Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spacecraft Sees Spectacular Solar Eclipse on Moon

A still of the Kaguya/Selene probe's high-definition video of the solar eclipse seen from the moon. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

From FOX News:

There was a solar eclipse earlier this month — but it wasn't visible anywhere on Earth.

Rather, a Japanese space probe in orbit around the moon got spectacular high-definition video of the sun being blocked — by the Earth, producing an otherworldly "diamond-ring" eclipse.

It may be only the third time such an eclipse has been viewed by terrestrials, human or otherwise.

An American lunar lander got a blurry snapshot of a solar eclipse in 1967, and two years later Apollo 12 astronauts got treated to the same thing on their way back from the moon.

Read more ....

The Big Melt

From Popular Science:

A two-year polar survey finds ice sheets melting faster than expected, and more grim news.

Less than two weeks before scientists from around the world gather in Copenhagen to issue recommendations for a new global climate-change treaty, the results from the two-year International Polar Year survey have arrived. They are not pleasant.

Here's a quick summary: The Antarctic and Greenland ice shelves are melting more quickly than we realized. Year-round Arctic sea-ice levels reached their lowest levels in 30 years, which is how long we've been keeping records. The seawater beneath Antarctica is freshening, which indicates ice melt. Global ocean currents are beginning to shift. "We're beginning to get hints of change in ocean circulation; that'll have a dramatic impact on the global climate system," IPY director David Carlson told reporters in Geneva.

Read more ....

Do These Mysterious Stones Mark The Site Of The Garden Of Eden?

The site has been described as 'extraordinary' and 'the most important' site in the world

From The Daily Mail:

For the old Kurdish shepherd, it was just another burning hot day in the rolling plains of eastern Turkey. Following his flock over the arid hillsides, he passed the single mulberry tree, which the locals regarded as 'sacred'. The bells on his sheep tinkled in the stillness. Then he spotted something. Crouching down, he brushed away the dust, and exposed a strange, large, oblong stone.

The man looked left and right: there were similar stone rectangles, peeping from the sands. Calling his dog to heel, the shepherd resolved to inform someone of his finds when he got back to the village. Maybe the stones were important.

Read more ....

Mega-Laser To Probe Secrets Of Exoplanets

Artist's impression of a gas giant planet circling the star Gliese 436. The new laser will investigate the internal chemistry of these vast planets (Image: NASA)

From New Scientist:

AN AWESOME laser facility, built to provide fusion data for nuclear weapons simulations, will soon be used to probe the secrets of extrasolar planets.

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California was declared ready for action earlier this month. Its vital statistics reveal it to be a powerful beast: its ultraviolet lasers can deliver 500 trillion watts in a 20-nanosecond burst. That power opens up new scientific possibilities.
It can deliver 500 trillion watts in a 20-nanosecond burst - opening up new scientific possibilities

For instance, Raymond Jeanloz, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, will use the device to recreate the conditions inside Jupiter and other larger planets, where pressures can be 1000 times as great as those at the centre of the Earth.

Read more ....

HIV Is Evolving To Evade Human Immune Responses

Rendering of HIV infecting a cell. (Credit: iStockphoto/Sebastian Kaulitzki)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 28, 2009) — HIV is evolving rapidly to escape the human immune system, an international study led by Oxford University has shown. The findings, published in Nature, demonstrate the challenge involved in developing a vaccine for HIV that keeps pace with the changing nature of the virus.

‘The extent of the global HIV epidemic gives us a unique opportunity to examine in detail the evolutionary struggle being played out in front of us between an important virus and humans,’ says lead researcher Professor Philip Goulder of the Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research at Oxford University.

Read more ....

Writing Math On The Web

From American Scientist:

The Web would make a dandy blackboard if only we could scribble an equation.

The world wide web was invented at a physics laboratory, and the first users were scientists and engineers. You might think, therefore, that this new channel of communication would be especially well adapted to scientific discourse—that it would facilitate the expression of ideas like


If only it were so! The truth is, the basic protocols of the Web offer almost no support for rendering mathematics or other specialized notations such as chemical formulas. Presenting such material on a Web page often requires software add-ons or plug-ins to be installed by the author or the reader or both. Fine-tuning the display of mathematics can be a fussy and finicky process, not much easier than formatting equations with a typewriter. The results sometimes render differently—or not at all—in various Web browsers. This is a sad situation: As the Web has evolved into a thriving marketplace and playground, the scholarly and scientific community that created the technology has not been well served.

Read more ....

The Shoe Fits! 1.5 Million-Year-Old Human Footprints Found

A photograph of the footprint's upper footprint surface showing good definition of the toe pads; the second toe is partially obscured by the third toe. Credit: Matthew Bennett/Bournemouth University

From Live Science:

Early humans had feet like ours and left lasting impressions in the form of 1.5 million-year-old footprints, some of which were made by feet that could wear a size 9 men's shoe.

The findings at a Northern Kenya site represent the oldest evidence of modern-human foot anatomy. They also help tell an ancestral story of humans who had fully transitioned from tree-dwellers to land walkers.

"In a sense, it's like putting flesh on the bones," said John Harris, an anthropologist with the Koobi Fora Field School of Rutgers University. "The prints are so well preserved ."

Read more ....

Are You Out There, ET? Searches For Habitable Planets Are About To Get A Boost

UP, UP AND AWAY: The Kepler satellite, scheduled to take flight March 6, is lifted for attachment to its launch rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Kepler will look for Earth-like planets that may be hospitable to life. NASA

From Scientific American:

Next week brings a milestone in the search for extraterrestrial life with the scheduled launch Friday of NASA's Kepler satellite. The mission, named for 16th- and 17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler, will study a group of stars for three-plus years in search of subtle, periodic dips in stellar brightness—the telltale signs of planetary orbits. Although more than 300 planets outside the solar system have already been found using this method, among other techniques, Kepler's strength will lie in its instruments' sensitivity to smaller, cooler planets more hospitable to life and more like our own.

Read more ....

Friday, February 27, 2009

'Eye of God': The nebula that watches our tiny world from 700 light years away

The 'eye of god' - also known as the Helix nebula - is so huge, it would take a
beam of light two-and-a-half years to cross it

From The Daily Mail:

It stares down at us from the depths of space, watching our tiny world from 700 light years away.

Scientists have nicknamed the image - captured by a giant telescope on the Chilean mountains - the eye of God.

In fact, it shows the death throes of a star similar to our sun, before it retires as a 'white dwarf' believed to be the final evolutionary state of a medium-sized star.

Read more ....

Humans Facing Huge Population Cull If Global Temperatures Rise 4C In Next 100 Years

Survival ... Experts say that humans won't be able to handle
the heat if temperatures rise a predicted 4C / AFP


ALLIGATORS bask off the English coast, the Sahara desert stretches into Europe and 10 per cent of humans are left.

Science fiction?

No, this is the doomsday prediction if global temperatures make a predicted rise of 4C in the next 100 years. Some fear it could happen by 2050.

Read more ....

My Comment: I am skeptical.

Happy Birthday, Doomsday Seed Vault!

The Entrance to the Vault: Mari Tefre/Global Crop Diversity Trust


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, designed to preserve the world's crops, turns one year old today

What do you get a seed bank for its birthday? More seeds, of course.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault celebrates its first birthday today with the addition of 90,000 seed samples. The vault serves as a heavy-duty backup for gene banks around the world, which strive to save humanity (and our food supply) from the scourges of monoculture and environmental catastrophes.

The Norwegian government meant business when it built the vault. They tunneled 400 feet into an Arctic mountain to protect the pips, which are guarded behind two security doors and two airlocks. The underground vault is designed to weather just about every doomsday scenario, including terrorists, nuclear war, and floods of biblical proportions. It was featured in an award-winning low-budget science fiction film last year: "Frozen Seed."

Read more ....

Planet Hidden In Hubble Archives

A new image processing technique reveals something not before seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image taken 11 years ago: A faint planet (arrows), the outermost of three discovered with ground-based telescopes last year around the young star HR 8799. Credit: D. Lafrenière et al., ApJ Letters

From Science News:

A new way to process images reveals an extrasolar planet that had been hiding in an 11-year-old Hubble picture

Like tiny jewels not yet uncovered, a trove of previously unknown extrasolar planets — perhaps as many as 100 — await discovery in a vast archive of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, the results of a new search technique suggest.

Using the new method, astronomers can more precisely model the amount and distribution of scattered light produced by young nearby stars suspected of spawning planets, and then subtract the light from images of those stars. Once the glare of the light from the parent stars is removed, young Jupiter-mass planets that emit faint but detectable amounts of heat may show up in images already taken by Hubble’s near-infrared camera.

Read more ....

Lifestyle Changes Could Prevent A Third Of Cancers: Report

From The CBC News:

An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure when it comes to cancer, according to an exhaustive international report.

The report by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund was released Thursday in London, England.

It calls on governments to legislate healthy living, such as:

* Mandate walking and cycling paths that encourage physical activity.
* Support policies for better-priced, healthier food choices for consumers, such as reformulating processed foods to have less sugar, salt and fat.
* Ban ads for sugary drinks and unhealthy foods aimed at children.
* Require schools to provide built-in exercise opportunities for children.

Read more ....

Fungus Threatens Prehistoric Cave Drawings

Photo: Part of Lascaux famed cave drawings in southwest France, shown last summer. (AP Photo/Pierre Andrieu, Pool)

From CBS News:

Scientists Meet To Try And Save Lascaux’s Murals In France At Risk Due To Global Warming.

(AP) Geologists, biologists and other scientists convened Thursday in Paris to discuss how to stop the spread of fungus stains - aggravated by global warming - that threaten France's prehistoric Lascaux cave drawings.

Black stains have spread across the cave's prehistoric murals of bulls, felines and other images, and scientists have been hard-pressed to halt the fungal creep.

Marc Gaulthier, who heads the Lascaux Caves International Scientific Committee, said the challenges facing the group are vast and global warming now poses an added problem.

Read more ....

Carbon Dioxide Drop And Global Cooling Caused Antarctic Glacier To Form

Projection of the what the first Antarctic ice sheet might have looked like as the global climate cooled about 33.5 million years ago. Antarctica is in gray, with the ice sheet shown in meters of ice thickness. The ice sheet is continental in scale, but somewhat smaller than today. The estimate is based on prior modeling work of DeConto and Pollard and is supported by this new data study. (Credit: DeConto & Pollard / Nature)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 27, 2009) — Global climate rapidly shifted from a relatively ice-free world to one with massive ice sheets on Antarctica about 34 million years ago. What happened? What changed? A team of scientists led by Yale geologists offers a new perspective on the nature of changing climatic conditions across this greenhouse-to-icehouse transition — one that refutes earlier theories and has important implications for predicting future climate changes.

Detailed in the February 27 issue of Science, their data disproves a long-held idea that massive ice growth in the Antarctic was accompanied by little to no global temperature change.

Read more ....

Introducing The Gel-Filled Army Helmet That Will Crush Bullets As They Penetrate It

Richard Palmer, CEO of Blue Divine Ltd, with 'D3O' shock-absorbing material which will be used to line new British Army helmets

From The Daily Mail:

On the face of it a layer of orange jelly may not sound the best way to protect a soldier's head from high velocity bullets and shrapnel.

But the British Army's standard-issue combat helmet is set to be upgraded with a liner made from gooey miracle gel, which responds to a sudden impact by locking instantly into a solid form - absorbing huge amounts of energy harmlessly.

A UK-based technology company was today celebrating a £100,000 contract from the Ministry of Defence to develop its D3O shock-absorbing gel to help save the lives of British troops fighting on the frontline in Afghanistan.

Read more ....

My Comment: The use of nanotechnology at a basic level.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Moon and Venus Converge Friday Night

The scene about two hours after sunset from near Phoenix, Arizona on Friday, Feb. 27, 2009. Simulated sky map made using Starry Night Software.

From Live Science:

It has been a superb winter for viewing the queen of the planets, Venus. February marks the pinnacle of its evening visibility as it stands like a sequined showgirl nearly halfway up in the western sky at sunset.

You can't miss it. Just look west after sunset. In fact, you can see it during the day if you know where to look. Find it just after sunset one evening, then scan around the same spot just before sunset the next day.

Read more ....

Europe Names Crew For Mars 'Mission'

Red Mars from Spirit (Image from NASA)

From Breitart/AFP:

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Friday named a Frenchman and a German who will join four Russians in an innovative 105-day isolation experiment to test whether humans can one day fly to Mars.

From March 31, the six "crew" will be locked inside a special facility in Moscow that replicates conditions of a space trip to Mars.

The simulation will be followed by a 520-day experiment, starting later this year, that would last as long as a real mission to Mars.

The two Europeans are Oliver Knickel, 28, a mechanical engineer in the German army, and Cyrille Fournier, 40, a captain with Air France who flies A320 airliners, ESA said in a press release.

Read more ....

Warnings Issued On Nanotechnology

Photo: One example of nanotechnology is this Kevlar-treated fabric developed for the military in Cambridge, Mass. The coating is extremely thin. ELISE AMENDOLA AP

From The Houston Chronicle:

Some say time's right to assess its environmental impact.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may soon act to impose the first regulations specific to nanotechnology, a move that could have a significant impact in Houston.

Already, Canada has signaled its intent to require companies working with nanomaterials — designed at the molecular level to have special properties, such as enhanced strength — to report what materials they are working with and in what quantity.

Read more ....

Jurassic Web

Screenshot of a web page in 1996 (Image from Tulane)

From Slate:

The Internet of 1996 is almost unrecognizable compared with what we have today.

It's 1996, and you're bored. What do you do? If you're one of the lucky people with an AOL account, you probably do the same thing you'd do in 2009: Go online. Crank up your modem, wait 20 seconds as you log in, and there you are—"Welcome." You check your mail, then spend a few minutes chatting with your AOL buddies about which of you has the funniest screen name (you win, pimpodayear94).

Read more ....

Additional Evidence That Potato Chips Should Be Eaten Only In Moderation

Acrylamide, found in foods such as potato chips and french fries, may increase the risk of heart disease. Acrylamide has been linked previously to nervous system disorders and possibly to cancer. (Credit: iStockphoto/Alexander Zhiltsov)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 26, 2009) — A new study published in the March 2009 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Marek Naruszewicz and colleagues from Poland suggests that acrylamide from foods may increase the risk of heart disease. Acrylamide has been linked previously to nervous system disorders and possibly to cancer.

After ingesting large amounts of potato chips providing about 157 micrograms of acrylamide daily for four weeks, the participants had adverse changes in oxidized LDL, inflammatory markers and antioxidants that help the body eliminate acrylamide—all of which may increase the risk of heart disease.

Read more ....

Sex Goes Way Back, Fossil Find Shows

The armored fish, Materpiscis attenboroughi, may have given birth to its young tail-first, similar to some sharks and rays. Credit: Museum Victoria.

From Live Science:

Remains of embryos entombed in their fish mothers' wombs for 380 million years have been found in fossils from an ancient rock outcrop in Western Australia. The finding is a big deal because it suggests that sex goes way back.

The prehistoric fish, called placoderms, are found at the base of the vertebrate evolutionary tree (in a large group we humans also belong to), so it now looks like sexual intercourse, and the mating behaviors that go along with it, were more widespread in these ancient animals than previously thought, said the scientists who made the discovery.

Read more ....

The Weirdest New Source of Alternative Energy: Underwater Vibrations

A prototype underwater generator shows the fluid dynamics that will produce power from slow-moving currents using metal rods suspending near the ocean or river floor. Image courtesy of NOAA

From Discover Magazine:

Researchers say this longtime bane of offshore drilling is more cost-efficient than wind and solar.

The latest frontier for renewable energy is the ocean floor. A novel method of generating power uses a network of metal rods to tap into the currents that flow along the bottom of the ocean (and along riverbeds as well). Water swirls as it flows past the rods, making them vibrate. This phenomenon is painfully familiar to oil companies, which spend large sums of money minimizing such vibrations in order to stabilize offshore drilling equipment. “Everyone was obsessed with suppressing this motion,” says Michael Bernitsas, the University of Michigan engineer who developed the technology. “At some point it dawned on me that maybe we can do the opposite: Enhance it and harness the energy.”

Read more ....

Ice Ages and Sea Level

Figure 1: Orbital Parameters: Eccentricity, Precession and Obliquity- click for larger image
(Image from Watts Up With That)

From Watts Up With That?

The Earth is currently in an interglacial period of an ice age that started about two and a half million years ago. The Earth’s current ice age is primarily caused by Antarctica drifting over the South Pole 30 million years ago. This meant that a large area of the Earth’s surface changed from being very low-albedo ocean to highly reflective ice and snow. The first small glaciers were formed in Antarctica perhaps as long ago as 40 million years. They expanded gradually until, about 20 million years ago, a permanent ice sheet covered the whole Antarctic continent. About 10 million years later, glaciers appeared on the high mountains of Alaska, and about 3 million years ago, ice sheets developed on lower ground in high northerly latitudes.

Read more ....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Galaxy May Be Full Of 'Earths,' Alien Life

Photo: An artist's impression shows a planet passing in front of its parent star. Such events are called transits.

From CNN:

(CNN) -- As NASA prepares to hunt for Earth-like planets in our corner of the Milky Way galaxy, there's new buzz that "Star Trek's" vision of a universe full of life may not be that far-fetched.

Pointy-eared aliens traveling at light speed are staying firmly in science fiction, but scientists are offering fresh insights into the possible existence of inhabited worlds and intelligent civilizations in space.

There may be 100 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way, or one for every sun-type star in the galaxy, said Alan Boss, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution and author of the new book "The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets."

Read more ....

How To Make Your Computer Boot Faster

(Photograph by Kyoko Hamada)

From Popular Mechanics:

Why can’t a computers start up like a television? In short, it is all about the operating system. And contrary to common sense, the newer the operating system the longer it can take. But you can do something about it. Here are tips to get your tortoise-like boot time to hop like a bunny.

Why can’t a computer be more like a television? When you push the power button on a TV, it just turns on. Computers, on the other hand, boot—as in, they take so long to get started that you want to stick your boot into them.

You would think that the march of technological progress would have reduced boot times over the years, but newer operating systems can take longer—Microsoft Vista actually tends to boot more slowly than its predecessor, Windows XP. (Microsoft claims its next-generation operating system, Windows 7, should provide drastic improvements in boot time.)

Read more ....

The Evolution of Human Aggression

From Live Science:

Everyone has experienced anger at one point in their lives and some of us — males mostly, going by statistics — have channeled that anger into violence, perhaps by throwing a punch during a hockey game or after too many beers at the bar.

Then there's aggression on a much more sinister scale, in the form of murder, wars and genocide. Trying to understand what fuels the different levels of human aggression, from fisticuffs to nation-on-nation battle, has long preoccupied human biologists.

Read more ....

Genetic Discovery Could Lead To Advances In Dental Treatment

A normal mouse tooth on the left, where ameloblast cells that produce enamel are glowing in red. On the right is a tooth with the Ctip2 gene deleted, and little enamel has been able to form. (Credit: Image courtesy of Oregon State University)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 24, 2009) — Researchers have identified the gene that ultimately controls the production of tooth enamel, a significant advance that could some day lead to the repair of damaged enamel, a new concept in cavity prevention, and restoration or even the production of replacement teeth.

The gene, called Ctip2, is a "transcription factor" that was already known to have several functions - in immune response, and the development of skin and the nervous system. Scientists can now add tooth development to that list.

The findings were just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more ....

Prosecution Alters Pirate Bay Charges in Bid to Win Conviction

From Wired News:

STOCKHOLM – The Pirate Bay prosecutor altered the copyright-infringement charges Tuesday to make it easier to convict the four defendants who co-founded the world's most notorious BitTorrent tracker.

Moments later, Hollywood investigators testified about the ease with which they obtained copyright works using the 5-year-old site.

But at the outset of Tuesday's proceedings, the prosecutor, Håkan Roswall, announced a alteration of the charges, which legal scholars suggested would make it more likely to win a conviction.

Read more ....

Top 10 Ig Nobels: The Best of Science's Strangest Prize

From Popular Mechanics:

A large portion of scientific research remains forever off the public radar. A select few studies deliver results that reverberate in the scientific community and make their way to textbooks. Then there are those research efforts that, as one group puts it, represent "achievements that cannot or should not be reproduced." Every year the Annals of Improbable Research highlights this last group with the Ig Nobel, an award for the top engineering solutions, science products and peer-reviewed papers that, according to the editors, "make you laugh, then make you think." We looked back at 18 years of the prizes to bring you our 10 favorite Ig Nobels of all time.

Read more ....

On the Trail of Osama bin Laden: Scientists Use Biological Tracking Models to Pursue America's Most Wanted

Regional analysis of city islands within a 20-km radius
of bin Laden’s last known location (red dot).

From Popular Mechanics:

The United States military's attempts to track down Osama bin Laden in the seven-plus years since the World Trade Center attacks have been notoriously fruitless. But a new study suggests the way to find America's most wanted criminal is to treat him like an endangered species. In the study, released in MIT International Review, University of California-Los Angeles geographers Thomas Gillespie and John Agnew modeled the terrorist leader's possible whereabouts by using the same techniques conservationists use to track the dispersal of animals and likely migration patterns. Using a variety of criteria specific to Osama bin Laden's needs—electricity, room for his entourage, health problems—the study isolates three buildings in the remote Pakistani town of Parachinar in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas as the most likely hideout. (The paper was submitted to the FBI before it went to the MIT journal and, according the FBI, it was forwarded to the appropriate personnel and is part of an active investigation.)

Read more ....

Just How Fat Are We?

Big Little Kids: Obesity rates in Americans ages 12 to 19 have more than tripled since 1980.


Headlines fret about the growing obesity epidemic, but what does it mean? How did it happen? And what are the costs?

Obesity, defined as a body-mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, is not equally distributed across the U.S. Check out this map to find out which state is the fattest (hint: it's the namesake of mud pie), which is the thinnest (think Coors Light), and which spends the most money on obesity-related health care (its governor pumps iron).

Read on, after the break, for more of America's (and the world's) fat facts.

Read more ....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why Women Cannot Read Maps

Are we lost? Women tend to describe directions as 'right of' and 'left of' landmarks, while men are better at reading maps, a study found

Are We Lost? Why Women Are Worse At Reading Maps But Can Find Those Misplaced Keys -- Daily Mail

Women are worse at reading maps but better at finding lost items, research into how the sexes perceive beauty has revealed.

U.S Scientists asked 10 men and 10 women to view a series of unfamiliar pictures. The participants were told to give their impressions of the images and whether or not they found them beautiful.

The scientists also used a technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure changes in the magnetic fields generated by active neurons in the brain.

Read more ....

Black Hole Destroying A Star (Video)

Hat Tip: Geek Press.

When Dreaming Is Believing: Dreams Affect People's Judgment, Behavior

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Feb. 22, 2009) — While science tries to understand the stuff dreams are made of, humans, from cultures all over the world, continue to believe that dreams contain important hidden truths, according to newly published research.

In six different studies, researchers surveyed nearly 1,100 people about their dreams. "Psychologists' interpretations of the meaning of dreams vary widely," said Carey Morewedge, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the study's lead author. "But our research shows that people believe their dreams provide meaningful insight into themselves and their world."

Read more ....

Is The Internet Warping Our Brains?

Image from Esther's Space

From Live Science:

The Internet is no doubt changing modern society. It has profoundly altered how we gather information, consume news, carry out war, and create and foster social bonds. But is it altering our brains? A growing number of scientists think so, and studies are providing data to show it.

What remains to be seen is whether the changes are good or bad, and whether the brain is, as one neuroscientist believes, undergoing unprecedented evolution.

Read more ....

My Comment: I do not know about my brain .... but my hands suffer from carpel syndrome.

Stargazers Hope For Glimpse Of Green Comet

The comet contains the gases cyanogen and diatomic carbon, which give it its green colour. (Paolo Candy/Cimini Astronomical Observatory)

From The Independent:

It's green, about 300,000 miles wide and some 38 million miles away, and tonight a comet called Lulin could be visible to the naked eye.

At around midnight, UK space scientists and amateur stargazers will be looking due south for a glimpse of the unusual celestial body as it reaches its nearest point to Earth.

Discovered only a year ago, the comet gets its green colour from a poisonous, cyanide-like gas in its atmosphere.

Read more ....

More News On Lulin

Comet Lulin making nearest approach toward earth, one-time only -- China View
Best chance to view Comet Lulin is here! -- Scientific American
Green light for a close encounter: 'Jupiter-sized' comet to streak past Earth tonight -- Daily Mail Online
How To See Comet Lulin As It Passes Earth -- Space Daily

Google’s Gmail Service Crashes Across World

Google?s Gmail service has suffered a worldwide crash
preventing millions of users from accessing their mail

From The Telegraph:

Google’s web-based email service, Gmail, has crashed this morning, leaving millions of users from Britain to Australia unable to send and receive messages.

The email service went offline at around 10.25am GMT, and the outage appears to have affected users throughout the UK as well as across Europe, and even as far afield as Australia and India.

It appears that only web-based Gmail access is affected, and users can continue to send and receive messages using other devices, such as mobile phones and third-party mail clients.

Read more ....

More News On Today's Gmail Interruption

Google apologizes for Gmail outage -- CNET
Gmail Struck With Service Outage -- PC World
Google mail users hit by global outage -- Times Online
Gmail breakdown affects users worldwide -- AFP
Four Hours Without Gmail -- New York Times
Gmail Experiences Worldwide Crash -- FOX News

NASA Says Climate Satellite Fails To Launch

From Yahoo News/Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A mission carrying a climate satellite into orbit failed on Tuesday when the satellite was not able to separate from the rocket, NASA said.

"The vehicle ... landed just sort of Antarctica in the ocean," John Brunschwyler of Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp, which made the rocket told a news conference.

The $278 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory was going to measure carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and to determine what happens to the climate-changing pollutant.

Read more ....

Update: Nasa's first CO2 satellite crashes into ocean after launch failure -- Times Online

Most Detailed Lunar Map Suggests Little Water Inside Moon

An international team of researchers has created the most detailed map of the Moon yet, using the laser altimeter (LALT) instrument on board the Japanese Selenological and Engineering Explorer satellite. C.K. Shum, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, is a member of the LALT science team and a co-author of a paper appearing in the February 13 issue of the journal Science. (Credit: Image copyright Science/AAAS)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2009) — The most detailed map of the Moon ever created has revealed never-before-seen craters at the lunar poles.

The map is also revealing secrets about the Moon's interior -- and hinting about Mars's interior as well.

C.K. Shum, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, is part of the international research team that published the map in the February 13 issue of the journal Science.

"The surface can tell us a lot about what's happening inside the Moon, but until now mapping has been very limited," Shum said. "For instance, with this new high-resolution map, we can confirm that there is very little water on the Moon today, even deep in the interior. And we can use that information to think about water on other planets, including Mars."

Read more ....

Monday, February 23, 2009

Unlike Diamonds, Most Minerals Not Forever

From Live Science:

Diamonds may be forever, but that's not true of most minerals. In fact, about two-thirds of the 4,300 known minerals on Earth today owe their existence to biological processes, and thus evolved fairly recently in geological terms. So says Robert M. Hazen of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., who with seven colleagues identified three phases of mineral evolution.

The first phase began more than 4.55 billion years ago, as the solar system started developing. Chemical elements came together, forming about 250 simple minerals that in turn coalesced into planets. On Earth, the second phase stretched from 4.55 billion to 2.5 billion years ago, starting with the violent collision that formed the Moon. Earth's temperature and pressure varied wildly; plate tectonics began churning the planet's surface; and volatiles appeared, such as water and carbon dioxide, helping to redistribute the elements. Those changes enabled the evolution of some 1,250 new minerals.

Read more ....

Scientists Expect To Create Life In Next 10 years

This photo, provided by ProtoLife, shows vesicles, artificial membranes for cells, made from scratch. Teams around the world, including ProtoLife, are trying to create synthetic life in a lab. Martin Hanczyc / AP


First cell of synthetic life can only be seen under a microscope.

WASHINGTON - Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they’re getting closer.

Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of “wet artificial life.”

“It’s going to be a big deal and everybody’s going to know about it,” said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, one of those in the race. “We’re talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways — in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict.”

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250 DVDs In A Quarter-Sized Device -- Coming Soon?

"I expect that the new method we developed will transform the microelectronic and storage industries, and open up vistas for entirely new applications," said co-lead investigator Thomas Russell.

From NBC Bay Area News:

A new technique developed by scientists at UC Berkeley and University of Massachusetts Amherst may drastically increase the ability of devices to store things.

Cal officials called the technique "innovative and easily implemented," on Thursday.

The method lets microscopic nanoscale elements precisely assemble themselves over large surfaces.

Scientists said the technique could soon open doors to dramatic improvements in the data storage capacity of electronic media.

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Six Ways to Boost Brainpower

Image Composition By Scientific American Mind; Julie Felton Istockphoto (barina); Dean Turner Istockphoto (background)

From Scientific American:

Key Concepts

* Scientists are finding that the adult human brain is far more malleable than they once thought. Your behavior and environment can cause substantial rewiring of your brain or a reorganization of its functions.
* Studies have shown that exercise can improve the brain’s executive skills, which include planning, organizing and multitasking. What you eat can also influence how effectively your brain operates.
* Activities such as listening to music, playing video games and meditating may boost cognitive performance as well.

Amputees sometimes experience phantom limb sensations, feeling pain, itching or other impulses coming from limbs that no longer exist. Neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran worked with patients who had so-called phantom limbs, including Tom, a man who had lost one of his arms.

Ramachandran discovered that if he stroked Tom’s face, Tom felt like his missing fingers were also being touched. Each part of the body is represented by a different region of the somatosensory cortex, and, as it happens, the region for the hand is adjacent to the region for the face. The neuroscientist deduced that a remarkable change had taken place in Tom’s somatosensory cortex.

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Asia's Space Program Is Heating Up

Photo: An Indian spacecraft takes off carrying the country's first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1 last autumn

India Approves £1.7bn Plan To Launch Astronauts As Asian Space Race Heats Up -- Times Online

India has approved a £1.7 billion plan to launch its first astronauts into space by 2015, in its latest bid to close the gap with China in what many see as a 21st Century Asian version of the Cold War race for the Moon.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will attempt to put two people into orbit 172 miles (275 km) above the Earth for seven days, according to a proposal approved by the Planning Commission at a meeting on Friday.

"ISRO needs to be supported as it has done marvellous job in the field of Space Science. That's why Planning Commission will support it," Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, told reporters.

"An unmanned flight will be launched in 2013-2014 and manned mission likely to launch by 2014-2015," he said.

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The Race for Bosons

Fermilab's Tevatron: Reidar Hahn/Fermilab

From Pop Science:

Competitor takes advantage of LHC's accident.

Particle accelerator smackdown! Scientists working on Fermilab's Tevatron have been talking some smack (in the politest of terms), saying they have a good shot at finding the elusive Higgs boson before the currently out-of-commission Large Hadron Collider does.

Also in today's links: a map of emissions, why not to keep chimps as pets (besides the now-obvious), and more.

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Aging Mars Rover Gets A Power Boost

Mars rover Spirit

From Yahoo News/Space:

NASA's aging Mars rover Spirit has a bit more power under its hood thanks to some Martian winds that cleaned dust from its vital solar panels.

The handy cleaning occurred earlier this month and was discovered by engineers scanning data from Spirit's power subsystem.

"We will be able to use this energy to do significantly more driving," said Colette Lohr, a rover mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "Our drives have been averaging about 50 minutes, and energy has usually been the limiting factor. We may be able to increase that to drives of an hour and a half."

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Our Grid: Powering Our 21st Century Lives With a 19th Century Design

Transformer TRP: FearChild on WikiMedia

From Pop Science: welcomes Dr. Bill Chameides, dean of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Dr. Chameides blogs at The Green Grok to spark lively discussions about environmental science, keeping you in the know on what the scientific world is discovering and how it affects you – all in plain language and, hopefully, with a bit of fun. Now, partners with The Green Grok to bring you exclusive new blog posts a week before they hit the Grok's blog. Give it a read and get in on the discussion!

Can you hear it? The buzz on smart grids is getting louder. News reports on green jobs are peppered with talk of a “smart grid.” Google returns 929,000 pages for the term. Even Congress is in the swim, greening the stimulus package with $11 billion for a smart grid. So is Congress wise to fund it? Or are we buying an electrical bridge to nowhere? In this and a post to follow, we’ll look at why smart grids are a smart move.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scientists Close In On 'Universal' Vaccine For Flu: Study

From Breitbart/AFP:

Scientists on Sunday unveiled lab-made human antibodies that can disable several types of influenza, including highly-lethal H5N1 bird flu and the "Spanish Flu" strain that killed tens of millions in 1918.

Tested in mice, the antibodies work by binding to a previously obscure structure in the flu virus which, when blocked, sabotages the pathogen's ability to enter the cell it is trying to infect, according to the study.

Because this structure -- described by one scientist as a "viral Achilles' heel" -- is genetically stable and has resisted mutation over time, the antibodies are effective against many different strains.

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Top 10 Science Fiction Books, Movies And TV Shows

The 10 Most Influential UFO-Inspired Books, Movies and TV Shows -- Popular Mechanics

UFO culture began in the late 40’s, when a pilot’s account of a midair encounter with mysterious aircraft triggered similar reports across the United States. Authors, movie producers and a few hack journalists were quick to respond. By the late 1950s, pop culture was completely preoccupied with aliens, and the clichés it created then have been repeated and reinvented ever since. Here are the books, TV shows and movies that helped create the mythology of UFOs in America. They aren’t the best, or the worst, but the ones that made the most impact on the prevailing American superstition of our time.

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