Saturday, September 5, 2009

Europe's First Farmers Were Immigrants: Replaced Their Stone Age Hunter-Gatherer Forerunners

DNA-analysis in the laboratories of Mainz University. (Credit: Image copyright Joachim Burger)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 4, 2009) — Analysis of ancient DNA from skeletons suggests that Europe's first farmers were not the descendants of the people who settled the area after the retreat of the ice sheets. Instead, the early farmers probably migrated into major areas of central and eastern Europe about 7,500 years ago, bringing domesticated plants and animals with them, says Barbara Bramanti from Mainz University in Germany and colleagues.

Read more ....

Engineering Students Build Underwater 'Bot

Three Long Beach City College ROV Team members transport their vehicle from the pool. On the left is Ricardo Casaine, in the middle is Nathan Grefe, and on the right is Baxter Hutchinson. Credit: Steve Van Meter/VideoRay

From Live Science:

Remotely-operated vehicles, or ROVs, are underwater robots that can go where the environment is too deep or difficult for human divers. I learned how to design and build ROVs as a student in the electrical department at Long Beach City College (LBCC), where every year, students enrolled in the department's robotics class form a team that competes in the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center's International Student ROV Competition.

The MATE competition is a pool-based competition that uses props to simulate realistic underwater workplaces. The MATE Center is one of eleven Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Centers established with funding from the National Science Foundation's ATE Program.

Read more ....

Robotics Rodeo Aims To Save Lives

A technician explains the controls of a remotely operated Bobcat machine to a Soldier. After some instruction, Soldiers were given hands-on experience with the equipment and offered their feedback


FORT HOOD, Texas (Sept. 2, 2009) -- A Robotics Rodeo began Tuesday with exhibitors from all over America descending on Fort Hood to show off the latest advancements in robotics technology.

"If we're not fielding, we're failing; it's all about saving Soldiers' lives," said Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, III Corps commanding general. "It's not about technology demonstrations, not about how much money you can garner from the U.S. government, it's all about saving Soldiers lives."

Read more ....

My Comment: This "Robotics Rodeo" may be small now .... but I would bet that 10 years from now it will be a completely different event .... and many times larger.

Australia's Warm Winter A Record

From The BBC:

Australia has experienced its warmest August on record amid soaring winter temperatures.

Climatologists have blamed both the effects of climate change and natural variability.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology says that August was a "most extraordinary month" with mean temperatures 2.47C above the long-term average.

Read more ....

Human Brain Could Be Replicated In 10 Years, Researcher Predicts

Activity in the brain's neocortex is tightly controlled by inhibitory neurons shown here which prevent epilepsy. (Credit: Blue Brain Project; Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 4, 2009) — A model that replicates the functions of the human brain is feasible in 10 years according to neuroscientist Professor Henry Markram of the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland. "I absolutely believe it is technically and biologically possible. The only uncertainty is financial. It is an extremely expensive project and not all is yet secured."

Read more ....

My Comment: If you duplicate a brain .... will it think?

Wolves Beat Dogs on Logic Test

Wolves and dogs diverged from a common ancestor at least 15,000 years ago.
Credit: stock.xpert

From Live Science:

Wolves do better on some tests of logic than dogs, a new study found, revealing differences between the animals that scientists suspect result from dogs' domestication.

In experiments, dogs followed human cues to perform certain tasks despite evidence they could see suggesting a different strategy would be smarter, while wolves made the more logical choice based on their observations.

Read more ....

Arctic Ice Proves To Be Slippery Stuff -- Commentary

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

From The Telegraph:

The extent of the sea-ice is now half a million square kilometres more than it was this time last year, says Christopher Booker.

BBC viewers were treated last week to the bizarre spectacle of Mr Ban
Ki-moon standing on an Arctic ice-floe making a series of statements so laughable that it was hard to believe such a man can be Secretary-General of the UN. Thanks to global warming, he claimed, "100 billion tons" of polar ice are melting each year, so that within 30 years the Arctic could be "ice-free". This was supported by a WWF claim that the ice is melting so fast that, by 2100, sea-levels could rise by 1.2 metres (four feet), which would lead to "floods affecting a quarter of the world".

Read more ....

New England Prep School Builds Library Without Books

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said headmaster James Tracy. (Mark Wilson for The Boston Globe)

Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books. -- Boston Globe

ASHBURNHAM - There are rolling hills and ivy-covered brick buildings. There are small classrooms, high-tech labs, and well-manicured fields. There’s even a clock tower with a massive bell that rings for special events.

Cushing Academy has all the hallmarks of a New England prep school, with one exception.

This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks - the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.

Read more ....

6 Geeked-Out TV Shows We Can't Wait For

From Popular Mechanics:

Normally, we'd be sad to see summer go—but with new fall TV just around the corner, we can't get too upset. Our favorites—including Fringe, Dollhouse, Lost and Heroes—are coming back with all-new episodes, and two new series with real sci-fi promise are making their big debut. Here are the six shows that will have us couch-surfing this fall.

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My Comment: Yeah .... but Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles is not coming back.

Super-Strong German Steel Velcro: Not for Sneakers

Velcro of Steel: So strong, yet still removable TUM Institute of Metal Forming and Casting (utg)

From Popular Science:

German-created steel fasteners can withstand loads of more than 38 tons per square meter, hook and unhook without tools.

Velcro has proved plenty useful as a quick fastener on shoes and other household items, but lacks the strength to resist fiery temperatures and powerful chemicals in industrial settings. Now German scientists have taken the hook-and-loop fastener concept and developed a Superman version, called Metaklett.

Read more ....

Mystery Solved! Find Out Why Google Used A Doodle Of A UFO On Its Search Engine

Doodle mystery: Google used the image of a UFO on its logo, sparking mass internet speculation and rumours on Twitter and Facebook

From The Daily Mail:

Google bamboozled its users today by displaying the symbol of a UFO on its search engine page.

The website featured the classic image of a flying saucer shining a beam of light onto the middle of the classic logo.

It usually displays images that mark anniversaries or key events on its home page but its selection this time seemed a total mystery.

Clicking on the link only led to the results for 'unexplained phenomena', adding to the confusion which soon spread around the world.

Read more ....

How Old Is This Internet Thing, Again?

From The Wall Street Journal:

Poor Al Gore has been teased mercilessly for supposedly claiming he invented the Internet.

But that’s not the only portion of cyber-history that’s in dispute.

Media outlets are celebrating Sept. 2 as the 40th anniversary of the day the Internet was invented. Security company Symantec even chose to ring the day in by creating a top-10 list of the most notorious online threats, with No. 1 as 2000’s “I Love You” worm, which infected an estimated 5 million computers.

Read more ....

Astronauts Take a Break From Busy Space Mission


Astronauts took a hard-earned break from work aboard the International Space Station Friday as they hit the midpoint of a busy mission to boost the outpost's science gear and supplies.

The 13 astronauts aboard the docked station and shuttle Discovery had a half-day off from their joint mission, time enough to gaze down at their home planet or simply enjoy flying in weightlessness.

"Sometimes, you've just got to look out the window and enjoy the view," shuttle astronaut Jose Hernandez told reporters in a televised interview this week. "It's just breathtaking and I can't describe it with words. It's just indescribable."

Read more

Chemical Neurowarfare

From Ryan Sager - Neuroworld:

Imagine a future where the Iranian regime didn’t need to spend weeks in the streets beating, killing, and jailing protesters to put down the reform movement. Imagine in this future that the beatings would be replaced with something gentler, but ultimately more sinister: non-lethal, weaponized drugs designed to decrease aggression and increase trust.

That’s the future imagined and fretted over in an opinion piece (non-gated, samizdat version here) and editorial (PDF) in the current issue of Nature.

Read more ....

My Comment: Chemical weapons .... but with a twist. This is a fascinating article, and probably more real than we think.

This reminds me of an article that was published in The Telegraph last year titled .... Future wars 'to be fought with mind drugs'.

50 Things That Are Being Killed By The Internet

The web is changing the way we work, play and think Photo: REUTTERS

From The Telegraph:

The internet has wrought huge changes on our lives – both positive and negative – in the fifteen years since its use became widespread.

Tasks that once took days can be completed in seconds, while traditions and skills that emerged over centuries have been made all but redundant.

The internet is no respecter of reputations: innocent people have seen their lives ruined by viral clips distributed on the same World Wide Web used by activists to highlight injustices and bring down oppressive regimes

Read more ....

Friday, September 4, 2009

Magnetic Monopoles Detected In A Real Magnet For The First Time

This is an impression of a "spin spaghetti" of Dirac strings.
(Credit: HZB / D.J.P. Morris & A. Tennant)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 4, 2009) — Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie have, in cooperation with colleagues from Dresden, St. Andrews, La Plata and Oxford, for the first time observed magnetic monopoles and how they emerge in a real material.

Results of their research are being published in the journal Science.

Read more ....

Your Brain Is Organized Like a City

Brains and cities, as they get bigger, do so based on similar mathematical rules. Image credit: Credit: Rensselaer/Mark Changizi

From Live Science:

A big city might seem chaotic, but somehow everything gets where it needs to go and the whole thing manages to function on most days, even if it all seems a little worse for the wear at the end of the day. Sound a bit like your brain?

Neurobiologist Mark Changizi sees strikingly real similarities between the two.

Changizi and colleagues propose that cities and brains are organized similarly, and that the invisible hand of evolution has shaped the brain just as people have indirectly shaped cities. It's all driven by the need for organization and efficiency, the researchers say.

Read more ....

A Giant Fingerprint On Mars: High Res Camera Reveals Details Just 3ft Across On Red Planet

(Click Image To Enlarge)
Planet print: This picture was taken in a crater near Fan in the Coprates Region of Mars. The giant fingerprint-like shape was created by possible evaporites - sediments formed by the evaporation of water

From The Daily Mail:

This striking range of dunes and craters appears to form a giant cosmic fingerprint on the surface of the Red Planet.

Scientists believe the undulating ground reveals global climate changes that took place on Mars over the past few million years.

The area is in the Coprates region, a large trough that forms part of the Valles Marineris - a system of canyons stretching thousands of miles along Mars' equator.

The whitish areas could be evaporites - mineral sediments left behind when salt water evaporates. Such deposits would be of great interest as they indicate potential habitats for past martian life.

Read more ....

Astronauts Continue Rigging ISS For Science

From Aviation Week:

The 13 astronauts and cosmonauts on the space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station took some time off Friday before plunging into preparations for the third and final spacewalk of the docked portion of their mission.

Halfway through the 13-day STS-128 mission, the two crews had accomplished two of their most important tasks - delivering NASA astronaut Stott as the replacement for Tim Kopra, also of NASA, on the space station crew, and swapping out a depleted ammonia-tank with a fresh unit containing 600 pounds of fresh coolant.

Read more ....

Prehistoric Hand Axes Older Than Once Thought

Oldest Old World Tools A collection of prehistoric stone hand axes appears above. When first discovered, most researchers thought that the hand axes were made between 500,000 and 200,000 years ago. However, a new study contends that they are in fact much older -- possibly the oldest hand axes in Europe. Michael Walker

From Discovery News:

Sept. 3, 2009 -- Europe's Stone Age has taken an edgy turn. A new analysis finds that human ancestors living in what is now Spain fashioned double-edged stone cutting tools as early as 900,000 years ago, almost twice as long ago as previous estimates for this technological achievement in Europe.

If confirmed, the new dates support the idea that the manufacture and use of teardrop-shaped stone implements, known as hand axes, spread rapidly from Africa into Europe and Asia beginning roughly 1 million years ago, say geologist Gary Scott and paleontologist Luis Gibert, both of the Berkeley Geochronology Center in California.

Read more ....

Quantum Computer Slips Onto Chips

From the BBC:

Researchers have devised a penny-sized silicon chip that uses photons to run Shor's algorithm - a well-known quantum approach - to solve a maths problem.

The algorithm computes the two numbers that multiply together to form a given figure, and has until now required laboratory-sized optical computers.

This kind of factoring is the basis for a wide variety of encryption schemes.

The work, reported in Science, is rudimentary but could easily be scaled up to handle more complex computing.

Read more ....

How 20 Popular Websites Looked When They Launched

1. - launched in 1996

From The Telegraph:

From Google to youtube, from craigslist to flickr - how some of today's biggest sites looked back in the early days of their existence.

Remember the days when the word Google was not interchangeable with internet? Or when every site seemed to have a Netscape icon on it? Or when Flash was still something you cleaned your floor with? Then you were clearly using the web in the mid to late 1990s when pages were rudimentary affairs containing lists of links and information.

Thanks to the waybackmachine internet archive, we're still able to see some of the Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 pioneers looked in their earliest incarnations.

Read more ....

AT&T Customers Speak Out Over Poor Service

From ZDNet:

Following yesterday’s piece on how the iPhone (or, more specifically, iPhone users) are strangling the AT&T network, I’ve been hit by a deluge of emails from customers giving me their side of the story.

It’s not a pretty picture for AT&T. Here’s just a small selection of quotes I received:

“I can’t even get service at my own home.”

“MY iPhone drops calls at least 5 times a day, sometimes 5 times on the same attempted conversation.”

“I live in Boulder but feel like I live in the middle of Montana where I can only get service by hiking the local hill.”

Read more

Super-Fast Computers Of The Future

Prof. Anatoly Zayats from Queen's University Belfast's Centre for Nanostructured Media. (Credit: Image courtesy of Queen's University, Belfast)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 3, 2009) — Computers which use light to process large amounts of data faster than ever before are just one of many groundbreaking potential applications of a new £6 million research programme at Queen’s University Belfast and Imperial College London, launched September 1, 2009.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is funding the two universities to establish a world-leading research programme on the fundamental science of so-called ‘nanoplasmonic devices’.

Read more ....

Tipping Points: What Wall Street and Nature Have in Common

From Live Science:

When a big change is coming – be it in ocean circulation patterns, wildlife populations, or even the global economy – it is often heralded by telltale signs, scientists have found.

In many man-made and natural systems, conditions reach a tipping point when a major transition occurs and the system shifts from one state to another. Now researchers say they can begin to predict these tipping points by searching for universal early warning signs.

Read more ....

It's Official! Why Chatting To A Pretty Woman Is 'Bad For A Man's Brain'

Tongue-twisted: Men performed less well in brain function tests after a few minutes in company of a pretty woman (posed by models)

From The Daily Mail:

It is an experience that turns many chaps into an awkward, mumbling wreck.

Now scientists have confirmed that being in the presence of a pretty woman really does scramble the male brain.

A study has revealed that men who spend just a few minutes in the company of an attractive female perform less well in tests designed to measure brain function.

Read more

'Optical Computer' Performs First Ever Calculation

Professor Jeremy O'Brien, Director of the Centre for Quantum Photonics (left) and Jonathan Matthews
Photo: PA

From The Telegraph:

An 'optical computer' which uses light particles rather than traditional circuitry has performed the first ever calculation, as scientists hope it could pave the way for a computer smaller and faster than anything seen before.

Scientists have hailed the step, despite the calculation taking longer than a schoolchild.

The optical quantum chip uses single particles of "whizzing" light which could eventually pave the wave for a "super-powerful quantum computer".

Read more ....

The Singularity And The Fixed Point -- A Commentary

From Technology Review:

The importance of engineering motivation into intelligence.

Some futurists such as Ray Kurzweil have hypothesized that we will someday soon pass through a singularity--that is, a time period of rapid technological change beyond which we cannot envision the future of society. Most visions of this singularity focus on the creation of machines intelligent enough to devise machines even more intelligent than themselves, and so forth recursively, thus launching a positive feedback loop of intelligence amplification. It's an intriguing thought. (One of the first things I wanted to do when I got to MIT as an undergraduate was to build a robot scientist that could make discoveries faster and better than anyone else.) Even the CTO of Intel, Justin Rattner, has publicly speculated recently that we're well on our way to this singularity, and conferences like the Singularity Summit (at which I'll be speaking in October) are exploring how such transformations might take place.

Read more

China Cracks Down On Stem Cell Tourism

From New Scientist:

Chinese and European researchers have today published ethical guidelines aimed at discouraging Chinese doctors from offering patients unproven or sham treatments based on stem cells.

The authors hope the move will reinforce legal curbs on stem cell treatments introduced on 1 May by China's ministry of health.

The launch follows new allegations of fraud in stem cell research, and the arrest of individuals in Hungary allegedly offering bogus treatments.

Read more ....

New Hope For Aids Vaccine As Scientists Find 'Achilles Heel'

From Times Online:

The search for an HIV vaccine has taken a major step forward with the discovery of a potential Achilles heel of the virus that causes Aids.

Two powerful antibodies that attack a vulnerable spot common to many strains of HIV have been identified, improving the prospects for a vaccine against a virus that affects an estimated 33 million people and kills over 2 million each year.

The discovery is important because it highlights a potential way around HIV’s defences against the human immune system, which have so far thwarted efforts to make a workable vaccine. The hope is that a vaccine that stimulates the production of these antibodies could remain effective against HIV even as the virus mutates.

Read more

Money Woes Likely To Hobble NASA's Planned Moon Mission

From McClatchy News:

WASHINGTON — NASA, whose successes helped cement America's reputation as the world's technological leader, is facing a series of money woes that could thwart its hopes of remaining the globe's leader in space exploration.

A blue-ribbon presidential panel is expected to advise the White House later this month that returning astronauts to the moon by 2020, as former President George W. Bush proposed, is financially impossible under NASA's $18.7 billion budget.

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1000 MPH or Bust: Behind the Scenes With Supersonic Car Tech

(Illustration by Curventa)

From Popular Mechancis:

A series of successful rocket tests in the Mojave desert recently marks another step in the development of a car built to reach 1000 mph. The British team Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC) is comprised of some legendary land speed experience. Richard Noble was the man behind the Thrust SSC—the car that set the current land speed record. And the man that will slide behind the wheel of the Bloodhound is Andy Green, the former fighter pilot who holds the land speed record for the fastest diesel vehicle in the world (just over 350 mph, back in 2006). We met with the team recently to get a sense of the scope of the Bloodhound project and the challenges that lie ahead on the road to 1000 mph.

Read more ....

Study Finds Prime Time On The Internet Is 11 p.m.


From Christian Science Monitor:

According to a study, North Americans have been staying up late to do their Internet surfing this summer, so late that the peak usage for the whole day has been at 11 p.m. Eastern time.

It’s 11 p.m. Do you know where your neighbors are?

Chances are they’re online. According to a study, North Americans have been staying up late to do their Internet surfing this summer, so late that the peak usage for the whole day has been at 11 p.m. Eastern time.
That appears to be a shift from previous years, when most Internet activity was in the daytime.

Read more ....

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Diesel Exhaust Is Linked To Cancer Development Via New Blood Vessel Growth

New research shows that diesel exhaust can induce the growth of new blood vessels that serve as a food supply for solid tumors. (Credit: iStockphoto)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 2, 2009) — Scientists have demonstrated that the link between diesel fume exposure and cancer lies in the ability of diesel exhaust to induce the growth of new blood vessels that serve as a food supply for solid tumors.

The researchers found that in both healthy and diseased animals, more new blood vessels sprouted in mice exposed to diesel exhaust than did in mice exposed to clean, filtered air. This suggests that previous illness isn’t required to make humans susceptible to the damaging effects of the diesel exhaust.

Read more ....

Eating At Night May Put On Pounds

From Live Science:

When you eat, not just what you eat, can affect your weight, a new study on mice suggests.

Mice that were fed a high-fat diet during the time they'd normally eat — the regular hours in their daily circadian cycle — gained 20 percent in weight over six weeks. But mice fed the same high-fat diet during hours they should have been sleeping put on 48 percent compared to the weight they started with.

While the results would have to be replicated on humans to see if the effects are the same, researchers suspect they are.

Read more ....

The 15 Biggest Wikipedia Blunders

From PC World:

Wikipedia's just announced plans to restrict the editing of some of its articles. Under the new system, any changes made to pages of still-living people will have to be approved by an "experienced volunteer" before going online.

The change marks a significant shift in the philosophy of the openly edited user-controlled encyclopedia -- and that may not be a bad thing. Here are 15 of the biggest Wikipedia blunders the new editing system might have prevented. These false facts, according to widely published accounts, all appeared on the Wikipedia site at some point.

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New Microprocessor Runs On Thin Air

From The New Scientist:

There's no shortage of ways to perform calculations without a standard electronic computer. But the latest in a long lineMovie Camera of weird computers runs calculations on nothing more than air.

The complicated nest of channels and valves (see image) made by Minsoung Rhee and Mark Burns at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, processes binary signals by sucking air out of tubes to represent a 0, or letting it back in to represent a 1.

A chain of such 1s and 0s flows through the processor's channels, with pneumatic valves controlling the flow of the signals between channels.

Read more ....

A Dental Filling Made From Bile And Silica

A Smile for Bile:
Science Photo Library/Photo Researchers; © Thomas J. Peterson/Getty Images; iStock

From Popular Science:

The ancient Greeks thought an excess of bile could make you angry or melancholy, but Julian Zhu thinks the digestive juice could improve your smile. Zhu, a chemist at the University of Montreal, hit upon the idea while developing a bile-acid-based gel for tissue repair. He found that combining modified bile acids with silica created a hard plastic—perfect for patching broken pearly whites. The bile plastic matches the durability of plastic composite fillings and is more resistant to cracks. And it doesn’t leach mercury, as many commonly used metal fillings do. Bile occurs naturally in the body, so it wouldn’t cause any harm if the fillings were to decompose over time.

Read more ....

Google's Gmail Goof-Up

From Business Week:

The Web company initially offered little explanation for its e-mail failure; government may think twice before trusting it with vital tasks, says Computerworld.

It's too bad the National Transportation Safety Board can't investigate Google to find out just why Gmail crashed Tuesday as Google's explanations for its outages (via its dashboard) are short and kindergarten-like.

The NTSB would seek out the root cause of the outage, hold hearings and issue a report with recommendations for fixing the problem. But Google follows the standard operating practice of cloud and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) providers, and that is to tell customers as little as possible about an outage. They treat their customers like dumb bunnies.

Read more

Update: Google Explains Why You Didn’t Have Gmail -- Epicenter/Wired

Global Warming Could Forestall Ice Age

Researchers use a floating platform to take sediment cores from Sunday Lake in southwestern Alaska. Darrell Kaufman/Northern Arizona University

From The New York Times:

The human-driven buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere appears to have ended a millenniums-long slide toward cooler summer temperatures in the Arctic, the authors of a new study report.

Scientists familiar with the work, to be published Friday in the journal Science, said it provides fresh evidence that human activity is not only warming the globe, particularly the Arctic, but could even fend off what had been presumed to be an inevitable descent into a new ice age over the next several dozen millenniums.

The reversal of the slow cooling trend in the Arctic, recorded in samples of layered lakebed mud, glacial ice and tree rings from Alaska to Siberia, has been swift and pronounced, the team writes.

Read more ....

More Climate Change News

Arctic reverses trend, is warmest in two millennia -- AP
Arctic now warmest in 2000 years, researchers say -- Reuters
Human Activity Blamed in Reversal of Cooling in Arctic -- Washington Post
Next Ice Age Delayed by Global Warming, Study Says -- National Geographic
Arctic Temperatures Are Warmest in 2,000 Years -- Live Science
Recent Arctic warming follows centuries of natural cooling -- CBC
Arctic ice reveals last decade was hottest in 2,000 years -- Daily Mail

Telegraphs Ran on Electric Air in Crazy 1859 Magnetic Storm

Image from Wikipedia

From Wired Science:

On Sept. 2, 1859, at the telegraph office at No. 31 State Street in Boston at 9:30 a.m., the operators’ lines were overflowing with current, so they unplugged the batteries connected to their machines, and kept working using just the electricity coursing through the air.

In the wee hours of that night, the most brilliant auroras ever recorded had broken out across the skies of the Earth. People in Havana and Florida reported seeing them. The New York Times ran a 3,000 word feature recording the colorful event in purple prose.

Read more ....

Will Kepler Find Habitable Moons?

Artist's impression of a hypothetical exomoon in orbit around a Saturn-like planet in another planetary system. (Credit: Dan Durda)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 3, 2009) — Since the launch of the NASA Kepler Mission earlier this year, astronomers have been keenly awaiting the first detection of an Earth-like planet around another star. Now, in an echo of science fiction movies a team of scientists led by Dr David Kipping of University College London thinks that they may even find habitable ‘exomoons,’ too.

The new results will appear in a paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Read more ....

New Origin of Life Proposed: Zinc & Zap

Unlike Miller and Urey, who believed the early Earth had a reducing atmosphere, scientists today believe the early Earth had a neutral atmosphere composed primarily of carbon dioxide. Credit: NASA

From Live Science:

The Miller-Urey experiment, conducted by chemists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey in 1953, is the classic experiment on the origin of life. It established that the early Earth atmosphere, as they pictured it, was capable of producing amino acids, the building blocks of life, from inorganic substances.

Now, more than 55 years later, two scientists are proposing a hypothesis that could add a new dimension to the debate on how life on Earth developed.

Read more ....

Cairo Slums Get Energy Makeover

Solar CITIES project leader T.H. Culhane (right) and organization intern Omar Nagy stand next to a solar-powered water heater on the roof of an apartment building in the Zabaleen neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt. The project offers people in Cairo's slums clean energy through solar panels and biogas reactors and a chance to improve their lives, according to Culhane. Photograph courtesy T.H. Culhane

From National Geographic:

In the ghettos of Egypt's largest city, solar panels are sprouting on apartment rooftops, providing residents with clean power and water and a chance to directly improve their lives.

Since 2003 the nonprofit Solar CITIES project has installed 34 solar-powered hot water systems and 5 biogas reactors in Cairo's poor Coptic Christian and Islamic neighborhoods.

Read more ....

NASA Monitoring Space Junk; May Need to Move ISS

International Space Station

From Daily Tech:

The U.S. space agency is monitoring a piece of space junk that could impact the ISS

NASA is now monitoring a piece of space trash that may force a shift in position for the International Space Station and shuttle Discovery, which is currently docked at the ISS.

An old piece of metal from the Ariane 5 rocket body will fly by the ISS sometime on Friday, with it reaching its closest point just 6.2 miles away from the ISS. The size of the space junk remains unknown, though a decision will be made later this evening.

Read more ....

'Telepathic' Microchip Could Help Paraplegics Control Computers

Dr Jon Spratley says his device could motor neuron sufferers such as Stephen Hawking, operate PCs and television by thought alone Photo: MARTIN POPE

From The Telegraph:

A 'telepathic' microchip that enables paraplegics to control computers has been developed by Dr Jon Spratley, a British scientist.

The chip is implanted onto the surface of the brain, where it monitors electronic 'thought' pulses.

While paraplegics may be unable to move their limbs, their brains still produce an electronic signal when they try.

Read more ....

Ancient Wall Found In Jerusalem

From The BBC:

A 3,700-year-old wall has been discovered in east Jerusalem, Israeli archaeologists say.

The structure was built to protect the city's water supply as part of what dig director Ronny Reich described as the region's earliest fortifications.

The 26-ft (8-m) high wall showed the Canaanite people who built it were a sophisticated civilisation, he said.

Critics say Israel uses such projects as a political tool to bolster Jewish claims to occupied Palestinian land.

Excavations at the site, known as the City of David, are in a Palestinian neighbourhood just outside the walls of Jerusalem's old city.

Read more

Star Wars As Andromeda Galaxy Devours Its Neighbour

Stars are being pulled from Triangulum as it orbits Andromeda due to the strong gravity of this massive galaxy, according to new research

From The Daily Mail:

British astronomers have captured the first ever images of a cannibalistic galaxy of stars 'consuming' another.

The remarkable photographs showing the giant Andromeda galaxy 'devouring' a smaller star formation is described by experts as the 'Holy Grail' of space photography.

Stargazers have long known that Andromeda, which lies approximately 2.5 million light years away, has grown by 'feeding' on other clusters, But this is the first time that its expansion has been caught on camera.

Read more ....

13 More Things That Don't Make Sense

From New Scientist:

Strive as we might to make sense of the world, there are mysteries that still confound us.

Here are thirteen of the most perplexing. Cracking any one of them could yield profound truths.

Read more ....

How Science Can Create Millions of New Jobs

From Business Week:

Reigniting basic research can repair the broken U.S. business model and put Americans back to work .

Name an industry that can produce 1 million new, high-paying jobs over the next three years. You can't, because there isn't one. And that's the problem.

America needs good jobs, soon. We need 6.7 million just to replace losses from the current recession, then an additional 10 million to keep up with population growth and to spark demand over the next decade. In the 1990s the U.S. economy created a net 22 million jobs, or 2.2 million a year. But from 2000 to the end of 2007, the rate plunged to 900,000 a year. The pipeline is dry because the U.S. business model is broken. Our growth engine has run out of a key fuel—basic research.

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The First "Clown" Going To Space

Guy Laliberte poses for a picture as he attends a training session in a space capsule at the Star City space centre outside Moscow July 9, 2009. The Canadian billionaire owner of Cirque du Soleil is on the countdown to become the world's seventh, and Canada's first, space tourist, slated to travel on a Russian Rocket

Laliberté Set To Be Inspired -- The Montreal Gazette

Space tourist launches to ISS on Sept. 30

Canada's first space tourist will blast off into space as part of a three-man supply crew on Sept. 30.

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev are scheduled to launch on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

"I think this is a great, great opportunity of inspiration and I intend to inspire myself as much as possible," said Laliberté, speaking from the Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

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Guy Laliberté, in a lighter moment, clowns around during training for launch to the International Space Station. (Credit: Space Adventures Ltd.)

More News On Canada's First Space Tourist

'First clown in space' has serious mission goals -- AP
The future first clown in space to advocate for water -- AFP
Circus billionaire plans show from space -- Reuters
Space clown plans global show -- MSNBC
Cirque boss's space trip to have serious message - aside from the clown nose -- Canadian Press
Cirque du Soleil show in space -- BBC
Cirque du Soleil chief outlines 'poetic' space mission -- CNET
Big Artistic Performance to Be Set in Space --
Laliberté flying without a nyet -- Montreal Gazette
U2 to participate in “Moving Stars and Earth for Water” event -- U2Log

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Giant Galaxy Hosts Most Distant Supermassive Black Hole

False-color image of the QSO (CFHQSJ2329-0301), the most distant black hole currently known. In addition to the bright central black hole (white), the image shows the surrounding host galaxy (red). The white bar indicates an angle on the sky of 4 arcseconds or 1/900th of a degree. (Credit: Tomotsugu GOTO, University of Hawaii)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 2, 2009) — University of Hawaii (UH) astronomer Dr. Tomotsugu Goto and colleagues have discovered a giant galaxy surrounding the most distant supermassive black hole ever found. The galaxy, so distant that it is seen as it was 12.8 billion years ago, is as large as the Milky Way galaxy and harbours a supermassive black hole that contains at least a billion times as much matter as our Sun.

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