Friday, June 3, 2011

China's Drought Is Impacting World's Food Supplies

How Will China's Food Supply Weather the Year of Drought? -- Time

In China food supplies and food prices are deeply sensitive topics. So by the time the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization issued a special alert warning in February that a prolonged drought in the North China Plain was a “potentially serious problem” for the country's winter wheat crop, China's leaders had already mobilized. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao made visits to farming regions in north China, pledging cash, equipment and manpower to ensure the crop survived.

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My Comment: The world is already at the brink of experiencing severe food shortages .... China's drought is only going to make the situation worse.

Number Of Internet-Connected Devices Set To Reach 15 Billion Globally By 2015

New generation of users: Almost three billion people are expected to be connected to the internet by 2015

Everybody's Doing It: Number Of Internet-Connected Devices Set To Reach 15 Billion Globally By 2015 -- The Daily Mail

Forecasters predict there will be 15billion internet-connected devices in use around the world by 2015 - more than two for every person on the planet.

The recent growth in mobile phones and tablets has already pushed the number of devices above the five billion mark.

And fresh technical developments - including internet-connected televisions and cars - will drive a new surge in appliance use in the next four years, according to technology giant Cisco.

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Endeavour's Mind-Boggling Cockpit Controls

(Click on Image to Enlarge)
Cluttered cockpit: Commander Mark Kelly and Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori sit on Endeavour's flight deck during what was the Nasa vessel's final mission

So, Where's The Ignition Switch? Endeavour's Mind-Boggling Cockpit Controls Revealed In All Their Glory -- The Daily Mail

Nasa shuttle is now bound for the California Space Center museum in Los Angeles

With hundreds of switches and buttons, and pieces of paper stuck to various hard surfaces, this is the somewhat chaotic cockpit of space shuttle Endeavour.

Commander Mark Kelly and Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori sit on the flight deck during what was the Nasa vessel's final mission.

With equipment strapped in place all around them, including a device taped to the back of a seat, the pair are jammed into their seats at the controls of the $2.2billion ship.

The cockpit is so crammed full of electronics, the astronauts are unable to stand when they climb in and out of their seats.

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Astronomers Capture A Milky Way 'Clone'

The large spiral galaxy named NGC 6744 Photo: ESO/PA

Milky Way 'Clone' Captured By European Astronomers -- The Telegraph

A striking image of a giant Milky Way ''clone'' has been captured by astronomers.

The bird's eye view of NGC 6744 gives a good idea of what our own galaxy would look like to a passing space traveller.

The spiral galaxy is around 30 million light years away in the southern constellation of Pavo, the Peacock.

In the new image from European Southern Observatory astronomers it is seen almost face on, so that the striking spiral arms are clearly visible.

NGC 6744 would almost be an identical twin of the Milky Way were it not for its size.

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A Leap Forward For DNA-Based Computers

A wiring diagram illustration depicts a system of 74 DNA strands that constitute the largest synthetic circuit of its type ever made. The circuit can compute the square root of numbers up to 15, though very slowly. (Lulu Qian / Caltech / June 2, 2011)

Research Marks A Leap Forward For DNA-Based Computers -- L.A. Times

A system involving 74 DNA strands can calculate square roots of numbers up to 15, though very slowly. Scientists say the goal is to devise computers that can interact directly with living cells — and perhaps fight disease.

Caltech researchers have produced the most sophisticated DNA-based computer yet, a wet chemistry system that can calculate the square roots of numbers as high as 15.

The system is composed of 74 strands of DNA that make up 12 logic gates comparable to those in a silicon-based computer, the researchers reported Thursday in the journal Science. But the system operates a little more slowly than a conventional computer: It takes as much as 10 hours to obtain each result.

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The Evolution of DARPA's Robotic Hummingbird

Video: The Evolution of DARPA's Robotic Hummingbird, From Start to Finish -- Popular Science

Of all the DARPA projects we follow here at PopSci--and regular readers know that we follow a lot of them--perhaps none has been quite so fascinating as the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program, a.k.a. the robotic hummingbird, which culminated earlier this year in a working prototype. So you can imagine our delight when DARPA released this short video chronicling the bird’s journey from drawing board to early prototype to crash test dummy to eventual functioning, camera-equipped nano air vehicle that fits in the palm of a hand.

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My Comment: I can easily see soldiers having this tech in their arsenal 5 years (or more) from now.

How Quantum Entanglement Will Help Computers Cool Themselves

The Tianhe-1A Supercomputer NVIDIA

Quantum Entanglement Means Computers Could Cool Themselves By Deleting Information -- Popular Science

But don't wipe your hard drives just yet.

It’s common empirical knowledge that computing generates heat--go ahead, touch the bottom of your MacBook--but a new paper in the journal Nature claims that it doesn’t have to. In fact, under the right conditions, theoretical physicists say that deleting data can actually produce negative heat--that is, it can have a cooling effect. That’s right, this is a quantum mechanics post. Exit now if you don’t want a headache to start the weekend.

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The Final Minutes of Air France 447

Photo: AF447 Rio-Paris plane flight data recorder are displayed during a press conference on May 12, 2011, in the French agency Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) headquarters. Mehdi Fedouach/AFP/Getty Images

The Final Minutes Of Air France 447 -- Popular Science

Today, France's civil aviation authority released the first details from the flight data recorders of Air France 447, which wrecked in the Atlantic Ocean two years ago after taking off from Rio de Janeiro, killing everyone on board. The new information begins to fill in the picture of what happened up there, but leaves many open questions about both the actions of the crew and the subsequent behavior of the aircraft.

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Honeybee Losses Reported Over Winter

Honeybees are dying off and last winter U.S. populations dropped by 30 percent. NOAA

Heavy Honeybee Losses Reported Over Winter -- Discovery News

The 30 percent drop was significant, but was at least less steep than the previous winter.

* Honeybee colonies nationwide have reduced in number by 30 percent, based on a recent survey.
* The decline is higher than normal but is less than losses of 34 percent sustained for the previous winter.
* Experts encourage individuals to plant pollinator gardens and otherwise join in the fight to save honeybees.

Honeybee colonies in the United States reduced in number by 30 percent over the 2010-2011 winter, according to a recently released annual survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA).

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Phase Change Memory-Based 'Moneta' System

A view of the internals of the Moneta storage array with phase change memory modules installed. (Credit: UC San Diego / Steve Swanson)

Phase Change Memory-Based 'Moneta' System Points To The Future Of Computer Storage -- Science Daily

A University of California, San Diego faculty-student team is about to demonstrate a first-of-its kind, phase-change memory solid state storage device that provides performance thousands of times faster than a conventional hard drive and up to seven times faster than current state-of-the-art solid-state drives (SSDs).

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Air Pollution In Ancient Egypt

This mummy was discovered in Dakhleh Oasis, a remote outpost in southwest Egypt and lived around 1,800 years ago, at a time when the Romans occupied Egypt. Although much of the mummy remains are lost, the area around the lungs, where particulates were found, is well preserved. CREDIT: Photo courtesy Dakhleh Oasis Project.

Egyptian Mummies Hold Clues of Ancient Air Pollution -- Live Science

Ancient Egyptians may have been exposed to air pollution way back when, according to new evidence of particulates in the lungs of 15 mummies, including noblemen and priests.

Particulates, tiny microscopic particles that irritate the lungs, have been linked to a wide array of modern-day illnesses, including heart disease, lung ailments and cancer. The particulates are typically linked to post-industrial activities, such as fossil-fuel burning.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Black Holes Spinning Faster Than Ever

An artist’s impression of the jets emerging from a supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy PKS 0521-36. Credit: Dana Berry / STScI

Black Holes Are Spinning Faster Than Ever -- Cosmos

PORTSMOUTH: The giant black holes in the centre of galaxies are on average spinning faster now than at any time in the history of the universe, according to two U.K. astronomers.

The new discovery was made using radio, optical and X-ray data, and suggests that the supermassive black holes that grow by swallowing matter will barely spin, while those that merge with other black holes will be left spinning rapidly.

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Windows 8 Tablets Set To Challenge iPad, Android

Microsoft demonstrated for the first time the next generation of Windows, internally code-named "Windows 8," at the D9 conference. The company calls it a "reimagining of Windows, from the chip to the interface." YouTube

From FOX News:

Watch your back, iPad. Look out, Android. Windows is coming.

Microsoft Windows president Steven Sinofsky showed off a prototype Windows 8 tablet at the All Things D conference in California this week -- the company's answer to Apple's "magical" device and Google's Android.

The new tablet-friendly operating system will function much like the Windows Phone 7 platform, with tiles you can flick around the screen, click to start an app, or reposition anyway you want.

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Cartoon Pic For Today

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Californian Dolphin Gang Caught Killing Porpoises

Photo: Frustrated youth (Image: Mark P. Cotter)

From New Scientist:

SEEMINGLY random acts of violence by bottlenose dolphins on porpoises could be down to sexual frustration among young males.

Cases of the cetaceans killing other creatures for no apparent reason have been reported in UK waters. Now bottlenose dolphins have been seen attacking harbour porpoises in the Pacific Ocean. Crucially, these observations show for the first time that the attackers are young males (Marine Mammal Science, DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2011.00474.x).

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Hidden Hieroglyphs Found Inside The Great Pyramid

A composite of images taken by a robot of the floor of the Great Pyramid is shown. Red hieroglyphs are visible. Djedi Team

Robot Finds Hidden Hieroglyphs Inside Pyramid -- MSNBC

Secrets of 4,500-year-old tomb revealed in first images from behind mysterious doors.

A robot explorer sent through the Great Pyramid of Giza has begun to unveil some of the secrets behind the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum after it transmitted the first images behind one of its mysterious doors.

The images revealed hieroglyphs written in red paint that have not been seen by human eyes since the construction of the pyramid. The pictures also unveiled new details about two puzzling copper pins embedded in one of the so called "secret doors."

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How One Man And Half A Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America

The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America By Hannah Nordhaus HarperCollins 336 pp

The Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man And Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America -- Christian Science Monitor

Our bees are dying in apocalyptic numbers. What does it mean to us?

Bees are amazing. That’s the first reason to read The Beekeeper’s Lament, journalist Hannah Nordhaus’s rewarding account of migratory beekeeping and the mysterious scourge stalking the domestic bee population.

For the past week I’ve been telling everyone I’ve met stories from the miraculous lives of bees, like this one about the queen bee: Di you know that she makes only one flight her entire life, when she’s a few days old, and that it’s out among the swarms of male drones where she intertwines with as many as she can before returning to her colony carrying all the sperm she’ll ever need over the course of a reproductive lifetime in which she’ll lay hundreds of thousands of eggs?

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VLT (Very Large Telescope) HD Timelapse Footage

This Time Lapse Video of the Very Large Telescope At Work is the Coolest Thing You'll See Today -- Popular Science

There’s very little we can write to preface the imagery below, so we’ll just set the scene and get out of the way. The video below was captured by Stephane Guisard and Jose Francisco Salgado at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile’s Atacama Desert. And it might make you cry.

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My Comment: This looks so cool.

Why We Need A Good Night’s Sleep

A Good Night’s Sleep Isn’t a Luxury; It’s a Necessity -- New York Times

In my younger years, I regarded sleep as a necessary evil, nature’s way of thwarting my desire to cram as many activities into a 24-hour day as possible. I frequently flew the red-eye from California, for instance, sailing (or so I thought) through the next day on less than four hours of uncomfortable sleep.

But my neglect was costing me in ways that I did not fully appreciate. My husband called our nights at the ballet and theater “Jane’s most expensive naps.” Eventually we relinquished our subscriptions. Driving, too, was dicey: twice I fell asleep at the wheel, narrowly avoiding disaster. I realize now that I was living in a state of chronic sleep deprivation.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Endeavour Returns Home For The Final Time (Video)

As Endeavour Returns Home For the Final Time, Atlantis Prepares for the Last Shuttle Launch Ever -- Popular Science

Sailing through the midnight sky to a picture-perfect landing in Florida, the country’s youngest spaceship came home for the last time Wednesday, leaving a completed space station in its wake. On a 16-day mission, the crew of space shuttle Endeavour installed a massive physics experiment and put the finishing touches on the ISS, completing the last scheduled spacewalks by shuttle crew members.

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How the Brain Processes Faces

Stimuli were matched with respect to low-level properties, external features and high-level characteristics. (Credit: Face images courtesy of the Face-Place Database Project, Copyright 2008, Michael J. Tarr)

How the Brain Processes Faces: Neural System Responsible for Face Recognition Discovered -- Science Daily

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2011) — Each time you see a person that you know, your brain rapidly and seemingly effortlessly recognizes that person by his or her face.

Until now, scientists believed that only a couple of brain areas mediate facial recognition. However, Carnegie Mellon University's Marlene Behrmann, David Plaut and Adrian Nestor have discovered that an entire network of cortical areas work together to identify faces. Published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), their findings will change the future of neural visual perception research and allow scientists to use this discovery to develop targeted remedies for disorders such as face blindness.

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Claim Of Arsenic-Based Life Reignites Debate

This scanning electron micrograph shows a strain of the arsenic-eating bacterium called GFAJ-1. CREDIT: Science/AAAS.

Debate Reignited Over Claim of Arsenic-Based Life -- Live Science

One of the more heated scientific debates of recent years has been stirred up again with the publication of new criticisms of the reported finding of "arsenic life."

The prestigious journal Science published the criticisms today (May 27) along with a defense of the study, which Science had posted online this past December.

A team of researchers led by Felisa Wolfe-Simon of NASA's Astrobiology Institute had studied bacteria collected from California's Mono Lake and reported finding evidence that these microorganisms were substituting the poisonous molecule arsenic for the phosphorous usually used to build DNA.

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Hackers Finding The Holes In Net Safety


No security in cyber world.

Major hacking stories in the personal, political, and industrial worlds have shown recently how widespread cyber attacks - from the silly to the vicious - really are.

"They're happening every nanosecond - that's how you have to think," says Ray O'Hara, 2011 president of ASIS International, a security organization. "You just can't go to sleep at night, thinking you're secure."

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Photo: "Mrs Ples" is the most famous example of A. africanus from the Sterkfontein cave site

Ancient Cave Women 'Left Home' -- BBC

Analysis of early human-like populations in southern Africa suggests females left their childhood homes, while males stayed at home.

An international team examined tooth samples for metallic traces which can be linked to the geological areas in which individuals grew up.

The conclusion was that while most the males lived and died around the same river valley, the females moved on.

Similar patterns have been observed in chimpanzees, bonobos and modern humans.

Details of the study are published in a letter in Nature.

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Electrons Are Almost Perfectly Round

Electrons orbiting an atom Photo: ALAMY

Electrons Are Almost Perfectly Round, Scientists Discover -- The Telegraph

Electrons may be the most round natural objects in the universe, a study has discovered.

Researchers at Imperial College London have made the most accurate measurement yet of the shape of an electron, finding that it is almost a perfect sphere.

Experts found that the subatomic particles differ from being perfectly round by less than 0.000000000000000000000000001cm.

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Steve Jobs Returns From Medical Leave

Mr Jobs will launch Apple's new Mac software, Lion, and iO5, the next version of the firm's iPhone and iPad software

Steve Jobs Returns From Medical Leave For Launch Of Apple's Lion Operating System -- The Daily Mail

*He will launch Apple's new Mac software, Lion, and iO5, the next version of the firm's iPhone and iPad software

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs will return to the fray from medical leave next week to open the technology giant's annual developers' conference.

The company's inspirational boss, who has been gravely ill in recent months, will deliver the San Francisco event's keynote speech next Monday.

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The Older the Planet, the Greater Chance There's Life

Image: Astronomers have used the Kepler Space Telescope (seen in an artist's rendition, above) to locate likely planets orbiting stars beyond the sun.
NASA / Kepler Mission

In Search of Habitable Worlds: The Older the Planet, the Greater Chance There's Life -- Time

To date, the Kepler space telescope has found more than 1,200 likely planets orbiting stars beyond the sun — quite a haul for a satellite that's been flying for just over two years. The true prize Kepler is hunting for, of course, is not just any planet, but one that's a twin of Earth — about the size of our world, orbiting in a zone where the temperature range is like ours. All that would make it a prime place to look for life. Finding such a not-too-hot, not-too-cold world is probably just a matter of time, but even then, there will be one more factor to consider: how old the planet is.

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