Saturday, January 30, 2010

eBay Faces Brewing Revolt

From CBS News:

Some Members Say Recent Listing Fees Adjustments Amount to Big Fee Hike.

(CNET) This article was written by CNET's Caroline McCarthy.

eBay's latest move, some of the auction site's devotees say, is straight out of the Ministry of Truth's playbook.

The company made an announcement on Tuesday announcement about lowering the listing fees for items--even though, in many cases, final value fees will be raised. The company's discussion forums simmered with outrage over the executive decision, and frustration over the lack of other options for auction-style e-commerce.

Read more ....

Stern Report Was Changed After Being Published

Claims that eucalyptus and savannah habitats in Australia would also become more common were also deleted from the report.

From The Telegraph:

Information was quietly removed from an influential government report on the cost of climate change after its initial publication because supporting scientific evidence could not be found.

The Stern Review on the economics of climate change, which was commissioned by the Treasury, was greeted with headlines worldwide when it was published in October 2006

It contained dire predictions about the impact of climate change in different parts of the world.

Read more ....

To Solve Cyber Crimes, DARPA Wants A "Cyber Genome Program"

The U.S. Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command The U.S. military and intelligence arms are already defending the nation from cyber attacks. DARPA hopes to give them another tool.

From Popular Science:

Digital times mean digital crimes. But catching and convicting criminals, or even nations, that dabble in digital espionage, cyber attacks, and cyber terrorism is no easy task. Google – and the U.S. State Department – recently pointed the finger at China for a string of sophisticated cyber attacks on U.S. companies, but proving guilt in the matter will be tricky. Then there are the buckets of data that intelligence agencies pull from captured laptops and hard drives in terror sweeps; we have the files, but it can be difficult to figure out who’s aiding America’s enemies or what they are up to. Enter DARPA’s Cyber Genome Program, aimed at creating a paternity test for digital artifacts.

Read more ....

Pentagon Review To Address Climate Change For The First Time

Scientists had previously conceded that the speed with which glaciers in the Himalayas are melting had been greatly overhyped. Photo from The Telegraph

From The Hill:

The Pentagon is addressing climate change for the first time in its sweeping review of military strategy.

The Pentagon is set to release the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) on Monday, along with the 2011 budget request.

In the review, Pentagon officials conclude that climate change will act as an “accelerant of instability and conflict,” ultimately placing a burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.

Read more ....

Robots Evolve To Learn Cooperation, Hunting

A predator robot, right, faces a prey robot, left. (Credit: Dario Floreano & Laurent Keller)


If robots are allowed to evolve through natural selection, they will develop adaptive abilities to hunt prey, cooperate, and even help one another, according to Swiss researchers.

In a series of experiments described in the journal PLoS Biology, Dario Floreano of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and Laurent Keller of the University of Lausanne reported that simple, small-wheeled Khepera and Alice robots can evolve behaviors such as collision-free movement and homing techniques in only several hundred "generations."

Read more ....

Network Theory: A Key to Unraveling How Nature Works

From Environment 360:

Ecologists who want to save the world’s biodiversity could learn a lot from Kevin Bacon.

One evening in 1994, three college students in Pennsylvania were watching Bacon in the eminently forgettable basketball movie The Air Up There. They started thinking about all the movies Bacon had starred in, and all the actors he had worked with, and all the actors those actors had worked with. The students came up with a game they called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, counting the steps from Bacon to any actor in Hollywood. In general, it takes remarkably few steps to reach him. Even Charlie Chaplin, who made most of his movies decades before Bacon was born, was only three steps away. (Chaplin starred with Barry Norton in Monsieur Verdoux, Norton starred with Robert Wagner in What Price Glory, and Wagner and Bacon worked together in Wild Things.)

Read more ....

Anybody Home? The Search For Animal Consciousness

From US News And World Report:

One afternoon while participating in studies in a University of Oxford lab, Abel snatched a hook away from Betty, leaving her without a tool to complete a task. Spying a piece of straight wire nearby, she picked it up, bent one end into a hook and used it to finish the job. Nothing about this story was remarkable, except for the fact that Betty was a New Caledonian crow.

Read more ....

Climate Chief Was Told Of False Glacier Claims Before Copenhagen

Most experts believe that the Himalayan glaciers will take centuries to melt

From Times Online:

The chairman of the leading climate change watchdog was informed that claims about melting Himalayan glaciers were false before the Copenhagen summit, The Times has learnt.

Rajendra Pachauri was told that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, but he waited two months to correct it. He failed to act despite learning that the claim had been refuted by several leading glaciologists.

The IPCC’s report underpinned the proposals at Copenhagen for drastic cuts in global emissions.

Read more ....

Quakes 'Decade's Worst Disasters'

From BBC News:

Almost 60% of the people killed by natural disasters in the past decade lost their lives in earthquakes, a UN-backed report has revealed.

Storms were responsible for 22% of lives lost, while extreme temperatures caused 11% of deaths from 2000 to 2009.

In total, 3,852 disasters killed more than 780,000 people, according to a report by the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

Asia was the worst-affected continent, accounting for 85% of all fatalities.

Read more ....

Google, China, And The Coming Threat From Cyberspace

Utilities are increasingly using mainstream software and connecting parts of their operations to the Internet, which can make them vulnerable to hackers. Getty Images

From Christian Science Monitor:

Cyberspace attacks are set to increase. Here’s why – and here’s what we can do to stop them.

The recent cyberespionage attacks on Google and that company’s subsequent announcement that it would reconsider its search engine services in China gripped the world’s focus and set off a debate about China’s aggressive cybersecurity strategy.

The apparent scope of the attacks – more than 30 companies affected, Gmail accounts compromised, human rights groups targeted – took many by surprise. Some observers believe the attacks were highly sophisticated in nature, employing never-before-seen techniques. Many reports concluded that the Chinese government undertook the attacks.

Read more ....

Update: Is Our Nation's Infrastructure Under Cyber Attack? -- Discovery News

My Comment: I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. As our infrastructure becomes more dependent on stable communication and network platforms, the opportunity for hackers/state sponsored groups/terrorists/etc. to conduct attacks and cyber disruptions will be a temptation that they cannot ignore.

Experiments Meet Requirements For Fusion Ignition; New Physics Effect Achieves Symmetrical Target Compression

This artist's rendering shows a NIF target pellet (the white ball) inside a hohlraum capsule with laser beams entering through openings on either end. The beams compress and heat the target to the necessary conditions for nuclear fusion to occur. (Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Jan. 29, 2010) — The first experiments at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) have demonstrated a unique physics effect that bodes well for NIF's success in generating a self-sustaining nuclear fusion reaction.

In inertial confinement fusion (ICF) experiments on NIF, the energy of 192 powerful laser beams is fired into a pencil-eraser-sized cylinder called a hohlraum, which contains a tiny spherical target filled with deuterium and tritium, two isotopes of hydrogen. Rocket-like compression of the fuel capsule forces the hydrogen nuclei to combine, or fuse, releasing many times more energy than the laser energy that was required to spark the reaction. Fusion energy is what powers the sun and stars.

Read more ....

White Roofs Could Reduce Urban Heating

A construction crew works on a white roof in Washington, D.C. Credit: ©American Geophysical Union, photo by Maria-José Viñas

From Live Science:

To help combat global warming and urban heating, we might just need to paint the town white.

A new modeling study simulated the effects of painting roofs white to reflect incoming solar rays and found that it could help cool cities and reduce the effects of global warming.

The feasibility of such an initiative for cities remains to be seen, researchers caution, but the idea has been backed by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other policymakers. And now there's some science behind the political support.

Read more ....

Air Force Searches For Alternatives to GPS

Echo, NASA's first communications satellite, was a passive spacecraft based on a balloon design created by an engineer at the Langley Research Center. The Mylar satellite measured 100 feet in diameter and could be seen with the naked eye from the ground as it passed overhead. (Photograph by NASA)

From Popular Mechanics:

As the administration dismantles its only backup system, the Air Force looks at replacements to guard against the Pentagon's over-reliance on GPS satellites.

Last week, the Air Force's Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, gave voice to a chink in the U.S. military's armor, one that many know about but few like to discuss in public: Without satellites, modern militaries lose most of their edge. "It seemed critical to me that the joint force reduce its dependence on GPS (Global Positioning System)," he told attendees at a national security conference in Washington.

Read more ....

Apple iPad Raises The Stakes For E-Readers

From Gadget Lab:

Apple’s much-awaited iPad tablet is a good looking, multipurpose e-reader but it is no Kindle slayer, say publishing executives and electronic-book enthusiasts. Instead, the iPad is likely to raise the stakes and help traditional e-readers evolve into more sophisticated devices.

“The iPad is for casual readers and people who favor an all-in-one type of device, while dedicated E Ink-based e-readers are for avid readers,” says Wiebe de Jager, executive director with Eburon Academic Publishers, a Netherlands-based publishing service.

Read more ....

Advances In Minefield Technology

The Virtual Minefield Metal Storm

From Popular Science:

From a tactical military standpoint, land mines have a certain set-it-and-forget-it appeal; you blanket an area in munitions and move on, secure in the fact that if the enemy tries to cross that terrain they'll find an automated resistance waiting for them. But we all know that land mines are also one of modern warfare's most indiscriminate and devastating developments, with the capacity to kill and maim innocent people even decades after hostilities have ceased. To remedy this problem, arms maker Metal Storm has developed a virtual minefield that delivers the tactical advantage of land mines without blanketing areas with dangerous ordnance that could be left behind.

Read more ....

My Comment: The launcher must be well camouflaged so that it cannot be detected and destroyed. Otherwise .... this is a brilliant piece of war-technology.

How To Publish Your Own Book Online – And Make Money

The web is making self-publishing easier. Photograph: Toby Talbot/AP

From The Guardian:

There are now dozens of websites to help budding authors to publish their novels, poems and pictures and, perhaps, even make a profit from it.

If you want to realise a dream by publishing your own book, there are lots of companies willing to extract upwards of $500 from you for the privilege. At the other end of the spectrum is Amazon's digital text platform, which allows you to upload your pre-prepared files to its Kindle reader and then set your own price.

The catch? Amazon takes 65% of the income from sales. Ouch. Fortunately, there are lots of other options – of which more later – for budding authors. What you get out of them is subject only to the limits of your imagination.

Read more ....

Fusion Power A Step Closer After Giant Laser Blast

A pointed "target positioner" (right) in the National Ignition Facility's target chamber held the pencil-eraser-size cylinder used in the fusion experiment. Photograph courtesy Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy

From The National Geographic:

Nuclear fusion plant possible within a decade, physicist says.

Using the most powerful laser system ever built, scientists have brought us one step closer to nuclear fusion power, a new study says.

The same process that powers our sun and other stars, nuclear fusion has the potential to be an efficient, carbon-free energy source—with none of the radioactive waste associated with the nuclear fission method used in current nuclear plants.

Read more ....

Did Da Vinci Paint Himself As 'Mona Lisa'?

Recreating a virtual and then physical reconstruction of Leonardo's face, researchers can compare it with the smiling face in the painting. Getty Images

From Discovery News:

The skull of one of the world's greatest artists could provide crucial clues into the identity of "Mona Lisa."

The legend of Leonardo da Vinci is shrouded in mystery: How did he die? Are the remains buried in a French chateau really those of the Renaissance master? Was the "Mona Lisa" a self-portrait in disguise?

A group of Italian scientists believes the key to solving those puzzles lies with the remains -- and they say they are seeking permission from French authorities to dig up the body to conduct carbon and DNA testing.

Read more ....

Scotland 'World Leader' In Scientific Research

From The Telegraph:

Scotland is a world leader in research but needs to start reaping the commercial benefits of its scientific discoveries, Alex Salmond has said.

The First Minister was unveiling a new report showing more research is conducted in Scotland than any other country, relative to wealth per head of population.

Findings from Scottish universities and other institutions have influenced work across the globe, being cited in 1.8 per cent of all scientific publications.

Read more ....

What To Get The Man Who Has Everything? An Underwater Plane Of Course

The Virgin Necker Nymph will dive up to 130ft under the waves. It is made from carbon fibre and has fighter jet technology

From The Daily Mail:

Billionaire Sir Richard Branson may already own an airline, a record label, a mobile phone company, several luxury restaurants and a Caribbean island. But today the entrepreneur unveiled his latest toy - an underwater plane.

The £415,000 prototype submersible is called the Necker Nymph and can dive to depths of up to 130ft. Sir Richard hopes to one day explore depths of 35,000ft - which is far more than the height of Mount Everest.

Read more ....

Friday, January 29, 2010

Diamonds Become Stronger When Squeezed Rapidly Under Extreme Conditions

Time-integrated photograph of an OMEGA laser shot (43633) to measure high-pressure diamond strength. The diamond target is at the center, surrounded by various diagnostics. The bright white light is ablated plasma, and radial yellow lines are tracks of hot target fragments very late in time. (Credit: Photo by Eugene Kowaluk/LLE)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Jan. 27, 2010) — Most people know that diamond is one of the hardest solids on Earth, so strong that it can easily cut through glass and steel.

Surprisingly, very little is known about the strength of diamond at extreme conditions. But new research by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists shows that diamond becomes even stronger during rapid compression.

Read more ....

Why Men And Women Get Jealous For Different Reasons

From Times Online:

Cheating on a spouse or significant other is sure to cause feelings of jealousy and hurt in the spurned partner.

But men and women differ on what part of cheating they think is the worst: Men tend to be more bothered by sexual infidelity, while most women are bothered more by emotional infidelity.

The prevailing explanation for this difference is the unique evolutionary roles played by men and women, but a new study suggests that it has more to do with the types of attachments people form in relationships.

Read more ....

Superfast Bullet Trains Are Finally Coming To The U.S.

From Wired Science:

Believe it: Bullet trains are coming. After decades of false starts, planners are finally beginning to make headway on what could become the largest, most complicated infrastructure project ever attempted in the US. The Obama administration got on board with an $8 billion infusion, and more cash is likely en route from Congress. It’s enough for Florida and Texas to dust off some previously abandoned plans and for urban clusters in the Northeast and Midwest to pursue some long-overdue upgrades. The nation’s test bed will almost certainly be California, which already has voter-approved funding and planning under way. But getting up to speed requires more than just seed money. For trains to beat planes and automobiles, the hardware needs to really fly. Officials are pushing to deploy state-of-the-art rail rockets. Next stop: the future.

Read more ....

New Battlefield Drug May Save Soldiers Dying From Blood Loss

Battlefield Blood Loss Combat medics work through the "blood lab" at the Department of Combat Medic Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. U.S. Army

From Popular Science:

People who suffer massive blood loss automatically go into shock as a stopgap measure, but can eventually die if their bodies stay in shock for too long. Now a drug used to treat epilepsy could reverse all that and boost survival rates for horrifically injured people, especially wounded soldiers far from any extra blood supplies. New Scientist reports on a new study of the drug that involved porkers.

Read more ....

My Comment: Blood loss and the accompanying shock is what kills people in trauma situations. Any advancement in this filed of medicine will be a godsend not only for the soldiers in the battlefield, but also to everyone else in society.

Water Vapour Caused One-Third Of Global Warming In 1990s, Study Reveals

A 10% drop in water vapour, 10 miles up has had an effect on global warming over the last 10 years, scientists say. Photograph: Getty

From The Guardian:

Experts say their research does not undermine the scientific consensus on man-made climate change, but call for 'closer examination' of the way computer models consider water vapour.

Scientists have underestimated the role that water vapour plays in determining global temperature changes, according to a new study that could fuel further attacks on the science of climate change.

The research, led by one of the world's top climate scientists, suggests that almost one-third of the global warming recorded during the 1990s was due to an increase in water vapour in the high atmosphere, not human emissions of greenhouse gases. A subsequent decline in water vapour after 2000 could explain a recent slowdown in global temperature rise, the scientists add.

Read more ....

Tonight: Year's Biggest Full Moon, Mars Create Sky Show

A full moon hangs over Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Photograph by Taylor S. Kennedy, National Geographic Stock

From The National Geographic:

Red planet will join supersize "wolf moon".

The biggest full moon of 2010 will rise in the east tonight, and it'll appear with a bright sidekick: Mars will cozy up just to the left of the supersize moon.

January's full moon is also called the wolf moon, according to Native American tradition associating this month's full moon with wolves howling in the cold midwinter. (Take a moon myths and mysteries quiz.)

The 2010 wolf moon will appear 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than any other full moon this year, because our cosmic neighbor will actually be closer to Earth than usual.

Read more ....

Earth's Haunting Craters: Big Pics

Meteor Crater, Arizona -- Photographer Stan Gaz was in Arizona when
he came across a postcard of the Meteor Crater.

From Discovery News:

"The postcard intrigued me, so I went to see it," he said. "My father was a geologist. He would take me on these expeditional trips to go rock hunting when he was alive, when I was a kid. When I saw the crater it made me think of him, what he would have thought, what his reaction would have been. Immediately I thought, 'I'm going to look into this more.'"

In 2003, Gaz launched into a six-year-long global project of tracking down and photographing the planet's cosmic scars, beginning with Meteor Crater. The results speak for themselves: haunting, otherworldly images of craters that are familiar, and yet utterly strange.

Read more ....

Mars And The Moon To Line Up For Celestial Spectacle


From The Telegraph:

Mars and the full Moon are expected to pair up and provide a grand celestial spectacle tonight.

The Red Planet, now 62 million miles from Earth, will be at its brightest this year as it lines up opposite the Sun on Friday.

At around 9pm, Mars will be above and to the left of the Moon, about the length of an outstretched fist away.

Read more ....

How Does The IPad Compare To Netbooks?

Music on the iPad feels more like iTunes than the iPod or iPhone. (Credit: Apple)

From PC World:

In launching the new Apple iPad this week, CEO Steve Jobs took a stand against the popular netbook category, which he dismissed as a poor fit into the space between laptops and smartphones.

"Netbooks aren't better at anything. They are slow, they have low-quality displays and run... PC software," Jobs said. "[The iPad] is so much more intimate than a laptop, and so much more capable than a smartphone with this gorgeous large display."

Netbooks, he said, are just cheap laptops.

Read more ....

Was The Moon Created By A Nuclear Explosion On Earth?

Similarities: Lunar samples from moon landings have shown that the material
of the moon is nearly identical to Earth's

From The Daily Mail:

How the Moon was created and came to orbit the Earth has long puzzled scientists.

The most commonly held theory is that when the solar system was first formed, an object collided with Earth, knocking off a chunk of rock that fell into orbit around it.

But now two scientists have come up with a new explanation. They believe the Moon did not break away from the Earth because of an impact or an explosion in space, but because of a nuclear explosion on Earth itself.

Read more ....

Bill Gates Pledges $10bn For A 'Decade Of Vaccine'

Photo: Bill Gates (Seth Wenig/AP)

From Times Online:

Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder and philanthropist, is to make the largest ever single charitable donation with a pledge of $10 billion (£6 billion) for vaccine work over the next decade.

Mr Gates said that he hoped the coming ten years would be the “decade of the vaccine” to reduce dramatically child mortality in the world’s poorest countries. It is calculated that his pledge could save more than 8 million lives.

Announcing the commitment, which far outstrips even the enormous previous donations by his own foundation, Mr Gates called for increased investment by governments and the private sector to help to research, develop and deliver vaccines.

Read more ....

Language Structure Is Partly Determined By Social Structure

Geographic distribution of the 2,236 languages included in the present study. (Credit: Lupyan G, Dale R (2010), PLoS One, 10.1371/journal.pone.0008559.g001)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Jan. 28, 2010) — Psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Memphis have released a new study on linguistic evolution that challenges the prominent hypothesis for why languages differ throughout the world.

The study argues that human languages may adapt more like biological organisms than previously thought and that the more common and popular the language, the simpler its construction to facilitate its survival.

Read more ....

New Tyrannosaur Species Discovered

Scientists have describe a new dinosaur species, Bistahieversor sealeyi, which belongs to the same lineage as Tyrannosaurus Rex. Here, an image of the adult fossil skull. The animal had a deep snout (as seen vertically from the side), like T. rex, but many subtle distinguishing features set it apart as a new species. Credit: David Baccadutre, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

From Live Science:

T. rex's family tree just got one member larger. Scientists unearthed bones from a new dinosaur species, including an adult specimen and bones from a "teenager" that lived some 75 million years ago.

Called Bistahieversor sealeyi, the dinosaur lived about 10 million years before Tyrannosaurus rex appeared on the scene. Even so, B. sealeyi belongs to the same dinosaur linage as the famous T. rex.

Read more ....

Water Vapour Could Be Behind Warming Slowdown

Image: A loss of water vapour from the Earth's stratosphere may have been behind the last decade being cooler than expected. NASA

From Nature News:

Mysterious changes in the stratosphere may have offset greenhouse effect.

A puzzling drop in the amount of water vapour high in the Earth's atmosphere is now on the list of possible culprits causing average global temperatures to flatten out over the past decade, despite ever-increasing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Although the decade spanning 2000 to 2009 ranks as the warmest on record, average temperatures largely levelled off following two decades of rapid increases. Researchers have previously eyed everything from the Sun and oceans to random variability in order to explain the pause, which sceptics have claimed shows that climate models are unreliable.

Read more ....

Scientists Suggest Simulated Volcanic Eruptions Could Stem Global Warming

Scientists believe that simulating the effects of a volcanic eruption could help cool the planet, halting global warming. Fenton/AP

From The New York Daily News:

A group of scientists have a plan to save the planet - volcanoes!

Simulated volcanoes, to be precise.

The idea, detailed by a trio of environmental scientists in an editorial for the journal, Nature, would potentially be cheaper than forcing industries to cut carbon emissions.

"Many scientists have argued against research on solar radiation management," write David Keith of the University of Calgary in Canada, Edward Parson of the University of Michigan and Granger Morgan of Carnegie Mellon University.

Read more ....

Using Biofuel In Cars 'May Accelerate Loss Of Rainforest'

Photo: Harvesting of palm oil, the production of which is leading to loss of rainforest. (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters/Corbis)

From Times Online:

Using biofuel in vehicles may be accelerating the destruction of rainforest and resulting in higher greenhouse gas emissions than burning pure petrol and diesel, a watchdog said yesterday.

The Renewable Fuels Agency also warned that pump prices could rise in April because of the Government’s policy of requiring fuel companies to add biofuel to petrol and diesel. More than 1.3 million hectares of land — twice the area of Devon — was used to grow the 2.7 per cent of Britain’s transport fuel that came from crops last year.

Read more ....

For Apple, iPad Said More Than Intended

Steven P. Jobs introduced the iPad on Wednesday in San Francisco.
Ryan Anson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

From The New York Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple has generated a lot of chatter with its new iPad tablet. But it may not be quite the conversation it wanted.

Many women are saying the name evokes awkward associations with feminine hygiene products. People from Boston to Ireland are complaining that “iPad,” in their regional brogue, sounds almost indistinguishable from “iPod,” Apple’s music player. The problem may be worse outside the United States; Japanese does not even have a sound for the “a” in iPad.

Read more ....

Learning To Forget

In the 2004 movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey has his memory erased to forget a painful relationship. Scientists are a long way off performing this type of procedure in people, but studies suggest that it is, indeed, possible. Credit: Focus Features

From Cosmos:

Painful memories that cause distress could soon be a thing of the past. Recent studies suggest memories can be manipulated, edited - and even deleted.

JASON NICOLL IS TORMENTED by the past. In 1994, when he was 21 years old, he was deployed with the Australian Defence Force to serve six months in Rwanda. This was at the height of the genocide.

"I saw dead bodies, people who'd stood on land mines, people who'd been shot or hacked up with machetes. Once, I carried a young girl, about eight or nine years old, who'd been shot in the chest.

Read more ....

Skin Cells Turned Into Brain Cells

Image: Cellular transformation: A cocktail of three genes can transform skin cells into neurons (shown here in red). Credit: Thomas Vierbuchen

From Technology Review:

A simple approach shows that cells might be more flexible than once thought.

Skin cells called fibroblasts can be transformed into neurons quickly and efficiently with just a few genetic tweaks, according to new research. The surprisingly simple conversion, which doesn't require the cells to be returned to an embryonic state, suggests that differentiated adult cells are much more flexible than previously thought.

Read more ....

Apple Introduces The iPad And iBooks

From Scientific American:

What do you know? McGraw-Hill CEO Harold McGraw was on the money yesterday when he said Apple would announce a tablet on Wednesday. The iPad now has officially arrived, weighing in at less than a kilogram, with a 25-centimeter LED-backlit display that is just over a centimeter thick. It will be available by the end of March with a price tag starting at $499.

Read more ....

NASA To Get More Money, But Must Scratch Moon Plan

From ABC News/AP:

Officials say Obama rules out NASA return to moon; budgets money for private space taxis.

President Barack Obama is essentially grounding plans to return astronauts to the moon and instead is sending NASA in new directions with roughly $6 billion more.

A White House official confirmed Thursday that when next week's budget is proposed, NASA will get an additional $5.9 billion over five years, as first reported in Florida newspapers. Some of that money will be used to extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020. The official said it also will be used to entice companies to build private spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station after the space shuttle retires.

Read more ....

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Monarch Butterflies Reveal a Novel Way in Which Animals Sense Earth's Magnetic Field

Monarch butterflies resting in a tree. (Credit: iStockphoto/Paul Tessier)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Jan. 27, 2010) — Building on prior investigation into the biological mechanisms through which monarch butterflies are able to migrate up to 2,000 miles from eastern North America to a particular forest in Mexico each year, neurobiologists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) have linked two related photoreceptor proteins found in butterflies to animal navigation using the Earth's magnetic field.

Read more ....

Airports Could Get Mind-Reading Scanners

Passengers wait to check in at the Delta Air Lines ticket counter at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago yesterday, when American Airlines and Delta canceled hundreds of flights. (Frank Polich/Reuters)

From Live Science:

WeCU Technologies is building a mind-reading scanner that can tell if a given traveler is a potential danger - without the subject's knowledge. WeCU Technologies (pronounced "we see you") is creating a system that would essentially turn the public spaces in airports into vast screening grounds:.

"The system ... projects images onto airport screens, such as symbols associated with a certain terrorist group or some other image only a would-be terrorist would recognize, company CEO Ehud Givon said.

Read more ....

Navy Says Video Games Can Boost "Fluid Intelligence" of Warfighters

America's Army Get your virtual warfare on U.S. Army

From Popular Science:

Military simulators that resemble video games have obvious training benefits for warfighters, but U.S. Navy scientists also say that video games can boost brainpower and produce cognitive improvements that last up to two and a half years.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) hopes that video game-like training can help warfighters hone their "fluid intelligence," or ability to confront and solve new problems. Such research feeds into a new sense that the human brain can continue to adapt and improve itself beyond early adulthood, and may allow soldiers to better adjust to the changing tactics and environment of the modern-day battlefield.

Read more ....

My Comment: Fluid intelligence?

With iPad, Apple Still Has A Fatal Attraction For AT&T

From Gadget Lab:

When Steve Jobs said Apple’s new iPad tablet would have 3G data service from AT&T during Wednesday’s press conference, sighs of disgust could be heard from the audience, presumably from disgruntled iPhone customers.

Prior to the unveiling of the 9.7-inch device Wednesday, a few vague rumors suggested Verizon would carry the tablet. Instead, Jobs announced two versions of the iPad: a Wi-Fi only model and an unlocked, Wi-Fi + 3G model for use on GSM networks. The Verizon network operates on the CDMA standard, meaning Verizon won’t be able to support the iPad.

Read more ....

Publisher Axed From Apple iPad Launch After CEO Accidentally Leaks Details On TV

Spot the missing publisher: Steve Jobs (left) allegedly ordered Mcgraw-Hill's name be removed from this slide showing major publishing partners for the iPad

From The Daily Mail:

While Apple are riding high after generally favourable reviews for their tablet computer, the iPad, spare a thought for Harold McGraw III.

He is the chief executive of the 122-year-old publishing company McGraw-Hill, who accidentally leaked details of the device one day before the grand unveiling.

Apple boss Steve Jobs was said to be furious, after 61-year-old Mr McGraw spoke unguardedly about the product to U.S TV channel CNBC.

Read more ....

Are The Chinese Google and YouTube Clones Any Good?

From Foreign Policy:

With Google threatening to pull out of China, immitation versions of the search engine and its video subsidiary YouTube have emerged to take their places on the Chinese internet: offers videos from the real YouTube, which is blocked in China. The Google imitation is called Goojje and includes a plea for the U.S.-based Web giant not to leave China, after it threatened this month to do so in a dispute over Web censorship and cyberattacks.

Read more ....

Bacteria Make Diesel From Biomass

Photo: Bacteria power: The E. coli bacteria in this microscopic image are excreting droplets of diesel fuel. The bacteria are the small dark rods clustered in the top corners and at the bottom of the image. Credit: Keasling lab

From Technology Review:

Newly engineered E. coli streamline the conversion of cellulose into fuel.

Engineered bacteria have been rewired with the genetic machinery necessary to convert cellulose into a range of chemicals, including diesel fuel. The bacteria, developed by South San Francisco company LS9 in collaboration with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, make the necessary enzymes for every step along the synthesis pathway and can convert biomass into fuel without the need for additional processing. LS9 has demonstrated the bacteria in pilot-scale reactors and plans to scale the process to a commercial level later this year.

Read more ....

What Might Cause A Gas Pedal To Become Stuck?

Photo: PEDAL PROBLEM: The 2009 RAV4 is one of millions of Toyota vehicles that the automaker is recalling because of the risk of a sticky accelerator. IFCAR/Wikipedia Commons

From Scientific American:

Toyota, the world's largest automaker, has suspended sales of certain models and recalled millions of older ones as its engineers search for the elusive source of a sticky—and dangerous—accelerator problem

During the past few days, Toyota Motor Corp., has taken the unprecedented step of halting sales in the U.S., Europe and China of some of its most popular car and truck models. The reason: potential defects that cause the vehicles to speed up without warning and run out of control. The move follows a huge (and growing) recall of older Toyota vehicles last week. Safety Research and Strategies, based in Rehoboth, Mass., has reportedly implicated the sudden unintended acceleration problem to 2,274 incidents in Toyota vehicles, causing 275 crashes and at least 18 fatalities since 1999.

Read more ....

Remembering The Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion 24 Years Ago

The crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger were:
My Comment: I will always remember that day. At that time I was in Sept-Iles Quebec, and when I turned on the TV to watch the news the first thing that I saw was the Challenger blowing up.

Sighhh ....