Saturday, June 20, 2009

Swine Flu 'Could Infect Up To Half The Population'

A medical researcher working to produce a DNA test for swine flu, which is spreading more quickly in the UK. Photo AFP.

From The Independent:

Health authorities told to set up testing and drug distribution centres in case of autumn outbreak.

Primary care trusts are to set up anti-viral drug distribution centres and swine flu testing clinics amid fears that the infection could spread out of control.

The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, wrote to health authorities last week urging hospitals to test all patients who show signs of flu-like symptoms. He wrote: "Transmission from person to person in this country is increasingly common. There is evidence that sporadic cases are arising with no apparent link either to cases elsewhere in the UK or to travel abroad."

Read more ....

NASA's Mission To Bomb The Moon

From Scientific American:

NASA will tomorrow launch a spectacular mission to bomb the Moon. Their LCROSS mission will blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying a missile that will blast a hole in the lunar surface at twice the speed of a bullet. The missile, a Centaur rocket, will be steered by a shepherding spacecraft that will guide it towards its target - a crater close to the Moon's south pole. Scientists expect the blast to be so powerful that a huge plume of debris will be ejected.

Scientists expect the blast to be so powerful that a huge plume of debris will be ejected.

The attack on the Moon is not a declaration of war or act of wanton vandalism. Space scientists want to see if any water ice or vapour is revealed in the cloud of debris.

Though the Moon mostly a dry airless desert, they believe ice could be trapped in crater shadows near the south pole which never receive any sunlight. If so it could provide vital supplies for a manned moonbase.

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Solar Sleuths Tackle Mystery Of Quiet Sun

Scientists have found that slow, eastward-moving "jet streams" (depicted in yellow) move about 7000 kilometres below the sun's surface. As this plot shows, over time they migrate from near the sun's poles toward its equator. The ones corresponding to Cycle 24 took their time reaching 22° in latitude, matching the prolonged solar minimum seen in recent years. (Illustration: Frank Hill and Rachel Howe/NSO)

From New Scientist:

For the past couple of years, our sun has been at the minimum of its 11-year activity cycle. Its face has been virtually spotless for months on end, and there've been no dire alerts of titanic solar storms about to slam into Earth.

The problem is that this "quiet sun" has continued far too long – two years ago, a special task force predicted that the transition from the just-ended Cycle 23 to the upcoming Cycle 24 would come around March 2008. It didn't. (To be fair, there was sharp disagreement within the group at that time.)

Much fanfare accompanied the appearance of a tiny high-latitude sunspot in early 2008, supposedly heralding Cycle 24's arrival. Yet for months and months afterward the sun's face remained spotless.

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Hands On Review: iPhone OS 3.0 Chock Full Of Changes

From Ars Technica:

iPhone OS 3.0 is out and it runs on all generations of iPhone and iPod touch. Ars reviews the OS and takes a look at what's in store. If you're not planning to buy a shiny new iPhone 3G S, you may find yourself quite satisfied with your 3G iPhone running the new OS.

The one-word summary for iPhone 3.0 should be "subtle." But don't go thinking that subtlety means boring—the changes that come with Apple's latest mobile OS are plentiful and hidden in many corners of the device. Apple previewed iPhone OS 3.0 to the world in March of this year and again in June at WWDC 2009, but there's no greater experience than playing around with the software and discovering all the surprises yourself. We did just that with iPhone OS 3.0 and discovered that while the cool big changes may get all the press, there are also numerous updates to smaller details should be anything but ignored.

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Big Particle Collider Restart Delayed Till October

From Yahoo News/AP

GENEVA – The world's largest atom smasher will likely be fired up again in October after scientists have carried out tests and put in place further safety measures to prevent a repeat of the faults that sidelined the $10 billion machine shortly after startup last year, the operator said Saturday.

The Large Hadron Collider was meant to restart in late September, but that will probably be pushed back two to three weeks, a spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research said.

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US Couple To Have World's First Weightless Wedding

The bride's wedding dress was designed to billow out in all directions as she tumbles and twirls about in zero gravity (Image: Bonnie Veronico)

From The New Scientist:

It's T-minus one day until Erin Finnegan and Noah Fulmor say "I do" in zero gravity, becoming the first couple to have a weightless wedding. The US couple will exchange vows aboard G-Force One, the "vomit comet" operated by the Zero Gravity Corporation.

Finnegan and Fulmor, who live in New York City, are self-professed space fanatics – as children, both wanted to be astronauts. Finnegan attended space camp, while Fulmor volunteered at a local planetarium. Today Finnegan works in animation production and Fulmor is a legal secretary (see an image of the couple).

Read more ....

My Comment: What can I say but best wishes.

Ancient Ice Age, Once Regarded As Brief 'Blip' Found To Have Lasted For 30 Million Years

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 17, 2009) — Geologists at the University of Leicester have shown that an ancient Ice Age, once regarded as a brief 'blip', in fact lasted for 30 million years.

Their research suggests that during this ancient Ice Age, global warming was curbed through the burial of organic carbon that eventually lead to the formation of oil – including the 'hot shales' of north Africa and Arabia which constitute the world's most productive oil source rock.

Read more ....

Dads Are Key to Making Us Human

From Live Science:

Some 95 percent of male mammals have little to no interaction with their children. Homo sapiens are one of the most notable exceptions, leading some scientists to think fatherhood is an important part of what makes us human.

Most theories for the family involvement of fathers invoke the familiar "Man the Hunter" characterization, in which dad protects and provides for his young.

While fathers do play key roles in securing the physical health of their children, they also can be important for the optimum development of psychological and emotional traits considered to be primarily human, such as empathy, emotional control and the ability to navigate complex social relationships.

Unlike many other animals, humans need their fathers well beyond the act that leads to conception, researchers are coming to realize.

Read more ....

Friday, June 19, 2009

Out Of This World: New Mexico Poised To Break Ground In Construction Of Virgin Spaceport

On it's way: This conceptual image shows how Spaceport America
is expected to look at completion in 2010

From The Daily Mail:

The tantalising prospect of escaping the Earth’s atmosphere and experiencing weightlessness has been in the pipeline for two years. And now it’s officially arrived.

Workers in New Mexico have broken ground in the construction of a terminal and hanger facility for the world’s first rocket spaceport for sending wealthy customers to the edge of space.

Members of the general are being tempted with the ‘most incredible experience of their lives’ for $200,000 (£122,000) from as early as 2010.

Read more ....

Bears And Other Predators Invade U.S. Neighborhoods

From Popular Mechanics:

As once-threatened animal populations including black bears, mountain lions and alligators rebound and people move into former wildlands, predators are showing up precisely where they don't belong: in backyards. And the wildlife isn't as afraid of us as we might think. Welcome to the food chain.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect afternoon. Gary Mann and his girlfriend Helen were watching the sun go down after a satisfying day clearing brush in the backyard of Mann’s home in Sutter Creek, Calif. A pile of branches and twigs was burning merrily, throwing shadows into the growing darkness as the couple’s three dogs—a 50-pound Shar-Pei named Tigger and a pair of Rottweiler mixes, Takota and Tenaya—played at their feet.

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Herschel Space Telescope's First Images Give Promising Glimpse Of What's To Come

Figure A: Herschel Composite : Herschel's test view of M51 ESA


Test images show M51 galaxy in more detail than predecessors could

Herschel, the largest infrared space telescope yet flown, was launched a month ago by the ESA and was not expected to deliver images for another few weeks. It has, however, already produced images- in three colors- of M51, ‘the whirlpool galaxy,’ from a test observation run. The goal of the test was to get a large image and a sense of what Herschel will deliver in the future.

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Remaining H1N1 Questions

From Time:

The H1N1 flu seems a far cry from the mass killer it was feared to be when it first emerged in Mexico in April. While it has since infected more than 12,000 people in 43 countries, including more than 6,500 in the U.S., it has so far killed just 86 victims. Health officials are still on high alert, however; the disease continues to spread, with a batch of new cases in Japan in mid-May that could be enough to prompt the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare an official pandemic.

Read more ....

First Image Of Memories Being Made

The increase in green fluorescence represents the imaging of local translation at synapses during long-term synaptic plasticity. (Credit: Science)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 19, 2009) — The ability to learn and to establish new memories is essential to our daily existence and identity; enabling us to navigate through the world. A new study by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), McGill University and University of California, Los Angeles has captured an image for the first time of a mechanism, specifically protein translation, which underlies long-term memory formation.

The finding provides the first visual evidence that when a new memory is formed new proteins are made locally at the synapse - the connection between nerve cells - increasing the strength of the synaptic connection and reinforcing the memory. The study published in Science, is important for understanding how memory traces are created and the ability to monitor it in real time will allow a detailed understanding of how memories are formed.

Read more ....

'New' Brazilian Flu Strain Is A False Alarm

From New Scientist:

Take a jumpy media, throw in a statement hastily translated from Portuguese, and what have you got? A "new" and potentially deadly strain of H1N1 influenza in Brazil, according to a rash of news stories that appeared earlier today.

"It was not yet known whether the new strain was more aggressive than the current A(H1N1) virus which has been declared pandemic by the World Health Organization," reported Agence France Presse, setting the mood for a new round of pandemic panic.

But this "new" strain is nothing of the sort. In fact, the sequence of its gene for the haemagglutinin surface protein, deposited in the GenBank database, is the same as isolates from several other countries. "[It] has nothing surprising about it and is identical to others," Richard Webby of St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, told New Scientist.

Read more ....

Mammoths Roamed Britain Until Just 14,000 Years Ago ... And We Didn't Kill Them Off

Chilling end? A lone mammoth in the Ice Age as visualised on the BBC Walking With Beasts programme. But the new research shows the beasts outlived the big freeze

From The Daily Mail:

Woolly mammoths survived in Britain thousands of years later than scientists realised - and may have been killed off by climate change rather than hunters.

A study of mammoth fossils found in Shropshire suggests the gigantic beasts became extinct in north-western Europe no more than 14,000 years ago - shaving a full 7,000 years off the timespan since they were thought to be alive.

It means the species may have survived the efforts of hunters at the height of the Ice Age only to be wiped out when their grazing land was overtaken by forest.

Read more ....

Get A Grip: Truth About Fingerprints Revealed

Scientists say long-held notion that fingerprints help
us grip more firmly may not be true. (/ABC News)

From ABC News/New Scientist:

Mystery Surrounding the Reason for Fingerprints Remains

The long-held notion that fingerprints marks help us grip more firmly appears to be wrong. Instead, a new study finds that the marks actually reduce the friction between skin and surfaces.

"Because there are all the gaps between the fingerprints, what they do is reduce the contact area with the surface," says Roland Ennos, a biomechanicist at the University of Manchester, UK, who led the study with colleague Peter Warman.

Read more ....

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Evidence Found For Ancient Supersized Sperm

Researchers used a type of holotomography to capture 3-D images of this 100 million-year-old fossil ostracod called Harbinia micropapillosa. The left arrow shows the preserved inner part of the esophagus, while the right arrow points to the two seminal receptacles, where this female stored the giant sperm cells after mating. Credit: Renate Matzke-Karasz

From Live Science:

The fossilized remains of a tiny 100 million-year-old crustacean reveal evidence of what to her at least would have been giant sperm, measuring perhaps as long as her body.

While the sperm itself was not preserved, 3-D images of the female's specialized receptacles indicate she had just finished having sex and that they were filled with sperm that has since degraded. (The oldest direct evidence of sperm comes from a springtail living some 40 million years ago, according to the researchers.)

Read more ....

New Nanoparticles Could Lead To End Of Chemotherapy

Dr. Manuel Perez and his team have been investigating the use of nanoparticles for medicine for years. (Credit: Jacque Brund)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 17, 2009) — Nanoparticles specially engineered by University of Central Florida Assistant Professor J. Manuel Perez and his colleagues could someday target and destroy tumors, sparing patients from toxic, whole-body chemotherapies.

Perez and his team used a drug called Taxol for their cell culture studies, recently published in the journal Small, because it is one of the most widely used chemotherapeutic drugs. Taxol normally causes many negative side effects because it travels throughout the body and damages healthy tissue as well as cancer cells.

Read more ....

NASA Probes Possibility Of Shuttle Sabotage


Agency expects technical glitch, but some may have motive to delay launch.

NASA does not suspect sabotage was behind the glitch that twice delayed the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour recently. But, as with any problem without an apparent solution, the space agency is investigating all possible explanations, including intentional tampering, officials said.

Endeavour's STS-127 mission was supposed to lift off June 13, but a leak of hydrogen gas from a pipe attached to the shuttle's fuel tank kept the vehicle grounded. NASA tried to launch Endeavour a second time on Wednesday, but again the leak appeared, even after workers replaced the leaky seal between the pipe and the shuttle.

Read more ....

Back To The Moon: NASA To Launch New Lunar Scouts

Atlas 5 rocket. Photo: Justin Ray/Spaceflight Now

From Yahoo News/Space:

Nearly 40 years after humans first set foot on the lunar surface, NASA is gearing up to go back with the planned launch today of two unmanned scouts, the robotic vanguard for the first U.S. return to the moon in a decade.

An Atlas 5 rocket is poised to launch the two probes, a powerful lunar orbiter and a smaller spacecraft that will hunt for water ice by crashing into the moon, at about 5:12 p.m. EDT (2112 GMT) today from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission, NASA hopes, will lay the foundation for its plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2020.

Read more ....

Dogs Are Smarter Than Cats, Research Shows

From The Telegraph:

The thought processes of 15 cats were tested by attaching food to the end of lengths of string and observing whether they could figure out that pulling the line brought the treats closer.

The cats had no problem with tackling single pieces of string. However, when faced with two options, experts discovered that unlike their canine counterparts, cats were unable to consistently pick a baited string over a dummy.

Read more ....

University Of Colorado Team Finds Definitive Evidence For Ancient Lake On Mars

This is reconstructed landscape showing the Shalbatana lake on Mars as it may have looked roughly 3.4 billion years ago. Data used in reconstruction are from NASA and the European Space Agency. Credit: Image credit: G. Di Achille, University of Colorado

From Eurekalert:

First unambiguous evidence for shorelines on the surface of Mars, say researchers.

A University of Colorado at Boulder research team has discovered the first definitive evidence of shorelines on Mars, an indication of a deep, ancient lake there and a finding with implications for the discovery of past life on the Red Planet.

Estimated to be more than 3 billion years old, the lake appears to have covered as much as 80 square miles and was up to 1,500 feet deep -- roughly the equivalent of Lake Champlain bordering the United States and Canada, said CU-Boulder Research Associate Gaetano Di Achille, who led the study. The shoreline evidence, found along a broad delta, included a series of alternating ridges and troughs thought to be surviving remnants of beach deposits.

Read more ...

Betelgeuse, Red Supergiant In Constellation Orion, Has Shrunk By 15 Percent In 15 Years

UC Berkeley physicist Charles Townes, who won the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the laser, cleans one of the large mirrors of the Infrared Spatial Interferometer. The ISI is on the top of Mt. Wilson in Southern California. (Credit: Cristina Ryan (2008))

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 16, 2009) — The red supergiant star Betelgeuse, the bright reddish star in the constellation Orion, has steadily shrunk over the past 15 years, according to University of California, Berkeley, researchers.

Long-term monitoring by UC Berkeley's Infrared Spatial Interferometer (ISI) on the top of Mt. Wilson in Southern California shows that Betelgeuse (bet' el juz), which is so big that in our solar system it would reach to the orbit of Jupiter, has shrunk in diameter by more than 15 percent since 1993.

Read more ....

Could Life Be 12 Billion Years Old?

From Live Science:

Much of the search for life outside of Earth's biological oasis has focused on examining the conditions on the other planets in our solar system and probing the cosmos for other Earth-like planets in distant planetary systems.

But one team of astronomers is approaching the question of life elsewhere in the universe by looking for life's potential beginning.

Aparna Venkatesan, of the University of San Francisco, and Lynn Rothschild, of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., are using models of star formation and destruction to determine when in the roughly 13.7 billion-year history of the universe the biogenic elements – those essential to life as we know it – might have been pervasive enough to allow life to form.

Read more ....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Is the Future of Humans in Space?

Photo: Humans in space: Astronaut Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper performs space-station maintenance during the Shuttle Endeavour’s visit to the ISS in late 2008. Credit: NASA

From The Technology Review:

Independent review of human-spaceflight plans gets under way today.

A 10-person committee charged with reviewing the future of U.S. human spaceflight will hold its first public meeting today, beginning a process that must cover a lot of territory in very little time.

The independent panel of experts will examine NASA's Constellation Program, which plans to send humans to the International Space Station (ISS), the moon, and possibly Mars, and will consider alternatives to options already on the table.

Read more ....

Microbe Found Two Miles Under Greenland Ice Is Reawakened From A 120,000-Year Sleep

The unusual bacterium could hold clues to how life might survive on other planets

From The Daily Mail:

A tiny purple bug that has been buried under nearly two miles of ice for 120,000 years has been revived in a lab.

The unusual bacterium was found deep within a Greenland ice sheet and scientists believe it holds clues to how life might survive on other planets.

Researchers coaxed the dormant frozen microbes, back to life by carefully warming the ice samples containing them over a period of 11-and-a-half months.

Read more ....

The Sound Of Passion

From Scientific American:

Imagine a quiet night like any other. Suddenly, your infant’s cries break the silence. Fully loaded with emotion, the sound triggers an urge to stand up and run to your infant’s room. But, considering that your spouse is a musician and you are not, who will be the first to reach the crib?

According to Dana L. Strait and a team of researchers at the University of Northwestern in Chicago, the musician should win the race. Their latest study showed that years of musical training leave the brains of musicians better attuned to the emotional content, like anger, of vocal sounds. Ten years of cello, say, can make a person more emotionally intelligent, in some sense. So the alarm carried in a baby’s cry make a deeper impression; your spouse wins the race.

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The Future of Energy: A Realist's Roadmap to 2050


Which technologies will finally free us from oil?

This December, when representatives from 170 countries meet at the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen to replace the expiring Kyoto climate treaty, the smart money predicts unprecedented collaboration. American political change coupled with spiking carbon dioxide levels could inspire a communal project on a scale not seen since World War II. A consensus, backed by science, is emerging among the international community that by 2050 we need to reduce emissions of C02, methane and other greenhouse gases to approximately 80 percent lower than they were in 1990.

Read more ....

Synthetic Cells Get Together To Make Electronics

Collections of a few protocells connected by shared membranes penetrated by pores (a) can be used in groups to perform as electronic devices (b), in this case as a rectifier, or AC to DC converter. (Image: Nature)

From New Scientist:

A network of artificial cells that work together to act as an AC/DC converter has been built. Demonstrating that synthetic cells can team up to achieve such feats is a step towards building synthetic tissues to interface biology with electronics, says the team of chemists behind the work.

Synthetic biologists have show they can reprogram living cells to make them produce drug compounds, and are even working towards building cells from scratch to create artificial life.

But that work focuses on only individual cells, says Hagan Bayley at the University of Oxford. He's more interested in making artificial tissue in which individual synthetic cells work together.

Read more ....

Shuttle Launch Delayed To July By Hydrogen Leak

Space shuttle Endeavour sits on the launch pad early Wednesday morning June 17, 2009. Racing against the clock, NASA began fueling shuttle Endeavour for a Wednesday launch to the international space station after thunderstorms caused a three-hour delay. Hydrogen gas is leaking again from a vent line on space shuttle Endeavour's external fuel tank causing an additional delay and threatening to postpone the launch until July. (AP Photo)

From Yahoo News/AP:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – For the second time in four days, a potentially dangerous hydrogen gas leak forced NASA to delay shuttle Endeavour's launch to the international space station, this time until July at the earliest.

Launch officials waited almost an hour after the leak appeared during fueling, trying to fix it through remote commands, before calling off Wednesday's pre-dawn launch.

Read more ....

Brazil Finds New Strain Of H1N1 Virus

From Breitbart/AFP:

Brazilian scientists have identified a new strain of the H1N1 virus after examining samples from a patient in Sao Paulo, their institute said Tuesday.

The variant has been called A/Sao Paulo/1454/H1N1 by the Adolfo Lutz Bacteriological Institute, which compared it with samples of the A(H1N1) swine flu from California.

The genetic sequence of the new sub-type of the H1N1 virus was isolated by a virology team lead by one of its researchers, Terezinha Maria de Paiva, the institute said in a statement.

Read more ....

Magnetic Super-atoms Discovered

VCs8 and MnAu24(SH)18 magnetic superatoms that mimic a manganese atom. The MnAu24 cluster is surrounded by sulfur and hydrogen atoms to protect it against outside attack, thus making it valuable for use in biomedical applications. (Credit: Image courtesy of Ulises Reveles, Ph.D, VCU.)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 16, 2009) — A team of Virginia Commonwealth University scientists has discovered a ‘magnetic superatom’ – a stable cluster of atoms that can mimic different elements of the periodic table – that one day may be used to create molecular electronic devices for the next generation of faster computers with larger memory storage.

The newly discovered cluster, consisting of one vanadium and eight cesium atoms, acts like a tiny magnet that can mimic a single manganese atom in magnetic strength while preferentially allowing electrons of specific spin orientation to flow through the surrounding shell of cesium atoms. The findings appear online in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Read more ....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Road Rage: Why We Lose It

The root of road rage: Humans are territorial, and the car is an extension of a person's territory, AAA says. Image credit: stockxpert

From Live Science:

In a new survey on which of 25 major U.S. cities have the most aggressive drivers, Miami dropped from 1st to 7th, Reuters reports. The Top 3:

1. New York
2. Dallas/Fort Worth
3. Detroit

Hey! My city should be No. 1. @#%$@#!

Yes, and it's exactly that attitude that gives us road rage.

While no statistics are kept specifically on road rage, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that aggressive driving causes about a third of all crashes and about two-thirds of automobile fatalities. And studies show it's not just total jerks who become enraged.

But why does getting behind the wheel transform the meek and mild into raving, dangerous idiots?

Read more ....

New Exotic Material Could Revolutionize Electronics

Surface electron band structure of bismuth telluride.
(Credit: Image courtesy of Yulin Chen and Z. X. Shen)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 16, 2009) — Move over, silicon—it may be time to give the Valley a new name. Physicists at the Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have confirmed the existence of a type of material that could one day provide dramatically faster, more efficient computer chips.

Recently-predicted and much-sought, the material allows electrons on its surface to travel with no loss of energy at room temperatures and can be fabricated using existing semiconductor technologies. Such material could provide a leap in microchip speeds, and even become the bedrock of an entirely new kind of computing industry based on spintronics, the next evolution of electronics.

Read more ....

Alcohol Goes To The Head In Six Minutes, Scientists Say

From The Telegraph:

Alcohol goes to your head in just six minutes, scientists revealed on Tuesday.

For the first time, researchers have proved the rapid changes that drinking alcohol causes in human brain cells.

Previous tests on how alcohol affects the brain have only been done on animals.

Scientists set out to test the well-known saying that just one drink can quickly go to your head.

Only six minutes after consuming an amount of alcohol equivalent to three glasses of beer or two glasses of wine, leading to a blood alcohol level of 0.05 to 0.06 percent, changes had already taken place in brain cells.

Read more

Update: Alcohol really does go to your head fast -- The Telegraph

Return of the Once-Rare Beaver? Not in My Yard.

CONSTRUCTION AREA A beaver dam in Boxborough Station Wildlife Management Area in Massachusetts has helped create wetlands. Travis Dove for The New York Times

From The New York Times:

CONCORD, Mass. — The dozens of public works officials, municipal engineers, conservation agents and others who crowded into a meeting room here one recent morning needed help. Property in their towns was flooding, they said. Culverts were clogged. Septic tanks were being overwhelmed.

“We have a huge problem,” said David Pavlik, an engineer for the town of Lexington, where dams built by beavers have sent water flooding into the town’s sanitary sewers. “We trapped them,” he said. “We breached their dam. Nothing works. We are looking for long-term solutions.”

Mary Hansen, a conservation agent from Maynard, said it starkly: “There are beavers everywhere.”

Read more ....

The Web Back In 1996-1997

From Pingdom:

Back in 1996 the Web was starting to gain some serious momentum, but it was still just a few years old. Now in 2008, looking 12 years back into the past of the Web can be a both nostalgic and entertaining experience.

To give you some perspective, in 1996…

* didn’t exist yet.
* In January 1996 there were only 100,000 websites, compared to more than 160 million in 2008.
* The web browser of choice was Netscape Navigator, followed by Microsoft Internet Explorer as a distant second (Microsoft launched IE 3 in 1996).
* Most people used dial-up Internet connections with mighty speeds ranging from 28.8Kbps to 33.6Kbps. Highly modern 56Kbps modems would arrive in 1997.
* People had only recently started to switch from 640×480 to 800×600 screen resolutions.

We have used the good old WayBack Machine (a.k.a the Internet Archive) to track down screenshots of what websites looked like back in 1996-97.

Read more ....

Hat Tip: Geek Press

NASA Will Try To Launch Space Shuttle Wednesday

The space shuttle Endeavour sits on Launch Pad 39-A hours after being scrubbed due a hydrogen leak Saturday morning, June 13, 2009 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Seven astronauts were scheduled to liftoff on a trip to the international space station. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

From Yahoo News/AP:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA will try to launch space shuttle Endeavour again Wednesday, after repairing a hydrogen gas leak that thwarted the first attempt.

Top officials decided Monday to bump an unmanned moon mission so Endeavour could have another shot at flying to the international space station. The delayed moon mission is NASA's first in a decade and is critical to the space agency's long-term effort to return humans to the lunar surface.

Read more ....

500th Astronaut Heads For Space

From Scientific American:

A little-noticed but historic milestone will be reached this week when the 500th person ever to fly in space blasts off. The moment will come whenever NASA's shuttle Endeavour finally launches to continue building the international space station. Endeavour's crew of seven will include four rookie astronauts, making their first trip into orbit. But the crew agreed that former naval commander Chris Cassidy, 39, who has led combat missions in Afghanistan, will take the honour.

Endeavour's crew of seven will include four rookie astronauts, making their first trip into orbit. But the crew agreed that former naval commander Chris Cassidy, 39, who has led combat missions in Afghanistan, will take the honour.

Read more ....

Carbon Nanotubes May Suppress Human Immunity

Artist's impression of a carbon nanotube. Image: Digital Art/Corbis

From The Guardian:

The findings from animal research suggest workers involved in the manufacture of the materials may be at risk

Inhaling carbon nanotubes can suppress the immune system, according to scientists. The findings raise possible health concerns for those working in the manufacture of the materials.

Carbon nanotubes are rolled-up sheets of graphite thousands of times thinner than a human hair. Because they are immensely strong and are good electric conductors, they are poised for use in a wide range of fields from engineering to medicine. However, there are concerns over the similar shape of nanotubes and asbestos fibres, which are known to cause damage to the lungs in conditions such as mesothelioma.

Read more

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Test Reveals Parthenon's Hidden Colour

The Parthenon would once have been much more gaudy (Image: Roy Rainford/Robert Harding/Rex Features)

From New Scientist:

Images of the Parthenon as a stark, white structure set against an azure sky will have to change. Researchers have found the first evidence of coloured paints covering its elaborate sculptures.

The temple, which tops the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, dates from the 5th century BC. Its carved statues and friezes show scenes from Greek mythology and are some of the most impressive sculptures to survive from ancient Greece.

Pigments are known to have adorned other Greek statues and temples, but despite 200 years of searching, archaeologists had found no trace of them on the Parthenon's sculptures.

Read more ....

Five Discoveries Made While Dreaming

From The BBC:

Scientists believe that a nap can boost creative thought and help problem-solving. So what major breakthroughs in science and the arts have been made during sleep?

The old adage "I'll sleep on it" may have some truth in it, after all.

A study by researchers at the University of California San Diego has concluded that problems are more likely to be solved after a period of dreamy (rapid eye movement) sleep.

Scientists believe so-called REM sleep allows the brain to form new nerve connections without the interference of other thought pathways that occur when we are awake or in non-dreamy sleep.

Anecdotal evidence from some key figures in the arts and science suggests there could be some truth in this.

Here are some examples of major discoveries made in dreams.

Read more ....

Some Wine Can Improve If Stored In A Carton Rather Than In A Bottle

From The Economist:

AMONG snobs and sommeliers, nothing can compete with wine in a glass bottle sealed with a cork stopper. Yet as cheap alternatives to cork have become available and high fuel prices have made transporting glass more expensive, some winemakers have adopted an alternative method of storage: putting wine in cartons, like those used for milk, made from layers of polythene, paper and aluminium foil. Admittedly, serving wine from a carton lacks the aesthetic appeal of a bottle, and cartons have also been criticised for allowing flavour-destroying oxygen to seep in during storage. A new study, however, reveals that although the criticism of wine cartons for allowing oxidation is valid, they have the advantage of soaking up chemicals that can ruin the flavour in other ways.

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Evolution Can Occur In Less Than 10 Years, Guppy Study Finds

Guppies are small fresh-water fish that biologists have studied for long. (Credit: Paul Bentzen)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 15, 2009) — How fast can evolution take place? In just a few years, according to a new study on guppies led by UC Riverside's Swanne Gordon, a graduate student in biology.

Gordon and her colleagues studied guppies — small fresh-water fish biologists have studied for long — from the Yarra River, Trinidad. They introduced the guppies into the nearby Damier River, in a section above a barrier waterfall that excluded all predators. The guppies and their descendents also colonized the lower portion of the stream, below the barrier waterfall, that contained natural predators.

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Top 10 Amazing Moon Facts

From Live Science:

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), slated for launch this week, will map the moon's surface from orbit with unprecedented detail, capable even of imaging the tracks that lunar rovers left behind.

Also heading moonward is the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which will slam into the Shackleton Crater on the south pole of the moon in a few months and kick up material that could have been in shadow for 2 billion years. Another probe will slam into the moon a few minutes later at a different location.

It's all an effort to learn more about what the moon is made of, whether there is water ice in the crater, and therefore where to send U.S. astronauts in a planned return by 2020.

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Herschel Telescope 'Opens Eyes'

Key features on the Herschel space observatory. The inset compares Herschel with Hubble and the future James Webb Space Telescope.

From The BBC:

Europe's new billion-euro Herschel space observatory, launched in May, has achieved a critical milestone.

The telescope has opened the hatch that has been protecting its sensitive instruments from contamination.

The procedure allowed light collected by Herschel's giant 3.5m mirror to flood its supercold instrument chamber, or cryostat, for the first time.

The observatory's quest is to study how stars and galaxies form, and how they evolve through cosmic time.

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Crops Under Stress As Temperatures Fall

Our politicians haven't noticed that the problem may be that the world is not warming but cooling, observes Christopher Booker.

From The Telegraph:

For the second time in little over a year, it looks as though the world may be heading for a serious food crisis, thanks to our old friend "climate change". In many parts of the world recently the weather has not been too brilliant for farmers. After a fearsomely cold winter, June brought heavy snowfall across large parts of western Canada and the northern states of the American Midwest. In Manitoba last week, it was -4ÂșC. North Dakota had its first June snow for 60 years.

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My Comment: I have a farm in Southern Quebec .... we are 3 weeks behind in our planting.

How The World's Greatest Golfer Lost His Game

Ralph Guldahl tees off in front of a large gallery during a 1940s Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia (Image: Augusta National / Getty Images)

From New Scientist:

In 1939, Ralph Guldahl was a giant in the game of golf. A towering figure on the links, the taciturn Texan seemingly came from nowhere to win successive US Opens in 1937 and 1938, and then the Masters in 1939. But after writing Groove Your Golf, a step-by-step guide for beginners, Guldahl never won another championship. "He went from being the being temporarily the best player in the world, to one who couldn't play at all," said fellow PGA champion Paul Runyan. The question that has haunted golfers ever since is: did too much thinking derail one of the sport's greatest talents?

"HOW can you hit and think at the same time?" the gnomic American baseball player Yogi Berra once asked. It's a question that has hung for decades over a forgotten great of golfing: a tall, shy Texan called Ralph Guldahl.

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My Comment: This still does not explain my (lousy) game.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

NASA Builds World's Largest Space Parachute For Martian Landing

Parachute Diameter: 52 feet. (Photograph by NASA).

From Popular Mechanics:

To survive the thin Martian atmosphere, the 2000-plus-lb. Mars Science Laboratory rover will depend on the largest space parachute ever built. Here’s how NASA’s next chute will work.

When the NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover lands on Mars in 2012, it will face a unique obstacle: With an Earth weight of nearly a ton (compared to about 400 pounds for previous Mars rovers) and a Mars weight of about 750 pounds, it is too massive for any existing space parachute. So to cushion its fall through the thin Martian atmosphere (which is less than 1 percent as dense as Earth’s), NASA engineers had to come up with something really big. The new parachute opens to a diameter of 52 feet, making it twice the size of any parachute ever flown beyond Earth.

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Argentine Glacier Advances Despite Global Warming

In this May 18, 2009 file photo, a tourist looks back through a cave on Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina's Patagonia region. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

From Yahoo News/AP:

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentina's Perito Moreno glacier is one of only a few ice fields worldwide that have withstood rising global temperatures.

Nourished by Andean snowmelt, the glacier constantly grows even as it spawns icebergs the size of apartment buildings into a frigid lake, maintaining a nearly perfect equilibrium since measurements began more than a century ago.

"We're not sure why this happens," said Andres Rivera, a glacialist with the Center for Scientific Studies in Valdivia, Chile. "But not all glaciers respond equally to climate change."

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