Saturday, January 31, 2009

How Ancient Greeks Chose Temple Locations

The ancient Greek Temple of Hera in Selinunte, also knowns as "temple E",
at Castelvetrano, in Sicily, Italy. Image from Wikipedia

From Live Science:

To honor their gods and goddesses, ancient Greeks often poured blood or wine on the ground as offerings. Now a new study suggests that the soil itself might have had a prominent role in Greek worship, strongly influencing which deities were venerated where.

In a survey of eighty-four Greek temples of the Classical period (480 to 338 B.C.), Gregory J. Retallack of the University of Oregon in Eugene studied the local geology, topography, soil, and vegetation — as well as historical accounts by the likes of Herodotus, Homer, and Plato — in an attempt to answer a seemingly simple question: why are the temples where they are?

No clear pattern emerged until he turned to the gods and goddesses. It was then that he discovered a robust link between the soil on which a temple stood and the deity worshiped there.

Read more ....

Ancient Creature Points To Parallel Evolution

Light optical microscope images of placozoans.
(Image from NASA Astrobiology Institute)

From New Scientist:

AN UPDATED family tree of the animal kingdom could radically change the way we think about the evolution of species.

According to conventional thinking, simple animals, including sponges, jellyfish and corals, evolved step-by-step in a linear fashion into those with more complex bodies, such as mammals.

Now Rob DeSalle of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and his colleagues have challenged this way of thinking.

The team analysed DNA and other molecular evidence across the animal kingdom, including tiny sea creatures called placozoans. They have found that the placozoans are the closest living thing to the ancestor of all animals.

Read more ....

Is Google Broken? -- News Updates On Google's Glitch Today

Google Error Sends Warning Worldwide -- New York Times

Google’s Internet search service malfunctioned for nearly 55 minutes Saturday morning, upending users around the world with search results that carried false safety warnings and Web links that did not work.

The company acknowledged Saturday that all searches produced links with the same warning message: “This site may harm your computer.” Clicking on any of the links led to an error message stating that the desired site could not be reached.

“What happened?” Google explained in its blog. “Very simply, human error.”

Google said it periodically updates its list of sites suspected of carrying dangerous software that could harm computers, and that Saturday morning a Google employee mistyped a Web address for one such site, causing all sites to be flagged harmful.

There was some momentary tension when Google seemed to imply that the glitch was caused by, the company that helps Google determine which sites are unsafe. Google later posted a statement that took the blame for the error.

Read more ....

More News On Google's Hiccup Today

Google users get bogus warning on site searches -- AP
Google Flags Whole Internet As Malware -- Washington Post
Google mistakenly warns that search results 'may harm your computer' -- L.A. Times
'Human error' hits Google search -- BBC News
Millions hit by Google 'breakdown' -- The Telegraph
Internet chaos as Google goes gaga -- Daily Mail
Human error causes Google search bug -- Computer World
Google taking security a little too seriously? -- CNET News
Google blames ‘human error’ for search ‘malware’ hiccup -- ZDNet
Google Red-Faced...And Me, Too -- Traffick
Google Glitch Briefly Disrupts World’s Search -- The Lede

Action Sunrise At The Very Large Array

From Live Science:

Astronomers recently used the NSF's Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope (above) to help find the most distant water yet seen in the Universe, in a galaxy more than 11 billion light-years from Earth. Previously, the most distant water had been seen in a galaxy less than 7 billion light-years from Earth.

The soggy galaxy is dubbed MG J0414+0534. In a region near its core, water molecules are acting as masers, the radio equivalent of lasers, to amplify radio waves at a specific frequency.

The water molecules showed themselves with a tell-tale radio "fingerprint." The first indication came from the giant, 100-meter-diameter radio telescope in Effelsberg, Germany, and scientists confirmed the discovery using the VLA. The astronomers say their finding indicates that such giant, water masers were more common in the early Universe than they are today. MG J0414+0534 is seen as it was when the Universe was roughly one-sixth of its current age.

Read more ....

Inside Alaska's Explosive Redoubt Volcano

Mount Redoubt volcano in Alaska as seen from the northwest on March 4, 1990. Steam commonly vents from the dome in the crater in between eruptions. Credit: USGS.

From Live Science:

Mount Redoubt volcano in Alaska could erupt within days to weeks, say scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, amazing the rest of us with their certainty.

Here's what makes them so sure: Magma rising toward the surface from beneath a volcano like Redoubt can cause earthquakes and other seismic rumblings. And seismic activity at Redoubt, which is 106 miles (170 km) southwest of Anchorage, has increased recently.

"If you're going to bring magma to the surface you've got to break rock, and every time rocks break at the subsurface beneath a volcano, that's an earthquake," said volcanologist Charles Mandeville of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. "They're recording a whole bunch of earthquakes almost continuously right now," he said, referring to scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage.

Read more ....

The Biology Of Dating: Why Him, Why Her?

From Time Magazine:

Ah, the eternal question: why is HE with HER? Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher thinks she has found the answer after studying the academic literature on personality and after poring over 40,000 responses to a questionnaire on an online dating site. A Rutgers professor and paid advisor for, Fisher not only believes in romantic chemistry, but is zeroing in on specific chemicals. She spoke with TIME about her latest book, Why Him, Why Her: Finding Real Love by Understanding Your Personality Type.

A lot of things influence who we're attracted to, but one thing that has always puzzled scientists is the role that personality plays in mate selection. Have you solved that riddle?
There are two parts of personality. There's character, which is everything you grew up to believe and do and think. And then there's temperament, which is your inherited traits. Some people are more stubborn than others, some are more curious, some are more aggressive. What I'm trying to do is add the role of biology, of temperament, to our human understanding of love.

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How Does A Dog Walk? Surprisingly, Many Of Us Don't Really Know

How do dogs walk? It turns out that all four-legged animals step with their left hind leg followed by their left foreleg. Then they step with their right hind leg followed by the right foreleg, and so on. Animals differ from one another only in the timing of that stepping. (Credit: iStockphoto/Tim McCaig)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 29, 2009) — Despite the fact that most of us see our four-legged friends walking around every day, most of us-including many experts in natural history museums and illustrators for veterinary anatomy text books-apparently still don't know how they do it.

A new study published in the January 27th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, shows that anatomists, taxidermists, and toy designers get the walking gait of horses and other quadruped animals wrong about half the time. That's despite the fact that their correct walking behavior was described and published more than 120 years ago.

Read more ....

Friday, January 30, 2009

Neil Armstrong Walking On The Moon Is Most Memorable Television Moment

From The Telegraph:

Astronaut Neil Armstrong walking on the moon is the most memorable television first, according to a survey of 3,000 people.

More than half chose the moment in 1969 when man first walked on the moon as their most memorable television world first.

Among the other events which left their mark on viewers was the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president, nominated by 37.5 per cent of people questioned.

Third most memorable was the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963, nominated by 27 per cent.

The survey was commissioned by Sony Bravia to mark the UK launch of the world's thinnest LCD TV.

Read more ....

Rising Acidity Is Threatening Food Web of Oceans, Science Panel Says

From New York Times:

The oceans have long buffered the effects of climate change by absorbing a substantial portion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. But this benefit has a catch: as the gas dissolves, it makes seawater more acidic. Now an international panel of marine scientists says this acidity is accelerating so fast it threatens the survival of coral reefs, shellfish and the marine food web generally.

The panel, comprising 155 scientists from 26 countries and other international groups, is not the first to point to growing ocean acidity as an environmental threat. For example, a group of eminent scientists convened by The Nature Conservancy issued a similar assessment in August. But the new report’s blunt language and international backing give its assessment unusual force. It called for “urgent action” to sharply reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

Read more ....

Time To Dive Into Google Ocean?

From PC Pro News:

Google is rumoured to be delving underwater with a new upgrade to its Google Earth software.

Having already conquered the land and the sky, Google is preparing to add maps of the sea beds to the Earth package.

The company is expected to launch Google Ocean at the California Academy of Sciences next week, which includes an aquarium among its attractions.

Vice President turned environmental evangelist, Al Gore, will join Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt and vice president of search Marissa Mayer at the event.

Invitations reportedly describe the launch as "the next big step in the evolution of Google Earth".

The upgrade is expected to provide underwater topography, with a layer showing the depth of the sea floor. It will allow users to search for particular points of interest, such as famous shipwrecks.

Read more ....

Stem Cell Transplant Reverses Early Stage Multiple Sclerosis

From Eureka Alert:

CHICAGO --- Researchers from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine appear to have reversed the neurological dysfunction of early-stage multiple sclerosis patients by transplanting their own immune stem cells into their bodies and thereby "resetting" their immune systems.

"This is the first time we have turned the tide on this disease," said principal investigator Richard Burt, M.D. chief of immunotherapy for autoimmune diseases at the Feinberg School. The clinical trial was performed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital where Burt holds the same title.

The patients in the small phase I/II trial continued to improve for up to 24 months after the transplantation procedure and then stabilized. They experienced improvements in areas in which they had been affected by multiple sclerosis including walking, ataxia, limb strength, vision and incontinence. The study will be published online January 30 and in the March issue of The Lancet Neurology.

Read more ....

Fight Brews Over How To Build A Better Internet

Switch and Data’s PAIX in Palo Alto is a primary Internet exchange point in North America. (Tony Avelar/The Christian Science Monitor)

From Christian Science Monitor:

The stimulus bill has $6 billion to expand broadband access. But who can do it soonest vs. best?

America, where the Internet was invented, has fallen behind many European and East Asian countries in Internet speed, cost, and reach.

Roughly 10 percent of US households have no access to a high-speed, or broadband, data connection. Barely 3 percent have fiber-optic connections capable of delivering high-speed data that future industries are expected to rely on. While countries like Sweden are wiring themselves up with the next-generation Internet, the US is making do with a network roughly on par with Iceland.

So a $6 billion effort to upgrade America’s Internet – part of the stimulus package Congress is trying to pass – would seem a political slam-dunk. The US stimulates its economy right away with projects that would pay dividends well into the 21st century.

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Forecasting Guru Announces: “No Scientific Basis For Forecasting Climate”

Photo: J. Scott Armstrong, founder of the
International Journal of Forecasting

From Watts Up With That?

It has been an interesting couple of days. Today yet another scientist has come forward with a press release saying that not only did their audit of IPCC forecasting procedures and found that they “violated 72 scientific principles of forecasting”, but that “The models were not intended as forecasting models and they have not been validated for that purpose.” This organization should know, they certify forecasters for many disciplines and in conjunction with John Hopkins University if Washington, DC, offer a Certificate of Forecasting Practice. The story below originally appeared in the blog of Australian Dr. Jennifer Marohasy. It is reprinted below, with with some pictures and links added for WUWT readers. - Anthony

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Atomic Weight: Balancing The Risks And Rewards Of A Power Source

DAVIS BESSE: The nuclear power plant near Toledo, Ohio, was shut down for two years due to an equipment failure that might have resulted in a catastrophic meltdown if it had continued to go without detection. Courtesy of NRC

From Scientific American:

Nuclear power--like most forms of electricity generation--carries inherent risks. Is it worth the minor chance of a major catastrophe?

On Feb. 16, 2002, the nuclear power plant called Davis–Besse on the shores of Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio, shut down. On inspection, a pineapple-size section on the 6.63-inch- (16.84-centimeter-) thick carbon steel lid that holds in the pressurized, fission-heated water in the site's sole reactor had been entirely eaten away by boric acid formed from a leak. The only thing standing between the escape of nuclear steam and a possible chain of events leading to a meltdown was an internal liner of stainless steel just three sixteenths of an inch (0.48 centimeter) thick that had slowly bent out about an eighth of an inch (0.32 centimeter) into the cavity due to the constant 2,200 pound-per–square-inch (155-kilogram-per-square-centimeter) pressure.

Read more ....

Alaska Volcano Appears Close to Eruption

Mount Redoubt: A group of dipnetters float down the Kenai River with Mount Redoubt volcano on the horizon, near the mouth of the river at Kenai, Alaska. Mount Redoubt is showing signs that it may erupt soon.AP Photo/Al Grillo

From Discovery News:

Jan. 29, 2009 -- Mount Redoubt, a volcano 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, is rumbling and simmering, prompting geologists to warn that an eruption may be imminent.

Scientists from the Alaska Volcano Observatory have been monitoring activity round-the-clock since the weekend.

On Thursday, the observatory said: "Seismicity remains above background and largely unchanged with several volcanic earthquakes occurring every hour."

Read more ....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Great Bright Hope To End Battle Of The Light Bulbs

Cambridge University professor Colin Humphreys with his newly developed LED
that has a lifespan of 60 years and costs just £2

From The Daily Mail:

A lighting revolution is on the way that could end at the flick of a switch the battle between supporters of conventional bulbs and the eco-friendly variety.

Cambridge University researchers have developed cheap, light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs that produce brilliant light but use very little electricity. They will cost £2 and last up to 60 years.

Despite being smaller than a penny, they are 12 times more efficient than conventional tungsten bulbs and three times more efficient than the unpopular fluorescent low-energy versions.

Read more ....

Is Technology Producing A Decline In Critical Thinking And Analysis?

As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined, while our visual skills have improved. (Credit: iStockphoto/Jim DeLillo)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 29, 2009) — As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined, while our visual skills have improved, according to research by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children's Digital Media Center, Los Angeles.

Learners have changed as a result of their exposure to technology, says Greenfield, who analyzed more than 50 studies on learning and technology, including research on multi-tasking and the use of computers, the Internet and video games. Her research was published this month in the journal Science.

Read more ....

Women Have Nightmares, Men Dream of Sex

Photo from (Diets In Review)

From Live Science:

Women have more nightmares than men, a British researcher says, but men are more likely to dream about sex.

Psychologist Jennie Parker of the University of the West of England asked 100 women and 93 men between the ages of 18 and 25 to fill out dream diaries, priming participants before dreams occurred to record them. The research was part of her doctoral dissertation.

"My most significant finding is that women in general do experience more nightmares than men," she said. "An early study into dreams led to my discovering that normative research procedures into dream research often considered the structure of dreams, but that there is a gaping hole in terms of academic study that investigates emotional significance in the analysis of dreams."

Read more ....

What's Happening To The Sun?

The First Cycle 24 Sunspot: NOAA

From Popular Science:

Could its unusual behavior herald a new ice age?

For about 50 years from roughly 1650 to 1700, the Sun took a break from its typical sunspot activity. That phase of solar rest coincided with what we now refer to as "The Little Ice Age" -- a period of cooling on the Earth that resulted in bitterly cold winters, particularly in Europe and North America. Scientists attribute the Little Ice Age to two main causes: increased volcanic activity and reduced solar activity.

Could it happen again? And are we headed there now?

Read more ....

Scientists Not So Sure 'Doomsday Machine' Won't Destroy World

Photo: March 22, 2007: Magnet core of the largest superconducting solenoid magnet at European Organization for Nuclear Research's Large Hadron Collider. AP

From FOX News:

Still worried that the Large Hadron Collider will create a black hole that will destroy the Earth when it's finally switched on this summer?

Um, well, you may have a point.

Three physicists have reexamined the math surrounding the creation of microscopic black holes in the Switzerland-based LHC, the world's largest particle collider, and determined that they won't simply evaporate in a millisecond as had previously been predicted.

Rather, Roberto Casadio of the University of Bologna in Italy and Sergio Fabi and Benjamin Harms of the University of Alabama say mini black holes could exist for much longer — perhaps even more than a second, a relative eternity in particle colliders, where most objects decay much faster.

Read more ....

Fringe Fact v. Fiction: Could Your Brain Actually Turn to Goo?

From Popular Mechanics:

In its 12th episode, Fringe brought back one of the all-time greatest, grossest sci-fi horrors: Liquefied brains.

While investigating a string of murders, the agents find viscous liquid oozing from victims' orifices–something has turned their brains into nothing but goo. Sure enough, drilling a hole into a victim sends brown goo, all that's remaining of his brain, dripping out of his skull. "The brain goo that they made is maybe the most disgusting thing I've ever seen," Fringe star Joshua Jackson said in a promo for last night's episode, "The No-Brainer." But is the brain science as far off the mark as it has been in past episodes?

Read more ....

Staying Afloat -- Treading Water In A Sea of Data

From The New Atlantis:

In March 1997, Wired magazine, ever the zealous prophet of near-future consumer tech, breathlessly trumpeted the imminent death of the Internet browser and the rise of so-called “push media.” In short, the idea was that the Web would expand beyond the confines of the browser, both to additional desktop applications and to a host of other devices: phones, televisions, appliances, and even wallpaper. Next, all of these devices would coordinate their information delivery, transforming the Web from a passive medium, in which users request information, to an active medium, in which information “pushes” itself toward users. This new medium, we learn, would not “wait for clicks”: it’s “always-on, mildly in-your-face” and will “bombard you with an intensity that invitational media never muster.” Content, we are promised—or warned?—“will not hesitate to find you.”

Read more ....

The Workings Of An Ancient Nuclear Reactor

Uranium ore.
United States Geological Survey and the Mineral Information Institute

From Scientific American:

Two billion years ago parts of an African uranium deposit spontaneously underwent nuclear fission. The details of this remarkable phenomenon are just now becoming clear.

In May 1972 a worker at a nuclear fuel–processing plant in France noticed something suspicious. He had been conducting a routine analysis of uranium derived from a seemingly ordinary source of ore. As is the case with all natural uranium, the material under study contained three isotopes— that is to say, three forms with differing atomic masses: uranium 238, the most abundant variety; uranium 234, the rarest; and uranium 235, the isotope that is coveted because it can sustain a nuclear chain reaction. Elsewhere in the earth’s crust, on the moon and even in meteorites, uranium 235 atoms make up 0.720 percent of the total. But in these samples, which came from the Oklo deposit in Gabon (a former French colony in west equatorial Africa), uranium 235 constituted just 0.717 percent. That tiny discrepancy was enough to alert French scientists that something strange had happened. Further analyses showed that ore from at least one part of the mine was far short on uranium 235: some 200 kilograms appeared to be missing— enough to make half a dozen or so nuclear bombs.

Read more ....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mars Rover Disoriented Somewhat After Glitch

From The New York Times:

On the 1,800th Martian day of its mission, NASA’s Spirit rover blanked out, and it remains a bit disoriented.

Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported Wednesday that the Spirit had behaved oddly on Sunday — the 1,800th Sol, or Martian day, since Spirit’s landing on Mars in January 2004.

(A Martian Sol is 39.5 minutes longer than an Earth day. The Spirit and its twin, the Opportunity, were designed to last just 90 Sols each, but both continue to operate more than five years later.)

Read more ....

Ten Sci-Fi Devices That Could Soon Be In Your Hands

The briefcase-sized Prism 200 from UK firm Cambridge Consultants can detect people through brick walls by firing off pulses of ultra-wideband radar and listening for returning echoes. According to the company, these pulses can pass through building materials over 40 centimetres thick, and spot activity over a range of up to 15 metres. (Image: Cambridge Consultants)

From The New Scientist:

Cast your mind back 30 years, if you are old enough, and you may just remember a rather humdrum, though retrospectively momentous, event. In 1979, the Japanese firm NET launched the first cellular phone network in Tokyo.

For decades the objects remained toys of the super-rich. Who would have thought that today there would be enough cellphones for half the world's population to have one.

That's not the only recent technological revolution. Would you have dreamed that an entire record collection could one day fit in your pocket? How about a system that helps you communicate and share information across the world instantly?

Crystal-ball gazing is a fraught endeavour, but we've decided to take the plunge. In this special feature, we assess the prospects of 10 of the coolest gadgets that in 30 years' time may change our lives as much - or maybe more - than cellphones, iPods and the internet.

Read more ....

People With Super-Memories Forget Nothing

From Live Science:

Imagine never forgetting anything. Virtue? Curse?

Four people are said to have such "super-memories," including the latest case, a Southern California man who researchers don't plan to identify by name. According to USA Today, the man recalls in detail most days of his life, as well as the day and date of key public events, said researchers Larry Cahill.

The newspaper interviewed Jill Price, another person with a super memory. Price discussed her mind lat year in the book "The Woman Who Can't Forget."

There is much about memory that scientists don't understand. Only this month, in fact, they found that a single brain cell can hold a memory for a brief period before it's put in long-term storage, a feat that requires connections between brain cells.

Read more ....

Six Biggest Mysteries Of Our Solar System

So far as we know, our solar system is unique in the universe (Image: Nigel Hawtin)

From The New Scientist:

ONCE upon a time, 4.6 billion years ago, something was brewing in an unremarkable backwater of the Milky Way. The ragbag of stuff that suffuses the inconsequential, in-between bits of all galaxies - hydrogen and helium gas with just a sprinkling of solid dust - had begun to condense and form molecules. Unable to resist its own weight, part of this newly formed molecular cloud collapsed in on itself. In the ensuing heat and confusion, a star was born - our sun.

We don't know exactly what kick-started this process. Perhaps, with pleasing symmetry, it was the shock wave from the explosive death throes of a nearby star. It was not, at any rate, a particularly unusual event. It had happened countless times since the Milky Way itself came into existence about 13 billion years ago, and in our telescopes we can see it still going on in distant parts of our galaxy today. As stars go, the sun is nothing out of the ordinary.

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Astronomers Get A Sizzling Weather Report From A Distant Planet

Photo from Spitzer Space Telescope (Wikipedia)

From E! Science News:

Astronomers have observed the intense heating of a distant planet as it swung close to its parent star, providing important clues to the atmospheric properties of the planet. The observations enabled astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to generate realistic images of the planet by feeding the data into computer simulations of the planet's atmosphere. "We can't get a direct image of the planet, but we can deduce what it would look like if you were there. The ability to go beyond an artist's interpretation and do realistic simulations of what you would actually see is very exciting," said Gregory Laughlin, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC. Laughlin is lead author of a new report on the findings published this week in Nature.

The researchers used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to obtain infrared measurements of the heat emanating from the planet as it whipped behind and close to its star. In just six hours, the planet's temperature rose from 800 to 1,500 Kelvin (980 to 2,240 degrees Fahrenheit).

Read more ....

Ancient Meteorites Reveal Early Magnetic Fields

Image: New research suggests that some of the small rocky bodies that smashed together to form planets, called planetesimals, had magnetic fields. Damir Gamulin, courtesy of Benjamin Weiss

From Earth Magazine:

Even before the birth of the planets, our solar system was hardly a lonely place. Small rocky bodies, called planetesimals, filled the inner solar system, eventually colliding together to form the planets. Now a new look at a group of ancient meteorites shows that at least some planetesimals generated their own magnetic fields — a feat many scientists thought extremely difficult for such small astronomical bodies. The work also has scientists rethinking how planets formed.

Most meteorites don’t make it to Earth unscathed. After repeatedly smashing into other objects and traveling through Earth’s harsh atmosphere, they can be substantially altered before crash-landing on the planet. But not angrites — a group of 12 stony meteorites that, at an age of about 4.56 billion years old, are among the oldest-known rocks in the solar system and somehow “got here without being messed up,” says Benjamin Weiss, a planetary geologist at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. Because these meteorites are pristine, angrites retain information about the larger body from which they came.

Read more ....

Danube Delta Holds Answers To 'Noah's Flood' Debate

Giosan and his colleagues estimate that the Black Sea was around 30 meters below present day levels (Black Lake is represented by dark blue water) before a breach of the Bosporus sill 9,500 years ago raised levels to a maximum of 20 meters |(the flooded area is represented by light blue water). Their estimates mean that the magnitude of the Black Sea flood was 5 or 10 meters but not 50 to 60 meters. (Credit: Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2009) — Did a catastrophic flood of biblical proportions drown the shores of the Black Sea 9,500 years ago, wiping out early Neolithic settlements around its perimeter? A geologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and two Romanian colleagues report in the January issue of Quaternary Science Reviews that, if the flood occurred at all, it was much smaller than previously proposed by other researchers.

Using sediment cores from the delta of the Danube River, which empties into the Black Sea, the researchers determined sea level was approximately 30 meters below present levels—rather than the 80 meters others hypothesized.

Read more ....

Alcohol Makes Men BETTER In The Bedroom, Scientists Claim

Drinking effects: A study has suggested that alcohol improves rather than damages
a man's performance in the bedroom

From The Daily Mail:

Men who worry about the effect drinking has on their sex life should raise a glass to the latest research.

Alcohol actually improves rather than damages male performance in the bedroom, it is claimed.

Until now it has been widely believed that alcohol consumption can cause erectile dysfunction, or 'brewer's droop'.

But a study of 1,580 Australian men found drinkers reporting up to 30 per cent fewer problems than teetotallers.

Read more ....

My Comment: What happens if the ladies drink. A study should also be done there.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Study: Gamblers Who Lose Bet More

From Live Science:

People who carefully budget their bets before they hit the casinos — say setting a betting limit of $200 per day — routinely go against their plan when they lose.

University of California marketing professors Eduardo Andrade and Ganesh Lyer found that experiencing the pain of actual loss often results in people abandoning their plans and betting more money. "When gamblers haven't experience the actual pain of loss, they make cold and deliberate assessments of how much to bet in case of a future loss," Andrade said.

Read more ....

Global Warming 'Irreversible' For Next 1000 Years: Study

The Department of Water and Power (DWP) San Fernando Valley Generating Station is seen in Sun Valley, California, 2008. Climate change is "largely irreversible" for the next 1,000 years even if carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could be abruptly halted, according to a new study led by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (AFP/Getty Images/File/David Mcnew)

From Yahoo News/AFP:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Climate change is "largely irreversible" for the next 1,000 years even if carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could be abruptly halted, according to a new study led by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The study's authors said there was "no going back" after the report showed that changes in surface temperature, rainfall and sea level are "largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after CO2 emissions are completely stopped."

NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon said the study, published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, showed that current human choices on carbon dioxide emissions are set to "irreversibly change the planet."

Read more ....

Climate Change Could Choke Oceans For 100,000 Years

From Wired News:

According to a simulation of planetary warming trends, failure to drastically cut greenhouse gas pollution within the next half century could choke Earth's oceans for the next 100,000 years.

With warmer temperatures reducing its ability to absorb oxygen, much of the water would become barren and lifeless. Oceanic food chains could be profoundly disrupted.

"What mankind does for the next several decades will play a large role in climate on Earth over the next tens of thousands of years," said geochemist Gary Shaffer of the University of Copenhagen.

This is because, according to climate scientists, it will take at least that long for natural processes to remove fossil fuel emissions from the atmosphere, giving long-term consequences to humanity's short-term habits.

Read more ....

Remembering Apollo 1

Apollo 1 astronauts "Gus" Grissom (left), Edward White, and Roger Chaffee pose in front of the Saturn 1 launch vehicle at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On the morning of January 27, 1967, the crew was sitting atop the launch pad for a pre-launch test when a fire broke out in their capsule, killing all three astronauts. The investigation into the fatal accident led to major design changes for future launch vehicles. Photograph courtesy NASA

Jan. 27, 1967: 3 Astronauts Die in Capsule Fire -- Wired News

1967: Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee are killed on the launch pad when a flash fire engulfs their command module during testing for the first Apollo/Saturn mission. They are the first U.S. astronauts to die in the line of duty.

The command module, built by North American Aviation, was the prototype for those that would eventually accompany the lunar landers to the moon. Designated CM-012 by NASA, the module was a lot larger than those flown during the Mercury and Gemini programs, and was the first designed for the Saturn 1B booster.

Even before tragedy struck, the command module was criticized for a number of potentially hazardous design flaws, including the use of a more combustible, 100 percent oxygen atmosphere in the cockpit, an escape hatch that opened inward instead of outward, faulty wiring and plumbing, and the presence of flammable material.

Read more

Wikipedia entry for Apollo 1

Flexible Display Technology Is Advancing Rapidly

Flexible Display Screens: Bend Me, Shape Me, Anyway You Want Me -- The Economist

Electronic screens as thin as paper are coming soon

OVER the years, the screens on laptops, televisions, mobile phones and so on have got sharper, wider and thinner. They are about to get thinner still, but with a new twist. By using flexible components, these screens will also become bendy. Some could even be rolled up and slipped into your pocket like a piece of electronic paper. These thin sheets of plastic will be able to display words and images; a book, perhaps, or a newspaper or a magazine. And now it looks as if they might be mass produced in much the same way as the printed paper they are emulating.

Read more ....

Tapping The Earth For Home Heating And Cooling

The pump room at an apartment building in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
(Credit: MassInnovation)

From CNET:

Sue Butler decided it was time to cut the cord on fossil fuels. So when her aging gas furnace needed replacing, she turned to the Earth for a solution.

She installed a geothermal system--also called a ground-source heat pump, a water-source heat pump, or geo-exchange system--which recently started heating and cooling her Cambridge, Mass. home. Butler said she was motivated by environmental reasons and concerns over carbon monoxide from burning natural gas.

"It's not that much more expensive and I could manage it. And it means no more combustion and it gets the building off of carbon, which is urgent," she said.

Ground-source heat pumps have been around for decades but every year seem to attract more homeowners and organizations who are looking for alternatives to traditional space heating and cooling. They can hook into existing forced hot air and hot water systems but not steam heat.

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Wikipedia Reconsiders Editing Process

From CBS/CNET Tech News:

The User-Generated Resource Looks At Allowing Only Trusted Users To Immediately Publish Content Changes

(CNET) Just as Encyclopedia Britannica is moving in the direction of user-based entries, Wikipedia might soon be clamping down on theirs.

Wikipedia is apparently considering instituting a new editorial process that would put better safeguards in place and require all updates to be approved by a "reliable" user. The so-called Flagged Revisions process would allow registered, trusted editors to publish changes to the site immediately. All other edits would be sent to a queue and would not be published until they get approved by one of Wikipedia's trusted team of editors.

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How Real Science Works -- A Commentary

At Cern, the Large Hadron Collider could recreate conditions that last prevailed when the universe was less than a trillionth of a second old. Above is one of the collider's massive particle detectors, called the Compact Muon Solenoid. Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

From The American Thinker:

The Large Hadron Collider is the largest collaborative scientific effort in history. It involves more than 2000 scientists from 34 countries as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories. It has taken 14 years to build at a cost of $8 billion and is scheduled to begin serious research work later this year.

And that work is mindboggling. The Collider seeks to accomplish nothing less than giving us a view of what the universe was like about one trillionth of a second after the Big Bang when the 4 fundamental forces in the universe – electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravitation – first split apart. By sending particle beams in opposite directions along a 17 mile underground circular track and accelerating them to near light speed while directing the particles with superconducting magnets to points where they are likely to collide, scientists hope to unravel some of the basic mysteries of the universe. Dark matter, extra dimensions, the nature of gravity, perhaps the fate of the universe itself could be revealed by these collisions and the subatomic particles they leave behind.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

How Long Will The World's Uranium Supplies Last?

YELLOWCAKE: There should be enough uranium to fuel the world's current fleet for more than 200 years. Courtesy of Cameco Corporation

From Scientific American:

How long will global uranium deposits fuel the world's nuclear reactors at present consumption rates?

Steve Fetter, dean of the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy, supplies an answer:
If the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has accurately estimated the planet's economically accessible uranium resources, reactors could run more than 200 years at current rates of consumption.

Most of the 2.8 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity generated worldwide from nuclear power every year is produced in light-water reactors (LWRs) using low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. About 10 metric tons of natural uranium go into producing a metric ton of LEU, which can then be used to generate about 400 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, so present-day reactors require about 70,000 metric tons of natural uranium a year.

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Finer Wine

Vintage Vino: Particle accelerators and electronic tongues ensure that
your rare wine is the real thing Grant V. Faint/Getty Images


Spotting fake wine with an atom smasher, and growing perfect grapes

Robot Sommelier

Is your $30,000 bottle of Chateau Petrus Bordeaux truly a rare vintage, or is it just $30 merlot? Counterfeits plague rare-wine auctions, but researchers in Spain have built a handheld "electronic tongue" that detects them instantly. It measures the signature chemicals, acidity and sugar content in a drop of wine (typically one bottle from a case) and runs those against a database of certified vintage wines to catch fakes that might fool human tasters.

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Microsoft Steps Up Browser Battle

From The BBC News:

Microsoft has stepped up the battle to win back users with the latest release of its Internet Explorer browser.

The US software giant says IE 8 is faster, easier to use and more secure than its competitors.

"We have made IE 8 the best browser for the way people really do use the web," said Microsoft's Amy Barzdukas.

"Microsoft needs to say these things because it continues to lose market share to Firefox, Chrome and Safari," said Gartner analyst Neil MacDonald.

Recent figures have shown that Microsoft's dominance in this space has been chipped away by competitors.

At the end of last year, data from Net Applications showed the software giant's market share dropped below 70% for the first time in eight years to 68%.

Meanwhile Mozilla broke the 20% barrier for the first time in its history with 21% of users using its browser Firefox.

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Google's 'Online' GDrive Will Make The PC Redundant

The Google Drive would mean users would no longer have to worry about their hard drives crashing as their data could be accessed from any machine

From The Daily Mail:

The proposed new Google GDrive could kill off the personal computer, experts have warned.

The Google Drive service, which will reportedly launch later this year, allows users to store information online on Google's own servers rather than on the hard drive.

The process has been dubbed 'cloud computing' and is being seen as 'the most anticipated Google product so far'.

The GDrive would mean users would no longer have to worry about their hard drives crashing as their data could be accessed from any internet connection, a move that could effectively make PCs redundant.

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Internet Users Top 1 Billion, Most of Them Asian

From PC Magazine:

Internet metrics company comScore on Friday reported that the number of worldwide Internet users in December topped 1 billion users, the first time that barrier has been breached.

The key metric in the number of users is that most of them are from Asia, predominantly so: 41 percent, compared to 28 percent in North America and 18 percent in Europe. Although a sizeable percentage of Europe speaks English in some capacity (as does Asia), the numbers indicate that most of the world's Internet traffic will most likely be communicated using some non-English language. China, for example, had 179 million users, topping the list of wired countries; the U.S. was second, at 163 million. Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom rounded out the top five.

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World's Fastest Car Goes Electric

Photo from Automotoportal

From Wired:

The guys at Shelby SuperCars, having taken down the mighty Bugatti Veyron to claim the title of fastest car on the planet, are challenging Tesla Motors for electro-supremacy with an EV it promises will put down 1,000 horsepower.

The boutique automaker caught our attention when it first mentioned the Ultimate Aero EV last summer, and now it's come through with some specs. They're pretty outlandish — zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds? 10-minute recharge time? — but we'll suspend our skepticism long enough to clear some space in the Autopia Fantasy Garage.

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Philadelphia’s Climate In The Early Days

From Watts Up With That?

January, 1790 was a remarkable year in the northeastern US for several reasons. It was less than one year into George Washington’s first term, and it was one of the warmest winter months on record. Fortunately for science, a diligent Philadelphia resident named Charles Pierce kept a detailed record of the monthly weather from 1790 through 1847, and his record is archived by Google Books. Below is his monthly report from that book.

JANUARY 1790 The average or medium temperature of this month was 44 degrees This is the mildest month of January on record. Fogs prevailed very much in the morning but a hot sun soon dispersed them and the mercury often ran up to 70 in the shade at mid day. Boys were often seen swimming in the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. There were frequent showers as in April some of which were accompanied by thunder and lightning The uncommon mildness of the weather continued until the 7th of February.

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Secrets Of Stradivarius' Unique Violin Sound Revealed, Professor Says

What makes a Stradivarius' violin sound different from other violins?
(Credit: iStockphoto/José Carlos Pires Pereira)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2009) — For centuries, violin makers have tried and failed to reproduce the pristine sound of Stradivarius and Guarneri violins, but after 33 years of work put into the project, a Texas A&M University professor is confident the veil of mystery has now been lifted.

Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus of biochemistry, first theorized in 1976 that chemicals used on the instruments – not merely the wood and the construction – are responsible for the distinctive sound of these violins. His controversial theory has now received definitive experimental support through collaboration with Renald Guillemette, director of the electron microprobe laboratory in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and Clifford Spiegelman, professor of statistics, both Texas A&M faculty members. Their work has been published in the current issue of the scientific journal Public Library of Science (PloSONE).

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Obesity Caught Like Common Cold

From Live Science:

Yet another claim that a common and contagious virus is linked to some cases of obesity is in the news today.

Studies on humans show that 33 per cent of obese adults had contracted an adenovirus called AD-36 at some point in their lives, according to an article in the UK's Daily Express, whereas only 11 per cent of lean men and women have had the virus.

The research, to be presented in a BBC television special, is not big news to scientists, however. Further, some worry that the portrayal of obesity as something you simply catch could obscure the fact that overeating remains the biggest driver of obesity.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Google Plans To Make PCs History

From The Guardian:

Industry critics warn of danger in giving internet leader more power

Google is to launch a service that would enable users to access their personal computer from any internet connection, according to industry reports. But campaigners warn that it would give the online behemoth unprecedented control over individuals' personal data.

The Google Drive, or "GDrive", could kill off the desktop computer, which relies on a powerful hard drive. Instead a user's personal files and operating system could be stored on Google's own servers and accessed via the internet.

The long-rumoured GDrive is expected to be launched this year, according to the technology news website TG Daily, which described it as "the most anticipated Google product so far". It is seen as a paradigm shift away from Microsoft's Windows operating system, which runs inside most of the world's computers, in favour of "cloud computing", where the processing and storage is done thousands of miles away in remote data centres.

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The MAC Is 25 Years Old Today

The Mac is twenty-five years old today. It’s arrival on the scene was announced by the above Ridley Scott commercial at the half time in Super Bowl XVIII.

More News On The Mac's 25th Birthday

Bites from the Apple: For the Rest of Us... -- End User