coondoggie writes "Boeing calls it Project SPUDS — or rather, Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution — that is, using sacks of potatoes perched on aircraft seats to test the effectiveness of wireless signals in an airliner cabin. Boeing said it was researching an advanced way to test wireless signals in airplanes and needed a way to effectively simulate 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft."
coondoggie writes "Insidious unknown planets lurking behind the sun ready to slam into Earth, supernova set to engulf the planet and giant, unseen asteroids screaming toward our globe are all theories espoused across the Internet as to how we will meet our demise on 12/21/2012. Do any of these theories even remotely hold out a scintilla of evidence they could happen? Not even remotely if you look at the material NASA has put out which pretty much debunks any and all of the notions being floated in across the cybersphere."
An anonymous reader writes "While fossils have long shown that limbs evolved from fins, scientists have shown live in the laboratory how the transition may have happened. Researchers said that the new study published in the journal Developmental Cell offers evidence revealing that the development of hands and feet occurred through the acquisition of new DNA elements capable of activating specific genes."
EdIII writes "The White House petition to secure funding for building the Death Star has garnered over 25,000 signatures, which means the White House must officially respond. I can't wait to see it. My question to Slashdot readers: what modifications would you add to the proposed Death Star? Obviously, as one journalist put it, 'guardrails around any of the facility's seemingly endless number of bridges, spans, shafts and pits.' What other changes would you ask your representatives to make?"
brindafella writes "Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, recorded a spoof speech about the Mayan calendar apocalypse several days ago, for radio station "Triple J". Gillard said in part, 'Whether the final blow comes from flesh eating zombies, demonic hell beasts or from the total triumph of K-pop, if you know one thing about me it is this: I will always fight for you to the very end.' The speech has been picked up in China on Sina Weibo (China's Twitter) and has achieved well over 23,000 repeats, without anyone picking up the irony." This comes on the heels of the online version of China's Communist Party newspaper picking up an Onion story about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un being named the "Sexiest Man Alive."
Census numbers show that 176,632 people in England and Wales ask themselves, "What would Yoda do?" Although the number of people who list their religion as "Jedi" has dropped by more than 50% in the past 10 years, It remains the most popular "alternative" faith in England. From the article: "The new figures reveal that the lightsabre-wielding disciples are only behind Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism in the popularity stakes, excluding non-religious people and people who did not answer."
Press2ToContinue writes "Scientists have found a relatively straightforward way to persuade the cells discarded in human urine to turn into valuable neurons. The technique, described online in a study in Nature Methods this week (abstract), does not involve embryonic stem cells. These come with serious drawbacks when transplanted, such as the risk of developing tumors. Instead, the method uses ordinary cells present in urine, and transforms them into neural progenitor cells — the precursors of brain cells. Researchers routinely reprogram cultured skin and blood cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, which can go on to form any cell in the body. But urine is a much more accessible source."
Having the ability to create a 20 liter cloud of slime and tie themselves in knots, hagfish have always been one of my favorite deep-sea denizens. Being a living slime dispenser has not won the species many fans however, with the notable exceptions of Mike Rowe and Dr. Egon Spengler. All that is about to change thanks to the work of a research team at Canada’s University of Guelph. They've found that hagfish slime might be used to make new plastics and even super-strong fabrics. From the article: "A research team at Canada’s University of Guelph managed to harvest the slime from the fish, dissolve it in liquid, and then reassemble its structure by spinning it like silk. It’s an important first step in being able to process the hagfish slime into a useable material, according to Atsuko Negishi, a research assistant and lead author on the paper in this week’s journal Biomacromolecules. 'We’re trying to understand how they make these threads and how we can learn from that to make protein-based fibers that have excellent mechanical properties,' Negishi said. 'The first step is can we harvest the threads. It turns out that is doable.'"
The Maine lobster population is booming, but it turns out that's bad news if you're a little lobster: "'We've got the lobsters feeding back on themselves just because they're so abundant,' said Richard Wahle, a marine sciences professor at the University of Maine, who is supervising the research. 'It's never been observed just out in the open like this,' he said." Abundance caused by populations of their predators collapsing.
Zothecula writes "One of life's less pleasant surprises is discovering the chocolate bar that you forgot you had in your pocket on a hot day. Two scientists working at Cadbury's research and development plant in Bourneville, U.K., are fighting that gooey surprise with the invention of chocolate that remains solid even when exposed to temperatures of 40 C (104 F) for more than three hours. Aimed at tropical markets, the 'temperature tolerant chocolate' is described in a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) patent application."
An anonymous reader writes "The Boring 2012 Conference, the celebration of unexciting things served with dry British humor, now belongs to the wastepaper basket of history. Correspondents at the third annual London conference report that speakers covered a range of such dull topics as supermarket self-service checkouts; a photographic survey of results produced by breakfast toasters; a web site tracking the physical heights of celebrities; and the use of Google Maps to the chart the location of IBM cash registers around London." Funny thing is, the talks described actually sound fascinating.
eldavojohn writes "NPR pointed out a press release claiming that North Korean archaeologists have found a 'unicorn lair' in Pyongyang. The members of the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences have "reconfirmed" that this site was used for King Tongmyong's unicorn where the unicorn would concoct his unicorn schemes and do his unicorn things if anyone ventured too closely. The last line is, perhaps, the most important line of the article, 'The discovery of the unicorn lair, associated with legend about King Tongmyong, proves that Pyongyang was a capital city of Ancient Korea as well as Koguryo Kingdom.' Fear not that North Korea is surpassing the world in cryptozoology, Dr. Melba S. Ketchum of Nacogdoches, TX has claimed to have recently sequenced Bigfoot's DNA and he's part human."
slashchuck writes "Niels Bohr is one of the greatest scientists who ever lived and a favorite of his fellow Danes when he lived in Copenhagen. Apparently, after he won the Nobel Prize in 1922, the Carlsberg brewery gave him a gift – a house located next to the brewery. And the best perk of the house? It had a direct pipeline to the brewery so that Bohr had free beer on tap whenever he wanted."
eldavojohn writes "Art critic and University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia Camille Paglia has written a book that not only claims George Lucas is the 'World's Greatest Living Artist' but also that 'Revenge of the Sith' is our generation's greatest work of art. That's right: Titian, Bernini, Monet, Picasso, Jackson Pollock and ... George Lucas. If you thought you understood art but you hated Episode III, it might be difficult to understand how her book 'Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars' ends with 'Revenge of the Sith.' There is a possibility that the art world remembers this generation by examining that movie."
concealment writes "Coleman, an anthropologist who teaches at McGill University, spent three years studying the community that builds the Debian GNU/Linux open source operating system and hackers in the Bay Area. More recently, she's been peeling away the onion that is the Anonymous movement, a group that hacks as a means of protest — and mischief. When she moved to San Francisco, she volunteered with the Electronic Frontier Foundation — she believed, correctly, that having an eff.org address would make people more willing to talk to her — and started making the scene. She talked free software over Chinese food at the Bay Area Linux User Group's monthly meetings upstairs at San Francisco's Four Seas Restaurant. She marched with geeks demanding the release of Adobe eBooks hacker Dmitry Sklyarov. She learned the culture inside-out."