Saturday, January 24, 2009

What Do Women Want?

Photo: Ryan McGinley/Team Gallery

From The New York Times:

Meredith Chivers is a creator of bonobo pornography. She is a 36-year-old psychology professor at Queen’s University in the small city of Kingston, Ontario, a highly regarded scientist and a member of the editorial board of the world’s leading journal of sexual research, Archives of Sexual Behavior. The bonobo film was part of a series of related experiments she has carried out over the past several years. She found footage of bonobos, a species of ape, as they mated, and then, because the accompanying sounds were dull — “bonobos don’t seem to make much noise in sex,” she told me, “though the females give a kind of pleasure grin and make chirpy sounds” — she dubbed in some animated chimpanzee hooting and screeching. She showed the short movie to men and women, straight and gay. To the same subjects, she also showed clips of heterosexual sex, male and female homosexual sex, a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, a chiseled man walking naked on a beach and a well-toned woman doing calisthenics in the nude.

Read more ....

Why Did Humans Migrate To The Americas?


From Live Science:

The Americas were the last (well, second-to-last if you count Antarctica) continents to be inhabited by early humans. Archaeologists estimate that people entered North America by crossing over the Bering Strait, which back then was a wide swath of land, about 15,000 years ago.

In other words, people got here by walking a very long distance.

Our image of this major migration is fanciful. When I teach about the peopling of the Americas, I show a slide of people purposefully trekking in a straight line on a tundra from Siberia to Alaska, as if there was some destination on the other side and the only way to get there was to follow the leader, one behind the other.

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What Happens When Satellites Fall

Artist Interpretation of a GPS satellite.
Source: image courtesy of NASA

From Yahoo News/

The recent trials of an out-of-control communications satellite and a defunct, leaky Soviet-era spacecraft toting its own nuclear reactor call up the question: What exactly happens when satellites die in space?

There are actually a few possibilities, some good, and others not so much.

Bury the dead

If mission controllers spot a glitch in time, they can force a still-functioning satellite to fire its engines and reach a so-called "graveyard orbit" a few hundred miles above its initial flight path in order to safeguard its neighboring spacecraft against possible damage.

That's what engineers are trying to do for the telecommunications satellite Astra 5A, which inexplicably failed on Jan. 15 after 12 years of operation. The satellite has since been adrift in space, moving out of its geostationary position about 22,300 miles (35,888 km) above Earth and is moving eastward along its orbital arc.

Read more ....

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Plot To Kill Google

From Wired:

When Google's lawyers entered the smooth marble hallways of the Department of Justice on the morning of October 17, they had reason to feel confident. Sure, they were about to face the antitrust division—an experience most companies dread—to defend a proposed deal with Yahoo. But they had to like their chances. In the previous seven years, only one of the mergers that had been brought here had been opposed. And Google wasn't even requesting a full merger. It just wanted the go-ahead to pursue a small deal that it was convinced would benefit consumers, the two companies, and the search-advertising market as a whole. Settling around a large oval table in the conference room, the attorneys from Google and Yahoo prepared to make their arguments. Google wanted to serve its ads for certain search terms on Yahoo's pages in exchange for a share of the revenue those ads generated. It already had similar arrangements with AOL,, and countless other Web sites. And the deal wasn't exclusive or permanent.

Read more ...

Ouch! Can You Really Break Your Penis?

BANANA FRACTURE: There is a medical condition called penile fracture, which refers to tearing of tissue inside the penis. Image of banana sign by dlev1979 via flickr

From Scientific American:

The penile condition recently featured on the TV medical drama Grey's Anatomy is real and, sorry guys (and girls), not uncommon.

Ever since heartthrob television doctor Mark Sloan had a sexual mishap on last night's episode of TV hit show Grey's Anatomy, bloggers around the globe have been buzzing about a bizarre and horrifying condition called "broken penis syndrome". For those who didn't catch last night's hot and steamy love scene between Sloan (played by actor Eric Dane) and "intern" Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), be advised: it ended painfully—very painfully. At least for Sloan, who suffered a severe injury to his manhood, which prompted a slew of rumors among hospital staff about which woman "broke Sloan's penis," according to ABC's online recap of the episode.

Given that there are no bones in the penis, can it really break? It turns out there is an unfortunate injury termed "penile fracture" that can indeed occur during sexual intercourse. We asked Hunter Wessells, chair of the urology department at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle (also home to the show's Grace Hospital), to describe the condition and how it can happen.

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No More Tourist Space Flights

Russia will stop offering space tourism flights as astronauts from Europe, Canada and Japan are eager to start scientific research on the station (Photo from The Daily Mail)

Dreams Of Cosmic Holidays Dashed As Russia Announces End Of Tourist Flights To Space Station -- The Daily Mail

If you had been saving up £10million to take a trip into space, it appears your dream holiday plans have been dashed.

Russia have announced they won't be sending any more tourists to the International Space Station after 2009 because of plans to double the station's crew to six people.

Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov said U.S software designer Charles Simonyi, who has already flown once to the station, will be the last private tourist when he blasts off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in March.

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Antarctic Warming? Part 2 - A Letter From A Meteorologist On The Ground In Antarctica

Ross Hays with Antarctica's Mount Erebus volcano in the background

From Watts Up With That?

This letter below, reprinted with permission, is from Ross Hays. Ross was a CNN meteorologist for many years. He works for NASA at the Columbia Balloon Facility.

In that capacity he has spent much time in Antarctica. He obviously can’t speak for his agency but can have an opinion which he shared with several people. It is printed below in entirety, exactly as he sent it to Eric Steig today, the lead author of the University of Washington paper highlighted in a press release yesterday that claims there is a warming in Antarctica. There were some of the pronouncements made in the media, particularly to the Associated Press by Dr. Michael Mann, that marry that paper with “global warming”, even though no such claim was made in the press release about the scientific paper itself.

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Biomass-Burning 'Behind Asian Brown Clouds'

The pollution consists of pollutants from woodfires, cars and factories.
(AFP: Frederic J Brown)


[NEW DELHI] Burning biomass is the main cause of the dense 'brown clouds' that plague South Asia each winter, and both biomass and fossil fuel burning should be targeted to combat climate change and improve air quality.

These are the conclusions of a study published today (23 January) in Science. The study, conducted at two sites in South Asia, attempted to find the main source of the carbon soot particles that comprise much of the clouds.

While the brown cloud acts as a 'global dimmer' by absorbing heat trapped by greenhouse gases, it also affects the regional climate by melting glaciers, affecting crop growth and impacting the Asian monsoon.

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Scientists Unlock Possible Aging Secret In Genetically Altered Fruit Fly

Using fruit flies, Brown University researchers have identified a cellular mechanism that could someday help fight the aging process. (Credit: Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 23, 2009) — Brown University researchers have identified a cellular mechanism that could someday help fight the aging process.

The finding by Stephen Helfand and Nicola Neretti and others adds another piece to the puzzle that Helfand, a professor of biology, molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry, first discovered in 2000. Back then, he identified a mutation in the Indy (“I’m Not Dead Yet”) gene that can extend the life span of fruit flies.

Subsequent studies of the Indy flies have led to the new finding that a mechanism in those genetically altered fruit flies appears to reduce significantly the production of free radicals, a cellular byproduct that can contribute to the aging process. This intervention takes place with few or no side effects on the quality of life for the fruit fly. The discovery could lead to the development of new anti-aging treatments.

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F.D.A. Approves A Stem Cell Trial

Photo: Geron’s trial with embryonic stem cells will involve people with severe spinal injuries, and will mostly test the therapy’s safety. Geron

From The New York Times:

In a research milestone, the federal government will allow the world’s first test in people of a therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells.

Federal drug regulators said that political considerations had no role in the decision. Nevertheless, the move coincided with the inauguration of President Obama, who has pledged to remove some of the financing restrictions placed on the field by President George W. Bush.

The clearance of the clinical trial — of a treatment for spinal cord injury — is to be announced Friday by Geron, the biotechnology company that first applied to the Food and Drug Administration to conduct the trial last March. The F.D.A. had first said no, asking for more data.

Thomas B. Okarma, Geron’s chief executive, said Thursday that he did not think that the Bush administration’s objections to embryonic stem cell research played a role in the F.D.A.’s delaying approval.

“We really have no evidence,” Dr. Okarma said, “that there was any political overhang.”

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How Cobras Spit With Perfect Accuracy

Spitting cobra takes aim at a human face.
Credit: Frank Luerweg/University of Bonn.

From Live Science:

Spitting cobras don't truly spit venom. But they are incredibly accurate shooters, hitting a target — the victim's eyes — from 2 feet (60 cm) away with impressive accuracy, studies have shown.

New research confirms how they do it.

Scientists have long known that spitting cobras don't actually spit. Rather, muscle contractions squeeze the cobra's venom gland, forcing venom to stream out of the snake's fangs, explains Bruce Young, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts. The muscles can produce enough pressure to spray venom up to 6 feet (nearly 2 meters).

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Going To Ground The Breakdown -- A Short Circuit On A Large Scale

From Popular Science:

Here's a vivid example of an electrical short circuit in a beautiful natural setting. In brief, a short circuit occurs when the normal path of current is bypassed via an alternate route with very low resistance. Since current likes to take the path of least resistance, most of it will flow through the short circuit. Also, according to Ohm's Law (V = IR), reducing the resistance of the circuit will drive up the current. Large currents result in excessive resistive heating in circuits, and we usually want to avoid them.

In the video an unfortunate tree has fallen onto a high-voltage power line. This provides a direct path for current to go into the ground, rather than travelling the normal route through the electrical grid. The resulting surge of moving charge results in sufficient resistive heating to ignite the tree and potentially start a forest fire.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mating Game Is A Waiting Game

From Live Science:

How long do you wait before having sex with a new sweetie? Three dates? 10?

A new study suggests that both males and females benefit from extended courtships in which mating is delayed: By holding out, females can more accurately screen for potential providers, while waiting males can prove they're suitable mates.

The study, published this month in the Journal of Theoretical Biology and conducted by researchers at University College London, University of Warwick, and London School of Economics and Political Science, invoked game theory to examine the strategies used by potential partners of various species, including humans; the game ended when either the male or female quit, or when the female accepted the male as a mating partner. Scientists used a mathematical model dependent upon evolutionarily stable equilibrium behaviors, in which both males and females are doing as well as possible against the other's actions.

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Did You Know A Solar Flare Can Make Your Toilet Stop Working?

Auroras over Blair, Nebraska, during a geomagnetic storm in May 2005. Photo credit: Mike Hollingshead/

From NASA:

That's the surprising conclusion of a NASA-funded study by the National Academy of Sciences entitled Severe Space Weather Events—Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts. In the 132-page report, experts detailed what might happen to our modern, high-tech society in the event of a "super solar flare" followed by an extreme geomagnetic storm. They found that almost nothing is immune from space weather—not even the water in your bathroom.

The problem begins with the electric power grid. "Electric power is modern society's cornerstone technology on which virtually all other infrastructures and services depend," the report notes. Yet it is particularly vulnerable to bad space weather. Ground currents induced during geomagnetic storms can actually melt the copper windings of transformers at the heart of many power distribution systems. Sprawling power lines act like antennas, picking up the currents and spreading the problem over a wide area. The most famous geomagnetic power outage happened during a space storm in March 1989 when six million people in Quebec lost power for 9 hours: image.

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Do Naked Singularities Break the Rules of Physics?

Image: Kenn brown Mondolithic Studios

From Scientific American:

The black hole has a troublesome sibling, the naked singularity. Physicists have long thought--hoped--it could never exist. But could it?

* Conventional wisdom has it that a large star eventually collapses to a black hole, but some theoretical models suggest it might instead become a so-called naked singularity. Sorting out what happens is one of the most important unresolved problems in astrophysics.
* The discovery of naked singularities would transform the search for a unified theory of physics, not least by providing direct observational tests of such a theory.

Modern science has introduced the world to plenty of strange ideas, but surely one of the strangest is the fate of a massive star that has reached the end of its life. Having exhausted the fuel that sustained it for millions of years, the star is no longer able to hold itself up under its own weight, and it starts collapsing catastrophically. Modest stars like the sun also collapse, but they stabilize again at a smaller size. Whereas if a star is massive enough, its gravity overwhelms all the forces that might halt the collapse. From a size of millions of kilometers across, the star crumples to a pinprick smaller than the dot on an "i."

Read more ....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dark Matter Filaments Stoked Star Birth In Early Galaxies

From The New Scientist:

Tendrils of dark matter channelled gas deep into the hearts of some of the universe's earliest galaxies, a new computer simulation suggests. The result could explain how some massive galaxies created vast numbers of stars without gobbling up their neighbours.

Dramatic bursts of star formation are thought to occur when galaxies merge and their gas collides and heats up. Evidence of these smash-ups is fairly easy to spot, since they leave behind mangled pairs of galaxies that eventually merge, their gas settling into a bright, compact centre.

Read more ....

Spring Is Arriving 'Two Days Earlier Than Half A Century Ago' As Global Temperatures Rise

From Daily Mail Online:

Spring is arriving earlier than it was half a century ago, a definitive new study has shown.

After analysing temperature records from across the northern hemisphere since 1850, researchers say the seasons have shifted by at least two days.

They also found that the difference between summer and winter temperatures has become less extreme.

The new research adds to the growing evidence that plants, insects, birds and mammals are waking up from winter earlier each decade.

Read more ....

First Americans Arrived As Two Separate Migrations, According To New Genetic Evidence

Bering Strait. After the Last Glacial Maximum some 15,000 to 17,000 years ago, one group entered North America from Beringia following the ice-free Pacific coastline, while another traversed an open land corridor between two ice sheets to arrive directly into the region east of the Rocky Mountains. (Beringia is the landmass that connected northeast Siberia to Alaska during the last ice age.) (Credit: NOAA, NPO)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2009) — The first people to arrive in America traveled as at least two separate groups to arrive in their new home at about the same time, according to new genetic evidence published online in Current Biology.

After the Last Glacial Maximum some 15,000 to 17,000 years ago, one group entered North America from Beringia following the ice-free Pacific coastline, while another traversed an open land corridor between two ice sheets to arrive directly into the region east of the Rocky Mountains. (Beringia is the landmass that connected northeast Siberia to Alaska during the last ice age.) Those first Americans later gave rise to almost all modern Native American groups of North, Central, and South America, with the important exceptions of the Na-Dene and the Eskimos-Aleuts of northern North America, the researchers said.

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From George Washington To Barack Obama: All 44 US Presidents

This is cool.

It’s Official: La Niña Is Back

(Click the Image to Enlarge)

From Watts Up With That?:

UPDATE: There’s some question about NCEP’s communications intent with this paper. While they cite “La Niña conditions” in the language, and the visual imagery lends itself to that, the numerical threshold of ONI hasn’t been reached, as has been pointed out in comments. Yet NCEP made no mention in the summary that the threshold had not been reached. I’ll see if I can locate the authors and get a clarification. - Anthony

In a document published January 19th, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (NCEP) has officially put the stamp on the cold water conditions we’ve seen growing in the equatorial mid and eastern Pacific. I first reported on this on December 4th, 2008. This does not bode well for California’s drought conditions, which are likely to continue due to this renewed La Niña event.

Read more ....

Antarctica Is Warming: Climate Picture Clears Up

This illustration depicts the warming that scientists have determined has occurred in West Antarctica during the last 50 years, with the dark red showing the area that has warmed the most. Credit: NASA

From Live Science:

The frozen desert interior of Antarctica was thought to be the lone holdout resisting the man-made warming affecting the rest of the globe, with some areas even showing signs of cooling.

Some global warming contrarians liked to point to inner Antarctica as a counter-example. But climate researchers have now turned this notion on its head, with the first study to show that the entire continent is warming, and has been for the past 50 years.

"Antarctica is warming, and it's warming at the same rate as the rest of the planet," said study co-author Michael Mann of Penn State University.

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Quotas For Women In Science?

In ‘Geek Chic’ And Obama, New Hope For Lifting Women In Science -- New York Times

With the inauguration of an administration avowedly committed to Science as the grand elixir for the nation’s economic, environmental and psycho-reputational woes, a number of scientists say that now is the time to tackle a chronic conundrum of their beloved enterprise: how to attract more women into the fold, and keep them once they are there.

Researchers who have long promoted the cause of women in science view the incoming administration with a mix of optimism and we’ll-see-ism. On the one hand, they said, the new president’s apparent enthusiasm for science, and the concomitant rise of “geek chic” and “smart is the new cool” memes, can only redound to the benefit of all scientists, particularly if the enthusiasm is followed by a bolus of new research funds. On the other hand, they said, how about appointing a woman to the president’s personal Poindexter club, the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology? The designated leaders so far include superstars like Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate, and Eric Lander, genome meister.

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Why People Fake Their Deaths

From Live Science:

When people die, sometimes it's hard to believe they are really gone — and for good reason.

Rumors of faked deaths have followed many famous people, including comedian Andy Kaufman, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, and (up until October 2008) pilot Steve Fossett. Rumors and conspiracy theories aside, faked deaths are a perpetually popular subject in fiction, from Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to today's soap operas.

And, of course, it happens in real life. Last week, Wall Street investor Marcus Schrenker disappeared while flying his plane over Alabama. He radioed a distress call, and his plane was found — without him — in a swamp. He was later discovered in a campground and arrested.

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Source Of Moon's Magnetism Found

From Yahoo News/

Moon rocks delivered to Earth by Apollo astronauts held a mystery that has plagued scientists since the 1970s: Why were the lunar rocks magnetic?

Earth's rotating, iron core produces the planet's magnetic field. But the moon does not have such a setup.

Now, scientists at MIT think they have a solution. Some 4.2 billion years ago, the moon had a liquid core with a dynamo (like Earth's core today) that produced a strong magnetic field. The moon's magnetic field would have been about 1-50th as strong as Earth's is today, the researchers say.

Read more ....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The 'Toxic' Web Generation: Children Spend Six Hours A Day In Front Of Screens

From The Daily Mail:

Youngsters are shunning books and outdoor games to spend up to six hours a day in front of a screen, a survey has revealed.

Children as young as five are turning their bedrooms into multi-media 'hubs' with TVs, computers, games consoles, MP3 players and mobile phones all within easy reach.

The trend triggered warnings that the next generation will struggle to compete in the adult world because they lack reading and writing skills.

At the same time their mastery of technology is not widely appreciated by their parents.

The market research involving 1,800 children aged five to 16 found that they spend an average of 2.7 hours a day watching TV, 1.5 on the internet and 1.3 playing on games consoles, although in some cases these activities are simultaneous, such as watching TV while playing on a console.

In contrast, youngsters spend just over half an hour reading books, according to the survey by ChildWise.

Almost a third take a games console to bed rather than a book, while a quarter never read in their own time.

Read more ....

Monday, January 19, 2009

What Went Right: Flight 1549 Airbus A-320's Ditch Into The Hudson

US Airways A320 N106US, the same aircraft that landed in the Hudson River, is seen here approaching LAX on a better day. (Photograph by code20photog, via Flickr)

From Popular Mechanics:

Miraculous. That’s the descriptor that continues to pop up in many accounts of the successful landing of US Air Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on Thursday. Aviation experts see the events a little differently. What happened to captain Chesley Sullenberger III and his crew was a piece of tremendously bad luck, mitigated by a few turns of equally stunning good fortune and a sequence of smart decisions by the captain and his crew. Here’s a pilot’s eye view of what went right during the emergency, the landing and the rescue that saw all 150 passengers rescued safely from the plane. –Allen St. John

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Heavy Rains Damage Peru's Nazca Lines

From Yahoo News/AP:

LIMA, Peru – Heavy rains have damaged part of one of Peru's top tourist destination, depositing clay and sand on mysterious figures etched in the desert sand by indigenous groups centuries ago, an archaeologist said Monday.

The rains, which are uncommon on Peru's dry coastal desert, washed off the nearby Panamerican highway and pushed sand on top of three fingers of a geoglyph in the famed Nazca lines, said Mario Olaechea of Peru's National Culture Institute. The fingers form part of a pair of hands.

Olaechea told The Associated Press that the damage is minor and the institute plans to clear the material and restore the geoglyph.

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If There IS Life On Mars, This Is Where It Lives

Plumes of up to 19,000 tons of methane, pictured red,
were detected in Mars' northern hemisphere

From The Daily Mail:

If there is life on Mars as NASA scientists claim, this is where it lives.

This extraordinarily detailed picture shows exactly where the most methane, taken as an indication of life, can be found.

Appropriately enough for the sphere dubbed the Red Planet , the scarlet areas are the places where scientists have detected the most of the gas.

The picture was released by NASA just days after the U.S. space agency confirmed the presence of methane on Mars.

It is the first 'definitive proof' of plumes of the gas seeping from the planet's northern hemisphere.

And it is the strongest hint yet that alien microbes could be thriving deep below the red, dusty surface.

On Earth, 90 per cent of the methane produced is released by living organisms far beneath the soil.

'It might be possible for similar organisms to survive for billions of years below the permafrost layer on Mars, where water is liquid, radiation supplies energy, and carbon dioxide provides carbon,' said NASA scientist Professor Michael Mumma.

Read more ....

Sunspot Lapse Exceeds 95% of Normal

Above: The solar cycle, 1995-2015. The "noisy" curve traces measured sunspot numbers; the smoothed curves are predictions. Credit: D. Hathaway/NASA/MSFC.

From Watts Up With That:

Well John Christy gave me a lot to think about in satellite temp trends as far as an improved correction over my last post. Steve McIntyre pitched in some comments as well. It is going to take a bit to work out the details of that for me but I think I can produce an improved accuracy slope over my last posts. In the meantime, I downloaded sunspot numbers from the NASA.

Cycles are interesting things. There are endless cycles in nature, orbits, ocean temp shifts, solar cycles, magnetic cycles the examples are everywhere. What makes a cycle unusual is also an interesting topic. Some solar scientists have claimed that our current solar cycle is not unusual by the record. They are certainly the experts but recently the experts have been forced to update their predictions for the next solar cycle.

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Scientists To Solve Astronomical Riddle Using Galileo DNA

NASA image shows hot blue stars deep inside an elliptical galaxy. Italian scientists are trying to get Galileo's DNA in order to figure out how the astronomer forged groundbreaking theories on the universe while gradually becoming blind, a historian said Monday. (AFP/NASA/File)

From Yahoo News/AFP:

ROME (AFP) – Italian scientists are trying to get Galileo's DNA in order to figure out how the astronomer forged groundbreaking theories on the universe while gradually becoming blind, a historian said Monday.

Scientists at Florence's Institute and Museum of the History of Science want to exhume the body of 17th Century astronomer Galileo Galilei to find out exactly what he could see through his telescope.

The Italian astronomer -- who built on the work of predecessor Nicolaus Copernicus to develop modern astronomy with the sun as the centre of the universe -- had a degenerative eye disease that eventually left him blind.

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DNA Testing May Unlock Secrets Of Medieval Manuscripts

From E! Science News:

Thousands of painstakingly handwritten books produced in medieval Europe still exist today, but scholars have long struggled with questions about when and where the majority of these works originated. Now a researcher from North Carolina State University is using modern advances in genetics to develop techniques that will shed light on the origins of these important cultural artifacts. Many medieval manuscripts were written on parchment made from animal skin, and NC State Assistant Professor of English Timothy Stinson is working to perfect techniques for extracting and analyzing the DNA contained in these skins with the long-term goal of creating a genetic database that can be used to determine when and where a manuscript was written. "Dating and localizing manuscripts have historically presented persistent problems," Stinson says, "because they have largely been based on the handwriting and dialect of the scribes who created the manuscripts – techniques that have proven unreliable for a number of reasons."

Read more

Growing Bird Populations Show Conservation Successes

The Canada goose (Branta canadensis), which is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Canadian goose, has a wingspan of 50 to 67 inches (127 to 170 centimeters) and can weigh from more than 6 pounds to nearly 20 pounds (3 kg to 9 kg). Credit: Stock.xchng.

From Live Science:

At a time when scientists are sounding ever more frequent alarms on the potential extinction of this creature or that, yesterday's collision with a flock of geese that put an airliner in the Hudson River is a reminder that some species are doing just fine.

Many birds have been faring well in the United States, even in urban environments (and in some cases especially in them), over the past few decades, say two bird experts and conservationists.

"Birds are increasing and that's good," said Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in New York. "People have worked hard to do that kind of thing. Most people like it. We don't always hear enough about the fact that a lot of things are doing well."

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Scientists Resolve Mystery Of How Massive Stars Form

Volume renderings of the density field in a region of the simulation at 55,000 years of evolution. The left panel shows a polar view, and the right panel shows an equatorial view. The fingers feeding the equatorial disk are clearly visible. (Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 18, 2009) — Scientists may have solved one of the most longstanding astrophysical mysteries of all times: How massive stars – up to 120 times the mass of our sun – form without blowing away the clouds of gas and dust that feed their growth.

New research by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, University of California, Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley has shown how a massive star can grow despite outward-flowing radiation pressure that exceeds the gravitational force pulling material inward. The study appears in the Jan. 15 online edition of Science Express.

Read more ....

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Afterlife Of Near-Death

From International Herald Tribune:

Every experienced flier has sensed a whisper of death in a blast of turbulence at 25,000 feet, and many will swear they've heard their names called, loud and clear.

It's not a moment people forget.

"All I could think about," said a 50-year old nurse who'd recently been in a plane that lost an engine, "was my garage. How I hadn't cleaned it, and how messy it would be when someone came in and saw it. It's crazy what you think about."

The mind reels in the presence of death.

From the shore and TV screens, the evacuation of a US Airways jet that ditched in the Hudson River on Thursday looked almost stage-managed, a slow-motion rescue complete with heroes and zero death.

Read more ....

Liquid Wood Is Plastic of Tomorrow, Say Scientists

The new substance would be safe for use in toys

From Deutsche Welle:

Plastic was one of the great innovations of the 20th century, but German scientists believe a new invention, liquid wood, could soon supplant the chemical in terms of everyday usefulness.

Though it has proven to be extremely useful in the modern world, plastic still has a number of negative selling points. It is non-biodegradable and can contain carcinogens and other toxic substances that can cause cancer.

It is also based on petroleum, a non-renewable resource that will soon be harder to come by. Increases in the price of crude oil leads to parallel rises in the price of plastics.

But there is a new chemical invention that could do away with these long-standing concerns.

Read more ....