Saturday, April 25, 2009


Interim Guidance on Antiviral Recommendations for Patients with Confirmed or Suspected Swine Influenza A (H1N1) Virus Infection and Close Contacts

Objective: To provide interim guidance on the use of antiviral agents for treatment and chemoprophylaxis of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection. This includes patients with confirmed or suspected swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection and their close contacts.

Case definitions
A confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection is defined as a person with an acute respiratory illness with laboratory confirmed swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection at CDC by one or more of the following tests:

1. real-time RT-PCR
2. viral culture

Read more ....

Antarctica’s Bipolar Disorder

From Watts Up With That?

Two days ago I questioned how Antarctic ice could be both “melting faster than expected” and “expanding” at the same time. Yet (as WUWT has noted before) the answer is obvious - according to NASA, most of Antarctica is both cooling rapidly and heating rapidly at the same time.

Since nearly the entire continent is both cooling and heating simultaneously, it makes perfect sense (using AGW logic) that the ice would be rapidly expanding and rapidly retreating simultaneously. In 2004, NASA thought that Antarctica was cooling by as much as 15 degrees C per century. But after three more years of cooling, they changed the map to show a warming trend in 2007.

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The Story Of X: Evolution Of A Sex Chromosome

The neo-X (top) and neo-Y chromosomes of the fruit fly Drosophila miranda, showing how the Y has shrunken slightly through loss of genes. The X has remained about the same size as the fly's other chromosomes, though its genes are in the process of adapting to the Y's degeneration. (Credit: Doris Bachtrog/UC Berkeley)

From Science Daily:

In the first evolutionary study of the chromosome associated with being female, University of California, Berkeley, biologist Doris Bachtrog and her colleagues show that the history of the X chromosome is every bit as interesting as the much-studied, male-determining Y chromosome, and offers important clues to the origins and benefits of sexual reproduction.

"Contrary to the traditional view of being a passive player, the X chromosome has a very active role in the evolutionary process of sex chromosome differentiation," said Bachtrog, an assistant professor of integrative biology and a member of UC Berkeley's Center for Theoretical Evolutionary Genomics.

Read more ....

Nicotine Takes Edge Off Anger

From Live Science:

Smoking to relieve stress is nothing new, but now a brain imaging study shows just how nicotine can blunt our anger response.

People who received half a nicotine patch dose proved less likely to rise to provocation, compared to when they took a placebo. This may support the idea that angry or stressed-out individuals can more easily become addicted to cigarettes, researchers say.

"The findings suggest that people in anger provoking situations may be more susceptible to the effects of nicotine," said Jean Gehricke, a psychiatry researcher at the University of California in Irvine.

This also represents the first study to identify a brain system that is most reactive to nicotine and has the strongest connection with anger response, Gehricke told LiveScience.

Read more ....

My Comment: I need a cigarette.

Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?

From Scientific American:

The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse

One of the toughest things for people to do is to anticipate sudden change. Typically we project the future by extrapolating from trends in the past. Much of the time this approach works well. But sometimes it fails spectacularly, and people are simply blindsided by events such as today’s economic crisis.

Read more .....

2009 Space Oddity: 'Blob' 12.9Billion Light Years Away Baffles Astronomers

Unknown entity: The size and substance of the Lyman-alpha
blob 'Himiko' are a mystery to astronomers.

From The Daily Mail:

You'd think that astronomers would have a more scientific term for such a discovery, but the 'blob' in this image is so far away that its contents remain a mystery.

One of the most distant objects in our universe, the blob is 12.9billion light years away, and 55,000 light years wide, making it nearly ten times the mass of galaxies of a similar age.

The Lyman-alpha blob, named 'Himiko', after an ancient Japanese queen, is believed to have been formed when the universe was relatively young.

Read more .....

World First For Strange Molecule

From The BBC:

A molecule that until now existed only in theory has finally been made.

Known as a Rydberg molecule, it is formed through an elusive and extremely weak chemical bond between two atoms.

The new type of bonding, reported in Nature, occurs because one of the two atoms in the molecule has an electron very far from its nucleus or centre.

It reinforces fundamental quantum theories, developed by Nobel prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi, about how electrons behave and interact.

Read more ....

Who Discovered The North Pole?

Frederick Cook and Robert Peary both claimed they discovered the North Pole. AGIP / Rue des Archives / The Granger Collection, New York

From The Smithsonian:

A century ago, explorer Robert Peary earned fame for discovering the North Pole, but did Frederick Cook get there first?

On September 7, 1909, readers of the New York Times awakened to a stunning front-page headline: "Peary Discovers the North Pole After Eight Trials in 23 Years." The North Pole was one of the last remaining laurels of earthly exploration, a prize for which countless explorers from many nations had suffered and died for 300 years. And here was the American explorer Robert E. Peary sending word from Indian Harbour, Labrador, that he had reached the pole in April 1909, one hundred years ago this month. The Times story alone would have been astounding. But it wasn't alone.

Read more ....

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why You May Lose That Loving Feeling After Tying The Knot

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 23, 2009) — Dating couples whose dreams include marriage would do well to step back and reflect upon the type of support they'll need from their partners when they cross the threshold, a new Northwestern University study suggests.

Will the partner who supports your hopes and aspirations while you are dating also help you fulfill important responsibilities and obligations that come with marriage? The answer to that question could make a difference in how satisfied you are after tying the knot.

Read more ....

Getting Real On Wind And Solar

A General Electric wind turbine in Ohio.
(Asssociated Press/general Electric Via Cleveland Plain Dealer)

From The Washington Post:

Why are we ignoring things we know? We know that the sun doesn't always shine and that the wind doesn't always blow. That means that solar cells and wind energy systems don't always provide electric power. Nevertheless, solar and wind energy seem to have captured the public's support as potentially being the primary or total answer to our electric power needs.

Solar cells and wind turbines are appealing because they are "renewables" with promising implications and because they emit no carbon dioxide during operation, which is certainly a plus. But because both are intermittent electric power generators, they cannot produce electricity "on demand," something that the public requires. We expect the lights to go on when we flip a switch, and we do not expect our computers to shut down as nature dictates.

Read more ....

BREAKING!!!!! Mexico City Closes Schools And Public Events Amid Swine Flu Outbreak: 61 Known Dead, Many Sick -- No Plans To Close U.S./Mexico Border

People wear surgical masks as a precaution against infection inside a subway in Mexico City, Friday, April 24, 2009. Mexican authorities said 60 people may have died from a swine flu virus in Mexico, and world health officials worry it could unleash a global flu epidemic. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

From Reuters:

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A strain of flu never seen before has killed as many as 61 people in Mexico and has spread into the United States, where eight people have been infected but recovered, health officials said on Friday.

Mexico's government said at least 16 people have died of the disease in central Mexico and that it may also have been responsible for 45 other deaths.

The World Health Organization said tests showed the virus in 12 of the Mexican patients had the same genetic structure as a new strain of swine flu, designated H1N1, seen in eight people in California and Texas.

Read more ....

More News On This Epidemic

Mexico City Closes Schools Amid Swine Flu Outbreak -- Wall Street Journal
Swine flu could infect U.S. trade and travel -- Reuters
CDC says too late to contain U.S. flu outbreak -- Alertnet
New, deadly swine flu hits Mexico, U.S. -- Reuters
Swine Flu, Mexico Lung Illness Heighten Pandemic Risk -- Bloomberg
Will Swine Flu Panic Spread Beyond Mexico? -- Time Magazine
Experts Debate Pandemic Potential of Swine Flu -- ABC News
Most Mexico fatal flu victims aged between 25-45 -- Reuters
FACTBOX-Some facts about pandemic flu from the WHO -- Reuters
Q+A - Mexico hit by deadly new flu virus -- Reuters
Questions, answers about swine flu -- AP

My Comment: When I heard this story today .... two things went through my mind. (1) Is terrorism involved? For Mexico this is a very unique event, they have not suffered serious flu epidemics before .... and rumors have always circulated that Al Qaeda was interested in developing biological weapons for terrorism attacks. Was Mexico targeted because of its proximity to the U.S.?

(2) This epidemic is occurring at the end of the flu season. Like the Great Pandemic of 1918, that influenza outbreak started late spring, quieted down during the summer months, and then hit with a ferocity that killed millions in the Fall and Winter seasons of 1918. Are we in for a repeat?

April 24, 1990: Hubble Becomes Big Eye Above Sky

The Hubble Telescope's wide-field planetary camera took this image in 2007 of the "last hurrah" of a star like our sun. The white dwarf is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which form a cocoon around the star's remaining core. Blue corresponds to helium, blue-green to oxygen, and red to nitrogen and hydrogen. Ultraviolet light makes the material glow. Image: NASA, ESA, and K. Noll (STScI)

From Wired Science:

1990: The Hubble Space Telescope is launched, beginning a new era of deep space observation that opens up the universe to prying eyes as never before.

NASA's telescope, named for American astronomer Edwin Hubble, was placed into Earth orbit by the space shuttle Discovery. Despite some early teething problems and more recent, well-publicized maintenance issues, Hubble remains a crown jewel in NASA's tiara.

Read more ....

Artificial Intelligence Cracks 4,000-Year-Old Mystery

From Wired News:

An ancient script that's defied generations of archaeologists has yielded some of its secrets to artificially intelligent computers.

Computational analysis of symbols used 4,000 years ago by a long-lost Indus Valley civilization suggests they represent a spoken language. Some frustrated linguists thought the symbols were merely pretty pictures.

"The underlying grammatical structure seems similar to what's found in many languages," said University of Washington computer scientist Rajesh Rao.

Read more ....

'Dark Gulping' Could Explain Black Holes


No, it's not the next soft-drink campaign. "Dark gulping" is a new hypothesis about how giant black holes might have formed from collapsing dark matter.

Supermassive black holes are a mystery. These behemoths can pack the mass of billions of suns, and often lurk in the centers of big galaxies like the Milky Way. But scientists don't know how they got started nor how they grew so massive.

A new computer model suggests dark gulping is one possible route to forming these monsters. The idea involves invisible dark matter, which is stuff of unknown nature that astronomers know exists because they see its gravitational effects on galaxies.

Read more ....

Mystery Of Horse Domestication Solved?

Wild horses running in the desert mountains of Kazakhstan.
(Credit: iStockphoto/Maxim Petrichuk)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 24, 2009) — Wild horses were domesticated in the Ponto-Caspian steppe region (today Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Romania) in the 3rd millennium B.C. Despite the pivotal role horses have played in the history of human societies, the process of their domestication is not well understood.

In a new study published in the scientific journal Science, an analysis by German researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, the German Archaeological Institute, the Humboldt University Berlin, the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, in cooperation with American and Spanish scientists, has unravelled the mystery about the domestication of the horse.

Read more ....

The Lost Forests of America

White fir trees died in in a 2002 drought in the Santa Rosa Mountains, while neighboring Jeffrey pines survived at this elevation. Climate changes is raising temperatures and lengthening dry spells in the region. Credit: University of California, Irvine

From Live Science:

You could plant any old tree to celebrate Arbor Day April 24. But consider instead a sugar maple, or another of the native trees that once abounded in this country.

The forests that once dominated this nation were full of trees such as chestnuts, hemlocks and white pines on the East Coast and conifers such as redwoods and Douglas firs on the West Coast.

Around the arrival of Columbus, "it's said that squirrels could travel from tree to tree from the Northeast to the Mississippi without ever having to touch the ground," said Chris Roddick, chief arborist at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York. "In the old growth forests in the Northeast, you had hemlock that were six or seven feet in diameter, chestnut trees 200 feet tall."

Read more ....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Step Closer To The Medical Tricorder.

William D. Richard (left) takes an ultrasound probe of colleague David Zar's carotid artery with a low-power imaging device he designed. David Kilper/WUSTL Photo

Cell Phones Display Ultrasound Images -- Future Pundit

Another step closer to the medical tricorder.

Computer engineers at Washington University in St. Louis are bringing the minimalist approach to medical care and computing by coupling USB-based ultrasound probe technology with a smartphone, enabling a compact, mobile computational platform and a medical imaging device that fits in the palm of a hand.

I see this as part of a trend that amounts to a sort of democratization of medical testing. While this instrument at its current stage of development still requires an expert to wield it that won't always be the case. Small stuff costs less. It just has to become more powerful and more able to analyze images to discern what they mean without human expertise.

One way ultrasound for the masses could work is for the images to be sent via 4G and other faster wireless networks to a server. Then the server could do the computational heavy lifting to explain the medical significance of the stream of images.

Read more ....

Thoughts On Extending Life

Understanding The Biological Basis Of Senescence May Allow Us To Delay Or Prevent The Degenerative Declines Long Accepted As An Inevitable Part Of Getting Older. -- Seed Magazine

The chief causes of natural death among the elderly form a concise set: Heart disease and cancer are the big killers, with strokes, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or opportunistic infections claiming most of the rest. Until recently, we’ve focused on attacking each of these diseases separately, but we’ve made little progress; despite developed countries’ collectively spending untold billions of dollars pursuing this elusive goal, eventually something from the same old rogue’s gallery seems to arrive for everyone.

Read more ....

Why Is Moon Dust Sticky? Physicist Says He Has Answer

Photo: Astronaut Edwin Aldrin recorded his footprint in 1969. NASA

From the L.A. Times:

By analyzing 40-year-old Apollo program tapes, he has concluded that stickiness is influenced by the angle of the sun's rays. The finding could help protect future colonists from a health hazard.

One of the biggest problems facing America's space agency as it prepares to return to the moon is how to manage lunar dust. It gets into everything. Worse, it's sticky, adhering to spacesuits and posing a potentially serious health hazard to future colonists.

Now, a scientist who has been studying the problem off and on over four decades thinks he may have untangled the mystery of why that dust is so sticky. Brian O'Brien, an Australian physicist who worked on the Apollo program in the 1960s, said the sun's ultraviolet and X-ray radiation gives a positive charge to the dust, making it stick to surfaces such as spacesuits.

Read more ....

Viruses Could Kill Superbugs That Antibiotics Can't

Bacteriophages like the one shown in this computer-generated image could be a new weapon against antibiotic-resistant bacteria (Image: Corneyl Jay / SPL)

From New Scientist:

A VIRUS that gobbles up the bacteria that cause debilitating ear infections could become the next weapon against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, after the first clinical trial of a bacteriophage treatment proved successful.

The trouble with bacteria is that they can evolve to outsmart antibiotics, secreting enzymes that break them down, or developing extra pumps to force drugs out of their cells. Because antibiotic resistance hampers treatment for common diseases including pneumonia, salmonella and tuberculosis, it is a growing public health problem.

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Bacon: The Other White Heat

Grease Fire: Pure oxygen flows from a metal pipe through a core of baked prosciutto, generating a grease fire hot enough to ignite steel and burn a hole clear through this pan. A wrapping of less-flammable uncooked prosciutto focuses the flame into an intense bacon-plasma torch Mike Walker

From PopSci:

You know bacon is delicious, but did you know it contains enough energy to melt metal?

I recently committed myself to the goal, before the weekend was out, of creating a device entirely from bacon and using it to cut a steel pan in half. My initial attempts were failures, but I knew success was within reach when I was able to ignite and melt the pan using seven beef sticks and a cucumber.

Read more ....

My Comment: A waste of bacon if you ask me.

Nasa Celebrates Earth Day With Awe- Inspiring Images Of Our Planet From Space

Astronaut Jeff Williams captured the moment the Cleveland Volcano in Alaska erupted with a plume of ash from the International Space Station in 2006

From Daily Mail:

These extraordinary images show some of the most awe-inspiring images of Earth from space taken over the past five decades.

Released by Nasa today in celebration of Earth day, the photographs date as far back as 1968, charting the history of space exploration.

As well as some of the earliest images of Earth from space, the more recent photographs highlight the devastating effects of global warming.

Read more ....

Study: Energy Drinks Boost the Brain, Not Brawn

From Time Magazine:

The promise of energy drinks is pretty irresistible — push your body, work hard, sweat buckets, and if you need an extra boost, down a bottle or two of liquid fuel to drive you through the rest of your workout.

Makes sense, since the drinks provide your body with carbohydrates in the form of sugars — the fuel that cells and tissues like muscle need to keep working. But exercise experts say that despite what you may think, energy drinks have no effect at all on your tired muscles. Instead, when your energy is petering out, a swig of an energy drink works on the brain to keep you inspired and motivated to push on.

Read more ....

Internet Has Only Just Begun, Say Founders

Tim Berners-Lee

From Breitbart/AFP:

While the Internet has dramatically changed lives around the world, its full impact will only be realised when far more people and information go on-line, its founders said Wednesday.

"The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past," said Tim Berners-Lee, one of the inventors of the World Wide Web, at a seminar on its future.

Just 23 percent of the globe's population currently uses the Internet, according to the United Nation's International Telecommunications Union, with use much higher in developed nations.

Read more ....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

As World Warms, Water Levels Dropping In Major Rivers

The Colorado River is among rivers worldwide that have been affected by a warming Earth. (Credit: U.S. Geological Survey)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 22, 2009) — Rivers in some of the world's most populous regions are losing water, according to a comprehensive study of global stream flows.

The research, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., suggests that the reduced flows in many cases are associated with climate change, and could potentially threaten future supplies of food and water.

The results will be published May 15 in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NCAR's sponsor.

Read more

T. Rex Relative Fills Evolutionary Gap

Reconstructed body silhouettes of three tyrannosaurs, showing where Xiongguanlong falls in the spectrum of body sizes in this lineage. Dilong on the left is 125 million years old and the smallest known tyrannosaur. Xiongguanlong, shown in grey, is much larger, but is still dwarfed by T. rex, shown on the right. Credit: M. Donnelly/The Field Museum

From Live Science:

A Tyrannosaurus rex ancestor and an ostrich-mimic have emerged as two new dinosaur species found among a treasure trove of skeletons in China's Gobi Desert.

The T. rex relative had a mouthful of 70 teeth, and stood 5 feet tall at the hip while weighing almost a third of a ton. Scientists say that its discovery helps fill in a "missing link" in the giant carnivore's evolution.

However, the earlier dinosaur "was still a fly weight predator compared to its heavy-weight relatives," said Peter Makovicky, curator of dinosaurs at the Field Museum in Chicago. The Field Museum houses the largest known T. rex specimen, named Sue, which stood at nearly 14 feet tall at the hips and weighed between 6 and 7 tons.

Read more ....

Are UFOs Real? Famous People Who Believed

A number of public figures have publicly stated that UFOs
are of extraterrestrial origin Photo: NASA

From The Telegraph:

The former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell has claimed that aliens exist and their visits are being covered up by the United States government. Mitchell is in good company in his beliefs. Here we highlight 12 other public figures who believe that extraterrestrials may have been visiting our planet over the last 100 years.

Jimmy Carter, US President from 1976 to 1980, promised while on the campaign trail that he would make public all documents on UFOs if elected. He said: "I don't laugh at people any more when they say they've seen UFOs. I've seen one myself."

General Douglas MacArthur, the Korean and Second World War soldier, said in 1955 that "the next war will be an interplanetary war. The nations of the earth must someday make a common front against attack by people from other planets. The politics of the future will be cosmic, or interplanetary".

Read more ....

'Quiet Sun' Baffling Astronomers

Sunspots could be seen by the Soho telescope in 2001 (l), but not this year (r)

From The BBC:

The Sun is the dimmest it has been for nearly a century.

There are no sunspots, very few solar flares - and our nearest star is the quietest it has been for a very long time.

The observations are baffling astronomers, who are due to study new pictures of the Sun, taken from space, at the UK National Astronomy Meeting.

The Sun normally undergoes an 11-year cycle of activity. At its peak, it has a tumultuous boiling atmosphere that spits out flares and planet-sized chunks of super-hot gas. This is followed by a calmer period.

Last year, it was expected that it would have been hotting up after a quiet spell. But instead it hit a 50-year year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.

Read more ....

Cosmic Close-Up: Sensational Images Of Saturn Show The Ringed Planet In Incredible Detail

This image was taken by Cassini as it moved above the dark side of the planet. As very little light makes its way through the rings, they appear somewhat dark compared with the reflective surface of Saturn. This view combines 45 images taken over the course of about two hours

From The Daily Mail:

These stunning images of Saturn taken by Nasa's Cassini spacecraft show the ringed planet, its moons and rings in the most incredible detail yet.

Extraordinary glimpses of the planet's atmosphere and surfaces add to our expanding understanding of the sixth planet in the solar system, as the Equinox mission approaches its second year.

The images show the incredible differences within the Saturn system. In one image, serene-looking rings are elegantly stacked up around its equator, making a striking contrast to the cratered appearance of its plethora of moons.

Read more ....

Dr Panayiotis Zavos will be online from 10am BST to answer questions about his controversial work

Dr Panayiotis Zavos will be online from 10am BST to
answer questions about his controversial work.

From The Independent:

Controversial doctor filmed creating embryos before injecting them into wombs of women wanting cloned babies

A controversial fertility doctor claimed yesterday to have cloned 14 human embryos and transferred 11 of them into the wombs of four women who had been prepared to give birth to cloned babies.

The cloning was recorded by an independent documentary film-maker who has testified to The Independent that the cloning had taken place and that the women were genuinely hoping to become pregnant with the first cloned embryos specifically created for the purposes of human reproduction.

Read more ....

Italian Scientist, Turning 100, Still Works

Italian neurologist and senator for life Rita Levi Montalcini, Nobel Prize winner for Medicine in 1986, delivers her address at a press conference for her one hundredth birthday in Rome, Saturday April 18, 2009. Montalcini will be 100 years old on April 22. The Italian scientist received the Nobel prize for medicine with Stanley Cohen of the United States, in 1986, for discoveries of mechanisms that regulate the growth of cells and organs. Riccardo De Luca /AP Photo

From The State:

ROME -- Rita Levi Montalcini, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, said Saturday that even though she is about to turn 100, her mind is sharper than it was she when she was 20.

Levi Montalcini, who also serves as a senator for life in Italy, celebrates her 100th birthday on Wednesday, and she spoke at a ceremony held in her honor by the European Brain Research Institute.

She shared the 1986 Nobel Prize for Medicine with American Stanley Cohen for discovering mechanisms that regulate the growth of cells and organs.

Read more ....

New Engine Design Sparks Interest

Photo: Scuderi Group unveiled a prototype of its fuel-saving engine Monday in Detroit. Car makers including Honda and Daimler have shown interest. Scuderi Engine

From The Wall Street Journal:

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- On Easter Sunday in 2001, Carmelo Scuderi called his family together in his home here and announced, essentially, that he had outsmarted the world's auto makers and their billion-dollar research departments.

The retired engineer and inventor told his children and grandchildren he had developed a dramatically more fuel-efficient design for the internal combustion engine, something car companies have been chasing for decades.

Read more ....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Makes Us Human?

Photo: The 1 percent difference: Humans are distinct from chimpanzees in a number of important respects, despite sharing nearly 99 percent of their DNA. New analyses are revealing which parts of the genome set our species apart. James Balog Getty Images

From Scientific American Magazine:

Six years ago I jumped at an opportunity to join the international team that was identifying the sequence of DNA bases, or “letters,” in the genome of the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). As a biostatistician with a long-standing interest in human origins, I was eager to line up the human DNA sequence next to that of our closest living relative and take stock. A humbling truth emerged: our DNA blueprints are nearly 99 percent identical to theirs. That is, of the three billion letters that make up the human genome, only 15 million of them—less than 1 percent—have changed in the six million years or so since the human and chimp lineages diverged.

Read more ....

How Pocket-Size Computers Will Finally Overcome Small Screens And Tiny Keyboards

From Popular Mechanics:

Today, a 4-inch-long smartphone holds as much processing power as a desktop PC from five years ago—or a warehouse-bound computer from just a few decades prior. But Moore's law moves far faster than evolution, and no matter how small processors and memory chips shrink, human hands remain the same size. Even if pocket-size computers are technologically capable of serving as our primary go-anywhere PC, their tiny keyboards and small screens present ergonomic problems. Thumbing out a short e-mail on a Blackberry or iPhone may be easy, but try writing a dissertation or creating a CAD model.

Read more ....

Astronomers Closer To Exoplanet "Holy Grail"

From Wired News:

In the astronomical equivalent of meeting someone who reminds you of yourself, scientists have discovered a planet outside the solar system that weighs just twice as much as Earth.

The relatively small size of the new planet, dubbed Gliese 581e, prompted Grenoble Observatory astronomer Xavier Bonfils to call it "the least massive exoplanet ever detected" in a press release.

That seems an odd reason for celebration until one considers the behemoth sizes of other exoplanets.

The largest, named TrES-4 and found — quite appropriately — orbiting a star in the Hercules constellation, is roughly twice the diameter of Jupiter, which itself could house 1,000 planet Earths. Corot-7b, the previous smallest-exoplanet designee, is twice the size of Earth and about five times as heavy.

Read more ....

Earth-Sized Planet Discovered In Galaxy Outside Our Solar System

Exoplanet: An artist's impression shows Gliese 581 e with its star in the distance

From The Daily Mail:

Scientists have discovered a planet close in size to Earth in a galaxy outside our solar system.

As many as 300 so-called exoplanets - or planets outside our solar system - have been discovered, but most are much larger than Earth.

Gliese 581 e is about twice the mass of our planet and orbits a star 20.5 light years away in the constellation Libra.

Read more ....

Where's The Remotest Place On Earth?

(Click the Above Image to Enlarge)
In our hyperconnected world, getting away from it all is easier said than done.
Click the link in the main text to see more of the connectivity maps

From The New Scientist:

SO YOU'VE hitch-hiked through Central America, stalked rare beasts in Madagascar and trekked your way through northern Chile. You're pretty well travelled, even if you do say so yourself. Before you get ideas about being an intrepid explorer, however, consider this. For all their wide open spaces and seeming wildernesses, none of these places can be described as remote in 2009.

In fact, very little of the world's land can now be thought of as inaccessible, according to a new map of connectedness created by researchers at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, and the World Bank.

Read more ....

Solar Systems Around Dead Suns?

Asteroid 'Bites the Dust' Around Dead Star. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope set its infrared eyes upon the dusty remains of shredded asteroids around several dead stars. This artist's concept illustrates one such dead star, or "white dwarf," surrounded by the bits and pieces of a disintegrating asteroid. These observations help astronomers better understand what rocky planets are made of around other stars. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 20, 2009) — Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, an international team of astronomers have found that at least 1 in 100 white dwarf stars show evidence of orbiting asteroids and rocky planets, suggesting these objects once hosted solar systems similar to our own.

Team member Dr Jay Farihi of the University of Leicester will present this discovery on April 20th at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science conference at the University of Hertfordshire.

Read more ....

Is Picking A Mate Just Genetics?

Is finding true love a matter of romance and judgment or just cold genetics?
(ABCNews Photo Illustration/ABC News)

From ABC News:

Scientists Say Genes May Dictate Mate Selection, at Least for Fruit Flies

So after looking for years you finally found your perfect mate. Was it good judgment on your part, helped along by a lot of romance, or was it just a case of cold genetics?

It may well be that your genes, not your superior taste when it comes to the opposite sex, made the choice for you. But even your genes can get it wrong. At least if you are a fruit fly.

A team of scientists at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, have been trying for a number of years to figure out the role genes play in mate selection.

Read more .....

Lack Of Water Threatens "Garden of Eden"

Iraq’s marshes in 2003. Today, the marshes are drying up due to a drought and competition over limited water supplies. Hassan Janali, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

From Earth Magazine:

Since the downfall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraqis and scientists from around the world have been working hard to restore Iraq’s once-lush marshes. But after several years of measurable improvement, drought and competition over limited water supplies threaten to reverse this progress. Those working on the marshes are confident that the marshes can come back — but whether the people who rely on these wetlands for their livelihood will be as resilient remains to be seen.

Read more ....

Monday, April 20, 2009

Manhattan Depicted Before Human Impact

Modern Manhattan on right; virtual recreation of 1609 Mannahatta on left. Image © Markley Boyer / Mannahatta Project / Wildlife Conservation Society

From Live Science:

New York City seems about as far removed from its natural state as any spot on the planet. Now a new study reveals what Manhattan looked like before it became a concrete jungle.

Once known as Mannahatta — the land of many hills — in the Lenape Native American dialect, New York was a lush island paradise 400 years ago. Times Square used to be an old-growth forest, Harlem was a ranging meadow, and downtown was wetlands. Streams teemed with fish. Wolves, mountain lion, elk and deer roamed the rolling hills.

Read more ....

Medical Micro-Robots Made As Small As Bacteria

Artificial bacterial flagella are about half as long as the thickness of a human hair. They can swim at a speed of up to one body length per second. This means that they already resemble their natural role models very closely. (Credit: Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems/ETH Zurich)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2009) — For the first time, ETH Zurich researchers have built micro-robots as small as bacteria. Their purpose is to help cure human beings.

They look like spirals with tiny heads, and screw through the liquid like miniature corkscrews. When moving, they resemble rather ungainly bacteria with long whip-like tails. They can only be observed under a microscope because, at a total length of 25 to 60 µm, they are almost as small as natural flagellated bacteria. Most are between 5 and 15 µm long, a few are more than 20 µm.

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Are Wind Farms A Lot Of Hot Air... And What Would We Do When It's Not Windy?

Romantic hope: Wind farms cannot be the sole solution to our energy crisis

From The Daily Mail:

They're fine for making the odd cup of tea. But, says the Mail's Science Editor; if we wanted to go totally green, we'd have to carpet the country with more windmills than exist in the whole world.

There can be few more dramatic ways to create energy to boil a kettle. A few feet above my head, a giant blade scythes through the air. It is razorsharp, travels at about 90mph, is 130ft long and weighs some nine tons. Moments later, a second blade does the same thing, followed by a third.

The three rotors are attached to a 210ft-tall white tower which looms to the same height as St Paul's Cathedral - although many would consider it considerably less beautiful - and can be seen from miles around.

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Why Antarctic Ice Is Growing Despite Global Warming

Photo: Sea ice has grown in the Ross Sea off Antarctica, despite global warming: what's going on? (Image: Daisy Gilardini / The Image Bank / Getty)

From The New Scientist:

It's the southern ozone hole whatdunit. That's why Antarctic sea ice is growing while at the other pole, Arctic ice is shrinking at record rates. It seems CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals have given the South Pole respite from global warming.

But only temporarily. According to John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey, the effect will last roughly another decade before Antarctic sea ice starts to decline as well.

Arctic sea ice is decreasing dramatically and reached a record low in 2007. But satellite images studied by Turner and his colleagues show that Antarctic sea ice is increasing in every month of the year expect January. "By the end of the century we expect one third of Antarctic sea ice to disappear," says Turner. "So we're trying to understand why it's increasing now, at a time of global warming."

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Physicist Stephen Hawking Very Ill And In Hospital

Photo: Stephen Hawking (Wikimedia Commons)

From Yahoo News/Reuters:

LONDON (Reuters) – Physicist Stephen Hawking, the author of "A Brief History of Time" who is almost completely paralyzed by motor neurone disease, has been urgently admitted to hospital, Cambridge University said on Monday.

Hawking, 67, was taken by ambulance to a local hospital in Cambridge, where he teaches as a professor of applied mathematics and theoretical physics.

"Professor Hawking is very ill and has been taken by ambulance to Addenbrooke's Hospital," the university said.

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More News On Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking hospitalized, reported very ill -- AP
Scientist Hawking ill in hospital -- BBC
Physicist Hawking hospitalized -- UPI
Physicist Stephen Hawking hospitalized, "very ill" -- Scientific American
Stephen Hawking rushed to hospital -- CBC
Scientist Stephen Hawking 'very ill': university -- AFP
FACTBOX - Physicist Stephen Hawking -- Reuters

Egypt's Top Archaeologist Claims Antony And Cleopatra Tomb Found

Zahi Hawass (left) displays finds from the Toposiris Magna temple, where he believes Antony and Cleopatra's remains are located Photo: EPA

From The Telegraph:

Egypt's top archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, has shown off treasures from the site of a tomb which he claims contains the remains of Mark Antony and Cleopatra.

Ahead of the start of excavations on Tuesday, Mr Hawass exhibited 22 coins, 10 mummies, an alabaster head and a fragment of a mask with a cleft chin as evidence that the site, a 2,000-year-old temple to the god Osiris, is likely to hold further treasures.

He believes that the Toposiris Magna temple, 30 miles from Egypt's ancient seaside capital of Alexandria, contains the tomb of the doomed lovers that has been shrouded in mystery for so long.

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Learning Disabilities In Males: Nine New X Chromosome Genes Linked To Learning Disabilities

Image: Family with missense variants in the CASK gene, one of the genes discovered in this study. Individuals with the missense variant are denoted by a *. Females are denoted with circles and males with squares. Black shading denotes individuals with learning disabilities. (Credit: Image courtesy of Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 20, 2009) — A collaboration between more than 70 researchers across the globe has uncovered nine new genes on the X chromosome that, when knocked-out, lead to learning disabilities. The international team studied almost all X chromosome genes in 208 families with learning disabilities - the largest screen of this type ever reported.

Remarkably, the team also found that approximately 1-2% of X chromosome genes, when knocked-out, have no apparent effect on an individual's ability to function in the ordinary world. The publication in Nature Genetics - a culmination of five years of scientific collaboration - emphasises the power of sequencing approaches to identify novel genes of clinical importance, but also highlights the challenges researchers face when carrying out this kind of study.

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Laughter Is Indeed Good Medicine

From Live Science:

Nobody can say if laughter is the best medicine, but it certainly seems to help. So suggests a new but very small study of diabetes patients who were given a good dose of humor for a year.

Researchers split 20 high-risk diabetic patients —all with hypertension and hyperlipidemia (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease)— into two groups. Both groups were given standard diabetes medication. Group L viewed 30 minutes of humor of their choosing, while Group C, the control group, did not. This went on for a year of treatments.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Discover Interview The Man Who Found Quarks And Made Sense Of The Universe

From Discover Magazine:

Murray Gell-Mann had a smash success with particles, notorious dustups with Feynman, and a missed opportunity with Einstein.

It is no accident that the quark—the building block of protons and neutrons and, by extension, of you and everything around you—has such a strange and charming name. The physicist who discovered it, Murray Gell-Mann, loves words as much as he loves physics. He is known to correct a stranger’s pronunciation of his or her own last name (which doesn’t always go over well) and is more than happy to give names to objects or ideas that do not have one yet. Thus came the word quark for his most famous discovery. It sounds like “kwork” and got its spelling from a whimsical poem in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. This highly scientific term is clever and jokey and gruff all at once, much like the man who coined it.

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Shuttle Dodges Space Junk Risk

From Wired Science:

Despite the recent rash of space-debris problems, the risk that the space shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope will have a catastrophic collision with space junk and micrometeoroids won't exceed NASA guidelines.

NASA said Thursday the new orbital debris risk for STS-125 had fallen to 1 in 221. A couple of precautionary maneuvers -- in particular coming into a lower, less crowded orbit on the 10th day of the mission and using Hubble as a shield -- reduced the spaceship's chance of getting hit with a stray paint chip or metal bolt.

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New Bird Flu Cses Suggest The Danger Of Pandemic Is Rising

Chickens for sale in Cairo: Most bird-flu victims in Egypt this year are children. Reuters

From The Independent:

Infections in Egypt raise scientists' fears that virus will be spread by humans.

First the good news: bird flu is becoming less deadly. Now the bad: scientists fear that this is the very thing that could make the virus more able to cause a pandemic that would kill hundreds of millions of people.

This paradox – emerging from Egypt, the most recent epicentre of the disease – threatens to increase the disease's ability to spread from person to person by helping it achieve the crucial mutation in the virus which could turn it into the greatest plague to hit Britain since the Black Death. Last year the Government identified the bird-flu virus, codenamed H5N1, as the biggest threat facing the country – with the potential to kill up to 750,000 Britons.

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