Saturday, December 12, 2009

Super-Massive Black Holes Observed At The Center of Galaxies

UKIRT infrared images of the four target galaxies show them in near-infrared color, where the images at different infrared wavelengths are assigned to represent red, green and blue colors. Observations with the Keck Interferometer have resolved the inner structure of the bright nucleus in all the four galaxies. The inferred ring-like structure obtained for NGC 4151 at the top-left is depicted in the top-right panel. The ring radius is 0.13 light years, corresponding to an extremely small ~0.5 milli-arcsecond angular size on the sky. The distance to each galaxy is indicated in million light-years, together with the redshift (z) of each galaxy. (Credit: M. Kishimoto, MPIfR)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 11, 2009) — An international team of scientists has observed four super-massive black holes at the center of galaxies, which may provide new information on how these central black hole systems operate.

Their findings are published in December's first issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Read more ....

Did Ancient Sicilians Build Temples to 'Fit In?'

A Greek temple dating from the fifth century BC. It's more likely to have been dedicated to the Dioscuri (the Gemini twins) than Concord. Some researchers theorize that such temples on Sicily were built facing east as to adhere to Greek conventions. Credit: Dr. Alun Salt

From Live Science:

Ancient Greeks living in Sicily built their sacred temples to face the rising sun, new research suggests.

Almost all of the temples constructed on the island of Sicily during its Greek period over 2,500 years ago are oriented toward the eastern horizon, according to a new study by Alun Salt, an archaeoastronomer with the University of Leicester, in England.

Though many temples on mainland Greece also line up with the sunrise, it is less frequent on the mainland than on outlying colonies, implying an effort by outlying colonies to strengthen their ties to the home territory, Salt told LiveScience.

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Extreme Fear: Could You Handle It?

Illustration: Matt Murphy

From The Guardian:

When disaster strikes, whether you live or die depends on how you react to the crisis…

If you suddenly found yourself in a life-or-death crisis and had to make a decision that would either save your life or end it, are you confident you'd make the right one? People in the state of Victoria, Australia, faced just such a decision in February and March this year. For five weeks, catastrophic brush fires swept across the state. Government policy held that when fire threatened a neighbourhood, homeowners were to make a choice: stay and fight to save their houses, or evacuate early. They were explicitly instructed not to wait until the flames were close. Trying to run from an advancing wildfire is the surest way to die in it.

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DIY Book Scanners Turn Your Books Into Bytes

From Gadget Lab:

For nearly two years, Daniel Reetz dreamed of a book scanner that could crunch textbooks and spit out digital files he could then read on his PC.

Book scanners, like the ones Google is using in its Google Books project, run into thousands of dollars, putting them out of the reach of a graduate student like Reetz. But in January, when textbook prices for the semester were listed, Reetz decided he would make a book scanner that would cost a fraction of commercially available products.

Read more ....

Top 10 Yahoo! Internet Searches Of 2009

Photo: Britney Spears -- who dominated Yahoo!'s Top 10 Overall Searches for the past four years -- dropped from the No. 1 position to No. 5 this year. (CBS)

From CBS News:

Yahoo! Web Life Editor Shares the Hottest Internet Topics of the Year.

(CBS) One of the most telling ways to assess our national interest in economics, politics, and entertainment is to analyze the top web searches of the year. So what are the most searched topics on Yahoo! this year?

Heather Cabot, Yahoo! Web life editor, shared on "The Early Show" what the hottest web topics were in 2009 and what they say about Americans and our national consciousness.

1. Michael Jackson
2. Twilight
3. WWE
4. Megan Fox
5. Britney Spears
6. Naruto (Japanese Anime)
7. American Idol
8. Kim Kardashian
10. Runescape

So what overall does this list tells us?

Read more ....

The Perfect Way To Slice A Pizza

Solving essential life problems (Image: Eric Savage/Getty)

From The New Scientist:

LUNCH with a colleague from work should be a time to unwind - the most taxing task being to decide what to eat, drink and choose for dessert. For Rick Mabry and Paul Deiermann it has never been that simple. They can't think about sharing a pizza, for example, without falling headlong into the mathematics of how to slice it up. "We went to lunch together at least once a week," says Mabry, recalling the early 1990s when they were both at Louisiana State University, Shreveport. "One of us would bring a notebook, and we'd draw pictures while our food was getting cold."

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Subsurface Gas Deposit Could Deflate Theory Of How Earth's Atmosphere Formed

LIFE LINE: Earth's atmosphere, as seen from space, allowed life to thrive on the planet, but how it originated and evolved remains an open question. NASA

From Scientific American:

Krypton trapped in Earth's mantle appears not to have been captured from the sun, as some models would predict.

A precision analysis of gases from Earth's mantle collected at a geologic formation in the U.S. Southwest points to a source for the gas that more closely resembles carbonaceous meteorites than it does the sun. If confirmed by further research, the new study would challenge a theoretical model for atmosphere formation in which Earth began with two reservoirs of solar gas captured during the planet's formation and youth—one surrounding the planet, the other buried beneath the surface.

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Massive Camera Sharpens Our View Of The Universe : Big Pic Gallery

The Beast -- A portrait of VISTA, a system developed by a consortium of 18 universities in the United Kingdom led by Queen Mary, University of London. This is the biggest survey telescope of its kind, revolutionizing ESO's capability of observing the southern skies, combining outstanding photographic capabilities with a huge light-collecting mirror. Image credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky

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Intense Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks Sunday

The annual Geminid meteor shower lights up the sky over the 1600-year old fire temple of Niasar in Iran in a December 14, 2008 photograph. Photograph by Oshin Zakarian, TWAN

From National Geographic:

Late Sunday night is the peak of the year's most prolific annual cosmic fireworks show—the Geminid meteor shower (Geminids picture).

The meteor shower has been growing in intensity in recent decades and should be an even better holiday treat than usual this year, since it's falling in a nearly moonless week.

Coming fast on the heels of its more famous cousin the Leonid meteor shower—which peaked less than a month ago—the Geminid show should feature as many as 140 shooting stars per hour between Sunday evening and Monday morning.

The Geminids are slow meteors that create beautiful long arcs across the sky—many lasting a second or two.

Read more ....

SCARE" Software Predicts Insurgent Weapons Cache Locations Based On IED Attacks

Cutting Down IED Attacks IED attacks such as these can provide basic intel for SCARE to predict weapons cache locations U.S. Army

From Popular Science:

The program generates hypotheses from available intel to finger IED weapons caches within a half a mile of actual locations.

Improvised explosives used by insurgents represent the top killer for warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now soldiers have a new tool for hunting down IED weapons caches. A new software package, called SCARE, can whip up a best hypothesis for possible locations, based on locations of past improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and, somewhat surprisingly, the Shiite vs. Sunni makeup of neighborhoods.

Read more ....

Map Of Every Nuclear Explosions Since 1945

Our Century of Fallout: Every Nuclear Detonation, Mapped -- Gizmodo

Everyone's got a notion of how the last century went, in terms of nuclear explosions. There was Hiroshima, then Nagasaki. There were some nuclear tests out in the desert, and the ocean. But would you believe there've been over 2000?

Read more ....

CSN Editor: A full sized version is here.

Sea Level Is Rising Along US Atlantic Coast, Say Environmental Scientists

New Jersey coast. New research shows that sea-level rise along the Atlantic Coast of the United States was 2 millimeters faster in the 20th century than at any time in the past 4,000 years. (Credit: iStockphoto/Daniel Nydick)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 11, 2009) — An international team of environmental scientists led by the University of Pennsylvania has shown that sea-level rise along the Atlantic Coast of the United States was 2 millimeters faster in the 20th century than at any time in the past 4,000 years.

Sea-level rise prior to the 20th century is attributed to coastal subsidence. Put simply, land is being lost to subsidence as the earth continues to rise in response to the removal of the huge weight of ice sheets during the last glacial period. Using sediment cores from the U.S. Atlantic coast, researchers found significant spatial variations in land movement, with the mid-Atlantic coastlines of New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland subsiding twice as much as areas to the north and south. Coastal subsidence enhances sea-level rise, which leads to shoreline erosion and loss of wetlands and threatens coastal populations.

Read more ....

New Device Makes Guns More Accurate

Timothy Kraft using opti-sight. Credit: University of Alabama, Birmingham

From Live Science:

A new technology may make it easier for gun owners to improve their marksmanship.

Opti-sight, a new pistol-aiming device, was developed to reduce the time law enforcement, professional and amateur shooters need for target practice to get better results at the firing range.

Read more .....

Europe vs. Google: The Next Chapter

A scanner passes over a book as part of Google Inc.'s project to create digital versions of all the estimated 50 million to 100 million books in the world. Carlos Osorio / AP

From Time Magazine:

Google may be valued at more than $185 billion and boast millions of users, but that doesn't mean the Internet giant is any match for the diminutive French President Nicolas Sarkozy. On Dec. 8, Sarkozy warned Google he would not allow France to be "stripped" of its literary heritage, an apparent reference to Google's enormous book-digitizing project. "We won't let ourselves be stripped of our heritage to the benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big or American it is," Sarkozy said during a round-table discussion in eastern France. "We are not going to be stripped of what generations and generations have produced in the French language, just because we weren't capable of funding our own digitization project."

Read more ....

Geminid Meteor Shower Set To Light Up The Sky With Spectacular Display

Photo: The hidden fires of the Flame Nebula: meteor showers will be spectacular this weekend

From Times Online:

Wrap up warm and look at the night sky this weekend for the most spectacular meteor shower of the year — although you will need to brave some cold temperatures hovering around freezing.

The Geminid meteor shower appears every year about this time and is our best shooting star display, with more than 100 meteors appearing each hour. This year’s spectacle is especially good because it is close to a new moon so there is no moonlight to interfere with the view.

Read more ....

NASA Comet Hunter Set For Monday Launch

From Information Week:

Weekend liftoff of WISE space telescope scrubbed due to faulty steering engine.

NASA delayed until Monday the launch of a space telescope designed to create a highly detailed map of the heavens and spot comets and asteroids that could pose a threat to life on Earth.

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, was slated to lift off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base atop a Delta II rocket Friday, but a balky booster steering engine forced the delay.

Read more ....

2010: The Year Of The Tablet Computer?

From PC World:

In China, 2010 will be the year of the Tiger. In the tech world, 2010 will be the year of the Tablet -- or so it seems. A bevy of tech companies have teased, talked, and have not denied rumors that they are working on a fabled tablet computer. Here is a look back at 2009 tablet buzz with a look forward to 2010 -- the year of the Tablet.

Asustek is rumored to be working on an Eee Pad, according to Digitimes. Rumors of a Dell tablet won't go away. Earlier this year, rumors of a Microsoft two-panel tablet appeared after Gizmodo got its hands on one of Redmond's concept videos. And starting Friday, the JooJoo Web tablet is supposed to go on sale for $499 at And of course there is the ever-present Apple rumor that "soon" it will introduce a tablet.

Read more ....

Final NASA Spending Bill Includes Protections For Moon Program


WASHINGTON — House and Senate negotiators reached agreement this week on a 2010 omnibus spending bill that includes $18.7 billion for NASA — a $942 million increase over the agency's 2009 budget — and includes a provision that would prevent the agency from scaling back or canceling its current human spaceflight activities in the absence of formal legislative approval from congressional appropriators.

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The H1N1 Pandemic: Is A Second Wave Possible?

A woman wears a mask in Beijing on Dec. 2, 2009. Peter Parks / AFP / Getty

From Time Magazine:

Since early November, cases of H1N1 have continued to decline nationwide, and scientists keeping track of the numbers say that as pandemics go, 2009 H1N1 may turn out to be a mild one — at least for the time being.

The question now on health officials' minds is: Will there be a second wave of cases in the new year? The answer depends on whom you ask. "We took an informal poll of about a dozen of some of the world's leading experts in influenza," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters recently. "About half of them said, Yes, we think it's likely that we'll have another surge in cases. About half said, No, we think it's not likely. And one said, Flip a coin."

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Earth's Atmosphere Came From Outer Space


From The Telegraph:

The Earth's atmosphere and oceans which gave rise to life came from outer space probably on the back of meteorites or comets, scientists now believe.

Previously it was thought that the gases and minerals were locked deep within the Earth's crust and only released in huge volcanic eruptions.

But now researchers have proved that they must have come from outer space billions of years after the Earth was first formed.

Read more ....

Large Hadron Collider Creates World-Record Energy Collisions As It Gears Up For Big Bang Test

This image provided by CERN shows particle tracks as protons collided in CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Physicists hope those collisions will help them understand suspected phenomena such as dark matter

From The Daily Mail:

The world's largest atom smasher has smashed particles together at the highest energy achieved in a laboratory, a spokeswoman has confirmed.

The Large Hadron Collider recorded its first high-energy collisions of protons on Tuesday evening, as it underwent test runs in preparation for full-scale operations next year.

More than 10 billion protons per bunch collided at a total energy of 2.36 trillion electron volts (TeV) per collision.

Read more ....

Friday, December 11, 2009

First Evidence Of Brain Rewiring in Children: Reading Remediation Positively Alters Brain Tissue

A still from a movie from Cassini, made possible only as Saturn's north pole emerged from winter darkness, showing new details of a jet stream that follows a hexagon-shaped path and has long puzzled scientists.

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 10, 2009) — After waiting years for the sun to illuminate Saturn's north pole again, cameras aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft have captured the most detailed images yet of the intriguing hexagon shape crowning the planet.

The new images of the hexagon, whose shape is the path of a jet stream flowing around the north pole, reveal concentric circles, curlicues, walls and streamers not seen in previous images. Images and the three-frame animation are available at, and

Read more ....

Using Airplane Know-How To Harness Wave Energy

This fleshed-out reconstruction of a newly identified theropod dinosaur, called Tawa hallae, shows the dog-sized beast had claws for snagging meaty prey. Credit: Jorge Gonzalez.

From Live Science:

Long, long ago, some of the first dinosaurs walked the Earth. But scientists have not known with any confidence where those initial dino prints were made. Much more recently, hikers stumbled across a few bits of bone at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, leading to the discovery of a game-changing dinosaur that reveals where it all began.

Read more ....

Rare Words 'Author's Fingerprint'

From The BBC:

Analyses of classic authors' works provide a way to "linguistically fingerprint" them, researchers say.

The relationship between the number of words an author uses only once and the length of a work forms an identifier for them, they argue.

Analyses of works by Herman Melville, Thomas Hardy, and DH Lawrence showed these "unique word" charts are specific to each author.

The work is published in the New Journal of Physics.

Read more ....

From Minnie To Mickey (And All They Did Was Turn Off A Gene)

The cells of the female ovary were transformed into cells normally found in male testes by turning off a gene during the development of the mouse embryo. Alamy

From The Independent:

Simple technique changes sex of a mouse – and reveals the gender war that rages in all of us.

The battle of the sexes is a never-ending war waged within ourselves as male and female elements of our own bodies continually fight each other for supremacy. This is the astonishing implication of a pioneering study showing that it is possible to flick a genetic switch that turns female ovary cells into male testicular tissue.

Read more ....

Super Soldier Updates

From the Next Big Future:

DARPA has a program that is spending about $3 billion to create super soldiers. Here is an update of technology that is ready or is becoming deployable or usable for the purpose of creating super soldiers. Much of it is not from DARPA.

1. The Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC™) exoskeleton runs on Li-ion batteries, driving lightweight hydraulic legs with titanium structure. A wearer can hang a 200lb backpack from the back frame and heavy chest armour and kit from shoulder extensions.

According to Lockheed reps the HULC isn't ready for prime time yet, being still "in ruggedisation". However the company would envisage giving it to actual soldiers so as to get their input from the summer of 2010.

Read more ....

My Comment: An excellent summary from the "Next Big Future".

What NASA's WISE Space Mapper Will Look For In The Sky

The 40 cm diameter WISE telescope is an all aluminum optical system that will produce images of the sky with 2.75 arcsec resolution in four infrared spectral bands. Here the lead optical test engineer attaches the back-end imager optics to the afocal. This entire telescope will be mounted inside the WISE cryostat and cooled to about 17K. The WISE telescope was developed by L3 Communications-SSG.

From Popular Mechanics:

Early on Friday, NASA will launch its newest satellite, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Its mission: To catalogue the murky parts of our universe in never-before-seen detail. As the craft orbits Earth, it will capture images of the sky with an infrared digital camera that snaps pictures every 11 seconds. So what's out there that WISE's team of astronomers are so eager to see? Here's a list.

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Darpa's Cyborg Insect Spies, Now Nuclear-Powered

From Popular Science:

When you write for Popular Science, it's easy to become desensitized to wild and crazy future tech. To wit: When I first heard that Darpa wanted to develop cyborg insects to carry surveillance equipment, I thought "ok, cyborg insect spies are pretty cool, but not blowing me away."

Then today, Cornell researchers working on the program unveiled a prototype transmitter for the cyborg bugs that runs on radioactive isotopes. Nuclear powered cyborg insect spies? Ok, now you have my attention.

Read more ....

First-Born Children Are More Successful But Less Trusting

From The Telegraph:

First-born children are more likely to achieve greatness but at the cost of being less co-operative and less trusting than their younger siblings.

Research suggests that first borns are generally smarter and more likely to become leaders compared to their younger brothers and sisters.

However this appears to make them more cynical and less likely to trust others or co-operate with them, according to research.

Read more ....

Mediterranean Was Created In Earth's Biggest Deluge

The deluge that formed the Mediterranean. Photograph: Roger Pibernat

From The Guardian:

Catastrophic flooding caused sea levels to rise by 10 metres a day, according to new research.

The Mediterranean Sea was formed by the most spectacular flood in Earth's history when water from the Atlantic Ocean breached the mountain range joining Europe and Africa with the force of a thousand Amazon rivers, scientists say.

Read more ....

The 21st-Century Radio Revolution As 17m Tune In Online

Breaking with tradition: One third of radio listeners now tune in online

From The Daily Mail:

One third of the population chooses to listen to the radio on the internet rather than on a traditional receiver.

Figures show that the trend for accessing stations online is rapidly growing in popularity with 17.4million listeners doing so this month.

The web audience has increased by about three million in 18 months.

Read more ....

Deepwater Wind To Build First U.S. Ocean Wind Farm

From CNET News/Reuters:

The tiniest state in the nation may build the first U.S. offshore wind farm, after privately held Deepwater Wind on Thursday landed a deal to sell power from the first phase of a Rhode Island project that eventually could supply 15 percent of the state's electricity.

Under a 20-year power purchase agreement, developer Deepwater Wind will sell electricity from up to 8 turbines producing 28 megawatts to National Grid.

Earlier this year Rhode Island set a target to obtain 20 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2015.

Read more ....

Why Cancer Cells Just Won't Die: Researcher Identifies Protein Which Regulates Cell Suicide

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Dec. 10, 2009) — When cells experience DNA damage, they'll try to repair it. But if that fails, the damaged cells are supposed to self-destruct, a process called apoptosis. A cancer researcher at Robarts Research Institute at The University of Western Ontario has identified a protein that regulates apoptosis, a new discovery which has implications for both the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Read more ....

Using Airplane Know-How To Harness Wave Energy

Image credit: SSgt Danny Washburn, U.S. Air Force Academy, Department of Aeronautics

From Live Science:

This is the view looking into the test section of the U.S. Air Force Academy water tunnel. Three blades of a cycloidal turbine — part of a new wave energy system — are visible at the far end. Engineer Stefan Siegel and his colleagues test the turbine in the tunnel under conditions that emulate shallow-water waves. Wave energy isn't new, but Siegel and his Academy colleagues are the first to apply their aerodynamics training to the problem.

Read more ....

Unmanned Research Sub Crosses Atlantic

From CNN:

Madrid, Spain (CNN) -- A U.S.-built, unmanned mini-submarine on an ocean research mission has successfully crossed the North Atlantic by gliding on underwater currents, U.S. officials said Wednesday in Spain, where they came to retrieve it.

The ocean crossing is thought to be a first for the robotic device that looks like a small torpedo with wings, and was powered only by batteries that allowed it to change buoyancy so it could catch ocean currents.

A similar effort in 2008 failed and the device was never recovered.

Read more ....

Science Goes Back To Basics On AI

From the BBC:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has begun a project to re-think artificial intelligence research.

The Mind Machine Project will return to the basics of AI research to re-examine what lies behind human intelligence.

Spanning five years and funded by a $5m (£3.1m) grant, it will bring together scientists who have had success in distinct fields of AI.

By uniting researchers, MIT hopes to produce robotic companions smart enough to aid those suffering from dementia.

Read more ....

Fruit Flies Are Alcoholics Too

Fruit flies too can suffer from alcohol addiction.

From Cosmos:

SYDNEY: Given the chance, fruit flies will consume alcohol until they are intoxicated and enjoy it more and more over time, much like a human alcoholic, a new study has found.

In the study, published in the journal Current Biology, the fruit flies were given a choice between food containing 15% ethanol, and regular, ethanol-free food over a five-day period.

Read more ....

Swine Flu Has Hit About 1 In 6 Americans, CDC Says

From The L.A. Times:

Although nearly 10,000 have died from H1N1, that is a lower mortality rate than in regular flu seasons, the CDC chief says. What's different is that more children and adults under 50 have died, he say.

About 50 million Americans had contracted pandemic H1N1 influenza through Nov. 14, according to the newest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday -- meaning that about 15% of the entire country has been infected, about one in every six people.

"That still leaves most people not having been infected and still susceptible," CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said at a news conference. The agency also reported that more than 200,000 people had been hospitalized and nearly 10,000 had died.

Read more ....

Virgin Galactic's Unveil Is Tip Of The Iceberg For Private Spaceflight

Masten's Xoie flies against a backdrop of Mojave's windmills to the west. (Photograph courtesy of Mike Massee and Masten Space Systems)

From Popular Mechanics:

In the Mojave desert on Monday, strong winds and cold weather swept through Virgin Galactic's unveiling of SpaceShipTwo, an event that brought together the eager, capable and readying private space industry. Attendees heard grand talk of a new day of spaceflight arriving, but how significant, really, was Monday's event? Space analyst Rand Simberg reports from on the scene.

Read more ....

Nine European Nations Vow to Create Supergrid For Sharing Offshore Wind Power

Offshore Wind Power A European supergrid could enable easier
sharing of offshore wind power. Siemens

From Popular Science:

The Copenhagen announcement would allow nine European countries to share a common renewable energy source.

Offshore wind power may soon cross national boundaries more easily than ever, based on news from the Copenhagen climate summit. Nine European nations announced plans for a "supergrid" in the North Sea that would allow them to connect Irish wind farms to continental Europe, or vice versa.

Read more ....

Making Diesel From CO2 And Sunlight

Metal eater: Metallosphaera sedula can draw energy from a copper-iron sulfide called chalcopyrite, the black substance shown here. As it feeds, it produces copper ions (green), iron oxide (orange), and sulfur (yellow). The organism uses the energy from the sulfides to produce acetyl-CoA, a fundamental building block in cells. Researchers have been able to engineer organisms to convert acetyl-CoA into butanol and other liquid fuels. Credit: Robert Kelly, North Carolina State

From Technology Review:

A new program will develop novel approaches to renewable fuels.

A new "electrofuels" program announced this week by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (Arpa-e) will fund research into novel ways to make renewable fuels. The approaches could prove more efficient than using photosynthetic organisms--such as plants and algae--to make biofuels. And instead of making ethanol, they will make fuels such as diesel, which could be easily distributed and sold with existing infrastructure.

Read more ....

Brain Scan Reveals Who Will Keep Their Promises

Broken promises. The anterior cingulate cortex is one part of the brain that becomes more active when breaking a promise (Image: Indiana University)

From New Scientist:

Promises are made to be broken, so it can be tough to tell which ones will be kept. But new-found patterns in brain activity can reveal whether someone intends to keep their word.

The finding raises the possibility of using brain scans to determine the true intentions of criminals who are up for early release on parole, according to Thomas Baumgartner of the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Read more ....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Star Power: Astronomers Recreate Stellar Jet With Laser Blast

The images at top, taken in a few billionths of a second, detail experiments at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics meant to simulate stellar jets and their effects on interstellar materials, as seen in the image above. (Credit: Image courtesy of Rice University)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 9, 2009) — With the trillions of watts contained in one brief pop of a powerful laser, the universe became a bit less mysterious.

Rice University Professor Patrick Hartigan and a team of laser scientists, physicists, astronomers and technicians used the beams at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics to recreate, on a small scale, the highly supersonic velocities at work in newborn stars and simulated the fiery jets that burst from their poles.

Read more ....

Gravestones Hold Secrets To Earth's Climate Past

EarthTrek draws upon the local citizenry to build global information databases. Here, Canadian student Pascal records data from a gravestone in Sydney, Australia, as part of the EarthTrek Gravestone Project. Credit: The Geological Society of America

From Live Science:

Gravestones may hold secrets of how the Earth's atmosphere has changed over the centuries, and scientists are now asking for the public's help to read these stones.

Little by little, atmospheric gases dissolved in raindrops cause the marble in gravestones to erode. As such, headstones can serve as diaries of changes in atmospheric chemistry over the years due to pollution and other factors.

Read more ....

Copenhagen Climate Summit: Global Warming 'Caused By Sun's Radiation'

Professor Henrik Svensmark argued that the recent warming period
was caused by solar activity. Photo: REUTERS

From The Telegraph:

Global warming is caused by radiation from the sun, according to a leading scientist speaking out at an alternative "sceptics' conference" in Copenhagen.

As the world gathered in the Danish capital for the UN Climate Change Conference, more than 50 scientists, businessmen and lobby groups met to discuss the arguments against man made global warming.

Although the meeting was considerably smaller than the official gathering of 15,000 people meeting down the road, the organisers claimed it could change the course of negotiations.

Read more ....

Ancient Tablets Decoded; Shed Light On Assyrian Empire

Ancient clay tablets (such as the one pictured) inscribed with cuneiform script, a type of ancient writing once common in the Middle East, have been found in southeastern Turkey, archaeologists announced in October 2009. Photograph courtesy University of Akron

From The National Geographic:

Meticulous ancient notetakers have given archaeologists a glimpse of what life was like 3,000 years ago in the Assyrian Empire, which controlled much of the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform, an ancient script once common in the Middle East, were unearthed in summer 2009 in an ancient palace in present-day southeastern Turkey.

Read more ....

Wind Energy Industry Looks To Copenhagen For A Mandate

Denise Bode, chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association, says what happens in global climate and global energy politics matters very much to the industry. (Sarah Beth Glicksteen/The Christian Science Monitor)

From The Christian Science Monitor:

In an interview, Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, says the industry needs a renewable energy mandate from the climate conference in Copenhagen and from Congress.

American wind power is blowing strong despite hard economic times. That’s the message from Denise Bode, chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association and she’s sticking to it – despite the dicey economy.

Read more ....

Work The New Digital Sweatshops

Photo: A call center in India. Brent Stirton / Getty Images for GBC

From Newsweek:

When hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, the Red Cross announced a toll-free telephone hotline to help victims and their families find each other. The hotline was quickly swamped. So the Red Cross turned to a little-known firm called -LiveOps, a company that recruits call agents from around the world and directs their tasks entirely through the Internet. Within three hours, it had arranged for 300 people to staff the phones. A few days later, the freelance agents had processed more than 17,000 calls.

Read more ....

Stem Cells Can be Engineered into Genetic Vaccines Against HIV and More

Killer T-Cells The blue blobs are killer T-cells getting ready to attack a tumor via PNAS

From Popular Science:

While some viruses attack the lungs, and others the blood, HIV attacks the only system that could put up a fight: the immune system itself. The immune system mounts some defense, but after HIV launches its surprise attack, the body simply can't produce enough killer T blood cells to take out the virus.

Read more ....

Startups Mine The Real-Time Web

Image: Credit: Technology Review

From Technology Review:

There's more to it than microblog posts and social network updates.

The "real-time Web" is a hot concept these days. Both Google and Microsoft are racing to add more real-time information to their search results, and a slew of startups are developing technology to collect and deliver the freshest information from around the Web.

But there's more to the real-time Web than just microblogging posts, social network updates, and up-to-the-minute news stories. Huge volumes of data are generated, behind the scenes, every time a person watches a video, clicks on an ad, or performs just about any other action online. And if this user-generated data can be processed rapidly, it could provide new ways to tailor the content on a website, in close to real time.

Read more ....

Why Does The Air Force Want Thousands Of PlayStations?

PlayStation 3 (PS3)

From ABC News:

Clusters of High-Performance Gaming Consoles Can Serve as Supercomputers.

Guess what's on the U.S. Air Force's wish list this holiday season.

Sony's popular PlayStation 3 gaming console. Thousands of them.

The Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y., recently issued a request for proposal indicating its intention to purchase 2,200 PlayStation 3 (PS3) consoles.

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Clever Folds In A Globe Give New Perspectives On Earth

From New Scientist:

A new technique for unpeeling the Earth's skin and displaying it on a flat surface provides a fresh perspective on geography, making it possible to create maps that string out the continents for easy comparison, or lump together the world's oceans into one huge mass of water surrounded by coastlines.

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Dogs Are Better Than Cats – At Least Scientifically Speaking

Dogs won six categories compared with five for cats Photo: Martin Pope

From The Telegraph:

A dog really is man's best friend claims a new scientific study that shows that canines make better pets than their arch rivals cats.

Researchers concluded that when it comes to a number of criteria including intelligence, bonding and obedience, dogs narrowly beat their feline adversaries.

Out of 11 categories selected by the magazine New Scientist, dogs won six compared with five for cats.

Despite cats deemed overall to have a more powerful brains, dogs showed greater ability to understand commands, problem solve and were generally more helpful, it was said.

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