Friday, February 22, 2008

Antidepressants Work No Better Than a Placebo

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday February 26, @07:02AM
from the sugar-pills-are-cheaper dept.
Matthew Whalley writes "Researchers got hold of published and unpublished data from drug companies regarding the effectiveness of the most common antidepressant drugs. Previously, when meta-analyses have been conducted on only the published data, the drugs were shown to have a clinically significant effect. However, when the unpublished data is taken into account the difference between the effects of drug and placebo becomes clinically meaningless — just a 1 or 2 point difference on a 30-point depression rating scale — except for the most severely depressed patients. Doctors do not recommend that patients come off antidepressant drugs without support, but this study is likely to lead to a rethink regarding how the drugs are licensed and prescribed."

Cold boot disk encryption attack is shockingly effective

It's an old adage that no security measure is worth anything if an attacker has physical access to the machine, but things like heavy-duty disk encryption are supposed to at least slow things down. Sadly, that may not actually be the case, as a group of Princeton researchers has just published a paper detailing an exploit that requires little more than a spray duster and a screwdriver. Since the encryption key for systems like BitLocker and FileVault lives in RAM, all an attacker has to do to get it is cool the RAM modules with the air duster held upside down, yank the DIMM, and insert it into another machine, where it can then be read to access the key. Of course, this assumes that you've already typed in your password, but check the video after the break to see how long bits in RAM stay written -- even if you've turned off your computer, there's a chance the key can still be read. Looks like there's an actual benefit to MacBook Air's soldered-in RAM after all, eh?

WowWee Dragonfly bots being hunted by hawks

We wouldn't have believed it, either, but the WowWee Dragonfly is attracting some unusual attention -- owners are reporting their bots are being attacked by hawks. WowWee says 45 people have reported hawk attacks in the past two months, and there's even a few pictures of the birds with their robotic prey out there -- like this one taken by fifth-grader Danny McGorry. We always knew the Dragonfly was fun, but this takes it to another level -- all we need now is a remote squirt gun mounted on the thing and we'll be ready to go. Check the whole article below.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Scientists Find Believing Can Be Seeing

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday February 21, @07:58AM
from the the-mind-is-quicker-than-the-eye dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "Scientists at University College London have found the link between what we expect to see, and what our brain tells us we actually saw revealing that the context surrounding what we see is all important — sometimes overriding the evidence gathered by our eyes and even causing us to imagine things which aren't really there. A vague background context is more influential and helps us to fill in more blanks than a bright, well-defined context. This may explain why we are prone to 'see' imaginary shapes in the shadows when the light is poor. "Illusionists have been alive to this phenomenon for years," said Professor Zhaoping. "When you see them throw a ball into the air, followed by a second ball, and then a third ball which 'magically' disappears, you wonder how they did it. In truth, there's often no third ball — it's just our brain being deceived by the context, telling us that we really did see three balls launched into the air, one after the other." The original research paper is available on PLOS, the open-access, peer-reviewed journal."

US Claims Satellite Shoot-Down Success

Posted by CmdrTaco on Thursday February 21, @08:44AM
from the hope-your-foil-hat-was-on-snug dept.
Readers of Slashdot last valentines day will remember discussing US Plans to Shoot down a damaged spy satellite. An anonymous reader noted that the US is reporting success last night, thus saving us from hydrazine exposure. Of course this makes me wonder- if it's this easy, wouldn't an international super power war pretty much immediately mean the downing of every satellite in orbit?

Leaked RIAA Training Video

Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday February 20, @09:05PM
from the gateway-crime dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Gizmodo has a clip of that RIAA training video produced with the NDAA for US prosecutors that was leaked to torrent sites a few days ago. It argues they should pursue piracy cases because it leads to bigger and badder wares, like handguns, drugs, terrorist orgs, and hardcore repeat offender criminals. It's kind of sad how far they're stretching to bring law enforcement into the matter."

Identical Twins Not Identical After All

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday February 21, @03:56AM
from the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Contrary to previous beliefs, identical twins are not genetically identical. Researchers studied 19 pairs of monozygotic, or identical, twins and found differences in copy number variation in DNA which occurs when a set of coding letters in DNA are missing, or when extra copies of segments of DNA are produced. In most cases, variation in the number of copies likely has no impact on health or development but in others, it may be one factor in the likelihood of developing a disease (pdf). "Those differences may point the way to better understanding of genetic diseases when we study so-called discordant monozygotic twins....a pair of twins where one twin has a disorder and the other does not," says Carl Bruder, Ph.D. "If twin A develops Parkinson's and twin B does not, the region of their genome where they show differences is a target for further investigation to discover the basic genetic underpinnings of the disease.""

The Century's Top Engineering Challenges

Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday February 20, @11:15PM
from the I-want-talking-fruit dept.
coondoggie writes "The National Science Foundation announced today 14 grand engineering challenges for the 21st century that, if met, would greatly improve how we live. The final choices fall into four themes that are essential for humanity to flourish — sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability, and joy of living. The committee did not attempt to include every important challenge, nor did it endorse particular approaches to meeting those selected. Rather than focusing on predictions or gee-whiz gadgets, the goal was to identify what needs to be done to help people and the planet thrive, the group said. A diverse committee of engineers and scientists — including Larry Page, Robert Langer, and Robert Socolow — came up with the list but did not rank the challenges. Rather, the National Academy of Engineering is offering the public an opportunity to vote on which one they think is most important."

CNN Fires Producer Over Personal Blog

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Wednesday February 20, @04:27PM
from the team-players-who-realize-their-team-sucks dept.
dangerz writes "CNN has fired one of its producers because of his personal blog. Chez Paziena, the ex-producer, has stated that he started the blog 'mostly to pass the time, hone my writing skills, resurrect my voice a little, and keep my mind sharp following the [brain tumor] surgery.' After a few months, CNN found out about it and ended up letting him go because his 'name was "attached to some, uh, 'opinionated' blog posts" circulating around the internet.'"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NIST Working on "Deathalyzer"

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Wednesday February 20, @01:36PM
from the welcome-humans-i-am-ready-for-you dept.
coondoggie writes to mention that a new optical technique for sensing small amounts of molecules in a persons breath has been developed by a researcher for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The goal is to create a fast, low-cost method for detecting disease. "In this approach, NIST researchers analyze human breath with 'frequency combs,' which are generated by a laser specially designed to produce a series of very short, equally spaced pulses of light. Each pulse may be only a few million billionths of a second long. The laser generates light as a series of very narrow frequency peaks equally spaced, like the teeth of a comb, across a broad spectrum."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is air pollution making your kids stupid?

Little Bobby-Jo and Billy-Sue not doing so well at their readin' and writin' these days? You might want to think about finding a house a little further from the interstate.

A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health has found that kids who grow up in neighbourhoods with lots of traffic pollution score lower in intelligence and memory tests than those who don't. Strong exposure to black carbon (a majpr particulate component of truck and car exhaust) is linked to an average 3.4 point drop in IQ, as well as poorer scores on memory and cognition tests. The effect is comparable to children who have been exposed to lead, or whose mothers smoked 10 cigarettes a day during pregnancy.

What's suprising is not that constant ingestion of brain-melting toxins can have an impact on a child's IQ, but that it took so long for someone to do a study that proves it. See - one more way that electric cars improve society.

Cheeseburger in a can: For use in case of society-crumbling eco-disaster

Clearly, the end is nigh. Whether it's peak oil sending society into Mad Max-style squalor, nuclear holocaust, or rising sea levels washing away our cities and causing international chaos, pretty soon you'll be hunkered down in your grandpa's Cold War bomb shelter, hiding from roaming gangs of mutants.

But before you go feeling down about our inevitable self-destruction, take heart -- at least you'll still have cheeseburgers!

Canned cheeseburgers, that is. I'm sure they don't taste great, but at that point you'll be happy for anything that doesn't taste like squirrel or rat. And more importantly, they don't require cooking -- which is useful, seeing as you'll be living in a damp cave without power.

OK, end of the world aside, this is equal parts genius and absurd. I can't believe someone spent money and time figuring out how to can a quarter-pounder, but it's still somehow amazing that this is even possible. That said, if you're really jonesin' for a burger, check out our Green Eating Guide, and make sure you're eating something that's at least half-way decent.