Rafael Furlan de Oliveira et al./Organic Electronics)

“The device can detect such molecules even when they’re present at very low levels in the examined material, thanks to its nanometric sensitivity,” explained Carlos Cesar Bof Bufon, Head of LNNano’s Functional Devices & Systems Lab (DSF).

Bufon said the system can be adapted to detect other substances by replacing the analytes (detection compounds). The team is working on paper-based biosensors to further lower the cost, improve portability, and facilitate fabrication and disposal.

The research is published in the journal Organic Electronics.

Abstract of Water-gated phthalocyanine transistors: Operation and transduction of the peptide–enzyme interaction

The use of aqueous solutions as the gate medium is an attractive strategy to obtain high charge carrier density (1012 cm−2) and low operational voltages (<1 V) in organic transistors. Additionally, it provides a simple and favorable architecture to couple both ionic and electronic domains in a single device, which is crucial for the development of novel technologies in bioelectronics. Here, we demonstrate the operation of transistors containing copper phthalocyanine (CuPc) thin-films gated with water and discuss the charge dynamics at the CuPc/water interface. Without the need for complex multilayer patterning, or the use of surface treatments, water-gated CuPc transistors exhibited low threshold (100 ± 20 mV) and working voltages (<1 V) compared to conventional CuPc transistors, along with similar charge carrier mobilities (1.2 ± 0.2) x 10−3 cm2 V−1 s−1. Several device characteristics such as moderate switching speeds and hysteresis, associated with high capacitances at low frequencies upon bias application (3.4–12 μF cm−2), indicate the occurrence of interfacial ion doping. Finally, water-gated CuPc OTFTs were employed in the transduction of the biospecific interaction between tripeptide reduced glutathione (GSH) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) enzyme, taking advantage of the device sensitivity and multiparametricity.

Categories: Science

Apple Sued Over iPhones Making Calls, Sending Email

Slashdot - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 12:20am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: A company that seemingly does nothing but license patents or, if necessary, sue other companies to get royalties, has taken aim at Apple. But here's the kicker: the lawsuit alleges that Apple's last several iPhones and iPads violate a slew of patents related to seemingly standard features, including the ability to place calls as well as sending and receiving emails. A total of six patent infringement claims were brought against Apple by Corydoras Technologies on May 20, according to Apple-tracking site Patently Apple, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit. According to Patently Apple, the counts against Apple cover every iPhone dating back to the iPhone 4 and every iPad dating back to the iPad 2. In addition to taking issue with Apple's devices placing calls, the lawsuits also allege that the tech giant violates patents Corydoras holds related to video calling, which is similar to Apple's FaceTime, as well as displaying a person's geographic location through a feature like Find My iPhone and the ability to block unwanted calls. Last year, Apple was ordered to pay $533 million to Smartflash LLC for allegedly violating three patents related to copy protection.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

FBI Wants Biometric Database Hidden From Privacy Act

Slashdot - Mon, 23/05/2016 - 11:35pm
Trailrunner7 quotes a report from onthewire.io: The FBI is working to keep information contained in a key biometric database private and unavailable, even to people whose information is contained in the records. The database is known as the Next Generation Identification System (NGIS), and it is an amalgamation of biometric records accumulated from people who have been through one of a number of biometric collection processes. That could include convicted criminals, anyone who has submitted records to employers, and many other people. The NGIS also has information from agencies outside of the FBI, including foreign law enforcement agencies and governments. Because of the nature of the records, the FBI is asking the federal government to exempt the database from the Privacy Act, making the records inaccessible through information requests. From the report: "The bureau says in a proposal to exempt the database from disclosure that the NGIS should be exempt from the Privacy Act for a number of reasons, including the possibility that providing access 'could compromise sensitive law enforcement information, disclose information which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of another's personal privacy; reveal a sensitive investigative technique; could provide information that would allow a subject to avoid detection or apprehension; or constitute a potential danger to the health or safety of law enforcement personnel, confidential sources, and witnesses.'" RT released a similar report on the matter.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Americans Used Nearly 10 Trillion Megabytes of Mobile Data Last Year

Slashdot - Mon, 23/05/2016 - 10:50pm
An anonymous reader writes: A report from CTIA released Monday found that consumers have nearly doubled their consumption of mobile data last year. It found that last month, consumers chugged down 804 billion megabytes of data, which adds up to a total of 9.65 billion gigabytes. The numbers are especially significant when compared to previous years. "From December 2013 to December 2014, U.S. data consumption grew by about 26 percent. But over the following year, it grew by 137 percent," writes Washington Post. YouTube and Netflix account for over half of North American internet traffic at peak hours, according to the networking equipment firm Sandvine. That figure spikes to 70 percent when streaming audio is part of the mix. The wireless industry as a result raked in nearly $200 billion last year alone, which is a 70 percent jump compared to a decade ago. The numbers are likely to rise as more and more devices become connected to the internet. With news of films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar coming to Netflix this September, we're likely to see mobile data use increase even more this year.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

September: Netflix Will 'Become Exclusive US Pay TV Home of Films From Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar'

Slashdot - Mon, 23/05/2016 - 10:05pm
An anonymous reader writes: The licensing deal between Netflix and Disney for the rights to all new films that hit movie theaters in 2016 is nothing new. What is new is when exactly the deal will come into effect. "From September onwards, Netflix will become the exclusive U.S. pay TV home of the latest films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilms and Pixar," said Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos in a blog post. This will only apply to new theatrical releases because separate licensing deals are in place for other Disney content. The exclusive partnership with Disney does also extend into original programming. Netflix's partnership with Disney is part of a bigger plan to host more unique content that rival services do not offer.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Google's 'Science Journal' App Turns Your Android Device Into A Laboratory

Slashdot - Mon, 23/05/2016 - 9:20pm
An anonymous reader writes about Google's latest 'Science Journal' app that was released at the end of Google I/O last week: Google has launched its 'Science Journal' app that can essentially turn your Android device into a tricorder of sorts. The app uses the sensors in your smartphone to gather, graph and visualize data. For example, you can use Google's Science Journal app to measure sound in a particular area over a particular period of time, or the movement of the device's internal accelerometers. The app is fairly basic to start, but Google is working to expand its functionality. It's even partnering with San Francisco's Exploratorium to develop external kits that can be used with the app -- which includes various microcontrollers and other sensors. As part of its Google Field Trip Days initiative, which allows students from underserved communities to attend a local museum for no cost and includes transportation and lunch, Google sent out 120,000 kits to local science museums. They also sent out 350,000 different pairs of safety glasses to schools, makerspaces, and Maker Faires worldwide, to ultimately help young students work on even bigger projects. You can download the app from the Play Store and start experimenting here.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Amazon Stops Giving Refunds When an Item's Price Drops After You Purchase It

Slashdot - Mon, 23/05/2016 - 8:40pm
Amazon has for years issued refunds to users when the price of an item drops after they've purchased it. But lately the e-commerce giant hasn't been doing that on a number of products, except for televisions, according to price-tracking companies. Recode reports: The move may have something to do with the rise of startups that track prices for Amazon customers and automatically request refunds when appropriate. One of them, a Santa Monica-based startup called Earny that is backed by the startup incubator Science, first pointed out the change. Earny scours a customer's email inbox for digital receipts, and then continuously checks the price on a retailer's website to see if it drops.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science