Saturday, August 22, 2009

How Do Scientists Really Use Computers?

From American Scientist:

Computers are now essential tools in every branch of science, but we know remarkably little about how—or how well—scientists use them. Do most scientists use off-the-shelf software or write their own? Do they really need state-of-the-art supercomputers to solve their problems, or can they do most of what they need to on desktop machines? And how much time do grad students really spend patching their supervisors’ crusty old Fortran programs?

Read more ....

First Avatar Trailer Reveals Pandora’s Intoxicating Alien World

From Underwire/Wired Science:

The new Avatar trailer gives the world its first glimpse of the alien world dreamed up by James Cameron for his coming sci-fi epic.

The fast-paced clip is short on dialogue and long on brief flashes of the dazzling flora and fauna that inhabit Pandora, the distant moon where the movie’s sweeping action unfolds.

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Mysterious Origins: 8 Phenomena That Defy Explanation

Photo: A UNIVERSE OF MYSTERIES: Why aren't there suns, planets and galaxies made of antimatter? NASA

From Scientific American:

The unknown origins behind language, handedness, flu seasons, superconductivity, antimatter, proton spin, cosmic rays and sex.

Our September 2009 special issue on origins contains articles on 57 innovations and insights that shape our world today. They include some big ones, like the origin of life, the universe and the mind; sobering stories, like mad cow disease and HIV; and whimsical tales, like paper clips and cupcakes. This past week, we've posted a dozen additional online-only origins: the open-plan office space, fruit ripening, malaria, the computer mouse, atmospheric oxygen, hatred, wine, dogs, rubber boots, zero and, of course, Scientific American.

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Engineers Develop Flexible, Inorganic LED Display

Flexible Inorganic LED Pacific Northwest National Lab via Ars Technica

From Popular Science:

The promise of OLED technology is that, unlike its inorganic counterpart, it can be used to create flexible and nearly transparent ultra-thin screens, opening up myriad possibilities for what we can do with displays and lighting. But just as market-ready OLED technology suffered a setback as Sony delayed its latest OLED television this week (only the world’s second commercial OLED TV, after Sony's XEL-1 set), engineers have devised a way to make cheaper, more efficient inorganic LED technology bend to their whims. Literally.

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The Crew Of STS-128

STS128-S-002 (30 Jan. 2009) --- Attired in training versions of their shuttle launch and entry suits, these seven astronauts take a break from training to pose for the STS-128 crew portrait. Seated are NASA astronauts Rick Sturckow (right), commander; and Kevin Ford, pilot. From the left (standing) are astronauts Jose Hernandez, John "Danny" Olivas, Nicole Stott, European Space Agency's Christer Fuglesang and Patrick Forrester, all mission specialists. Stott is scheduled to join Expedition 20 as flight engineer after launching to the International Space Station on STS-128.

From Yahoo News/Space:

A former off-road racer, a Swedish physicist and three tweeting astronauts form just part of the eclectic crew poised to blast off Tuesday aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery.

Discovery's six-man, one-woman crew is slated to launch on a 13-day mission to the International Space Station, where they astronauts will deliver vital supplies and experiments, as well as a new crewmember for the orbiting laboratory.

"This is a great crew," said Discovery commander Rick Sturckow in a NASA interview. "I think from the very beginning we got off to a good start and we've maintained a good pace throughout the training ... and still manage to have fun together doing it, so I've really enjoyed training with this crew."

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Space Shuttle Discovery On Track For Tuesday Launch

Space shuttle Discovery back on Earth (AFP: Pierre Ducharme)

From Yahoo News/Space:

NASA's space shuttle Discovery is on track for a planned Tuesday launch toward the International Space Station, mission managers said Saturday.

The shuttle and its seven-astronaut crew are nearly ready for their predawn launch Tuesday at 1:36 a.m. EDT (0536 GMT) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said NASA test director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson.

"All of our vehicle systems are in good shape. Our countdown work is progressing well," Blackwell-Thompson said today in a morning status briefing. "Discovery and her launch team are ready to go."

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Universal Vaccine Could Put An End To All Flu

From New Scientist:

IT IS not a nice way to die. As the virus spreads through your lungs, your immune system goes into overdrive. Your lungs become leaky and fill with fluid. Your lips and nails, then your skin, turn blue as you struggle to get enough oxygen. Basically, you drown.

Flu can kill in other ways, too, from rendering you vulnerable to bacterial infections to triggering heart attacks. Of course, most flu strains, including (so far) the 2009 pandemic virus, cause only mild symptoms in the vast majority of people. But with 10 to 20 per cent of people worldwide getting flu every year, that still adds up to a huge burden of illness - and even in a good year some half a million die.

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Evolution Of The Human Appendix: A Biological 'Remnant' No More

Normal location of the appendix relative to other organs of the digestive system (frontal view). (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Aug. 21, 2009) — The lowly appendix, long-regarded as a useless evolutionary artifact, won newfound respect two years ago when researchers at Duke University Medical Center proposed that it actually serves a critical function. The appendix, they said, is a safe haven where good bacteria could hang out until they were needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty case of diarrhea, for example.

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What You Should Know About Arthritis

A graphic shows what's inside your joints, and what can go wrong.

From Live Science:

This Week's Question: I'm pretty sure I have arthritis in my knee. Is there any danger this will spread?

First, anyone who thinks they may have arthritis should see a doctor. Self-diagnosis is hazardous to your health. Now for some information about arthritis all geezers should know.

Arthritis, which comes in different forms, is inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout are the three most common forms of arthritis among seniors. Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent. None is contagious.

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You Are What You Listen To, Says New Study Of Music Lovers

Playlists can give an insight into your personality Photo: GETTY IMAGES

From The Telegraph:

Think twice before proudly showing off your iPod playlist. Your choice of music may mark you out as boring, dim and unattractive, according to new research from the University of Cambridge.

The study found that we make assumptions about someone’s personality, values, social class and ethnicity based on their musical preferences.

Classical buffs are seen as ugly and boring, while rock lovers are regarded as emotionally unstable and pop fans are considered to be rather dim.

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Let Private Sector Help NASA

From Autopia/Wired News:

After leading the way in the human exploration of space for nearly 50 years, the future of U.S. manned space flight is in question. The space shuttle makes its last flight next year. After that, NASA must rely on the Russians to put astronauts in space.

Unless the country looks to the private sector.

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Yahoo Wins Appeal Of Music-Streaming Case

From CNET:

A three-judge panel ruled Friday that Yahoo will not have to pay up every time it plays a song on its Internet radio service, affirming an earlier verdict.

In what is being seen as a defeat for the music industry, Yahoo Music was not deemed "interactive" enough to require the company to negotiate with record companies for the rights to play songs over the Internet. Instead, according to Reuters, it merely has to pay licensing fees to digital music rights organization SoundExchange.

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France Worried By Hornet Invasion

The Asian predatory wasp could threaten bee-keepers' livelihoods

From The BBC:

France faces an invasion of Chinese hornets that could hasten the decline of the honeybee population.

The wasps, known by their scientific name Vespa velutina, could also threaten bee-keepers' livelihoods, researchers say.

They have spread rapidly in south-western France - a region popular with tourists - and could reach other European countries soon.

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Why We Walk in Circles

Into the woods. People walking through a forest were more likely to walk in circles on cloudy days (blue paths) than they were on days when the sun was visible (yellow paths). Credit: (Map) Adapted from Google Earth by J. L. Souman et al., Current Biology 19 (20 August 2009); (inset: Jan Souman)

From Science Now:

Adventure stories and horror movies ramp up the tension when hapless characters walk in circles. The Blair Witch Project, for example, wouldn't have been half as scary if those students had managed to walk in a straight line out of the forest. But is this navigation glitch real or just a handy plot device? A new study finds that people really do tend to walk in circles when they lack landmarks to guide them.

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End Of Civil War Opens Up Angolan 'Jurassic Park'

Fossils are seen in the Bentiaba desert, southern province of Namibe in Angola. Much of Angola's fossil richness results from dramatic continental shifts tens of millions of years ago, which saw the land transform from desert to tropics. (AFP/HO/File/Anne Schulp)

From Yahoo News.AFP:

LUANDA (AFP) – Angola is best known for oil and diamonds, but dinosaur hunters say the country holds a "museum in the ground" of rare fossils -- some actually jutting from the earth -- waiting to be discovered.

"Angola is the final frontier for palaeontology," explained Louis Jacobs, of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, part of the PaleoAngola project which is hunting for dinosaur fossils.

"Due to the war, there's been little research carried out so far, but now we're getting in finally and there's so much to find.

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Building Safer Airplanes Out of Teeth

Smile for Airplane Safety!: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk USAF Museum

From Popular Science:

In a recent study, molars beat materials science.

Airplane design could be improved with a little inspiration from mammalian chompers. Or so said aerospace engineer Herzl Chai of Tel Aviv University in a press release Wednesday.

Read more ....

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Origin of Zero

ZERO IN: The number zero developed in fits and starts over thousands of years.

From Scientific American:

Much ado about nothing: First a placeholder and then a full-fledged number, zero had many inventors.

The number zero as we know it arrived in the West circa 1200, most famously delivered by Italian mathematician Fibonacci (aka Leonardo of Pisa), who brought it, along with the rest of the Arabic numerals, back from his travels to north Africa. But the history of zero, both as a concept and a number, stretches far deeper into history—so deep, in fact, that its provenance is difficult to nail down.

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A Look Into The Hellish Cradles Of Suns And Solar Systems

The dense star cluster RCW 38 glistens about 5500 light years away in the direction of the constellation Vela (the Sails). RCW 38 is an "embedded" cluster, in that the nascent cloud of dust and gas still envelops its stars. (Credit: Image courtesy of ESO)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2009) — New images released today by ESO delve into the heart of a cosmic cloud, called RCW 38, crowded with budding stars and planetary systems. There, young stars bombard fledgling suns and planets with powerful winds and blazing light, helped in their task by short-lived, massive stars that explode as supernovae. In some cases, this onslaught cooks away the matter that may eventually form new solar systems. Scientists think that our own Solar System emerged from such an environment.

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Human Lifespans Nearly Constant for 2,000 Years

From Live Science:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, often the harbinger of bad news about e. coli outbreaks and swine flu, recently had some good news: The life expectancy of Americans is higher than ever, at almost 78.

Discussions about life expectancy often involve how it has improved over time. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy for men in 1907 was 45.6 years; by 1957 it rose to 66.4; in 2007 it reached 75.5. Unlike the most recent increase in life expectancy (which was attributable largely to a decline in half of the leading causes of death including heart disease, homicide, and influenza), the increase in life expectancy between 1907 and 2007 was largely due to a decreasing infant mortality rate, which was 9.99 percent in 1907; 2.63 percent in 1957; and 0.68 percent in 2007.

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Artificial Life Will Be Created 'Within Months' As Genome Experts Claim Vital Breakthrough

Breakthrough: New DNA was protected by a process called methylation (step 5)

From The Daily Mail:

Scientists are only months away from creating artificial life, it was claimed today.

Dr Craig Venter – one of the world’s most famous and controversial biologists – said his U.S. researchers have overcome one of the last big hurdles to making a synthetic organism.

The first artificial lifeform is likely to be a simple man-made bacterium that proves that the technology can work.

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Vast Oceans Lay Beneath Surface Of The Earth

From The Telegraph:

Vast oceans may lay beneath the Earth's surface, new research suggests.

Scientists believe areas of enhanced electrical conductivity in the mantle - the thick region between the Earth's crust and its core - betray the presence of water.

Water divining researchers produced a global three-dimensional map of the mantle showing the areas through which electricity flowed most freely.

Conductivity hot spots were found to coincide with subduction zones, sites where the tectonic plates that divide up the Earth's surface are being forced downwards.

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Scientists Develop Intelligent Coffee Mug

From Spiegel Online:

Materials to keep drinks cold or hot for longer have been around for quite a while. Now a pair of German scientists has come up with a high-tech mug they claim keeps coffee at the perfect temperature.

The idea came to the researchers at the Christmas market in the Bavarian town of Rosenhiem. "We got upset because the mulled wine" -- Gl├╝hwein, in German -- "was always either too hot or too cold," say Klaus Sedlbauer, the head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics (IBP), and his colleague Herbert Sinnesbichler. "We had to find a solution."

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Why Is Human Mars Exploration So Surprisingly Hard?

Mars as seen near opposition late August 2003, by the Hubble Space Telescope
Credit: NASA/STSci/Hubble; Captioning credit MSSS/ ASU Themis/ NASA/ JPL

From The Space Review:

As space policy experts mull over alternative strategies for astronaut exploration of the solar system, possibly including human flight to Mars, the recently-concluded fortieth anniversary celebrations of the Apollo 11 moon landing inspire one specific question: what’s taken so long?

In the heady days of the Apollo triumphs, even the “pessimistic” forecasts imagined it might take as long as twenty years to get astronauts to Mars. Optimistic schedules put the first footsteps on the Red Planet—another “giant leap for mankind”—as early as 1982.

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Echoes Of The Birth Of The Universe: New Limits On Big Bang's Gravitational Waves

Aerial view of LIGO facility in Livingston, Louisiana.
(Credit: LIGO, California Institute of Technology.)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2009) — An investigation by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration has significantly advanced our understanding the early evolution of the universe.

Analysis of data taken over a two-year period, from 2005 to 2007, has set the most stringent limits yet on the amount of gravitational waves that could have come from the Big Bang in the gravitational wave frequency band where LIGO can observe. In doing so, the gravitational-wave scientists have put new constraints on the details of how the universe looked in its earliest moments.

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Astronauts Eye Hurricane Bill

The spiral bands of Hurricane Bill in the Atlantic Ocean fill the view as Expedition 20 crew members on the International Space Station look east-southeastward along the horizon. This view was taken on Aug. 18, 2009 at 16:08:54 GMT with a Nikkor 28-70mm zoom lens at the 40mm lens setting. At the time this photograph was taken, Hurricane Bill was centered at 15.9 degrees north latitude and 51.2 degrees west longitude, the winds were 90 knots (103.7 miles per hour) gusting to 110 knots (126.7 mph) and it was moving west-northwest (285 degrees) at 14 knots (16.1 mph). Credit: NASA

From Live Science:

From space, fury is beauty.

The spiral bands of Hurricane Bill in the Atlantic Ocean fill the view of a new image by Expedition 20 crew members on the International Space Station.

The picture looks east-southeastward along the horizon.

It was taken on Aug. 18, 2009 when the storm was centered at 15.9 degrees north latitude and 51.2 degrees west longitude.

Bill is expected to stay offshore as it curves north and then eastward along the eastern coast of North America, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center. The route is a typical one for hurricanes.

Read more ....

Giant Robotic Cages to Roam Seas as Future Fish Farms?

A worker cleans an Aquapod fish cage off Peurto Rico in an undated photo. Another Aquapod has been outfitted with remote-control propellers. Someday such automated cages could herald an entirely new form of fish farming, with robotic cages roaming the seas, mimicking the movements of wild schools. Photograph courtesy Ocean Farm Technologies

From National Geographic:

In the future, giant, autonomous fish farms may whir through the open ocean, mimicking the movements of wild schools or even allowing fish to forage "free range" before capturing them once again. Already scientists have constructed working remote control cages.

Such motorized cages could help produce greener, healthier, and more numerous fish, just when we need them most.

The world's growing population is devouring seafood as quickly as it can be caught and has seriously depleted the world's wild fish stocks, experts warn.

Read more ....

Worldwide Battle Rages For Control Of The Internet

From New Scientist:

WHEN thousands of protestors took to the streets in Iran following this year's disputed presidential election, Twitter messages sent by activists let the world know about the brutal policing that followed. A few months earlier, campaigners in Moldova used Facebook to organise protests against the country's communist government, and elsewhere too the internet is playing an increasing role in political dissent.

Now governments are trying to regain control. By reinforcing their efforts to monitor activity online, they hope to deprive dissenters of information and the ability to communicate.

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Entertainment Weekly To Embed Video Ad In Print Magazine

From Popular Science:

Last year Esquire rolled out an e-ink cover to celebrate the mag's 75 anniversary and introduced moving pictures (well, scrolling text and flashing images, at least) to the world of print. Next up: talkies. Yesterday, CBS and Time Inc. announced a video ad set to appear in the September 18 issue of Entertainment Weekly.

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Average Video Gamer Is 35, Fat And Depressed

The average video gamer: Players are typically 35, overweight and suffering from depression, and rely more on the internet for social support (file pic)

From The Daily Mail:

Playing video games is often regarded as a pastime for children and teenagers.

But the average age of players is now 35 - and it seems they have similar problems to their younger counterparts, according to researchers.

Adults who spend hours in front of a games console every day are more likely to be fat and depressed than those who don't, a U.S. study found.

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Google Book Project Gains Three Major Tech Opponents

From L.A. Times:

Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon have signed on to a coalition that opposes the search giant's proposed settlement with the Authors Guild and the Assn. of American Publishers.

Three powerful technology companies have banded together to oppose Google Inc.'s proposed settlement with the Authors Guild and the Assn. of American Publishers over the Internet search giant's book scanning project.

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Who Said Anything About Landing? The Unmanned Surveillance Plane That Can fly For Five Years Non-Stop

Shape-shifter: The Z-wing configuration allows the
aircraft to absorb solar power when in sunlight

From The Daily Mail:

It might look like alien technology but this aircraft is no UFO. It's an Odysseus solar-powered aircraft that aims to be able to stay in the air for over five years continuously.

It has a Z-wing configuration that spans almost 500ft (150 metres) so that the aircraft's shape can be adjusted when in sunlight to absorb as much solar power as possible.

Then when it is in darkness, it flies flat in a straight line for aerodynamic efficiency with the energy collected stored in onboard batteries used to drive the aircraft's electric motors.

Read more ....

NASA Panel Faces The Facts, And Asteroids

From Wired Science:

The 60s are over and no amount of artists’ renderings are going to bring back the Apollo days if NASA’s budget doesn’t get a big boost.

That’s the key message from the independent panel chartered to rethink NASA’s future. The Review of Human Space Flight Plans group also is looking at a variety of imaginative approaches to space exploration that could make NASA’s future seem less like reheated Apollo leftovers.

Read more ....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why We Lie So Much

Photodisc / Getty

From Time Magazine:

A professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Robert Feldman has spent most of his career studying the role deception plays in human relationships. His most recent book, The Liar in Your Life: How Lies Work and What They Tell Us About Ourselves, lays out in stark terms just how prevalent lying has become. He talked to TIME about why we all need a dose of honesty.

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Dark Energy – How Would You Explain It?

The concept of dark energy was created by cosmologists to fit Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity into reality Photo: AP

From The Telegraph:

I firmly believe that it should be possible to explain every scientific theory, experiment or concept in simple language that can be understood by a layperson.

However some subjects are so complicated they appear to defy simplification.

Dark energy, which made the news this week, is one such subject. Even the Oxford Dictionary of Science admitted that its nature is not known.

Has anyone come across a simple explanation?

Read more ....

The Origin Of Dogs

From Scientific American:

Fido's cousins may be Eurasian wolves, but new findings complicate the details of domestication.

From precious pomeranians to mangy mutts, all domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) seem to be descended from the Eurasian gray wolf (Canis lupis). But what we still don't know is exactly when and where our best friends transformed from predators into partners. And such knowledge might help solve the long-disputed question of exactly why dogs were the first animal to be domesticated.

Read more ....

A Step Closer To 'Synthetic Life'

From The BBC:

In what has been described as a step towards the creation of a synthetic cell, scientists have created a new "engineered" strain of bacteria.

A team successfully transferred the genome of one type of bacteria into a yeast cell, modified it, and then transplanted into another bacterium.

This paves the way to the creation of a synthetic organism - inserting a human-made genome into a bacterial cell.

Read more ....

In Hot Water: World Sets Ocean Temperature Record

From Yahoo News/AP:

WASHINGTON – Steve Kramer spent an hour and a half swimming in the ocean Sunday — in Maine. The water temperature was 72 degrees — more like Ocean City, Md., this time of year. And Ocean City's water temp hit 88 degrees this week, toasty even by Miami Beach standards.

Kramer, 26, who lives in the seaside town of Scarborough, said it was the first time he's ever swam so long in Maine's coastal waters. "Usually, you're in five minutes and you're out," he said.

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Drop In World Temperatures Fuels Global Warming Debate

From McClatchy News:

WASHINGTON — Has Earth's fever broken?

Official government measurements show that the world's temperature has cooled a bit since reaching its most recent peak in 1998.

That's given global warming skeptics new ammunition to attack the prevailing theory of climate change. The skeptics argue that the current stretch of slightly cooler temperatures means that costly measures to limit carbon dioxide emissions are ill-founded and unnecessary.

Read more ....

If An Autonomous Machine Kills Someone, Who Is Responsible?

The supercomputer Hal in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey embodies our worst fears about autonomous machines. Photograph: RGA

From The Guardian:

The Royal Academy of Engineering has published a report exploring the social, legal and ethical implications of ceding control to autonomous systems.

Within a decade, we could be routinely interacting with machines that are truly autonomous – systems that can adapt, learn from their experience and make decisions for themselves. Free from fatigue and emotion, they would perform better than humans in tasks that are dull, dangerous or stressful.

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Satellites Unlock Secret To Northern India's Vanishing Water

The map shows groundwater changes in India during 2002-08, with losses in red and gains in blue, based on GRACE satellite observations. The estimated rate of depletion of groundwater in northwestern India is 4.0 centimeters of water per year, equivalent to a water table decline of 33 centimeters per year. Increases in groundwater in southern India are due to recent above-average rainfall, whereas rain in northwestern India was close to normal during the study period. (Credit: I. Velicogna/UC Irvine)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 19, 2009) — Using satellite data, UC Irvine and NASA hydrologists have found that groundwater beneath northern India has been receding by as much as 1 foot per year over the past decade – and they believe human consumption is almost entirely to blame.

More than 109 cubic kilometers (26 cubic miles) of groundwater disappeared from the region's aquifers between 2002 and 2008 – double the capacity of India's largest surface-water reservoir, the Upper Wainganga, and triple that of Lake Mead, the largest manmade reservoir in the U.S.

Read more

The Truth About Record-Setting U.S. Life Expectancy

From Live Science:

Life expectancy in the United States rose to an all-time high, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today. But that's only half the story.

The country is behind about 30 others on this measure.

Though the United States has by far the highest level of health care spending per capita in the world, we have one of the lowest life expectancies among developed nations — lower than Italy, Spain and Cuba and just a smidgeon ahead of Chile, Costa Rica and Slovenia, according to the United Nations. China does almost as well as we do. Japan tops the list at 83 years.

Read more ....


Credit: Technology Review

From Technology Review:

"Open video" could beget the next great wave in Web innovation--if it gets off the ground.

In 2005, Michael Dale and Abram Stern, a pair of grad students in digital media arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz, decided it would be fun to make video remixes of speeches in the U.S. Congress. Their goals were artistic; Stern had notions, for example, of editing a Senate floor speech to remove everything but the pronouns. They would be following, loosely, in a tradition of video commentary that includes remixing speeches from the 2004 Republican National Convention to feature only the many utterances of terrorism or September the 11th by George and Laura Bush, Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani, and others. Aware that congressional proceedings are public--and that C-SPAN airs them freely--the pair went online to hunt for the raw material. But "the footage wasn't there," Dale recalls. While C-SPAN did offer archival material for a fee, he says, "if we wanted to pull together a few different clips of senators saying different things--there was no online repository for download."

Read more

Why Large Carbon-Fibre Planes Are Still Grounded

Image: Still grounded (Image: Boeing)

From New Scientist:

IF YOU want to know why carbon-fibre planes such as the Boeing 787 are still on the tarmac, it's worth rewinding to the 1950s.

That's when the UK's chances of dominating the post-war aviation market were dashed by fatal in-flight failures of the de Havilland Comet, the first airliner to sport a pressurised aluminium fuselage. Metal fatigue induced by repeated pressurisation cycles created cracks that started around the plane's window frames. "Although much was known about metal fatigue, not enough was known about it by anyone, anywhere," lamented Geoffrey de Havilland in his autobiography.

Read more ....

Toxic Soup: Plastics Could Be Leaching Chemicals Into Ocean

From Wired Science:

Although plastic has long been considered indestructible, some scientists say toxic chemicals from decomposing plastics may be leaching into the sea and harming marine ecosystems.

Contrary to the commonly held belief that plastic takes 500 to 1,000 years to decompose, researchers now report that the hard plastic polystyrene begins to break down in the ocean within one year, releasing potentially toxic bisphenol A (BPA) and other chemicals into the water.

Read more ....

Mercury Found In All Fish Caught In U.S.-Tested Streams

Two USGS scientists analyze fish for mercury in the St. Marys River in northern Florida.
By Mark Brigham, AP

From USA Today:

Sports fishermen take heed: A government test of fish pulled from nearly 300 streams in the USA found every one of them contaminated with some level of mercury.

The U.S. Geological Survey's research marks its most comprehensive examination of mercury contamination in stream fish. The study found that 27% of the fish had mercury levels high enough to exceed what the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for the average fish eater, those who eat fish twice a week.

Read more ....

Solar SunFlowers Look Like Reincarnated Cell Tower Trees

SunFlower Solar Panels: This isn't your mother's garden. David Newsome/GOOD Magazine

From Popular Science:

Fifteen of these flower-shaped solar panels were installed last month in an open space between a highway and a retail lot in Austin, Texas. They not only provide a green source of energy, but also bring a fresh look to solar panel design. Unfortunately, I can't help but think of those fake-tree cellphone towers when I see these things.

Designed by Massachusetts art duo Harries/Heder, the SunFlowers are an art exhibit at heart, and stand over 30 feet tall. They collect power from the sun by day, and use that energy to power their blue LEDs at night. Up to 15 kilowatts of surplus power is sent back to the grid as payment for any maintenance fees the SunFlowers incur.

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Anthropogenic Global Warming Started When People Began Farming

From The Economist:

IMAGINE a small group of farmers tending a rice paddy some 5,000 years ago in eastern Asia or sowing seeds in a freshly cleared forest in Europe a couple of thousand years before that. It is here, a small group of scientists would have you believe, that humanity launched climate change. Long before the Industrial Revolution—indeed, long before a worldwide revolution in intensive farming, the results of which kept humanity alive—people caused unnatural exhalations of greenhouse gases that had an impact on the world’s climate.

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Geothermal Power Search Holds Promise, Threat


On a high ridge in the Mayacamas Mountains, a drill slowly bores into the earth to test a new way to generate electricity.

The test, by a Bay Area company called AltaRock Energy, could give the world another source of renewable energy, a valuable weapon in the fight against global warming. It could also trigger earthquakes in a corner of California that already shakes most every day, a prospect that is jangling the nerves of some nearby homeowners.

AltaRock has chosen this ridge to try a new form of geothermal power, using the heat of the Earth to produce energy. The surrounding hills -- in an area known as The Geysers, about 70 miles north of San Francisco -- hold more than a dozen older geothermal plants that tap underground pockets of steam to turn turbines and generate electricity.

Read more ....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Personality Traits Associated With Stress And Worry Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

Personality traits associated with chronic worrying can lead to earlier death, at least in part because these people are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, according to research from Purdue University. (Credit: iStockphoto/Mikael Damkier)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Aug. 19, 2009) — Personality traits associated with chronic worrying can lead to earlier death, at least in part because these people are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, according to research from Purdue University.

"Research shows that higher levels of neuroticism can lead to earlier mortality, and we wanted to know why," said Daniel K. Mroczek, (pronounced Mro-ZAK) a professor of child development and family studies. "We found that having worrying tendencies or being the kind of person who stresses easily is likely to lead to bad behaviors like smoking and, therefore, raise the mortality rate.

Read more ....

Prehistoric 'Runway' Used by Flying Reptile

A photo and depiction of the pterosaur tracks that suggest an ancient landing strip.
Credit: JM Mazin et al.

From Live Science:

A prehistoric runway for flying pterosaurs has been discovered for the first time.

Scientists uncovered the first known landing tracks of one of these extinct flying reptiles at a site dubbed "Pterosaur Beach," in the fine-grained limestone deposits of an ancient lagoon in southwestern France dating back some 140 million years ago to the Late Jurassic.

The footprints suggest the pterosaur — a "pterodactyloid" with a wingspan roughly three feet wide (one meter) — flapped to stall its flight during landing, and then planted both its two-inch-long feet (five cm) simultaneously at a high angle.

Read more ....

Space Shuttle Discovery Cleared For Lift-Off

Space Shuttle Discovery

From AFP:

WASHINGTON — The space shuttle Discovery will blast off next Tuesday on a mission to the International Space Station, NASA said, clearing the launch after days of debate over safety issues.

Lift-off was set for 0536 GMT from the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral in Florida, NASA said, after two days of meetings between mission officials.

"It was a very effective review. I think we're ready to go fly," Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, told a briefing.

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Full Steam Ahead As British Supercar Prepares To Smash Land-Speed Record

The 25ft-long car will race across the desert in California to try and break a land speed record.

From The Daily Mail:

Enthusiasts behind a British-built steam supercar will attempt to break a century-old world land speed record for steam-powered vehicles tomorrow afternoon.

The 25ft-long car - dubbed the 'fastest kettle in the world' - aims to go faster than 127mph - the speed reached by American Fred Marriott in a Stanley steam car in 1906 at the Daytona Beach Road Course.
The team will begin their attempt at 6am tomorrow morning in California, or 2pm UK time.

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Wi-Fi via White Spaces

Photo: White spaces: Accessing the Internet over unused portions of TV spectrum could provide good long-range connectivity in rural areas, and help fill in gaps in city networks. Microsoft researchers tested a new protocol, called White Fi, using the device shown here. Credit: Microsoft Research

From Technology Review:

A network design that uses old TV spectrum could produce better long-range wireless connectivity.

Long-range, low-cost wireless Internet could soon be delivered using radio spectrum once reserved for use by TV stations. The blueprints for a computer network that uses "white spaces," which are empty fragments of the spectrum scattered between used frequencies, will be presented today at ACM SIGCOMM 2009, a communications conference held in Barcelona, Spain.

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