Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dwarf Galaxies 'Not Ruled By Dark Side'

From Ninemsm:

Some basic principles of physics and astronomy have been cast into doubt by new research involving scientists in Australia and Europe.

The researchers, including Dr Helmut Jerjen of the Australian National University, studied dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way.

They found the galaxies were not uniformly spread around, as predicted by the so-called dark matter theory.

"They are forming some sort of disc in the sky," Dr Jerjen said.

The dark matter theory explains some major problems in cosmology by postulating that most of the matter in the universe is invisible.

Read more ....

Looking For The Beginning Of Time

Replacing the Instrument: Astronauts carefully remove the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) to make room for the Cosmic Origins Seismograph (COS). NASA


The latest -- and final -- upgrade to Hubble will study the origins of the universe.

When astronauts pay a final visit to the Hubble Space Telescope next week, one upgrade in particular will illuminate the darkness like never before -- and it involves taking out the corrective lenses that let Hubble see clearly for the past decade and a half.

The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, a fridge-sized instrument that will be installed in place of Hubble's original corrective optics set, will help astronomers learn more about the large-scale structure of the universe. Scientists hope it will help explain how stars and galaxies evolved; how the building blocks of life, like carbon and iron, came to be; how matter is distributed in the universe; and, well, what the matter is.

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The Inspiring Boom in "Super-Earths"

Workers at Astrotech's Hazardous Processing Facility in Titusville, Florida, mount the Kepler spacecraft on a stand for fueling. Image courtesy of NASA/TM Jacobs

From Discover Magazine:

At last we are finding rocky planets like our own. But some are pretty weird: The smallest may have a mineral-vapor atmosphere that condenses as lava rain or rock snow.

A recently discovered planet with the unpoetic name Corot-7b, orbiting a yellow-orange star 450 light-years away, is the smallest confirmed super-Earth—a dense, compact planet unlike the many gas giants spotted elsewhere in our galaxy. This find hints that the universe may teem with rocky worlds, including some that may genuinely resemble ours in size and temperature.

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Green 'i-house' Is Giant Leap From Trailer Park

In this Oct. 28, 2008 image released by Clayton Homes Inc., the new "i-house" is shown. The solar-powered, energy efficient prefab house features decks on the ground level and on the roof of the detached "flex room." (AP Photo/Clayton Homes)

From U.S. News And World Report:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—From its bamboo floors to its rooftop deck, Clayton Homes' new industrial-chic "i-house" is about as far removed from a mobile home as an iPod from a record player.

Architects at the country's largest manufactured home company embraced the basic rectangular form of what began as housing on wheels and gave it a postmodern turn with a distinctive v-shaped roofline, energy efficiency and luxury appointments.

Stylistically, the "i-house" might be more at home in the pages of a cutting-edge architectural magazine like Dwell — an inspirational source — than among the Cape Cods and ranchers in the suburbs.

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African Tribe Populated Rest Of The World

From The Telegraph:

The entire human race outside Africa owes its existence to the survival of a single tribe of around 200 people who crossed the Red Sea 70,000 years ago, scientists have discovered.

Research by geneticists and archaeologists has allowed them to trace the origins of modern homo sapiens back to a single group of people who managed to cross from the Horn of Africa and into Arabia. From there they went on to colonise the rest of the world.

Genetic analysis of modern day human populations in Europe, Asia, Australia, North America and South America have revealed that they are all descended from these common ancestors.

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Major Breakthroughs Towards Cellulostic Biofuel

From The Next Big Future:

Mascoma Corporation today announced that the company has made major research advances in consolidated bioprocessing, or CBP, a low-cost processing strategy for production of biofuels from cellulosic biomass. CBP avoids the need for the costly production of cellulase enzymes by using engineered microorganisms that produce cellulases and ethanol at high yield in a single step.

"This is a true breakthrough that takes us much, much closer to billions of gallons of low cost cellulosic biofuels," said Michigan State University's Dr. Bruce Dale, who is also Editor of the journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefineries. "Many had thought that CBP was years or even decades away, but the future just arrived. Mascoma has permanently changed the biofuels landscape from here on."

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Pre-Exercise Heart Rate Spike Predicts Heart Attack Risk

From Live Science:

Many people exercise to improve the health of their hearts. Now, researchers have found a link between your heart rate just before and during exercise and your chances of a future heart attack.

Just the thought of exercise raises your heart rate. The new study shows that how much it goes up is related to the odds of you eventually dying of a heart attack.

More than 300,000 people die each year from sudden cardiac arrest in the U.S., often with no known risk factors. Being able to find early warning signs has been the goal of researchers like Professor Xavier Jouven, of the Hopital Européen Georges Pompidou in Paris.

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'Star Trek' Warp Speed? Physicists Have New Idea That Could Make It So

Could traveling at warp speed to distant star systems ever become a reality?
(Credit: iStockphoto/Heidi Kristensen)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (May 8, 2009) — With the new movie ‘Star Trek’ opening in theaters across the nation, one thing movie goers will undoubtedly see is the Starship Enterprise racing across the galaxy at the speed of light. But can traveling at warp speed ever become a reality?

Two Baylor University physicists believe they have an idea that can turn traveling at the speed of light from science fiction to science, and their idea does not break any laws of physics.

Read more ....

Friday, May 8, 2009

Warm Weather May Not Halt Swine Flu

Cases of severe pneumonia in April 2009 compared to the previous three years, and February of this year. The disproportionate numbers in the age range 15-49 is the signature of a pandemic virus (Image: Mexican Health Ministry)

From New Scientist:

New data from Mexico and case numbers so far suggest that if the spread of H1N1 "swine flu" continues elsewhere as it has in the Americas, the virus could infect more than a billion people by July.

The data also suggests that the virus may not be slowed by summer temperatures in temperate countries. However, it spreads slowly enough to respond to the "social distancing" measures used in Mexico.

Read more ....

Little Search Engines That Could

From Christian Science Monitor:

Four alternatives to Google for finding answers online.

All hail Google, the undisputed king of search. It’s hard to imagine other sites toppling the online giant – and few have the hubris to try.

Jimmy Wales, the mind behind Wikipedia, announced in late March that he was pulling the plug on Wikia Search, his attempt at a user-generated search engine. The project couldn’t attract enough users and money.

But Google isn’t perfect. While some call it simple, quick, and effective, others describe the site as incomplete, dull, and a lowest common denominator.

Here are four search alternatives to cut through the Web and find what you’re looking for.

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Secret To Bumblebee Flight Revealed: Insects Defy gravity through brute force

Photo: Bumblebees stay aloft using brute force unlike the elegant flight of other insects

From The Daily Mail:

For almost a century, baffled scientists have wondered how bumblebees stay in the air. Now a new study has shown they defy the laws of gravity by using brute force.

Unlike the elegant, efficient flight of butterflies and dragonflies, they furiously flap their wings fuelled by energy-rich nectar, says the Oxford University team.

‘Bumblebee flight is surprisingly inefficient. Aerodynamically speaking it’s as if the insect is “split in half”', said Dr Richard Bomfrey, of the Department of Zoology.

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When Comets Attack: Solving the Mystery of the Biggest Natural Explosion in Modern History

(Photograph by Pete Turner/Getty Images)

From Popular Mechanics:

On the morning of June 30, 1908, the sky exploded over a remote region of central Siberia. A fireball as powerful as hundreds of Hiroshima atomic blasts scorched through the upper atmosphere, burning nearly 800 square miles of land. Scientists today think a small fragment of a comet or asteroid caused the "Tunguska event," so named for the Tunguska river nearby. Now, a controversial new scientific study suggests that a chunk of a comet caused the 5-10 megaton fireball, bouncing off the atmosphere and back into orbit around the sun. The scientists have even identified a candidate Tunguska object—now more than 100 million miles away—that will pass close to Earth again in 2045. Is there a hidden, but powerful, danger inside the seemingly harmless comet?

On the morning of June 30, 1908, the sky exploded over a remote region of central Siberia. A fireball as powerful as hundreds of Hiroshima atomic blasts scorched through the upper atmosphere "as if there was a second sun," according to one eyewitness. Scientists today think a small fragment of a comet or asteroid caused the "Tunguska event," so named for the Tunguska river nearby. No one knows for certain, however, because no fragment of the meteoroid has ever been found. The explosion was so vast—flattening and incinerating over an 800 square-mile swath of trees—that generations of amateur sleuths have put forward scenarios as strange as stray black holes or UFO attacks to explain the tremendous explosion.

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Hawaii's "Gentle" Volcano More Dangerous Than Thought

Visitors watch lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano roll downhill toward the ocean in 2004. A May 2009 study says the famously gentle, though active, volcano may be capable of much stronger eruptions than previously thought. Photograph by David Jordan/AP

From National Geographic:

Hawaii's tourist-friendly Kilauea volcano is famous for its lazy rivers of lava (Kilauea volcano lava pictures).

But a new report says the volcano, known as the world's most active, has a violent alter ego.

The coastal volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is capable of much stronger eruptions than previously thought, according to the study.

"It turns out that the volcano—known for being this nice, gentle volcano [where] you can walk up to lava flows just wearing flip-flops—has a very dangerous side," said study co-author Tim Rose, a volcanologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

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'Star Trek' Tricorder Scans For Life On Space Station

Astronaut Suni Williams, Expedition 14/15 flight engineer, works with the Lab-on-a-Chip Application Development-Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS). Williams is placing the sample mixed with water from the swabbing unit into the LOCAD-PTS cartridge. Credit: NASA

From Live Science:

Astronauts on the space station have their own version of the "Star Trek" tricorder to search for signs of life, whether that life is from Earth or of extraterrestrial origin – at least if it's life as we know it. The real device appears to be similar in size and basic purpose to the one in the new movie, which opens Friday in the United States.

The handheld device acts as a miniature biology lab that allows space station residents to get results on a display screen within 15 minutes, after swabbing whatever surface they care to sample and mixing the swabbed material with liquid.

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Rise Of Oxygen Caused Earth's Earliest Ice Age

The evolution of organic photosynthesis ca.2.5 billion years ago would have had a profound effect on Earth's surface environments, and potentially on aerobic respiration by eukaryotes. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Maryland)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (May 7, 2009) — Geologists may have uncovered the answer to an age-old question - an ice-age-old question, that is. It appears that Earth's earliest ice ages may have been due to the rise of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere, which consumed atmospheric greenhouse gases and chilled the earth.

Alan J. Kaufman, professor of geology at the University of Maryland, Maryland geology colleague James Farquhar, and a team of scientists from Germany, South Africa, Canada, and the U.S.A., uncovered evidence that the oxygenation of Earth's atmosphere - generally known as the Great Oxygenation Event - coincided with the first widespread ice age on the planet.

"We can now put our hands on the rock library that preserves evidence of irreversible atmospheric change," said Kaufman. "This singular event had a profound effect on the climate, and also on life."

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The Final Frontier: The Science of Star Trek

Image: "STAR" SHIP: A glimpse of the newly built Enterprise from the latest Star Trek film, opening in theaters this week. PARAMOUNT

From Scientific American:

As the new movie warps into theaters this week, we ask physicist Lawrence Krauss, author of The Physics of Star Trek, how the sci-fi franchise keeps it real, and also how it bends--or breaks--a few laws of nature

Ever since the starship Enterprise first whisked across television screens in 1966, Star Trek has inspired audiences with its portrayal of a future, spacefaring humanity boldly going where no one has gone before.

Creator Gene Roddenberry's vision went on to spark five other TV series and now 11 movies, as a new film hits multiplexes this week. This prequel, simply titled Star Trek and directed by J. J. Abrams—the force behind TV's Lost and Fringe, among other projects—chronicles the early years of Captain Kirk and some of his Enterprise shipmates, including Spock, McCoy and Uhura.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Enormous Shark’s Secret Hideout Finally Discovered

From Wired Science:

After half a century of searching, scientists have finally discovered what happens to the world’s second largest shark every winter: It has a Caribbean hideout.

Basking sharks, which can grow up to 33 feet long and weigh more than a Hummer H1, spend the late spring, summer and early fall in the temperate regions of the world’s oceans. But then they pull their great disappearing act, eluding scientists throughout the winter months.

“It’s been a big mystery for the past fifty years,” said Greg Skomal, an aquatic biologist at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and lead author of the study in Current Biology May 7. “For a while people thought they were hibernating on the sea floor, even though hibernating is not really something sharks do.”

Read more ....

Bang Goes That Theory: Dinosaur Extinction Due To Volcano NOT Asteroid

Image: A giant asteroid hit the Earth around 65million years ago, but experts dispute the impact it had

From The Daily Mail:

The dinosaurs were wiped out by volcanoes that erupted in India about sixty five million years ago, according to new research.

For the last thirty years scientists have believed a giant meteorite that struck Chicxulub in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula was responsible for the mass extinction of species, including T Rex and its cousins.

But now Professor Gerta Keller says fossilized traces of plants and animals dug out of low lying hills at El Penon in northeastern Mexico show this event happened 300,000 years after the dinosaurs disappeared.

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Trial Drugs 'Reverse' Alzheimer's

From The BBC:

US scientists say they have successfully reversed the effects of Alzheimer's with experimental drugs.

The drugs target and boost the function of a newly pinpointed gene involved in the brain's memory formation.

In mice, the treatment helped restore long-term memory and improve learning for new tasks, Nature reports.

The same drugs - HDAC inhibitors - are currently being tested to treat Huntington's disease and are on the market to treat some cancers.

They reshape the DNA scaffolding that supports and controls the expression of genes in the brain.

Read more

Sea 'Snake' Generates Electricity With Every Wave

From The New Scientist:

Anaconda, a giant rubber "snake" that floats offshore and converts wave energy to electricity, is a step closer to commercialisation. An 8-metre long, 1/25th scale version is currently undergoing tests in a large wave tank in Gosport, UK, and a full-size working version could be a reality in five years.

Harnessing the power of waves is an attractive proposition because they are much more energy dense than wind. But wave power remains the poor relation of the renewable energy sector due to the difficulties of cheaply operating machinery in the harsh marine environment. The world's first commercial wave farm only began operating last year, off the northern coast of Portugal.

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Cooking Up Millions Of Viruses For A New Vaccine

Research assistants at New York Medical College on Tuesday prepared to harvest swine flu virus that had been grown in eggs. Béatrice de Géa for The New York Times

From The New York Times:

VALHALLA, N.Y. — As soon as Doris Bucher learned that a new strain of swine flu had turned up in the United States, she e-mailed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offering to send materials that might be useful in making a vaccine.

Her colleagues at the C.D.C. had a better idea. Less than a week later, they sent a sample of the new type of virus, influenza A(H1N1), to Dr. Bucher, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at New York Medical College.

Dr. Bucher, a cheerful, fast-talking scientist who has been involved in flu research for 40 years, runs a laboratory here in Westchester County that is highly regarded for its skill at turning flu viruses into “seed stock” — a form of the virus that will grow rapidly in eggs so that drug companies can use it to make hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine.

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Culture May Be Encoded in DNA

From Wired Magazine:

Knowledge is passed down directly from generation to generation in the animal kingdom as parents teach their children the things they will need to survive. But a new study has found that, even when the chain is broken, nature sometimes finds a way.

Zebra finches, which normally learn their complex courtship songs from their fathers, spontaneously developed the same songs all on their own after only a few generations.

“We found that in this case, the culture was pretty much encoded in the genome,” said Partha Mitra of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, co-author of a study in Nature on Sunday.

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Nanoneedle Is Small In Size, But Huge In Applications

Schematic illustrating the strategy of the nanoneedle-based delivery of bioprobes into the cell, along with the combined fluorescence and bright-field images showing the nanoneedle penetrating through the cell membrane, and the quantum dots (in red) target-delivered into the cytoplasm and the nucleus of a living cell. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (May 6, 2009) — Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a membrane-penetrating nanoneedle for the targeted delivery of one or more molecules into the cytoplasm or the nucleus of living cells. In addition to ferrying tiny amounts of cargo, the nanoneedle can also be used as an electrochemical probe and as an optical biosensor.

"Nanoneedle-based delivery is a powerful new tool for studying biological processes and biophysical properties at the molecular level inside living cells," said

Min-Feng Yu, a professor of mechanical science and engineering and corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in Nano Letters, and posted on the journal's Web site.

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Reality Check: The Science Of 'Star Trek'

From Live Science:

When "Star Trek" first promised to boldly go where no man had gone before, it spun tales involving a dazzling array of futuristic technologies such as phasers and cloaking devices. How many of those devices are now actually realities today, and how many remain in the distant future?

Read more ....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pandemics That Were And Weren’t

1956/1958- The Asian Flu: Far less deadly than the Spanish flu, the Asian flu of 1956-1958 killed about 70,000 Americans. The strain mutated from an earlier H2N2 flu that had originated in Russia and gone pandemic in 1889. With its relatively low death rate and long duration, the Asian Flu perfectly exemplifies how most pandemics don’t threaten the collapse of civilizations, but merely exacerbate the problems already caused by seasonal flu. A girl gargling broth in Sagamihara Hospital, Japan, during the 1957 flu outbreak, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, via


After a week of swine flu hysteria, takes a look back at the history of pandemic flu.

More often than not, it’s the newer diseases, like HIV or Ebola, that grab all the headlines. But those Johnny-come-lately microbes have nothing on one of the most dangerous, and most ancient, viruses that afflicts mankind: influenza.

Medicine has grappled with the deadly influenza virus since the time of Hypocrites, and some historians have identified flu epidemics as far back as ancient Rome. In a regular year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 36,000 Americans die from the seasonal flu, while the virus costs the nation between $71 and $160 billion. That’s ten times the death toll of 9/11 and double the cost of Hurricane Katrina, but it's far less noticeable, as the virus mainly kills the very old and very young, and the cost is spread out over the entire year in question.

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Virus Hunters: Inside Maryland's New Biosafety Level 4 Lab

Left: The air-lock entrance to the lab’s hot zone. Right: A biohazard suit protects Peter Jahrling, chief virus hunter at the Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md.

From Popular Mechanics:

The swine flu has killed more than a hundred people in Mexico with reports of at least 40 infections in the United States. Could the flu cause a pandemic? Health researchers don't think so now, but the Center for Disease Control still suggests Americans take precautions by washing hands, covering coughs and staying home if taken ill. Behind closed doors, the NIH continues to study dangerous diseases of all varieties, preparing to stop the next outbreak before it begins. PM got an early inside look at American's newest infectious disease research laboratory, to see how scientists study the world's deadliest pathogens.

The integrated research facility at Fort Detrick, Md., doesn’t look menacing. The three-story glass-and-brick structure, which could fit seamlessly into any suburban office park, is typical of buildings designed by architects who read studies linking sunlight with worker productivity. The leather chairs in the atrium seem to encourage lounging. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which operates the IRF, plans to install a coffee bar in the atrium.

Read more ....

Solar Storms Ahead: Is Earth Prepared?

In this artist’s conception, a coronal mass ejection from the sun is mapped in 3-D by NASA’s pair of STEREO sun-observing satellites. (NASA)

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Sunspot cycle beginning in 2012 may put satellites, power grids at risk.

When we look at the sun (carefully), it appears to be a uniform, unchanging star. But scientists and engineers have a much different perspective. To them, the sun is a dynamic, chaotic, and poorly understood caldron of thermonuclear forces, one that can spit out fierce bursts of radiation at any time.

And when Earth lies in the path of that blast, the flare can play havoc with power grids, disrupt radio communications, and disturb or disable satellites. Fifty years into the Space Age, Earth has avoided the worst the sun can deliver – so far.

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New, Fast-Evolving Rabies Virus Found -- And Spreading

Foxes (such as this red fox photographed in 2008 in Wyoming) may be spreading rabies like humans spread the flu—through simple socialization—in northern Arizona, experts say. The rabies virus appears to have mutated surprisingly quickly and become virulent in foxes and skunks, experts said in April 2009. Photograph by Andy Carpenean/Laramie Boomerang via AP

From National Geographic:

Evolving faster than any other new rabies virus on record, a northern-Arizona rabies strain has mutated to become contagious among skunks and now foxes, experts believe.

The strain looks to be spreading fast, commanding attention from disease researchers across the United States.

It's not so unusual for rabid animals to attack people on hiking trails and in driveways, or even in a bar—as happened March 27, when an addled bobcat chased pool players around the billiards table at the Chaparral in Cottonwood.

Nor is it odd that rabid skunks and foxes are testing positive for a contagious rabies strain commonly associated with big brown bats.

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Birth Control For Men In One Injection

Photo: Getty Images

From The Independent:

Chinese scientists succeed with testosterone jab trial on 1,000 volunteers.

Scientists believe they are one step closer to developing an effective male contraceptive jab after successfully carrying out the largest feasibility study to date.

Researchers at the National Research for Family Planning in Beijing injected 1,000 healthy, fertile male patients with a testosterone-based jab over a two-year period and found only 1 per cent went on to father a child. The men were all aged between 20 and 45 and had fathered at least one child in the two years before the testing began. They were also all involved with healthy female partners between the ages of 18 and 38 who had no reproductive problems of their own.

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Bill Gates Pours Thousands Into Unconventional Health Research

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has thrown a lifeline to scores of projects awarding 81 $100,000 (£65,000) grants Photo: BLOOMBERG NEWS

From The Telegraph:

They are projects that would normally struggle to find funding: creating an anti-viral tomato, a flu-resistant chicken and a magnet that can detect malaria.

But the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has thrown a lifeline to scores of projects like these, awarding 81 $100,000 (£65,000) grants in a bid to support innovative, unconventional global health research.

The five-year health research grants are designed to encourage scientists to pursue bold ideas that could lead to breakthroughs, focusing on ways to prevent and treat infectious diseases, such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia and diarrheal diseases.

Read more ....

My Comment: Its his money .... he can do what he wants.

Botnets Took Control Of 12 Million New IPs This Year

From Wired News:

Botnet criminals have taken control of almost 12 million new IP addresses since January, according to a quarterly report (.pdf) from anti-virus firm, McAfee. The United States has the largest number of botnet-controlled machines, with 18 percent of them based here.

The number of zombie machines represents a 50-percent rise over last year.

Researchers attribute the explosion to botnet controllers trying to recoup spamming abilities after authorities took down a hosting facility last year that catered to international firms and syndicates involved in spamming and botnet control.

Read more ....

NASA's Fermi Explores High-energy 'Space Invaders'

The Large Area Telescope (LAT) on Fermi detects gamma-rays by tracking the electrons positrons they produce after striking layers of tungsten. This ability also makes the LAT an excellent tool for exploring high-energy cosmic rays. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)

From Science Daily:

Since its launch last June, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has discovered a new class of pulsars, probed gamma-ray bursts and watched flaring jets in galaxies billions of light-years away. At the American Physical Society meeting in Denver, Colo., Fermi scientists revealed new details about high-energy particles implicated in a nearby cosmic mystery.

"Fermi's Large Area Telescope is a state-of-the-art gamma-ray detector, but it's also a terrific tool for investigating the high-energy electrons in cosmic rays," said Alexander Moiseev, who presented the findings. Moiseev is an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Read more ....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oldest Surface On Earth Discovered

This natural "desert pavement" in Israel's Negev Desert has been dated to about 1.8 million years old, the olest known vast expanse of surface area on the planet. Credit: Ari Matmon, Hebrew University

From Live Science:

Earth's surface is mostly fresh in geologic terms.

Weathering — wind and water, freezing and thawing — takes its toll, and longer-term changes caused by volcanic activity and sliding crustal plates, known as tectonic activity, fold today's ground into tomorrow's interior.

The constant makeover of the planet is typically fastest in the mountains, slower in the tectonically inactive deserts.

A new study of ancient "desert pavement" in Israel's Negev Desert finds a vast region that's been sitting there exposed, pretty much as-is, for about 1.8 million years, according to Ari Matmon and colleagues at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Read more ....

The First European: Created From Fragments Of Fossil, The Face Of Our Forbears 35,000 Years Ago

The first modern European: Forensic artist Richard Neave reconstructed the face based on skull fragments from 35,000 years ago

From Daily Mail:

Dressed in a suit, this person would not look out of place in a busy street in a modern city.

The clay sculpture, however, portrays the face of the earliest known modern European - a man or woman who hunted deer and gathered fruit and herbs in ancient forests more than 35,000 years ago.

It was created by Richard Neave, one of Britain's leading forensic scientists, using fossilised fragments of skull and jawbone found in a cave seven years ago.

Read more ....

Sun Oddly Quiet -- Hints At Next "Little Ice Age"?

In July 2000 the sun was at a peak in activity, as seen by the speckling of sunspots spied by NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft. But the sun was a blank disk in March 2009, when it was the quietest it has been since the 1950s. The current sunspot deficit has caused some scientists to recall the Little Ice Age of the early 1600s and late 1700s, a prolonged, localized cold spell linked to a decline in solar activity. Images courtesy SOHO, the EIT Consortium, and the MDI Team

From National Geographic:

A prolonged lull in solar activity has astrophysicists glued to their telescopes waiting to see what the sun will do next—and how Earth's climate might respond.

The sun is the least active it's been in decades and the dimmest in a hundred years. The lull is causing some scientists to recall the Little Ice Age, an unusual cold spell in Europe and North America, which lasted from about 1300 to 1850.

The coldest period of the Little Ice Age, between 1645 and 1715, has been linked to a deep dip in solar storms known as the Maunder Minimum.

Read more ....

Internet Struggles To Contain Carbon Footprint

Current Generation Google Servers (Photo from Perspectives)

From The Telegraph:

Internet companies are struggling to control their carbon footprint as the web consumes more energy and money.

With more than 1.5 billion people online around the round, scientists estimate the carbon footprint of the internet is growing by more than 10 per cent each year.

Many internet companies are struggling to manage the costs as energy bills soar, while their advertising revenues come under pressure from the recession.

It is thought one site facing problems is video website YouTube. Although now the world's third-biggest website, it requires a heavy subsidy from Google, its owner.

Recent analysis by Credit Suisse suggest it could lose as much as £317m this year.

Read more ....

Poison Bacteria Set Up Worst Extinction

In the three to four million years before the Permian-Triassic extinction, illustrated here, the seas were already oxygen-starved, according to a new study. The stagnant depths were a haven for bacteria that belched poison that crippled life on Earth, leaving it vulnerable to the volcanic knockout punch that would soon come. Lunar and Planetary Institute


New finding gets to heart of a long debate among extinction researchers.

In the ancient oceans, stagnant depths harbored poison-belching bacteria that crippled life on Earth, leaving it vulnerable to a knockout punch from volcanic eruptions, according to a new study.

Three to four million years before the Permian-Triassic extinction, also known as the Great Dying, the seas were already becoming oxygen-starved and sour, said the study in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Changqun Cao of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing and a team of researchers studied rock samples drilled in central China from the late Permian and early Triassic periods. Rocks from the extinction itself date to 252.2 million years ago, and show several chemical signs of catastrophe.

Read more ....

Unknown Internet 6: Where Are The Net's Dark Corners?

Photo: Some websites will leave your computer infected with viruses or worms, but the "black holes" are just as bad (Image: Image Source / Rex)

From New Scientist:

There are plenty of places online that you would do well to steer clear of. A brief visit to some unsavoury websites, for instance, could leave your computer infected with worms or viruses. Then there are the "black holes" to worry about.

If your emails mysteriously disappear, or your favourite website is suddenly unobtainable, you might have run into one. Though nowhere near as destructive as their cosmological cousins, information black holes can create all kinds of problems for surfers. Essentially they are points on the network at which data packets simply disappear due to broken connections, say, or misconfigured routers - devices that maintain lists of addresses and which help direct internet traffic. A team including computer scientist Ethan Katz-Bassett at the University of Washington in Seattle has detected almost 1.5 million black holes since it began looking in 2007. The majority persist for over 2 hours, he says. Unfortunately it is tough to predict where they will appear next, so it's hard for the average surfer to avoid them.

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How To Grow New Organs

Image: "Microfabrication Of Three-Dimensional Engineered Scaffolds," By Jeffrey T. Borenstein, Eli J. Weinberg, Brian K. Orrick, Cathryn Sundback, Mohammad R. Kaazempur-Mofrad And Joseph P. Vacanti, In TISSUE ENGINEERING, Vol. 13, No. 8; 2007

From Scientific American:

Pioneers in building living tissue report important advances over the past decade.

Key Concepts

* Efforts to build living tissue replacements have progressed over the past decade, and some simple engineered tissues are already used in humans.
* Advances have come from a greater understanding of cell behavior and sophisticated new building materials.
* More tissue-engineered products are close to commercial readiness but must undergo the complex regulatory scrutiny given to living materials.

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A Potential Breakthrough In Harnessing the Sun’s Energy

From environment360:

New solar thermal technology overcomes a major challenge facing solar power – how to store the sun’s heat for use at night or on a rainy day. As researchers tout its promise, solar thermal plants are under construction or planned from Spain to Australia to the American Southwest.

In the high desert of southern Spain, not far from Granada, the Mediterranean sun bounces off large arrays of precisely curved mirrors that cover an area as large as 70 soccer fields. These parabolic troughs follow the arc of the sun as it moves across the sky, concentrating the sun’s rays onto pipes filled with a synthetic oil that can be heated to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. That super-heated oil is used to boil water to power steam turbines, or to pump excess heat into vats of salts, turning them a molten, lava-like consistency.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

The Space Giant Is Coming

From The BBC:

The most distant cosmic explosion ever recorded would have made a fascinating target for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), according to scientists now building the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.

The cataclysmic detonation reported this week is the most far-flung object in the Universe yet seen.

It was a class of celestial object known as a gamma-ray blast. At a distance of 13 billion light-years, the blast was so remote that today's telescopes were stretched to their limits in revealing much information about it.

Nasa's James Webb is designed with the purpose of imaging and studying this realm of the cosmos - and beyond - in extraordinary detail.

It is scheduled for launch in 2013.

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The Missing Sunspots: Is This The Big Chill?

The disappearance of sunspots happens every few years, but this time it's gone on far longer than anyone expected - and there is no sign of the Sun waking up. AFP

From The Independent:

Scientists are baffled by what they’re seeing on the Sun’s surface – nothing at all. And this lack of activity could have a major impact on global warming. David Whitehouse investigates

Could the Sun play a greater role in recent climate change than has been believed? Climatologists had dismissed the idea and some solar scientists have been reticent about it because of its connections with those who those who deny climate change. But now the speculation has grown louder because of what is happening to our Sun. No living scientist has seen it behave this way. There are no sunspots.

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Super-sensors To Discover What Happened In First Trillionth Of A Second After Big Bang

The cosmic microwave temperature fluctuations from the 5-year WMAP data seen over the full sky. The average temperature is 2.725 Kelvin (degrees above absolute zero; equivalent to -270 C or -455 F), and the colors represent the tiny temperature fluctuations, as in a weather map. Red regions are warmer and blue regions are colder by about 0.0002 degrees. (Credit: NASA / WMAP Science Team)

From The Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (May 4, 2009) — What happened in the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang?

Super-sensitive microwave detectors, built at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), may soon help scientists find out.

The new sensors, described May 2 at the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in Denver, were made for a potentially ground-breaking experiment* by a collaboration involving NIST, Princeton University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Chicago.

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Why Are Humans Always So Sick?

Super-hygiene, sedentary lifestyles, and a lack of worms in our stomachs may all contribute to modern ills, scientists theorize. Image Credit: Dreamstime

From Live Science:

The swine flu outbreak this spring is just the latest in the mountain of ailments that seem to beset humanity, from the incurable common cold to each potentially deadly cancer diagnosed at the rate of every 30 seconds in the United States.

So is our species sicker than it has ever been? Or is our current lot far better than it used to be?

It turns out the answer to both questions might be yes. While humans as a whole do live longer than ever before, we now suffer certain illnesses to a degree never seen in the past — including skyrocketing rates of diabetes and obesity and, surprisingly, ailments such as hay fever.

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Wind Farm's Radar System Stops Birds Getting The Chop

From The Guardian:

Texas claims world first in using Nasa technology to spare migrating species.

It could be considered an air traffic control system for birds who have flown perilously off course. A wind farm in southern Texas, situated on a flight path used by millions of birds each autumn and spring, is pioneering the use of radar technology to avoid deadly collisions between a 2,500lb rotating blade and bird.

US wind farms kill about 7,000 birds a year, according to a recent study. Other studies of individual wind farms suggest a higher toll on bats and birds, which crash into towers, blades, power lines and other installations. Estimates from a single wind farm in Altamont, California showed as many as 1,300 birds of prey killed each year – or about three a day.

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Ocean Power Surges Forward

Photo: Courtesy of Ocean Power Technologies Inc

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Wave power and tidal power are still experimental, but may be little more than five years away from commercial development.

Three miles off the craggy, wave-crashing coastline near Humboldt Bay, Calif., deep ocean swells roll through a swath of ocean that is soon to be the site of the nation’s first major wave-power project.

Like other renewable energy technology, ocean power generated by waves, tidal currents, or steady offshore winds has been considered full of promise yet perennially years from reaching full-blown commercial development.

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Ancient Tsunami 'Hit New York'

From The BBC:

A huge wave crashed into the New York City region 2,300 years ago, dumping sediment and shells across Long Island and New Jersey and casting wood debris far up the Hudson River.

The scenario, proposed by scientists, is undergoing further examination to verify radiocarbon dates and to rule out other causes of the upheaval.

Sedimentary deposits from more than 20 cores in New York and New Jersey indicate that some sort of violent force swept the Northeast coastal region in 300BC.

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American Epidemics, a Brief History

(Click the Above Image to Enlarge)

From The New York Times:

ALL epidemics are different in their own way, and the current swine flu outbreak — which by Friday had sickened 141 people in 19 states, and caused deaths and illness in Mexico and 13 other countries — is no exception. Yet, as you can see from the chart below, which provides details on a selected handful of epidemics in American history, all outbreaks share certain themes. While some of these events killed many thousands and others affected only a few, in each case public health officials felt a grave threat was imminent and did what they could using the science of the day.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Meet The Ancestors: DNA Study Pinpoints Namibia As Home To The World's Most Ancient Race

The San people, hunter-gatherers in south-west Africa for thousands of years, are believed to be the oldest population of humans on Earth

From The Daily Mail:

Scientists have long known that humans originated in Africa, but now a groundbreaking DNA study has revealed our 'Garden of Eden' is likely to be on the South African-Namibian border.

For it is the San people, hunter-gatherers in this area for thousands of years, who researchers now believe are the oldest human population on Earth.

They are descended from the earliest human ancestors from which all other groups of Africans stem and, in turn, to the people who left the continent to populate other corners of the planet.

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Russia To Build Floating Arctic Nuclear Stations

Oil and gas in the Arctic are seen as ripe for exploitation by the Russian energy industry. Photograph: Hans Strand/ Hans Strand/Corbis

From The Guardian:

Environmentalists fear pollution risk as firms try to exploit ocean's untapped oil and gas reserves.

Russia is planning a fleet of floating and submersible nuclear power stations to exploit Arctic oil and gas reserves, causing widespread alarm among environmentalists.

A prototype floating nuclear power station being constructed at the SevMash shipyard in Severodvinsk is due to be completed next year. Agreement to build a further four was reached between the Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, and the northern Siberian republic of Yakutiya in February.

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Unknown Internet 5: Is There Only One Internet?

The internet is a disparate mix of interconnected computers, united by communication languages (Image: Image Source / Rex)

From New Scientist:

Probably - for now. The internet is a disparate mix of interconnected computers, many of them on large networks run by universities, businesses and so on. What unites this network of networks are the communication languages known as the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol, collectively TCP/IP.

There are also a few large networks that use different protocols and which remain largely isolated from the internet, including something called FidoNet, which links bulletin board systems via the global telephone network, as well as a handful of military networks. The main internet is the only one of any significant size, as far as we know.

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