Saturday, November 15, 2008

World's Fastest Scientific Supercomputer

From Knoxnews:

OAK RIDGE - Oak Ridge National Laboratory had promised a breakthrough performance from its newly arrived Cray XT5 supercomputer, but Monday's announcement was still a stunner.

The "Jaguar" system is now the world's fastest computer for science research, capable of 1.64 petaflops - or 1.64 quadrillion mathematical calculations per second. A quadrillion is equivalent to 1,000 trillion.

"It's going to be really exciting times in terms of the kind of science that's being done," Thomas Zacharia, ORNL's computational science leader, said Monday.

Read more .....

Telcos: Don't Mess Up The Internet With Regulation

From CNET News:

WASHINGTON--Representatives from industry, government, and advocacy groups agreed on Thursday that the Internet needs to be open and widely available throughout the United States. The question is how to get there.

A newly emboldened Democratic Congress is sure to have a long wish list, including new Internet regulations that corporations believe are unwise or unnecessary. Net neutrality regulations are one possibility, as is broadband and spectrum legislation. But it's unclear where the money to pay for sweeping new projects will come from--neither tax increases nor deficit spending on tech seem that likely when a Wall Street and Detroit bailout are center stage--so today's laws and regulations may end up being extended by default.

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Stone Age Temple May Be Birthplace of Civilization

One of the T-shaped monoliths in Gobekli Tepe, this one bearing a relief of a fox.
Wikimedia Commons

From FOX News:

It's more than twice as old as the Pyramids, or even the written word. When it was built, saber-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths still roamed, and the Ice Age had just ended.

The elaborate temple at Gobelki Tepe in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, is staggeringly ancient: 11,500 years old, from a time just before humans learned to farm grains and domesticate animals.

According to the German archaeologist in charge of excavations at the site, it might be the birthplace of agriculture, of organized religion — of civilization itself.

"This is the first human-built holy place," Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute says in the November issue of Smithsonian magazine.

Read more ....

Unhappy People Watch TV, Happy People Read/Socialize, Says Study

From E! Science News:

A new study by sociologists at the University of Maryland concludes that unhappy people watch more TV, while people who describe themselves as very happy spend more time reading and socializing. The study appears in the December issue of the journal Social Indicators Research. Analyzing 30-years worth of national data from time-use studies and a continuing series of social attitude surveys, the Maryland researchers report that spending time watching television may contribute to viewers' happiness in the moment, with less positive effects in the long run.

Read more ....

Artificial Diamonds - Now Available in Extra Large

From The New Scientist:

Diamonds are a girl's best friend, they say - and soon they could be every girl's best friend.

A team in the US has brought the world one step closer to cheap, mass-produced, perfect diamonds. The improvement also means there is no theoretical limit on the size of diamonds that can be grown in the lab.

A team led by Russell Hemley, of the Carnegie Institute of Washington, makes diamonds by chemical vapour deposition (CVD), where carbon atoms in a gas are deposited on a surface to produce diamond crystals.

The CVD process produces rapid diamond growth, but impurities from the gas are absorbed and the diamonds take on a brownish tint.

These defects can be purged by a costly high-pressure, high-temperature treatment called annealing. However, only relatively small diamonds can be produced this way: the largest so far being a 34-carat yellow diamond about 1 centimetre wide.

Read more ....

CO2 May Prevent Next Ice Age: Study

The researchers warn their finding is not an argument in favour of global warming (Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

From ABC News (Australia):

Scheduled shifts in the earth's orbit should plunge the planet into a deep freeze thousands of years from now, but current changes to our atmosphere may stop it from occurring, say scientists.

Professor Thomas Crowley of the University of Edinburgh, and Dr William Hyde of the University of Toronto report in the journal Nature that the current level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere could negate the onset of the next Ice Age, which could occur 10,000 years from now.

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Mysterious Microbe May Play Important Role In Ocean Ecology

These unidentified cyanobacteria were collected in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. (Credit: Photo by Rachel Foster)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Nov. 15, 2008) — An unusual microorganism discovered in the open ocean may force scientists to rethink their understanding of how carbon and nitrogen cycle through ocean ecosystems. A research team led by Jonathan Zehr, professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, characterized the new microbe by analyzing its genetic material, even though researchers have not been able to grow it in the laboratory.

Zehr said the newly described organism seems to be an atypical member of the cyanobacteria, a group of photosynthetic bacteria formerly known as blue-green algae. Unlike all other known free-living cyanobacteria, this one lacks some of the genes needed to carry out photosynthesis, the process by which plants use light energy to make sugars out of carbon dioxide and water.

Read more ....

Grandma Is Better Babysitter Than Mom

From Live Science:

Common wisdom might suggest that because of their age, grandmothers are inappropriate caretakers for infants and children.

Sure, they might have years and years of parenting experience from bringing up their own children (and they must be OK parents because their children obviously lived long enough to have children) but people over 50 simply can't run as fast or react as quickly as young parents. And they presumably tire more quickly and must want to take a load off even more often than the most exhausted parent.

Read more .....

Friday, November 14, 2008

Space Shuttle Endeavour Blasts Into Night Sky

From Yahoo News/AP:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Space shuttle Endeavour and a crew of seven blasted into the night sky Friday, bound for the international space station and the most extreme home makeover project ever attempted by astronauts.

The shuttle rose off its launch pad at 7:55 p.m. EST, right on time, in a brilliant flash of light visible for miles around.

"It's our turn to take home improvement to a new level after 10 years of international space station construction," commander Christopher Ferguson radioed before liftoff.

Read more ....

The Consequence Of A Failed Electricity Policy

(Photo from Van Ness Feldman)

Get Ready For Rolling Brownouts And Huge Hikes
In Electricity Prices -- Q and O

Forbes warns us:

If you think runaway oil prices are upsetting, just wait for what's in store for electricity. Similar forces are in play. Demand is rising fast; supply is not. The cost to get coal and natural gas out of the ground is going up, and to that expense must be added the cost of the carbon permits that Congress and the presidential candidates are contemplating. Environmentalists are getting power plants scotched. China is sucking up energy. Leave such dynamics in play long enough, and price spikes in electricity follow. But that's just the beginning. We may be facing brownouts (voltage reductions) and even rolling blackouts.

Price shocks are already a part of the system says the article:

Price shocks are already occurring. In May, long before peak summer demand, the wholesale price of juice jumped twofold in Texas, to $4 per kilowatt-hour, 25 times the average retail rate in the country. Prices exceeded the allowed rate of $2 for seven days and threatened the viability of power resellers who contracted to deliver cheap rates to consumers. New Yorkers may suffer a summer of price discontent if regulators are right about peak wholesale prices jumping by up to 90%.

Read more ....

A New Ice Age?

In Greenland, a caribou skeleton lies before the snout of a glacier. Can humans prevent the ice sheets from advancing? (Credit: Andrew C. Revkin/ The New York Times)

More On Whether A Big Chill Is Nigh
-- New York Times/Earth Dot

[UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: Thomas Crowley responds to critiques below.] I was on the road yesterday and had no time to collate earth scientists’ reactions to the Nature paper positing that the world, after 450,000 years of climatic turmoil (the ice ages and warm spells) is poised to enter a quasi-permanent big chill (unless we avert it, after dealing with near-term warming, with a subsequent buildup of greenhouse gases).

Read more ....

Mystery Solved: How Bleach Kills Germs

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Associate Professor Ursula Jakob (L) and Jeannette Winter, Ph.D. in an undated photo courtesy of the University of Michigan. Bleach has been killing germs for more than 200 years but U.S. scientists have just figured out how the cleaner does its dirty work. (Handout/Reuters)

From Yahoo News/Reuters:

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Bleach has been killing germs for more than 200 years but U.S. scientists have just figured out how the cleaner does its dirty work.

It seems that hypochlorous acid, the active ingredient in bleach, attacks proteins in bacteria, causing them to clump up much like an egg that has been boiled, a team at the University of Michigan reported in the journal Cell on Thursday.

The discovery, which may better explain how humans fight off infections, came quite by accident.

"As so often happens in science, we did not set out to address this question," Ursula Jakob, who led the team, said in a statement.

Read more ....

Chandrayaan-I Impact Probe Lands On Moon

Chandrayaan-I Impact Probe lands on the moon surface (Times Now)

From Times Of India:

BANGALORE: India marked its presence on Moon on Friday night to be only the fourth nation to scale this historic milestone after a Moon Impact Probe with the national tri-colour painted successfully landed on the lunar surface after being detached from unmanned spacecraft Chandrayaan-1

Joining the US, the erstwhile Soviet Union and the European Union, the 35-kg Moon Impact Probe (MIP) hit the moon exactly at 8.31 PM, about 25 minutes after the probe instrument descended from the satellite in what ISRO described as a "perfect operation".

Miniature Indian flags painted on four sides of the MIP signalled the country's symbolic entry into moon to coincide with the birth anniversary of the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, observed as Children's Day.

Read more ....

140 Years Of UFO Sightings - Part I

From The Telegraph:

One of the earliest photographs of an unidentified flying object, this picture was taken somewhere in the United States during the 1920s.

Read more ....

Which Came First? Eggs Before Chickens, Scientists Now Say

Frrm Live Science:

A rare fossilized dinosaur nest helps answer the conundrum of which came first, the chicken or the egg, two paleontologists say.

The small carnivorous dinosaur sat over her nest of eggs some 77 million years ago, along a sandy river beach. When water levels rose, Mom seems to have fled, leaving the unhatched offspring.

Researchers have now studied the fossil nest and at least five partial eggs. The nest is a mound of sand that extends about 1.6 feet (half a meter) across and weighs as much as a small person, or about 110 pounds (50 kg).

Read more ....

Indonesia's New Tsunami Warning System

The December 2004 Indonesian earthquake caused a massive tsunami to wash over 10 countries in South Asia and East Africa. This pair of images from NASA's Terra satellite shows the Aceh province of northern Sumatra, Indonesia, on December 17, 2004, before the earthquake (top), and on December 29 (bottom), three days after. The earthquake also changed Earth's shape slightly. (Photo: NASA)

From Popsci:

Nearly four years after a series of disastrous tsunami waves struck coastlines bordering the Indian Ocean, a new Tsunami Early Warning System is up and running in Indonesia. Using a series of buoys linked to detectors that sit on the ocean floor, the new high-tech warning system will be able to detect an undersea earthquake and predict within minutes whether it will cause a tsunami.

Catastrophic tsunamis result from undersea earthquakes or landslides, and when earthquake-generated tsunamis occur off the coast of Indonesia, the waves can reach the coast in as little as twenty minutes -- leaving little to no warning time for residents in high-risk areas. The 2004 tsunami reached the province of Banda Aceh just a quarter of an hour after a magnitude-9.1 earthquake struck, resulting in 140,000 deaths in that region alone.

Read more ....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Can a Bone-Marrow Transplant Halt HIV?

Bone-marrow cell / Getty

From Time Magazine:

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a pathogen so wily and protean that researchers rarely talk about curing infected patients, focusing instead on treatment and prevention. But in an announcement that caused a flutter of excitement and a wave of prudent skepticism, Berlin-based hematologist Gero Huetter claimed on Thursday that he has cured an HIV infection in a 42-year-old man through a bone-marrow transplant.

Read more ....

The Big Question: What Is Nanotechnology, And Do We Put The World At Risk By Adopting It?

From The Independent:

Why are we asking this question now?

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has just published a report on novel materials and has looked at the case of nanotechnology, which describes the science of the very small. Nanotechnology covers those man-made materials or objects that are about a thousand times smaller than the microtechnology we use routinely, such as the silicon chips of computers.

Read more ....

Tech Puts JFK Conspiracy Theories to Rest

The Motorcade
President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, riding in a motorcade with Texas Governor John Connally and wife Nellie, shortly before Kennedy's assassination. Victor Hugo King/Getty Images

From Discovery:

Nov. 13, 2008 -- A team of experts assembled by the Discovery Channel has recreated the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Using modern blood spatter analysis, new artificial human body surrogates, and 3-D computer simulations, the team determined that the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository was the most likely origin of the shot that killed the 35th president of the United States.

Read more ....

How Studying DNA From Ancient Animals Helps Humans

From Christian Science Monitor:

While on the campaign trail this fall, Senator John McCain would laugh at government-funded research on the DNA of bears. What would he think of the research on DNA from extinct cave bears that now has elucidated the bear family tree? It’s the latest example of how scientists are using the increasingly sharp cutting-edge of DNA research to clarify the divergence of animal species, including humans.

New techniques to rapidly analyze DNA accelerate such studies. An increasing ability to garner useful data from tiny samples of DNA enable scientists to make the most of what little DNA they extract from such ancient remains as cave-bear bones.

Read more ....

Unlicensed News Stories Rampant On Web

Unauthorized copies of Web news stories draw far more viewers than the official versions. Publishers are seeking ways to draw advertising revenue from the pirated versions. (iStockphoto)

From CBS:
Software Could Help Publishers Recover Thousands In Ad Revenue, Study Finds
(AP) Here's another reason for ailing newspaper and magazine publishers to wince: On average, the audience perusing unauthorized online copies of their articles is nearly 1.5 times larger than the readership on their own Web sites, according to a study released Thursday.

However, the problem, flagged by copyright cop Attributor Corp., could turn into a golden opportunity if media companies figure out a way to mine advertising revenue from the traffic flocking to their pirated stories posted on blogs and other sites.

Read more ...

UN: Clouds Of Pollution Threaten Glaciers, Health

From Myway/AP:

BEIJING (AP) - A dirty brown haze sometimes more than a mile thick is darkening skies not only over vast areas of Asia, but also in the Middle East, southern Africa and the Amazon Basin, changing weather patterns around the world and threatening health and food supplies, the U.N. reported Thursday.

The huge smog-like plumes, caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and firewood, are known as "atmospheric brown clouds."

When mixed with emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for warming the earth's atmosphere like a greenhouse, they are the newest threat to the global environment, according to a report commissioned by the U.N. Environment Program.

"All of this points to an even greater and urgent need to look at emissions across the planet," said Achim Steiner, head of Kenya-based UNEP, which funded the report with backing from Italy, Sweden and the United States.

Read more ....

Hubble Directly Observes A Planet Orbiting Another Star

This image, taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows the newly discovered planet, Fomalhaut b, orbiting its parent star, Fomalhaut. (Credit: NASA, ESA, P. Kalas, J. Graham, E. Chiang, E. Kite (University of California, Berkeley), M. Clampin (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), M. Fitzgerald (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and K. Stapelfeldt and J. Krist (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory))

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Nov. 13, 2008) — NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star.

Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis (the Southern Fish).

Fomalhaut has been a candidate for planet hunting ever since an excess of dust was discovered around the star in the early 1980s by NASA's Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS).

Read more ....

Why Do We Panic?

From Scientific American:

A better understanding of the path from stress to anxiety to full-blown panic disorder offers soothing news for sufferers

“I was driving home after work,” David reported. “Things had been very stressful there lately. I was tense but looking forward to getting home and relaxing. And then, all of a sudden—boom! My heart started racing, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was sweating and shaking. My thoughts were racing, and I was afraid that I was going crazy or having a heart attack. I pulled over and called my wife to take me to the emergency room.”

David’s fears turned out to be unjustified. An emergency room doctor told David, a composite of several therapy patients seen by one of us (Arkowitz), that he was suffering from a panic attack.

Read more ....

First Direct Images Of Planets Around Other Stars

Left: Infrared image of one planet orbiting HR 8799. Right: Isolated dots are planets; multicolored ball is residual light from HR 8799. Left: Infrared image of one planet orbiting HR 8799. Right: Isolated dots are planets; multicolored ball is residual light from HR 8799. National Research Council Canada

From FOX News/

Astronomers have taken what they say are the first-ever direct images of planets outside of our solar system, including a visible-light snapshot of a single-planet system and an infrared picture of a multiple-planet system.

Earth-like worlds might also exist in the three-planet system, but if so they are too dim to photograph.

The other newfound planet orbits a star called Fomalhaut, which is visible without the aid of a telescope. It is the 18th brightest star in the sky.

The massive worlds, each much heftier than Jupiter (at least for the three-planet system), could change how astronomers define the term "planet," one planet-hunter said.

Read more ....

Simulation Shows What Would Happen If Magnitude 7.8 Earthquake Hit California

(Click To Enlarge)
Still image from a movie showing a view of southern California with the seismic waves radiating outward from the fault as the rupture propagates towards the northwest along the San Andreas fault. (Credit: Image courtesy of USGS)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Nov. 13, 2008) — What would happen in California was hit by the Big One? New 3-D animations of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake scenario are now available to the public.

Fourteen animations can be downloaded from the site in high definition format. The 3-D animations show, from the perspective of a several different Southern California locations, how intensely the ground would shake and shift during a very strong 7.8 earthquake with an epicenter on the southern end of the San Andreas Fault.

The science-based earthquake scenario, developed by USGS scientists and partners, is used for both the Great Southern California ShakeOut drill on November 13 and the statewide Golden Guardian 2008 emergency response exercise from November 13 - 18.

Read more ....

Mysterious Glowing Aurora Over Saturn Confounds Scientists

The northern polar region of Saturn shows both the aurora and underlying atmosphere, as captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft

From The Daily Mail:

A stunning light display over Saturn has stumped scientists who say it behaves unlike any other planetary aurora known in our solar system.

The blueish-green glow was found over the ringed planet's north polar region just like Earth's northern lights.

It was discovered by the infrared instruments on NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

'We've never seen an aurora like this elsewhere,' said Tom Stallard, a scientist working with Cassini data at the University of Leicester.

'This aurora covers an enormous area across the pole. Our current ideas on what forms Saturn's aurora predict that this region should be empty, so finding such a bright aurora here is a fantastic surprise.'

Read more ....

Obama Preparing Comprehensive Technology Policy

Obama's vision of having "YouTube-like videos of government meetings online" and "Google-like database of grants and contracts" may become reality during his first term. (John Gress/Reuters)

From The International Herald Tribune:

Barack Obama's Internet-fueled campaign has transformed the way Americans choose a president. Now, the president-elect's administration plans to change the way Americans - and government - use technology.

If Obama gets his way, all Americans would have broadband Internet access, whether they live in big cities or remote villages. Online life would be safer, with better defenses against cybercriminals. And there would be greater access to government, with online services to let anyone question members of the president's cabinet or track every dime of the U.S. budget.

"I think it's not going to happen in the first 100 days, but I think a lot of this can happen in the first term," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, a media reform organization based in Washington.

Read more ....

Global Warning: We Are Actually Heading Towards A New Ice Age, Claim Scientists

From Daily Mail:

It has plagued scientists and politicians for decades, but scientists now say global warming is not the problem.

We are actually heading for the next Ice Age, they claim.

British and Canadian experts warned the big freeze could bury the east of Britain in 6,000ft of ice.

Most of Scotland, Northern Ireland and England could be covered in 3,000ft-thick ice fields.

The expanses could reach 6,000ft from Aberdeen to Kent – towering above Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain.

Read more ....

Turning Tequila Into Diamonds

Image from The Tequila-Man

From Foreign Policy Blog:

Tequila doesn't just produce hangovers any more. Under the right conditions, the alcohol can be turned into diamonds.

Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, experimenting with making thin films of diamond from organic solutions, decided to conduct their tests using a "pocket-size bottle of cheap white tequila." They heated the tequila to 1,470ºF, breaking down its molecular structure. The resulting carbon film, upon close examination, had formed into an almost perfect diamond structure. Tequila's mix of 40 percent ethanol and 60 percent water is the reason it serves as the perfect compound for creating synthetic diamonds.

Read more .....

Report Urges Fuel Revolution

From CNN:

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The International Energy Agency has called for a global energy revolution to ensure future supplies and to stem the rise of greenhouse gas emissions.

In its annual report -- 2008 World Energy Outlook (WEO) -- published this week, the agency describes the world's energy system as being "at a crossroads" and calls for traditional supply and consumption methods to be overhauled.

Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said: "Current trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable -- environmentally, economically and socially -- they can and must be altered."

Read more ....

A New Congress, A New Approach To Technology?

From CNET News:

Presidential elections may capture the public's attention, as Barack Obama's victory did last week, but the less glamorous work in the U.S. Congress tends to prove more important for technology topics.

In general, much of today's current congressional leadership will continue unchanged into the next, albeit with some complications such as Obama's departure and some narrow Senate races including Minnesota's. Whatever the outcome, Democrats are likely to be newly emboldened and may be eager to approve legislation that stalled in the 110th Congress, including spyware regulations and a shield law that would protect some bloggers.

Read more ....

Google Hits To Warn Of Flu Epidemics

From The Guardian:

Search engine to use online queries to predict health trends before official health bodies

Google already has a window into our souls through our internet searches and it now has insight into our ailing bodies too.

The internet giant is using its vast database of individual search terms to predict the emergence of flu up to two weeks before government epidemiologists.

Google Flu Trends uses the tendency of people to seek online help for their health problems.

By tracking searches for terms such as 'cough', 'fever' and 'aches and pains' it claims to be able to accurately estimate where flu is circulating.

Google tested the idea in nine regions of the US and found it could accurately predict flu outbreaks between seven and 14 days earlier than the federal centres for disease control and prevention.

Google hopes the idea could also be used to help track other diseases. Flu Trends is limited to the US.

Read more ....

NASA's Mars Rover Spirit Imperiled By Dust Storms

This image of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit from August 2005 shows the solar panels still gleaming in the Martian sunlight and carrying only a thin veneer of dust a year and a half after the rover landed and began exploring the red planet in January 2004. NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell University

From L.A. Times:

The craft is dangerously low on power because of dust covering its solar arrays. News of the problem comes a day after NASA declared an end to the Phoenix polar mission.

Massive Martian dust storms are threatening the survival of NASA's Spirit rover, which has been exploring Mars for almost five years but is dangerously low on power.

Spirit last communicated with Earth on Sunday, when it reported that its solar arrays had produced just 89 watt-hours of energy, which is much less than the rover uses in a day.

It's also the least amount of power that either Spirit, or its twin, Opportunity, has produced over the entire life of the mission on Mars, which began in January 2004.

Read more ....

How Much Can We Blame DNA For Who We Are?

From International Herald Tribune:

I owe an apology to my genes. For years I offhandedly blamed them for certain personal defects conventionally associated with one's hereditary starter pack - my Graves' autoimmune disease, for example, or my hair, which looks like the fibers left behind on the rim of an aspirin bottle after the cotton ball has been removed, only wispier.

Now it turns out that genes, per se, are simply too feeble to accept responsibility for much of anything. By the traditional definition, genes are those lineups of DNA letters that serve as instructions for piecing together the body's proteins, and, I'm sorry, but the closer we look, the less instructive they seem, less a "blueprint for life" than one of those disappointing two-page Basic Setup booklets that comes with your computer, tells you where to plug it in and then directs you to a Web site for more information.

Read more

Global Warming Link To Amphibian Declines In Doubt

From E! Science News:

Evidence that global warming is causing the worldwide declines of amphibians may not be as conclusive as previously thought, according to biologists. The findings, which contradict two widely held views, could help reveal what is killing the frogs and toads and aid in their conservation. "We are currently in the midst of a sixth mass extinction event," said Peter Hudson, the Willaman professor of biology at Penn State and co-author of the research study. "And amphibians are bearing the brunt of the problem."

Studies suggest that more than 32 percent of amphibian species are threatened and more than 43 percent face a steep decline in numbers.

Much of the massive declines associated with amphibians appear to be centered in places such as Central America and Australia, said Hudson. "It appears to be linked to a chytrid fungus -- Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) -- which we did not know affected frogs," he added.

Read more ....

Offshore Wind Power Could Alter Ocean Currents

Roiling Ocean Waters
A small service vessel steers between offshore windmills in the North Sea offshore from the village of Blavandshuk near Esbjerg, Denmark. Large offshore wind farms can stir up ocean nutrients which, in turn, could lead to an uptick in fish populations, new research suggests. AP Photo/Heribert Proepper

From Discovery:

Nov. 12, 2008 -- Generating wind power at sea may disturb ocean currents and marine ecosystems, according to a new study.

Offshore wind farms are common in Europe; Denmark, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom all have several active installations. Wind power in the United States is currently confined to dry land, but three installations are planned off the coast of New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Delaware, totaling about 1,500 megawatts of generating capacity.

Extracting energy from wind changes regional air currents, which can in turn affect how the nearby ocean circulates, according to Goran Brostrom of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in Oslo.

Read more ....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two-Fifths Of Earth's Population at Risk

From Science Blog:

Vibrio cholerae. Cholera. One of the most aggressive water-borne infections, cholera can kill within 24 hours, and has caused seven pandemics in history. It occurs in over 60 countries worldwide. Currently, the World Health Organization(WHO) has warned that cholera is a serious risk in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there have already been 1,000 cases since October. Of course, most Americans are unfamiliar with cholera since the last outbreak in the U.S. was in 1911. And I don't think any of us were around for that.

Cholera is a bacterial infection of the intestine that comes from consuming infected food or water. Symptoms begin with sever diarrhea and vomiting, which then lead to dehydration. Blood pressure falls, cramps develop in the legs and abdomen, and then body temperature drops as organ failure occurs. Not a pretty picture. There is hope however.

Read more ....

How Floating 'Energy Islands' Could Power the Future

Three Energy Islands are shown connected in this artist rendering. Credit: Energy Island

From Live Science:

Editor's Note: Each Wednesday LiveScience examines the viability of emerging energy technologies — the power of the future.

The ocean harbors abundant energy in the form of wind, waves and sun. All of these could be sampled on something called an Energy Island: a floating rig that drills for renewables instead of petroleum.

The concept is the brainchild of inventor Dominic Michaelis. He was originally unsatisfied with the slow progress in developing ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), a process in which cold water is pumped up from the deep ocean to generate electricity.

"Nothing new was happening with OTEC, so I thought why not bring other marine energy technologies on board?" Michaelis said.

Read more ....

A History Of Microsoft Windows

From Wired News:

Windows 1.0

The world's most ubiquitous operating system was not always so. The evolution of Windows was often uncertain and precarious. Its success was symbiotic with advancements in processor speed and memory capacity, and Microsoft relied heavily on third-party software to bridge the gap between concept and consumer. Tour the 23-year history of the Windows OS through these screenshots.

Left: Microsoft's first graphical user interface -- Windows 1.0 -- wasn't released until November 1985, nearly two years after Apple introduced the Mac. Due to legal issues with Apple, Gates couldn't include key features like overlapping windows and a trash can. Looking at it now, it's not surprising it was a flop. Windows 1.0 was more an extension of MS-DOS than its own operating system, but it did allow limited multitasking and mouse support.

Read more ....

Study Shows How Spammers Cash In

From BBC News:

Spammers are turning a profit despite only getting one response for every 12.5m e-mails they send, finds a study.

By hijacking a working spam network, US researchers have uncovered some of the economics of being a junk mailer.

The analysis suggests that such a tiny response rate means a big spam operation can turn over millions of pounds in profit every year.

It also suggests that spammers may be susceptible to attacks that make it more costly to send junk mail.

Read more ....

Google Earth Does Ancient Rome

Taiwan Makes Fastest 60GHz Wireless System On A Chip, 100 Times Wifi Speed For Less Than $1

From The Next Big Future:

National Taiwan University announced their latest invention System on a Chip (SOC) yesterday, the smallest such product at the lowest cost and consuming the least electricity. The NTU research team claims that the transmission speed of the chip is 100 times as fast as WiFi and 350 times as fast as a 3.5G cell phone. Lee indicated that the chip size has been reduced to 0.5 millimeter, one-tenth of that of existing chips, and the cost is less than one-tenth of the traditional communication module and could be further lowered to only US$1. The SOC successfully combines RF Front-End Circuits and an antenna array to reach the highest transmission speed.

Read more ....

IBM To Help Build Broadband Network In Power Lines

From Yahoo News Finance/AP:

Broadband over power lines gets a needed endorsement from a big player in computing

NEW YORK (AP) -- IBM Corp. is throwing its considerable weight behind an idea that seemed to have faded: broadband Internet access delivered over ordinary power lines.

The technology has been around for decades, but most efforts to implement the idea on a broad scale have failed to live up to expectations.

Now, with somewhat scaled-back goals, improved technology, and a dose of low-interest federal loans, IBM is partnering with a small newcomer called International Broadband Electric Communications Inc. to try to make the idea work in rural communities that don't have other broadband options.

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27.7 Billion Gallons Of Ethanol To Be Produced By 2012

(Photo from Device Daily)

From Device Daily:

Nowadays, the Earth is getting more and more polluted because of fossil fuels. We already know that, but still our planet suffers even more. Although it’s not the best solution, ethanol could provide a better option as an alternate fuel as anything is better than gasoline or oil. The world ethanol market is expected to reach 27.7 billion gallons by 2012 as the interest in fuel-ethanol is rising thanks to the ban on MTBE in several countries.

Ethanol is also receiving help from many governments which have strict rules and they have begun to demand the presence of ethanol in fuels. Unsurprisingly, the world leader in the production of ethanol will be the USA which has mandated a use of 8 billion gallons of ethanol by 2012. The US is aiming to cut down greenhouse gas emissions, and to reduce their dependence on oil therefore ethanol will be an important part when renewable fuels will take over.

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GHG Photos: Images Of A Climate Changed World

A picture is worth a thousand words. GHG Photos presents a wonderful selection of before and now pictures of our changing environment.

The intro on their site states their mission statement clearly:

GHG is the scientific shorthand for Greenhouse Gases, the gases whose build up in the upper atmosphere is the cause of anthropogenic climate change. GHG Photos is a coalition of science, environmental, nature, and documentary photographers who have spent the last several years focused on the emissions and effects of those Greenhouse Gas emissions, as well as attempts to mitigate their release and adapt to the changing climate.

The link to their website is HERE.

For All Map Geeks

The following is a great site for everything there is to know about maps. You will get suck into this website. The link is HERE.

Technology Works On Perfect Banana

From the Globe And Mail Science:

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — It isn't easy to keep a banana yellow.

To get it to market ripe but unblemished by brown sugar spots takes careful timing, a slight fiddling with nature's rhythms and a delivery system that is increasingly computer-driven and technical.

The perfect banana used to be a rare and precious find, but technology is changing that. From the tree in the sweltering tropics to the grocery rack in the frigid north, scientists are seeking new ways to strengthen the food chain and extend the shelf life of perishables so they reach distant consumers as if freshly picked.

Commercially, the goal is to satisfy a demand for quality food anywhere, any time, and at maximum profit.

But the implications go further: As the world's population expands 50 per cent – to nine billion – by mid-century, food security will become critical. The wild rise in food prices that peaked last July, with staples doubling or tripling in cost over three years, underscored the consequences of shortages, whether real or perceived.

As cities grow and wealth expands, more people eat meat, dairy and fresh products.

“That requires a totally different way of approaching agriculture. You have chains of total food systems,” said Rudy Rabbinge, chairman of the Science Council Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, an alliance of agricultural bodies worldwide.

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Oldest Evidence For Complex Life In Doubt

The earliest life on Earth consisted of prokaryotes — small single-celled organisms without nuclei. These earliest organisms were anaerobic — they did not require oxygen to live.
(Image from Lunar And Planetary Institute)

From Astrobiology:

Oldest Evidence for Life in Doubt

Chemical biomarkers in ancient Australian rocks, once thought to be the oldest known evidence of complex life on Earth, may have infiltrated long after the sediments were laid down, new analyses suggest.

The evidence was based on biomarkers - distinctive chemical compounds produced today by modern-day relatives of cyanobacteria and other complex life forms. In 1999, a team of researchers contended that the biomarkers in the 2.7-billion–year-old rocks pushed back the origins of cyanobacteria by at least 550 million years and of eukaryotes by about a billion years.

Although some scientists interpret the new findings, published in the Oct. 23 Nature, as disproving the older dates, others contend that the results still allow for the presence of the organisms or their kin at that time.

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NASA Clears Shuttle For Space Station Visit

Crew members of the space shuttle Endeavour on Mission STS-126 arrive to prepare for launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida November 11, 2008.
(Scott Audette/Reuters)

From Yahoo News/Reuters:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – NASA managers on Wednesday cleared the space shuttle Endeavour and seven astronauts for launch on Friday on a mission to make the International Space Station a bit more like home.

Endeavour's cargo includes two sleeping chambers, a second toilet and a water purification system that will let NASA double the station crew size to six and allow them to recycle urine and waste water for drinking. Launch is set for 7:55 p.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"This mission is all about home improvements, both inside and outside of the International Space Station," said Endeavour commander Chris Ferguson. "We've had some large modules delivered in the last year. It's time to fill them up."

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Google Chases Skype With New Gmail Video Chat

From Webmonkey:

Video chat service Skype has some new competition — Google has just added audio and video chat to Gmail. The new chat tools essentially offer most of the features of Skype, or Apple’s iChat, within the standard Gmail interface.

When the SMS features we told you about earlier finally arrive, Google’s e-mail client will be a one-stop shop for almost every form of communication you can think of — e-mail, chat, video chat, audio chat and SMS.

Once the plugin is installed, using the new features is very simple. Just hover over any name in your Gmail chat list and select “Start video chat” or “Start voice chat.” There’s a full-screen view and you can also choose to pop out the chat into a new window.

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In A Pandemic, Who Gets to Live?

Influenza victims crowd into an emergency hospital near Fort Riley, Kan., in this 1918 file photo. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic killed at least 20 million people worldwide, and officials say that if the next pandemic resemblers the birdlike 1918 Spanish flu, up to 1.9 million Americans could die. Collapse (National Museum of Health/AP Photo)

From ABC News/Science:

As if wars and economic crises and natural disasters weren't enough, here's a challenge for some future president that few people even want to think about: Some day, perhaps soon, a president will have to decide whose lives are the most important to save, and whose lives are "nonessential."

This isn't going to be a doomsday story, because most people will survive the next influenza pandemic, which some public health experts believe is past due. It's not a question of "if," it's a question of "when," and one study from Harvard University estimates that the pandemic will kill somewhere between 51 million and 81 million people, mostly in developing countries.

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