Saturday, December 5, 2009

Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide Ramps Up Aspen Growth

Stand of quaking aspen. (Credit: iStockphoto/Doug Sims)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Dec. 4, 2009) — The rising level of atmospheric carbon dioxide may be fueling more than climate change. It could also be making some trees grow like crazy.

That is the finding of a new study of natural stands of quaking aspen, one of North America's most important and widespread deciduous trees. The study, by scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota at Morris (UMM) and published December 4 in the journal Global Change Biology, shows that elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide during the past 50 years have boosted aspen growth rates by an astonishing 50 percent.

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Rural America Surprisingly Prosperous, Study Finds

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Much of rural America is prosperous, says a study that used specific criteria to evaluate community success. To qualify as prosperous, U.S. counties had to have lower poverty levels, unemployment rates, high school drop outs and housing problems than the nation as a whole. Here, a map showing the prosperity of U.S. counties. Counties that do better than the nation on all four criteria are colored red. Those that do better on three criteria are red-orange, two criteria are orange, one criteria is yellow and none is white. Credit: Andrew Isserman, Edward Feser, Drake Warren, University of Illinois.

From Live Science:

For many people "rural" is synonymous with low incomes, limited economic opportunity, and poor schools. However, a recent study found that much of rural America is actually prosperous, particularly in the Midwest and Plains.

Researchers just had to look at things differently to see the prosperity.

The study — announced today and based on date from the year 2000 — analyzed unemployment rates, poverty rates, high school drop-out rates, and housing conditions to identify prospering communities. The result: One in five rural counties in the United States is prosperous, doing better than the nation as a whole on all these measures.

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Nobel Prizes Hit By The Financial Crisis?

Nobel Prize Foundation Frets Over Its Finances -- ABC News

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The Nobel Foundation might have to reduce the money it awards winners of its prestigious prizes due to the effects of the global financial crisis, its director said on Saturday.

The foundation will give 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.5 million) for each prize this year as it has done for most of the last decade. But the downturn could strain resources for future prizes.

"It might be in the future we would be forced to lower the prize," Michael Sohlman, Executive Director for the Nobel Foundation, told a press briefing. "We have sailed the storm, but have taken on some water."

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Yahoo, Microsoft Finalize Search Deal

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer first approved a search deal in July, but the matter took a little extra time to complete. (Credit: Yahoo/Microsoft)

From CNET News:

Yahoo and Microsoft have finalized their agreement to install Microsoft as the exclusive search provider for Yahoo's network of sites, the companies announced Friday.

The deal, first reached in July, still needs to be approved by the U.S. government before it becomes final. But the companies said in October that they needed more time to complete the deal due to the "complex nature of this transaction," and Friday's announcement is likely the result of hundreds of hours of painstaking review from expensive lawyers.

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Scientists Create The World's Smallest 'Snowman'

The snowman is made of two tiny tin beads, normally used to calibrate electron microscope lenses, which were welded together with platinum Photo: Dr Cox / National Physical Laboratory

From The Telegraph:

Scientists have created the world’s smallest 'snowman', measuring about a fifth of the width of a human hair.

Experts at the National Physical Laboratory in West London made the miniature figure which is just 0.01mm across.

However, far from the thrill of rolling balls of snow around a field to build their masterpiece, it was assembled using tools designed for manipulating nanoparticles.

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Wanna Know What U.S. Warplanes You’ll Tangle With In The Future? Visit An Aerospace Model Shop.

At Northrop Grumman’s model shop in El Segundo, California, Gary Miley applies gel to form a mold he will use to create a model blank. (Chad Slattery)

From Air And Space Smithsonian:

Shortly after 9 p.m. on a rainy February night in Los Angeles, Tony Chong switched on his home computer, logged into eBay, and began his nightly aircraft hunt. For more than two decades, Chong had been making exquisite aircraft models at Northrop Grumman’s display model shop—and collecting the rare desktop models his company and other U.S. airplane makers distributed to promote their programs. Often the listings on eBay were for castoffs, but that night in 2005 one model gave him a jolt: Painted in mottled camouflage and balanced on a familiar pentagon base, it was an 18-inch-long concept model of a Northrop Grumman FB-23 advanced bomber.

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My Comment: This is a fascinating read on the future of military aviation .... read it all.

The Science Behind Jabulani, Adidas's 2010 World Cup Soccer Ball

Jabulani, Deconstructed: Adidas

From Popular Science:

See a video on how this year's latest and greatest piece of soccer engineering comes together.

While the sporting world watched the clock for the high noon announcement of the brackets for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, we were salivating over another four-year tradition: the engineering and innovation that goes into the official World Cup ball. With the 2010 Cup's Jabulani ball (‘to celebrate’ in isiZulu), Adidas claims it has surpassed its own Teamgeist from 2006 in constructing the roundest and most accurate ball ever played. See how it's made inside.

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Physicists Race To Publish First Results From LHC

Large Hadron Collider

From New Scientist:

Good things come to those who wait. But now that the Large Hadron Collider has restarted after undergoing more than a year of repairs, physicists are racing to analyse the data. Just days after the first protons were smashed together at the LHC, the first paper on the results has been accepted to a journal.

The first collisions took place on Monday, 23 November; by Saturday, a paper had been uploaded to the arxiv server, where physicists often publish their results prior to formal publication. Three days later, it had been accepted by the European Journal of Physics.

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Mysterious "Strange" Stars May Rival Black Holes For Weirdness

In this top-down illustration of a black hole and its surrounding disk, gas spiraling toward the black hole piles up just outside it, creating a traffic jam. The traffic jam is closer in for smaller black holes, so X-rays are emitted on a shorter timescale. By NASA

From USA Today:

Think black holes are strange? Understandable considering these powerhouses of the universe (many times heavier than our sun) are collapsed stars with gravity so strong that even light cannot escape their grasp.

But maybe they're not "strange" enough, suggest some astrophysicists. "Stellar" black holes, ones only a few times heavier than the sun, may actually be something even weirder called a quark star, or "strange" star.

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Shark Fins Traced To Home Waters Using DNA -- A First

Workers remove the fin from a female mako shark on a beach in Santa Rosalia, Mexico, in an undated picture. For the first time, scientists have used DNA analysis to trace shark fins back to their home waters. Most of the hammerhead fins found at the market came from endangered populations in the western Atlantic, the researchers said in December 2009. Photograph by Brian J. Skerry, NGS

From National Geographic:

Many of the hammerhead sharks that are butchered to feed Asian demand for shark-fin soup start their lives in American waters, a new forensic study shows.

For the first time, scientists have used DNA from shark fins to determine where they came from. The researchers traced finds from the scalloped hammerhead shark species—collected at the world's biggest fin market in Hong Kong—back to rare populations in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific oceans.

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Robots Become Reality

Pingpong-playing robot 'Topio'. The bipedal humanoid robot is designed to play table tennis against a human being. Photograph: Kim Kyung-hoon/Reuters

200 robot companies and institutes exhibit their latest specimens at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo, Japan.

Check out the entire gallery here.

Hawaiian Hot Spot Has Deep Roots

Location of seismic velocity anomaly at a depth of 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) beneath Hawaiian Islands (outlines). Orange color indicates low S-wave velocities, implying higher rock temperatures. Open boxes show locations of sea-floor seismometers. (Credit: Image courtesy of Science)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 3, 2009) — Washington, D.C.—Hawaii may be paradise for vacationers, but for geologists it has long been a puzzle. Plate tectonic theory readily explains the existence of volcanoes at boundaries where plates split apart or collide, but mid-plate volcanoes such as those that built the Hawaiian island chain have been harder to fit into the theory. A classic explanation, proposed nearly 40 years ago, has been that magma is supplied to the volcanoes from upwellings of hot rock, called mantle "plumes," that originate deep in the Earth's mantle. Evidence for these deep structures has been sketchy, however. Now, a sophisticated array of seismometers deployed on the sea floor around Hawaii has provided the first high-resolution seismic images of a mantle plume extending to depths of at least 1,500 kilometers (932 miles).

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Sound Body Equals Sound Mind, Study Finds

Exercise improves blood flow to the brain and may help build new brain cells, recent studies show. Image credit: Dreamstime

From Live Science:

A new study proves the old Roman saying, "A sound mind in a sound body" — the more fit one's heart is, the more one's brain seems to benefit, scientists now find.

Many earlier studies have linked physical exercise with brainpower in humans and animals, but most of the research in people focused on children or older adults. The few studies of young adulthood — when the brain changes rapidly, establishing many traits linked with intelligence — have yielded ambiguous data.

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Tall People Enjoy Better Wealth And Health

Credit: iStockphoto

From Cosmos:

SYDNEY: Both your health and financial success may be linked to your height, says a new report, which even found a link with the risk of developing cancer.

Brian McEvoy, a population geneticist at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, and co-worker Peter Visscher, reviewed over 70 research studies related to height, and found a general trend which confirms that your stature can affect both health and wealth.

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A More Durable Wind Turbine

Photo: Wheels turning: The blades of CWind's wind turbine move an internal flywheel and several shafts that attach to small generators within the nacelle. In the lower image, a rubber wheel rolls on the inside wall of a flywheel inside a 65-kilowatt prototype turbine. Credit: CWind

From Technology Review:

New design does away with the need for a complex gearbox.

A Canadian startup has developed a small prototype wind turbine that uses friction instead of a gearbox to convert wind energy into electricity. CWind, based in Owen Sound, Ontario, recently began work on a larger two-megawatt prototype. The company claims that its "friction drive" system is more efficient and reliable--and less costly to maintain--than conventional wind turbines, which are prone to expensive gearbox failures.

Read more ....

No Need For Specs: Eye Implants Offer ‘Super Vision’

From Times Online:

People who have to wear glasses in middle or old age could have their eyesight restored or even obtain “supervision” with the latest eye implants, a British surgeon says.

Light-adjustable lenses (LAL) offer the prospect of 20/20 vision to thousands of people who become short-sighted or develop cataracts with age.

The lenses are similar to existing lens implants, or intraocular lenses (IOL), used to treat cataracts. But doctors can adjust them after they have been implanted, tailoring the amount of correction to an individual’s needs and potentially eliminating the need for glasses.

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That's The Spirit! Stuck Mars Rover Stirs Up Exciting New Proof Of Water In Sand Trap

Free spirit: Hundreds of images taken by the Spirit rover between May and June 2009 built up this panoramic view of Mars. The tracks made by the rover are visible

From The Daily Mail:

When one of Nasa's rovers became stuck in a sand trap on Mars six months ago, scientists were frustrated it had stalled their search for water on the surface.

Now it appears it could have been the best thing to have happened to the mission.

As Nasa span the Spirit rover's wheels to try and manoeuvre it out of the ditch, they simply dug deeper into the soft sand. However this had churned up an intriguing bright fluffy material from the disturbed soil.

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Uncovering Secrets of Human Memory

Watch CBS News Videos Online

From CBS News:

Scientists Examine Famous Brain to Try and Understand Why We Remember Some Things and Forget Others.

(CBS) Today, at the University of California, San Diego Brain Observatory, scientists are shaving hair-fine slices from a frozen and very special brain, seeking to uncover the source of human memory, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

"The goal of the lab is to paint a picture of what the brain is like and how that picture is different and makes us who we are," said Jacopo Annese, the director of the Observatory.

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How Europe's Discarded Computers Are Poisoning Africa's Kids

Photo from Clemens Höges

From Spiegel Online:

People in the West throw away millions of old computers every year. Hundreds of thousands of them end up in Africa, where children try to eke out a living by selling the scrap. But the toxic elements in the waste are slowly poisoning them.

According to the Bible, God rained down fire and brimstone to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Sodom and Gomorrah" is also what officials in Accra, Ghana, have come to call a part of their city plagued by toxins of a sort the residents of the Biblical cities couldn't even have imagined. No one sets foot in this place unless they absolutely have to.

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Have We Discovered It All?

Funding for medical research is now estimated to be in the
region of $100 billion worldwide Photo: AFP

From The Telegraph:

Billions are spent on medical research, but we have entered an era of diminishing returns.

When Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, admitted last week that he was going to have to "re-prioritise" £60 million of the Government's medical research budget, diverting it to help pay for social care for the elderly and disabled, it seemed a blatant example of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is self-evident, after all, that today's research will reap dividends in the future, whether through new treatments, or novel ways of thinking about and preventing disease.

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Electromagnetic Pulse Cuts Through Steel In 200 Milliseconds

The Riddle of Steel Freedom Steel International

From Popular Science:

Cutting through solid steel with flaming bacon certainly has its appeal, but for large-scale industrial processes, the Fraunhofer institute thinks electromagnetic pulses may work better than the other white heat. Case in point: their new electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device that cuts through steel faster than a laser, and cheaper than a machine tool.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

First Direct Observation Of A Planet-Like Object Orbiting Star Similar To Sun

This August 2009 discovery image of GJ 758 B was taken with the Subaru Telescope's HiCIAO instrument in the near infrared, which measures and records differences in heat. Without the special technique employed here (angular differential imaging), the star's glare would overwhelm the light from the planet candidates. The planet-like object, GJ 758 B, is circled as B in the lower right portion of the image. An unconfirmed companion planet or planet-like object, C, can be viewed above B. The star, GJ 758, is located at the center of the image, at the hub of the starburst. The graphic at the top compares the orbital distances of solar system planets. (Credit: Max Planck Institute for Astronomy/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 3, 2009) — An international team of scientists that includes an astronomer from Princeton University has made the first direct observation of a planet-like object orbiting a star similar to the sun.

The finding marks the first discovery made with the world's newest planet-hunting instrument on the Hawaii-based Subaru Telescope and is the first fruit of a novel research collaboration announced by the University in January.

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Conquering The Digital Data Overload

A visualization of the human brain using VisTrails. In recent decades, researchers have used computers to build complex visualizations based on large data sets to gain a better perspective on their research. A computer-generated visualization can help a surgeon better understand what is happening inside a patient's heart before ever picking up a scalpel. Credit: Juliana Freire, University of Utah

From Live Science:

If you're feeling a little overwhelmed by all the information you have to keep track of, you're not alone. Between the proliferation of 'smart' devices — ranging from phones to power grids — and the ever-growing Internet, the world is drowning in data. But not to despair, computer scientists like Juliana Freire are trying to help us gather and make sense of this modern monsoon of data. A computer scientist at the University of Utah, Freire's work centers on finding data that might otherwise be missed, as well as integrating and managing that data into knowledge that people can actually use. She and her collaborators have created the DeepPeep project, an attempt at integrating typical web-based data with other databases that are publicly available, but not easily found through standard methods like online searching. Freire has also created a tool called VisTrails that allows users to take several computers and 24 large, flat-screen video monitors and produce a single high-resolution visualization, such as the brain's vascular system or the dynamics of an erupting volcano. For more about the work, see the recent NSF Discovery feature story. For more on Freire, see her answers to the ScienceLives 10 Questions below.

Read more ....

Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes

Tomatoes are now known to absorb nutrients from insects they have trapped.

From The Independent:

Botanists at Kew discover the plant is carnivorous, with ability to trap insects.

Vegetarians, look away now.

Potatoes and tomatoes make good eating but they may also have a vicious side that makes them deadly killers on a par with venus fly traps and pitcher plants.

They have been identified as among a host of plants thought to have been overlooked by botanists and explorers searching the world’s remotest regions for carnivorous species.

Read more ....

Coders, Exploits, Nics And Drops – Welcome To The World Of Web Crime

From Times Online:

The image of online criminals as amateur hackers, breaking into computer systems for kicks, has been out of date for some time. Online crime is dominated by professional criminals and has even given rise to distinct career paths that would-be criminals can choose to pursue from the outset.

On the technical side, “coders” specialise in writing malicious software designed to steal passwords and other personal data; others develop “exploits” designed to defeat security systems and hijack home or corporate PCs. Others provide the infrastructure — the networks, servers and internet connectivity — needed to launch attacks that steal personal information.

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Google Property Portal Threatens Online Housing Market

The service currently operates in Australia, where buyers
can use Google to view properties for sale

From The Daily Mail:

Homebuyers looking to buy a property may be able to use Google under radical plans being considered by the world's most popular website.

The American website giant is understood to be planning to launch an online property portal in the next few months.

If the plan goes ahead, anybody looking to buy a property will be able to use Google to search for properties for sale in any part of the country.

Estate agents said they have been talking to the company about the plans.

Read more ....

Four-Country Study Finds No Cancer Link To Cellphone Usage

From USA Today:

A large new study is the latest to find no link between rising cellphone use and rates of brain cancer.

Researchers in four Scandinavian countries found no increase in brain tumor diagnoses from 1998 to 2003, when cellphone use in those countries grew sharply, according to a study published online Thursday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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UN Panel Promises To Investigate Leaked 'Climategate' E-Mails

Photo: (Yves Herman/Reuters). Rajendra Pachauri: IPCC chief

From Times Online:

The United Nations panel on climate change has promised to investigate claims that scientists at a British university deliberately manipulated data to support the theory of man-made global warming.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said that the allegations raised by leaked e-mails in the so-called "climategate" controversy were too serious to ignore.

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Copenhagen Climate Conference: World Risks 4C Rise Even If There Is A Deal

The rise in temperature will mean melting of the glaciers, sea level rise,
mass droughts and flooding Photo: PA

From The Telegraph:

The world could suffer catastrophic climate change even if there is a deal at Copenhagen, scientists have warned.

The UN summit in the Danish capital is likely to end in a global deal to limit greenhouse gases in order to control global warming.

But writing in the journal Nature, a group of leading academics, have warned that unless countries meet their most ambitious targets temperature rises will go above 3.6F (2C).

Read more ....

The World's 18 Strangest Roadways: Gallery

Hana Highway: Maui, Hawaii

From Popular Mechanics:

The most direct path between two points is a straight line, but roads are rarely straight, and the ones that are can be terminally boring. Engineers around the world must calculate the most efficient routes over massive mountains, through densely populated cities and around unavoidable bodies of water, all while accounting for the ecological and financial cost of such projects. The results can be astonishing. Here are some of the world's most notable roads and why they stand out.

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Cheaper, Smaller Network Of Spy Satellites Gives Troops On The Ground Their Own Eye In The Sky

Don't You Wish You Knew What's Beyond that Ridge? With Kestrel Eye satellites, grunts on the ground will be able to check out surrounding terrain from a bird's eye view in near real time. USMC

From Popular Science:

Imagine your unit is working through a valley in Eastern Afghanistan trying to root out an insurgent group that’s been operating from the mountains above. It would be strategically advantageous to know exactly who and what awaits you on the other side of each ridge, but the nearest Predator drone is busy monitoring a key mountain pass miles away. What would really be nice is a satellite – your own little eye in the sky – to beam down some real time images of the surrounding landscape. Kestrel Eye, a system of multiple lightweight, low-cost imaging satellites that can be repositioned from the field, aims to do just that.

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A Uranium Shortage Could Derail Plans To Go Nuclear To Cut Carbon Emissions

From The Economist:

THERE is an awesome amount of energy tied up in an atom of uranium. Because of that, projections of the price of nuclear power tend to focus on the cost of building the plant rather than that of fuelling it. But proponents of nuclear energy—who argue, correctly, that such plants emit little carbon dioxide—would do well to remember that, like coal and oil, uranium is a finite resource.

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What Happens When An Enormous Star Blows Up?

Kepler's supernova remnant. The explosion of a star is a catastrophic event. The blast rips the star apart and unleashes a roughly spherical shock wave that expands outward at more than 35 million kilometers per hour (22 million mph) like an interstellar tsunami. What might happen when a really gargantuan star -- one hundreds of times bigger than our sun -- blows up? (Credit: NASA)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 4, 2009) — What happens when a really gargantuan star -- one hundreds of times bigger than our sun -- blows up? Although a theory developed years ago describes what the explosion of such an enormous star should look like, no one had actually observed one -- until now.

Read more ....

Ancient Volcano's Devastating Effects Confirmed

This satellite image shows smoldering underground fires that took place at Toba in 1997. A devastating volcanic eruption occurred at the site roughly 73,000 years ago. Credit: NASA

From Live Science:

A massive volcanic eruption that occurred in the distant past killed off much of central India's forests and may have pushed humans to the brink of extinction, according to a new study that adds evidence to a controversial topic.

The Toba eruption, which took place on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia about 73,000 years ago, released an estimated 800 cubic kilometers of ash into the atmosphere that blanketed the skies and blocked out sunlight for six years. In the aftermath, global temperatures dropped by as much as 16 degrees centigrade (28 degrees Fahrenheit) and life on Earth plunged deeper into an ice age that lasted around 1,800 years.

Read more ....

Richard Branson Joins The Space Race

An artist's impression of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo transported by WhiteKnightTwo.

From The Guardian:

For $200,000, you too could soon be blasting out of the Earth's atmosphere thanks to Richard Branson. But is this really a revolution in space travel?

The Mojave desert, 160km north of Los Angeles, is best known for its unforgiving weather and ancient, almost alien, landscape. On Monday, however, it will play host to a very modern spectacle when Sir Richard Branson unveils the latest stage of his scheme to transform space travel into a cheap, commercial proposition.

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Both Of NASA's Mars Orbiters Are Down For The Count

Engineers are working to restore NASA's two Mars orbiters, Mars Odyssey (shown) and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, to normal operation (Illustration: NASA/JPL)

From New Scientist:

The Red Planet is experiencing a partial radio blackout this week, as both of NASA's Mars orbiters have been felled by technical glitches. Until one of the probes can be brought back online later this week, the outages will delay operation of the twin Mars rovers, which use the orbiters to efficiently relay data back to Earth.

The main blow to rover operations comes from NASA's Mars Odyssey, which reached the Red Planet in 2001 and has been the prime communications relay for the rovers Spirit and Opportunity since they landed in 2004.

Read more ....

Intel Shows 48-Core Processor For Research

From Gadget Lab:

Intel’s six- and eight-core processors are the fastest chips that consumers can get their hands on. But if you are among the research elite, the company has a new experimental chip that can offer nearly 20 times the computing power.

Intel showed an 48-core processor nicknamed the “single-chip cloud computer” that consumes about the same power as desktop processors available currently. The fully programmable 48 processing cores are the most Intel has ever had on a single silicon chip, says the company.

Read more ....

New Technique To "Revolutionise" Astronomy

Credit: iStockphoto

From Cosmos:

SYDNEY: There is a frustrating amount of light pollution in the night sky. But a new invention could "revolutionise" the way astronomers see the stars, said an Australian-German collaboration last night.

"Once up and running it will exceed the power of the James Webb telescope [which will be the successor to Hubble]," said project leader, astronomer Joss Bland-Hawthorn from the University of Sydney in Australia.

Space telescopes are able to view the stars without the interference of the Earth's atmosphere. On Earth, however, interference from the atmosphere can hinder astronomical 'seeing'.

Read more ....

World’s Tallest Building, Burj Dubai Tower, Opens As A Golden Era Closes

From Christian Science Monitor:

Dubai Tower opens next month. But will this crowning jewel also be the city's high watermark?

Burj Dubai Tower, the world’s tallest building, is a spire of superlatives.

The 160-story skyscraper will open on January 4, the fourth anniversary of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum’s rule in Dubai.

Under the Sheikh, Dubai has seen a boom in record breakers, impressive firsts, and baffling spectacles. For example, the city is or will be home to the world’s first refrigerated beach, a twirling tower, the world’s largest arch-supported bridge, and artificial islands in the shape of the world map.

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Human Genetic Revelations Coming In 2010

From Future Pundit:

Writing in The Economist Geoffrey Miller says in 2010 human genetic research results will show some politically incorrect beliefs about human nature are correct. Looking ahead to 2010 and beyond I am reminded of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's 5 stages of death. I think these apply to beliefs as well.

Human geneticists have reached a private crisis of conscience, and it will become public knowledge in 2010. The crisis has depressing health implications and alarming political ones. In a nutshell: the new genetics will reveal much less than hoped about how to cure disease, and much more than feared about human evolution and inequality, including genetic differences between classes, ethnicities and races.

Read more ....

Forensics Machine To Boost Hunt For Bomb Fragments

Millimetre-sized fragments are examined in fume cabinets.

From BBC News:

The guidance for visitors informs us that we will receive a warning prior to the detonation of an explosive device.

It urges us not to be alarmed and to "be prepared for a bang".

The advice is welcome, if not entirely unexpected. It's a reminder of the vital and hazardous work carried out here at the UK's Forensic Explosives Laboratory (FEL).

Situated in Kent's leafy North Downs, FEL is the world's oldest forensic science laboratory, established 130 years ago.

Read more ....

Bad Teeth Tormented Ancient Egyptians

Photo: The mummy of Seqenenre Tao II, shown here, was among 3,000 specimens analyzed for cause of death. The mask shows the marks from the axe blow and the two spear thrusts that brought about his death. Getty Images

From Discover News:

A systematic review of more than 3,000 mummy analyses reveal ancient Egyptians suffered from periodontal diseases, abscesses and cavities.

Worn teeth, periodontal diseases, abscesses and cavities tormented the ancient Egyptians, according to the first systematic review of all studies performed on Egyptian mummies in the past 30 years.

Read more ....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Synthetic Magnetic Fields 'Trick' Neutral Atoms Into Acting As If Electrically Charged

A pair of laser beams (red arrows) impinges upon an ultracold gas cloud of rubidum atoms (green oval) to create synthetic magnetic fields (labeled Beff). (Inset) The beams, combined with an external magnetic field (not shown) cause the atoms to "feel" a rotational force; the swirling atoms create vortices in the gas. (Credit: JQI)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 3, 2009) — Achieving an important new capability in ultracold atomic gases, researchers at the Joint Quantum Institute, a collaboration of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland, have created "synthetic" magnetic fields for ultracold gas atoms, in effect "tricking" neutral atoms into acting as if they are electrically charged particles subjected to a real magnetic field.

Read more ....

Are Large Dams Altering Extreme Weather Patterns?

Hoover Dam

From Live Science:

Large dams may cause shifting regional weather extremes.

This finding is causing scientists to wonder if aging dams around the world can withstand the extreme weather events they may inadvertently generate.

It was nearly 75 years ago that scientists first speculated that large dams could vastly transform local climate. Weather results from the interaction of warm and cool air, and dams can hold vast reservoirs of water that can influence the heat and moisture of the air above them. Dams also can radically alter irrigation patterns in the surrounding land, impacting their climate patterns as well.

Read more ....

Antarctica Was Climate Refuge During Great Extinction

From New Scientist:

The cool climate of Antarctica was a refuge for animals fleeing climate change during the biggest mass extinction in Earth's history, suggests a new fossil study. The discovery may have implications for how modern animals will adapt to global warming.

Around 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, about 90 per cent of land species were wiped out as global temperatures soared. A cat-sized distant relative of mammals, Kombuisia antarctica, seems to have survived the extinction by fleeing south to Antarctica.

Read more ....

For 2010, IDC Predicts An Apple iPad And Battles In The Cloud

From CNET:

Apple brings out an iPad digital tablet. Netbooks move upscale. And IBM buys Juniper Networks.

Those predictions for next year, and others, are being presented on Thursday by the technology research firm IDC.

DC's entry in the year-end forecasting sweepstakes doesn't lack for detail. There will be 300,000 iPhone applications by the end of next year, nearly triple the current number, according to IDC. There will be 50,000 to 75,000 Google Android applications, up from about 10,000.

Read more ....

The Nuclear Football

The nuclear football being carried by a Coast Guard officer at the United Nations, 2009.
Photo from Wikipedia

From Wikipedia:

The Nuclear Football (also called the Atomic Football, President's Emergency Satchel, The Button, The Red Button, The Black Box, or just The Football) is a black briefcase meant to be used by the President of the United States of America to authorize a nuclear attack while away from fixed command centers, such as the White House Situation Room. It functions as a mobile hub in the strategic defense system of the United States.

Read more ....

My Comment: A friend of mine emailed me this .... it is quite interesting.

Space Exploration Takes Too Long For Democracies?

From Future Pundit:

Will China's lack of democracy give it a leg up in the next wave of human space exploration? Michael Hanlon argues the next big step in space exploration takes too much time for a democracy to fund it.

It may simply be that space exploration is incompatible with US democracy. A Mars shot would take four presidential terms at least. No president will ask taxpayers to fund something he won't be around to take credit for.

Read more ....

Can Saharan Solar Power Save Europe?

Is it a mirage? Some experts think so, others say it will become a reality. AP

From Spiegel Online:

Some say it's a foolish fantasy, others believe it has the potential to save the world from the effects of climate change. The German-led Desertec initiative to build a massive solar thermal power plant in the Sahara Desert has both advocates and critics. SPIEGEL ONLINE looks at the current state of play.

For years, the idea of generating solar power for Europe in the Sahara was dismissed as pure fantasy. But then all of sudden it was happening, and Desertec was making headlines worldwide.

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Cool Find In Hunt For Exoplanets

Image: The planet, called GJ758B, may well have a sister, GJ758C

From The BBC:

Astronomers have published an image of the coolest planet outside our solar system that has been pictured directly.

The new find is more similar to our own Solar System than prior pictured exoplanets, in terms of the parent star's type and the planet's size.

However, the surface temperature is a scorching 280-370C, and could still prove to be a brown dwarf star.

The results, published in Astrophysical Journal, were obtained by a new camera on the Subaru telescope in Hawaii.

Among more than 400 known exoplanets, only 10 have been imaged directly, rather than detecting them via measurements of their parent stars' light or movement.

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The Sun: Falling Into An Even Deeper Funk

From Watts Up With That?

With Climategate sucking all the oxygen out of the blogosphere, we’ve neglected some of our regular reporting duties here at WUWT.

Thanks to Paul Stanko, who has been tracking sunspots for WUWT for awhile now who writes in with this update. It looks like we’ll soon surpass 2008 for the number of spotless days. – Anthony

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