Saturday, August 15, 2009

Robotic Systems Help People with Disabilities

With the help of a remote human assistant, a person with disability pilots a robotic mobility and manipulation system and opens a refrigerator door to retrieve a pre-prepared meal from home. Cooperative control leaves the person with disability in command, and the ability to use the capabilities of both the local pilot and remote human assistant enable safe, effective, and efficient operation of the robotic system in natural environments. Credit: Rory Cooper, Department of Veterans Affairs/University of Pittsburgh

From Live Science:

People might be surprised to learn that about 50 million people in the world use, or could benefit from the use of, a wheelchair.

Wheelchairs are one of the most commonly used assistive devices for mobility, and they provide people with mobility within their homes and communities. While wheelchairs were once a symbol of inability and stigmatizing, they have evolved to be highly mobile forms of self-expression that are often fitted to each individual user.

Read more ....

A New Superbug Found In Britain Is Major Concern: Government Scientists

From The Telegraph:

A new superbug that is resistant to all antibiotics has been brought into Britain by patients having surgery abroad, Government scientists said.

A new superbug that is resistant to all antibiotics has been brought into Britain by patients having surgery abroad, Government scientists said.

Doctors are urged to be vigilent for a new bug that has arriving in Britain with patients who have travelled to India and Pakistan for cosmetic surgery or organ transplants and is now circulating here.

Read more ....

Physicists Hold Breath As Large Hadron Collider Prepares To Rise From Ashes

A region between two magnets in the LHC that was crushed in the incident on 19 September 2008. Photograph: Public Domain

From The Guardian:

If all goes to plan, the LHC will come back to life in November. Sam Wong explains the measures being taken to prevent another catastrophic failure, and gauges the mood of physicists at Cern. Can they bag the Higgs before the Americans?

It's been nearly a year since the world's biggest science experiment, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), was fired up for the first time in a flurry of excitement at Cern, the European Centre for Nuclear Research in Switzerland. But ever since a catastrophic explosion in the particle accelerator's tunnel just nine days after startup, the gargantuan machine has sat idling, to the acute frustration and no little embarrassment of all involved.

Read more ....

New Sub "War" Range May Harm Rare Whales, Critics Say

A right whale mother and calf swim off Florida. Approved in August 2009, a planned U.S. submarine war-games zone has conservationists concerned for the survival of the North Atlantic right whale. The species numbers 300 to 350, and its only known calving ground is near the soon-to-be-built testing range. Photograph courtesy National Oceanic Atmospheric Association/AP

From National Geographic:

After considering several candidates, the U.S. Navy announced last week that it will build its latest submarine warfare training facility in the waters off Jacksonville, Florida. (See map.)

But even though the site won't open until 2014, the new tenant is already having trouble with its neighbors.

That's because the chosen site for the Undersea Warfare Training Range is just 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the only known calving grounds of the North Atlantic right whale.

Read more ....

My Comment: I am sure that every other maritime power in the world .... from China to India, Russia to Venezuela .... are just as (cough cough) equally concerned about the whales.

From my point of view I say forget about these maritime powers, we should focus on the native peoples of America who kill scores of whales each year off the Alaskan and Canadian coasts for "traditional reasons".

But all I hear is silence.

Tech Heroes Of The Past: Where Are They Now?

From Pingdom:

Have you ever wondered what the guy who invented the World Wide Web is up to these days? What about the guys who created Photoshop, or the one who created the PHP scripting language?

You may not recognize all of these people, but you’ll definitely recognize what they’ve accomplished. These are people who have made great contributions to computer and Internet technology in the past… but what are they up to now?

This list is a starting point, so help us add to it in the comments!

Read more ....

One Nano-Step Closer To Weighing A Single Atom

Composite image showing TEM images and schematic of bipyramid-shaped particles and time response of vibration. (Credit: Dr Matthew Pelton from the Centre for Nanoscale Materials, Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2009) — By studying gold nanoparticles with highly uniform sizes and shapes, scientists now understand how they lose energy, a key step towards producing nanoscale detectors for weighing any single atom.

Such ultrasensitive measurements could ultimately be used in areas such as medical research and diagnostics, enabling the detection of minuscule disease-causing agents such as viruses and prions at the single molecule level.

Read more ....

NASA Drops Probes Into Volatile Volcano

Mount St. Helens is one of the most active volcanoes in the United States. Credit: USGS

From Live Science:

High-tech sensor pods were recently air lifted into the mouth of a volcano to monitor hot spots and provide early warning if the peak starts to blow.

The sensors are part of a NASA project to study volcanoes from the inside.

On July 14 scientists lowered the pods into the mouth of Washington's Mount St. Helens, one of the most active volcanoes in the United States.

The project aims to improve our ability to predict impending eruptions, both on Earth and on other planets.

Read more ....

Legacy B-52 To Launch Futuristic WaveRider

The X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle was uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base. (Credit: USAF)

From CNET:

The X-51A WaveRider is one step closer to its inaugural test flight later this year, now that airmen at Edwards Air Force Base have successfully "mated" the scramjet-propelled vehicle to a B-52 Stratofortress.

In December, an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 is scheduled to papoose the X-51A to 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean before cutting it loose. At that point, a solid rocket booster from an ATACMS missile will fire up, accelerating the X-51 to about Mach 4.5. That's when the supersonic combustion ramjet kicks in, pushing the WaveRider to more than Mach 6 for up to five minutes, longer than all of its predecessors combined. NASA tests have reached Mach 9.6, or nearly 7,000 mph, according to some reports, but not for very long. The previous record was less than 10 seconds. Flight data will be telemetered back to Edwards Force Base before the X-51A test vehicle crashes into the Pacific.

Read more ....

NASA's Moon Plan Too Ambitious, Obama Panel Says

From The Miami Herald:

A panel reviewing NASA's current plans for human space flight will report that there is no realistic way to return to the moon by 2020 -- or even 2028.

WASHINGTON -- NASA doesn't have nearly enough money to meet its goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by 2020 -- and it might be the wrong place to go, anyway. That's one of the harsh messages emerging from a sweeping review of NASA's human space flight program.

Read more ....

NASA Completes First Test Rocket to Replace Shuttle

From Yahoo News/Space:

NASA has finished building the first of its new Ares I rockets slated to replace the aging space shuttle fleet and return astronauts to the moon - a gleaming white booster due to blast off this fall.

The Ares I-X rocket is the inaugural booster in NASA's first new rocket line for crew transport in more than 25 years. It is scheduled to launch Oct. 31 on a demonstration flight to prove the viability of the Ares I rocket to haul NASA's new astronaut-carrying Orion spacecraft into orbit.

Read more

Second Backwards Planet Found, A Day After The First

The planet HAT-P-7b, which is about 1.4 times as wide as Jupiter and 1.8 times as massive, seems to orbit its star in the opposite direction to the star's spin (Illustration: Leiden Observatory)

From New Scientist:

Just a day after the announcement of the first extrasolar planet found orbiting its star backwards, two other teams announced the discovery of a second one.

"It is funny that the two good cases for really misaligned orbits, even retrograde orbits, have come at around the same time," says Joshua Winn of MIT, lead author of one of the new papers.

Both Winn's team and another, led by Norio Narita at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, used the Japanese Subaru telescope to observe planet HAT-P-7b, a previously known planet about 1000 light years from Earth that was recently observed by NASA's new planet-hunting satellite Kepler.

Both teams found that the planet's orbit is wildly tilted with respect to its star's equator.

Read more ....

Women Like To 'Poach' Attached Men

A scientific study has found evidence that women really do have a preference for men who are attached Photo: REUTERS

From The Telegraph:

It's something that wives and girlfriends have long suspected – that women like to target men who are already in relationships.

Now a scientific study has found evidence that their fears are well founded, and that women really do have a preference for men who are attached.

In a phenomenon known as 'mate poaching' – but soon to be dubbed the 'Angelina Jolie effect' – women expressed a clear preference for those who were unavailable.

Read more ....

Friday, August 14, 2009

First Human Gene Implicated In Regulating Length Of Human Sleep

The discovery of the first gene involved in regulating the optimal length of human sleep offers a window into a key aspect of slumber. (Credit: iStockphoto/Diane Diederich)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2009) — Scientists have discovered the first gene involved in regulating the optimal length of human sleep, offering a window into a key aspect of slumber, an enigmatic phenomenon that is critical to human physical and mental health.

The team, reporting in the Aug. 14, 2009 issue of Science, identified a mutated gene that allows two members of an extended family to thrive on six hours of sleep a day rather than the eight to eight-and-a-half hours that studies have shown humans need over time to maintain optimal health. Working from this discovery, the scientists genetically engineered mice and fruit flies to express the mutated gene and study its impact.

Read more ....

5 UAVs That Are Going Places—Alone (With Video!)

X-47B Navy UCAS

From Popular Mechanics:

Gawkers from the armed services, media and defense industry gathered this week in 98 degree heat to watch military robot demonstrations at the Unmanned Systems Demo, an event hosted by the military and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The crowd braved the sweltering Maryland summer to watch companies large and small fly sensor-studded UAVs on an unused naval aviation airfield. Here’s a roundup of five of the most notable flying droids on hand, with video of those that displayed their antics.

Read more ....

What a "Facebook Browser" Means For the Web

A screenshot from

From Technology Review:

RockMelt could be the realization of the company's efforts to create a more social Web.

Rumors surfaced yesterday of a new "Facebook browser" called RockMelt, with a star-studded cast of backers and employees that includes Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt of Firefox fame.

There are no clear reports yet of what the Facebook browser would be like, but it's unlikely to be a simple Facebook client and I doubt that such smart people would simply copy an existing "social" Web browsers such as Flock.

Read more ....

Will Electric Cars Wreck The Grid?

PLUG-IN PROBLEM?: Some power generators worry that too many electric cars could wreak havoc on local electric grids. © GM Corp.

From Scientific American:

Plug-in electric cars could destabilize the distribution of power.

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Plug-in electric cars could destabilize the distribution of power, a utility executive cautioned at a conference here this week.

Ed Kjaer, director of Southern California Edison's electric transportation advancement program, said plug-in manufacturers, designers and component makers are poised to capitalize on a "perfect storm" that could push electric cars into the mainstream. Kjaer noted that 10 to 12 carmakers are ready to launch plug-in models between 2010 and 2012, creating a sense of "incredible excitement" around a sector that has seen its fair share of false starts.

Read more ....

Fire Used to Make Better Tools 75,000 Years Ago

From :Live Science

Early humans crossed a threshold around 75,000 years ago, when they started painting symbols, carving patterns and making jewelry. A new study found they also began to use fire to make tools around that time.

Until now, this complex, multi-step process for tool making was only known to occur as recently as 25,000 years ago in Europe. But the new findings show this breakthrough occurred much earlier, and in Africa, not Europe.
By heating up stones in a fire before chipping away at them to make blades, early humans could make tools sharper and produce them more efficiently.
Scientists think this advancement represents a link between the earlier use of fire for cooking and warmth, and the later production of ceramics and metals

Antarctic Meltdown: Glacier Larger Than Scotland Shrinking FOUR Times Faster Than Last Decade

In decline: The Pine Island Glacier drains an enormous volume of ice from
the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to the sea

From The Daily Mail:

An Antarctic glacier twice the size of Scotland is melting much faster than scientists had bargained for.

The Pine Island Glacier in west Antarctica is losing ice four times quicker than a decade ago, researchers warned today.
If the thinning continues to accelerate at this speed, the main section of the glacier will be gone within the next 100 years - six times faster than was previously estimated.

Read more ....

Spoon-Bending For Beginners: Teaching Anomalistic Psychology To Teenagers

Uri Geller holds a spoon he claims to have bent using supernatural powers. Photograph: David Furst/AFP/Getty Images

From The Guardian:

Why introduce students to a field of psychology investigating claims that fly in the face of mainstream science? Chris French can think of several good reasons.

From next month, potentially thousands of teenagers at schools and colleges throughout the UK will start lessons that deal with telepathy, psychokinesis, psychic healing, near-death experiences and talking to the dead. Surely the minds of the nation's youth will be corrupted by all this mumbo-jumbo?

Read more ....

India's Water Use 'Unsustainable'

Much of the water used in paddy fields is pumped from underground.

From The BBC:

Parts of India are on track for severe water shortages, according to results from Nasa's gravity satellites.

The Grace mission discovered that in the country's north-west - including Delhi - the water table is falling by about 4cm (1.6 inches) per year.

Writing in the journal Nature, they say rainfall has not changed, and water use is too high, mainly for farming.

The finding is published two days after an Indian government report warning of a potential water crisis.

That report noted that access to water was one of the main factors governing the pace of development in the world's second most populous nation.

Read more ....

Experiments Push Quantum Mechanics To Higher Levels

John Martinis and Matthew Neeley are researchers at University of California - Santa Barbara. (Credit: George Foulsham, Office of Public Affairs, UCSB)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2009) — Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have devised a new type of superconducting circuit that behaves quantum mechanically – but has up to five levels of energy instead of the usual two. The findings are published in the August 7 issue of Science.

These circuits act like artificial atoms in that they can only gain or lose energy in packets, or quanta, by jumping between discrete energy levels. "In our previous work, we focused on systems with just two energy levels, 'qubits,' because they are the quantum analog of 'bits,' which have two states, on and off," said Matthew Neeley, first author and a graduate student at UCSB.

Read more ....

Fire Used To Make Better Tools 75,000 Years Ago

Experimentally replicated blade tools produced with heat treated silcrete. Some of these tools may have been mounted unto a wood handle to create a tool with disposable blades, as pictured above. Credit: © Science/AAAS

From Live Science:

Early humans crossed a threshold around 75,000 years ago, when they started painting symbols, carving patterns and making jewelry. A new study found they also began to use fire to make tools around that time.

Until now, this complex, multi-step process for tool making was only known to occur as recently as 25,000 years ago in Europe. But the new findings show this breakthrough occurred much earlier, and in Africa, not Europe.

By heating up stones in a fire before chipping away at them to make blades, early humans could make tools sharper and produce them more efficiently.

Read more ....

Another Nutritional Challenge For Space Food

From L.A. Times:

You may have read yesterday’s story about the food scientists at NASA who have their hands full trying to figure out what astronauts will eat when they blast off on a three-year mission to Mars sometime after the year 2030. For a variety of reasons, the food served on the space shuttle and International Space Station won’t cut it – it’s too heavy, too bulky, and its chemistry makes it prone to spoilage after only a couple of years.

And now the NASA scientists have identified another problem: many of the essential vitamins, amino acids and fatty acids in the foods will degrade over the course of such a long mission.

Read more ....

Pictured: Stunning New Image Of Mars Show Half-Mile Wide Crater Complete With Sand Dunes

This image of the Victoria Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

From The Daily Mail:

It is one of the most dramatic images to ever emerge from Mars.

In fact, this extraordinary photograph is so clear that even the sand dunes at the base of the half-mile wide canyon are visible.

Experts even believe that they can see the tracks of a Mars lander on the left-hand corner of the Victoria Crater.

Read more ....

Scientists Reveal Why World's Highest Mountains Are At The Equator

Top: Aerial photograph of the Khumbu Glacier and the Everest Himalayan range
Bottom: Glacially eroded mountains in Jotunheimen in Norway. Photograph: David Lundbek Egholm (bottom) and Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

From The Guardian:

Ice and glacier coverage at lower altitudes in cold climates more important than collision of tectonic plates, researchers find.

Scientists have solved the mystery of why the world's highest mountains sit near the equator - colder climates are better at eroding peaks than had previously been realised.

Mountains are built by the collisions between continental plates that force land upwards. The fastest mountain growth is around 10mm a year in places such as New Zealand and parts of the Himalayas, but more commonly peaks grow at around 2-3mm per year.

Read more ....

Netscape Founder Backs New Browser

Photo: Marc Andreessen, Co-founder and General Partner, Andreessen Horowitz, in July. Phil McCarten/Reuters

From The New York Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — It has been 15 years since Marc Andreessen developed the Netscape Internet browser that introduced millions of people to the Internet.

After its early success, Netscape was roundly defeated by Microsoft in the so-called browser wars of the 1990s that dominated the Web’s first chapter.

Mr. Andreessen appears to want a rematch. Now a prominent Silicon Valley financier, Mr. Andreessen is backing a start-up called RockMelt, staffed with some of his close associates, that is building a new Internet browser, according to people with knowledge of his investment.

Read more ....

Options Narrow For Future Of Human Spaceflight

Photo: US human spaceflight panel chairman Norman Augustine listens to public comments at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center on July 29 in in Huntsville, Ala. Bob Gathany/AP

From Christian Science Monitor:

A panel moves closer to recommending where NASA should fly next, and how.

If the US simply maintains spending for human spaceflight at current levels, NASA will have enough money to build one new rocket to carry crews into space by 2020. But it will literally be a rocket to nowhere: The space agency will have no place to send it for at least another decade.

That stark message underlies options for the US human spaceflight program, which a 10-member panel will present to the Obama administration when it wraps up its work at the end of August. The panel's assignment: Present the president with choices that are sustainable, fit within current budget constraints, yet represent bold steps beyond low-Earth orbit.

Read more ....

Top 10 Overlooked Buildings

The Golden Pavilion of Rokuonji Temple in Kyoto, Japan.
Photograph by: Koichi Kamoshida, Getty Images

From The Montreal Gazette:

SYDNEY -- Lists of beautiful buildings laud the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, and at least one token Frank Gehry building, but there are dozens of other equally beautiful choices that somehow always seem to remain unnoticed.

Members and editors of ( have compiled a list of what they think are the "World's Top 10 Most Overlooked Beautiful Buildings and Structures." Reuters has not endorsed this list.

Read more ....

BMW ActiveHybrid X6: The Most PowerfulHhybrid In History

BMW ActiveHybrid X6

Officially Official: 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 -- Autoblog

The BMW X6 ActiveHybrid has arrived, and as previously covered, the new gas-electric X6 will be the most powerful hybrid in history, with 480 peak horsepower and diesel-like plateau of 575 lb-ft of torque.

That impressive powertrain consists of twin electric motors (delivering 91 hp and 86 hp, respectively) and a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 engine. All those horses will be corralled through a seven-speed dual-mode transmission and BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system. The run to sixty will take just 5.4 seconds and the top speed will be limited to 130 miles per hour.

Read more ....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Multiple Sclerosis Successfully Reversed In Mice: New Immune-suppressing Treatment Forces The Disease Into Remission

Dr. Jacques Galipeau of the Jewish General Hospital Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research and McGill University. (Credit: Claudio Calligaris/McGill University)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 12, 2009) — A new experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) completely reverses the devastating autoimmune disorder in mice, and might work exactly the same way in humans, say researchers at the Jewish General Hospital Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research and McGill University in Montreal.

MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune response attacks the central nervous system, almost as if the body had become allergic to itself, leading to progressive physical and cognitive disability.

Read more ....

New Batting Helmet Offers Protection From 100 MPH Heat

The S100: More protective, but less stylish Earl Wilson via The New York Times

From Popular Science:

But players think it's too ugly to wear.

Back when pitching meant Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown gingerly tossing baseballs so worn down that they resembled leather hacky sacks, players didn't need to worry about lifelong injury after getting hit by a pitch. But now that 'roided up monsters can hurl the ball fast enough to cause serious damage, players need something substantial to protect their dome.

Read more ....

The Truth Behind the 230 MPG Claim From the Chevy Volt: Analysis

From Popular Mechanics:

It's all in the numbers: The EPA has finally figured out exactly what the testing procedures might be (the regulation hasn't formally been adopted yet) for plug-in hybrid vehicles like the Chevy Volt. This week Chevy announced that the Volt will deliver 230 mpg. Other plug-in-hybrid manufacturers won't be long in announcing similarly astonishing fuel-economy numbers. But where on earth does that number come from?

Read more ....

Invisible Doorways Or Portals A Step Closer To Reality, Claim Scientists

Scientists close to inventing a Harry Potter Platform 9 and 3/4

From The Telegraph:

Invisible gateways like the one to platform 9 and 3/4 in Harry Potter and to Lewis Carroll's hidden world in Through the Looking Glass are a step closer to reality after scientists developed a new theory.

Using a technique known as transformation optics, the researchers have revealed a way to alter the pathway of light waves that could eventually allow them to create portals that are invisible to the human eye.

Pushing the laws of refraction and reflection to the limit, the team from Hong Kong University and Fudan University in Shanghai, describe the concept of a “a gateway that can block electromagnetic waves but that allows the passage of other entities”.

Read more ....

Antibodies To Strep Throat Bacteria Linked To Obsessive Compulsive Disorder In Mice

from :ScienceDaily

A new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health's Center for Infection and Immunity indicates that pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette syndrome and/or tic disorder may develop from an inappropriate immune response to the bacteria causing common throat infections.

The mouse model findings, published online by Nature Publishing Group in this week's Molecular Psychiatry, support the view that this condition is a distinct disorder, and represent a key advance in tracing the path leading from an ordinary infection in childhood to the surfacing of a psychiatric syndrome. The research provides new insights into identifying children at risk for autoimmune brain disorders and suggests potential avenues for treatment.
OCD and tic disorders affect a significant portion of the population. More than 25% of adults and over 3% of children manifest some features of these disorders. Until now, scientists have been unable to convincingly document the association between the appearance of antibodies directed against Group A beta-hemolytic streptoccoccus (GABHS) in peripheral blood and the onset of the behavioral and motor aspects of the disorder. As a result, treatment strategies were restricted to targeting symptoms rather than causes.


Bookyards Editor: For more books on Medecine go here...

'Many Hurricanes' In Modern Times

From BBC:

Hurricanes in the Atlantic are more frequent than at any time in the last 1,000 years, according to research just published in the journal Nature.

Scientists examined sediments left by hurricanes that crossed the coast in North America and the Caribbean.

The record suggests modern hurricane activity is unusual - though it might have been even higher 1,000 years ago.

The possible influence of climate change on hurricanes has been a controversial topic for several years.

Study leader Michael Mann from Penn State University believes that while not providing a definitive answer, this work does add a useful piece to the puzzle.

Read more ....

Why Humans Can Talk And Chimps Can't

Nothing to say (IMAGE: Manfred Rutz/Rex Features)

From New Scientist:

A brain region critical to speech and language ballooned after humans split from chimpanzees, a new study finds.

Named after French physician, Pierre Paul Broca, who identified the region in two brain-damaged patients incapable of uttering more than a few words, Broca's area usually occupies a much larger portion of the left half of the human brain than the right.

Because right-handed humans also tend to process language in their left halves – lefties' brain are flip-flopped – some researchers think that lop-sidedness in Broca's area may help explain why humans alone developed language.

Read more ....

Drive For Atomic Energy Adds To Nuclear Challenge: US

Steam billows from cooling towers at a nuclear power generating station in Illinois. A senior US official acknowledged on Wednesday that the growing demand for atomic energy in response to climate change was adding to the challenges of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Scott Olson)

From Yahoo News/AFP:

GENEVA (AFP) – A senior US official acknowledged on Wednesday that the growing demand for atomic energy in response to climate change was adding to the challenges of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

"Some people are calling this a nuclear renaissance, it's very much in vogue," said Susan Burk, the US president's special representative for nuclear non-proliferation in what she termed her first public presentation.

Read more ....

New Drug-resistant TB Strains Could Become Widespread, Says New Study

Chest X-ray image. One in three humans already carries the TB bacterium. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of New South Wales)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 12, 2009) — The emergence of new forms of tuberculosis could swell the proportion of drug-resistant cases globally, a new study has found. The finding raises concern that although TB incidence is falling in many regions, the emergence of antibiotic resistance could see virtually untreatable strains of the disease become widespread.

Australian researchers from the University of New South Wales and the University of Western Sydney have published the new finding in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more ....

Babies' Brains Churning With Activity

Electrodes recorded brain activity while infants grabbed for toys. The same brain area showed activity whether infants grabbed for a toy themselves or watched an adult do the same. Credit: Michael Crabtree.

From Live Science:

The look of amazement in the eyes of an infant suggests the wheels are churning away inside that noggin. New research confirms they are. Scientists have shown that when 9-month-olds watch people reach for objects, the motor region in their brains gets activated, as if the babies were doing the reaching themselves.

The brain ability is likely due to so-called mirror neurons, which fire both when we do an action ourselves, and when we watch others do a similar action. While such neurons have only been directly measured in monkeys, scientists think they exist in adult humans, and now in infants.

Read more ....

NASA Budget Too Slim to Reach Moon by 2020, Panel Says


A White House panel charged with reviewing NASA's exploration plans has dropped any hope of sending astronauts directly to Mars and found the space agency's budget too slim to accomplish its goal of returning humans to the moon by 2020.

After more than six hours of public deliberation on Wednesday, the 10-member committee overseeing the Review for U.S. Human Space Flight Plans decided not to include a plan to send astronauts straight to Mars - called Mars Direct - on its list of options to be considered by President Barack Obama because of its daunting challenges and cost.

Read more ....

The FuA- Men

Robot Chefs Run a Restaurant

The FuA-Men - Fully Automated raMen restaruant in Nagoya, Japan features a chef and assistant - both fully autonomous robots. The robots perform all of the cooking tasks needed to make eighty bowls per day, serving the customers who come to their small shop.
When asked, customers seem to feel that there is little difference between noodle dishes prepared by real, human chefs, and meals prepared by autonomous robots. For those who appreciate precision in food preparation, you can't beat robot chefs.
"The benefits of using robots as ramen chefs include the accuracy of timing in boiling noodles, precise movements in adding toppings and consistency in the taste and temperature of the soup," said Kenji Nagaya, president of local robot manufacturer Aisei.
The two chefs also work very well together; their movements are perfectly choreographed (see video).

Galapagos Face Ecological Disaster Due To Tourism: Study

File photo of a seal on the shores of San Cristobal island in the Galapagos. Mosquitoes brought into the Galapagos on tourist planes and boats threaten to wreak "ecological disaster" in the islands, central to Darwin's theory of evolution, a study said. (AFP/File)

From Yahoo News/AFP:

LONDON, (AFP) – Mosquitoes brought into the Galapagos on tourist planes and boats threaten to wreak "ecological disaster" in the islands, central to Darwin's theory of evolution, a study said Wednesday.

The insects can spread potentially lethal diseases in the archipelago off Ecuador's Pacific coast, used by Charles Darwin as the basis of his seminal work "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection".

"Few tourists realise the irony that their trip to Galapagos may actually increase the risk of an ecological disaster," said Simon Goodman of Leeds University, one of the study's co-authors.

Read more ....

Satellites Track, Improve French Wine Crop

Toasting to Technology: The cutting-edge system, Oenoview, combines satellite pictures and grapevine analysis to help French winemakers determine when their grapes, planted in varying conditions across sprawling vineyards, will be ready for picking.

From Discovery News:

Aug. 11, 2009 -- French winegrowers are reaping the benefits of satellite imagery to improve their grape harvests, in a fusion of cutting-edge technology and the ancient art of winemaking.

The Oenoview system -- initially developed to help grain producers -- combines satellite pictures and vine analysis to allow oenologists to determine when grapes planted in varying conditions across sprawling estates will be ready.

It conveys important information about the berries to winegrowers, such as the amount of water in the fruit and how much to prune back their vines.

Read more ....

Swine Flu: How Experts Are Preparing Their Families

How will the health infrastructure cope? (Image: Raveendran/AFP/Getty

From New Scientist:

AS THE swine flu pandemic continues to sweep the world, what do public health officials, epidemiologists and flu researchers think will happen in the coming months? When New Scientist asked 60 of them, it turned out that half are concerned enough about the possibility of a virulent swine flu outbreak to take precautions such as acquiring a supply of Tamiflu for their families. Though most do not think it likely that a nastier strain will emerge, many are worried that if it did, their local hospitals and other parts of the health infrastructure could not cope.

Read more ....

NASA Falling Short of Asteroid Detection Goals

The team says it is almost certain that a large Baptistina fragment created the 180km Chicxulub crater off the coast of the Yucatan 65 million years ago. The impact that produced this crater has been strongly linked to the mass extinction event that eliminated the dinosaurs. Image from The BBC.

From Wired Science:

Without more funding, NASA will not meet its goal of tracking 90 percent of all deadly asteroids by 2020, according to a report released today by the National Academy of Sciences.

The agency is on track to soon be able to spot 90 percent of the potentially dangerous objects that are at least a kilometer (.6 miles) wide, a goal previously mandated by Congress.

Asteroids of this size are estimated to strike Earth once every 500,000 years on average and could be capable of causing a global catastrophe if they hit Earth. In 2008, NASA’s Near Earth Object Program spotted a total of 11,323 objects of all sizes.

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Molecular Condom Blocks HIV

Imgae: Viral blockade: A gel, shown here stained blue, forms tendril structures at pH 7.4. The red dots are 100 nanometer particles, about the same size as HIV, which are trapped in these structures. Credit: Kristopher Langheinrich

From Technology Review:

A novel gel that filters out HIV could protect women from infection.

A polymer gel that blocks viral particles could one day provide a way for women to protect themselves against HIV infection. The gel reacts with semen to form a tight mesh that blocks the movement of virus particles. The material, which is still in early development, could eventually be combined with antiviral gels currently in clinical trials to provide a dual defense against HIV.

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New Planet Displays Exotic Orbit

Planets with retrograde orbits should be rare

From The BBC:

Astronomers have discovered the first planet that orbits in the opposite direction to the spin of its star.

Planets form out of the same swirling gas cloud that creates a star, so they are expected to orbit in the same direction that the star rotates.

The new planet is thought to have been flung into its "retrograde" orbit by a close encounter with either another planet or with a passing star.

The work has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal for publication.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

When Did Humans Return After Last Ice Age?

Gough's Cave. (Credit: Copyright Natural History Museum)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 12, 2009) — The Cheddar Gorge in Somerset was one of the first sites to be inhabited by humans when they returned to Britain near the end of the last Ice Age. According to new radio carbon dating by Oxford University researchers, outlined in the latest issue of Quaternary Science Review, humans were living in Gough's Cave 14,700 years ago.

A number of stone artefacts as well as human and animal bones from excavations, spread over more than 100 years, shed further light on the nature as well as the timing of people to the cave.
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New Facebook Lite To Take On Twitter With Simplified Messaging Service

Battle: Facebook is currently testing 'Facebook Lite' a simplified version of the service which looks remarkably similar to Twitter

From The Daily Mail:

Facebook are currently testing a simplified version of its social network service aimed at countries where Internet bandwidth is limited.
The new system, named Facebook Lite, focuses primarily on messaging and user updates and looks remarkably similar to rival micro blogging service Twitter.
Industry experts are viewing the development as the latest in a series of moves from Facebook to take on Twitter.

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Meteor Show Reaches Dazzling Peak

From The BBC:

Skygazers are observing a dazzling sky show, as the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak.

No special equipment is required to watch the shower, which occurs when Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle.

Budding astronomers are advised to lie on a blanket or a reclining chair to get the best view.

The National Trust has released online guides to seven top Perseid viewing sites in the UK.

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