Saturday, April 11, 2009

Signs Of Earliest Scots Unearthed

From The BBC:

Archaeologists have discovered the earliest evidence of human beings ever found in Scotland.

The flints were unearthed in a ploughed field near Biggar in South Lanarkshire.

They are similar to tools known to have been used in the Netherlands and northern Germany 14,000 years ago, or 12,000 BC.

They were probably used by hunters to kill reindeer, mammoth and giant elk and to cut up prey and prepare their skins.

Read more ....

'Holy Grail' Drug Can Help Scars Heal, New Research Shows

From The Telegraph:

A drug - called Avotermin - which can help scars heal, has been created for the first time, in a breakthrough described as one of the "holy grails" of scientific research.

Injected into the skin after an injury it encourages the tissue to repair itself more quickly, reducing permanent disfiguration.

Avotermin could be used by surgeons before they operate on patients, to minimize damage, as well as on those who have suffered an injury.

Read more ....

Study: Biofuel Threatens Water Supplies

From Live Science:

The production of bioethanol may use up to three times as much water as previously thought, a new study finds, becoming the latest work that could burst the biofuel bubble.

A gallon of ethanol may require up to more than 2,100 gallons of water from farm to fuel pump, depending on the regional irrigation practice in growing corn, according to the study detailed in the April 15 issue of journal Environmental Science & Technology.

But the water usage isn't quite so high everywhere: A dozen states in the Corn Belt consume less than 100 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol, making them better suited for ethanol production, the study found.

Read more ....

Red-Hot Research Could Lead To New Materials

Photo: Two versions of the aerogel -- the RF-only version (left) and the mixed version (right). (Credit: Image courtesy of Missouri University of Science and Technology)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2009) — Recent experiments to create a fast-reacting explosive by concocting it at the nanoscopic level could result in more spectacular firework displays. But more impressive to the Missouri University of Science and Technology professor who led the research, the method used to mix chemicals at that tiny scale could lead to new strong porous materials for high temperature applications, from thermal insulation in jet engines to industrial chemical reactors.

Read more ....

Printed Supercapacitor Could Feed Power-Hungry Gadgets

From New Scientist:

A supercapacitor – a device that can unleash large amounts of charge very quickly – has been created using printing technology for the first time. The advance will pave the way for "printed" power supplies that could be useful as gadgets become thinner, lighter and even flexible.

Advances in electronics mean portable gadgets are shrinking in size but growing in their energy demands, and conventional batteries are struggling to cope.

Batteries are slow to recharge because they store energy chemically. By contrast, capacitors, which are common in electronics, are short-term stores of electrical energy that charge almost instantaneously but hold little energy.

Read more ....

Disease In A Warming Climate

Photo: Climate change may lead diseases such as malaria to change their geographical ranges.WHO/TDR/S.Lindsay

From Nature News:

Climate change takes the blame for many dim future prospects: rising sea levels, more frequent droughts and disappearing glaciers, to name just a few. But perhaps the warming trend should be absolved of responsibility for a predicted bump in the global burden of infectious disease.

That's the bottom line of a paper in the April issue of the journal Ecology, which argues that the geographical ranges of infectious diseases are more likely to shift than to expand (K. D. Lafferty Ecology 90, 888–900; 2009). "You often see a list of the 12 terrible things that are going to happen with climate change, and increases in infectious diseases is often on that list," says Kevin Lafferty, an ecologist with the US Geological Survey in Santa Barbara, California. But data from diseases such as yellow fever and malaria, he says, provide "a different reality".

Read more ....

Research Could Lead To New Non-antibiotic Drugs To Counter Hospital Infections

When worms (Caenorhabditis elegans) ate the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa that were raised on low levels of phosphates, unexpected large red spots appeared in their intestinal tracts. The worms then died, so researchers dubbed the condition "Red Death." They theorized that providing P. aeruginosa with phosphate would protect weakened or immunosuppressed hospital patients from this lethal pathogen. (Credit: John Alverdy, University of Chicago Medical Center)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 9, 2009) — Lack of an adequate amount of the mineral phosphate can turn a common bacterium into a killer, according to research to be published in the April 14, 2009, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. The findings could lead to new drugs that would disarm the increasingly antibiotic-resistant pathogen rather than attempting to kill it.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one of the most serious hospital-acquired pathogens. A common cause of lung infections, it is also found in the intestinal tract of 20 percent of all Americans and 50 percent of hospitalized patients in the United States.

Read more ....

Losing It: Why Self-Control Is Not Natural

From Live Science:

After dinner last night, I lost my usual self-control and ate half a box of cookies. No wonder. My self-control had been under pressure all day. I righteously refused a muffin at breakfast, didn’t scream at my kid to get out the door although we were late, made a conscious decision not to run over a pedestrian crossing against the light, kept my fist from pounding on the table during a faculty meeting, and resisted the urge to throw an annoying student out of my office.

But by 7 p.m., my self-control mechanism was worn out, and down those cookies went.

The empty box would have been no surprise to Yale University psychologist Joshua Ackerman and colleagues who have discovered that self-control not only wears us down, even thinking about other people's self-control is too much to handle.

Read more ....

Friday, April 10, 2009

Standing Watch Over A Crowded Space

From The BBC:

On 10 February this year, a defunct Russian communications satellite crashed into an American commercial spacecraft, generating thousands of pieces of orbiting debris.

At the time, some observers put the odds of such an event occurring at millions, maybe billions, to one.

But experts had been warning for years that useable space was becoming crowded, boosting the possibility of a serious collision.

They have argued both for better monitoring of the space environment and for policies aimed at controlling the production of debris.

Over the past two years, a number of incidents have drawn attention to the problem of space debris.

Read more ....

Six Mind-Blowing Ideas

From Cosmic Log/MSNBC:

Is "life as we don't know it" closer than we think? Are microbes behind the world's biggest extinctions? Is most of our morality bound up in hidden "dark morals"? Blow your mind with six flights of scientific fancy from the Origins Symposium, presented by Arizona State University.

The weekend forum, organized to inaugurate ASU's Origins Initiative, focused on the beginnings of life, the universe and everything - including consciousness and culture. Among the luminaries in attendance were biologist Richard Dawkins, neuroscientist Steven Pinker, anthropologist Donald Johanson and a basketball team's worth of Nobel laureates. (On Saturday I almost got lost as I wandered around The Boulders resort with two of the nicest Nobelists you ever did meet, Frank Wilczek and John Mather.)

Read more ....

7 (Crazy) Civilian Uses for Nuclear Bombs

From Wired Science:

You might think of nuclear weapons as just the most fearsome weapon ever invented by humans, but that would be seriously underplaying their versatility.

Nuclear weapons aren't only good for leveling cities, they've also been used throughout the last 50 years for a variety of civilian purposes like stimulating natural gas production — and all kinds of innovative proposals have been slapped on the table to harness the awesome power of the nuclear blast for economic benefit.

Read more ....

The Top 10 Telescopes of All Time


A look back at the 400-year-old art of assisted sky-gazing.

Humans have been looking to the heavens for as long as we have had stories to tell about them. But the way we look up has come quite far in the past 400 years, since Galileo Galilei first pointed a spyglass to the sky.

In honor of the 400th anniversary of the telescope, Popular Science looks back on the top 10 observatories on Earth and beyond.

Read more ....

Edge of Space Found

From Live Science:

Hold on to your hats, or in this case, your helmets: Scientists have finally pinpointed the so-called edge of space — the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space.

With data from a new instrument developed by scientists at the University of Calgary, scientists confirmed that space begins 73 miles (118 kilometers) above Earth's surface.

A lot remains very fuzzy, however, as the boundary is surrounded by a host of misconceptions and confusing, conflicting definitions.

Read more ....

Twin Spacecraft To Explore Gravitational 'Parking Lots' That May Hold Secret Of Moon's Origin

Artist's concept of the STEREO spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 10, 2009) — Two places on opposite sides of Earth may hold the secret to how the moon was born. NASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft are about to enter these zones, known as the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points, each centered about 93 million miles away along Earth's orbit.

As rare as free parking in New York City, L4 and L5 are among the special points in our solar system around which spacecraft and other objects can loiter. They are where the gravitational pull of a nearby planet or the sun balances the forces from the object's orbital motion. Such points closer to Earth are sometimes used as spaceship "parking lots", like the L1 point a million miles away in the direction of the sun. They are officially called Libration points or Lagrangian points after Joseph-Louis Lagrange, an Italian-French mathematician who helped discover them.

Read more ....

When Life As We Know It Became Possible On Earth

From The Independent:

The mystery of how our planet's atmosphere became rich in oxygen has finally been solved.

It was one of the most important changes to have happened to the Earth's atmosphere and it was the reason why today we can breathe life-giving oxygen. And yet the Great Oxidation Event has remained a mystery – until now.

Without oxygen, life on Earth would not exist as we know it. It has provided the supercharged air that has fuelled an explosion in the diversity and size of all living organisms, from the smallest shrimp to the biggest dinosaur.

Read more ....

Time To Think Hydropower

Hoover Dam, also sometimes known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the U.S. states of Arizona and Nevada. (Image from Wikimedia)

From The Scientific American:

Imagine what our economy would be like if almost half of our electricity came from renewable energy resources. No fuel price shocks, no foreign control, no worries about climate change—just clean, abundant, affordable electricity.

Before World War II, Americans actually lived that way, thanks to hydropower. The massive public works projects undertaken during the Great Depression built a fleet of huge facilities on some of the country’s biggest waterways. Job creation, electrification and inexpensive power modernized the rural South and helped to industrialize the West.

Read more ....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Do Aliens Share Our Genetic Code?

Was Jabba the Hutt made from the same genetic building blocks as life on Earth?
(Image: Jonathan Hordle / Rex)

From New Scientist:

What similarities will alien life forms have to living things here on Earth? We won't know until we find some, but now there is evidence that at least the basic building blocks will be the same.

All terrestrial life forms share the same 20 amino acids. Biochemists have managed to synthesise 10 of them in experiments that simulate lifeless prebiotic environments, using proxies for lightning, ionising radiation from space, or hydrothermal vents to provide the necessary energy. Amino acids are also found inside meteorites formed before Earth was born.

Paul Higgs and Ralph Pudritz at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, point out that all these experiments produced a subset of the same 10 amino acids and calculate that these 10 require the least amount of energy to form.

This, they argue, suggests that if alien life exists it probably has the same 10 amino acids at its core.

Read more ....

Science's Most Powerful Computer Tackles First Questions

Jaguar is the second most powerful computer ever built and the fastest dedicated to science (Image: National Center for Computational Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

From New Scientist:

In cult sci-fi tale Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the most powerful computer in the universe was charged with finding the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

In the real world, a newly built supercomputer that is the most powerful ever dedicated to science will be tackling questions about climate change, supernovas, and the structure of water.

The projects were chosen in a peer-reviewed process designed to get the computer producing useful science even during the period when its performance is still being fine-tuned by engineers.

Read more

New Link Between The Evolution Of Complex Life Forms On Earth And Nickel And Methane Gas

Image: Banded iron formations like this from northern Michigan contain evidence of a drop in dissolved nickel in ancient oceans. (Credit: Image courtesy of Carnegie Institution)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 9, 2009) — The Earth's original atmosphere held very little oxygen. This began to change around 2.4 billion years ago when oxygen levels increased dramatically during what scientists call the "Great Oxidation Event." The cause of this event has puzzled scientists, but researchers writing in Nature have found indications in ancient sedimentary rocks that it may have been linked to a drop in the level of dissolved nickel in seawater.

"The Great Oxidation Event is what irreversibly changed surface environments on Earth and ultimately made advanced life possible," says research team member Dominic Papineau of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory. "It was a major turning point in the evolution of our planet, and we are getting closer to understanding how it occurred."

Read more ....

10 Surprising Sex Statistics

From Live Science:

Whether it's penis size, papillomavirus risk, or profligate pregnancies, it's good to know the numbers. Check out these stats to see if you are well within the sexual mean -- or if you're off the charts.

Read more ....

Microsoft Genius Who Became First Two-Time Space Tourist Returns To Earth

American billionaire Charles Simonyi landed safely back to earth today
after completing his second visit into space.

From The Daily Mail:

U.S. billionaire Charles Simonyi who became the first tourist to roar into space twice, touched back down in earth today.

Simonyi landed near Dzhezkazgan, in central Kazakhstan after paying a total of $60million to visit the International Space Station.

Simonyi's capsule also carried American astronaut Mike Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov.

The Microsoft genius was sent into space 13 days ago aboard the Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft and docked on the station 48 hours later.

The spacecraft blasted into the leaden skies from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to much fanfare.

Read more ....

Efficient Power At Any Wind Speed

Vail Resorts said Tuesday that it would buy credits for wind power like that generated by the turbines at the Gray County Wind Farm in Kansas. Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

From Scientific American:

One of wind power’s drawbacks is its variability: sometimes the breeze is weak; other times it is strong. To convert the rotation of wind turbines into electricity efficiently, however, generators require a single turning speed. Faster or slower than this “sweet spot” and efficiency falls off fast. To compensate, engineers design turbine hardware to have adjustable blade angles to shed surplus wind energy or to capture more. Wind turbines often also employ a transmission to gear the shaft speed up or down to the sweet spot. But both mechanisms add weight, complexity and cost.

ExRo Technologies in Vancouver is commercializing what should be a better idea: a generator that operates efficiently over a wide speed range. Retrofitted wind turbines could produce as much as 50 percent more power over time, CEO John McDonald states.

Read more ....

The Best Computer Interfaces: Past, Present, and Future

Microsoft’s Surface is an example of a multitouch screen. Photo by: Microsoft

From Technology Review:

Say goodbye to the mouse and hello to augmented reality, voice recognition, and geospatial tracking.

Computer scientists from around the world will gather in Boston this week at Computer-Human Interaction 2009 to discuss the latest developments in computer interfaces. To coincide with the event, we present a roundup of the coolest computer interfaces past, present, and future.

Read more ....

New Way To Split Water Into Hydrogen And Oxygen Developed

3-D rendering of H2O molecules. (Credit: iStockphoto)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 8, 2009) — The design of efficient systems for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, driven by sunlight is among the most important challenges facing science today, underpinning the long term potential of hydrogen as a clean, sustainable fuel. But man-made systems that exist today are very inefficient and often require additional use of sacrificial chemical agents. In this context, it is important to establish new mechanisms by which water splitting can take place.

Now, a unique approach developed by Prof. David Milstein and colleagues of the Weizmann Institute’s Organic Chemistry Department, provides important steps in overcoming this challenge. During this work, the team demonstrated a new mode of bond generation between oxygen atoms and even defined the mechanism by which it takes place. In fact, it is the generation of oxygen gas by the formation of a bond between two oxygen atoms originating from water molecules that proves to be the bottleneck in the water splitting process. Their results have recently been published in Science.

Read more ....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

France Moves To Crack Down On Internet Piracy

From New York Times:

BERLIN — French lawmakers are poised to approve a law to create the world’s first surveillance system for Internet piracy, one that would force Internet service providers in some cases to disconnect customers accused of making illegal downloads.

The proposal, called the “Création et Internet” and known informally as the “three strikes” directive, has been passed in preliminary votes by the Parliament and is expected to be approved in both houses Thursday. It has the support from the governing party of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Read more ....

Dramatic Image Shows Volcano's Lightning

Redoubt was still steaming at dawn on Saturday, April 4, 2009. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

From Live Science:

For the first time, scientists have been able to “see” and trace lightning inside a plume of ash spewing from an actively erupting volcano.

When Alaska's Mount Redoubt volcano began rumbling back to life in January, a team of researchers scrambled to set up a system called a Lightning Mapping Array that would be able to peer through the dust and gas of any eruption that occurred to the lightning storm happening within. Lightning is known to flash in the tumultuous clouds belched out during volcanic eruptions.

The lightning produced when Redoubt finally erupted on March 22 was "prolific," said physicist Paul Krehbiel of New Mexico Tech.

Read more ....

AP Newsbreak: Obama Looks At Climate Engineering

A Regular Montreal Snowstorm

From Breitbart/AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The president's new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth's air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

Read more ....

My Comment: I live in Montreal, Canada. For the past few years we have been breaking cold records .... and now I am reading how the U.S. government wants to make it COLDER!!!!!

Sigh ..... If anyone lives where I live you will realize what I know ..... These guys are NUTS!

Meat Now, Sex Later For Ivorian Chimps

Isha, an adult female wild chimpanzee, holding a piece of meat (the foot of a black and white colobus monkey) that she received from an adult male chimpanzee (Image: Cristina M. Gomes)

From New Scientist:

Chimpanzees trade precious scraps of meat for sex, new research shows. A two-year study of wild chimps finds that males boost their chances of having sex with a female by offering her meat.

But don't call them prostitutes. "It's not like 'I give you meat and a few hours later you're going to copulate with me,'" says Cristina Gomes, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

She and colleague Christophe Boesch instead uncovered more nuanced and long-term exchanges.

Read more ....

Implantable Telescope For The Eye

Photo: Fighting blindness: A miniature telescope (show above) implanted into the eye improves vision in people with macular degeneration. The four-millimeter-long implant contains two wide-angle glass lenses, which magnify images onto the retina. Credit: VisionCare

From Technology Review:

A miniature telescope implanted into the eye could soon help people with vision loss from end-stage macular degeneration. Last week, an advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration unanimously recommended that the agency approve the implant. Clinical trials of the device, which is about the size of a pencil eraser, suggest it can improve vision by about three and a half lines on an eye chart.

"This is one of the few options for people with end-stage macular degeneration," says Kathryn Colby, an eye surgeon at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, in Boston, who helped develop the surgical procedure used to implant the device.

Read more ....

Earthquake Predictions Remain Faulty at Best

From Live Science:

When it was revealed this week that Italian scientist Gioacchino Giuliani had predicted the earthquake in Italy but that he'd been ridiculed and muzzled, the hooey hairs stood up on the back of my neck.

I've been hearing stories about people who can predict earthquakes, using various methods from serious seismology to precursor headaches to watching their dog act strange, for years. And the bottom line remains the same:

It is not yet possible. In fact, it won't be for a long, long time.

Read more ....

Boosting Energy Production From 'Ice That Burns'

Photo: Gas hydrate is an ice-like solid that results from the trapping of methane molecules -- the main component of natural gas -- within a lattice-like cage of water molecules. Dubbed the "ice that burns," this substance releases gaseous methane when it melts. (Credit: Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2009) — In a step toward using gas hydrates as a future energy source, researchers in New York are reporting the first identification of an optimal temperature and pressure range for maximizing production of natural gas from the icy hydrate material.

Marco Castaldi, Yue Zhou, and Tuncel Yegualp note that gas hydrates, also known as "ice that burns," are a frozen form of natural gas (methane). This material exists in vast deposits beneath the ocean floor and Arctic permafrost in the United States and other areas. Scientists believe that fuel from these frozen chunks, formed at cold temperatures and high pressures, may help fuel cars, heat homes, and power factories in the future. Although scientists have identified several different methods for extracting the fuel, including depressurization, researchers have not found an practical approach for producing the gas on an industrial scale.

Read more ....

G.M. And Segway Build An EV Only Woz Could Love

From Autopia/Wired:

General Motors and the people who make the world's coolest scooter have developed a two-wheeled, two-seat electric car that's essentially a big honkin' Segway, which makes us wonder how long it'll be before Woz is playing polo with one.

GM and Segway pulled the sheet off the unusual, albeit innovative, EV on Tuesday morning at the New York Auto Show, proclaiming the car of the future may have two wheels, not four. The beleaguered automaker says the concept vehicle, dubbed Project PUMA - for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility - is just the thing for navigating congested cities with ease.

Read more ....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Listening To The Earth's Deepest Secrets

(Click the Above Image to Enlarge)

From New Scientist:

GARY ANDERSON was not around to see a backhoe tear up the buffalo grass at his ranch near Akron, Colorado. But he was watching a few weeks later when the technicians came to dump instruments and insulation into their 2-metre-deep hole.

What they left behind didn't look like much: an anonymous mound of dirt and, a few paces away, a spindly metal framework supporting a solar panel. All Anderson knew was that he was helping to host some kind of science experiment. It wouldn't be any trouble, he'd been told, and it wouldn't disturb the cattle. After a couple of years the people who installed it would come and take it away again.

Read more ....

Field Equations: The Physics of Baseball

From Scientific American:

A Q&A with physicist Alan Nathan.

At long last, Opening Day is nearly here. As with each new season, this one arrives with a slew of major-league questions: Can the Phillies repeat? Can the spendthrift Yankees break their World Series drought? Is this the year the Athletics reclaim their freewheeling magic? But the answers to all those big questions will ultimately arise from countless small interactions, both human (a pitcher facing down a batter, a base runner challenging a catcher's arm, a manager's clever double switch) and physical (a ball meeting the bat's sweet spot, a sharp slider slicing through the air, a pop fly tracing a parabolic arc through the sky).

Read more ....

Light and Cheap, Netbooks Are Poised to Reshape PC Industry

Dell sells a 2.28-pound netbook, the Inspiron Mini 9, left, which is smaller and less expensive than a traditional laptop. Tami Chappell for The New York Times

From The New York Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — Get ready for the next stage in the personal computer revolution: ultrathin and dirt cheap.

AT&T announced on Tuesday that customers in Atlanta could get a type of compact PC called a netbook for just $50 if they signed up for an Internet service plan — an offer the phone company may introduce elsewhere after a test period. This year, at least one wireless phone company in the United States will probably offer netbooks free with paid data plans, copying similar programs in Japan, according to industry experts.

Read more ....

Access Any Hard Drive From The Internet

PogoPlug: courtesy Cloud Engine

From Popular Science:

Using a tiny server crammed into a wall wart, the $100 PogoPlug turns any hard drive into a network-attached storage device

PogoPlug, available in North America as of today, is a cheap, straightforward, single-purpose device that aims to transform network-attached storage into an appliance. It combines any old USB hard drive with your existing Internet connection, and then, voila: everything delicious and convenient about network-attached storage is now within reach.

Read more ....

In Search Of Lithium: The Battle For The 3rd Element

The US Geological Survey claims at least 4.5 million tones of lithium could be extracted in Salar De Uyuni, while another report puts it as high as nine million tons

From The Daily Mail:

The good news: A wonder metal that fires your phone, iPod and shiny new electric car is so clean it may save the planet. The bad news: More than half of the world's lithium is beneath this Bolivian desert...and getting it is so dirty it inspired the latest Bond plot

Darkness falls across the Andes, turning the distant snow caps from blinding white to nothingness in the blink of an eye. From the east, the night races across the bleak Altiplano towards us, as the temperature plummets to below zero, leaving the windswept emptiness of the planet's largest salt plain in a vast cold shadow.

Read more ....

Mt. Redoubt Eruptions – What Effect If Any On The Summer? Winter?

Mt. Redoubt March 26, 2009

From Watts Up With That:

Starting on March 22, a series of major eruptions have taken place from Mt. Redoubt in Alaska. The biggest exceeded 65,000 feet in height. More than a dozen eruptions as high as 60,000 have followed the first week alone. Activity may continue for weeks or months based on the volcano’s history.

Climatologists may disagree on how much the recent global warming is natural or manmade but there is general agreement that volcanism constitutes a wildcard in climate, producing significant global scale cooling for at least a few years following a major eruption. However, there are some interesting seasonal and regional variations of the effects.

Read more ....

The iPhone Gold Rush

START-UP From left, Vassilis Samolis, Kostas Eleftheriou
and Bill Rappos formed GreatApps. Petros Vittas

From The New York Times:

IS there a good way to nail down a steady income? In this economy?

Try writing a successful program for the iPhone.

Last August, Ethan Nicholas and his wife, Nicole, were having trouble making their mortgage payments. Medical bills from the birth of their younger son were piling up. After learning that his employer, Sun Microsystems, was suspending employee bonuses for the year, Mr. Nicholas considered looking for a new job and putting their house in Wake Forest, N.C., on the market.

Read more ....

More News On the iPhone Gold Rush

Will the iPhone 3.0 Fuel a Second Gold Rush? -- New York Times
Inside the iPhone App Gold Rush -- Adweek
Apple's iPhone 3.0 SDK Renews Developer Gold Rush -- Information Week
NY Times op-ed on the hate that dare not text its name: iPhone rejection -- Tuaw

Saturn's Moon Titan May Have Subsurface Ocean Of Hydrocarbons

A radar image of some of the lakes of hydrocarbons spread across one of the poles of Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons. Colors have been altered to accentuate the topographic features. (Credit: Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL and the Cassini Project Office)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 6, 2009) — Saturn's largest moon, Titan, may have a subterranean ocean of hydrocarbons and some topsy-turvy topography in which the summits of its mountains lie lower than its average surface elevation, according to new research.

Titan is also more squashed in its overall shape—like a rubber ball pressed down by a foot—than researchers had expected, said Howard Zebker, a Stanford geophysicist and electrical engineer involved in the work. The new findings may help explain the presence of large lakes of hydrocarbons at both of Titan's poles, which have been puzzling researchers since being discovered in 2007.

Read more ....

Monday, April 6, 2009

Poker Skills Could Sway Gaming Laws

Looking more skilful by the day (Image: Nick Koudis/ Digital Vision/Getty)

From New Scientist:

IS POKER a game of skill or luck? For regular players that's a no-brainer, but showing that skill wins out has proven surprisingly difficult for mathematicians. Now two studies that tapped the vast amounts of data available from online casinos have provided some of the best evidence yet that poker is skill-based. Many hope that the results will help to roll back laws and court decisions that consider poker gambling, and therefore illegal in certain contexts.

Read more ....

'I Predicted Killer Quake, But Officials Accused Me Of Scaremongering': Says Italian Seismologist

Seismologist Giacchino Giuliani predicted the earthquake which killed up to 100 people in L'Aquila just weeks before it struck

From The Daily Mail:

The Italian scientist who predicted a major earthquake which killed 90 people just weeks before disaster struck said authorities refused to take his claim seriously.

Seismologist Giacchino Giuliani said he was reported to authorities for spreading panic after the government claimed his research had no scientific foundation.

The 6.3-magnitude quake struck at around 2.30am UK time near L'Aquila.

The first tremors in the region were felt in mid-January and continued at regular intervals, creating mounting alarm in the medieval city, 60 miles east of Rome.

Read more ....

Complex Geology Behind The Italian Earthquake

This map shows the epicenter of the quake that struck central Italy at 3:32 a.m. local time on Monday, April 6, 2009. Credit: USGS

From Live Science:

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck central Italy in the wee hours of Monday morning has a complicated geological story behind it.

The epicenter of the quake, which struck at 3:32 a.m. local time (9:30 p.m., April 5 EDT), was near the medieval city of L'Aquila, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Rome.

The temblor has killed more than 90 people so far, according to news reports, and left 1,500 injured and thousands homeless. It marks the country's deadliest earthquake in three decades.

Read more ....

All Thumbs: Man Says He Has USB Drive In Prosthetic Finger

Computer expert Jerry Javala has been given a helping hand by plastic surgeons who installed a USB stick in a false finger after a motorbike crash. (Central European News)

From ABC News:

Programmer Lost Finger in Motorcycle Accident; Says He Took Advantage of It.

There is, we'd better warn, something of a gross-out factor to many people about this story, although there are others who seem to think it's pretty cool.

It is the story of Jerry Jalava, 29, a self-described software developer from Finland who lost part of his left ring finger in May in a motorcycle accident.

Now, he says, he wears a prosthetic finger made of silicone, which looks fairly natural -- except that he can peel back the tip to uncover a USB drive tucked inside.

Read more ....

Trees Are Growing Faster And Could Buy Time To Halt Global Warming

Tropical rainforest Photo: MARTIN POPE

From The Telegraph:

Plants and trees are growing faster because of rising carbon dioxide levels, potentially buying Earth more time to address global warming, according to scientists.

The phenomenon has been discovered in a variety of flora, ranging from tropical rainforests to British sugar beet crops.

It means they are soaking up at least some of the billions of tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere by humans that would otherwise be accelerating the rate of climate change.

Read more ....

Older Couples Race Against Their Biological Clocks To Start Families

Katherine Anne Harper was born on Jan. 18 when her mom, Kim, was 41.
SUSAN TUSA/Detroit Free Press

From The Detroit Free Press:

Kim Harper started a career before starting a family.

After graduating from Michigan State University in 1990, she traveled, earned a law degree and began working as an attorney. When Harper married in 2006, she and her husband, Jeff, hoped a baby would soon follow.

"We didn't marry until I was 38," Harper says, "and we always knew we didn't have a lot of time to waste."

A year passed; no baby.

Like many women who marry later in life, Harper didn't think much about her fertility until she'd reached the age at which many doctors warn that healthy pregnancies don't come easily.

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Can Someone Live To Be A Supercentenarian?

From Scientific American:

A woman in central Asia claims to have just celebrated her 130th birthday, a new record for keeping the grim reaper at bay

And you thought you felt old: Last week, in the village of Prishakhtinsk in central Kazakhstan, Sakhan Dosova celebrated what she, her family and Kazakh officials all agree was her 130th birthday. If true, her advanced age would shatter the old-timer record set by Jeanne Calment, who died in Arles, France, in 1997 at the age of 122.

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Nicotine May Have More Profound Impact Than Previously Thought

Researchers have found that the alpha-7 receptor, a site known to bind with nicotine, interacts with 55 different proteins. Nicotine may affect bodily processes -- and perhaps the actions of other commonly used drugs -- more broadly than was previously thought. (Credit: Hawrot Lab/Brown University)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 4, 2009) — Nicotine isn't just addictive. It may also interfere with dozens of cellular interactions in the body, new Brown University research suggests.

Conversely, the data could also help scientists develop better treatments for various diseases. Pharmaceutical companies rely on basic research to identify new cellular interactions that can, in turn, serve as targets for potential new drugs.

"It opens several new lines of investigation," said lead author Edward Hawrot, professor of molecular science, molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology at Brown University.

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Scientists 'Discover' Source Of Wisdom In The Human Brain

Photo: Breakthrough: Scientists have pinpointed the part of the human brain related to wisdom.

From The Daily Mail:

Scientists have discovered the source of wisdom in the human brain, it was revealed today.

Experts have pinpointed the part of the brain that guides people when they are battling with difficult moral dilemmas, according to a study.

Highly-sophisticated brain scans show that the response is linked to certain areas usually associated with primitive emotions of sex, fear and anger.

The findings, revealed by the Observer, are to be published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

They are a significant departure into an area of expertise that has long been regarded as one of religion and philosophy.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Global Warming And “The Early Spring”

From Watts Up With That?

Following up on the cold spring story from Friday, one of the favorite mantras of the global warming community has been that global warming brings earlier spring seasons. If a bird shows up earlier than someone in Yorkshire expected, a news story often appears at The Guardian or BBC explaining that it is due to “man made global warming.” A Google search of “global warming early spring” produces more than 300,000 hits.

So what happens when nature refuses to cooperate? Below are some claims from the top ten, interspersed with recent observations from the cold spring season of 2009.

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Nuclear Industry's New Burst Of Energy

The Salem nuclear plant's cooling tower forms a backdrop as a tanker cruises south on the Delaware River near Port Penn, Del. JOHN COSTELLO / Staff Photographer

From Philadelphia Inquirer:

Thirty years ago, the nuclear energy industry in the United States seemed all but headed for the scrapyard. Now it's poised for a rebirth.

The impetus is climate change. Nuclear power is touted as the one major electricity source that's emission-free and reliable, able to generate massive amounts of power night and day, in wind and calm.

But hovering over nuclear's new dawn is an incident that began at 4 a.m. on March 28, 1979.

Deep within Reactor 2 at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant along the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, main water pumps failed.

At the end of a cascade of disasters, the reactor core melted down, though the containment walls were not breached.

The accident and other factors set the industry reeling. Costs rose. Plants were canceled.

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Mysterious Dark Matter Possibly Detected

The Resurs DK-1 spacecraft, which houses the PAMELA experiment, during a test before its June 2006 launch. Credit: Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics

From Live Science:

When dark matter is destroyed, it leaves behind a burst of exotic particles, according to theory. Now scientists have found a possible signature of these remains. The discovery could help prove the existence of dark matter and reveal what it's made of.

No one knows what dark matter is, but scientists think it exists because there is not enough gravity from visible matter to explain how galaxies rotate.

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