Saturday, May 2, 2009

'The Future Is Going To Be Very Exciting'

Ray Kurzweil

From The Guardian:

The head of Google's new university, Ray Kurzweil believes the advance of technology will solve the energy crisis, upgrade the human genome and even lead to everlasting life - no wonder he is so optimistic

Ray Kurzweil has a surrealist's eye for disorientation. The lobby of his offices outside Boston have the quality of a Dadaist art gallery: nothing is quite what it seems. Immediately inside the door is an old metal box that turns out to be a dictation machine built by Thomas Edison. An old man is sitting next to it, with a badge on his lapel that reads: "I'm an inventor". He is George, the receptionist tells me, and he is made of wax. A cabinet along the hall is covered entirely in boxes of vitamin pills, hundreds of them, from acai berry, red yeast rice and milk thistle to a very large jar marked "Anti-ageing multi-pack".

Read more ....

5 Ways To Protect Yourself (And Others) From Swine Flu

Photo: GOOD OLD SOAP AND WATER: Experts say frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to defend against swine flu. ISTOCKPHOTO/ALANDJ

From Scientific American:

Swine flu has yet to escalate into a global pandemic, but here's what to do if it does.

Experts say that the steps you should take to shield yourself from swine flu are not much different than those you might take to ward off seasonal flu.

1. Don't touch your face
Above all, keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth and nose, all of which serve as pathways for the virus to enter your respiratory tract, says Allison Aiello, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor.

Read more ....

Pictured: The Baby Mammoth Who Went Back To The Deep Freeze To Stop Her Thawing Out

Urgent action: Scientists carried the 3ft mammoth out of the lab and back to the snow. Thanks to this, she remains the best preserved specimen of her kind

From The Daily Mail:

For 40,000 years, she had been perfectly preserved in the icy earth.

But as scientists examined this baby mammoth hoping to unlock her ancient secrets, there was a rather urgent complication.

She began to thaw. They then came up with a somewhat unscientific solution - they carried her out of the lab and into the snow.

Thanks to their swift action, the 3ft mammoth, discovered by reindeer herders in the Russian Arctic, remains the best preserved specimen of her kind.

Discovered in 2007, she is thought to have died in a mudslide at a month old.

The mud effectively ‘pickled’ the baby, who has been named Lyuba, preserving her in a nearly pristine state.

Read more ....

Inside The Baby Mind

(iStock photo)


It's unfocused, random, and extremely good at what it does. How we can learn from a baby's brain.

WHAT IS IT like to be a baby? For centuries, this question would have seemed absurd: behind that adorable facade was a mostly empty head. A baby, after all, is missing most of the capabilities that define the human mind, such as language and the ability to reason. Rene Descartes argued that the young child was entirely bound by sensation, hopelessly trapped in the confusing rush of the here and now. A newborn, in this sense, is just a lump of need, a bundle of reflexes that can only eat and cry. To think like a baby is to not think at all.

Read more ....

Mechanisms Of Self-Control Pinpointed In Brain

This 3-D projection of a transparent brain shows the regions of activation: the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is in red, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is in green. Activity in the vmPFC reflects the value assigned to foods during decision-making. When self-control is exercised, DLPFC activity increases and appears to interact with the activity in the vmPFC to increase the influence of health considerations. (Credit: Caltech/Todd Hare)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (May 1, 2009) — When you're on a diet, deciding to skip your favorite calorie-laden foods and eat something healthier takes a whole lot of self-control--an ability that seems to come easier to some of us than others. Now, scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have uncovered differences in the brains of people who are able to exercise self-control versus those who find it almost impossible.

The key? While everyone uses the same single area of the brain to make these sorts of value-laden decisions, a second brain region modulates the activity of the first region in people with good self-control, allowing them to weigh more abstract factors--healthiness, for example--in addition to basic desires such as taste to make a better overall choice.

Read more ....

Origin Of Life: What Are The Odds?

A mineral chimney and microbe mats on the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico in one of the newfound scenes that scientists described as otherworldly. Mineral chimneys are associated with sea vents that release oil and gas. The microbe mats are lying on sediments next to the mineral chimney.Credit: Ian MacDonald, Texas A&M University

From Live Science:

And it really bothers us. "Many people, perhaps most, hate the idea that life might depend on chance processes," writes biologist Dave Deamer on his blog.

Scientists have hypothesized that it started around hot vents on the seafloor, or that things heated up between the mica sheets, or that it came in a comet (which doesn't really solve the origin problem). But nobody knows.

Those who promote intelligent design — an attack on the theory of evolution thought by many scientists to be a thinly veiled effort to get religious ideas into science classrooms — suggest the the astronomical odds of it point to a designer being involved, rather than pure chance.

Read more ....

Still 10-15 Years to Commercialize 10+ Megawatt Superconducting Wind Turbines

From The Next Big Picture:

AMSC (American Superconductor and Texas-based TECO-Westinghouse Motor Co have been working an estimated $6.8 million project to design components for a 10-MW HTS generator. Another HTS device manufacturer, Germany’s Zenergy Power Group, is working with Converteam Ltd in the UK to commercialize an 8-MW HTS wind-turbine generator. Because of the practical limitations to erecting large turbines, a generator’s size and weight do matter, says Larry Masur, a Zenergy vice president. Several groups expect to have generator prototypes ready for testing within two years but commercialization will take 10-15 years to get competitive costs. Kite generated wind and other alternatives to turbines seem like the better approach.

Read more ....

Unknown Internet 3: How Big Is The Net?

(Click on Image to Enlarge)
The exploding internet 2008

From New Scientist:

"The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time," said the 18th-century scientist John Playfair, recalling the moment he learned of the Earth's long history. If Playfair could peer into the depths of the internet he might get that giddy feeling again. In 2005, Google estimated the internet contained some 5 million terabytes of data - that's more than 1 gigabyte for each of Earth's 4.5 billion trips around the sun.

There are simpler ways to appreciate the internet's sheer scale. Recent estimates suggest that well over 1 billion people rely on computers to access the internet (see graphics of internet traffic in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008). Yet there are also a billion or so other people who use cellphones to visit cyberspace, making them as much a part of the online community as someone surfing from a PC.

Read more ....

Friday, May 1, 2009

NZ Glacier Findings Upset Climate Theory

Image: Fox Glacier is one of the world's climate change indicators. Photo / Supplied

From NZHerald:

Research by three New Zealand scientists may have solved the mystery of why glaciers behave differently in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Geologist David Barrell of GNS Science, Victoria University geomorphologist Andrew Mackintosh and glaciologist Trevor Chinn of the Alpine and Polar Processes Consultancy have helped provide definitive dating for changes in glacier behaviour.

They were part of a team of nine scientists, led by Joerg Schaefer of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York, who used an isotope-dating technique to get very precise ages for glacial deposits near Mt Cook.

Read more ....

Magic And The Brain: Teller Reveals The Neuroscience Of Illusion

From Wired News:

One of the first tricks in Penn and Teller's Las Vegas show begins when Teller—the short, quiet one—strolls onstage with a lit cigarette, inhales, drops it to the floor, and stamps it out. Then he takes another cigarette from his suit pocket and lights it.

No magic there, right? But then Teller pivots so the audience can see him from the other side. He goes through the same set of motions, except this time everything is different: Much of what just transpired, the audience now perceives, was a charade, a carefully orchestrated stack of lies. He doesn't stamp out the first cigarette—he palms it, then puts it in his ear. There is no second cigarette; it's a pencil stub. The smoke from the first butt is real, but the lighter used on the pencil is actually a flashlight. Yet the illusion is executed so perfectly that every step looks real, even when you're shown that it is not.

Read more ....

'Worst-Case' Scenario For Flu Estimated

This map shows the projected number of H1N1 "swine flu" cases in the United States at the county level, 28 days from now. Credit: Christian Thiemann, Rafael Brune, and Alejandro Morales Gallardo/Northwestern University

For Live Science:

There will be about 1,700 U.S. cases of the new H1N1 flu, aka "swine flu," in the next four weeks under a worst-case scenario, according to a research team's new simulations.

And a second team working independently, about 200 miles away, on exactly the same question came up with a similar forecast.

As of Thursday, there were 109 lab-confirmed U.S. cases of the new influenza, according to the World Health Organization, which earlier this week raised the risk level of the influenza to one stage below pandemic because the virus is being transmitted within at least two countries in one region of the world. A full pandemic — the virus is also being transmitted within a third country in a different region — is considered imminent.

Read more ....

Ancient Egypt Brought To Life With Virtual Model Of Historic Temple Complex

Digital recreation shows what Karnak probably looked like in ancient times. (Credit: UCLA/ETC)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 30, 2009) — For the past two years, a team of UCLA Egyptologists, digital modelers, web designers, staff and students has been building a three-dimensional virtual-reality model of the ancient Egyptian religious site known as Karnak, one of the largest temple complexes ever constructed.

The result is Digital Karnak, a high-tech model that runs in real time and allows users to navigate 2,000 years of history at the popular ancient Egyptian tourist site near modern-day Luxor, where generations of pharaohs constructed temples, chapels, obelisks, sphinxes, shrines and other sacred structures beginning in the 20th century B.C.

Read more ....

Pushing Plastic Solar Cells

Image: Powerful polymers: This illustration shows the different layers that make up a new plastic solar cell with nearly perfect internal efficiency. From bottom to top, the layers are glass, a transparent electrode, two polymer layers, a titanium oxide layer that redistributes light, and an aluminum electrode. Credit: Nature Photonics

From Technology Review:

Researchers make cells with near-perfect internal efficiency.

Plastic solar cells are lightweight, flexible, and, most important, cheap to make. But so far, these devices have been too inefficient to compete with silicon solar cells for most applications. Now researchers from a few institutions claim to have made polymer solar cells with record-breaking efficiencies. These cells still aren't good enough to compete with silicon, but polymer efficiencies have been increasing at a rate of about 1 percent a year. If they can keep this up, say researchers, plastic solar cells will be competing with silicon within a few years.

Read more ....

China's Secret Tea Revealed As Fat-Busting Wonder Cuppa By Scientists

From The Scotsman:

A DAILY cup of special tea may combat the obesity epidemic, scientists will say today.
An extract of white tea prevents new fat cells from forming and helps to burn off mature ones, according to research.

The herbal brew increases the metabolism and boosts slimming by having a very high concentration of antioxidants compared to the more popular green variety.

Nutritionist Marc Winnefeld said: "In the industrialised countries, the rising incidence of obesity-associated disorders including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes constitutes a growing problem.

Read more ....

Hackers Weigh In: 8 Big Things To Do With A Mini Server

MINI SERVER: Marvell Technology's SheevaPlug is a two-inch by four-inch (five- by 10-centimeter) box that plugs into any wall outlet and is almost indistinguishable from an oversize power supply. © MARVELL TECHNOLOGY

From Scientific American:

We weren't sure what to do with a SheevaPlug, a cheap and powerful home server stuffed into a package the size of a power brick, so we asked a bunch of uber-geeks--Here's what they said.

Tiny computers are everywhere—our cell phones, handheld gaming devices and set-top boxes, to name a few—so it should be no surprise that Marvell Technology in Santa Clara, Calif., one of the companies that makes the chips that go into such devices, managed to cram an entire home server into the SheevaPlug, a two-inch by four-inch (five- by 10-centimeter) box that plugs into any wall outlet and is almost indistinguishable from an oversize power supply.

Read more ....

This Just In: Mercury More Exciting Than Mars

From Wired Science:

Mercury was once seen as a cold, dead little world, spinning around the sun unchanged for the past 4 billion years.

No longer: Observations from the Messenger spacecraft say it’s anything but.

NASA’s orbiter is sending back evidence of massive volcanism, strange impact craters and magnetic tornadoes that funnel plasma directly from the sun to the planet’s surface.

“It’s definitely not this picture of an ancient world where everything that happened to it happened billions of years ago and nothing happened since then,” said Tom Watters of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. “We’re seeing a very dynamic planet that has a lot going on today.”

Read more ....

Thursday, April 30, 2009

British Explorers Discover The Light At The End Of The Tunnel... In The World's Largest Cave

Possibly the world's largest cave passage, Hang Son Doong was discovered in the heart of the Vietnamese jungle by a British caving team. At 150m long and 200m high, it is seven times as high as York Cathedral

From The Daily Mail:

A British caving team believe they have discovered the world's largest cave passage in the heart of the Vietnamese jungle.

The rocky passage is 150metres long and measures a towering 200metres in height - seven times as high as the vaulted ceiling of York Cathedral.

Called Hang Son Doong (Mountain River Cave) it is believed to be almost twice the size of the current record holder.

'It is a truly amazing sized cave and one of the most significant discoveries by a British caving team,' said Adam Spillane, a member of the 13-man expedition team.

Read more ....

Africans Have World's Greatest Genetic Variation

From Yahoo News/AP:

WASHINGTON – Africans have more genetic variation than anyone else on Earth, according to a new study that helps narrow the location where humans first evolved, probably near the South Africa-Namibia border.

The largest study of African genetics ever undertaken also found that nearly three-fourths of African-Americans can trace their ancestry to West Africa. The new analysis published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Science.

"Given the fact that modern humans arose in Africa, they have had time to accumulate dramatic changes" in their genes, explained lead researcher Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Read more ....

NASA May Abandon Plans For Moon Base

Image: Instead of building a permanent lunar base, NASA may send astronauts on short 'sorties' or excursions (Illustration: NASA)

From New Scientist:

NASA will probably not build an outpost on the moonMovie Camera as originally planned, the agency's acting administrator, Chris Scolese, told lawmakers on Wednesday. His comments also hinted that the agency is open to putting more emphasis on human missions to destinations like Mars or a near-Earth asteroid.

NASA has been working towards returning astronauts to the moon by 2020 and building a permanent base there. But some space analysts and advocacy groups like the Planetary Society have urged the agency to cancel plans for a permanent moon base, carry out shorter moon missions instead, and focus on getting astronauts to Mars.

Read more ....

Experts Warn Internet Is Running Out of Bandwidth

From FOX News:

Internet users face regular "brownouts" that will freeze their computers as capacity runs out in cyberspace, according to research to be published later this year.

Experts predict that consumer demand, already growing at 60 percent a year, will start to exceed supply as early as 2010 because of more people working online and the soaring popularity of bandwidth-hungry Web sites such as YouTube and services such as the BBC's iPlayer.

Read more ....

How To Wake Up Slumbering Minds

From The Wall Street Journal:

Will the discoveries of neuroscientists help us to think, learn and remember?

We are in the midst of an explosion of knowledge about how the human mind and brain work -- how memory comes in many different types, each stored in a different part of the brain; how our minds constantly process information outside our conscious awareness; how differences in brain function help to define differences in our personalities. A lot of this new knowledge raises provocative questions, not least about human nature.

But as disgruntled students have been saying for ages: How are we ever going to use this stuff? Chemistry can boast of miracle drugs, and genetics has done wonders for our food supply and for medical diagnosis. What about psychology and neuroscience? Shouldn't research on learning and memory and thinking help us to learn, remember and think better?

Read more ....

Lessons Found In History Of Flu Pandemics

An emergency hospital during 1918 influenza epidemic, in Camp Funston, Kansas. Credit: National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology

From Live Science:

To understand the sometimes bold, sometimes nervous governmental reactions to the rapidly growing swine flu crisis, one need only look at the incredibly unpredictable history of horrifically deadly flu pandemics and the frightening outbreaks that did not become pandemics.

Pandemics, plagues and pestilence have beset humans throughout history. But the strategy and response to swine flu unfolding in recent days is rooted in what has been learned from modern flu outbreaks and pandemics going back to the colossal 1918 event.

Read more ....

Sea Ice Spread Linked To Ozone Layer

From The Australian:

SEA ice around Antarctica has been increasing at a rate of 100,000sq km a decade since the 1970s, according to a landmark study to be published today.

The study by the British Antarctic Survey, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, says rather than melting as a result of global warming, Antarctica continues to expand.

The fact that Antarctic ice is still growing does not in itself prove that global warming is not happening. But the BAS says increased ice formation can be explained by another environmental concern, the hole in the ozone layer, which is affecting local weather conditions.

Read more ....

10 Deadly Diseases That Hopped Across Species

From Live Science:

Bacteria and viruses that are deadly to one type of creature can evolve quickly to infect another. While the swine flu outbreak is the latest example, a host of infectious and deadly diseases have hopped from animals to humans and from humans to animals.

The cross-species infection can originate on farms or markets, where conditions foster mixing of pathogens, giving them opportunities to swap genes and gear up to kill previously foreign hosts (i.e. you). Or the transfer can occur from such seemingly benign activities as letting a performance monkey on some Indonesian street corner climb on your head. Microbes of two varieties can even gather in your gut, do some viral dancing, and evolve to morph you into a deadly, contagious host.

Read more ....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hundreds Of Rogue Black Holes May Roam The Milky Way, Swallowing Anything That Gets Too Close

This artist's conception shows a rogue black hole floating near a globular star cluster on the outskirts of the Milky Way. New calculations by Ryan O'Leary and Avi Loeb suggest that hundreds of massive black holes, left over from the galaxy-building days of the early universe, may wander the Milky Way. Fortunately, the closest rogue black hole should reside thousands of light-years from Earth. (Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA))

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2009) — It sounds like the plot of a sci-fi movie: rogue black holes roaming our galaxy, threatening to swallow anything that gets too close. In fact, new calculations by Ryan O'Leary and Avi Loeb (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) suggest that hundreds of massive black holes, left over from the galaxy-building days of the early universe, may wander the Milky Way.

Good news, however: Earth is safe. The closest rogue black hole should reside thousands of light-years away. Astronomers are eager to locate them, though, for the clues they will provide to the formation of the Milky Way.

Read more ....

5 Essential Swine Flu Survival Tips

No kidding! This CDC photograph captured a sneeze in progress, revealing the plume of salivary droplets as they are expelled in a large cone-shaped array from this man's open mouth. The flu virus can spread in this manner and survive long enough on a doorknob or countertop to infect another person. It dramatically illustrating the reason you should cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing to protect others from germ exposure, health officials say. It’s also why you need to wash your hands a lot, on the assumptions others don’t always cover their sneezes. Credit: CDC/James Gathany

From Live Science:

Vice President Joe Biden said today to avoid subways and other confined spaces because of the swine flu sweeping the nation.

And yesterday, the first U.S. swine flu death — a toddler — and the decision by health officials to ratchet up their global alert level to just below a full-on pandemic came as a jolt to the system.

Meanwhile, there are a slew of suggestions out there for what you should do. Often the tips don't include enough detail for you to do it right. For example, you probably don't wash your hands effectively or often enough. And did you know you could be infected and spreading the flu up to a full day before you feel symptoms and up to seven days after you get sick?

Read more ....

Russia Mulls Rocket Power 'First'

The future Russian capsule could land on a bright rocket plume

The BBC:

Russia's next-generation manned space vehicle might be equipped with thrusters to perform a precision landing on its return to Earth.

Engineers are considering a rocket-powered landing system for the successor to Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.

If accepted, it would be the first time in history that a manned vehicle relied solely on rocket engines for touchdown.

Previous manned missions have landed on Earth using a parachute or, in the case of space shuttles, a pair of wings.

RKK Energia, Russia's prime developer of manned spacecraft, had to examine the feasibility of the rocket-powered landing as a result of conflicting requirements for the project set by the Russian government.

Read more ....

Have We Found Key To Autism? Scientists Hail 'Monumental' Breakthrough That Could Help Millions

Finding the missing piece: An autistic child during one of his regular behavioral therapy sessions contemplates a jigsaw puzzle

From The Daily Mail:

Scientists have pinpointed rogue genes that could unlock the riddle of autism.

The breakthrough has been hailed as a 'monumental achievement' that could revolutionise understanding and treatment of the condition.

Experts have compared it to the pivotal cancer research of the 1970s, which began unravelling the disease's genetic causes.

Autism and related conditions such as Asperger's syndrome affect at least one in 100 UK children, and some research puts the figure as high as one in 60. Even the lower estimate is ten times the level of 30 years ago.

Read more ....

Is Swine Flu Pandemic Imminent?

PRECAUTIONS Dozens of deaths have occurred from the swine influenza outbreak in Mexico. People wore surgical masks on Monday in Mexico City. Gregory Bull/Associated Press

From Live Science:

The swine flu drama is advancing like wildfire, with the Mexican death count rising steadily, U.S. cases doubling, and the World Health Organization moving a step closer late Monday to declaring the incident a full-on pandemic.

Will this flu become a global pandemic in humans, like AIDS or the "Spanish flu" of 1918–1919 which killed an estimated 50 million people in 18 months?

Declaring a pandemic is a big official deal. It's the more global version of an epidemic, which is a disease outbreak in a specific community or region or population. The word "pandemic" has a specific meaning to doctors and researchers, and once officials apply it to an outbreak, even more money and other resources are rushed to victims. Not to mention that there hasn't been a flu pandemic in more than 40 years (the "Hong Kong flu").

Read more ....

New Details About Mysterious Giant Virus Uncovered

The N-terminal and C-terminal jelly-roll domains are colored green and red, respectively. Top left is a ribbon diagram of the adenovirus capsid protein. Diagrammatic representation of the arrangement of the β strands (arrows) within each jelly-roll are given for adenovirus, PBCV1, and Mimivirus at the top right, bottom left, and bottom right, respectively. The β strands within each domain are labelled A to H. This gives rise to the two opposing BIDG and CHEF β sheets in each jelly-roll as indicated in the ribbon diagram. (Credit: Structural Studies of the Giant Mimivirus Xiao C, Kuznetsov YG, Sun S, Hafenstein SL, Kostyuchenko VA, et al. PLoS Biology Vol. 7, No. 4, e92 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000092)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2009) — An international team of researchers has determined key structural features of the largest known virus, findings that could help scientists studying how the simplest life evolved and whether the unusual virus causes any human diseases.

The mimivirus has been called a possible "missing link" between viruses and living cells. It was discovered accidentally by French scientists in 1992 but wasn't confirmed to be a virus until 2003.

Read more .....

Edge Of The Universe: Death Throes Of Dying Star Spotted 13 Billion Light Years Away

An artist's impression of a dying star exploding to produce a gamma ray burst.

From The Daily Mail:

Astronomers have snapped a picture of the most distant object ever seen in the universe - a titanic burst of energy from a dying star 13 billion light years away.

The 'gamma ray burst' is so far away that its light has taken almost the entire age of the universe to reach us.

When the light began its journey, travelling at 186,000 miles per second, only 640 million years had passed since the Big Bang that marked the dawn of creation.

Read more ....

As Swine Flu Spreads, Focus Shifts To A Potential Vaccine

From Discover Magazine:

As the swine flu outbreak continues to spread, with Russia, South Korea, and Australia joining the list of countries with suspected cases and the death toll climbing in Mexico, attention has turned to the potential of a swine flu vaccine that could protect populations from infection. But a new vaccine takes some months to develop. Says Iain Stephenson, an expert on flu vaccines: “We are in a position where if a swine flu virus becomes a pandemic we don’t currently have a vaccine for it…. I think that it is unlikely there will be widespread vaccine in less than six to eight months” [Telegraph]. In the meantime, says Stephenson, patients can be treated with antiviral drugs.

Read more ....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How Hackers Can Steal Secrets From Reflections

JEN CHRISTIANSEN (photoillustration of reflection); DIGITAL VISION/GETTY IMAGES (man with glasses)

From Scientific American:

Through the eyepiece of Michael Backes’s small Celestron telescope, the 18-point letters on the laptop screen at the end of the hall look nearly as clear as if the notebook computer were on my lap. I do a double take. Not only is the laptop 10 meters (33 feet) down the corridor, it faces away from the telescope. The image that seems so legible is a reflection off a glass teapot on a nearby table. In experiments here at his laboratory at Saarland University in Germany, Backes has discovered that an alarmingly wide range of objects can bounce secrets right off our screens and into an eavesdropper’s camera. Spectacles work just fine, as do coffee cups, plastic bottles, metal jewelry—even, in his most recent work, the eyeballs of the computer user. The mere act of viewing information can give it away.

Read more ....

Thin And Rich

This is Your PC on Slimfast: Courtesy Toshiba


A new set of chips gives super-slim cellphones the power of laptops.

Think of Toshiba's TG01 cellphone as the world's smallest PC. It powers 3-D games, plays high-definition movies, and smoothly runs many programs at once, a combo few other phones offer. Yet it's less than four tenths of an inch thick — 20 percent thinner than an iPhone — thanks to Qualcomm's Snapdragon system, which packs several previously separate chips into one case the size of a dime.

Read more ....

Advanced Prosthetics Redefine The Body

In this file photo, Women's Sports Foundation President Aimee Mullins speaks on stage during the 29th annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards presented by the Women's Sports Foundation at The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. In a recent presentation, Mullins highlights the benefits of the next generation of prosthetics. (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for WSF)

From ABC News:

New Research Merges Man and Machine With Stunning Results.

Technology usually changes the way we do things.

We communicate and think differently because of computers. We live differently because planes, trains and automobiles let us travel with ease. We solve hard math problems and physics mysteries because computers let us crunch numbers on a previously impossible scale. The list goes on.

However, every so often -- actually much more often than we, at first, recognize -- technology also upends the way we think about elements of our everyday lives.

Read more ....

Presto! Fast Color-Changing Material May Lead To Improved Sunglasses

Photochromic material (Credit: ACS)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2009) — Researchers in Japan are reporting development of a new so-called "photochromic" material that changes color thousands of times faster than conventional materials when exposed to light. The development could lead to a wide range of new products including improved sunglasses, more powerful computers, dynamic holograms, and better medicines, the researchers say.

In the new study, Jiro Abe and colleagues note that photochromic materials are most familiar as the invisible layers found in the lenses of many high-end sunglasses, which change color when exposed to sunlight. For years, researchers have explored the possibility of using these unusual materials for optical data storage in computers and as "molecular switches" for more controlled drug delivery. Conventional photochromic materials, however, tend to be relatively slow-acting (tens of seconds to hours) and unstable, which prevents their use for many advanced applications, the scientists say.

Read more ....

Swine Flu Vaccine Could Take 6 Months

People, wearing surgical masks as a precaution against infection, stand in line to enter the General Hospital as masked workers monitor the entrance in Mexico City, Friday. Dario Lopez-Mills/Associated Press

From Live Science:

A vaccine for the new swine flu in humans could take at least six months to manufacture and distribute widely, a British doctor said.

The reason: Vaccines must be developed from the specific flu strain, tested for safety, sent to manufacturers for mass production, and then distributed around the world. By the time this is done, the first wave of a pandemic flu might already be over, said Iain Stephenson, a doctor in the Infectious Diseases Unit of the Leicester Royal Infirmary in England.

Read more ....

Bang Goes That Theory: Dinosaur Extinction 'Occurred 300,000 Years AFTER Asteroid Impact '

Photo: A giant asteroid hit the Earth around 65million years ago, but experts dispute the impact it had

From The Daily Mail:

The popular theory that dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid 65million years ago has been challenged.

It was believed the Chicxulub crater in Mexico was the 'smoking gun' of the mass extinction event.

Molten droplets from the ancient asteroid impact were found just below the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary - a geological layer of sediment linked with the extinction.

But soil samples from the 112-mile wide crater show the impact predates the disappearance of the dinosaurs by about 300,000 years.

The latest research has been published in the Journal of the Geological Society.

Read more .....

Memory Pill That Could Help Students And Alzheimer's Patients Being Developed

A pill that could make memories 'stick' is being developed by scientists in a study that could help students revising for exams and patients with brain disorders Photo: GETTY

From The Telegraph:

A pill that could make memories "stick" is being developed by scientists in a study that could help students revising for exams and patients with brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers, looking into obesity, discovered that fatty foods not only send feelings of fullness to the brain but they also trigger a process that consolidates long term memories.

It believed that this is an evolutionary tool that enabled our distant ancestors to remember where rich sources of food were located.

Read more ....

64 Things Every Geek Should Know

From Lap Top Logic:

If you consider yourself a geek, or aspire to the honor of geekhood, here's an essential checklist of must-have geek skills.

The term 'geek', once used to label a circus freak, has morphed in meaning over the years. What was once an unusual profession transferred into a word indicating social awkwardness. As time has gone on, the word has yet again morphed to indicate a new type of individual: someone who is obsessive over one (or more) particular subjects, whether it be science, photography, electronics, computers, media, or any other field. A geek is one who isn't satisfied knowing only the surface facts, but instead has a visceral desire to learn everything possible about a particular subject.

A techie geek is usually one who knows a little about everything, and is thus the person family and friends turn to whenever they have a question. If you're that type of person and are looking for a few extra skills to pick up, or if you're a newbie aiming to get a handhold on the honor that is geekhood, read on to find out what skills you need to know.

Read more ....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ice At The North Pole In 1958 And 1959 - Not So Thick

Skate (SSN-578), surfaced at the North Pole, 17 March 1959. Image from NAVSOURCE

From Watts Up With That?

What would NSIDC and our media make of a photo like this if released by the NAVY today? Would we see headlines like “NORTH POLE NOW OPEN WATER”? Or maybe “Global warming melts North Pole”? Perhaps we would. sensationalism is all the rage these days. If it melts it makes headlines.

Some additional captures from the newsreel below show that the ice was pretty thin then, thin enough to assign deckhands to chip it off after surfacing.The newsreel is interesting, here is the transcript.

Read more ....

Who Will Be Tech's Next Winners And Losers?

From Pajamas Media/Edgelings:

Let’s take a moment and try to imagine the U.S. economy when this recession is over.

Needless to say, that’s a big “when”, especially when Washington seems to doing its best to extend this economic downturn as long as possible.

But let’s suppose that there is a sudden outbreak of sanity among our political leaders: they stop driving the nation’s CEOs in defensive postures, they abandon their attempts to destroy entrepreneurship and venture capital, and basically, they stop threatening onerous new taxes and regulations – basically, they just get out of the way – and let the economy finish healing itself.

What happens next? Who will be the big winners, especially in high tech, in the next boom? Here are my guesses:

Read more ....

Epigenetics: A Revolutionary Look At How Humans Work

The epigenome is a molecular marking system that controls gene expression without altering the DNA sequence. In a sense, the epigenome is the genome's boss. Image credit: Dreamstime.

From Live Science:

Scientists are now pinpointing exactly how nurture affects nature. Life experiences — from toxin exposure to physical affection — can alter gene expression in dynamic and sometimes reversible ways.

These insights — the result of a burgeoning field called epigenetics — were aided by the sequencing of the human genome, completed in 2003. However, the genome itself turns out to have limited value for understanding disease and human characteristics.

Read more ....

Single-Molecule Nano-Vehicles Synthesized: 'Fantastic Voyage' Not So Far-Fetched

James Tour and coworkers at Rice University synthesized a molecular car with four carbon-based wheels that roll on axles made from linked carbon atoms. The nano-car's molecular wheels are 5,000 times smaller than a human cell. A powerful technique that allows viewing objects at the atomic level called scanning tunneling microscopy reveals the wheels roll perpendicular to the axles, rather than sliding about like a car on ice as the car moves back and forth on a surface. (Credit: Y. Shirai/Rice University)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2009) — Imagine producing vehicles so small they would be about the size of a molecule and powered by engines that run on sugar. To top it off, a penny would buy a million of them.

A new article published in the May 2009 issue of Scientific American asks readers to do just that.

The concept is nearly unthinkable, but it's exactly the kind of thing occupying National Science Foundation supported researchers at Penn State and Rice universities.

Read more ....

Spectacular Cosmic Bubble '60 Light Years Wide And 70,000 Years Old'

Dr Don Goldman took this picture from his base in California Photo: NATIONAL

From The Telegraph:

This spectacular cosmic bubble was caused by a gas expulsion from a dying star and is 60 light years across and 70,000 years old.

At its centre is a star, known as a Wolf-Rayet star which is 20 times the mass of the sun.

When it dies it throws out gas, creating winds which form the bubble.

It will eventually explode into a supernova.

Photographer Dr Don Goldman took this picture remotely from his base in California via an observatory in South Australia.

Dr Goldman said: "The object, known as S308 is a 'cosmic bubble' that represents a last-minute expulsion of gas from a dying star that forms a super wind in the form of a bubble.

Read more ....

G.E.’s Breakthrough Can Put 100 DVDs On A Disc

Brian Lawrence leads G.E.’s holographic storage program.
Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

From The New York Times:

General Electric says it has achieved a breakthrough in digital storage technology that will allow standard-size discs to hold the equivalent of 100 DVDs.

The storage advance, which G.E. is announcing on Monday, is just a laboratory success at this stage. The new technology must be made to work in products that can be mass-produced at affordable prices.

But optical storage experts and industry analysts who were told of the development said it held the promise of being a big step forward in digital storage with a wide range of potential uses in commercial, scientific and consumer markets.

Read more ....

Swine Flu News Updates -- April 27, 2009

Alistair Dixon, 24, from Grimsby, is met at Heathrow by his father Stanley Photo: David Dyson

Mexican Swine Flu Spreads To Europe, Markets Edgy -- Reuters

* First European case confirmed in Spain

* Mexican death toll at 103

* Governments step up health checks at airports

* Stock markets fall, dollar and yen rise

MEXICO CITY, April 27 (Reuters) - Governments around the world acted to stem a possible flu pandemic on Monday, as a virus that has killed 103 people in Mexico and spread to North America was confirmed to have reached Europe.

While the virus has so far killed no one outside Mexico, the fact that it has proved able to spread quickly between humans has raised fears that the world may finally be facing the flu pandemic that scientists say is long overdue.

Read more ....

More News On The Swine Flu Outbreak

U.S. Slow to Learn of Mexico Flu -- Washington Post
Warnings as swine virus spreads -- BBC
Swine flu case confirmed in Spain -- BBC
Europe Urges Citizens to Avoid U.S. and Mexico Travel -- New York Times
Swine flu: Every passenger arriving in Britain from Mexico screened -- The Telegraph
CDC: US begins border monitoring for swine flu -- AP
Top health official warns US may see flu deaths -- AFP
Asia, Pacific Take Measures to Prevent Spread of Swine Flu -- Voice Of America
Countries adopt plans to counter swine flu -- UPI
Swine flu fears prompt quarantine plans, pork bans -- Yahoo news/AP
At epidemic's epicenter, Mexico works to remain calm -- McClatchy newspapers
MICHAEL HANLON: How swine flu could be a bigger threat to humanity than nuclear warfare -- Daily Mail
Swine Flu Could Become More Dangerous -- SKY News
Inside the Home of a Swine Flu Victim -- ABC News
How well prepared is the world for flu? -- BBC
Swine Flu Unlikely To Have Impact on the Economy -- Time Magazine
How to Protect Yourself From Swine Flu -- KTLA
Flu Special Report: The Basics -- Live Science
Has globalisation made us more catastrophe-prone? -- The Independent

Looking At Stress—And God—In The Human Brain

Duncan (top) looks at an MRI view of his brain as neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley interprets

From Discover Magazine:

James Brewer takes a seat beside me in a café at the San Diego Convention Center, where we are both attending the largest neuroscience meeting in the world: thirty thousand brains researching brains. With his balding head, bright eyes, and baby cheeks, Brewer, a neurologist at the University of California at San Diego, looks like a large and curious toddler. An unlikely messenger, perhaps, in what for me is now a moment of truth. I had undergone a series of diagnostic procedures in his laboratory, and now, inside the laptop he has placed on the table, are the results of my brain tests.

Read more ....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ancient Corals May Provide Record of Rapid Sea Level Rise

Photo: ANCIENT REEF: The creation of this water park exposed reefs that grew roughly 121,000 years ago, allowing scientists to study sea level rise during that warm period. COURTESY OF PAUL BLANCHON

From Scientific American:

Ancient reefs recently exposed in Mexico show that sea levels can rise by as much as 10 feet in half a century

With Greenland's glaciers melting and on the move while vast ice sheets in Antarctica continue to shatter, the proportion of water in the seas continues to grow. And with the climate at the poles expected to continue to warm rapidly in coming decades, many researchers are trying to determine how much and how quickly sea levels might rise. Now newly excavated reefs in Mexico may have provided an answer: high and fast.

Read more ....

Greenhouse Gases Continue To Climb Despite Economic Slump

Anthropogenic atmospheric carbon dioxide, fossil fuel emissions, world gross domestic product (GDP), and world population for the past century. Carbon dioxide data from Antarctic ice cores (green points), Mauna Loa Observatory (red curve), and the global network (blue dots). (Credit: NOAA)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2009) — Two of the most important climate change gases increased last year, according to a preliminary analysis for NOAA’s annual greenhouse gas index, which tracks data from 60 sites around the world.

Researchers measured an additional 16.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) — a byproduct of fossil fuel burning — and 12.2 million tons of methane in the atmosphere at the end of December 2008. This increase is despite the global economic downturn, with its decrease in a wide range of activities that depend on fossil fuel use.

Read more ....

Basis For Male Promiscuity Questioned

From Live Science:

Males are promiscuous and females are selective when choosing a mate, biologists have said for decades. But a new study finds it might not be that simple.

The study, published in this month's issue of the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, evaluated data on 18 populations – from Pitcairn Islanders to the Dogon of Mali – and found that on average, the variance in the number of children is greater for men than for women. This is about what you'd expect on the basis of long-time theory.

Read more ....