Saturday, May 21, 2011

Endeavour Cleared After Heat Shield Inspection

Photo: The space shuttle Endeavour conducts a flip maneuver to allow inspection of its heat shield tiles, prior to docking at the International Space Station.

From CBS News:

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. - After a close-up, focused inspection of a damaged heat shield tile on the belly of space shuttle Endeavour, NASA analysts have concluded that there is no threat posed to the orbiter, and NASA's Mission Management Team cleared the ship for re-entry as-is.

"So all good results all the way around," said MMT Chairman LeRoy Cain. "We're essentially clearing the vehicle for re-entry at this point. There were no dissenting opinions, no alternate opinions; the entire team was pretty much on board with the assessments that were done."

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Free-Floating "Planets" Are More Common Than What Is Believed

The "rogue" planets act as lenses, bending the light from distant stars

'Free-Floating' Planets Found With No Star In Sight -- BBC

An international team of astronomers claim to have found free-floating "planets" which do not seem to orbit a star.

Writing in Nature, they say they have found 10 Jupiter-sized objects which they could not connect to any solar system. They also believe such objects could be as common as stars are throughout the Milky Way.

The objects revealed themselves by bending the light of more distant stars, an effect called "gravitational microlensing".

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What If The Rapture Happens

According Christian tradition, the rapture is the day when believers will ascend to heaven and be rewarded with everlasting life. CREDIT: Dreamstime

What If 200 Million People Go Missing on Saturday? -- Live Science

According to the predictions of Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping, May 21 will be the day of the rapture, when God calls believers to heaven to live in everlasting paradise.

By Camping's estimation, that means the Earth will be 200 million souls lighter by Sunday morning.

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Radio Telescopes Capture Best-Ever Snapshot of Black Hole Jets

Merging X-ray data (blue) from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory with microwave (orange) and visible images reveals the jets and radio-emitting lobes emanating from Centaurus A's central black hole. (Credit: ESO/WFI (visible); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (microwave); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray))

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (May 20, 2011) — An international team, including NASA-funded researchers, using radio telescopes located throughout the Southern Hemisphere has produced the most detailed image of particle jets erupting from a supermassive black hole in a nearby galaxy.

"These jets arise as infalling matter approaches the black hole, but we don't yet know the details of how they form and maintain themselves," said Cornelia Mueller, the study's lead author and a doctoral student at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.

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How To Manipulate Social Movements By Hacking Twitter

Image credit: Leo Espinosa

Are You Following A Bot? -- The Atlantic

How to manipulate social movements by hacking Twitter.

One day last February, a Twitter user in California named Billy received a tweet from @JamesMTitus, identified in his profile as a “24 year old dude” from Christchurch, New Zealand, who had the avatar of a tabby cat. “If you could bring one character to life from your favorite book, who would it be?,” @JamesMTitus asked. Billy tweeted back, “Jesus,” to which @JamesMTitus replied: “honestly? no fracking way. ahahahhaa.” Their exchange continued, and Billy began following @JamesMTitus. It probably never occurred to him that the Kiwi dude with an apparent love of cats was, in fact, a robot.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Massive Storm On Saturn

This false-color infrared image shows clouds of large ammonia ice particles dredged up by the powerful storm. Credit: Cassini

Massive Storm Erupts On Saturn -- Cosmos

MARYLAND: A giant early-spring storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere - so powerful that it stretches around the entire planet - has been detected.

The rare storm has been wreaking havoc for months and shooting plumes of gas high into the planet's atmosphere, according to data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft and a European Southern Observatory ground-based telescope, that have been tracking its progress

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My Comment: Hmmmm ..... I guess I should not complain about the weather that I must go through each winter (I live in Quebec, Canada).

'Dark Energy' Confirmed

The Anglo-Australian telescope was used in the galaxy survey

New Method 'Confirms Dark Energy' -- BBC

First results from a major astronomical survey using a cutting-edge technique appear to have confirmed the existence of mysterious dark energy.

Dark energy makes up some 74% of the Universe and its existence would explain why the Universe appears to be expanding at an accelerating rate.

The finding was based on studies of more than 200,000 galaxies.

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How Piano Wires Changed Through The Centuries

Even as the wires used in pianos changed from iron to steel, sound quality has remained largely the same. Getty Images

How Piano Wires Changed Through Centuries -- Discovery

Since Mozart's time, piano wires have changed in content -- but very little in quality, research shows.

* The wire inside pianos has undergone significant changes between the piano's origins in the early 1700s until the late 1880s.
* Research suggests that piano designers used music wire to reach similar harmonic levels despite working with different metals.
* Piano designers balance tension and stiffness of music wire, but many other factors are considered as well.

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10 Incredible Facts About The Human Brain

10 astounding facts about the human brain

10 Astounding Facts About The Human Brain -- The Telegraph

Last night, BBC One's Inside the Human Body focused on the brain. Here are ten remarkable facts about our most complex organ.

* The human brain is so sophisticated it takes nearly 20 years to mature

* In the womb, humans grow 8,000 new brain cells every second

* By the time humans are born they have all the brain cells they will ever need

* The human brain is the "most sophisticated thing" in the known universe

* New-born babies can recognise their mother’s face after just a few hours

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Atmosphere Above Epicentre Of Deadly Japan Earthquake Heated Up 'Rapidly' In Days Before Disaster

Satellite images showing changes in the heat of the atmosphere above the epicentre of the March 11 earthquake between March 1 and March 12. The total electron content in the ionosphere increased dramatically before the quake

A Warning Sign? Atmosphere Above Epicentre Of Deadly Japan Earthquake Heated Up 'Rapidly' In Days Before Disaster -- The Daily Mail

* Scientists hope they will one day be able to predict quakes uses air ionisation data.

The atmosphere directly above the fault zone which produced Japan's recent devastating earthquake heated up significantly in the days before the disaster, a study has shown.

Before the March 11 earthquake, the total electron content in a part of the upper atmosphere, called the ionosphere, increased dramatically over the earthquake's epicentre, reaching a maximum three days before the quake struck.

It is believed that in the days before an earthquake, the stresses on geological faults in the Earth's crust causes the release of large amounts of radon gas.

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My Comment: This is a remarkable discovery that deserves further research.

U.S. Special Ops Tracking Terrorists Everywhere

Photo: An artists rendition of Montana State University's Explorer-1 [Prime] CubeSat. Montana State University/NASA

U.S. Special Ops Building Satellites To Track Terrorists Everywhere -- Popular Mechanics

The raid on Osama bin Laden's compound this month highlighted special forces' focus on finding high-value targets. Their hunt extends into space, too. An official with U.S. Special Operations Command has confirmed that his organization is testing tiny satellites that could keep tabs on targets from above.

An official with Special Ops revealed Wednesday that the U.S. recently launched mini-satellites that could clandestinely track high-value targets, like al-Qaida terrorists. "We sent up four satellites to demonstrate passing TTL [tagging, tracking, locating] data," Doug Richardson, a civilian official at U.S. Special Operations Command, told an audience on Wednesday, referring to a December launch of a SpaceX rocket carrying the CubeSats—inexpensive satellites so small they can fit in the palm of your hand, and which have been used for scientific missions for a number of years.

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My Comment: One more reason why the Pentagon is upset with all of these leaks.

Kindle E-Book Outsells Print Versions For First Time Ever

Bestseller: The e-book is outselling text versions for the first time ever

Is It The End For The Paperback? Kindle E-Book Outsells Print Versions For First Time Ever -- the Daily Mail

Sales of digital e-books have outstripped real books for the first time, according to Amazon.

Four years after the launch of electronic novels, the firm announced it has sold 105 e-books for every 100 printed books over the past six weeks.

While e-book sales have previously outsold hardback books, never before have they exceeded sales of all books, in both hardback and paperback forms.

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My Comment: We predicted this years ago .... but it is still a surprise to now know that this point has been reached.

Robots Learning Their Own Language

The 'Lingodroids' Learning Language via IEEE Spectrum

Robots Learn To CreateTheir Own Spoken Language -- Popular Science

Having a computer for a brain has its perks, but it has its drawbacks as well. Language is a tough concept for robots, as words can convey the abstract as well as the concrete and robots have trouble knowing the difference (and grasping the abstract). That makes human-machine interaction less than intuitive for humans and confusing to ‘bots. But Australian researchers are hoping to change that by teaching robots to communicate verbally in a language of their own creation, the same way humans did.

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Beware Of The Coming Zombie Apocalypse

Will Budget Cuts Leave Us Unprepared For Zombie Apocalypse? -- ABC News

If zombies ever start taking over the planet, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says we'd better be prepared for it.

If the undead really start roaming the earth looking for fresh brains to eat, we can't rely on our ability to shoot 'em dead the way people do in video games or in horror flicks. Instead, the agency says, we need to treat it like any other disaster.

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More News On The Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse

US officials prepare for 'zombie apocalypse' -- The Guardian
CDC prepares for Zombie Apocalypse: tips on how to survive -- Washington Post
Ready for a zombie apocalypse? CDC has advice -- CNN
CDC Advises on Zombie Apocalypse … and Other Emergencies -- Wall Street Journal
CDC Zombie Apocalypse: What we're watching now -- CBS News
Ready for a zombie invasion? Center for Disease Control has tips on popular new blog post -- New York Daily News
Zombies Upstage a Routine Public Health Bulletin -- New York Times
Preparing for a zombie apocalypse? The CDC weighs in -- L.A. Times
CDC: Here’s what to do in case of zombie apocalypse -- Chicago Sun Times
CDC helps Americans prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse -- USA Today
US offers coping tips on 'zombie apocalypse' -- AFP
CDC reveals safety plan for Zombie Apocalypse -- The Register
CDC "Zombie Apocalypse" disaster campaign crashes website -- Reuters
CDC Launches Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide: Supplementary Tech Tips -- ZDNet
CDC to America: How to Prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse -- Time

By Working As A Team, Autonomous Swarming 'Bots Can Quickly Explore and Map Structures

GT's Henrick Christensen With One of the Team's Autonomous Mapping 'Bots Georgia Tech

Working as a Team, Autonomous Swarming 'Bots Quickly Explore and Map Structures -- Popular Science

A swarm of intelligent, autonomous robots from Georgia Tech may soon be leading the charge into dangerous and uncertain situations, providing valuable mapping intel to first responders, military, or police behind them. A team of researchers there have developed a team of small, rolling robots that can autonomously communicate with one another to quickly build a detailed floor plan map of an entire structure and beam it to nearby humans.

Read more ....

My Comment: I can see recon units and FOBs having this tech as standard in the next 15-20 years (if not sooner).

Planets More Numerous Than Believed

An artist's depiction illustrates a Jupiter-sized planet wandering free in interstellar space. The new findings appear to confirm the existence of many such planets. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / May 19, 2011)

Planets May Be Vastly More Numerous Than Believed -- L.A. Times

Researchers say that millions of Jupiter-sized planets are wandering in our galaxy far from any star. The findings suggest that there may be twice as many planets as stars in the Milky Way, perhaps several times as many.

The Milky Way galaxy may be filled with millions upon millions of Jupiter-sized planets that have escaped their solar systems and are wandering freely in space, researchers said Wednesday in a finding that seems certain to make astronomers rethink their ideas about planetary formation.

Scientists had previously thought that about 20% of stars had massive planets attached to them, but the new results reported in the journal Nature suggest that there are at least twice as many planets as stars, and perhaps several times as many.

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Rare Colour Photographs Of The Depression

Distributing surplus commodities in St Johns, Arizona, October 1940

In The Bleak Light Of The Depression: Rare Colour Photographs Of The Era That Defined A Generation -- Daily Mail

It was an era that defined a generation. The Great Depression marked the bitter and abrupt end to the post-World War 1 bubble that left America giddy with promise in the 1920s. Near the end of the 1930s the country was beginning to recover from the crash, but many in small towns and rural areas were still poverty-stricken. These rare photographs are some of the few documenting those iconic years in colour. The photographs and capti are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color. The images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, shed a bleak new light on a world now gone with the wind.

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My Comment: A fascinating gallery of photos from a time when America was all black and white.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Protecting Ones Home From The Floods

Citizens in Flood Zone Build Homemade Levees to Protect Their Homes -- Popular Science

All of that water pouring out of spillways and topping levees up and down the Mississippi River has to go somewhere, and many living in those areas prone to flooding have taken drastic action to keep from being inundated. In what could be called a testament to the human instinct to protect hearth and home, some in the disaster zone are holding out by taking civil engineering into their own hands, building makeshift levees to keep the rising waters at bay. Click through the gallery to see how far some homeowners have gone to protect their properties.

Read more ....

Using Viagra 'Could Make You Deaf'?

The researchers are not sure how Viagra might affect hearing Photo: Alamy

Viagra 'Could Make You Deaf' -- The Telegraph

Viagra could make you deaf, doctors have warned.

Viagra and similar impotence drugs have been linked to hundreds of cases of sudden hearing loss around the world, including some in the UK.

Doctors have begun to warn that the drugs could damage users' hearing after a spate of people in the US with auditory problems.

Experts, including some from Charing Cross, Stoke Mandeville and Royal Marsden hospitals, were so concerned by the claims that they demanded an investigation from official watchdogs across three continents.

Read more ....

Moment Tsunami Swamps Japan's Doomed Fukushima Nuclear Plant

(Click on image to Enlarge)
Disaster strikes: The tsunami rushes over a protective sea wall and towards tanks of heavy oil for the Unit 5 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex

Genesis Of A Disaster: Moment Tsunami Swamps Japan's Doomed Fukushima Nuclear Plant -- The Daily Mail

This is the moment the Japanese tsunami destroyed a sea wall designed to protect the Fukushima nuclear plant and surged towards reactors.

Tons of water can be seen destroying the wall and sweeping away reactor equipment, cars and other machinery in pictures released by plant owners.

The tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the plant, causing the reactors to melt down and numerous explosions as engineers tried to release a build up of radioactive hydrogen gas.

Read more ....

My Comment: Another example on why we should never underestimate the power of nature.

The Marvels Of Imaging Technology On Fossils Trapped In Amber

The 49 million-year-old Huntsman spider seen using X-ray computed tomography. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Manchester)

Imaging Technology Reveals Intricate Details of 49-Million-Year-Old Spider -- Science Daily

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2011) — Scientists have used the latest computer-imaging technology to produce stunning three-dimensional pictures of a 49 million-year-old spider trapped inside an opaque piece of fossilized amber resin.

University of Manchester researchers, working with colleagues in Germany, created the intricate images using X-ray computed tomography to study the remarkable spider, which can barely be seen under the microscope in the old and darkened amber.

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My Comment: 49 million years trapped in amber .... wow.

Japan Earthquake Was 'In The Air' Days Before

On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. local time (05:46 UTC), a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck off the east coast of Japan. The epicenter was 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of Sendai, and 231 miles (373 km) northeast of Tokyo. If initial measurements are confirmed, it will be the world’s fifth largest earthquake since 1900 and the worst in Japan's history. This image of Japan from 1999 was taken as part of SeaWiFS, the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor Project. CREDIT: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, SeaWiFS Project and ORBIMAGE

Japan Earthquake Was 'In the Air' Days Before, Scientist Claims -- Live Science

The atmosphere above the epicenter of the March 11 earthquake in Japan underwent unusual changes in the days leading up to the disaster, according to preliminary data.

The research has not yet been published in an academic journal or reviewed by other scientists, but it could offer an intriguing possibility for earthquake prediction — though the day scientists are able to forecast earthquakes is still "far away," said study researcher Dimitar Ouzounov, a professor of earth sciences at Chapman University in California.

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My Comment: This is very intriguing, and deserves more study.

Small Pox Fears?

'Bizarre Bits' Exhibition Took a Strange Turn When Feds Arrived -- Wall Street Journal

A 135-Year-Old Piece of Skin Launches a Smallpox Scare at a Virginia Museum.

An outbreak of smallpox was the farthest thing from Paul Levengood's mind when his staff at the Virginia Historical Society put together an exhibit of "bizarre bits" in the society's collection since its founding in 1831.

There was Confederate President Jefferson Davis's cigar, confiscated by Union troops. There was a fungus carving of Robert E. Lee on his horse Traveller and a wreath made of human hair.

Then someone mentioned a letter, handwritten and dated 1876, with what appeared to be a smallpox scab pinned inside—light brown, about the size of a pencil eraser, and crumbling.

Read more ....

135-Year-Old Piece of Skin Triggers Smallpox Scare At Virginia Museum -- FOX News

My Comment: Small Pox has been one of history's worst scourges .... stories like this one should always raise our eyebrows and make us grateful that small pox epidemics are a thing of the past. As to this story .... I doubt that small pox will ever turn to plague mankind .... but it is another wake-up call on why we should always be vigilant.

China Admits Three Gorges Dam Has Problems

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in Yichang, Hubei province is seen in this 2009 file photo. China's landmark dam project provides benefits to the Chinese people, but has created a myriad of urgent problems from the relocation of more than a million residents to risks of geological disasters, the Chinese government said on Thursday. Reuters/File

Controversial Three Gorges Dam Has Problems, Admits China -- Christian Science Monitor

The world's largest hydroelectric project was designed to tame the flood-prone Yangtze River and to generate clean energy. But the water is becoming polluted, and regular landslides are making life near the dam dangerous.

The Chinese government made a rare admission Thursday of something that millions of people living around the Three Gorges dam know only too well: There is a dark side to the country’s proudest engineering achievement.

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My Comment: Critics have been saying the same thing for years .... I guess are now listening.