Saturday, August 8, 2009

Shuttle Astronauts Practice Launch Pad Escape

The space shuttle Discovery lifts off (Reuters: Scott Audette)

From Yahoo News/

Seven astronauts climbed aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery Friday for a vital drill to practice escaping from the spacecraft at the launch pad and go over plans for their late August blast off.

Clad in bright orange pressure suits, the astronauts strapped into Discovery at NASA's seaside Kennedy Space Center in Florida and rehearsed the last few hours before liftoff before scurrying out the shuttle's hatch to a set of baskets designed to zip down a 1,200-foot slide wire away from the launch pad in the event of an emergency.

The exercise capped a three-day training session to give Discovery's astronauts some hands-on experience with the spacecraft before their planned Aug. 25 launch to the International Space Station.

Read more ....

Why ARE So Many Planes Falling Out Of The Sky? A Spate Of Disastrous Crashes Reveals One Terrifying Common Flaw...

Some of the debris from the missing Air France flight was eventually recovered

From the Daily Mail:

Three hours into the flight, none of the 216 passengers would have had any reason to be concerned. As the dinner plates in business class were being cleared away, the beaches of northern Brazil, 35,000ft below, were slipping past at 550mph. Some of the passengers might have ordered an after-dinner drink, others might have been crawling beneath their blankets, hoping for a few hours' sleep.

Read more ....

San Diego Zoo's Giant Panda, Bai Yun, Gives Birth To A Healthy Cub

From The L.A. Times:

Late last month, the San Diego Zoo announced that its resident female giant panda, Bai Yun, was pregnant. Pandas' reproductive systems are still largely a mystery to researchers, so even zoo staff, who'd been monitoring Bai Yun extremely closely, didn't know when she would give birth.

Today just before 5 a.m., Bai Yun gave birth to what the zoo's senior research technician Suzanne Hall called a "vigorous, squawking" cub. For about 24 hours prior to the birth, Bai Yun had been restless, alternating between sleep and bouts of nest-building, Hall wrote on the zoo's blog. The cub's gender is not yet known.

Twitter Continues to Battle DDoS Attack

From PC World:

More than two days after experiencing a complete outage as a result of a distribute denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, Twitter and other social networking sites such as Facebook are still battling a surge in traffic related to the attack. Twitter has taken some steps to mitigate the spike in traffic and ensure that the site is not knocked offline again, but some of those steps are having an impact on third-party tools that link to Twitter through API's (application programming interface).

Read more ....

More Accurate Weather Forecasts Coming Soon

Queen's University Belfast engineers Raymond Dickie (L) and Professor Robert Cahill (R) are pictured with their new filter, that for the first time, will give scientists access to a completely new range of data, leading to improved accuracy in weather forecasting. (Credit: Queen's University Belfast Media Services)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 7, 2009) — More accurate global weather forecasts and a better understanding of climate change are in prospect, thanks to a breakthrough by engineers at Queen's University Belfast's Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT).

The ECIT team has developed a high performance electronic device -- known as a dual polarized Frequency Selective Surface filter -- that is to be used in future European Space Agency (ESA) missions.

Read more ....

How Fast Can Sprinters Go?

From Live Science:

Well, maybe Usain Bolt was right after all. As discussed in our Physiology of Speed story, Bolt predicted he could run 100 meters in 9.54 seconds, lowering his own world record of 9.69 seconds.

Now, researchers from Tilburg University in the Netherlands say he could shave another 3/100ths of a second off and hit the tape at 9.51 seconds.

Using the "extreme value theory," Professor of Statistics John Einmahl and former student Sander Smeets have calculated the fastest possible times for men and women. Between 1991 and 2008, they chronicled the best times for 762 male sprinters and 469 female sprinters. They did not trust the data prior to 1991 as possibly being tainted by doping athletes (not that's its gotten much better since then.)

Read more ....

Extinction Hits 'Whole Families'

From The BBC:

Whole "chunks of life" are lost in extinction events, as related species vanish together, say scientists.

A study in the journal Science shows that extinctions tend to "cluster" on evolutionary lineages - wiping out species with a common ancestor.

The finding is based on an examination of past extinctions, but could help current conservation efforts.

Researchers say that this phenomenon can result in the loss of an entire branch of the "tree of life".

The message for modern conservation, say the authors, is that some groups are more vulnerable to extinction than others, and the focus should be on the lineages most at risk.

Read more ....

Fast-Spinning Black Holes Might Reveal All

Image: Spinning away in space (Image: David A. Aguilar (CfA))

From New Scientist:

IT IS the ultimate cosmic villain: space and time come to an abrupt end in its presence and the laws of physics break down. Now it seems a "naked" black hole may yet emerge in our universe, after spinning away its event horizon.

In 1969, physicist Roger Penrose postulated that every singularity, or black hole, must be shrouded by an event horizon from which nothing, including light, can escape. His Cosmic Censorship Conjecture has it that singularities are always hidden.

Read more ....

Apollo Led To Cosmic Shift In Human Condition

The Earth is photographed, seemingly rising up from behind the Moon, by Apollo 8 crewmember Bill Anders in December 1968. Credit: NASA

From Cosmos:

One of the many legacies of the Apollo program was the way it caused an extraordinary, enduring – and, for some, troubling – change in how we perceived the universe and our place in it.

Before Apollo, the Moon was distant and aloof, a symbol of everything that is unattainable, a place of dreams, an object of superstition and veneration.

After being explored by Apollo 11 on July 20 1969, the Moon's enigma was stripped away. Human willpower and the rigour of science revealed it to be an arid, airless, inhospitable rock for which there was little use as a resource.

Read more ....

How Lice Thwarted Napoleon's Invasion of Russia

Napoleon's failed 1812 invasion of Russia has long been blamed on the weather. But a new theory argues that body lice were to blame. DPA

From Der Spiegel:

His invasion of Russia failed miserably, leaving a trail of corpses from Moscow all the way to Paris. In a new book, one historian blames not the wintry march but the spread of "war plague" -- typhus -- through Napoleon's Grand Army.

The fate of Napoleon's Grand Army was sealed long before the first shot was fired. In the spring of 1812, more than 600,000 men marched towards Russia under the command of the diminutive Corsican -- an army larger than the population of Paris at the time.

Read more ....

Raise A Glass To The Science Of Beer

John Mills enjoys a drink in the classic film Ice Cold in Alex (1958)
Photo: Ronald Grant Archive

From The Telegraph:

As the Great British Beer Festival opens in London, a scientific look at the drink that helped shape the nation.

He is the stock in trade of cartoonists and comics – that lonely figure, tie askew, sitting at the bar, contemplating fate while gazing into a pint of beer. Should you find yourself in this situation, short of company, you could do a lot worse than stare into your own glass, for it is there that you will find a microcosm of the world around you.

Read more ....

'Cloud Ship' Scheme To Deflect The Sun's Rays Is Favourite To Cut Global Warming

The unmanned ships would be directed by satellite to areas with the best conditions for increasing cloud cover.

From The Telegraph:

Ships with giant funnels which travel the world's seas creating more clouds to deflect the sun's rays could help cut global warming, say scientists.

The "cloud ships" are favoured among a series of schemes aimed at altering the climate which have been weighed up by a leading think-tank.

The project, which is being worked on by rival US and UK scientists, would see 1,900 wind-powered ships ply the oceans sucking up seawater and spraying minuscule droplets of it out through tall funnels to create large white clouds.

Read more ....

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Future of Farming: Eight Solutions For a Hungry World

Desert Oasis: The Sahara Forest Project will use concentrating solar power to provide energy to greenhouses in the desert. Paul Wootton

From Popular Science:

The challenge of growing twice as much food by 2050 to feed nine billion people—with less and less land—is everyone’s problem. But scientists are hard at work fomenting a second green revolution.

Today’s crops crisscross the globe: Mexico’s tomatoes end up on your plate, our wheat heads to Africa. As a result, the challenge of growing twice as much food by 2050 to feed nine billion people—with less and less land—is everyone’s problem. But scientists are hard at work fomenting a second green revolution. Here’s how nitrogen-spewing microbes, underground soil sensors and fruit-picking robots will help keep food on our tables.

Read more ....

Titan Moon Resembles Earth

Titan Earth Moon Comparison (Image Wikipedia)

From The Independent:

Saturn's smog-ridden moon Titan bears a striking resemblance to Earth despite its alien environment, a study has revealed.

Scientists have now mapped a third of Titan's surface using radar to pierce the planet-sized moon's thick atmosphere.

The probe has revealed mountain ranges, dunes, numerous lakes and suspected volcanoes.

Just as on Earth, the weather on Titan appears to have erased most evidence of meteorite craters.

Read more ....

Climate Change Melting US Glaciers At Faster Rate, Study Finds

A composite image showing South Cascade glacier in Washington state (year 2000, left, 2006, right). A new study today found a sharp rise in the melt rate of three key American glaciers over the last 10-15 years. Photograph: USGS

From The Guardian:

US geological survey commissioned by Obama administration indicates a sharp rise in the melt rate of key American glaciers over the last 10-15 years.

Climate change is melting America's glaciers at the fastest rate in recorded history, exposing the country to higher risks of drought and rising sea levels, a US government study of glaciers said today.

The long-running study of three "benchmark" glaciers in Alaska and Washington state by the US geological survey (USGS) indicated a sharp rise in the melt rate over the last 10 or 15 years.

Read more ....

Wonder Wall: The 400ft Shoal Of Sardines Captured By Divers On Philippine Reef

Silver lining: The divers described the shimmering shoal as a cloud,
whipping up the water like a tornado.

From The Daily Mail:

This incredible wall of shimmering silver fish was captured by stunned divers who had been exploring a reef in the Philippines.

The spectacle is known as the 'sardine run', and occurs in the region every July.

The vast shoal, which measured around 50ft wide, 50ft deep and 400ft long, was spotted off the coast of Pescador Island.

The divers described its presence like a cloud as it swarmed around them, whipping up the water like a tornado before shooting off on their way.

This photograph was snapped by American diver Erwin Poliakoff, who was on holiday with his wife and teenage son at the time.

Read more ....

Kepler Orbiting Telescope

From Science Daily:

Planet-finder Shows Its Power: Kepler Orbiting Telescope Should Soon Find Alien Earths

ScienceDaily (Aug. 7, 2009) — The first results are in from the Kepler orbiting observatory, the world's most powerful planet-searching telescope, and according to MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager they show that the instrument should have no trouble detecting "alien Earths" -- planets that are about the size of our own.

Read more ...

Bookyards Editor: For ebooks on science, go here.

No Evidence That Therapy Can Turn Gays Straight

From Live Science:

Gays and lesbians have long been encouraged to change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments, on the assumption that homosexuality is merely a lifestyle choice.
That advice should change, psychologists now say.
Mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments, according to a new resolution adopted by the American Psychological Association.
The reason: It won't work, the group has concluded.

Read more ...

Why Twitter Went Offline Yesterday

Twitter Down: It's an Online Attack on One Political Blogger -- ABC News

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube Hit By Attack on Activist in Former Soviet Republic

Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, Google Blogger and other Web sites were hobbled Thursday -- Twitter was completely down for many users -- and it all appears to have been because of a coordinated online attack on one political blogger in the Republic of Georgia.

The man called himself "Cyxymu." ABC News tracked him down in Tblisi, Georgia, and spoke to him by phone.

Read more ....

My Comment: I guess someone in Russia does not like the message that is coming out of Georgia.

DOE Energy Hubs On The Brink

Photo: Bell's Nobels: Steven Chu, speaking at MIT on the subject of energy innovation hubs, cited the success of Bell Laboratories at spurring invention. The inset is a slide from his talk, picturing the inventors of the transistor and the first of many Nobel Prize winners, including Chu, from Bell Labs. Credit: MIT World/Technology Review

From Technology Review:

Research centers conceived to speed energy-related research are facing a tough battle in Congress.

A major effort to revamp research and development at the Department of Energy, which Energy Secretary Steven Chu says is critical to solving energy-related challenges, hangs in the balance as the Obama administration attempts to make its case to a skeptical Congress.

Last month, the House and Senate committees responsible for appropriating money to the Department of Energy shot down Chu's proposed "Energy Innovation Hubs," with the House killing funding for all but one of the eight proposed hubs and the Senate provisionally funding only three. The House committee called the hubs redundant and criticized the Department of Energy for a lack of planning and clear communication about them. Since then, the department has issued much more detailed accounts of the hubs, and the Obama administration has said it "strongly opposes" the committee's decision to cut the requested funds.

Read more ....

Martian Methane Mystery Deepens

The Martian surface is very hostile to organics say scientists

From The BBC:

Methane on Mars is being produced and destroyed far faster than on Earth, according to analysis of recent data.

Scientists in Paris used a computer climate model for the Red Planet to simulate observations made from Earth.

It shows the gas is unevenly distributed in the Martian atmosphere and changes with the seasons.

The presence of methane on Mars is intriguing because its origin could either be life or geological activity - including volcanism.

Read more ....

New Planet-finder Shows Its Power: Kepler Orbiting Telescope Should Soon Find Alien Earths

Artist concept of Kepler in space. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 7, 2009) — The first results are in from the Kepler orbiting observatory, the world's most powerful planet-searching telescope, and according to MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager they show that the instrument should have no trouble detecting "alien Earths" -- planets that are about the size of our own.

After its launch on March 6, Kepler began taking test data for engineering purposes. It was this engineering data, before the official inauguration of science operations, that produced the observatory's first published results, appearing this week in the journal Science. Seager, the Ellen Swallow Richards Associate Professor of Planetary Science and Associate Professor of Physics, is part of the Kepler science team but was not personally involved in this initial paper. She appeared at a NASA press conference on Thursday, Aug. 6, to comment on the significance of the results.

Read more ....

Ganges Delta: Gorgeous, Wild And Deadly

This Envisat image highlights the Ganges Delta, the world’s largest delta, in the south Asia area of Bangladesh (visible) and India. This image was created by combining three Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar acquisitions taken over the same area. The colours in the image result from variations in the surface that occurred between acquisitions. Credit: ESA

From Live Science:

Satellites have captured a snapshot of the Ganges delta, the world’s largest river delta and one of the most geographically turbulent spots in the world.

The interweaving network of streams that make up the Ganges Delta in South Asia is formed by the joining of three rivers – the Padma, Jamuna, and Meghna rivers. More than 100 million people (mostly Bangladeshi) call the delta home, relying mostly on rice, tea and other crops for subsistence. The region is also inhabited by around 1,000 endangered Bengal tigers.

Read more ....

Large Hadron Collider To Restart At Half Its Designed Energy

A technician inspects the site of a faulty electrical connection that damaged the LHC in September 2008 (Image: CERN)

From The New Scientist:

The world's most powerful particle smasher will restart in November at just half the energy the machine was designed to reach. But even at this level, the Large Hadron Collider has the potential to uncover exotic new physics, such as signs of hidden extra dimensions, physicists say.

The LHC is a new particle accelerator at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, designed to answer fundamental questions, such as what gives elementary particles their mass, by colliding particles at higher energies than ever achieved in a laboratory before.

Read more ....

Long Debate Ended Over Cause, Demise Of Ice Ages – Solar And Earth Wobble – CO2 Not Main Driver

The above image shows how much the Earth’s orbit can vary in shape. This process in a slow one, taking roughly 100,000 to cycle. (Credit: Texas A&M University)

From Watts Up With That:

Long debate ended over cause, demise of ice ages – may also help predict future.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – A team of researchers says it has largely put to rest a long debate on the underlying mechanism that has caused periodic ice ages on Earth for the past 2.5 million years – they are ultimately linked to slight shifts in solar radiation caused by predictable changes in Earth’s rotation and axis.

Read more ....

Roman Emperor Vespasian's Villa Found

An archaeologist works on the site of Roman Emperor Vespasian's summer villa. Titus Flavius Vespasianus, the emperor who ordered the construction of the Colosseum, ascended to the throne at the ripe old age of 60 and remained emperor until his death at age 69.

From Discovery News:

Aug. 6, 2009 -- The summer villa of Roman Emperor Vespasian has been found in the Sabine hill country northeast of Rome, Italian archaeologists announced today.

Titus Flavius Vespasianus is known for rebuilding the Roman Empire following the tumultuous reign of Emporer Nero. Vespasian changed the face of Rome by launching a major public works program, which included the construction of the Colosseum, the structure that arguably defines the glory of ancient Rome.

Read more ....

First U.S. "Power Tower" Lights Up California

POWER TOWER: By focusing sunlight with mirrors onto central towers, such concentrating solar power plants turn the sun's heat into electricity. Courtesy of eSolar

From Scientific American:

Turning the sun's heat into electricity--by concentrating it with thousands of mirrors onto a tower.

In southern California's Antelope Valley, 24,000 silver-bright mirrors have been positioned to reflect light on two 50-meter-tall towers. And at 11:08 A.M. local time Wednesday, this concentrated light heated steam in those towers to turn a turbine—the first "power towers" in the U.S. to convert the sun's heat into electricity for commercial use.

Read more ....

Swine Flu Vaccine 'By September'

From the BBC:

The first swine flu vaccines are likely to be licensed for use in the general population in September, the World Health Organization has announced.

Several manufacturers have produced initial batches of a H1N1 vaccine and some clinical trials are already underway.

WHO director of vaccine research Dr Marie-Paule Kieny also sought to calm fears about safety of new vaccines.

She said the vaccines were based on "old and proven technology".

Figures show continuing rises in cases in the southern hemisphere in the past seven days.

Argentina has particularly seen a large increase and deaths now stand at 337.

And there has been a rise in cases of 25% in Australia.

Read more ....

Micro Flying Robots Can Fly More Effectively Than Flies

RoboFly a robot model of fruit fly wings that is 100 times larger than a fruit fly. It is submerged in oil to simulate the viscosity of the sticky air around the wing of a real fruit fly. (Credit: Dickinson lab)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 6, 2009) — Engineers have long been stymied in their attempts to fabricate micro aerial robots that can match the amazing flight capabilities of nature’s most advanced flying insects ¾flies. Such robot flies -- if they could be made efficient enough for long missions -- could be used for a variety of tasks, from spying, to mine detection to search and rescue missions in collapsed buildings.

Read more ....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Discovery Really Scratches An Itch

A neuron found in the spinal cords of mice could be responsible for sending itch messages to the brain. It likely works the same in humans. The finding could lead to treatments for serious human itches. Image credit: stockxpert

From Live Science:

The urge to scratch a mosquito bite or skin rash can be maddening. Now, scientists have pinpointed a group of neurons that signal it's time to relieve the itch.

Disabling the neurons eliminated itching in mice, which are thought to be a good analogue to humans for neurobiology studies.

The work could pave the way for treatment of serious human itches, such as psoriasis and eczema, said study scientist Zhou-Feng Chen of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Read more ....

Spying For Science: Military Satellites Aid Civilian Research

From Popular Mechanics:

American spy satellites have captured an exhaustive array of images of the Earth. After all, they have been taking photographs since the early days of the space race. In the 1990s, when climate change and other earth science issues came to the forefront, researchers began to realize that the government's unparalleled data could be a huge boon—if scientists were allowed access to classified images. Jeff Dozier was one of the first permitted behind the veil of secrecy. In the early 1990s Dozier, then a prof at the University of California, Santa Barbara, briefed Al Gore, then a Senator from Tennessee, about the opportunities that intelligence satellite photos could present to science. Gore wrote a letter to then-CIA director Robert Gates (now the Secretary of Defense), and this effort gave birth to the Medea program. A few dozen scientists, Dozier included, gained clearance to view spy satellite photos for their research, and shortly thereafter Pres. Bill Clinton declassified all spy satellite photos taken before 1972. Here are five times spy photos contributed to science, even when the photos themselves remained classified.

Read more ....

Radio Telescopes Turn The Moon Into World's Largest Neutrino Detector

Neutrino Detector? courtesy of NASA

From Popular Science:

Neutrinos, the infinitesimally small particles so faint physicists used to call them "the ghost particle," have driven scientists to construct immense underground facilities simply to catch a glimpse of a single one. Now, with even the most massive detectors failing to trap certain high-energy neutrinos, astronomers have turned to a larger filter: the Moon.

Teams of scientists on the supercomputer-linked LOFAR radio telescope in Holland, and on the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope in the U.S. have both turned their attention to the Moon in hopes of recording rare neutrino interactions.

Read more ....

5 Tips For Raising Your Girl Geek

From Geekdad/Wired:

As geek parents, we often have rosy colored notions about our children growing up. We actually want them to be geeks. From the earliest of ages we dress them in WoW gear, teach them to quote Star Wars and wonder when is too early to start reading The Hobbit. We nurture them in the way of the Geek, hoping that, when the time comes for them to choose their path, they won’t stray far.

But being a geek kid isn’t easy; and being a geek girl might even be harder. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are raising a geek girl that might help her–and you–get through the school years.

Read more ....

Oldest Map In Western Europe Found Engraved On 14,000-Year-Old Chunk Of Rock

The Journal of Human Evolution has released pictures of what Spanish scientists say is a map etched in stone dating back some 13,660 years

From The Daily Mail:

We all rely on maps, be they the sat nav in your car or a traditional A-Z, and archaeologists have found our ancient ancestors were no different.
They have unearthed what they believe to be the oldest map in Western Europe, in a Spanish cave steeped in legend.

The complex etchings were engraved on a hand-sized rock 13,660 years ago, probably by Magdalenian hunter-gatherers.

Read more ....

Bird Experiment Shows Aesop's Fable May Be True

An undated photo released by The University of Cambridge shows a rook, a member of the crow family, as it drops stones into a tube to raise the water level and bring a worm into reach, at the Sub-department of Animal Behaviour at University of Cambridge. In Aesop's fable 'The crow and the pitcher' a thirsty crow uses stones to raise the level of water in a pitcher to quench its thirst. A new study published online Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009 in the journal Current Biology demonstrates that rooks, birds belonging to the corvid, or crow family, are able to solve complex problems using tools and can easily master the same technique demonstrated in Aesop's fable. (AP Photo/The University of Cambridge)

From Yahoo News/AP:

NEW YORK – From the goose that laid the golden egg to the race between the tortoise and the hare, Aesop's fables are known for teaching moral lessons rather than literally being true. But a new study says at least one such tale might really have happened.

It's the fable about a thirsty crow. The bird comes across a pitcher with the water level too low for him to reach. The crow raises the water level by dropping stones into the pitcher. (Moral: Little by little does the trick, or in other retellings, necessity is the mother of invention.)

Read more ....

Kepler Spacecraft Sees Its First Exoplanets

Kepler's computer has mysteriously entered a standby, or "safe", mode twice since launch - possibly because it was hit by charged particles from space called cosmic rays (Illustration: NASA)

From New Scientist:

The planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has found its first extrasolar planets: three alien worlds that had been previously discovered with ground-based telescopes. The finds confirm that Kepler's instruments are sensitive enough to detect Earth-like planets around sun-like stars – but they might also be unexpectedly sensitive to charged particles in space that can zap circuitry.

Kepler launched on 6 March with a simple charge: Stare at a swatch of sky for three and a half years, and look for Earths. The telescope will hunt transiting exoplanets, planets that pass in front of their stars and dim their brightness at regular intervals.

Read more ....

Growing Evidence Of Marijuana Smoke's Potential Dangers

Smoking marijuana causes more damage to cells and DNA than smoking tobacco, scientists say. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 5, 2009) — In a finding that challenges the increasingly popular belief that smoking marijuana is less harmful to health than smoking tobacco, researchers in Canada are reporting that smoking marijuana, like smoking tobacco, has toxic effects on cells.

Rebecca Maertens and colleagues note that people often view marijuana as a "natural" product and less harmful than tobacco. As public attitudes toward marijuana change and legal restrictions ease in some countries, use of marijuana is increasing.

Read more ....

10 Profound Innovations Ahead

From Live Science:

Today's world looks increasingly like the future. Robots work factory assembly lines and fight alongside human warriors on the battlefield, while tiny computers assist in everything from driving cars to flying airplanes. Surgeons use the latest technological tools to accomplish incredible feats, and researchers push the frontiers of medicine with bioengineering. Science fiction stories about cloning and resurrecting extinct animals look increasingly like relevant cautionary tales.

Read more ....

Twitter Hit By 'Denial-Of-Service' Attack

From Wall Street Journal:

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Twitter Inc., the fast-growing microblogging service, was inaccessible Thursday morning, struck by a "denial-of-service" attack, the company said on its status blog.

"We are defending against a denial-of-service attack, and will update status again shortly," the company said in a post shortly before 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) Thursday.

In an update to the blog post, Twitter said the site is back online, but that the company is "continuing to defend against and recover from this attack." The site will remain slow for users attempting to access it while Twitter attempts to recover.

Read more ....

Update: Facebook Confirms Problems, But Is It an Attack? -- PC Magazine

Less May Be More for Wind Turbines

Photo: Less to lift: Nordic Windpower’s N1000 wind turbines use two blades to generate up to 1,000 megawatts of power, making them cheaper to build than a conventional three-bladed machine. Credit: Nordic Windpower

From Technology Review:

Nordic Windpower's two-bladed rotors depart from conventional wind-power design.

One of the first R&D grants to a renewable-energy developer from the economic-stimulus funds approved by Congress this spring could have a dramatic impact on the design of wind turbines. The $16 million loan guarantee offered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to Berkeley, CA-based Nordic Windpower will accelerate commercialization of the company's Swedish-designed, two-bladed wind turbines, marking the first utility-scale alternative to the industry's dominant three-bladed design in over a decade.

Read more ....

Rural Well Water Linked to Parkinson's Disease

HEALTHY FIELDS, SICK WATER: Pesticides implicated in Parkinson's Disease are believed to travel from farms to humans via private wells. FLICKR/RWKVISUAL

From Scientific American:

California finding bolsters theory linking neurological ailment to insecticides.

Rural residents who drink water from private wells are much more likely to have Parkinson’s disease, a finding that bolsters theories that farm pesticides may be partially to blame, according to a new California study.

Nearly one million people in the United States--one of every 300--have the incurable neurological disease. Beginning with a slight tremor, Parkinson’s often progresses to severe muscle control problems that leave patients struggling to walk and talk.

Read more ....

The 10 Mysteries Of Human Behaviour That Science Can't Explain

Mood-improving endorphins are released when we laugh. Photo: GETTY

From The Telegraph:

Scientists have split the atom, put men on the moon and discovered the DNA of which we are made, but there are 10 key mysteries of human behaviour which they have failed to fully explain.

The New Scientist magazine compiled a list of the everyday aspects of life which continue to confound the world's greatest brains, including the reasons behind kissing, blushing and even picking your nose.

An editorial in the publication said: "There is nothing more fascinating to most of us than ourselves.

Read more ....

Wealthy Nations See Unexpected Baby Boom

From Cosmos:

PARIS: The ironclad axiom that the wealthier a nation the lower its birthrate may reverse when countries pass a certain threshold of development, reports a new study.

Most of the two dozen nations that have passed this tipping point – including Australia, Sweden, France, the United States and Britain – are enjoying modest baby booms, breaking a pattern of declining fertility that has held for decades if not longer.

Read more ....

Opinion: Do You Believe In Miracles?

Photo: Do miracles depend on definitions of the laws of nature? (Image: Carsten Koall / Getty)

From New Scientist:

THESE days most people think it unscientific to believe in "miracles", and irreligious not to believe in them. But would the occurrence of miracles really violate the principles of science? And would their non-occurrence really undermine religion? David Hume and Richard Dawkins have attempted to answer these questions in their different ways, but I am not convinced by their arguments, and for me they remain open questions.

In 1748, in one of his key essays, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, the Scottish philosopher David Hume gave an account of the philosophy of miracles that impressed and influenced many thinkers. Hume defines a miracle as "a violation of the laws of nature...a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent".

Read more ....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How To Delay Doomsday In A Dying Solar System

From Space Daily:

With this essay by Ray Villard, news director for the Hubble Space Telescope, Astrobiology Magazine presents another in our series of 'Gedanken', or thought, experiments - musings by noted scientists on scientific mysteries in a series of "what if" scenarios. Gedanken experiments, which have been used for hundreds of years by scientists and philosophers to ponder thorny problems, rely on the power of one's imagination to project these scenarios to logical conclusions.

They do not involve lab equipment or, often, even experimental data. They can be thought of as focused daydreams. Yet, as in the famous case of Einstein's Gedanken experiments about what it would be like to hitch a ride on a light wave, they have often led to important scientific breakthroughs.

Read more ....

Another League Under the Sea: Tomorrow's Research Subs Open Earth's Final Frontier

Flying Low: The Deep Flight II sub uses stubby wings that propel it down like an airplane goes up. Nick Kaloterakis

From Popular Science:

Armed with better batteries and stronger materials, new submersibles aim to go deeper than ever before and open up the whole of the unexplored ocean to human eyes.

By liberal estimates, we’ve explored about 5 percent of the seas, and nearly all of that in the first 1,000 feet. That’s the familiar blue part, penetrated by sunlight, home to the colorful reefs and just about every fish you’ve ever seen. Beyond that is the deep—a pitch-black region that stretches down to roughly 35,800 feet, the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Nearly all the major oceanographic finds made in that region—hydrothermal vents and the rare life-forms that thrive in the extreme temperatures there, sponges that can treat tumors, thousands of new species, the Titanic—have occurred above 15,000 feet, the lower limit of the world’s handful of manned submersibles for most of the past 50 years.

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Solar Industry: No Breakthroughs Needed

Photo: Cheaper solar: First Solar’s improvements in manufacturing photovoltaics have helped lead to big drops in cost. A worker at a First Solar factory in Frankfurt, Germany, moves one of the company's solar panels. Credit: First Solar

From Technology Review:

The solar industry says incremental advances have made transformational technologies unnecessary.

The federal government is behind the times when it comes to making decisions about advancing the solar industry, according to several solar-industry experts. This has led, they argue, to a misplaced emphasis on research into futuristic new technologies, rather than support for scaling up existing ones. That was the prevailing opinion at a symposium last week put together by the National Academies in Washington, DC, on the topic of scaling up the solar industry.

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Computer Technology Brings 300million-Year-Old Spider Fossils Back To Life

A CT scan of Eophrynus, an ancient spider that lived 300 million years ago. Scientists used a computer technology to generate 3D images

From The Daily Mail:

Fossils of 300million-year-old spiders have been brought to life with computer technology.

Scientists used a CT scan to generate three dimensional images of two of the creatures, Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii.

Both were around the size of a 50p piece and they lived during the Carboniferous period, before the age of the dinosaurs.

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Brain Difference In Psychopaths Identified

Scientists have found differences in the brain which may provide a biological explanation for psychopathy. (Credit: iStockphoto/Hayden Bird)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 5, 2009) — Professor Declan Murphy and colleagues Dr Michael Craig and Dr Marco Catani from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London have found differences in the brain which may provide a biological explanation for psychopathy.

The research investigated the brain biology of psychopaths with convictions that included attempted murder, manslaughter, multiple rape with strangulation and false imprisonment. Using a powerful imaging technique (DT-MRI) the researchers have highlighted biological differences in the brain which may underpin these types of behaviour and provide a more comprehensive understanding of criminal psychopathy.

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Experts Predict Quieter Atlantic Hurricane Season

This NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Ike in 2008. Weather experts on Wednesday reduced the number of projected hurricanes in the north Atlantic this season to four, two of them major hurricanes with winds above 178 kilometers (111 miles) per hour.(AFP/NOAA/File)

From Yahoo News/AFP:

MIAMI (AFP) – Weather experts on Wednesday reduced the number of projected hurricanes in the north Atlantic this season to four, two of them major hurricanes with winds above 178 kilometers (111 miles) per hour.

After one of the calmest starts to the hurricane season in a decade, the experts from Colorado State University said the development of an El Nino effect in the Pacific had caused them to scale back their projections for the Atlantic.

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