Friday, April 30, 2010

Improvements In Sniper Rifle Technology

As part of a training exercise, the members of a sniper team man a 7.62mm Springfield Armory M21 Sniping rifle (left) and sights through the scope of a 7.62mm M24 Sniper rifle (right). Photo courtesy Department of Defense Defense Visual Information Center

The U.S. Sniper's More Accurate, Quieter Rifle -- Popular Mechanics

Army Snipers in Afghanistan will receive an improved rifle this fall.

For snipers, every war is different. Recognizing the differences between conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is now selecting a contractor to upgrade the 22-year-old Remington bolt-action rifle to become a more effective killing machine. The Army will pour about $5.6 million into upgrades to the M24, with the new gear expected to be delivered to troops by this fall. The M24's barrel is being modified to shoot heavier .300 Winchester Magnum rounds, instead of the 7.62mm NATO ammunition, which should extend the rifle's maximum effective range by hundreds of yards to a maximum of about 1400 yards. The suppressor will reduce the noise and flash of the gun so snipers can stay in their hiding positions much longer after they fire.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chile Wins The Extremely Large Telescope

Artist's impression of the Mily Way rising over the ELT in Chile. Credit: ESO

From Cosmos/AFP:

BERLIN: Chile won the right to host the largest-ever telescope, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has announced, and it is due to begin operation in 2018.

The other main contender site for the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) was the Spanish isle of La Palma in the Canary Islands off western Africa.

The ESO, an intergovernmental astronomical research agency, already has three facilities operating in the Atacama Desert, including the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in the town of Paranal, which is currently considered the foremost European-operated observatory.

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"Rogue" NASA Administrator Angling To Save Ares I Rocket Program From Budget Axe

The Ares I-X Rollout NASA's prototype heavy-lift rocket, the Ares I-X, on the launchpad in October 2009.

From Popular Science:

In a speech to NASA employees and the nation on April 15, President Obama unveiled a vision for U.S. space exploration that didn't include Constellation or development of its Ares I rocket. The next day, Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley issued his response to Obama: Not so fast.

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The Future Of Body Armor

Although it will be some time before the new germanium-based fabric has the same stopping power as this bulletproof vest, scientists are now exploring the possibility of using it to harness solar power. iStockphoto

'Tissue Paper' Could Stop Bullets, Harness Solar Energy -- Discovery News

Who wouldn't want a shirt that could stop a bullet and power your iPod? A new fabric can do just that.

A soft "tissue paper" made from normally brittle germanium and silicon contains individual fibers as strong as bulletproof Kevlar. Woven into traditional fabric or embedded in hard plastics, the new nanowires could stop bullets, harvest solar energy or perform dozens of other tasks.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Brain-Like Computing On An Organic Molecular Layer

Magnetic resonance images of human brain during different functions appear on top. Similar evolving patterns have been generated on the molecular monolayer one after another (bottom). A snapshot of the evolving pattern for a particular brain function is captured using Scanning Tunneling Microscope at 0.68 V tip bias (scale bar is 6 nm). The input pattern to mimic particular brain function is distinct, and the dynamics of pattern evolution is also typical for a particular brain operation. (Credit: Anirban Bandyopadhyay)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2010) — Information processing circuits in digital computers are static. In our brains, information processing circuits -- neurons -- evolve continuously to solve complex problems. Now, an international research team from Japan and Michigan Technological University has created a similar process of circuit evolution in an organic molecular layer that can solve complex problems. This is the first time a brain-like "evolutionary circuit" has been realized.

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Chimps Understand And Mourn Death, Research Suggests

The chimpanzee Pansy, the morning after she died.
Credit: Nicola McCleery, Blair Drummond Safari Park.

From Live Science:

Chimpanzees may gather in hushed quiet to watch a fellow ape in her dying moments, and chimp mothers in the wild may carry their infants' mummified remains for weeks, according to new research on how humanity's closest living relatives deal with the deaths of those closest to them.

Insights into how chimpanzees respond to the death of one of their own are rare. One such instance came with the final hours of Pansy, a chimp more than 50 years old who lived in a Scottish safari park.

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The Search For Genes Leads To Unexpected Places

HUNTER Edward M. Marcotte and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin have found hundreds of genes involved in human disorders. Ben Sklar for The New York Times

From New York Times:

Edward M. Marcotte is looking for drugs that can kill tumors by stopping blood vessel growth, and he and his colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin recently found some good targets — five human genes that are essential for that growth. Now they’re hunting for drugs that can stop those genes from working. Strangely, though, Dr. Marcotte did not discover the new genes in the human genome, nor in lab mice or even fruit flies. He and his colleagues found the genes in yeast.

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Apple Sued By Elan Microelectronics Over Touch-Screen Technology

From Times Online:

The sale of Apple's iPhone and iPad in the US is under threat after the US International Trade Commission initiated a formal investigation into the company for allegedly infringing a patent covering multi-touch technology.

The ITC, which has the power to ban the import and sale of products, said it was responding to a request from the Taiwanese touchscreen maker Elan Microelectronics, which has a patent for technology that detects the simultaneous presence of two or more fingers on a touchscreen or touchpad.

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Wind Turbines Shed Their Gears

Photo: Power ring: This three-megawatt wind turbine uses permanent magnets and a design that makes it significantly lighter than a conventional geared turbine. Credit: Siemens

From Technology Review:

Both Siemens and GE bet on direct-drive generators.

Wind turbine manufacturers are turning away from the industry-standard gearboxes and generators in a bid to boost the reliability and reduce the cost of wind power.

Siemens has begun selling a three-megawatt turbine using a so-called direct-drive system that replaces the conventional high-speed generator with a low-speed generator that eliminates the need for a gearbox. And last month, General Electric announced an investment of 340 million euros in manufacturing facilities to build its own four-megawatt direct-drive turbines for offshore wind farms.

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When Will We Be Able To Build Brains Like Ours?

Image: Henrik5000

From Scientific American:

Sooner than you think -- and the race has lately caused a 'catfight'.

When physicists puzzle out the workings of some new part of nature, that knowledge can be used to build devices that do amazing things -- airplanes that fly, radios that reach millions of listeners. When we come to understand how brains function, we should become able to build amazing devices with cognitive abilities -- such as cognitive cars that are better at driving than we are because they communicate with other cars and share knowledge on road conditions. In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering chose as one of its grand challenges to reverse-engineer the human brain. When will this happen? Some are predicting that the first wave of results will arrive within the decade, propelled by rapid advances in both brain science and computer science. This sounds astonishing, but it’s becoming increasingly plausible. So plausible, in fact, that the great race to reverse-engineer the brain is already triggering a dispute over historic “firsts.”

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In Search Of The Perfect Wine

Can genetic engineering make wine even better?

From Cosmos:

Using genetic engineering and the latest science, researchers are learning how to manipulate wine's previously elusive qualities. It may be about 8,000 years old, but never has wine tasted this good.

Holding a glass of wine by its stem, careful not to warm the liquid with body heat, you raise it to the light above your head. The bright, clear liquid is the shade of pale straw, informing you of its youth and pure character.

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The Future For Night Vision Goggles

Night Vision Once the domain of military and police, a cheap thin-film approach to night vision could give cell phones, eyeglasses, and car windshields the ability to see in the dark.

A Cheap, Thin Film Gives Portable Night Vision to Cell Phones and Eyeglasses -- Popular Science

What we regularly refer to as “night vision goggles” are actually less like goggles and more like heavy, bulky (and outrageously expensive) pieces of machinery. But DARPA funded research at the U. of Florida has adapted technology regularly found in flat-screen OLED televisions to create a thin film that turns any infrared signal into visible light, which could integrate cheap night vision tech into car windshields, cell phone cameras and even regular eyeglasses.

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The 'Killer Fungus': Should We Be Scared?

A microscopic view of the fungus, known as Cryptococcus gattii
Edmond Byrnes / Joseph Heitman / Duke Dept. of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

From Time Magazine:

If you were keeping a watchful eye on the news feeds on Friday, you probably heard about a new strain of deadly fungus called Cryptococcus gattii that has emerged in Oregon and Washington, and is threatening to spread into California. If you're like me, you are also probably confused about how worried you should — or shouldn't — be about this killer pathogen.

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Bad Habits Can Age You By 12 Years

Smoking is among one of the four behaviors that can dramatically lower life expectancy.
Hemera Technologies/Getty Images

From Discovery News:

Smoking, excessive drinking and other bad habits can dramatically shorten your lifespan.

Four common bad habits combined -- smoking, drinking too much, inactivity and poor diet -- can age you by 12 years, sobering new research suggests.

The findings are from a study that tracked nearly 5,000 British adults for 20 years, and they highlight yet another reason to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

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Picking Planets From Potatoes

In space, objects tend to conform to one of five shapes: (clockwise from left) spheres, dust, potatoes, halos and disks. Credit: Lineweaver, Norman and Chopra

From Astrobiology Magazine:

When Pluto was discovered in 1930, it was considered to be the ninth planet of our solar system. Since that time, astronomers have discovered similar icy objects in that far-distant orbital region of the Sun known as the Kuiper belt. Many astronomers questioned whether Pluto should be grouped with worlds like Earth and Jupiter, and in 2006 this debate led the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the recognized authority in naming heavenly objects, to formally re-classify Pluto as a dwarf planet.

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Research in Antarctica Reveals Non-Organic Mechanism For Production Of Important Greenhouse Gas

UGA research scientist Vladimir Samarkin and his colleagues measured the production of nitrous oxide, an important greenhouse gas, at Don Juan Pond in Antarctica and discovered at the site a previously unreported chemical mechanism for the production of this important greenhouse gas. The discovery could help space scientists understand the meaning of similar brine pools on Mars. (Credit: The University of Georgia)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2010) — In so many ways, Don Juan Pond in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica is one of the most unearthly places on the planet. An ankle-deep mirror between mountain peaks and rubbled moraine, the pond is an astonishing 18 times saltier than the Earth's oceans and virtually never freezes, even in temperatures of more than 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

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Exercise Is Good For The Brain

From Live Science:

Working out on a treadmill isn't just good for the body, it's good for the brain, according to a new study, the latest to weigh in on the cognitive benefits of exercise.

Regular exercise speeds learning and improves blood flow to the brain in monkeys, the study found. The researchers suspect the same would hold true for humans.

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Book Review: 'The Roadmap To 100'

From L.A. Times:

What if you could live to 100 and not just survive but thrive -- even in your elder years? Dr. Walter M. Bortz II and Randall Stickrod, authors of "The Roadmap to 100," say it's not only possible but probable that many of us will do so.

There will be as many as 6 million centenarians in the world by the middle of this century -- most of them healthy, functional and largely independent, Bortz and Stickrod write. But conversely, there's also a large population that may die at a younger age than the previous generation and be in poorer health while alive, putting a strain on healthcare resources, they say.

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The Stars: May

Source: Hencoup Enterprises

From The Independent:

Since the Greek astronomer Ptolemy observed Polaris (the Pole Star) 2000 years ago, it has brightened more than two-and-a-half times.

This is 100 times more than theory would predict, and astronomers are baffled as to why. And William Shakespeare, it turns out, had it all wrong with Julius Caesar
declaiming: "I am as constant as the northern star". Now we know the star is far from constant.

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Remember That Ash Cloud? It Didn't Exist, Says New Evidence

False alarm? Satellite images have revealed there may never have been a doomsday volcanic ash cloud over the UK (file picture)

From The Daily Mail:

Britain's airspace was closed under false pretences, with satellite images revealing there was no doomsday volcanic ash cloud over the entire country.

Skies fell quiet for six days, leaving as many as 500,000 Britons stranded overseas and costing airlines hundreds of millions of pounds.

Estimates put the number of Britons still stuck abroad at 35,000.

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Living World: The Shape Of Life To Come

Rapid climate change may leave polar bears high and dry
(Image: Ingrid Visser/SplashdownDirect/Rex Features)

From New Scientist:

A 3-metre-tall kangaroo; the car-sized armadillos called glyptodons; giant lemurs and elephant birds from Madagascar. Almost as soon as humans evolved, we began killing off other species, not just by hunting but also by changing the landscape with fire.

Now we are altering the planet more rapidly and profoundly than ever, and much of the diversity produced by half a billion years of evolution could be lost in the next few centuries. We are triggering a mass extinction that could be as severe as the one that ended the reign of the dinosaurs.

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Supreme Court To Review Violent-Video-Game Laws

From CNET:

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether minors have the right to buy violent video games in a case that tests whether computer software is guaranteed the same free speech protections as books, newspapers, and magazines.

On Monday, the justices agreed to review a California law that a federal appeals court struck down last year on the grounds that even children and teenagers enjoy free speech rights that are protected by the First Amendment. The case will be heard late this year or in early 2011.

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The Truth About Robots And The Uncanny Valley: Analysis

(Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

From Popular Mechanics:

An oft-cited theory in robotics, the uncanny valley, refers to that point along the chart of robot–human likeness where a robot looks and acts nearly—but not exactly—like a human. This subtle imperfection, the theory states, causes people's feelings toward robots to veer from fondness to revulsion. Here, contributing editor Erik Sofge argues that the theory is so loosely backed it is nearly useless for roboticists. For an in-depth look at the human–robot relationship, check out PM's feature story "Can Robots Be Trusted?" on stands now.

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Japanese Government And Industry Aim For Mind-Controlled Robots And Electronics In 10 Years

Asimo Mind Control The power ... feels good Honda

From Popular Science:

Japan's insatiable love for robots and mind-reading technology has converged in the form of a new government-industry partnership. That means Japanese consumers can look forward to robots and electronics controllable by thought alone within a decade, according to Agence France-Presse.

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What Climate Change Means For Wine Industry

From Wired Science:

John Williams has been making wine in California’s Napa Valley for nearly 30 years, and he farms so ecologically that his peers call him Mr. Green. But if you ask him how climate change will affect Napa’s world famous wines, he gets irritated, almost insulted.

“You know, I’ve been getting that question a lot recently, and I feel we need to keep this issue in perspective,” he told me. “When I hear about global warming in the news, I hear that it’s going to melt the Arctic, inundate coastal cities, displace millions and millions of people, spread tropical diseases and bring lots of other horrible effects. Then I get calls from wine writers and all they want to know is, ‘How is the character of cabernet sauvignon going to change under global warming?’ I worry about global warming, but I worry about it at the humanity scale, not the vineyard scale.”

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Body's Response To Repetitive Laughter Is Similar To The Effect Of Repetitive Exercise, Study Finds

A new study looks at the effect that mirthful laughter and distress have on modulating the key hormones that control appetite. (Credit: iStockphoto/Wouter Van Caspel)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2010) — Laughter is a highly complex process. Joyous or mirthful laughter is considered a positive stress (eustress) that involves complicated brain activities leading to a positive effect on health. Norman Cousins first suggested the idea that humor and the associated laughter can benefit a person's health in the 1970s. His ground-breaking work, as a layperson diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, documented his use of laughter in treating himself -- with medical approval and oversight -- into remission. He published his personal research results in the New England Journal of Medicine and is considered one of the original architects of mind-body medicine.

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Oil Slick From Rig Collapse Seen From Space

The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico that resulted from the explosion and collapse of an oil rig can be seen in this image from NASA's Aqua satellite. Credit: MODIS Rapid Response Team

From Live Science:

The oil slick that is expanding from the site of an oil rig collapse last week has been spotted from space by a NASA satellite.

An estimated 42,000 gallons of oil per day are leaking from an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico after an oil rig caught fire and then sank into the ocean waters last week.

The only oil evident in the water at first was that which had been on the rig itself at the time it exploded on April 20. Over the weekend, officials working on the oil spill discovered that water was also leaking from the pipe that led up to the rig from the well some 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) below on the seafloor.

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Out For The Count: Why Levels Of Sperm In Men Are Falling

Father of the man: researchers believe that a man's fertility as an adult may be largely laid down in the few months before and after his birth. JENNIFER JACQUEMART / REX FEATURES

From The Independent:

Levels of 'viable' sperm in human males are falling – and scientists believe they now understand the cause. Infertility can begin in the womb, says Steve Connor.

If scientists from Mars were to study the human male's reproductive system they would probably conclude that he is destined for rapid extinction. Compared to other mammals, humans produce relatively low numbers of viable sperm – sperm capable of making that long competitive swim to penetrate an unfertilised egg.

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Dinosaurs 'Killed Off By A Sudden Drop In Temperature And NOT By A Comet'

Evidence? This Jurassic ammonite discovered in Svalbard, Norway reveals the sudden drop in temperature which may have contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs, scientists believe.

From The Daily Mail:

Dinosaurs were wiped off the face of the Earth by a sudden drop in temperature and not by a comet striking the planet, scientists claimed today.

Researchers studying fossils in Norway have discovered that the world's seas plummeted 9C from 13C to just 4C around 137million years ago.

They believe this was caused by a sudden change in the Atlantic Gulf Stream - a phenomenon many experts fear is about to happen again.

Read more ....

The Secrets Of Intelligence Lie Within A Single Cell

Modelling the neuron as little more than a simple on/off switch is a big mistake (Image: Dan Webber)

From The New Scientist:

LATE at night on a sultry evening, I watch intently as the predator senses its prey, gathers itself, and strikes. It could be a polecat, or even a mantis - but in fact it's a microbe. The microscopic world of the single, living cell mirrors our own in so many ways: cells are essentially autonomous, sentient and ingenious. In the lives of single cells we can perceive the roots of our own intelligence.

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Police Seize Gizmodo's Computers In iPhone Probe

Gizmodo editor Jason Chen in a video embedded in his April 19 post titled "This is Apple's next iPhone." (Credit: by CNET)
From CNET:

Police have seized computers and servers belonging to an editor of Gizmodo in an investigation that appears to stem from the gadget blog's purchase of a lost Apple iPhone prototype.

Deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff's office obtained a warrant on Friday and searched Jason Chen's Fremont, Calif., home later that evening, Gizmodo acknowledged on Monday.

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Field Guide: What's The Best Smartphone Operating System?

From Popular Mechanics:

Sure, a smartphone's specs matter—you'll want one with a fast processor, bright screen and decent camera. But the horsepower is wasted if the phone is difficult to use. When it comes to user experience, nothing is more important than a phone's operating system (OS). Here's what you need to know about the five top smartphone platforms.

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The Army Wants To Smell Your Fear

Smelling Threats from a Distance Using people's unique scents to identify them before they get too close to troops could save soldiers' lives.

The Army Wants Olfactory Sensors That Can Smell Potential Perps At A Distance -- Popular Science

If something doesn’t smell right, the Army wants to know about it. But while the Pentagon has been angling for a biosensors that can smell fear or nervousness in a person’s bodily emanations for some years now, the Army wants something more: The ability to “uniquely identify an individual based on scent” from a distance or even days after the person has left the scene.

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The “CSI Effect”

From The Economist:

Television dramas that rely on forensic science to solve crimes are affecting the administration of justice.

OPENING a new training centre in forensic science (pictured above) at the University of Glamorgan in South Wales recently, Bernard Knight, formerly one of Britain’s chief pathologists, said that because of television crime dramas, jurors today expect more categorical proof than forensic science is capable of delivering. And when it comes to the gulf between reality and fiction, Dr Knight knows what he is talking about: besides 43 years’ experience of attending crime scenes, he has also written dozens of crime novels.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Is The U.S. Experiencing A Rocket Motor Shortage, And Will It Impact National Security?

U.S. Spy Satellite Program Could Be Undermined By Flagging Demand For Rocket Motors -- Lexington Institute

Amy Butler of Aviation Week & Space Technology reported last week that the super-secret National Reconnaissance Office will be launching new spy satellites over the next two years at the highest rate since the Reagan era. Butler quotes NRO director Bruce Carlson as stating that several "very large, very critical" spacecraft will be sent into orbit by his agency -- presumably systems that collect imagery of surface targets or eavesdrop on the radio-frequency transmissions of potential adversaries. Combined with impending launches of new military-communications and missile-warning satellites, news of the spy-satellite payloads will come as welcome news to the nation's endangered rocket-motor industry.

Read more ....

Hat Tip:
Defense Industry Daily

My Comment: Someone has taken the eye off the ball on this one.