Saturday, June 6, 2009

How to Clean House: Top 10 Dirt-Dispelling Tips

(Photograph by Zach Desart)

From Popular Mechanics:

Chances are you own a shop vacuum, and maybe a pressure washer. These tools—plus a few more—will help you get started getting rid of the dirt on your house’s siding, shop floor, basement corners and fences and decks. Here is the ultimate guide to putting grime in its place.

Read more

Bing Is Pretty, But Is it Any Good?


The Grouse takes a chance on Microsoft's Google-killer

Heard of Bing yet? If not, you soon will. Backed by a reported $100-million-dollar promotional campaign, Bing is Microsoft's latest grasp at double digits in the war for search engine market share, of which Redmond now owns between 5 and 6 percent (according to Net Applications' Market Share report). After months of beta testing followed by a public preview, Bing officially took over this week as THE search engine powering all of MSN. So, if you use any Microsoft services with even limited frequency, you'll be getting friendly with Bing whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not.

Read more ....

Long Distance Space Travel Leaves You Short, Fat And Ugly, Claim Scientists

Image: Making long space journeys, like those envisaged in the future, will not be good for your looks or figure, claim scientists who believe they will leave astronauts looking short, fat and bald. Photo: NASA

From The Telegraph:

Going boldly where no man has gone before is likely to leave you going bald, claims scientists – not to mention fat and ugly.

Making long space journeys, like those envisaged in the future, will not be good for your looks or figure, claim scientists who believe they will leave astronauts looking short, fat and bald.

They believe living permanently in space for many years, perhaps even for many generations, adversely affects human's looks because they will not require any effort to move or keep warm.

Read more ....

Cloned Species:

Recipe for a Resurrection

From National Geographic:

Bringing extinct species back to life is no longer considered science fiction. But is it a good idea?

Each new woolly mammoth carcass to emerge from the Siberian permafrost triggers a flurry of speculation about resurrecting this Ice Age giant. Researchers have refined at least some of the tools needed to turn that hope into reality. Last November, when a team led by Teruhiko Wakayama, a reproductive biologist based in Kobe, Japan, reported it had cloned mice that had been frozen for 16 years, the scientists conjectured that the same techniques might open the door to cloning mammoths and other extinct species preserved in permafrost. Talk of cloning surged again a few weeks later when a group at Pennsylvania State University, led by Webb Miller and Stephan C. Schuster, published 70 percent of the mammoth genome, laying out much of the basic data that might be required to make a mammoth.

Read more ....

Email 17 Great Historical Moments Ruined by Modern Technology

From Cracked:

Back in the days before the internet, if a man wanted to learn something, he had to open a newspaper. If he needed to kill Germans, he did it with his bare hands. And if he wanted some milk ... well, he had it delivered right to his door.

Yes, everything other than milk acquisition was much more difficult without modern technology. But does that make it worse? We asked you to show us how some famous historic moments would have been ruined if modern technology had existed at the time. The winner is below, but first the runners up ...

Read more ....

Hat Tip Geek Press.

Scientists Trace Laughter Back 16million Years... By Tickling Apes

Amusing research: By analysing the reactions produced by gently tickling ape feet, palms, necks and armpits, Dr Davila Ross has concluded that laughter can be traced back 16million years

From The Daily Mail:

As science experiments go, it was real hoot.

Researchers mapping the evolution of laughter gently tickled the feet, palms, necks and armpits of baby humans and apes.

By analysing the sounds the animals made - giggles, hoots, grunts and pants - they concluded that laughter can be traced back some 16million years, and that it evolved along the same pathway as our evolution.

Read more ....

Ancient Creatures Survived Arctic Winters

From Live Science:

Flowering plants and hippo-like creatures once thrived in the Arctic, where the tundra and polar bears now prevail.

New research, detailed in the June issue of the journal Geology, is shedding light on the lives of prehistoric mammals on Canada's Ellesmere Island 53 million years ago, including how they survived the six months of darkness during the Arctic winter.

Today, Ellesmere Island, located in the high Arctic (about 80 degrees north latitude), is a polar desert that features permafrost, ice sheets, sparse vegetation and a few mammals. Temperatures there range from minus 37 degrees Fahrenheit (-38 Celsius) in winter to plus 48 degrees F (9 Celsius) in summer. It is one of the coldest and driest places on Earth.

But 53 million years ago, the Arctic had a completely different look.

Read more ....

Meet The Real 40-Year-Old Virgins

From New Scientist:

Contrary to Hollywood notions, the 40-year-old virgin is not an awkward yet funny and endearing electronics salesman played by Steve Carell.

He is a church-going teetotaller who has neither been to jail nor served in the military, according to a new survey of more than 7000 people. He also represents an estimated 1.1 million American men and 800,000 women aged 25 to 45 who have never had sex.

The study, led by urologist Michael Eisenberg of the University of California, San Francisco, will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Read more ....

Friday, June 5, 2009

High Population Density Triggers Cultural Explosions

New research suggests that increasing population density, rather than boosts in human brain power, appears to have catalyzed the emergence of modern human behavior. (Credit: iStockphoto)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 5, 2009) — Increasing population density, rather than boosts in human brain power, appears to have catalysed the emergence of modern human behaviour, according to a new study by UCL (University College London) scientists published in the journal Science.

High population density leads to greater exchange of ideas and skills and prevents the loss of new innovations. It is this skill maintenance, combined with a greater probability of useful innovations, that led to modern human behaviour appearing at different times in different parts of the world.

Read more ....

PICTURES: New Cloud Type Discovered?

From National Geographic:

An "asperatus" cloud rolls over New Zealand's South Island in an undated picture.

This apparently new class of clouds is still a mystery. But experts suspect asperatus clouds' choppy undersides may be due to strong winds disturbing previously stable layers of warm and cold air.

Asperatus clouds may spur the first new classification in the World Meteorological Organization's International Cloud Atlas since the 1950s, Gavin Pretor-Pinney said.

Read more ....

How Antarctica Got Its Ice

The large glaciated valley of Nant Francon, Snowdonia. This valley is similar in relative dimensions (though smaller in size) to the main glaciated valley beneath the ice in central Antarctica. Credit: Martin Siegert

From Live Science:

Antarctica is a massive block of ice today, but it used to more simply be a range of glacier-topped mountains like those found in Alaska and the Alps.

The strange continent's thick ice sheets formed tens of millions of years ago against an Alpine-style backbone of mountains during a period of significant climate change, a new study finds.

The Antarctic continent now is covered almost entirely by ice that averages about a mile (1.6 kilometers) thick.

Scientists have known for some time that the Antarctic Ice Sheet formed around 14 million years ago, "but we didn't know how it formed," said study team member Martin Siegert of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Read more ....

Diving Robots Could Recover Air France 447's Black Box

From Popular Mechanics:

As details of the telemetry sent by Air France 447 in its final minutes become known, deep-sea technology experts are saying that the recovery of the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder and digital flight data recorder—the black boxes—will be difficult, but not impossible, with the help of deep-sea-diving robots.

After officials pinpointed the location of Air France's Airbus A330 crash site, they turned to the difficult task of recovering the black boxes, which hold the official recordings of events that happened before the plane went down. Black boxes, which are actually painted orange, can give investigators the missing bits and pieces of data needed to determine an accident's probable cause. To help officials find the boxes, embedded technology sends sonarlike signals, which can be detected for up to 30 days provided listening equipment can get within approximately 1 mile of the box, according to a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board. In the case of Flight 447, the crash area in the Atlantic Ocean is too deep for divers to reach.

Read more ....

Do Dinosaurs Still Exist?

Conan Doyle's "Lost World," near Angel Falls in the jungles of Venezuela, in a 2007 photo. It was his visit to this area that inspired him to write about the idea that dinosaurs may still exist in places like this. Credit: Benjamin Radford

From Live Science:

The idea of still-living dinosaurs has captured the public imagination for well over a century.

Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, published a 1912 novel called "The Lost World," set in the remote Venezuelan jungle where dinosaurs still survive in modern times. Films such as "Jurassic Park" and "Land of the Lost," which opens Friday, were inspired by Conan Doyle's vision — in fact the sequel to "Jurassic Park" was titled "The Lost World."

The animated film "Up" (currently No. 1 at the box office) also takes place in this lost world, the plot involving the discovery of an unknown, multicolored dinosaur.

For most of us, fiction is good enough. Yet some believe that giant dinosaurs still exist today, just beyond the reach of scientific proof.

Read more ....

Lost In Space: The Science Of Battlestar Galactica

From New Scientist:

Sci-fi TV show Battlestar Galactica has been much praised for its gritty realism – despite being the story of space-borne refugees fleeing genocidal robots. Its treatment of subjects like suicide bombing and torture have won it plaudits from all corners; its cast and creators were even invited to address the UN earlier this year.

But does the series "do" science as convincingly as it does politics? We spoke to Kevin Fong, lecturer in space medicine at University College London and a keen advocate of manned space travel, about the series' depiction of space travel and the challenges facing astronauts on long space journeys.

Read more ....

NASA Goddard Study Suggests Solar Variation Plays A Role In Our Current Climate

From Watts Up With That:

NASA Study Acknowledges Solar Cycle, Not Man, Responsible for Past Warming

Report indicates solar cycle has been impacting Earth since the Industrial Revolution
From the Daily Tech, Michael Andrews. (h/t to Joe D’Aleo)

Some researchers believe that the solar cycle influences global climate changes. They attribute recent warming trends to cyclic variation. Skeptics, though, argue that there’s little hard evidence of a solar hand in recent climate changes.

Read more ....

Mountains Hidden Under Antarctic Ice Revealed By Radar Map

From Times Online:

Antarctic mountains hidden beneath thousands of metres of ice have been mapped in detail for the first time.

One of Antarctica’s highest mountain ranges, located in the centre of the continent, shows remarkable similarities to the Alps, with steep cliffs, valley steps and flat tributary valleys.

The study, published today in the journal Nature, mapped the Gamburtsev mountains by bouncing radar signals off their hidden surface and observing how long they took to return. The highest peak was found to be 2,434m (7,985ft) above sea level, about twice the height of Ben Nevis.

Read more ....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Trading Energy For Safety, Bees Extend Legs To Stay Stable In Wind

Some bees brace themselves against wind and turbulence by extending their sturdy hind legs while flying. (Credit: iStockphoto/Roel Dillen)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2009) — New research shows some bees brace themselves against wind and turbulence by extending their sturdy hind legs while flying. But this approach comes at a steep cost, increasing aerodynamic drag and the power required for flight by roughly 30 percent, and cutting into the bees' flight performance.

The findings are detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more ....

Sub Explores Ocean's Deepest Trench

Map of Mariana Trench. Credit: NOAA

From Live Science:

A robotic vehicle named Nereus has made one of the deepest ocean dives ever — 6.8 miles (10,902 meters), a team of scientists and engineers reported yesterday. At this depth, Nereus was able to explore the Challenger Deep — the ocean's lowest point, located in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific.

Nereus took the plunge Sunday. It was the first exploration of the Mariana Trench since 1998.

Read more ....

Four Years Of Google Earth, And What Has It Found?

Atlantis?: Courtesy Google

From Popular Science:

The virtual mapping tool, which turns four years old this month, has led to some amazing discoveries.

Google Earth in its current form went live in June 2005. In addition to allowing users to fly to their childhood homes, zoom in on potential vacation spots, and explore under the sea and atop the world's highest peaks, the virtual mapping software has proven instrumental in a number of scientific discoveries -- several in 2009 alone. Here's a look back at some of the highlights.

Any guesses on future Google Earth discoveries? Will Google Earth be an ever-more-important scientific tool in the future? Post in the comments.

Read more ....

Space 'Causes Disabling Headaches In Astronauts'

Astronaut: Twelve of the 17 astronauts reported 21 headaches during the test Photo: AP

From The Telegraph:

Astronauts who have no history of bad headaches can be prone to disabling attacks while in space, neurologists say.

Contrary to prevailing theories, headaches in space are not caused by motion sickness, they said.

Instead, the problem could lie in an increase in blood flow to the head, causing painful pressure on the brain.

Read more ....

How To Unleash Your Brain's Inner Genius

Autistic musician Derek Paravicini performs his first professional concert at St Georges Hall, Bristol, UK (Image: South West News Service / Rex Features)

From New Scientist:

CLAD in a dark suit and sunglasses, Derek Paravicini makes a beeline for the sound of my voice and links his arm into mine. "Hello, Celeste. Where have you come from today?" I reply and his response is immediate: "From Holborn?" He repeats the word several times, savouring each syllable. "Hol-born, Hol-born, Hooool-bbooorn. Where's Hoollll-booorn?" As our conversation continues, the substance of much of what I say doesn't seem to sink in, but the sounds themselves certainly do, with Paravicini lingering over and repeating particularly delightful syllables. "Meewww-zick. The pi-aan-o."

Such touching and immediate friendliness is not quite what I expected from my first meeting with the 29-year-old, blind musical savant, but his obsession with reproducing sounds certainly makes sense, given his talent. Paravicini can play just about any piece of music you request, entirely from memory, with formidable technical ability, despite having severe learning difficulties that mean he needs constant support in everyday life. And as I find out an hour later, he constantly improvises the pieces he has learned by ear, rather than simply copying as you might expect.

Read more ....

NASA Clears Space Shuttle For June 13 Launch

Space shuttle Endeavour crew, from left, commander Mark Polansky, pilot Douglas Hurley, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette, mission specialist Thomas Marshburn, flight engineer Timothy Kopra, mission specialist David Wolf, and mission specialist Christopher Cassidy answer questions during a news conference on launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, June 3, 2009. Endeavour and its seven member crew are scheduled for a June 13 launch. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

From AP:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA has cleared space shuttle Endeavour for a June 13 launch to the international space station.

Top managers settled on the date Wednesday following a daylong flight review that coincided with a practice countdown by the seven astronauts assigned to the mission.

Read more ....

More News On The Next Space Shuttle Launch

Shuttle Endeavour cleared for launch next week
-- Spaceflight Now
NASA sets June 13 launch date for Endeavour -- TG Daily
NASA Targets June 13 Launch for Shuttle Endeavour --
NASA clears space shuttle for June 13 launch -- Reuters
Endeavour moves to another launch pad -- MSNBC
NASA approves June 13 shuttle launch date -- AFP

Air France Flight 447: A Detailed Meteorological Analysis

From Watts Up With That?

NOTE: This writeup is from an acquaintance of mine who wrote some powerful meteorological software, Digital Atmosphere, that I use in my office. He used that software (and others) to analyze the Air France 447 crash from the meteorological perspective. h/t to Mike Moran – Anthony

by Tim Vasquez

Air France flight 447 (AF447), an Airbus A330 widebody jet, was reported missing in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of June 1, 2009. The plane was enroute from Rio de Janeiro (SBGL) to Paris (LFPG). Speculation suggested that the plane may have flown into a thunderstorm. The objective of this study was to isolate the aircraft’s location against high-resolution satellite images from GOES-10 to identify any association with thunderstorm activity. Breakup of a plane at higher altitudes in a thunderstorm is not unprecedented; Northwest Flight 705 in 1963 and more recently Pulkovo Aviation Flight 612 in 2006 are clear examples.

Read more ....

Who Controls The Internet?

From The Weekly Standard:

The United States, for now, and a good thing, too.

In order to please our European allies and our Third World critics, the Obama administration may be tempted to surrender one particular manifestation of American "dominance": central management of key aspects of the Internet by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Other countries are pushing for more control. Early this year, British cabinet member Andy Burnham told the Daily Telegraph that he was "planning to negotiate with Barack Obama's incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites." It would be a mistake for the administration to go along. America's special role in managing the Internet is good for America and good for the world.

Read more ....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Electronic Memory Chips That Can Bend And Twist

Image: Electronic memory chips may soon gain the ability to bend and twist like this one. (Credit: NIST)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2009) — Electronic memory chips may soon gain the ability to bend and twist as a result of work by engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). As reported in the July 2009 issue of IEEE Electron Device Letters, the engineers have found a way to build a flexible memory component out of inexpensive, readily available materials.

Though not yet ready for the marketplace, the new device is promising not only because of its potential applications in medicine and other fields, but because it also appears to possess the characteristics of a memristor, a fundamentally new component for electronic circuits that industry scientists developed in 2008. NIST has filed for a patent on the flexible memory device (application #12/341.059).

Read more ....

Single Women Look Longer at Men

From Live Science:

Single women look longer when they're checking out men than women who are taken, a new study finds.

Neuroscientist Heather Rupp, of The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, had men and women rate 510 photos of faces of members of the opposite sex and give their gut reaction on the person's attractiveness, masculinity/femininity, and other subjective ratings.

The study included 59 men and 56 women ages 17 to 26, who were all heterosexual, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and who were not using hormonal contraception. Some of the participants had sexual partners, while others did not (21 women did and 25 men did).

Read more ....

Solar Thermal Surge Possible By 2050

Solar thermal converts the sun's energy to heat and then to electricity (Source: NREL)

From ABC News Science (Australia):

Solar thermal power has the potential to generate up to a quarter of the world's electricity by 2050, according to a new report by pro-solar groups.

The study, by Greenpeace, the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association (ESTELA) and the International Energy Agency's (IEA) SolarPACES group, says huge investments would also create jobs and fight climate change.

"Solar power plants are the next big thing in renewable energy," says Sven Teske of Greenpeace International and co-author of the report.

Read more ....

Confirmed: Windows 7 Launches October 22

From PC World:

It's official: Windows 7 will make its debut on October 22. Microsoft confirmed the late-October launch date with PC World, details of which leaked out earlier today.

Windows 7 development should finish up in July, at which time it will be released to PC manufacturers. The October 22 date will be a full retail rollout for the OS - although pricing has yet to be announced.

Microsoft will provide a "tech guarantee" for upgrading users, though its details are still to come.

There were some rumblings of an October launch in late April. Microsoft's initial target release date was in January 2010, but the company did confirm last month that Windows 7 would make its debut this year, before the holiday shopping season.

Read more ....

More News On Windows 7

Windows 7 to launch October 22 -- CNET News
Windows 7 Gets Official Release Date: October 22 -- Daily Tech
Windows 7 release date announced -- BBC
Windows 7 release date is Oct 22 says Microsoft (download sooner?) -- Computer World

What Makes Us Happy?

From The Atlantic:

Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. Its contents, as much literature as science, offer profound insight into the human condition—and into the brilliant, complex mind of the study’s longtime director, George Vaillant.

Read more ....

Is Vaccine Refusal Worth The Risk?

From NPR:

Morning Edition, May 26, 2009 · Over the past 10 years, a highly contagious and sometimes fatal bacterial disease once thought to have been eradicated from the U.S. has re-emerged, threatening the youngest and weakest. Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the lungs and spreads from person to person through moisture droplets in the air, probably from coughs or sneezes. A person with pertussis develops a severe cough that usually lasts four to six weeks or longer.

Health officials cite an increase in the incidence of pertussis, particularly among infants and teenagers. In 1976, there were just over 1,000 reported cases of pertussis in the United States; by 2004, it had climbed to nearly 26,000 cases; and between 2000 and 2005, there were 140 deaths resulting from pertussis in the U.S.

Read more ....

Listen now.

Einstein’s General Theory Of Relativity: Celebrating The 20th Century's Most Important Experiment

The story as reported in the 22nd November 1919 edition of the 'Illustrated London News'. (Credit: Image courtesy of Royal Astronomical Society)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 2, 2009) — In 1919, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) launched an expedition to the West African island of Príncipe, to observe a total solar eclipse and prove or disprove Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Now, in a new RAS-funded expedition for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009), scientists are back.

Astronomers Professor Pedro Ferreira from the University of Oxford and Dr Richard Massey from the University of Edinburgh, along with Oxford anthropologist Dr Gisa Weszkalnys, are paying homage to the original expedition led by Sir Arthur Eddington and celebrating the 90th anniversary of one of the key discoveries of the 20th century.

Read more ....

Half of All Friends Replaced Every 7 Years

From Live Science:

You may have more Facebook friends as the years go by, but when it comes to your close friends, you lose about half and replace them with new ones after about seven years, new social research suggests.

As a result, the size of your social network stays about the same.

People might like to think they have control over whom they choose as friends, but social networks could also be influenced by the context in which we meet one another. Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University in the Netherlands was interested in finding out exactly how much our networks are shaped by social context or by personal preference.

Read more ....

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Is This The Future Of Food? Japanese Plant Factories Churn Out Immaculate Vegetables 24 Hours A Day

Sterile: The plants are grown in a perfectly controlled environment,
uncontaminated by dirt, insects or fresh air

From The Daily Mail:

They look more like the brightly lit shelves of a chemists shop than the rows of a vegetable garden.

But according to their creators, these perfect looking vegetables could be the future of food.

In a perfectly controlled and totally sterile environment - uncontaminated by dirt, insects or fresh air - Japanese scientists are developing a new way of growing vegetables.

Called plant factories, these anonymous looking warehouses have sprung up across the country and can churn out immaculate looking lettuces and green leaves 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Read more ....

The Ultimate Lock Picker Hacks Pentagon, Beats Corporate Security for Fun and Profit

From Wired News:

Tobias is laughing. And laughing. The effect is disconcerting. It's a bwa-ha-ha kind of evil mastermind laugh—appropriate if you've just sacked Constantinople, checkmated Deep Blue, or handed Superman a Dixie cup of kryptonite Kool-Aid, but downright scary in a midtown Manhattan restaurant during the early-bird special.

Our fellow diners begin to stare. Tobias doesn't notice and wouldn't care anyway. He's as rumpled and wild as a nerdy grizzly bear. His place mat is covered in diagrams and sketched floor plans and scribbled arrows. His laugh fits him like a tinfoil hat. It goes on for a solid 20 seconds.

Read more ....

WHO Official Says World Edging Towards Pandemic

A picture shoes an airport thermal camera system monitoring the body heat of passengers arriving from abroad is displayed at Sofia airport in this April 29, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/Files

From Reuters:

GENEVA (Reuters) - The spread of H1N1 flu in Australia, Britain, Chile, Japan and Spain has nudged the world closer to a pandemic, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.

The newly-discovered strain had caused more infections than seasonal influenza at the start of Chile's flu season, raising concern about how it would spread in the southern hemisphere, according to Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's acting assistant director-general.

The virus has mainly affected people aged below 60 and caused 117 deaths worldwide, including some otherwise healthy people, he said. For now, the WHO's pandemic scale remained at the second-highest level but the threshold may soon be crossed.

"Globally we believe that we are at Phase 5 but we are getting closer to Phase 6," Fukuda told journalists. "The future impact of this infection has yet to unfold."

Read more ....

Chocolate-Flavoured Milk Speeds Up Recovery As Well As Expensive Sports Drinks

Chocolate milkshake, which is low-fat milk flavoured with cocoa and sugar, has the advantage of additional nutrients not found in most traditional sports drinks Photo: GETTY

From The Telegraph:

Football players would be better off drinking chocolate milkshake after a game than expensive recovery drinks, claim scientists.

Researchers found that chocolate milkshake's "natural" muscle recovery benefits match or may even surpass a specially designed carbohydrate sports drink.

They discovered that muscle damage was actually lower in those players that drank the milk after training than those that drank the commercial energy drinks.

Read more ....

Air France Mystery: Was Lightning to Blame?

{Photograph by Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images)

From Popular Mechanics:

An Air France Airbus A330, carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris, entered an area of strong turbulence and disappeared. The CEO of AirFrance confirms that the airplane most likely crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Some, including company officials, have speculated that the plane was struck down by lightning, a claim that is not at all outrageous. According to experts, most commercial aircraft are struck by lightning at some point in their lives. But can lightning down a plane? We spoke to the experts about the likelihood of lightning being the culprit in this tragic downing.

Aviation experts agree that it is highly unlikely that lightning alone caused the crash of Air France Flight 447 earlier today. The 2005 Airbus A330-200 twinjet with 228 aboard disappeared on a flight from Rio to Paris shortly after the aircraft sent out automated signals indicated it had suffered a catastrophic electrical failure and a sudden loss of cabin pressure while flying through an area of severe thunderstorms. Late this afternoon the Brazilian Air Force was reporting that the aircraft likely crashed in an area approximately 60 miles south of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Senegal. Air France spokesman Francois Brousse this morning stoked mounting speculation when he said "it is possible" the plane was hit by lightning.

Read more ....

DNA Test To Discover Tutankhamun's Parentage

A replica of the death mask of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. Egyptian researchers are using DNA tests to discover the lineage of pharaoh king Tutankhamun, whose ancestry remains a mystery to Egyptologists, antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said on Monday. (AFP/DDP/Lennart Preiss)

From Yahoo News/AFP:

CAIRO (AFP) – Egyptian researchers are using DNA tests to discover the lineage of pharaoh king Tutankhamun, whose ancestry remains a mystery to Egyptologists, antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said on Monday.

The young king, whose mummy was found in a gold and turquoise sarcophagus by English archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922, ruled Egypt between 1333 and 1324 BC.

His ancestry has been as much a source of speculation as his abrupt end.

"Until now, we don't know who his father was. Was it Akhenaten or Amenhotep III," Hawass told reporters at a press conference.

Read more ....

The Essential Guide to Stem Cells

Myelin Maker?: In July, scientists at Geron Corporation will kick start a clinical trial to heal injured spinal cords with stem cells, in the hope that new cells will create myelin, which insulates nerve fibers in the spinal cord


Everything you need to know about the hottest topic in 
medicine, from big-league breakthroughs and new therapies to emerging health risks and the patients willing to take them.

For more than a decade, researchers have touted stem cells as the most promising advance in medicine since antibiotics. And this winter, when President Obama lifted the Bush administration's ban on federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research, talking heads buzzed that his decision could bring scientists that much closer to cures — not just treatments — for conditions like heart failure, spinal-cord injuries and Alzheimer's disease. Biologists around the world toasted their new prospects with champagne. "Lifting the ban will free us up to use additional cell lines," says Jack Kessler, director of the Feinberg Neuroscience Institute at Northwestern University. "It's very important for science."

Read more ....

Combined Stem Cell-Gene Therapy Approach Cures Human Genetic Disease In Vitro

Shown in green are genetically-corrected fibroblasts from Fanconi anemia patients are reprogrammed to generate induced pluripotent stem cells, which, in turn, can be differentiated into disease-free hematopoietic progenitors, capable of producing blood cells in vitro. (Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Juan-Carlos Belmonte, Salk Institute for Biological Studies)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2009) — A study led by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has catapulted the field of regenerative medicine significantly forward, proving in principle that a human genetic disease can be cured using a combination of gene therapy and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology. The study is a major milestone on the path from the laboratory to the clinic.

"It's been ten years since human stem cells were first cultured in a Petri dish," says the study's leader Juan-Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, Ph.D., a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory and director of the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona (CMRB), Spain. "The hope in the field has always been that we'll be able to correct a disease genetically and then make iPS cells that differentiate into the type of tissue where the disease is manifested and bring it to clinic."

Read more ....

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bing It: Microsoft To Launch New Search Engine But Doesn't Bank On Beating Google

From The Daily Mail:

Microsoft has unveiled a new search engine in a bid to lure Web surfers away from Google and other search sites.

It is hoped that new site, 'Bing', will be more successful than the company's two most recent incarnations: Live Search and MSN Search.

Microsoft claims the new search engine will offer an improvement in the number of users who actually find answers to their search questions.

Read more ....

Why Is The Earth Moving Away From The Sun?

Photo: The sun and Earth are moving apart by about 15 cm per year - the culprit may be tides raised on the sun by our home planet (Image: NASA)

From New Scientist:

Skywatchers have been trying to gauge the sun-Earth distance for thousands of years. In the third century BC, Aristarchus of Samos, notable as the first to argue for a heliocentric solar system, estimated the sun to be 20 times farther away than the moon. It wasn't his best work, as the real factor is more like 400.

By the late 20th century, astronomers had a much better grip on this fundamental cosmic metric – what came to be called the astronomical unit. In fact, thanks to radar beams pinging off various solar-system bodies and to tracking of interplanetary spacecraft, the sun-Earth distance has been pegged with remarkable accuracy. The current value stands at 149,597,870.696 kilometres.

Read more ....

Robots Rolling Towards Farm Revolution

A 3D laser ranging view of a Pennsylvania apple orchard can not only allow a mobile robot to pace its rows, but also captures detail of every tree, its foliage and fruit. This image was produced using techniques developed by Daniel Munoz, Martial Hebert and Nicolas Vandapel (Image: Nicolas Vandapel)

From The New Scientist:

From ploughs to seed drills to tractors, evolving technology has brought about radical changes to agriculture over the years. Now the sector is poised for another shift as robotic farmhands gear up to make agriculture greener and more efficient.

Three things now make mobile agricultural robots a real possibility in the near future, says Tony Stentz, an engineer at Carnegie Mellon University's robotics institute.

Firstly, mobile robots have now proved able to cope with complex outdoor environmentsMovie Camera; secondly, the price of production has fallen; and, finally, society should now see robot labourers as a benefit not a curse.

Read more ....

U.N.’s ‘Global Warming=300,000 Deaths A Year’ Report – Kofi Annan Implies: “Close Enough For Government Work”

From Watts Up With That?

Many of you have probably heard by now of the UN. Report saying that “global warming is killing 300,000 people a year”. There’s a Times Online Story (h/t to Gary Boden) about it today that has some startling admissions. Here are some excerpts:

Climate change is already killing 300,000 people a year in a “silent crisis” that is seriously affecting hundreds of millions more, an influential humanitarian group warned today.

A report by the Global Humanitarian Forum, led by Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General, says that the effects of climate change are growing in such a way that it will have a serious impact on 600 million people, almost ten per cent of the world’s population, within 20 years. Almost all of these will be in developing countries.

Read more ....

Slide Show: Top 10 Earth- and People-Friendly Buildings

GISH APARTMENTS--SAN JOSE, CALIF.: A building's environmental impact doesn't have to stop at its threshold. That's why the Gish Apartments are steps from a local light rail and have a convenience store downstairs, so residents don't have to jump in their cars to pick up that gallon of milk or get to work.

To turn a San Jose brownfield into mixed housing for low-income and special-needs families, First Community Housing, a local affordable housing organization, turned to locally based OJK Architecture and Planning to create the 35-unit structure. Although some of the building materials—such as double-glazed windows and rooftop solar panels—were pricier to purchase at the outset, they're already being offset by cheaper operational costs. BERNARD ANDRE PHOTOGRAPHY

From Scientific America:

The American Institute of Architects pick their top examples of building projects that marry form and function for both human and environmental needs

Can a building be as easy on the environment as it is on the eyes? Without a doubt, says The American Institute of Architects (AIA), a professional association based in Washington, D.C. To prove it, for the past 12 years, the organization and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) have awarded the top 10 green projects across the globe.

Read more ....

How Oxidative Stress May Help Prolong Life

Trey Ideker, Ph.D. is a researcher at University of California, San Diego.
(Credit: UC San Diego)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (May 30, 2009) — Oxidative stress has been linked to aging, cancer and other diseases in humans. Paradoxically, researchers have suggested that small exposure to oxidative conditions may actually offer protection from acute doses. Now, scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have discovered the gene responsible for this effect.

Their study, published in PLoS Genetics on May 29, explains the underlying mechanism of the process that prevents cellular damage by reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Read more ....

Scientists Reveal the Secret to Hockey's Wrist Shot

From Live Science:

It takes less than a second, but the wrist shot in hockey is one of the hardest skills in sports to master. Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings who will face each other starting this weekend in the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup Finals. Both teams know the value of the "quick wrister" and the scoring chances it creates. Now, a team of Canadian (of course) researchers believe they have isolated the key components of a successful wrist shot using 3-D motion capture analysis.

Read more ....

My Comment: Never could master the wrist shot .... ended up playing goal tender in my teenage years.

An Update On What’s Happening With Fusion Research.

From Classical Values:

Nature News is reporting that the ITER fusion experiment is in big trouble. Very big trouble. It is way over budget, way behind time, and the experimental efforts are being scaled back.

ITER -- a multi-billion-euro international experiment boldly aiming to prove atomic fusion as a power source -- will initially be far less ambitious than physicists had hoped, Nature has learned.

Faced with ballooning costs and growing delays, ITER's seven partners are likely to build only a skeletal version of the device at first. The project's governing council said last June that the machine should turn on in 2018; the stripped-down version could allow that to happen (see Nature 453, 829; 2008). But the first experiments capable of validating fusion for power would not come until the end of 2025, five years later than the date set when the ITER agreement was signed in 2006.

Read more ....

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Is America's Space Administration Over-the-Hill? Next-Gen NASA

From Popular Mechanics:

It has been 40 years since NASA first placed man on the moon. Not only was the space agency still young, but most of its employees were fresh out of college. Today, less than 20 percent of NASA's employees are under the age of 40, leading one report to call the agency "mono-generational." This leads to a disturbing question: As the baby boomers retire, who will get astronauts back to the lunar surface?

Thick sideburns, clean-cut but full heads of hair and fresh-looking faces framed by chunky, black glasses. That was NASA of the 1960s. Considering all the flag-waving young celebrants, the photos of Mission Control just after Apollo 11 safely parachuted into the Pacific on July 24, 1969, could be mistaken for a Fourth of July frat party. You can't help but think they look a bit young to be sending men to the moon. Compared to NASA today, they were.

Read more ....

Unusual Neuron Could ExplainTthe Smartest Species

Killer Whales: NOAA/Robert Pittman


People have it, elephants have it, even killer whales have it

A neuroscientist carves up brains to investigate the presence of unique brain cells found only in humans, primates, elephants and a handful of marine mammals -- species that are characterized by large brains, a long childhood spent learning from their elders, and sophisticated social interaction, reports Smithsonian.

In his Caltech lab, John Allman slices off the thinnest slivers of an elephant's brain, looking for the presence of von Economo neurons -- and possibly a glimpse into the evolution of human behavior.

Read more ....

Ancient Volcanic Eruptions Caused Global Mass Extinction

Researchers believe they have uncovered evidence of a giant volcanic eruption that led to global mass extinction 260 million years ago. (Credit: iStockphoto/James Steidl)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (May 30, 2009) — A previously unknown giant volcanic eruption that led to global mass extinction 260 million years ago has been uncovered by scientists at the University of Leeds.

The eruption in the Emeishan province of south-west China unleashed around half a million cubic kilometres of lava, covering an area 5 times the size of Wales, and wiping out marine life around the world.

Read more ....