Saturday, July 4, 2009

Revealed: How Pandemic Swine Flu Kills

From The New Scientist:

As the H1N1 swine flu pandemic continues to spread around the world, most cases are still mild. But reports are starting to emerge of people who sicken and die very quickly of what appears to be viral pneumonia. Now two independent groups of scientists have now found out why – and it's all down to where the virus binds within the body.

H1N1 swine flu comes from pigs, so it binds well to cell-surface molecules in the respiratory tracts of other mammals, including humans. But there are slight differences in the way different flu proteins bind to these receptors.

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What Did Einstein Know, And When Did He Know It?

Albert Einstein

From Newsweek:

What newly released papers reveal about the physicist.

On July 22 the Einstein Papers Project, located at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, will release the 12th volume of letters written or received by Albert Einstein—791 of them—plus transcripts of several notable lectures and interviews the physicist gave, covering the year 1921. It was a momentous 12 months. You might think there are no new revelations to be made about him, but for Einstein groupies the current volume addresses at least one key question: what did Einstein know about an 1887 experiment that discovered that the speed of light is invariant, regardless of the observer's speed or direction of motion—an idea that forms the core of special relativity and that Einstein did not mention when he laid out the theory of special relativity in a 1905 paper?

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Climate Change And The Mystery Of The Shrinking Sheep

Milder winters are causing Scotland's wild breed of Soay sheep to get smaller, despite the evolutionary benefits of possessing a large body. (Credit: iStockphoto)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 4, 2009) — Milder winters are causing Scotland's wild breed of Soay sheep to get smaller, despite the evolutionary benefits of possessing a large body, according to new research.

The new study provides evidence for climate change as the cause of the mysterious decrease in the size of wild sheep on the Scottish island of Hirta, first reported by scientists in 2007. The researchers believe that, due to climate change, survival conditions on Hirta are becoming less challenging, which means slower-growing, smaller sheep are more likely to survive the winters than they once were. This, together with newly-discovered so-called 'young mum effect' whereby young ewes produce smaller offspring, explains why the average size of sheep on the island is decreasing.

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The Strange Ingredients In Fireworks

Copper produces blue sparks. Barium, also used in rat poison and glassmaking, makes green. A mix of strontium salts, lithium salts and other stuff makes red. Aluminum and titanium put the white stars in an aerial flag. Image credit: stockxpert

From Live Science:

Fireworks for the 4th of July are all about light, color and sound. But inside, there are some bizarre ingredients, from aluminum to Vaseline and even the stuff of rat poison.

An ancient mix of black powder, essentially gunpowder little changed from its invention in China a millennia ago, gets each rocket in the air by creating pressure in gas trapped in a tube, or mortar.

Two fuses are lit at once: one to ignite the black powder, and another that burns slower, creating a well-timed explosion high in the sky.

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Marie Curie Voted Greatest Female Scientist

Marie Curie has been voted the greatest woman scientist of all time. Photo: PA

From The Telegraph:

Marie Curie, the Nobel Prize-winning nuclear physicist has been voted the greatest woman scientist of all time.

The Polish-born researcher, who discovered radiation therapy could treat cancer, won just over a quarter of the poll (25.1 per cent) - almost twice as much as her nearest rival Rosalind Franklin (14.2 per cent), the English biophysicist who helped discover the structure of DNA.

Only two modern role models made the top ten - astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell came fourth (4.7 per cent) and Dr Jane Goodall, the world famous primatologist, was tenth (2.7 per cent).

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Hunting For Life In Alien Worlds

An artist's impression of the exoplanet HD 189733b transiting its sun. Astronomers have detected both water vapour and methane in its atmosphere. Image: ESA - C.Carreau.

From Plus Magazine:

Two of the most fundamental questions asked by people, and as yet still unanswered by science, are how life emerged on the Earth, and whether we are alone in the cosmos: does life exist in extraterrestrial locations as well? These deeply important questions form the core of a new kind of science, one that recently has been rapidly gathering momentum. Astrobiology is supported by a flood of new information from studies on the origins of terrestrial life, and our deep-space probes and telescopes exploring the Universe around us. The science incorporates everything from understanding the survival of life in the most extreme environments on Earth and looking for the earliest evidence of cells in the ancient rocks of our planet, to exploring the alien worlds of our solar system to determine if they have ever provided an environment suitable for life of their own.

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Vegetarian Diet 'Weakens Bones'

A vegetarian salad. Australian researchers have said that people who live on vegetarian diets have slightly weaker bones than their meat-eating counterparts. (AFP/File/Jay Directo)

From Yahoo News/AFP:

SYDNEY (AFP) – People who live on vegetarian diets have slightly weaker bones than their meat-eating counterparts, Australian researchers said Thursday.

A joint Australian-Vietnamese study of links between the bones and diet of more than 2,700 people found that vegetarians had bones five percent less dense than meat-eaters, said lead researcher Tuan Nguyen.

The issue was most pronounced in vegans, who excluded all animal products from their diet and whose bones were six percent weaker, Nguyen said.

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Don't Look Down: Terrifying View From Glass Box Balcony Jutting Out From Skyscraper's 103rd Floor

Long way up: Even the floor of the platforms are glass - few
were brave enough to look straight down

From The Daily Mail:

If you're scared of heights, it may be time to look away now.

Not content with having the tallest building in America, the owners of Sears Tower in Chicago have installed four glass box viewing platforms which stick out of the building 103 floors up.

The balconies are suspended 1,353 feet in the air and jut out four feet from the building's Skydeck.

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My Comment: This is so cool.

Friday, July 3, 2009

New Form Of El Nino May Increase Atlantic Storms

From Yahoo News/AP:

WASHINGTON – El Nino may have a split personality.

The warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean has long been known to affect weather around the world, but researchers now say it may come in two forms with different impacts.

The traditional El Nino tends to reduce the number of Atlantic hurricanes. But a form Georgia Tech scientists call El Nino Modoki can lead to more hurricanes than usual in the Atlantic Ocean. Modoki, from Japanese, refers to something that is "similar but different."

The traditional El Nino involves a periodic warming of the water in the eastern part of the tropical Pacific. Indeed, it was first noticed by Peruvian fishermen, who named it after the baby Jesus because it tended to first appear around Christmastime.

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Computer Reveals Stone Tablet 'Handwriting' In A Flash

Archaeologists have discovered more than 50,000 stone inscriptions from ancient Athens and Attica so far. However, attributing the pieces to particular cutters so they can be dated has proven tricky. Traditionally, epigraphers must hunt for giveaways to a cutter's individual style - a tiny stroke at the top of a letter, for instance (Image: Michail Panagopolous et al.)

From New Scientist:

You might call it "CSI Ancient Greece". A computer technique can tell the difference between ancient inscriptions created by different artisans, a feat that ordinarily consumes years of human scholarship.

"This is the first time anything like this had been done on a computer," says Stephen Tracy, a Greek scholar and epigrapher at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who challenged a team of computer scientists to attribute 24 ancient Greek inscriptions to their rightful maker. "They knew nothing about inscriptions," he says.

Tracy has spent his career making such attributions, which help scholars attach firmer dates to the tens of thousands of ancient Athenian and Attican stone inscriptions that have been found.

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Sea Ice At Lowest Level In 800 Years Near Greenland

There has never been so little sea ice in the area between Svalbard and Greenland in the last 800 years. (Credit: NASA/GSFC)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 2, 2009) — New research, which reconstructs the extent of ice in the sea between Greenland and Svalbard from the 13th century to the present indicates that there has never been so little sea ice as there is now. The research results from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, are published in the scientific journal, Climate Dynamics.

There are of course neither satellite images nor instrumental records of the climate all the way back to the 13th century, but nature has its own 'archive' of the climate in both ice cores and the annual growth rings of trees and we humans have made records of a great many things over the years - such as observations in the log books of ships and in harbour records. Piece all of the information together and you get a picture of how much sea ice there has been throughout time.

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How Earth Got Its Oxygen

Cyanobacteria scum is now considered a nuisance, but these microbes oxygenated our planet over 2 billion years ago. Credit: Washington State Dept. of Health

From Live Science:

The first half of Earth's history was devoid of oxygen, but it was far from lifeless. There is ongoing debate over who the main biological players were in this pre-oxygen world, but researchers are digging up clues in some of the oldest sedimentary rocks on the planet.

Most scientists believe the amount of atmospheric oxygen was insignificant up until about 2.4 billion years ago when the Great Oxidation Event (GOE) occurred. This seemingly sudden jump in oxygen levels was almost certainly due to cyanobacteria – photosynthesizing microbes that exhale oxygen.

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Fit Body, Fit Mind? Your Workout Makes You Smarter

Photo: Noah Clayton Getty Images

From Scientific America:

How can you stay sharp into old age? It is not just a matter of winning the genetic lottery. What you do can make a difference

As everybody knows, if you do not work out, your muscles get flaccid. What most people don’t realize, however, is that your brain also stays in better shape when you exercise. And not just challenging your noggin by, for example, learning a new language, doing difficult crosswords or taking on other intellectually stimulating tasks. As researchers are finding, physical exercise is critical to vigorous mental health, too.

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The Truth About Water on Mars: 5 New Findings

Lesson 4: The Lack of Perchlorate Streaks Contradicts
Evidence of Liquid Water Deposits Underground

From Popular Mechanics:

In its few months of roaming the polar area on Mars last year, the Phoenix Lander found water ice beneath the red planet's surface and snow in the atmosphere. But for those hoping that life once existed on Mars—or still might—liquid water would be the crown jewel. While Phoenix died this past November as the winter brought on shorter and colder days, project leader Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, along with a number of colleagues from NASA's Jet Propulsion lab and universities all over the world, have spent the intervening months confirming those early finds and poring over the lander's massive amounts of data. Most of the attention is focused on whether Phoenix's data conclusively shows evidence that liquid water once flowed across Mars. There is a lot of complex analysis, but, in short, signs point to yes. Here are five lessons taken from today's analysis, which was published today in four separate studies in the journal Science.

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International Space Station To Get A Big, Beautiful Window

International Space Station Cupola Window: NASA


We've seen private tourists and urine-recycling water filters make their way onto the International Space Station, but breathtaking views have never been the station's strongest selling point. Because of external hazards such as solar radiation and orbiting space debris, the biggest window is only 20 inches. Until now, that is.

The Tranquility node of the ISS is slated for a new 31-inch window, dubbed the Cupola, that will provide views of space never before seen from inside the station. NASA says astronauts will be able to gaze at Earth and the stars. [NASA via Boing Boing]

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Unlocked: The Secrets Of Schizophrenia

A colour enhanced MRI image of the brain shows one of the theories into what may be the chemical basis for Schizophrenia. Researchers have found reduced receptors for dopamine in the brain (areas colourized). NEIL BORDEN/ SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

From The Independent:

Scientific breakthrough offers hope of new treatments for mental condition.

Scientists have discovered a remarkable similarity between the genetic faults behind both schizophrenia and manic depression in a breakthrough that is expected to open the way to new treatments for two of the most common mental illnesses, affecting millions of people.

Previously doctors had assumed that the two conditions were quite separate. But new research shows for the first time that both have a common genetic basis that leads people to develop one or other of the two illnesses.

Read more ....

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Huge Underground Chamber Found--Early Christian Refuge?

A human-made, underground cave (pictured)—the largest in Israel—likely began life 2,000 years ago as a quarry but may have gone on to become a monastery, a refuge for persecuted Christians, or a Roman army base, experts said in June 2009. Photograph courtesy Moshe Einav, University of Haifa

From National Geographic:

A 2,000-year-old underground chamber has been discovered in Israel's Jordan Valley.

The largest human-made cave in Israel, the 1-acre (0.4-hectare) space is thought to have begun as a quarry. In subsequent centuries it may have served as a monastery, hideout for persecuted Christians, or Roman army base, experts say.

Archaeologists working in the valley found the cave this past March when they came across a hole in a rock face.

As they were about to enter, two fearful-looking Bedouins appeared and warned the team that hyenas and wolves inhabited the cave.

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Igniting Fusion

Ground zero: A circular access port affords a glimpse into a 10-meter-diameter target chamber where, in the coming months, powerful lasers will be fired with the goal of setting off small thermonuclear explosions. Credit: Jason Madara

From Technology Review:

Researchers at a California National Lab will soon attempt to start self-sustaining fusion reactions using the world's largest lasers. If it works, it could be a first step on the road to abundant fusion power.

It's late April and workers are assembling the last parts of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a sprawling building covering the area of three football fields at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA. Dressed in hard hats, hair nets, lab coats, and latex gloves, they have gathered at the target chamber, a sphere 10 meters in diameter and bristling with 48 burnished-aluminum ducts that together house 192 separate laser beams. Each beam on its own is one of the world's most powerful, says Bruno Van Wonterghem, operations manager at NIF. Together they deliver 50 to 60 times the energy of any other laser.

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Biological 'Fountain Of Youth' Found In New World Bat Caves

The Mexican Free-tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) lives a very long life compared to closely related animals such as mice. (Credit: Photo by Ron Groves/United States Department of Transportation)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 1, 2009) — Scientists from Texas are batty over a new discovery which could lead to the single most important medical breakthrough in human history—significantly longer lifespans. The discovery, featured on the cover of the July 2009 print issue of The FASEB Journal, shows that proper protein folding over time in long-lived bats explains why they live significantly longer than other mammals of comparable size, such as mice.

"Ultimately we are trying to discover what underlying mechanisms allow for some animal species to live a very long time with the hope that we might be able to develop therapies that allow people to age more slowly," said Asish Chaudhuri, Professor of Biochemistry, VA Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas and the senior researcher involved in the work.

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Sand Found to Flow Like Water

Low levels of surface tension cause water-like droplet formation in flows of dry granular materials. In essence, the sand flows like water. Credit: Helge F. Gruetjen, John R. Royer, Scott R. Waitukaitis, and Heinrich M. Jaeger, The University of Chicago

From Live Science:

When poured, sand behaves much like water to form water-like droplets, scientists have discovered.

The finding could be important to a wide range of industries that use "fluidized" dry particles for oil refining, plastics manufacturing and the drug industry, the researchers say.

Researchers previously thought dry particles lacked sufficient surface tension to form droplets like ordinary liquids. But physicists from the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at the University of Chicago, led by professor Heinrich M. Jaeger, used high-speed photography to measure minute levels of surface tension and detect droplet formation in flows of dry granular materials.

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SETI And The Singularity

From The Futurist:

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) seeks to answer one of the most basic questions of human identity - whether we are alone in the universe, or merely one civilization among many. It is perhaps the biggest question that any human can ponder.

The Drake Equation, created by astronomer Frank Drake in 1960, calculates the number of advanced extra-terrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy in existence at this time. Watch this 8-minute clip of Carl Sagan in 1980 walking the audience through the parameters of the Drake Equation. The Drake equation manages to educate people on the deductive steps needed to understand the basic probability of finding another civilization in the galaxy, but as the final result varies so greatly based on even slight adjustments to the parameters, it is hard to make a strong argument for or against the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence via the Drake equation. The most speculative parameter is the last one, fL, which is an estimation of the total lifespan of an advanced civilization. Again, this video clip is from 1980, and thus only 42 years after the advent of radio astronomy in 1938.

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New Class of Black Holes Discovered

From The Danger Room:

Only two sizes of black holes have ever been spotted: small and super-massive. Scientists have long speculated that an intermediate version must exist, but they’ve never been able to find one until now.

Astrophysicists identified what appears to be the first-ever medium-sized black hole, pictured in an artist’s rendition above, with a mass at least 500 times that of our Sun. Researchers from the Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements in France detected the middling hole in a galaxy about 290 million light-years from Earth.

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NASA Manager Pitches A Cheaper Return-To-Moon Plan

This undated artist's rendering released by NASA shows the Ares I crew launch vehicle during launch and the Ares V cargo launch vehicle on the launch pad. Officially, the space agency is still on track with a 4-year-old plan to spend $35 billion to build new rockets and return astronauts to the moon in several years. However, a top NASA manager is floating a cut-rate alternative that costs around $6.6billion. (AP Photo/NASA)

From Yahoo News/AP:

WASHINGTON – Like a car salesman pushing a luxury vehicle that the customer no longer can afford, NASA has pulled out of its back pocket a deal for a cheaper ride to the moon.

It won't be as powerful, and its design is a little dated. Think of it as a base-model Ford station wagon instead of a tricked-out Cadillac Escalade.

Officially, the space agency is still on track with a 4-year-old plan to spend $35 billion to build new rockets and return astronauts to the moon in several years. However, a top NASA manager is floating a cut-rate alternative that costs around $6.6billion.

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Space Shuttle To Launch July 11 After Successful Leak Test

In this image provided by NASA the afternoon sun creates shadows on space shuttle Endeavour's external fuel tank as workers remove the seal from the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate on the tank Wednesday June 24, 2009. A hydrogen leak at the location during tanking for the STS-127 mission caused the launch attempts to be scrubbed on June 13 and June 17. NASA plans a fueling test Wednesday July 1, 2009 of shuttle ahead of July 11 launch attempt. (AP Photo/NASA)

From Yahoo News/

NASA will try to launch the space shuttle Endeavour on July 11, nearly a month late, after plugging a potentially dangerous hydrogen gas leak, top mission managers said Wednesday.

Endeavour successfully passed a leak check during a fueling test at its seaside Florida launch pad today, setting the stage for a planned 7:39 p.m. EDT (2339 GMT) liftoff toward the International Space Station on July 11, said Mike Moses, who leads the shuttle's mission management team.

NASA initially tried to launch Endeavour on June 13, then again on June 17, but the hydrogen gas leak in the shuttle's external fuel tank thwarted both attempts.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Humans Could Regrow Their Own Body Parts Like Some Amphibians, Claim Scientists

From The Telegraph:

Regenerating your own amputated arms and legs, broken spines and even damaged brains is the stuff of superheroes - but it could one day be a reality, claim scientists.

Researchers looking into how salamanders are able to to regrow their damaged bodies have discovered that the "almost magical ability" is closer to human healing then first thought.

They believe that one day they will be able to completely unlock the secret and apply it to humans, reprogramming the body so it can repair itself perfectly as if nothing had happened.

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Laser Light Switch Could Leave Transistors In The Shade

This experimental set-up was used to show that it is possible to make a transistor that acts using laser beams, not electric currents (Image: Martin Pototschnig)

From New Scientist:

An optical transistor that uses one laser beam to control another could form the heart of a future generation of ultrafast light-based computers, say Swiss researchers.

Conventional computers are based on transistors, which allow one electrode to control the current moving through the device and are combined to form logic gates and processors. The new component achieves the same thing, but for laser beams, not electric currents.

A green laser beam is used to control the power of an orange laser beam passing through the device.

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Volcano's Eruption Creates Colorful U.S. Sunsets

Russia's Sarychev Peak volcano erupted June 12, prompting goregous sunsets like the one in this photo taken by Rick Schrantz of Nicholasville, Kentucky on June 29. Credit: Rick Schrantz

From Live Science:

Many people in the United States and Europe are seeing gorgeous lavender sunsets lately thanks to the eruption more than two weeks ago of Russia's Sarychev Peak volcano.

The volcano blew its top June 12, generating a remarkable shock wave in the atmosphere seen in a photo taken by astronauts. It also hurled massive plumes of sulfur dioxide into the air, and that material has been circling the globe.

Deep purple hues and ripples of white characterize the spectacular views the past few evenings.

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Orange Juice Worse For Teeth Than Whitening Agents, Study Finds

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 1, 2009) — With the increasing popularity of whitening one’s teeth, researchers at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, part of the University of Rochester Medical Center, set out to learn if there are negative effects on the tooth from using whitening products.

Eastman Institute’s YanFang Ren, DDS, PhD, and his team determined that the effects of 6 percent hydrogen peroxide, the common ingredient in professional and over-the-counter whitening products, are insignificant compared to acidic fruit juices. Orange juice markedly decreased hardness and increased roughness of tooth enamel.

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Sprawl! Is Earth Becoming A Planet of SuperCities?

From The Daily Galaxy:

Imagine a planet dominated by cities like Mega-City One, a megalopolis of over 400 million people across the east coast of the United States, featured in the Judge Dredd comic or "San Angeles," formed from the joining of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and the surrounding metropolitan regions following a massive earthquake featured in the 1993 movie "Demolition Man."

Don't hold your breath: the 21st century will soon have 19 cities with populations of 20 million or more.

The history of the human species is a history of migration. In 1000 A.D. Cordova, Spain was the largest city. By 1500, Bejing began its rise to power, and 300 years later it was the first city to be over a million people. By 1900 London emerged the world's supercity with over 6 million people. In 1950 New York was proclaimed the first "megacity" with a population of over 10 million people in the greater metropolitan area.

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Amazing Pictures Of The Seal Who Narrowly Escaped Becoming A Snack For A Killer Whale

Evasive action: Seal rolls onto its back as the whale,
water cascading down its back, decides to end pursuit

From The Daily Mail:

These dramatic pictures reveal the stunning hunting skills of a killer whale and show the extremes the mammals will go to in order to catch its prey.

Regarded as one of the deadliest predators of the seas, this killer whale has mastered the art of beaching itself in order to hunt young seal pups in shallow waters.

Captured on the coast of Patagonia in Argentina, this amazing sequence of images show how a lucky young seal evaded the giant mammal as it emerged from the icy waters.

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Firefox Aims to Unplug Scripting Attacks

Photo: Patsy attack: An attacker (shown in red) can use cross-site scripting to force a user's computer (left) to attack another system (middle), just by visiting a seemingly innocent website (top). Credit:

From Technology Review:

How websites can block code from unknown sources.

Sites that rely on user-created content can unwittingly be employed to attack their own users via JavaScript and other common forms of Web code. This security issue, known as cross-site scripting (XSS), can, for example, allow an attacker to access a victim's account and steal personal data.

Now the makers of the Firefox Web browser plan to adopt a strategy to help block the attacks. The technology, called Content Security Policy (CSP), will let a website's owner specify what Internet domains are allowed to host the scripts that run on its pages.

Read more ....

The Genetic Secrets Of Younger-Looking Skin

Photo: The secrets of youthful skin are being revealed (Image: Laurence Mouton/Photo Alto/Jupiter)

From New Scientist:

GENETIC analyses of human skin are revealing more about what makes us look old. As well as throwing up ways to smooth away wrinkles, the studies may provide a quantifiable way to test claims made for skin products.

In the past, cosmetics companies relied on subjective assessments of skin appearance, and changes in its thickness, colour and protein composition, to evaluate the effectiveness of their products and work out the quantities of ingredients needed to get the best results. "It was totally hit and miss," says Rosemary Osborne of Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Read more ....

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Most Complete Earth Map Published

An image of Death Valley - the lowest, driest, and hottest location in North America - composed of a simulated natural color image overlayed with digital topography data from the ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model.

From BBC:

The most complete terrain map of the Earth's surface has been published.

The data, comprising 1.3 million images, come from a collaboration between the US space agency Nasa and the Japanese trade ministry.

The images were taken by Japan's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (Aster) aboard the Terra satellite.

The resulting Global Digital Elevation Map covers 99% of the Earth's surface, and will be free to download and use.

The Terra satellite, dedicated to Earth monitoring missions, has shed light on issues ranging from algal blooms to volcano eruptions.

Read more ....

Missing Moon-Landing Videotapes May Have Been Found

From FOX News:

Just in time for the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, NASA may have found the long-lost original Apollo 11 videotapes.

If true, as Britain's Sunday Express reports, the high-quality tapes may give us a whole new view of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's lunar strolls.

Back on July 20, 1969, the raw video feed from the moon was beamed to the Parkes Observatory radio telescope in southeastern Australia, and then compressed and sent to Mission Control in Houston.

Because of technical issues, NASA's images couldn't be fed directly to the TV networks.

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Dino Tooth Sheds New Light On Ancient Riddle: Major Group Of Dinosaurs Had Unique Way Of Eating

These are teeth from the lower jaw of a hadrosaur, Edmontosaurus, showing its multiple rows of leaf-shaped teeth. The worn, chewing surface of the teeth is towards the top. (Credit: Vince Williams, University of Leicester)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2009) — Microscopic analysis of scratches on dinosaur teeth has helped scientists unravel an ancient riddle of what a major group of dinosaurs ate -- and exactly how they did it!

Now for the first time, a study led by the University of Leicester, has found evidence that the duck-billed dinosaurs -- the Hadrosaurs -- in fact had a unique way of eating, unlike any living creature today.

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What Supersonic Looks Like

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft participating in Northern Edge 2009 executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) while the ship is underway in the Gulf of Alaska on June 22, 2009. The visual effect is created by moisture trapped between crests in a sound wave at or near the moment a jet goes supersonic. Credit: DoD/Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett, U.S. Navy

From Live Science:

The breaking of the sound barrier is not just an audible phenomenon. As a new picture from the U.S. military shows, Mach 1 can be quite visual.

This widely circulated new photo shows a Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft participating in an exercise in the Gulf of Alaska June 22, 2009 as it executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

The visual phenomenon, which sometimes but not always accompanies the breaking of the sound barrier, has also been seen with nuclear blasts and just after space shuttles launches, too. A vapor cone was photographed as the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission rocketed skyward in 1969.

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Elgin Marble Argument In A New Light

The bronzed original sculptures stand in contrast to the white reproductions of the part of the frieze now displayed in the British Museum. Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

From The New York Times:

ATHENS — Not long before the new Acropolis Museum opened last weekend, the writer Christopher Hitchens hailed in this newspaper what he called the death of an argument.

Britain used to say that Athens had no adequate place to put the Elgin Marbles, the more than half of the Parthenon frieze, metopes and pediments that Lord Elgin spirited off when he was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire two centuries ago. Since 1816 they have been prizes of the British Museum. Meanwhile, Greeks had to make do with the leftovers, housed in a ramshackle museum built in 1874.

So the new museum that Bernard Tschumi, the Swiss-born architect, has devised near the base of the Acropolis is a $200 million, 226,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art rebuttal to Britain’s argument.

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Is Farming The Root Of All Evil

Cereal killer: the introduction of agriculture was followed by malnutrition and disease Photo: GETTY

From The Telegraph:

Academics have claimed that moving away from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle was 'the worst mistake in history'. But are they right?

Last week, Sir Paul McCartney urged us, amid a blaze of publicity, to curb our carnivorous lifestyles and go meat-free on Mondays, in order to reduce the damage that modern agriculture does to the planet. But for all the recent talk about the pros and cons of farming, and how the methods we use are affecting the environment, a more basic point has been missed e_SEnD that growing crops might be damaging not just to the environment but to the development of our own species. Could it be that rather than being a boon to mankind, the invention of agriculture was, in the words of one academic, "the worst mistake in human history"?

Read more ....

Scots Fought 'In Bright Yellow War Shirts Not Braveheart Kilts'

From The Telegraph:

Medieval Scottish soldiers fought wearing bright yellow war shirts dyed in horse urine rather than the tartan plaid depicted in the film Braveheart, according to new research.

Historian Fergus Cannan states that the Scots armies who fought in battles like Bannockburn, and Flodden Field would have looked very different to the way they have traditionally been depicted.

Instead of kilts, he said they wore saffron-coloured tunics called "leine croich" and used a range of ingredients to get the boldest possible colours.

Read more ....

Science Must Never Be Politicized Nor "Suppressed"

EPA analyst Alan Carlin raised questions about the impact of global warming on areas like Greenland. Shown here is an iceberg off Ammassalik Island, Greenland. (AP Photo)

Sen. Inhofe Calls for Inquiry Into 'Suppressed' Climate Change Report -- FOX News

Republicans are raising questions about why the EPA apparently dismissed an analyst's report questioning the science behind global warming.

A top Republican senator has ordered an investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency's alleged suppression of a report that questioned the science behind global warming.

The 98-page report, co-authored by EPA analyst Alan Carlin, pushed back on the prospect of regulating gases like carbon dioxide as a way to reduce global warming. Carlin's report argued that the information the EPA was using was out of date, and that even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased, global temperatures have declined.

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My Comment: News like this only reinforces the perception that climate change is driven more by politics than by science.

Monday, June 29, 2009

First Electronic Quantum Processor Created

The two-qubit processor is the first solid-state quantum processor that resembles a conventional computer chip and is able to run simple algorithms. (Credit: Blake Johnson/Yale University)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 29, 2009) — A team led by Yale University researchers has created the first rudimentary solid-state quantum processor, taking another step toward the ultimate dream of building a quantum computer.

They also used the two-qubit superconducting chip to successfully run elementary algorithms, such as a simple search, demonstrating quantum information processing with a solid-state device for the first time. Their findings will appear in Nature's advanced online publication June 28.

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Getting Old Is Better Than Expected

From Live Science:

When do we get old? People age 18 to 29 say "old age" starts at about 60. But those in middle-age figure it starts at 70. And those 65 and older put the threshold at 74.

So it goes with other perceptions about aging in a new survey form the Pew Research Center. The disparities between what younger people expect will happen as they age, and what really happens, are stark.

Good memory, good health, good sex. It's enough to make the grandkids cringe!

Adults age 18 to 64 were asked what they expect will happen when they get old. Those 65 and older were asked what actually has happened to them. The results (18-64 / 65 and older):

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Oldest Known Portrait Of St Paul Revealed By Vatican Archaeologists

The 4th-century portrait was found in the catacombs of St Thecla,
not far from the Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls.

From Times Online:

Vatican archaeologists have uncovered what they say is the oldest known portrait of St Paul. The portrait, which was found two weeks ago but has been made public only after restoration, shows St Paul with a high domed forehead, deep-set eyes and a long pointed beard, confirming the image familiar from later depictions.

L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, which devoted two pages to the discovery, said that the oval portrait, dated to the 4th century, had been found in the catacombs of St Thecla, not far from the Basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, where the apostle is buried. The find was “an extraordinary event”, said Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

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Swine Flu 'Shows Drug Resistance'

From The BBC:

Experts have reported the first case of swine flu that is resistant to tamiflu - the main drug being used to fight the pandemic.

Roche Holding AG confirmed a patient with H1N1 influenza in Denmark showed resistance to the antiviral drug.

David Reddy, company executive, said it was not unexpected given that common seasonal flu could do the same.

The news comes as a nine-year-old girl has become the third to die in the UK with swine flu.

It is understood from her doctors at Birmingham Children's Hospital that she had underlying health conditions. It is not yet known whether swine flu contributed to her death.

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Men Agree On What's Hot In The Opposite Sex (But Girls Do Not)

Image: Queen of the seductive pose: Katie Price ticks the boxes for men as she is thin and confident

From The Daily Mail:

Men agree on what is attractive in the opposite sex far more than women do, says a study.

The survey of 4,000 adults found that most men liked women who were thin and posing seductively.

Women, in contrast, were enticed by a far wider range of male characteristics.

The results could explain why women feel pressured to conform to a narrow view of attractiveness, and suffer more eating disorders, the scientists said.

Participants in the study rated photographs of men and women aged 18 to 25 for attractiveness.

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Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network's Plan to Dominate the Internet — and Keep Google Out

From Wired News:

Larry Page should have been in a good mood. It was the fall of 2007, and Google's cofounder was in the middle of a five-day tour of his company's European operations in Zurich, London, Oxford, and Dublin. The trip had been fun, a chance to get a ground-floor look at Google's ever-expanding empire. But this week had been particularly exciting, for reasons that had nothing to do with Europe; Google was planning a major investment in Facebook, the hottest new company in Silicon Valley.

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High-Tech Telescopes Yield New Galactic Photos: Gallery

From Popular Mechanics:

Some of the most important telescopes ever created are now floating in space. A freshly repaired Hubble Space Telescope is again snapping pictures, NASA's Kepler telescope is orbiting Earth fresh off its first light and Herschel—the largest space telescope ever—has taken its first images since its May 14th launch. While astronomers using ground-based telescopes are finding exoplanets at an impressive rate, thanks to refined techniques and collaborative efforts, space telescopes operating from beyond Earth's atmosphere have a geographic edge: With no interference, they can get a clearer view of the universe. The following images show some of the spectacular sights astronomers have been able to glimpse through the new hardware.

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Innovation: Physics Brings Realism To Virtual Reality

From New Scientist:

Innovation is our regular column that highlights the latest emerging technological ideas and where they may lead.

Computer games have come a long way from the pixelated graphics of the 1980s to the more polished characters of today. But the inexorable creep of Moore's Law has now taken us to the brink of further giant changes.

The latest multi-core processors and some smart software allow techniques used by physicists and engineers to simulate the real world in extreme detail to be used to create virtual worlds governed by real physics, rather than the simplified versions used today.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Debate: Can The Internet Handle Big Breaking News?

From CNET News:

It happens time and time again: when news breaks, the Internet slows.

It's quite obvious at this point that the Internet has muscled its way into the lives of anyone who needs information. And Michael Jackson's death Thursday had as great an impact on the Internet as anything in the history of the medium that didn't involve the World Trade Center.

The statistics are amazing: Akamai said worldwide Internet traffic was 11 percent higher than normal during the peak hours between 3 p.m. PDT and 4 p.m., when news of Jackson's death was breaking. That traffic forced even Google to its knees for a brief period of time Thursday afternoon.

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Archaeological Treasure Trove Surfaces In S.C.

From The State:

HILTON HEAD — An archaeologist who’s been digging at the Topper Site in Allendale County for 11 years is uncovering new evidence that could rewrite America’s history.

University of South Carolina archaeologist Albert Goodyear found artifacts at this rock quarry site near the Savannah River that indicate humans lived here 37,000 years before the Clovis people. History books say the Clovis were the first Americans and arrived here 13,000 years ago by walking across a land bridge from Asia.

Goodyear’s discovery could prove otherwise.

His findings are controversial, opening scientific minds to the possibility of an even earlier pre-Clovis occupation of America.

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Why A Low-Calorie Diet Extends Lifespans: Critical Enzyme Pair Identified

The enzyme WWP-1, shown in green, is a key player in the signaling cascade that links dietary restriction to longevity in roundworms. Sensory neurons are shown in red. (Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Andrea C. Carrano, Salk Institute for Biological Studies)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 28, 2009) — Experiment after experiment confirms that a diet on the brink of starvation expands lifespan in mice and many other species. But the molecular mechanism that links nutrition and survival is still poorly understood. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a pivotal role for two enzymes that work together to determine the health benefits of diet restriction.

When lacking one enzyme or the other, roundworms kept on a severely calorie-restricted diet no longer live past their normal lifespan, they report in the June 24, 2009, advance online edition of the journal Nature.

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Potential New Drugs Put at 970 Million

From Live Science:

Millions of new and useful drugs remain undiscovered. All chemists need to do is mix the right stuff.

That's the view of a new study that analyzes the "chemical universe" to identify existing molecules that could be combined into as-yet unknown chemicals. The researchers estimate there are at least 970 million chemicals suitable for study as new drugs.

The researchers have created a new publicly available database of the virtual molecules, and they will detail their results in the July 1 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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