Saturday, October 11, 2008

How We Evolve

From Seed Magazine:

When the previous generation of life scientists was coming up through the academy, there was a widespread assumption, not always articulated by professors, that human evolution had all but stopped. It had certainly shaped our prehuman ancestors — Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and the rest of the ape-men and man-apes in our bushy lineage — but once Homo sapiens developed agriculture and language, it was thought, we stopped changing. It was as though, having achieved its aim by the seventh day, evolution rested. "That was the stereotype that I learned," says population geneticist and anthropologist Henry Harpending. "We showed up 45,000 years ago and haven't changed since then."

The idea makes a rough-and-ready kind of sense. Natural selection derives its power to transform from the survival of some and the demise of others, and from differential reproductive success. But we nurse our sick back to health, and mating is no longer a privilege that males beat each other senseless to secure. As a result, even the less fit get to pass on their genes. Promiscuity and sperm competition have given way to spiritual love; the fittest and the unfit are treated as equals, and equally flourish. With the advent of culture and our fine sensibilities, the assumption was, natural selection went by the board.

Read more ....

Extending The Life Of Fresh Cranberries

Cranberry harvest in New Jersey. (Credit: Photo by Keith Weller)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2008) — Cranberries are tart, tiny fruits packed with powerful antioxidants. The small, red berries offer a wide variety of health benefits. Not only are cranberries a healthy, low-calorie snack, but they can also play a significant role in preventing urinary tract infections, reducing the risk of gum disease and much more. In fact, studies show that the significant amounts of antioxidants in cranberries may help protect against heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

The good news about cranberries is spreading, resulting in growing consumer demand for fresh cranberries and cranberry products. This demand has led to increased interest in finding ways to extend the shelf life of the popular fruit. Setting out to determine the optimum conditions for storing fresh cranberries, Charles F. Forney. a research scientist in Postharvest Physiology at the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre in Nova Scotia, Canada, conducted a study of fresh cranberries and their postharvest life. Forney's study was published in the April 2008 issue of HortScience.

Read more ....

Promising New Material Could Improve Gas Mileage

Up to three-quarters of the potential energy you are paying at the gas pump for is wasted. A good deal of it goes right out the tailpipe instead of powering your car. (Credit: iStockphoto/Rich Legg)

From Space Daily:

ScienceDaily (Oct. 10, 2008) — With gasoline at high prices, it's disheartening to know that up to three-quarters of the potential energy you are paying for is wasted. A good deal of it goes right out the tailpipe instead of powering your car.

Now a Northwestern University-led research team has identified a promising new material that could transform a technology that currently cools and heats car seats -- thermoelectrics -- into one that also efficiently converts waste heat into electricity to help power the car and improve gas mileage.

The researchers discovered that adding two metals, antimony and lead, to the well-known semiconductor lead-telluride, produces a thermoelectric material that is more efficient at high temperatures than existing materials. The results are published online in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Read more ....

Animals Have Personalities, Too

From Live Science:

We know our siblings and in-laws have personalities — sometimes to a fault. But science recently has revealed that such individual differences are widespread in the animal kingdom, even reaching to spiders, birds, mice, squid, rats and pigs.

Now a new mathematical model helps to explain how and why such animal temperaments develop over time.

The model explains a central question of both animal and human personality — why certain individuals are more rigid or flexible than others, and why some change their behavior in response to changes in their environment while others do not.

The answer, says Franz Weissing of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, comes down to costs and benefits. A group in which both rigid and flexible personality types co-exist makes for an optimal system, his model shows.

The field of animal-personality study is starting to gain some substance and credibility, said University of Texas psychologist Sam Gosling, who does research in this field.

Read more ....

A New Explosive

A high-energy-density nitrate ester (1) with unique properties was synthesized in good yield in a three-step process. Destructive stimuli studies and explosive performance calculations show that (1) has similar performance properties to those of well-characterized explosives.

From E! Science News:

Since the discovery of nitroglycerin in 1846, the nitrate ester group of compounds has been known for its explosive properties. A whole series of other nitrate esters have been subsequently put to use as explosives and fuels. A research team led by David E. Chavez at Los Alamos National Laboratory (USA) has now developed a novel tetranitrate ester. As reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the compound has a particularly interesting characteristic profile: it is solid at room temperature, is a highly powerful explosive, and can be melt-cast into the desired shape. Nitrate esters are organic nitric acid compounds that can contain enormous explosive force. However, their liquid physical state makes handling very difficult. By mixing in various other components, Alfred Nobel developed dynamite, a distinctly safer and easier to handle nitroglycerine-based explosive. The only solid nitrate ester used as an explosive before is nitropenta. Because of its high melting point of about 140 °C, nitropenta must be pressed into the desired form.

Read more ....

New Spacecraft to Explore Interstellar Boundary -- Popsci

IBEX Mounted on Pegasus: Photo courtesy NASA

NASA's IBEX craft is heading out this month to map the edges of the solar system

The "termination shock" sounds like the stuff science fiction movies are made of. In reality, it marks the boundary between our solar system and interstellar space. The invisible "shock" forms as our sun's solar winds begin to encounter the gases and magnetic fields of outer space, which slows the winds down abruptly.

On October 19, NASA will launch the first spacecraft designed to image and map the interactions that take place in this boundary zone. The Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, will be propelled from the Kwajalein Atoll into a high-altitude orbit that will eventually take it about 200,000 miles from Earth, where it will capture images of processes taking place in the termination shock and beyond.

"The interstellar boundary regions are critical because they shield us from the vast majority of dangerous galactic cosmic rays, which otherwise would penetrate into Earth's orbit and make human spaceflight much more dangerous," said David J. McComas, principal investigator of the IBEX mission and senior executive director the Space Science and Engineering Division at the Southwest Research Institute.

Read more ....

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sea Ice Extent Recovering Quickly

(Click To Enlarge)
(Photo from Watts Up With That)

From Watts With That:

As many readers know, the predictions for record low sea ice minimums in 2008 were not met, and 2008 ended up about 9% higher than in 2007 at the end of the season. See the report here.

Now in looking at AMSR-E satellite data, the red line on the graph below, one can see that the recovery is at a significantly faster rate than in recent years.

I’m not one to read much into this, as to do so would be to make the same mistake as was done earlier this year when the NSIDC melt trend led one researcher there to conclude that we’d see an “ice free north pole”.

Read more ....

Babies Know Happy From Sad Songs

From Live Science:

Babies as young as 5 months can distinguish an upbeat tune, such as "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, from a lineup of gloomy tunes.

Researchers displayed an emotionally-neutral face for the baby while sad music played. When the baby looked away from the face, the music stopped and a new sad song would start. When the happier "Ode to Joy" played, the babies stared at the face three to four seconds longer, suggesting they were interested in the shift.

By 9 months old, babies can do the opposite, picking out the sorrowful sound of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony from a pack of happy pieces.

The finding is another example of how babies make sense of the world long before they can talk, said Brigham Young University psychology professor and study author Ross Flom.

Read more ....

Blood Test Finds Coronary Disease

From The New Observer:

A simple blood test could soon replace expensive and invasive exams to detect coronary artery disease.

The test, announced Wednesday by doctors at Duke, is being developed after the discovery of genetic markers that show the presence and intensity of blockage in coronary artery disease, said a Duke cardiologist who co-authored research on the link.

Such a blood test could save millions of dollars annually by allowing some patients to avoid risky procedures in which catheters are inserted into patients' arteries.

"I think it is a big deal," Dr. William E. Kraus, a Duke cardiologist, said in an interview Wednesday. "What we want is a test that tells us the status of your disease today and if what you have is heart disease." Kraus' research was published in the medical journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.

Current detection of the disease -- the leading cause of death in the United States and a top killer in North Carolina, with 23,610 deaths in 2006 -- can require expensive tests such as echocardiograms, stress tests and imaging techniques that use radiation.

"A blood-based test to diagnose coronary artery disease would be less invasive and risky and would prevent patients from [receiving] radiation exposure," Kraus said in a statement.

Read more ....

In Puppy Play, It's Ladies First

She's the Boss: During puppy play, young males sometimes put themselves in a position where they can be taken advantage of by their female playmates. The early behavior could serve them well later in life, say researchers. (Photo: From Discovery)

From Discovery:

Oct. 9, 2008 -- It may not be such a dog-eat-dog world after all, at least among puppies. A new study has found that young male dogs playing with female pups will often let the females win, even if the males have a physical advantage.

Male dogs sometimes place themselves in potentially disadvantageous positions that could make them more vulnerable to attack, and researchers suspect the opportunity to play may be more important to them than winning.

Such self-handicapping has been documented before in red-necked wallabies, squirrel monkeys, hamadryas baboons and even humans, all of which frequently take on defensive positions when playing with youngsters, in particular.

The gentlemanly dog behavior is even accompanied with a bow.

Read more ....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

E-Science: Massive Experiments, Global Networks

Supercomputers: European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) scientists work in the control center of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. The massive amount of information collected by the collider will be shared across an international computer network.
(Fabrice Coffrini/AP/File). (Photo from Christian Science Monitor).

From Christian Science Monitor:

Worldwide computer grids mean even small-timers can contribute to ‘big science.’

Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina is not the first name that pops up in conversations about centers of polar science.

Tucked at the tip of a branch of Albemarle Sound, along the state’s northeast coast, the well-regarded, historically African-American university focuses largely on undergraduate education. But it’s also taking part in cutting-edge Arctic and Antarctic science as a key player in PolarGrid – a powerful, sophisticated computer network researchers use to analyze images of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and model their behavior.

It’s part of the burgeoning world of e-Science – a realm where the questions are big, cutting across once-disparate disciplines. And the answers often demand enormous amounts of number crunching through networks of interconnected computing centers at universities and laboratories around the world – a process known as grid computing.

Read more ....

Hawking: If We Survive The Next 200 Years, We Should Be OK

Stephen Hawking, here delivering a lecture in May, spoke recently to CNN about his vision of the future. (Photo from CNN)

From CNN:

CAMBRIDGE, England (CNN) -- Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the world's great scientists, is looking to the stars to save the human race -- but pessimism is overriding his natural optimism.

Hawking, in an exclusive CNN interview, said that if humans can survive the next 200 years and learn to live in space, then our future will be bright.

"I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space," said Hawking, who is almost completely paralyzed by the illness ALS.

"It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next 100 years, let alone next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load."

Hawking is one of the few scientists known to a wide audience outside academia thanks to his best-selling books, a guest spot on "The Simpsons" and an ability to clearly explain the complexities of theoretical physics.

Read more ....

Nobel Prize For Physics Announced

From left, Makoto Kobayashi, Toshihide Masukawa and Yoichiro Nambu. (Reuters)

2 Japanese, 1 American Share Physics Nobel -- CBS News

Prize Won For Subatomic Theories In Field Of Elementary Particle Physics

(AP) Two Japanese citizens and an American won the 2008 Nobel Prize in physics for discoveries in the world of subatomic physics, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Tuesday.

American Yoichiro Nambu, 87, of the University of Chicago, won half of the prize for the discovery of a mechanism called spontaneous broken symmetry. Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa of Japan shared the other half of the prize for discovering the origin of the broken symmetry that predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature.

In its citation, the academy said that this "year's Nobel laureates in physics have presented theoretical insights that give us a deeper understanding of what happens far inside the tiniest building blocks of matter."

Turning to Nambu, it said that his work in "Spontaneous broken symmetry conceals nature's order under an apparently jumbled surface," the academy said in its citation. "Nambu's theories permeate the Standard Model of elementary particle physics. The model unifies the smallest building blocks of all matter and three of nature's four forces in one single theory."

Read more ....

More News On The Nobel Prize For Physics

Three Physicists Share Nobel Prize -- New York Times
1 American and 2 Japanese share Nobel physics prize -- International Herald Tribune
Nobel physics prize goes to 2 Japanese, 1 American -- Myway/AP
2 Japanese, 1 American Share Nobel Physics Prize -- American Scientist
Nobel Prize in Physics winners voice joy -- Daily Yomiuri
3 Win Physics Nobel for Subatomic Particle Research -- Live Science
U.S. scientist, Japanese pair share Nobel physics prize -- Mercury News
Nobel Honors Glimpse Into Universe's Design -- NPR
Nobel Prize for Physics Honors Subatomic Breakthroughs -- National Geographic
Nambu, Kobayashi and Maskawa Win Physics Nobel -- Scientific American
Nobel Prize in physics shared for work that unifies forces of nature -- Science News
Shy Japanese Nobel laureate has no passport: wife -- AFP
Physics Nobel snubs key researcher -- New Scientists

Nobel Prize For Chemistry Announced

Martin Chalfie of Columbia University, Osamu Shimomura of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and Roger Y. Tsien of UC San Diego will share the 2008 Nobel Prize for chemistry.(Photo from L.A. Times)

Three Chemists Win Nobel Prize -- New York Times

One Japanese and two American scientists won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for taking the ability of some jellyfish to glow green and transforming it into a ubiquitous tool of molecular biology to watch the dance of living cells and the proteins within them.

Osamu Shimomura, an emeritus professor at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. and Boston University Medical School, Martin Chalfie of Columbia University, and Roger Y. Tsien of the University of California, San Diego, will share the $1.4 million prize awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The green fluorescent protein, or G.F.P. for short, was observed in 1962 in the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, which drifts in the ocean currents off the west coast of North America.

Dr. Shimomura was able to identify the protein and showed that it glowed bright green under ultraviolet light.

Dr. Chalfie showed how the protein could be used as a biological identifier tag by inserting the gene that produces the protein into the DNA of an organism.

Read more ....

More News On The Nobel Prize For Chemistry

Chemistry Nobel Prize Awarded for Glowing Protein Work -- National Geographic
Scientists Go for the Glow in Fluorescent Proteins -- Wired News
Three U.S.-based scientists share Nobel chemistry prize -- L.A. Times
Japanese, American Scientists Win Nobel Chemistry Prize -- Voice Of America
Green jellyfish protein scientists win Nobel -- Reuters
Chemistry Nobel Glows Fluorescent Green -- Scientific American
A Nobel for Illuminating Biology -- Technology Review
How Green Was the Nobel Prize in Chemistry -- Scientific American
Cell Illuminators Win Chemistry Nobel -- Wired News
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the Beauty of Fluorescent Protein -- Wall Street Journal
Nobel Prize in chemistry commends finding and use of green fluorescent protein -- Science News
Nobel prize for chemistry illuminates disease -- The Guardian
Chemistry Nobel Prize Awarded to Scientists Who Discovered and Developed GFP Fluorescent Protein -- GEN
Nobel won after 50 yrs, 100,000 jellyfish -- Daily Yomiuri
Nobel winners recall postwar struggles -- Japan Times
Nobel prize laureate finds winning news on internet -- AFP
Glowing Gene's Discoverer Left Out Of Nobel Prize -- NPR
Nobel Predictions: Score! -- Newsweek
US takes 2008 chemistry prize, Nobel league lead - October 08, 2008 -- Nature
Recent winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, and their research, according to the Nobel Foundation -- AP

'Unbreakable' Encryption Unveiled

From The BBC:

Perfect secrecy has come a step close with the launch of the world's first computer network protected by unbreakable quantum encryption at a scientific conference in Vienna.

The network connects six locations across Vienna and in the nearby town of St Poelten, using 200 km of standard commercial fibre optic cables.

Quantum cryptography is completely different from the kinds of security schemes used on computer networks today.

These are typically based on complex mathematical procedures which are extremely hard for outsiders to crack, but not impossible given sufficient computing resources or time.

But quantum systems use the laws of quantum theory, which have been shown to be inherently unbreakable.

Read more ....

Asteroid Near-Miss Prompts Calls For Astronomy Funding

Scientists say the world has been 'lucky' no asteroids have crashed into the earth in recent years.
(Reuters: NASA)

From ABC News (Australia):

Astronomers have calling for more funding to watch southern skies, after an asteroid took sky-gazers by surprise and entered the earth's atmosphere over Africa yesterday.

Yesterday morning astronomers in Arizona reported seeing a tiny asteroid, which they described as a new but routine fast-moving object.

Before long, scientists at the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center (MPC) in Massachusetts had calculated the object was likely to pass within one Earth's radius of the centre of the planet.

That means it would have struck the surface of the Earth if had been big enough.

Gareth Williams, associate director of the MPC, spoke to AM shortly before the asteroid entered the earth's atmosphere.

"We estimate that it's about two metres across with a probable range of one to five metres. Something that small will not survive passage through the atmosphere intact," he predicted.

Read more ....

Your DNA Will Reveal Your Surname

The Y chromosome confers maleness and is passed, like surnames, from father to son. Scientists believe that a link could exist between a man's surname and the type of Y chromosome he carries. (Credit: iStockphoto/Mark Evans). (Photo from Science Daily)

DNA Could Reveal Your Surname -- Science Daily

ScienceDaily (Oct. 8, 2008) — Scientists at the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester – where the revolutionary technique of genetic fingerprinting was invented by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys -- are developing techniques which may one day allow police to work out someone's surname from the DNA alone.

Doctoral research by Turi King has shown that men with the same British surname are highly likely to be genetically linked. The results of her research have implications in the fields of forensics, genealogy, epidemiology and the history of surnames.

On Wednesday 8th October Dr King will present the key findings of her Ph.D. research in which she recruited over two and a half thousand men bearing over 500 different surnames to take part in the study. Carried out in Professor Mark Jobling's lab, Dr Turi King's research involved exploring this potential link between surname and Y chromosome type.

Read more ....

Why Tokyo Gets Bad Earthquakes

The ruins of the Ginza after the 1923 Great Kanto (Tokyo) Earthquake and fire. (Photo from Geography Department Hewett School)

What Is Giving Tokyo A Headache? -- IOL

Paris - A massive slab of rock lurking beneath the Kanto Plain on the central Japanese island of Honshu is a major source of the earthquake threat that dogs Tokyo, scientists said on Sunday.

Around 100 kilometres wide and 25km thick, the chunk is jammed between tectonic plates that converge beneath the flat, densely-populated plain.

The giant fragment is a potent trigger for a hugely destructive kind of quake, for it wedges between two of the plates and prevents them from sliding smoothly over one other.

As a result, tensions build up until the stored energy is released catastrophically, rather than in smaller, safer movements, the experts say.

Tokyo is built atop the Eurasian plate, one of the two dozen or so tectonic plates that, like jostling pieces on a jigsaw puzzle, comprise earth's surface.

Around 100km to the northwest of the city, on the Kanto Plain, the local geology becomes complex, turning into a triple-layer subterranean sandwich.

Read more ....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Death, A Cultural And Historical Look

Death Rituals Reveal Much About Ancient Life -- Live Science

Cultures around the world and through time have had wildly varying ways of dealing with the dead. And since death weighs so heavy on a culture and is ultimately so mysterious, records of these practices, or "deathways," are often more abundant than other ancient cultural accounts and provide illuminating windows into other cultures.

"Deathways illuminate religious meaning and the social life of cultures about which we may know little else," says Erik Seeman, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the University at Buffalo and author of the forthcoming "Death in the New World."

Cremation, grave cairns, funeral mounds, mummification, air burial, and belief in life after death are just some of the practices which, though sacred to one culture, often seem odd or even terrifying to another, Seeman says. The Greeks, for example, were fascinated with the historian Herodotus' description of the ancient Issedonians chopping up their dead into a mixed grill and devouring them in a communal barbeque, something entirely contrary to the Greeks' treatment of their own dead.

"Much of my research looks at how deathways marked cultural self-definition and the definition of 'other' in the New World," Seeman said.

Read more ....

Stars Stop Forming When Big Galaxies Collide

(Photo from National Geographic)

From e! Science News:

Astronomers studying new images of a nearby galaxy cluster have found evidence that high-speed collisions between large elliptical galaxies may prevent new stars from forming, according to a paper to be published in a November 2008 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Led by Jeffrey Kenney, professor and chair of astronomy at Yale, the team saw a spectacular complex of warm gas filaments 400,000 light-years-long connecting the elliptical galaxy M86 and the spiral galaxy NGC 4438 in the Virgo galaxy cluster, providing striking evidence for a previously unsuspected high-speed collision between the galaxies. The view was constructed using the wide-field Mosaic imager on the National Science Foundation telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona.

"Our data show that this system represents the nearest recent collision between a large elliptical galaxy and a large spiral galaxy," said Kenney, who is lead author of the paper. "This discovery provides some of the clearest evidence yet for high-speed collisions between large galaxies, and it suggests a plausible alternative to black holes as an explanation of what turns off star formation in the biggest galaxies."

Read more ....

Ozone Hole Grows In 2008 -- CNN

(CNN) -- The ozone hole over Antarctica in 2008 is larger in both size and ozone loss than last year, but not as large as in 2006, the European Space Agency said Tuesday.

The hole is a thinning area in the ozone layer over Antarctica and the size of the hole varies every year depending on weather conditions.

This year, the size of the thinned area reached about 27 million square kilometers (10.4 million square miles), compared to 25 million square kilometers (9.65 million square miles) in 2007.

In 2006, the hole was a record 29 million square kilometers (11.2 million square miles), larger than North America, the ESA said.

The ESA announced its results based on information from German and Dutch researchers who analyzed satellite data.

Depletion of ozone is caused by extreme cold temperatures at high altitude and the presence of ozone-destroying gases, such as chlorine and bromine, in the atmosphere, the ESA said.

Those gases originate from man-made products like chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which were phased out under a global agreement two decades ago but continue to linger in the atmosphere.

Ozone is a protective atmospheric layer found at an altitude of about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles).

It acts as a sunlight filter, shielding life on Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays that put humans at greater risk of skin cancer and cataracts and harm marine life, the agency said.

Read more ....

How Much Oil is Actually Left On This Planet? Should We Care?

From Gas2.0:

According to Dr. Peter McCabe, a world-renowned scientist currently working at CSIRO in Australia, any realistic analysis of future energy sources can only conclude that, barring some complete and miraculous harmony between all the world’s economic superpowers, fossil fuels will dominate our energy mix for at least the next few decades — and we should just accept it.

To get a perspective on where Dr. McCabe is coming from, it struck me that he is a man who thinks in terms of quadrillions of BTUs and exajoules of energy. His views come from an analysis of global markets and global energy use. To him it probably seems that a grassroots coordinated global effort is beyond the reach of humanity.

Being a bit of a realistic skeptic myself, it seemed like it would be worth my while to temporarily suspend my deep held belief that not only is it possible for the U.S. and most of the rest of the world to kick its oil habit within a decade, but also a simple requirement for survival, and take Dr. McCabe at face value.

Read more ....

Cosmic Eye Looks Back In Time To Picture A Galaxy Forming In The Early Universe

Back in time: A young, star-forming galaxy as it appeared two billion years after the Big Bang, as pictured by the Cosmic Eye. (Photo from Daily Mail)

From The Daily Mail Online:

Scientists have used a Cosmic Eye to 'look back in time' and glimpse a galaxy formation in the early Universe.

Using gravity from a galaxy in the foreground as an enormous zoom lens, researchers were able to see into the distant Universe.

The Cosmic Eye allowed scientists to observe a young star-forming galaxy, which lies about 11 billion light years from Earth, as it appeared just two billion years after the Big Bang.

Teams from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the US and Durham and Cardiff Universities in the UK believe their findings show for the first time how the galaxy might evolve to become a spiral system like the Milky Way.

The Cosmic Eye is so called because the foreground galaxy, which is 2.2 billion light years from Earth, appears in the centre of an arc created by the distant galaxy - giving it the appearance of a human eye.

Its name also derives from its resemblance to the Eye of Horus, the ancient Egyptian symbol representing the god of the sky and the ruler of the world of the living.

The distant galaxy was originally identified using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Scientists then used the 10 metre Keck telescope, in Hawaii, along with the magnifying effect of the gravitational field of the foreground galaxy to enlarge the distant galaxy by eight times.

Read more ....

"Deadly Dozen" Diseases Could Stem From Global Warming

Tick populations will shift as a result of climate change, bringing Lyme disease to new regions and infecting more animals and people. An October 2008 study suggests that global warming will lead to new outbreaks of other dangerous diseases as well.

From National Geographic:

A spike in deadly infectious diseases in wildlife and people may be the "most immediate consequence" of global warming, according to a new report released today.

Dubbed the "deadly dozen," sicknesses such as Lyme disease, yellow fever, plague, and avian influenza, or bird flu, may skyrocket as global shifts in temperature and precipitation transform ecosystems.

Babesia, cholera, ebola, intestinal and external parasites, red tides, Rift Valley fever, sleeping sickness and tuberculosis round out the list. (Read descriptions.)

An "early warning system" based on an international wildlife-monitoring network may be the only effective defense, said William Karesh, a report co-author and vice president of Global Health Programs at the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

Read more ....

How Do Bloggers Make Money?

Blogging For Dollars -- Slate

Last week, the blog search engine Technorati released its 2008 State of the Blogosphere report with the slightly menacing promise to "deliver even deeper insights into the blogging mind." Bloggers create 900,000 blog posts a day worldwide, and some of them are actually making money. Blogs with 100,000 or more unique visitors a month earn an average of $75,000 annually—though that figure is skewed by the small percentage of blogs that make more than $200,000 a year. The estimates from a 2007 Business Week article are older but juicier: The LOLcat empire rakes in $5,600 per month; Overheard in New York gets $8,100 per month; and Perez Hilton, gossip king, scoops up $111,000 per month.

With this kind of cash sloshing around, one wonders: What does it take to live the dream—to write what I know, and then watch the money flow?

Read more ....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pictured: The Moment A Grey Heron Catches A Baby Rabbit By The Ears, Drowns It, Then Swallows The Thing Whole

From The Daily Mail:

These amazing pictures show how cruel nature can sometimes be as a grey heron snacks on a rabbit.

Herons mainly eat fish but will also take birds and small mammals. This one was searching for a meal when it spotted the baby rabbit emerging from a hole.

Swooping down it grabbed its prey by the ears, took it to water and drowned it - then swallowed the rabbit whole.

Read more ....

Spacecraft Reveals Stunning New Views of Mercury

The features this image from MESSENGER's Oct. 6, 2008 flyby shows never-before seen terrain. The region in the foreground near the right side of the imag is close to the border between darkness and daylight, so shadows are long and prominent. Two very long scarps are visible in this region, and the scarps appear to crosscut each other. The easternmost scarp also cuts through a crater, showing that it formed after the impact that created the crater. Other neighboring impact craters, such as in the upper left of this image, appear to be filled with smooth plains material. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/CIW. (Photo from Live Science)

From Live Science:

A NASA probe has begun beaming back stunning new images from its successful second flyby of Mercury, the planet closest to the sun.

NASA's MESSENGER probe captured never-before-seen views of the Mercury during its encounter on Monday. The spacecraft zipped past Mercury for the second time this year and used the planet's gravity to adjust its path as it continues en route to become the first probe to orbit the planet in March 2011.

One new image shows large patterns of ray-like lines extending southward across much of the planet surface from a young, newly-imaged crater. The previously-imaged Kuiper crater and others craters also have similar webs of lines radiating outward.

Read more ....

One Bad Weld Shuts Down A Billion Dollar Science project

A welder begins works on the interconnections of magnets in the Large Hadron Collider
(Photo courtesy The Telegraph)

Large Hadron Collider Broke Down Because Of Bad Soldering On A Single Connection -- Daily Telegraph

The £4.4 billion Large Hadron Collider was put out of action for months because one electrical connection out of 10,000 was badly soldered, the experiment's chief scientist said.

"It is very probable that there was a connection that wasn't good," said Lyn Evans, project leader of the 17-mile LHC, buried deep under Swiss soil at CERN, the European Nuclear Research Organisation.

The LHC, which aims to shed light on how the universe began by replicating conditions just after the Big Bang, has to operate at extremely cold temperatures.

It was switched on to great fanfare on Sep 10, but had to be turned back off nine days later because the cooling mechanism broke.

It takes weeks to rechill the machine to "superconducting" temperatures - allowing it to fire protons around a 17 mile loop of tunnels, causing them to crash into one another at close to light speed and break into even tinier particles

Mr Evans said he did not think a single fault in 10,000 connections was bad, but "it cost dearly".

Read more ....

My Comment: Only one? I worked as a welder a number of years ago. To be right 9,999 out of 10,000 .... Hmmmmm .... I am very skeptical.

Smart Slime, Ovulating Strippers Among 2008 Ig Nobels

Opera singers perform at Thursday's Ig Nobel Prize awards, given for laughable (but scientifically sound) research. This year's event honored scientists who had studied strippers and slime, among other topics. (Photograph by Josh Reynolds/AP -- National Geographic)

From The National Geographic:

Some fake drugs are better than others, armadillos are assaulting our history, and slime mold is smarter than we think—these and other offbeat scientific triumphs were honored Thursday night at the 2008 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.

The prizes celebrate "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think."

More than 1,200 people attended a raucous affair at Harvard University, dubbed the "18th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony" in honor of this year's theme—redundancy.

William Lipscomb, who had won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1976, dispensed prizes to the ten honorees. He himself was the prize in the Win a Date With a Nobel Laureate contest.

The gala is thrown every year by the science/humor journal Annals of Improbable Research (AIR).

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Controversy About Our Ancestors

A sculptor's rendering, part of an exhibit focusing on the 3.2-million-
year-old hominid called Lucy, shows how she might have looked in life.
(Photo: Dave Einsel / Getty Images file)

Puzzling Over Pre-Humans -- Cosmic Log/MSNBC

The world’s best-known skeleton of a human ancestor - whose name, "Lucy," came from a Beatles song - now lies splayed out in Seattle's Pacific Science Center like ornaments in a glass jewelry case. Or, more aptly, like 3.2-million-year-old pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Anthropologists are still working on the puzzles about human origins that have been posed by Lucy and other fossils, including a major find that was made just a couple of miles away from the place where Lucy was found 34 years ago.

The long-running mystery surrounding the "First Family" - a grouping of fossil bones representing up to 17 of Lucy's kin from Ethiopia's Afar region - is just one of the many unresolved plot threads in the scientific story about our long-ago ancestors.

"Lucy's Legacy," an exhibition that began its Seattle run last weekend, recaps the story so far. The traveling exhibit made news last year when it came to the Houston Museum of Natural History, because it represented the first time the Ethiopian government allowed Lucy's skeleton to be displayed abroad. Since then, the cultural controversy has settled down - but scientific controversies continue.

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NASA Spacecraft Zooms Above Surface Of Mercury

This image of Mercury was taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft on October 5, 2008 as it approached the planet nearest the sun for the second time this year.
REUTERS/NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/Handout

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A car-sized NASA spacecraft zoomed above the surface of Mercury on Monday, viewing rocky terrain never before seen up close on our solar system's sun-baked innermost planet, scientists said.

The MESSENGER probe flew as low as 124 miles near the equator of Mercury as part of its ongoing exploration of the planet nearest the sun, said project scientist Ralph McNutt of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Initial images sent back to Earth showed newly discovered cliffs on Mercury's surface, with the bulk of the data to be transmitted on Tuesday, McNutt said.

"This is all covering about 30 percent of the planet that has never been seen by a spacecraft before," McNutt said in a telephone interview. "As far as we can tell, everything executed just as it was supposed to."

This was the second of three scheduled encounters before MESSENGER enters into orbit around Mercury in 2011. It flew past Mercury on January 14 and will return in September 2009.

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NASA Spacecraft Ready To Explore Outer Solar System

An artist's impression of NASA's IBEX spacecraft exploring the edge of our solar system.
(Photo: NASA/GSFC)

From e! Science News:

The first NASA spacecraft to image and map the dynamic interactions taking place where the hot solar wind slams into the cold expanse of space is ready for launch Oct. 19. The two-year mission will begin from the Kwajalein Atoll, a part of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Called the Interstellar Boundary Explorer or IBEX, the spacecraft will conduct extremely high-altitude orbits above Earth to investigate and capture images of processes taking place at the farthest reaches of the solar system. Known as the interstellar boundary, this region marks where the solar system meets interstellar space.

"The interstellar boundary regions are critical because they shield us from the vast majority of dangerous galactic cosmic rays, which otherwise would penetrate into Earth's orbit and make human spaceflight much more dangerous," said David J. McComas, IBEX principal investigator and senior executive director of the Space Science and Engineering Division at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

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Top NASA Photos Of All Time

EarthRise, 1968 The Last Whole Earth Catalog described this image as: “The famous Apollo 8 picture of Earthrise over the moon that established our planetary facthood and beauty and rareness (dry moon, barren space) and began to bend human consciousness.” (Photo: NASA)

From Air And Space Magazine:

50 indelible images from the first 50 years of spaceflight.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which began its operations on October 1, 1958, we offer this list of the 50 most memorable images from NASA’s history (see all 50 in the photo gallery at right). We recognize that any such ranking is inherently subjective. The rationale for why any one image ranked two slots higher than any other combines several factors, including our attempt to balance the list between human spaceflight, satellite imaging, and planetary exploration. Many wonderful images did not make the final cut—we couldn’t convince the editors to give us 20 pages instead of 10.

The list omits significant events from space history that were not NASA achievements, such as the famous 1958 photograph of Wernher von Braun and the other architects of the Explorer 1 satellite celebrating their success by holding a model of the satellite over their heads, an event that occurred months before NASA existed. Photos from the Apollo moon program predominate, as well they should—it remains the agency’s crowning achievement. We also recognize that, even though the first “A” in NASA stands for “aeronautics,” our list is light on aeronautical breakthroughs (see Moments & Milestones, p. 84). Our only excuse is that the ranking reflects the affinity of the division of space history staff for space topics.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Can Engineers Achieve The Holy Grail Of Energy: Infinite And Clean?

The guts of ITER, a pioneering fusion
reactor; include the massive electromagnets
needed to hold 200-million-degree hydrogen
fuel in place. © Eric Verdult/Kennis in Beeld

From Discover Magazine:

All they need to do is tame 200-million-degree plasma—without using too much energy.

For more than half a century, engineers have been trying to build a miniature sun in a bottle: a fusion reactor. Now an international team is embarking on the most intense effort ever to make it happen. If the group succeeds, we could soon generate nearly boundless power from an isotope of hydrogen that is plentiful in our oceans. That’s a big if, though.

In a basic fusion reaction, hydrogen atoms collide, creating helium and releasing energy. Making the reaction work requires heating the atoms to tens or hundreds or millions of degrees Fahrenheit. At these temperatures matter exists only as a plasma, a soup of negatively charged electrons and positively charged atomic nuclei. In a star like our sun, the plasma is held tightly together by gravity. On Earth, a fusion reactor needs a container—and no material is tough enough to withstand direct contact with the plasma.

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Bad Connection Caused Atom Smasher Shutdown

A scientist works in the CERN LHC computing grid centre in Geneva, October 3, 2008. This centre is one of the 140 data processing centres, located in 33 countries, taking part in the grid processing project. More than 15 million Gigabytes of data produced from the hundreds of millions of subatomic collisions in the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) should be collected every year. (Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)

From Yahoo News/AP:

GENEVA - A bad electrical connection likely caused the malfunction that sidelined the world's largest atom smasher days after it was launched with great fanfare, a senior scientist said Monday.

The fault was probably a poor soldering job on one of the particle collider's 10,000 connections, said Lyn Evans, project leader of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Nuclear Research Organization.

Only one fault in 10,000 isn't bad, "but it cost dearly," Evans said. It will take at least two months for the repair, meaning the collider cannot be restarted until spring, after its mandatory shutdown due to high electricity costs during the winter.

Evans said he still hasn't been able to examine the damage because the collider is too cold to be opened. The machine operates at extremely cold temperatures to take advantage of superconductivity — the ability of some metals to conduct electricity without any resistance near absolute zero degrees.

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No Nobel For You: Top 10 Nobel Snubs

King Carl XVI Gustaf presents the Nobel Prize at the Concert Hall in Stockholm.
Photo: Hans Pettersson/The Nobel Foundation/

From Scientific America:

As the 2008 laureates are announced, SciAm looks back at some of Nobel history's also-rans.

Every year, the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden, announces up to three winners each in the scientific disciplines of chemistry, physics, and physiology or medicine. As of this morning, since 1901, 780 individuals have joined the hallowed ranks of Nobel laureates in these and other categories. And every year, there are murmurings—some louder than others—about the Nobel-worthy scientists who were overlooked. In 1974, when Jocelyn Bell Burnell was left out of the physics prize, her fellow astronomer and Nobel reject, Fred Hoyle, told reporters it was a "scientific scandal of major proportions." Physician-inventor Raymond Damadian famously took out full-page newspaper ads protesting his omission from the 2003 Nobel for MRI technology. This year, some will be asking questions about Robert Gallo, who did not share today's Nobel for medicine or physiology with Luc Montagnier and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi.

Nobel committee proceedings are notoriously shrouded in secrecy, so it's impossible to know all the details behind how each prizewinner is chosen, especially the more recent ones. But, according to Nobel historians, most award exclusions seem to relate to one or more of these criteria: limited slots available (Nobel rules limit the number of recipients to three for each category); ambiguity over who made the crucial contribution; and lack of experience and/or reputation within one's research community.

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Scientist: Holographic Television To Become Reality

From CNN:

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Picture this: you're sat down for the Football World Cup final, or a long-awaited sequel to the "Sex and the City" movie and you're watching all the action unfold in 3-D on your coffee table.

It sounds a lot like a wacky dream, but don't be surprised if within our lifetime you find yourself discarding your plasma and LCD sets in exchange for a holographic 3-D television that can put Cristiano Ronaldo in your living room or bring you face-to-face with life-sized versions of your gaming heroes.

The reason for renewed optimism in three-dimensional technology is a breakthrough in rewritable and erasable holographic systems made earlier this year by researchers at the University of Arizona.

Dr Nasser Peyghambarian, chair of photonics and lasers at the university's Optical Sciences department, told CNN that scientists have broken a barrier by making the first updatable three-dimensional displays with memory.

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Nobel Prize For Medicine 2008

From left, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, Luc Montagnier and Harald zur Hausen. (Stephane De Sakutin/AFP; Olivier Maire/AP; Alex Grimm /Reuters ) (Photo From International Herald Tribune)

3 Share Nobel Prize For Work On AIDS And Cancer
-- Yahoo News/AP

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Three European scientists shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for separate discoveries of viruses that cause AIDS and cervical cancer, breakthroughs that helped doctors fight the deadly diseases.

French researchers Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier were cited for their discovery of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, in 1983.

They shared the award with Germany's Harald zur Hausen, who was honored for finding human papilloma viruses that cause cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women.

U.S. researcher Dr. Robert Gallo was locked in a dispute with Montagnier in the 1980s over the relative importance of their roles in groundbreaking research into HIV and its role in AIDS. Gallo told The Associated Press that he was disappointed at not being included in the prize.

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More News On The Nobel Prizes

AIDS pioneers and cancer scientist win Nobel prize -- Yahoo News/Reuters
Research on AIDS virus and cancer wins Nobel Medicine Prize -- Yahoo News/AFP
3 Europeans share Nobel prize in medicine -- International Herald Tribune
3 Europeans Take Nobel Prize In Medicine -- CBS News
Nobel Prize awarded for AIDS, cervical cancer research -- L.A. Times
Nobel prize for medicine split between cervical cancer and HIV research -- The Guardian
Nobel Prize In Medicine For Major Virus Discoveries -- NPR
Nobels awarded for AIDS, cancer virus research -- Wired News
Nobel prize for viral discoveries -- BBC
Nobel Medicine prize goes to Germany and France -- Deutsche Welle
'There could be an Aids vaccine in four years,' says Nobel Prize winner -- Daily Mail
Nobel Medicine Prize row as HIV scientist is excluded -- Times Online
Nobel medicine prize reopens old AIDS wounds -- Yahoo news/Reuters
Human Papilloma Virus And Cancer, HIV Discoveries Recognized In 2008 Nobel Prize In Physiology Or Medicine -- Science Daily
FACTBOX - Nobel medicine prize - Who are the winners? -- Yahoo News/Reuters

U.S. To Rely On Russia For Manned Spaceflight

An image of Peggy A. Whitson, an American astronaut at the International Space Station, in April at mission control in Korolev, outside Moscow. A plan to suspend NASA's capacity to fly astronauts into space has set off a geopolitical controversy. (James Hill for The New York Times)

From The International Herald Tribune:

STAR CITY, Russia: This place was once no place, a secret military base northeast of Moscow that did not show up on maps. The Soviet Union trained its astronauts here to fight on the highest battlefield of the Cold War: space.

Yet these days, Star City is the place for America's hard-won orbital partnership with Russia, where astronauts train to fly aboard Soyuz spacecraft. And in two years, according to the Bush administration's plans, Star City will be the only place for sending astronauts from any nation to the International Space Station.

The gap is coming: Between 2010, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shuts down the space shuttle program, and 2015, when the next generation of U.S. spacecraft is scheduled to arrive, NASA expects to have no human flight capacity and will depend on Russia to get to the $100 billion station, buying seats on Soyuz craft as space tourists do.

As NASA celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, the administration's plan to retire the shuttle and work on a return to the Moon has thrust the U.S. space program squarely into national politics and geopolitical controversy.

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The True Costs of Renewable Energy

Beyond the Money: Mark Vargas put solar panels on his home in Santa Clara, Calif., but they get blocked by his neighbor's redwood trees. Earlier this year, Vargas asked prosecutors to press charges against his neighbors for shading the sun. But the couple next door insisted they should not have to chop down the trees to accommodate Vargas' energy demands because they planted the redwoods before he installed the solar panels in 2001. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu from Live Science)

From Live Science:

As utility costs mount ever higher, Americans now have real options to take home energy matters into their own hands with "green" systems that can pay for themselves in as little as a few years.

Among the choices: wind, solar, geothermal and a "microhydro" option that is potentially cheaper than a year's tuition at many state colleges.

Choosing the do-it-yourself route can offer the freedom of going partially or totally off the grid. And, if the energy generated exceeds your actual usage, you can even sell the excess juice to your utility company. But none of this is free. Here's how much change you should expect to kick in:

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Are Mammals Heading For Extinction

Two Tasmanian Devil females are seen in captivity at the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park in Taranna. Half the world's mammals are declining in population and more than a third probably face extinction, according to an update of the "Red List," the most respected inventory of biodiversity. (Photo: Breitbart)

Half Of Mammals 'In Decline', Says Extinction 'Red List'
-- Breitbart/AFP

Half the world's mammals are declining in population and more than a third probably face extinction, said an update Monday of the "Red List," the most respected inventory of biodiversity.

A comprehensive survey of mammals included in the annual report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which covers more than 44,000 animal and plant species, shows that a quarter of the planet's 5,487 known mammals are clearly at risk of disappearing forever.

But the actual situation may be even grimmer because researchers have been unable to classify the threat level for another 836 mammals due to lack of data.

"In reality, the number of threatened mammals could be as high as 36 percent," said IUCN scientist Jan Schipper, lead author of the mammal survey, in remarks published separately in the US-based journal Science.

The most vulnerable groups are primates, our nearest relatives on the evolutionary ladder, and marine mammals, including several species of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

"Our results paint a bleak picture of the global status of mammals worldwide," said Schipper.

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Ancient Peru Pyramid Spotted By Satellite

In this satellite image, the white arrows show the buried pyramid and the black arrows other structures which have yet to be investigated. (Photo: National Research Council Italy)


Infrared and multispectral images reveal 9,000-square-mile structure.

A new remote sensing technology has peeled away layers of mud and rock near Peru's Cahuachi desert to reveal an ancient adobe pyramid, Italian researchers announced on Friday at a satellite imagery conference in Rome.

Nicola Masini and Rosa Lasaponara of Italy's National Research Council (CNR) discovered the pyramid by analyzing images from the satellite Quickbird, which they used to penetrate the Peruvian soil.

The researchers investigated a test area along the river Nazca. Covered by plants and grass, it was about a mile away from Cahuachi's archaeological site, which contains the remains of what is believed to be the world's biggest mud city.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

AI Being Put The Test

Hal, the supercomputer in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
(Photograph: RGA/The Guardian)

'Intelligent' Computers Put To The Test' -- The Guardian

Programmers try to fool human interrogators

Can machines think? That was the question posed by the great mathematician Alan Turing. Half a century later six computers are about to converse with human interrogators in an experiment that will attempt to prove that the answer is yes.

In the 'Turing test' a machine seeks to fool judges into believing that it could be human. The test is performed by conducting a text-based conversation on any subject. If the computer's responses are indistinguishable from those of a human, it has passed the Turing test and can be said to be 'thinking'.

No machine has yet passed the test devised by Turing, who helped to crack German military codes during the Second World War. But at 9am next Sunday, six computer programs - 'artificial conversational entities' - will answer questions posed by human volunteers at the University of Reading in a bid to become the first recognised 'thinking' machine. If any program succeeds, it is likely to be hailed as the most significant breakthrough in artificial intelligence since the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. It could also raise profound questions about whether a computer has the potential to be 'conscious' - and if humans should have the 'right' to switch it off.

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World’s Biggest Computing Grid Launched

Cern computer grid (Photo from Wikimedia)

From The Science Blog:

The world’s largest computing grid is ready to tackle mankind’s biggest data challenge from the earth’s most powerful accelerator. Today, three weeks after the first particle beams were injected into the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid combines the power of more than 140 computer centers from 33 countries to analyze and manage more than 15 million gigabytes of LHC data every year.

The United States is a vital partner in the development and operation of the WLCG. Fifteen universities and three U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories from 11 states contribute their power to the project.

“The U.S. has been an essential partner in the development of the vast distributed computing system that will allow 7,000 scientists around the world to analyze LHC data, complementing its crucial contributions to the construction of the LHC,” said Glen Crawford of the High Energy Physics program in DOE’s Office of Science. DOE and the National Science Foundation support contributions to the LHC and to the computing and networking infrastructures that are an integral part of the project.

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China Sets Sights On First Space Station

From Space Daily:

The success of China's first spacewalk on the Shenzhou 7 mission paves the way for greater things. For China, the next great task will be its first space station. Much reportage has been circulated on this, but ironically, the more we read, the more confused space analysts become. What is China really planning?

It all seemed so simple just a month ago. China would launch a space laboratory on the Shenzhou 8 mission. Despite its name, this would not be a Shenzhou capsule spacecraft, but a new type of vehicle.

This would be followed by the unmanned Shenzhou mission, a conventional Shenzhou, which would dock with it. Finally Shenzhou 10 would carry a crew of three astronauts to the Shenzhou 8-9 complex.

This report seemed reliable for a long time, but this is apparently not the real plan. China has since revealed plans for a small space laboratory module called "Tiangong 1". The name is apparently a reference to a castle or fortress in the sky.

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Winds Are Dominant Cause Of Greenland And West Antarctic Ice Sheet Losses

Above image is not part of original papers, but included to demonstrate the issue. Animation of Arctic sea-ice being pushed by wind patterns. Note that the animation is large, about 7 MB and may take awhile to load on your computer. Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center (Photo from Watts Up With That)

From Watts Up With That:

From Climate Research News.

Two new studies summarized in a news article in Science magazine point to wind-induced circulation changes in the ocean as the dominant cause of the recent ice losses through the glaciers draining both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, not ‘global warming.’

The two studies referred to are:

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A Future Timeline for Economics

The Futurist:

The accelerating rate of change in many fields of technology all manifest themselves in terms of human development, some of which can be accurately tracked within economic data. Contrary to what the media may peddle and despite periodic setbacks, average human prosperity is rising at a rate faster than any other time in human history. I have described this in great detail in prior articles, and I continue to be amazed at how little attention is devoted to the important subject of accelerating economic growth, even by other futurists.

The time has thus come for making specific predictions about the details of future economic advancement. I hereby present a speculative future timeline of economic events and milestones, which is a sibling article to Economic Growth is Exponential and Accelerating, v2.0.

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Arctic Sea Ice Annual Freeze-up Underway

Parry Channel in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, as seen by Envisat's ASAR on 25 August 2008, when the direct Northwest Passage was open (right image), and on 22 September 2008 when sea ice is closing the direct Northwest Passage. (Credit: ESA)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Oct. 4, 2008) — After reaching the second-lowest extent ever recorded last month, sea ice in the Arctic has begun to refreeze in the face of autumn temperatures, closing both the Northern Sea Route and the direct route through the Northwest Passage.

This year marked the first time since satellite measurements began in the 1970s that the Northern Sea Route, also known as the Northeast Passage, and the Northwest Passage were both open at the same time for a few weeks.

"NIC analysis of ESA’s Envisat and other satellite datasets indicated that the Northern Sea Route opened when a path through the Vilkitski Strait finally cleared by 5 September," NIC Chief Scientist Dr Pablo Clemente-Col√≥n said via email from aboard the US Coast Guard icebreaker Healy in the Arctic, where he is conducting joint mapping operations with the Canadian Coast Guard.

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Big Bang or Big Bounce?: New Theory on the Universe's Birth

From American Scientist:

Atoms are now such a commonplace idea that it is hard to remember how radical they used to seem. When scientists first hypothesized atoms centuries ago, they despaired of ever observing anything so small, and many questioned whether the concept of atoms could even be called scientific. Gradually, however, evidence for atoms accumulated and reached a tipping point with Albert Einstein’s 1905 analysis of Brownian motion, the random jittering of dust grains in a fluid.

... Physicists’ understanding of the composition of space and time is following a similar path, but several steps behind. Just as the behavior of materials indicates that they consist of atoms, the behavior of space and time suggests that they, too, have some fine-scale structure—either a mosaic of spacetime “atoms” or some other filigree work.

Material atoms are the smallest indivisible units of chemical compounds; similarly, the putative space atoms are the smallest indivisible units of distance. They are generally thought to be about 10–35 meter in size, far too tiny to be seen by today’s most powerful instruments, which probe distances as short as 10–18 meter. Consequently, many scientists question whether the concept of atomic spacetime can even be called scientific.

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