Saturday, June 13, 2009

Microsoft To Give Away Anti-Virus

From The BBC:

Microsoft is poised to start giving away security software.

The company is reportedly trialling free anti-virus software internally and said the beta version would be released "soon".

Called Morro, the software will tackle viruses but lack the broader range of utilities, such as parental locks, found in paid-for security suites.

Morro will be Microsoft's second venture in the highly competitive security market.

Microsoft's first attempt revolved around the Windows Live OneCare service that did not succeed in turning many customers away from rivals such as Symantec and McAfee.

Read more ....

Gravity Mysteries: What Is Gravity?

Image: We tend to think of gravity as a force that affects objects, but Einstein showed it was something else entirely (Image: Alex Telfer Photography Limited / Getty)

From New Scientist:

You jump up, and gravity brings you back down to Earth. You reach the brow of a hill and gravity accelerates you down the other side. All neat and tidy then: gravity behaves in the way Newton thought of it, as a force that affects and changes the motion of something else.

That, at least, was how it seemed until Einstein came along. His general theory of relativity tells us that gravity is not quite that simple.

General relativity provides a framework under which the laws of physics look the same for everyone at every moment, regardless of how they are moving. Einstein achieved this by making gravity a property of the universe, rather than of individual bodies.

Read more ....

Early Rocks To Reveal Their Ages

From BBC:

A new technique has been helping scientists piece together how the Earth's continents were arranged 2.5 billion years ago.

The novel method allows scientists to recover rare minerals from rocks.

By analysing the composition of these minerals, researchers can precisely date ancient volcanic rocks for the first time.

By aligning rocks that have a similar age and orientation, the early landmasses can be pieced together.

This will aid the discovery of rocks rich in ore and oil deposits, say the scientists. The approach has already shown that Canada once bordered Zimbabwe, helping the mining industry identify new areas for exploration.

Read more ....

Leak Halts Shuttle Launching

There would be no countdown to launch after NASA delayed the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour due to a hydrogen gas leak. Stan Honda/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

From The New York Times:

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The launching of the space shuttle Endeavour on Saturday was called off because of a hydrogen leak similar to one that delayed another shuttle’s departure three months ago.

During fueling with liquid hydrogen, sensors detected a leak at the valve next to the external tank, creating a potential for fire.

The planned 7:17 a.m. liftoff was called off at 12:26 a.m. and will be delayed at least four days. A similar leak occurred during the countdown for the shuttle Discovery in March.

Mission managers originally said that if the Endeavour could not go by Monday, the launching would be moved to July because a lunar orbiter was scheduled to lift off Wednesday.

Read more ....

Red Wine Compound Resveratrol Demonstrates Significant Health Benefits

Low to moderate drinking -- especially of red wine -- appears to reduce all causes of mortality. (Credit: iStockphoto)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 12, 2009) — The benefits of alcohol are all about moderation. Low to moderate drinking – especially of red wine – appears to reduce all causes of mortality, while too much drinking causes multiple organ damage. A mini-review of recent findings on red wine's polyphenols, particularly one called resveratrol, will be published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research; the review is also available at Early View.

"Reports on the benefits of red wine are almost two centuries old," said Lindsay Brown, associate professor in the School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Queensland and corresponding author for the study. "The media developed the more recent story of the French paradox in the early 1990s. However, studies on the actions of resveratrol, one of the active non-alcoholic ingredients, were uncommon until research around 1997 showed prevention of cancers. This led to a dramatic interest in this compound."

Read more ....

Genetic Difference Found in Wild vs. Tame Animals

From Live Science:

A study of nasty and nice lab rats has scientists on the verge of knowing the genes that separate wild animals like lions and wolves from their tame cousins, cats and dogs.

Unlike their wild ancestors, house pets and other domesticated animals share the trait of tameness, meaning they tolerate or even seek out human presence. New research, which is published in the June issue of the journal Genetics and involved the interbreeding of friendly and aggressive rats, reveals gene regions that influence the opposing behaviors.

Read more ....

Mind-Reading Tech May Not Be Far Off

Brain Browsing: ChrisDag (CC Licensed)


At the World Science Festival this week, indications that brain scanners may soon uncover your private thoughts

Neuroscientists are already able to read some basic thoughts, like whether an individual test subject is looking at a picture of a cat or an image with a specific left or right orientation. They can even read pictures that you're simply imagining in your mind's eye. Even leaders in the field are shocked by how far we've come in our ability to peer into people's minds. Will brain scans of the future be able to tell if a person is lying or telling the truth? Suggest whether a consumer wants to buy a car? Reveal our secret likes and dislikes, or our hidden prejudices? While we aren't there yet, these possibilities have dramatic social, legal and ethical implications.

Read more ....

Get Ready! Facebook To Offer Personalised URLs From Tomorrow

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg got his personalised URL ahead of the rush tomorrow

From The Daily Mail:

Facebook users will soon be able to choose a web address for their profile page which is all together more personal.

At present anyone with a Facebook account has a string of random numbers at the end of their web address. However from 5am tomorrow (BST) they will be able to create a memorable URL by adding their name, such as

Tags will be assigned on a first come first served basis so those with common names will need to get in quick. The website founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has already claimed his.

Read more ....

Friday, June 12, 2009

Search For ET Just Got Easier: Effective Way To Search Atmospheres Of Planets For Signs Of Life

An artist's concept of the sunlight glowing through the Earth's thin atmosphere and reaching an observer on the Moon during a lunar eclipse. (Credit: Gabriel Perez Diaz, SMM, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC))

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 12, 2009) — Astronomers using the Science and Technology Facilities Council's (STFC) William Herschel Telescope (WHT) on La Palma have confirmed an effective way to search the atmospheres of planets for signs of life, vastly improving our chances of finding alien life outside our solar system.

The team from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) used the WHT and the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT) to gather information about the chemical composition of the Earth's atmosphere from sunlight that has passed through it. The research is published June11 in Nature.

Read more ....

Global Biosphere Images Reveal Changes in Plant Growth

The 2008 global biosphere. Chlorophyll concentration in blue, vegetation index in green. Credit: NASA/Rob Simmon/Jesse Allen.

From Live Science:

A new series of NASA images illustrates how Earth's plant growth has changed over the past 11 years.

The images are part of the series, "World of Change: Global Biosphere." They show the yearly changes in plant growth between 1999 and 2008 based on data on chlorophyll on the ocean's surface and vegetation density on land. Scientists use the images to study Earth's carbon cycle – the uptake and release of carbon by Earth's biosphere.

The global biosphere, or the sum of all ecosystems that support life on Earth, is in constant flux. The images show changes in chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants allows photosynthesis to occur, averaged over each year. Changes in land growth are shown as a vegetation index, a blend of the variation between the summer flourishes and the slow growth winter.

Read more ....

The Inside Story Of The Conficker Worm

The Conficker worm has seized control of millions of computers in just
a few months (Image: Carsten Müller / stock.xchng)

From New Science:

A HOTEL bar in Arlington, Virginia, 23 October 2008. A group of computer security experts has spent the day holed up with law enforcement agencies. It is an annual event that attracts the best in the business, but one the participants like to keep low-key - and under the radar of the cybercriminals they are discussing.

That evening, conversation over drinks turned to a security update Microsoft had just released. Its timing was suspicious: updates usually came once a month, and the next was not due for two weeks. "I remember thinking I should take a look at this," recalls Paul Ferguson, a researcher at Trend Micro, a web security company in Cupertino, California.

Read more ....

Large Hadron Collider To Start Again, But Costs Rise In Race To Discover 'God Particle'

From The Telegraph:

The Large Hadron Collider is to be run flat out throughout the year in order to make up for lost time and to beat an American rival to finding the elusive Higgs Boson – known as the "God Particle".

The £4bn particle accelerator, which broke down last year, was to be turned off in winter to reduce energy demands during peak electricity prices.

But the delays and the news that a smaller less powerful accelerator at Fermilab in Illinois is closing in on the particle has meant it will continue running throughout the year – at an extra cost of £13 million.

Read more ....

Launching Saturday: Shuttle Endeavour Headed For Space Station

Space Shuttle Endeavour landing

From Yahoo News/

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Seven astronauts are set to blast off on the space shuttle Endeavour Saturday morning on an ambitious mission bound for the International Space Station.

The shuttle is scheduled to lift off at 7:17 a.m. EDT (1117 GMT) from the seaside Launch Pad 39A here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour is slated for a grueling 16-day mission to ferry the final element of the space station's Japanese-built Kibo laboratory.

"We all realize that we have a tremendous amount of work to do," said Endeavour commander Mark Polansky. "We do know it's a combination of a sprint and a marathon, because it's a long, long mission."

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Wired Science News for Your Neurons Scientists Create a Form of Pre-Life

From Wired Science:

A self-assembling molecule synthesized in a laboratory may resemble the earliest form of information-carrying biological material, a transitional stage between lifeless chemicals and the complex genetic architectures of life.

Called tPNA, short for thioester peptide nucleic acids, the molecules spontaneously mimic the shape of DNA and RNA when mixed together. Left on their own, they gather in shape-shifting strands that morph into stable configurations.

The molecules haven’t yet achieved self-replication, the ultimate benchmark of life, but they hint at it. Best of all, their activities require no enzymes — molecules that facilitate chemical reactions, but didn’t yet exist in the primordial world modeled by scientists seeking insight into life’s murky origins.

Read more ....

Fact or Fiction: Dogs Can Talk

From Scientific American:

Are human speech-like vocalizations made by some mammals equivalent to conversation--or just a rough estimation of it?

Maya, a noisy, seven-year-old pooch, looks straight at me. And with just a little prompting from her owner says, "I love you." Actually, she says "Ahh rooo uuu!"

Maya is working hard to produce what sounds like real speech. "She makes these sounds that really, really sound like words to everyone who hears her, but I think you have to believe," says her owner, Judy Brookes.

Read more ....

My Comment: I do not know if dogs can talk, but I do know that I can always talk to my dog.

Antibody Drugs Customized by Genotype

Image: Group therapy: Genetic differences affect how patients respond to monoclonal-antibody therapies. PIKAMAB believes that it can sort patients into specific groups and tailor treatments accordingly. Credit: Technology Review

From Technology Review:

A company wants to improve monoclonal-antibody therapies by tailoring them to patients' genotypes.

Monoclonal antibodies, which are engineered to hone in on very specific biological targets, have taken off therapeutically in recent years: several are now approved for treating cancers and autoimmune diseases, and nearly 200 are in clinical trials. But one of the challenges of monoclonal-antibody therapy is the fact that some people respond very well to the drugs while others respond only moderately or not at all.

A startup called PIKAMAB, based in Menlo Park, CA, believes that it can make monoclonal antibodies more effective by grouping patients together based on their genotype and offering a customized antibody developed for that genotype. The company hopes that this "stratified" approach to drug development and treatment will help drug companies achieve better results.

Read more ....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Health Risks Of Nanotechnology: How Nanoparticles Can Cause Lung Damage, And How The Damage Can Be Blocked

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 11, 2009) — Scientists have identified for the first time a mechanism by which nanoparticles cause lung damage and have demonstrated that it can be combated by blocking the process involved, taking a step toward addressing the growing concerns over the safety of nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology, the science of the extremely tiny (one nanometre is one-billionth of a metre), is an important emerging industry with a projected annual market of around one trillion US dollars by 2015. It involves the control of atoms and molecules to create new materials with a variety of useful functions, including many that could be exceptionally beneficial in medicine. However, concerns are growing that it may have toxic effects, particularly damage to the lungs. Although nanoparticles have been linked to lung damage, it has not been clear how they cause it.

Read more ....

The Great Shampoo Sham

You don't need to shampoo daily. And the "no poo" movement suggests you don't do it at all. But if not washing your hair sounds flat-out gross, and yet you want to avoid some iffy chemicals, there are many all-natural shampoos. Image credit: stockxpert

From Live Science:

Shampooing can be complicated. First, there are the convoluted instructions: Lather, rinse, repeat. It doesn't say anything about stopping. And now there's a movement afoot, called the "no poo" movement, advocating no shampooing whatsoever.

Shampoo is indeed a modern invention, as the no-poo'ers attest, developed roughly around the end of the 19th century. And few of us need to be shampooing every day, dermatologists say. That said, the necessity for shampoo varies from person to person, depending on your hair type and what you put in to your hair each day.

Forgoing shampooing completely, if that concept even appeals to you, ultimately could be rough on your hair and rougher on your social interactions.

Read more ....

Seven Mysteries Of Gravity

From New Scientist:

It's the force we all know about and think we understand. It keeps our feet firmly on the ground and our world circling the sun.

Yet look a little closer, and the certainties start to float away, revealing gravity as the most puzzling and least understood of the four fundamental forces of nature.

Michael Brooks investigates its mysterious ways

Read more ....

Famous Star Is Shrinking, Puzzling Astronomers

A Hubble Space Telescope image taken in 1996 shows the red supergiant star Betelgeuse, one of the brightest stars in the familiar constellation Orion.Betelgeuse, one of the largest known stars, is shrinking rapidly and no one knows why, astronomers said at a June 2009 meeting. Image courtesy A. Dupree (CfA), R. Gilliland (STScI), NASA

From The National Geographic:

One of the largest known stars in the universe is shrinking rapidly, and astronomers don't know why.

Betelgeuse (pronounced almost like "beetle juice") is a red supergiant star 600 light-years away in the constellation Orion. From Earth the star is clearly visible with the naked eye as the reddish dot that marks Orion's left shoulder.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, first measured the star in 1993 with an infrared instrument on top of Southern California's Mount Wilson. They estimated the star to be as big around as Jupiter's orbit around the sun.

Read more ....

New, Superheavy Element To Enter Periodic Table

The periodic table in an undated image. A new, superheavy chemical element numbered 112 will soon be officially included in the periodic table, German researchers said. REUTERS/NIST/Handout

From Yahoo News/Reuters:

BERLIN (Reuters) – A new, superheavy chemical element numbered 112 will soon be officially included in the periodic table, German researchers said.

A team in the southwest German city of Darmstadt first produced 112 in 1996 by firing charged zinc atoms through a 120-meter-long particle accelerator to hit a lead target.

"The new element is approximately 277 times heavier than hydrogen, making it the heaviest element in the periodic table," the scientists at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The zinc and lead nuclei were fused to form the nucleus of the new element, also known as Ununbium, Latin for 112.

Read more ....

WHO: Swine Flu Pandemic Has Begun, 1st In 41 Years

Swine flu has spread in Australia since a ship with infected passengers there has docked.

From AP:

GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization has told its member nations it is declaring a swine flu pandemic — the first global flu epidemic in 41 years.

The move came Thursday as infections climbed in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere.

In a statement sent to member countries, WHO says it decided to raise the pandemic alert level from phase 5 to 6, meaning that a global outbreak of swine flu has begun. The decision was made after the U.N. health agency held an emergency meeting on swine flu with its experts.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Read more ....

More News On WHO Declaring A Pandemic

WHO 'declares swine flu pandemic' -- BBC
WHO declares swine flu pandemic -- AFP
WHO tells some members world is in swine flu pandemic -- CBC
The Pandemic is Now -- NPR
Swine Flu Now Declared A Global Pandemic -- SKY News
WHO declares global swine flu pandemic -- Times Online

7 Shuttle Fliers Plus 6 Station Guys Equal Record

The crew of space shuttle Endeavour, from left, flight engineer Timothy Kopra, mission specialist's Thomas Marshburn, and Christopher Cassidy, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette, commander Mark Polansky, pilot Douglas Hurley and mission specialist David Wolf gather for photos after their arrival at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, June 9, 2009. Endeavour is scheduled for a June 13 launch on a mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

From Yahoo News/AP:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Mix seven shuttle astronauts and six space station residents and you set a record for the biggest off-the-planet gathering.

NASA is aiming to launch Endeavour on Saturday morning to the international space station for a long, laborious construction job. When the shuttle pulls up, there will be 13 people at the station — the most people ever together in space at one time.

Complicating matters is that the station tenants are still getting used to having twice as many people around. Now they're getting seven house guests who will stay for nearly two weeks.

Read more ....

Larks and Owls: How Sleep Habits Affect Grades

Image Source / Corbis

From Time:

There are at least a few in every college dorm: students who seem to exist in their own time zone, in bed hours before everyone else and awake again at daybreak, rested and prepared for the morning's first lecture.

Sleep researchers refer to these early risers as larks (midnight-oil-burners are known as owls), and new data presented this week at the annual Associated Professional Sleep Societies suggest that a student's preferred sleeping schedule has a lot to do with his or her grade-point average in school. In one study, psychologists at Hendrix College in Arkansas found that college freshmen who kept night-owl hours had lower GPAs than early birds. Another group at the University of Pittsburgh revealed that poor sleep habits among high-schoolers led to lower grades, particularly in math.

Read more

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Side By Side, How The Humble Hummingbird Flies Faster Than A Fighter Jet

(Click Image to Enlarge)

From The Daily Mail:

It may be just four inches long - but the tiny hummingbird flies faster than a space shuttle and a fighter jet.

Scientists have discovered that the animal performs the quickest aerial manoeuvre in the natural world compared to its size.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found that the courtship dive of Anna's hummingbird is 58 mph making it the fastest animal on earth.

Read more ....

Galactic Black Holes May Be More Massive Than Thought

Illustrated is a new understanding of the relationship between the mass of a galaxy’s central black hole and the mass of its central bulge of stars. A new model suggests revising how this relationship is defined, at least for black holes in the most massive galaxies. Credit: Tim Jones/Univ. of Texas at Austin after K. Cordes and S. Brown/STScI

From Science News:

Predictions and observations could resolve seeming mismatch between close and distant giants

Astronomers report that some of the biggest supermassive black holes in nearby galaxies are at least twice and possibly four times as heavy as previously estimated. The findings come from new simulations by two independent teams of researchers, as well as new observations of stars whipping around a handful of supermassive black holes at the centers of massive galaxies no more than a few hundred million light-years from Earth.

Read more ....

Long Shot: Planet Could Hit Earth In Distant Future

From Yahoo News/

Our solar system has a potentially violent future. New computer simulations reveal a slight chance that a disruption of planetary orbits could lead to a collision of Earth with Mercury, Mars or Venus in the next few billion years.

Despite its diminutive size, Mercury poses the greatest risk to the solar system's order. Results of the computer model show a roughly 1 percent chance that the elongation of Mercury's orbit will increase to the point where the planet's path around the sun crosses that of Venus. That's when planetary pandemonium would ensue, the researchers find, and Mercury could be ejected from the solar system, or collide with the sun or a neighboring planet, such as Earth.

Read more ....

Supervolcano May Be Brewing Beneath Mount St Helens

Photo: The US volcano may be connected to a semi-molten magma chamber that could fuel a giant eruption (Image: MAI / Rex Features)

From New Scientist:

IS A supervolcano brewing beneath Mount St Helens? Peering under the volcano has revealed what may be an extraordinarily large zone of semi-molten rock, which would be capable of feeding a giant eruption.

Magma can be detected with a technique called magnetotellurics, which builds up a picture of what lies underground by measuring fluctuations in electric and magnetic fields at the surface. The fields fluctuate in response to electric currents travelling below the surface, induced by lightning storms and other phenomena. The currents are stronger when magma is present, since it is a better conductor than solid rock.

Read more ....

Is This A Pandemic? Define ‘Pandemic’

TERMINOLOGY It is not often clear when the spread of a disease, such as cholera, for which a boy was being treated in Congo, becomes a pandemic. Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

From The New York Times:

After decades of warnings about the inevitability of another pandemic of influenza, it is astonishing that health officials have failed to make clear to the public, even to many colleagues, what they mean by the word pandemic.

Generations of people have used the term to describe widespread epidemics of influenza, cholera and other diseases. But as the new H1N1 swine influenza virus spreads from continent to continent, it is clear that a useful definition is far more complicated and elusive than officials had thought.

And what is at stake is far more than an exercise in semantics. A clear understanding of the term is central to the World Health Organization’s six-level staging system for declaring a pandemic, which in turn informs countries when to set their control efforts in motion.

Read more

Birth Of A Star Predicted

A study carried out by two astronomers from the Calar Alto Observatory, in Almeria, and the observatory at the University of Munich, in Germany, has predicted that the dark nebula Barnard 68 will become a shining star in 200,000 years' time. (Credit: Image courtesy of FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 10, 2009) — The astrophysicist João Alves, director of the Calar Alto Observatory in Almeria, and his colleague Andreas Bürkert, from the German observatory in the University of Munich, believe that "the inevitable future of the starless cloud Barnard 68" is to collapse and give rise to a new star, according to an article which has been published recently in The Astrophysical Journal.

Barnard 68 (B68) is a dark nebula located in the constellation of Ofiuco, around 400 light years away. Nebulae are interstellar clouds of dust and gas located within the Milky Way, and some of these are the so-called 'dark' nebulae, the silhouettes of which block out the light of the stars and other objects behind them.

Read more ....

Study Finds 4 Things That Keep Old Minds Sharp

From Live Science:

Some people seem to be able to keep their wits well into old age. But what's their secret?

New research reveals a host of factors that may contribute to a sharper mind late in life, including exercise, education, non-smoking behavior and social activity.

While other research has shown that genetics play a role in whether people get dementia, the study adds to a growing body of research that is uncovering ways you can up the odds of keeping your brain healthy and your memory sharp now and later.

The study tested the cognitive ability of 2,500 people aged 70 to 79 over eight years. More than half of the subjects showed normal age-related decline in mind function and 16 percent had a considerable decline during the course of the study. But 30 percent of participants did not show a change in their cognitive skills, and some even improved on the tests.

The researchers then looked to see what could account for this difference.

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New Evidence Suggests That Using the Internet Might Make You Smarter, Not Rot Your Brain

Chalk It Up to Google: Surfing the web is bench pressing for the brain,
according to findings of a recent study Kevin Hand


Dispelling the myth that surfing the Web is a time-draining waste of neurons.

"The simple headline here is that Google is making us smarter," says Gary Small of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California at Los Angeles. Thank you, Dr. Small. And thank you, Internet, for not only helping me dig up this information but also juicing up my brain while I looked for it. Small recently published results showing that searching the Internet does for the brains of older folks what doing bench presses does for chest muscles.

Read more ....

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Off-the-Shelf Genetic Testing On Display

From Technology Review:

The emerging market of direct-to-consumer genetic testing gets down to business.

Want to share your genome online with friends and family? Find out how well you metabolize B vitamins? Determine if you're genetically susceptible to forming blood clots on long flights? All of this is possible with a credit card and an Internet connection, thanks to the growing field of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, which aims to move genetic tests out of the doctor's office and into the hands of individuals.

Read more ....

Speeding Up Brain Networks Might Boost IQ

From New Scientist:

For decades scientists have tried, mostly in vain, to explain where intelligence resides in our brains. The answer, a new study suggests, is everywhere.

After analysing the brain as an incredibly dense network of interconnected points, a team of Dutch scientists has found that the most efficiently wired brains tend to belong to the most intelligent people.

And improving this efficiency with drugs offers a tantalising – though still unproven – means of boosting intelligence, say researchers.

The concept of a networked brain isn't so different from the transportation grids used by cars and planes, says Martijn van den Heuvel, a neuroscientist at Utrecht University Medical Center who led the new study.

Read more ....

Scientists: Global Warming Has Already Changed Oceans

From McClatchy News:

WASHINGTON — In Washington state, oysters in some areas haven't reproduced for four years, and preliminary evidence suggests that the increasing acidity of the ocean could be the cause. In the Gulf of Mexico, falling oxygen levels in the water have forced shrimp to migrate elsewhere.

Though two marine-derived drugs, one for treating cancer and the other for pain control, are on the market and 25 others are under development, the fungus growing on seaweed, bacteria in deep sea mud and sea fans that could produce life-saving medicines are under assault from changing the ocean conditions.

Read more ....

US, Europe Look To Partnership On Mars Exploration

This combination of images provided by NASA, right, and the European Space Agency, left, shows the Space Agency logos. For almost half a century, the United States has dominated the exploration of Mars from the first grainy black-and-white pictures of the craggy surface to the more recent discovery of ice. Now, budget woes are pushing NASA toward a joint exploration venture with Europe. By 2016, the U.S. may unite with the European Space Agency for future Mars trips — a move that would mark a significant shift for NASA. Details of such a union could come by the end of June 2009. (AP Photo/NASA, ESA)

From Yahoo News/AP:

LOS ANGELES – For almost half a century, the United States has dominated the exploration of Mars from the first grainy black-and-white pictures of the craggy surface to the more recent discovery of ice.

Now, budget woes are pushing NASA toward a joint exploration venture with Europe. By 2016, the U.S. may unite with the European Space Agency for future Mars trips — a move that would mark a significant shift for NASA.

Details of such a union could come by the end of this month.

Read more ....

Let Me Sleep On It: Creative Problem Solving Enhanced By REM Sleep

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 9, 2009) — Research led by a leading expert on the positive benefits of napping at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine suggests that Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep enhances creative problem-solving. The findings may have important implications for how sleep, specifically REM sleep, fosters the formation of associative networks in the brain.

The study by Sara Mednick, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, and first author Denise Cai, graduate student in the UC San Diego Department of Psychology, shows that REM directly enhances creative processing more than any other sleep or wake state. Their findings will be published in the June 8th online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Read more

Risk Factors for Heart Attack Pinned Down

From Live Science:

If you smoke, are overweight or have diabetes or high blood pressure, doctors have a fresh warning for you: These four well-known risk factors for heart attack significantly increased the size of the heart's left ventricle, a key precursor of heart failure.

The finding is detailed today in the journal Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

All four risk factors were strongly correlated with greater size of the heart's left ventricle over the short term (four years) and the long term (16 years) in a study of more than 4,217 people.

Read more ....

The Future Of "Plug-In" Hybrids--And Recharging On The Go

"Seattle, Chicago, Phoenix and several California cities are now setting up recharging infrastructures for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. Paris, where Toyota is testing plug-in hybrids, has over 80 recharging stations in the city and suburbs. And London is installing upwards of 40 recharging stations around town. Pictured: the charging port for a Plug-in Hybrid Saturn Vue." Geognerd, courtesy Flickr

From Scientific American:

The success of plug-in hybrid cars such as the Tesla Roadster hinges on building an infrastructure to charge the batteries away from home

Dear EarthTalk: With plug-in hybrid and electric cars due to hit the roads sometime soon, will there be places to plug them in besides at home? And if so, how much will it cost to re-charge?
-- Nicole Koslowsky, Pompano Beach, FL

Gasoline-electric hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, are all the rage due to their fuel efficiency, and consumers have been clamoring for carmakers to up the ante and give these vehicles a plug. This way the batteries can be charged at home and not just by the gas engine and other on-board features, thus greatly reducing the need for gas except for long trips. And purely electric cars, like the Tesla Roadster already on the market, will be making more appearances on the streets as greater production brings the costs down.

Read more ....

How To Chat With an Alien: The Official Guide

From Discover Magazine:

The folks at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, or SETI, in Mountain View, Calif., want to make sure we earthlings are prepared for a conversation with extraterrestrials. The group, which is dedicated to searching space for signs of life, recently began searching 10 billion channels using radio telescopes to give us a chance to communicate with beings on other planets.

The next step, of course, is to figure out what to say. The institute has given the public the chance to chime in on this issue through the Earth Project, which asks space enthusiasts how we should converse with aliens.

Read more ....

Monday, June 8, 2009

Vaccines In Space: Taking Biotech To Microgravity Labs

Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

From Popular Mechanics:

Last week, International Space Station crews conducted a trailblazing microgravity vaccine experiment on behalf of a company to thwart drug-resistant infections. The trick: growing superdiseases in space. Soon after, the CEO of the company behind the experiment told attendees at a conference in New York City what he envisions for the future of space-age biotech.

Last month the public watched as astronauts on the space shuttle Atlantis conducted risky spacewalks to fix the Hubble Space Telescope. But there was another, quieter task that the astronauts pursuedóa commercial drug experiment aimed at finding a vaccine against a deadly staph infection besetting hospitals.

Read more ....

This Is The Moon In HD, Closer Than Ever Before


Japan's Kaguya lunar probe sends back stunning high-definition footage from an extremely low altitude.

Japan's Kaguya lunar surveyor craft has sent back fresh HD clips as its orbit slowly degrades, bringing it closer than ever to the surface. In two days it will crash-land, bringing its mission to an end, but until then, it's keeping the ultra-crisp, almost surreal lunar footage coming.

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How Fire Made Us Human -- A Commentary

Image: Two new books argue that taming fire and learning to cook were key in human evolution (Image: University of New Mexico Press)

From New Scientist:

THE inhabitants of the Admiralty Islands say that a divine serpent once asked some children to cook a fish. The children dried it in the sun and ate it raw. Seeing this, the serpent gave them fire and taught them to cook.

So it is with every culture: the way that humans acquired fire is enshrined in legend, usually involving either a heroic benefactor or a trickster. In Greek myth, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and was punished for it; according to the Apache, it was a cunning fox who captured it for us. Once acquired, fire became sacred. In ancient Rome, it was guarded in the temple of Vesta, goddess of the hearth, by the Vestal Virgins. In India's Hindu temples, Agnihotri (literally "fire-guarder") Brahmans are still keepers of the sacred flame.

Legends aside, no other animal controls fire. Most fear it. The use of fire sets humans apart. But what difference has it made?

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A Real Whopper: Black Hole Is Most Massive Known

(Image from

From Yahoo News/

PASADENA, CALIF. — The most massive black hole yet weighed lurks at the heart of the relatively nearby giant galaxy M87.

The supermassive black hole is two to three times heftier than previously thought, a new model showed, weighing in at a whopping 6.4 billion times the mass of the sun. The new measure suggests that other black holes in nearby large galaxies could also be much heftier than current measurements suggest, and it could help astronomers solve a longstanding puzzle about galaxy development.

"We did not expect it at all," said team member Karl Gebhardt of the University of Texas at Austin.

The discovery was announced here today at the 214th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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Huge Cosmic Explosions Are Dark and Mysterious

From Yahoo News/Space:

PASADENA, CALIF. — Some of the most powerful explosions in the universe are invisible. But astronomers are a sneaky bunch. By monitoring X-rays and gamma rays, they're able to see what's going on.

Today astronomers said that a certain type of gamma-ray burst, the most energetic explosions in the universe, can light up areas of galaxies, but only in these more energetic wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, revealing intense star formation and death.

A survey of so-called "dark" gamma-ray bursts, which shine brightly in the gamma and X-ray parts of the spectrum but show barely a spark of visible light, found that these beacons can shed light on the dusty corners of galaxies where stars are born.

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Flexible Solar Power Shingles Transform Roofs From Wasted Space To Energy Source

PNNL, Vitex Systems and Battelle are working to adapt a film encapsulation process that would enable flexible solar panels like this. The flexible solar panels could be placed on rooftops like shingles and could replace today's boxy solar panels that are made with rigid glass or silicon and mounted on thick metal frames. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Vitex Systems, Inc.)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 8, 2009) — A transparent thin film barrier used to protect flat panel TVs from moisture could become the basis for flexible solar panels that would be installed on roofs like shingles.

The flexible rooftop solar panels - called building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPVs - could replace today's boxy solar panels that are made with rigid glass or silicon and mounted on thick metal frames. The flexible solar shingles would be less expensive to install than current panels and made to last 25 years.

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Large Mammal Migrations Are Disappearing

Tiang herd in the Southern sector of Boma National Park. Credit: P. Elkan, Wildlife Conservation Society/National Geographic

From Live Science:

Africa is home to spectacular migration events. Large mammals ranging from Grant's gazelles to blue wildebeests pound their hooves across vast tracts of land as the seasons change.

New research suggests, however, that migrations across the continent might be going extinct.

For the first time, scientists have compiled and analyzed data on all of the world's largest and definitive migrating land mammals. The researchers looked at the migration history for a group of ungulates, all of them hoofed mammals, weighing more than 44 pounds (20 kg). The data suggest that one-quarter of these mammals no longer migrate, and human development is responsible for the decline, said Grant Harris, co-author of the study.

In many cases, data on these animals is simply nonexistent.

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Nasa Rover Sinks Up To Wheel Hubs In Martian Dust... Now How To Get It Rolling Again?

The Spirit rover is stuck on the Home Plate - a plateau roughly 90m across within the Columbia Hills inside the Gusev crater

From The Daily Mail:

It's a familiar problem to drivers - you get stuck, your wheels are spinning and you need a tow rope to get you out.

But what happens when the stuck vehicle is the Spirit Rover on Mars nearly 36 million miles away?

Nasa's space exploration buggy ran into soft earth in May after crawling across the red planet for five years and sending back impressively detailed pictures from the surface.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Free-Floating Black Hole May Solve Space 'Firefly' Mystery

The object responsible for the mysterious brightening seen in 2006 (right) is ordinarily too dim to detect (left) (Image: Barbary et al.)

From New Scientist:

A wandering black hole may have torn apart a star to create a strange object that brightened mysteriously and then faded from view in 2006, a new study suggests. But more than three years later, astronomers are still at a loss to explain all the features of the strange event.

The object, called SCP 06F6, was first spotted in the constellation Bootes in February 2006 in a search for supernovae by the Hubble Space Telescope. The object flared to its maximum brightness over about 100 days, a period much longer than most supernovae, which do so in just 20 days.

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Key To Blood Clotting Discovered

From The BBC:

Scientists have discovered a molecular mechanism that is key to regulating the way blood clots.

The team from Harvard University, writing in the journal Science, said the finding could help treat people who have blood-clotting disorders.

If blood clots too much, people can develop a potentially fatal thrombosis; too little and they can bleed to death.

UK experts said the research was important and could help develop new treatments for blood disorders.

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What's So Hot About Chili Peppers?

From The Smithsonian:

Seated in the bed of a pickup truck, Joshua Tewksbury cringes with every curve and pothole as we bounce along the edge of Amboró National Park in central Bolivia. After 2,000 miles on some of the worst roads in South America, the truck's suspension is failing. In the past hour, two leaf springs—metal bands that prevent the axle from crashing into the wheel well—jangled onto the road behind us. At any moment, Tewksbury's extraordinary hunting expedition could come to an abrupt end.

A wiry 40-year-old ecologist at the University of Washington, Tewksbury is risking his sacroiliac in this fly-infested forest looking for a wild chili with a juicy red berry and a tiny flower: Capsicum minutiflorum. He hopes it'll help answer the hottest question in botany: Why are chilies spicy?

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My Comment: The hotter the better .... that is my motto.