Saturday, July 25, 2009

New Flu Treatment Outsmarts Mutations

Candy Coated: A new treatment targets “lollipop” molecules on the flu’s surface. Russell Kightley/Photo Researchers


A new drug could foil any outbreak.

Before swine flu swept through the U.S., the virus had bounced around South America undetected for years. The H1N1 strain caught scientists by surprise, and without a vaccine. But a few weeks before the first North American case popped up, researchers successfully tested a therapy that could knock out almost any flu, and possibly any virus.

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Beyond The Moon: A Chat With Buzz Aldrin

Preparing for an Apollo 11 Countdown Test: NASA


The 79-year-old astronaut says: Enough about the moon; let's go to Mars.

It's been 40 years since Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin landed the Apollo 11 lunar module in the Sea of Tranquility. Aldrin, now 79 years old, recalls that fateful day with clarity. Alarms were sounding inside the space capsule during their speedy descent, and even down to the last seconds, the astronauts were uncertain whether they would need to abort the landing. Millions of Earthlings watched on television as the Eagle touched down.

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My Comment: Still a dreamer at 79 .... and he is right.

For 13 Astronauts, A Day Off In Space

International Space Station

From Yahoo News/

The 13 people living on the International Space Station took some hard-earned time off Saturday, a welcome relief after a hectic week of orbital construction.

It's a rare rest day for the station's six-man crew and seven visiting astronauts from the space shuttle Endeavour, who have plowed through a week packed with four spacewalks and robotic arm work to upgrade the orbiting laboratory with new batteries, spare parts and - their crown jewel - a brand new Japanese porch, complete with experiments.

"On a very long mission like this, it's really important that they get some time to recuperate and recover and really just enjoy being on orbit as the first 13-person crew," space station flight director Holly Ridings told reporters late Friday.

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Building NASA's Future

Photo: Steel pieces that make up most of Ares I-X are clustered in High Bay 4 of the assembly building. The five cylinders represent the interstage and upper stage of Ares I; the final piece is the dart-shaped mock-up of the crew capsule. Credit: John Loomis

From Technology Review:

The U.S. space agency readies the first test flight of the vehicle destined for the moon.

One of the largest structures in the world, the vehicle assembly building at Kenned­y Space Center in Florida is the last stop for the space shuttle before it is rolled out to the launch pad. But with the shuttles scheduled to retire in 2010, the massive building has already become home to NASA's next launch vehicle.

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Massive Impact On Jupiter Recorded -- News Updates July 25, 2009

Closeup view of the new dark spot on Jupiter taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on July 23, 2009. (IBTimes / NASA, ESA, H. Hammel (Space Sc)

Jupiter: Our Cosmic Protector? -- The New York Times

Jupiter took a bullet for us last weekend.

An object, probably a comet that nobody saw coming, plowed into the giant planet’s colorful cloud tops sometime Sunday, splashing up debris and leaving a black eye the size of the Pacific Ocean. This was the second time in 15 years that this had happened. The whole world was watching when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fell apart and its pieces crashed into Jupiter in 1994, leaving Earth-size marks that persisted up to a year.

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More News On Jupiter's Collision

Hubble Snaps Sharpest Image Yet of Jupiter Impact -- Wired Science
Hubble image shows debris from Jupiter collision -- AP
See Jupiter's Great Black Spot -- MSNBC
Hubble restarted, captures images of Jupiter 'scar' -- International Herald Tribune
Hubble pictures Jupiter's 'scar' -- BBC
The Bruise Heard Round the World -- New York Times
Jupiter collision packed a huge wallop -- Christian Science Monitor

Europe's Mars Rover Slips To 2018

From The BBC:

Europe's flagship robotic rover mission to Mars now looks certain to leave Earth in 2018, two years later than recently proposed, the BBC understands.

The ExoMars vehicle is intended to search the Red Planet for signs of past or present life.

The delay is the third for the mission originally planned to launch in 2011.

While the switch will disappoint many people, officials say the change will open up a greatly expanded programme of exploration at the Red Planet.

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Strong Evidence That Cloud Changes May Exacerbate Global Warming

This image shows unique cloud patterns over the Pacific Ocean of the coast of Baja California, an area of great interest to Amy Clement and Robert Burgman of the University of Miami and Joel Norris of Scripps Oceanography, as they study the role of low-level clouds in climate change. (Credit: NASA)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 24, 2009) — The role of clouds in climate change has been a major question for decades. As the earth warms under increasing greenhouse gases, it is not known whether clouds will dissipate, letting in more of the sun's heat energy and making the earth warm even faster, or whether cloud cover will increase, blocking the Sun's rays and actually slowing down global warming.

In a study published in the July 24 issue of Science, researchers Amy Clement and Robert Burgman from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Joel Norris from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego begin to unravel this mystery. Using observational data collected over the last 50 years and complex climate models, the team has established that low-level stratiform clouds appear to dissipate as the ocean warms, indicating that changes in these clouds may enhance the warming of the planet.

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Permafrost Could Be Climate's Ticking Time Bomb

Gregory Lehn , a Ph. D. student in the department of Earth and planetary sciences at Northwestern University on the left, and Matt Khosh, Ph.D. student in the department of marine sciences at the University of Texas, Austin on the right, talk with Jim McClelland, professor in the department of marine sciences at the University of Texas, Austin, a co-principal investigator on the project, in the center. Credit: Andrew D. Jacobson, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University

From Live Science:

The terrain of the North Slope of Alaska is not steep, but Andrew Jacobson still has difficulty as he hikes along the spongy tundra, which is riddled with rocks and masks multitudes of mosquitoes.

Jacobson, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at Northwestern University, extracts soil and water samples in search of clues to one of global warming's biggest ticking time bombs: the melting of permafrost.

Permafrost, or frozen ground, covers approximately 20 to 25 percent of the land-surface area in the northern hemisphere, and is estimated to contain up to 1,600 gigatons of carbon, primarily in the form of organic matter. (One gigaton is equivalent to one billion tons.)

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Monolayer Nanotechnology Will Enable Silicon to Maintain Conductance for Smaller Devices And Sustain Moore's Law Progress

From The Next Big Future:

Scientists at Rice University and North Carolina State University have found a method of attaching molecules to semiconducting silicon that may help manufacturers reach beyond the current limits of Moore's Law as they make microprocessors both smaller and more powerful.

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Traffic Hydrocarbons Linked To Lower IQs In Kids

From Science News:

Prenatal exposures to common air pollutants correlate with drop in intelligence scores.

Here’s a dirty little secret about polluted urban air: It can shave almost 5 points off of a young child’s IQ, a new report suggests.

That’s no small loss, says Kimberly Gray, whose federal agency cofinanced the study, to appear in the August Pediatrics.

Normally, baseline environmental exposures to a pollutant yield at most a subtle change — one that is hard to detect and with impacts that are hard to gauge, says Gray, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C. But the new study shows that children heavily exposed in the womb to common combustion pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons had, by kindergarten age, an IQ some 4.5 points lower than that of kids with minimal fetal exposures.

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Apollo 11 Experiment Still Going After 40 Years

From Yahoo News/Space:

The Apollo 11 astronauts returned from the moon 40 years ago today, but they left behind more than footprints. An experiment they placed on the moon's surface is still running to this day.

The Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment is the only moon investigation to continuously operate since the Apollo 11 mission. The experiment studies the Earth-Moon system and beams the data to labs around the world, including NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

"Yes, we are still going," said James Williams, a JPL scientist involved with the experiment, in an e-mail interview.

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Is the Sun Missing Its Spots?

SUN GAZING These photos show sunspots near solar maximum on July 19, 2000, and near solar minimum on March 18, 2009. Some global warming skeptics speculate that the Sun may be on the verge of an extended slumber. NASA

From The New York Times:

The Sun is still blank (mostly).

Ever since Samuel Heinrich Schwabe, a German astronomer, first noted in 1843 that sunspots burgeon and wane over a roughly 11-year cycle, scientists have carefully watched the Sun’s activity. In the latest lull, the Sun should have reached its calmest, least pockmarked state last fall.

Indeed, last year marked the blankest year of the Sun in the last half-century — 266 days with not a single sunspot visible from Earth. Then, in the first four months of 2009, the Sun became even more blank, the pace of sunspots slowing more.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Alien-Wasp Swarms Devouring Birds, Bugs in Hawaii

Invasive western yellowjacket wasps in Hawaii (above, a wasp eats an unidentified insect near another wasp) are munching their way through an "astonishing diversity" of creatures, from caterpillars to ring-necked pheasants, a July 2009 study says. The voracious wasps, which have exploded in their new habitat, can wipe out whole swaths of prey insects surrounding their nests. Photograph courtesy Erin Wilson

From National Geographic:

Attacking from nests as big as pickup-truck beds, invasive western yellowjacket wasps in Hawaii are munching their way through an "astonishing diversity" of creatures, from caterpillars to pheasants, a new study says.

Adult yellowjackets consume only nectar. But they kill or scavenge prey to deliver needed protein to their growing broods.

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Nasa Finds Monster Black Hole Sucking Up Gas, Dust And Stars At Centre Of Galaxy

The galaxy NGC-1097 with a monstrous black hole surrounded by a ring of stars at its centre

From The Telegraph:

Nasa has found a monster black hole 100 million times the mass of the Sun feeding off gas, dust and stars at the centre of a galaxy 50 million light-years away.

The star-ringed black hole forms the eye of a galaxy called NGC-1097 which was photographed by the US space agency's Spitzer Space Telescope in California.

A black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational pull is so powerful that nothing, including whole planets, can escape being sucked in if they come within its reach.

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Sensational Collection Of Satellite Images Captures Earth's Natural Wonders From Space

This image shows how dust from the Sahara desert blew all the way over the British Isles

From The Daily Mail:

For decades, man has gazed up at the stars and marvelled at the wonders of the universe.

But, as this amazing selection of images shows, there are many mind-blowing sights to behold from the other direction.

Pictures taken by astronauts and Nasa satellites give a fascinating bird's-eye view of Earth's natural wonders - including hurricanes, volcanoes and other powerful weather formations - from space.

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What NASA's Return To The Moon May Look Like

To explore the lunar surface, NASA envisions a pressurised rover that will act as a mobile habitat, allowing astronauts to explore the lunar surface for weeks at a time without returning to their base. If supply depots are scattered along the way, these rovers could potentially have a range of hundreds of kilometres. (Image: Regan Geeseman)

From New Scientist:

The Apollo era may have ended as funding fizzled, and the programme's astronauts may be bigger fans of Mars, but the hope of returning to the moon never really went away.

Twenty years ago, on the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, then-President George H. W. Bush proposed that the US build a base on the moon and send an expedition to Mars. The call fell flat with Congress, which never provided the funding to back up the plan.

But a decade and a half later, his son, President George W. Bush, articulated a similar vision with a clear deadline – an aim to return humans to the moon by 2020, as a stepping-stone on the way to Mars.

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Wireless Power System Shown Off

From BBC:

A system that can deliver power to devices without the need for wires has been shown off at a hi-tech conference.

The technique exploits simple physics and can be used to charge a range of electronic devices over many metres.

Eric Giler, chief executive of US firm Witricity, showed mobile phones and televisions charging wirelessly at the TED Global conference in Oxford.

He said the system could replace the miles of expensive power cables and billions of disposable batteries.

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China Announces First Panda From Frozen Sperm

From Yahoo News/AP:

BEIJING – China announced the first successful birth of a panda cub from artificial insemination using frozen sperm, giving a new option for the notoriously poor breeders, officials said Friday.

Panda females have only three days a year in which they can conceive — one reason their species is endangered.

Female panda You You (pronounced Yo Yo) gave birth to the new cub Thursday morning at the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center in southwestern Sichuan. It is You You's third baby, and the 10th panda cub born at Wolong this year.

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Auroras In Northern And Southern Hemispheres Are Not Identical

Asymmetric aurora. (Credit: Polar VIS Earth (J. B. Sigwarth) and IMAGE WIC (S. B. Mende))

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 24, 2009) — Norwegian researchers have shown that the auroras in the Northern and the Southern hemispheres can be totally asymmetric. These findings contradict the commonly made assumption of aurora being mirror images of each other.

The study was performed by PhD student Karl Magnus Laundal and professor Nikolai Østgaard at the Institute of Physics and Technology at the University of Bergen.

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Money Relieves Pain

Money dulls physical pain and eases the sting of rejection, new research shows.

From Live Science:

Money dulls physical pain and eases the sting of social rejection, new research shows.

Through six experiments, psychologists and a marketing professor probed the power of money as a proxy for social acceptance. Among their results, they found that merely touching bills or thinking about expenses paid affected the participants both physically and emotionally.

Because it affects pain, money may be a clue to how the brain evolved to process social interactions, the researchers wrote in a paper published in the June edition of the journal Psychological Science.

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My Comment: And a lack of money causes a lot of pain and grief. Tell me sonething that I do not know.

New NASA Administrator Delays Ares Launch, Decries "Path We Are On"

Bolden Looks Ahead: NASA administrator Charles Bolden testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate on July 8, 2009. NASA/Bill Ingalls


Charlie Bolden rips off the Spock mask, and the space agency delays its new rocket test until Halloween

Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin once likened himself to Spock in his rational, emotionally-detached approach. Now Griffin's replacement, Charles Bolden, seems ready to inject new passion into a space agency that is struggling to reevaluate both long term goals and its vision for space exploration.

The new administrator choked up five times during a speech to agency employees on Tuesday where he pushed back against criticism that President Obama is uncommitted to space exploration, according to the Washington Post. Part of that emotional upwelling came as Bolden described meeting with the Apollo 11 astronauts on the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.

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100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About

From Geek Dad/Wired Science:

There are some things in this world that will never be forgotten, this week’s 40th anniversary of the moon landing for one. But Moore’s Law and our ever-increasing quest for simpler, smaller, faster and better widgets and thingamabobs will always ensure that some of the technology we grew up with will not be passed down the line to the next generation of geeks.

That is, of course, unless we tell them all about the good old days of modems and typewriters, slide rules and encyclopedias …

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CSI Stone Age: Did Humans Kill Neanderthals?

A painting imagines the world of Neanderthal men
Mansell / Time Life Pictures / Getty

From Time Magazine:

It is one of the world's oldest cold cases. Sometime between 50,000 and 75,000 years ago, a Neanderthal male known to scientists as Shanidar 3 received a wound to his torso, limped back to his cave in what is now Iraq and died several weeks later. When his skeleton was pieced together in the late 1950s and early '60s, scientists were stumped by a rib wound that almost surely killed him, hypothesizing that it could have been caused by a hunting accident or even a fellow Neanderthal. New research suggests that Shanidar 3 may have had a more familiar killer: a human being.

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Historic Snow Event In South America

In Bahia Blanca, a coastal city in the Southern part of the Buenos Aires, the snow storm is heavy and local authorities describe it as the worst snow event in 50 years. Roads are already blocked by snow and ice in the regional. TN news channel reports some areas of the Sierra de La Ventana could pick up even 3 feet of snow, unimaginable to the region.

From Watts Up With That:

Early this Wednesday afternoon, satellite pictures were showing a band of clouds advancing to the North and snow precipitation could no be ruled out in the capital Buenos Aires. In July 9th and 10th 2007 it snowed in the city of Buenos Aires for the first time in 89 years and it could snow again just two years later. Snow was also reported in the capital of Chile Santiago. MetSul Weather Center is not ruling out snow also in Uruguay.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Discovery Suggests Trees Evolved Camouflage Defense Against Long Extinct Predator

Pseudopanax crassifolius, adult foliage and developing fruit, Mangaweka, Central North Island, New Zealand. The Araliaceae tree has several defences which researchers suggest are linked to the historic presence of moa. Seedlings produce small narrow leaves, which appear mottled to the human eye. Saplings meanwhile produce larger, more elongated leaves with thorn-like dentitions. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain Image)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 23, 2009) — Many animal species such as snakes, insects and fish have evolved camouflage defences to deter attack from their predators. However research published in New Phytologist has discovered that trees in New Zealand have evolved a similar defence to protect themselves from extinct giant birds, providing the first evidence of this strategy in plant life.

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Far-Out Photo: Sunrise in Space

This sunrise was photographed with a handheld camera by astronauts during space shuttle mission STS-127 on July 17, 2009. Credit: NASA

From Live Science:

Astronauts orbiting Earth see a lot more sunrises and sunsets that those of us stranded on the surface. They circle the planet every 90 minutes, and the sun just keeps coming.

A new picture of a sunrise from space was taken with a handheld camera by astronauts Friday on the day the Space Shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station during shuttle mission STS-127.

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The Business Of Personal Genomes

Image: Genomic profile: Shown here is a close-up look at a genetic sequence done by Knome, a personal genomics startup in Cambridge, MA. The image shows a chromosome (top) and the letter-by-letter sequence (bottom) in a small section of that chromosome. The pink box highlights a specific genetic variation. Credit: Knome

From Technology Review:

Jorge Conde speaks on the complexities of personal genomics.

In some ways, Jorge Conde, cofounder of the genomics startup Knome, knows his clients more intimately than any other company president. Knome is the first company to sequence and analyze a consumer's complete genome. And Conde and his team have spent a full day with each member of their select clientele, going through the minute details of the results in search of hidden genomic time bombs, subtle health risks, and other information.

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Living, Breeding Mice Grown From Skin Cells

From Wired Science:

Cells from flakes of skin have grown into living, breeding mice, through a bit of biotechnological wizardry.

This feat helps confirm that reprogrammed adult cells, considered a potentially convenient source of stem cell therapies, share the shape-changing powers of embryonic stem cells.

The goal was to create an animal made entirely from reprogrammed cells, and to confirm that reprogrammed cells “are as good as embryonic stem cells,” said Beijing National Stem Cell Bank director Qi Zhou, co-author of the study published Thursday in Nature.

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Circus Performer's Flight Preview Steals NASA Show

In this image provided by NASA the Japanese Logistics Module is handed over from Endeavour's remote manipulator system to the space station's remote manipulator system during unberthing and mating operations Tuesday July 21, 2009. (AP Photo/NASA)

From Yahoo News/AP:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A former stiltwalker and fire-eater stole NASA's show Thursday, saying he'll be "like a kid in a candy store" experimenting with zero-gravity tricks on his upcoming tourist trip to the international space station.

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte is shelling out a reported $35 million for his round-trip ticket aboard a Russian spacecraft. He will rocket into orbit from Kazakhstan at the end of September with a professional astronaut and cosmonaut, and spend more than a week at the space station.

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The Cost Of Maintaning The Climate Industry -- A Commentary

Government Monopsony Distorts Climate Science, says SPPI -- Trans World News

The climate industry is costing taxpayers $79 billion and counting.

The Science and Public Policy Institute announces the publication of Climate Money, a study by Joanne Nova revealing that the federal Government has a near-monopsony on climate science funding. This distorts the science towards self-serving alarmism. Key findings:

The US Government has spent more than $79 billion of taxpayers’ money since 1989 on policies related to climate change, including science and technology research, administration, propaganda campaigns, foreign aid, and tax breaks. Most of this spending was unnecessary.

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Testing Relativity, Black Holes And Strange Attractors In The Laboratory

Through the optical-mechanical analogy, metamaterials and other advanced optical materials can be used to study such celestial phenomena as black holes, strange attractors and gravitational lenses. Here an air-GaInAsP metamaterial mimics a photon-sphere, one of the key black hole phenomena in its interactions with light. (Credit: Xiang Zhang)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 22, 2009) — Even Albert Einstein might have been impressed. His theory of general relativity, which describes how the gravity of a massive object, such as a star, can curve space and time, has been successfully used to predict such astronomical observations as the bending of starlight by the sun, small shifts in the orbit of the planet Mercury and the phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. Now, however, it may soon be possible to study the effects of general relativity in bench-top laboratory experiments.

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Could Extinct Animals Be Resurrected From Frozen Samples?

Julie Feinstein, a collection manager at the American Museum of Natural History, removes frozen animal tissue samples from a vat. The museum will store samples from endangered species in national parks. Credit: R. Mickens/AMNH

From Live Science:

Futurists have proposed that extinct animals could be resurrected some day via cloning of their DNA extracted from bone or frozen tissue.

There is little agreement on this, but a new project to store tiny samples of tissue from endangered animals at New York's natural history museum again prompts questions on whether this approach might be insurance against extinction, not just a valuable data repository for biologists.

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Language Learning Deciphered

A 9-month-old Finnish girl listend to the sounds of English, Finnish and Mandarin Chinese while in a MEG machine. New research shows just how children's brains can become bilingual so easily, and scientists are trying to turn those findings into technology that helps adults learn a new language a bit easier. (AP/University of Washington)

From Stltoday:

WASHINGTON -- The best time to learn a foreign language: Between birth and age 7. Missed that window?

New research is showing just how children's brains can become bilingual so easily, findings that scientists hope eventually could help the rest of us learn a new language a bit easier.

"We think the magic that kids apply to this learning situation, some of the principles, can be imported into learning programs for adults," says Dr. Patricia Kuhl of the University of Washington, who is part of an international team now trying to turn those lessons into more teachable technology.

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Hawaii Chosen To Host World's Largest Telescope

From RIA Novosti:

MOSCOW, July 22 (RIA Novosti) - The world's largest telescope, which could offer a glimpse into the beginning of the universe, will be built on top of the dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii, a consortium of U.S. and Canadian universities has announced.

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), named for the diameter of its primary mirror, will be able to detect light that has taken 13 billion years to reach the Earth, effectively allowing scientists to see pictures of the past, such as how stars and galaxies were formed in the early years of the universe.

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Gates Puts Feynman Lectures Online

From New York Times:

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates believes that if he had been able to watch physicist Richard Feynman lecture on physics in 1964 his life might have played out differently.

Mr. Gates, of course, is legendary as a Harvard University dropout who went on to create the world’s most successful software firm. He has told associates that if had watched the lectures earlier in his life he might have become a physicist instead of a software entrepreneur.

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Astronauts Cut Spacewalk Short Due To Suit Trouble

In this image from NASA television, Endeavour astronaut Christopher Cassidy makes his way around the space station during a spacewalk to replace four nickel-hydrogen batteries Wednesday, July 22, 2009. (AP Photo/NASA TV)

From The AP:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two astronauts cut short their spacewalk and hurried back to the safety of the international space station on Wednesday after a suit problem resulted in rising carbon dioxide levels for one of the men.

NASA officials stressed that spacewalker Christopher Cassidy was never in any danger and experienced no symptoms of carbon dioxide buildup.

The trouble cropped up late in Wednesday's spacewalk, the third for shuttle Endeavour's crew.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lighting Revolution Forecast By Top Scientist

In search of the 60 - year household light bulb - packaged green LEDs on InGaN multiple quantum well devices grown at Cambridge University. (Credit: Image courtesy of AlphaGalileo Foundation)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 22, 2009) — New developments in a substance which emits brilliant light could lead to a revolution in lighting for the home and office in five years, claims a leading UK materials scientist, Professor Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University. The source of the huge potential he foresees, gallium nitride (GaN), is already used for some lighting applications such as camera flashes, bicycle lights, mobile phones and interior lighting for buses, trains and planes.

But making it possible to use GaN for home and office lighting is the Holy Grail. If achieved, it could reduce the typical electricity consumption for lighting of a developed country by around 75% while delivering major cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from power stations, and preserving fossil fuel reserves.

Read more ....

Scramjets Promise Space Travel For All

Business-class return to space, please (Image:NASA)

From New Scientist:

ON A bright autumn morning five years ago, the space-flight community was turned on its head by a little teardrop-shaped spacecraft built in a small workshop in California's Mojave desert. The successful flight of SpaceShipOne on 29 September 2004, the first of two flights en route to winning the $10 million Ansari X prize, seemed to usher in a new era of space travel - one in which space flight would be affordable, frequent and, perhaps most importantly, accessible to all.

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Massive New Zealand Quake Moves Country West

From Yahoo News/AP:

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Southern New Zealand has moved slightly closer to the east coast of neighboring Australia as a result of a massive earthquake last week off the country's South Island, a scientist said Wednesday.

The magnitude 7.8 quake, centered in the ocean near Resolution Island in the country's Fiordland region, twisted South Island out of shape and moved its southern tip 12 inches (30 centimeters) closer to Australia, seismologist Ken Gledhill said.

Gledhill, director of government-owned GNS Science's "GeoNet" national earthquake monitoring project, said the island's geographic shift showed the immensity of the forces involved.

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John S. Barry, Main Force Behind WD-40, Dies at 84

From CNBC:

John S. Barry, an executive who masterminded the spread of WD-40, the petroleum-based lubricant and protectant created for the space program, into millions of American households, died on July 3 in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. He was 84.

The cause was pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease, said Garry Ridge, president and chief executive of the WD-40 Company.

The company says surveys show that WD-40, the slippery stuff in the blue and yellow aerosol can, can be found in as many as 80 percent of American homes and that it has at least 2,000 uses, most discovered by users themselves. These include silencing squeaky hinges, removing road tar from automobiles and protecting tools from rust.

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Unsung Heroes Save Net From Chaos

The same social structures that drive Wikipedia also keep the net healthy

From BBC:

Crack teams of volunteers keep the net online and functioning, according to leading internet lawyer Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard University.

The way data is divided up and sent around the internet in many jumps makes it "delicate and vulnerable" to attacks or mistakes, he said.

However, he added, the "random acts of kindness" of these unsung heroes quietly keep the net in working order.

Professor Zittrain's comments came at the TED Global conference in Oxford.

Incidents such as when the Pakistan government took YouTube offline in 2008 exposed the web's underlying fragility, he explained.

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For Scientists, Moon Rocks Tell Story Of A Young Earth

From Philadelphia Inquirer:

For 40 years, the rocks hauled back from the moon have been changing the history of the Earth as we knew it.

The lunar rocks suggest that a smaller planet slammed into ours 4.5 billion years ago, creating the moon and enlarging the Earth. They tell the tale of a storm of space debris violently pounding both the Earth and moon, perhaps triggered by a dramatic reshuffling of the entire solar system.

Scientists today are still studying those rocks, hoping to decipher whether life had already emerged before the near-apocalyptic pummeling 3.9 billion years ago - and, incredibly, survived.

Read more ....

Scientists Capitalize On Extended Solar Eclipse

On Wednesday, 2009 July 22, a total eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses half of Earth. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow begins in India and crosses through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. After leaving mainland Asia, the path crosses Japan's Ryukyu Islands and curves southeast through the Pacific Ocean where the maximum duration of totality reaches 6 min 39 s. A partial eclipse is seen within the much broader path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes most of eastern Asia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: F. Espenak / NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 22, 2009) — Scientists at an observatory outside Hangzhou joined residents and tourists across China and India in observing the longest total solar eclipse in a century and probably the most-viewed ever.

The moon's shadow traced a path across the world's two most populous countries before racing across the Pacific, providing a view of totality for five minutes and 36 seconds for scientists gathered here from around the world as part of the Williams College Eclipse Expedition.

Read more

Human Stabbed A Neanderthal, Evidence Suggests

Steven Churchill of Duke University is holding a replica of a Neanderthal-type spear (left hand) and a spear thrower and dart (right hand) that would have been similar to weapons used by early modern humans tens of thousands of years ago. Credit: Duke Photo by Les Todd.

From Live Science:

Newly analyzed remains suggest that a modern human killed a Neanderthal man in what is now Iraq between 50,000 and 75,000 years ago. The finding is scant but tantalizing evidence for a theory that modern humans helped to kill off the Neanderthals.

The probable weapon of choice: A thrown spear.

The evidence: A lethal wound on the remains of a Neanderthal skeleton.

The victim: A 40- to 50-year-old male, now called Shanidar 3, with signs of arthritis and a sharp, deep slice in his left ninth rib.

Read more ....

My Comment: I am skeptical that one can say that it was a "human" who did it .... but it is still intriguing.

Made In China: The Monster Dust Cloud That Completed A Full Circle Of The Globe In Just Thirteen Days

Phenomenal: An enormous dust cyclone swirls over northeastern China

From The Daily Mail:

It was a natural phenomenon that would have tested the limits of even Mr Muscle.

Scientists in Japan have found that clouds generated by a massive dust storm in China's Taklimakan desert in 2007 completed more than one full circle around the planet in just 13 days.

And measuring around 1.9 miles vertically and up to 1,242 miles horizontally, the dust cloud - which formed in the northwestern region of Xinjiang - stayed in that formation the whole way.

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How To Use Your iMac As A Second Screen

The 17in iMac on display at Macworld 2002 in New York.
(Photograph by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

From Popular Mechanics:

Can you use your iMac's built-in monitor as a second screen for another computer? The answer is yes. Here's how.

My iMac has a built-in monitor. Is there a way of using this as a second screen for another computer?

When it comes to screen space, you can never go overboard. Large monitor and multiscreen set-ups make it easy to multitask, and have been shown by a number of studies to boost productivity. It’s a shame, then, that Apple doesn’t build video input jacks into its iMacs—these all-in-one computers have a built-in monitor, and it’d be nice to be able to use it with other systems. This would be particularly useful for laptop users looking for a way to expand screen space when they aren’t on the road.

But even without an input jack, you can still put an iMac to work as an external monitor for another com­puter. You’ll need a program called ScreenRecycler, which employs what is called the VNC, or Virtual Network Computing, protocol. VNC is usually used as a way to allow one computer to remotely access and control ­another, but ScreenRecycler uses it to turn the second computer into an adjunct monitor. Note, though, that while the second screen can come from any type of computer (even a laptop), the com­puter you’re working on has to be a Mac.

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A Reprogrammable Space Probe Design For Mission Multitasking in Orbit

The Juno Space Probe: Honest to blog courtesy of NASA


Multi-purpose hardware lets Japanese satellite change its mission on the fly.

Right now, thousands of satellites are circling the Earth. They're a diverse bunch. Some relay telephone calls, some spy on North Korea, some monitor the weather. But they all have one thing in common: each can only do one thing. A spy satellite can't suddenly start forecasting storms, and a communications satellite can't study asteroids.

Well, that's all about to change.

Researchers at the Institute of Space Systems at the University of Stuttgart, Germany, have designed a variable-function satellite that can alter its mission on the fly.

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Thinkers Meet To Plot The Future

From BBC:

Leading thinkers in technology, design and science are gathering in Oxford to share their ideas about the future.

TED Global (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is the European cousin of an already established top US event.

The invitation-only conferences are dedicated to "ideas worth spreading" and have seen talks by former US presidents and Nobel Laureates.

This year's event will explore questions in neuroscience, astrophysics and economics.

"It is about all the hidden, invisible, not yet discovered or fully explored parts of our lives, society and the world," said Bruno Giussani, European director of TED.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How Do You Sneeze In A Spacesuit? Very Carefully

In this 19 July 2009 photo provided by NASA shows Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette float onto the mid deck of the space shuttle Endeavour, where she joins astronaut Dave Wolf, who makes an entry on a laptop computer. The two STS-127 mission specialists are part of a seven member shuttle crew currently visiting the International Space Station, which is now docked with the shuttle. (AP Photo/NASA)

From Yahoo News/AP:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – When it comes to sneezing in a spacesuit while in the void of space, it is best to aim well.

That's the advice lead spacewalker David Wolf offered Tuesday while answering one of the questions posted on YouTube for the crew of the space shuttle Endeavor.

"I've done it quite a few times, most recently yesterday," said Wolf, who led the mission's second spacewalk Monday and was set to go on a third spacewalk Wednesday. "You learn in training, and I don't know how to say this, aim well. It can mess up your view and there is no way to clear it."

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Everest Revealed From Above In British Balloonist's Breathtaking Panoramic Shot Of World's Highest Peaks

(Click Image to Enlarge)
'Best snap on Earth': Everest dominates the picture, shot from 36,000ft and in -56C temperatures by Leo Dickinson on the world's first-ever balloon flight over the highest mountain. The curvature of the planet is exaggerated by the wide-angle lens

From The Daily Mail:

This awe-inspiring photograph captures the majesty of Mount Everest as you've never seen it before - from more than a mile above.

The spectacular panorama shows the breathtaking landscape of the Himalayas from six miles above sea level.

It was shot by an intrepid British photographer wearing breathing apparatus in -56C temperatures 36,000 feet up.

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10 Reasons Why Apollo 11 Moon Landing Was Awesome

From Wired News/Geek Dad:

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Forty years ago mission commander Neil A. Armstrong and lunar module pilot Edwin Eugene ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr. walked on the moon while command module pilot Michael Collins orbited above. Today however, marks the 40th anniversary of the day people really reacted to what just happened. As with all major events in time, there is always a day of reflection. I’d like to honor that day of reflection with my top 10 thoughts about the Apollo 11 moon landing.

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