Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Island Where People Live Longer

The island of Icaria could be the newest of the world's so-called blue zones — places where residents have unusually long life spans. AARP

From NPR:

Making it to 90 years old is awe-inspiring in much of the world. But on a tiny Greek island in the North Aegean Sea, nonagenarians barely merit a second glance.

The island of Icaria could be the newest of the world's so-called blue zones — places where residents have unusually long life spans.

Dan Buettner has crossed the globe many times over the years in search of blue zones, and he recently teamed up with AARP and National Geographic to study Icaria.

Read more

Satellite Images Used To Create Better Camouflage

Images gathered from cameras on drones and satellites are used to make a mesh that serves as camouflage for military vehicles. The product, Photo-Veil is from Military Wraps.

From Live Science:

The art of concealing troops and their vehicles has come a long way from the first "camouflage" division formed in France in 1915. The French army called in artists to help prepare colors and designs; the Americans later used the same idea, calling on artists like Grant Wood, the painter of the "American Gothic."

Today, Photo-Veil from Military Wraps is a mesh material that uses images gathered from cameras on drones and satellites to camouflage military vehicles. The lightweight, customizable, foldable, portable and waterproof mesh material is also able to mask thermal and infrared output, making it ideal for blinds and ghillie suits. (At least until your invisibility cloak is ready.)

Read more ....

World's Fastest Camera Relies On Entirely New Type Of Imaging

Image: Researchers have developed a novel, continuously running camera that captures images roughly a thousand times faster than any existing conventional camera. (Credit: Image courtesy of UCLA / Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (May 3, 2009) — Ultrafast, light-sensitive video cameras are needed for observing high-speed events such as shockwaves, communication between living cells, neural activity, laser surgery and elements of blood analysis. To catch such elusive moments, a camera must be able to capture millions or billions of images continuously with a very high frame rate. Conventional cameras are simply not up to the task.

Now, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a novel, continuously running camera that captures images roughly a thousand times faster than any existing conventional camera.

Read more

An Invention That Could Change The Internet For Ever

From The Independent:

Revolutionary new web software could put giants such as Google in the shade when it comes out later this month. Andrew Johnson reports

The biggest internet revolution for a generation will be unveiled this month with the launch of software that will understand questions and give specific, tailored answers in a way that the web has never managed before.

The new system, Wolfram Alpha, showcased at Harvard University in the US last week, takes the first step towards what many consider to be the internet's Holy Grail – a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does.

Although the system is still new, it has already produced massive interest and excitement among technology pundits and internet watchers.

Read more ....

'Alien Skull' Spotted On Mars

An oddly shaped space boulder appears to show eye sockets and a nose leading to speculation it might be a Martian skull Photo: BARCROFT/NASA

From The Telegraph:

UFO spotters are claiming they have spotted an alien skull on Mars after NASA beamed back satellite images from the planet.

At first glance it looks like a rocky desert - but this image of the Mars landscape has got space-gazers talking.

An oddly shaped space boulder appears to show eye sockets and a nose leading to speculation it might be a Martian skull.
Read more ....

My Comment: Strange .... but I am very skeptical that it is an "alien skull".

Saturday, May 2, 2009

'The Future Is Going To Be Very Exciting'

Ray Kurzweil

From The Guardian:

The head of Google's new university, Ray Kurzweil believes the advance of technology will solve the energy crisis, upgrade the human genome and even lead to everlasting life - no wonder he is so optimistic

Ray Kurzweil has a surrealist's eye for disorientation. The lobby of his offices outside Boston have the quality of a Dadaist art gallery: nothing is quite what it seems. Immediately inside the door is an old metal box that turns out to be a dictation machine built by Thomas Edison. An old man is sitting next to it, with a badge on his lapel that reads: "I'm an inventor". He is George, the receptionist tells me, and he is made of wax. A cabinet along the hall is covered entirely in boxes of vitamin pills, hundreds of them, from acai berry, red yeast rice and milk thistle to a very large jar marked "Anti-ageing multi-pack".

Read more ....

5 Ways To Protect Yourself (And Others) From Swine Flu

Photo: GOOD OLD SOAP AND WATER: Experts say frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to defend against swine flu. ISTOCKPHOTO/ALANDJ

From Scientific American:

Swine flu has yet to escalate into a global pandemic, but here's what to do if it does.

Experts say that the steps you should take to shield yourself from swine flu are not much different than those you might take to ward off seasonal flu.

1. Don't touch your face
Above all, keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth and nose, all of which serve as pathways for the virus to enter your respiratory tract, says Allison Aiello, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor.

Read more ....

Pictured: The Baby Mammoth Who Went Back To The Deep Freeze To Stop Her Thawing Out

Urgent action: Scientists carried the 3ft mammoth out of the lab and back to the snow. Thanks to this, she remains the best preserved specimen of her kind

From The Daily Mail:

For 40,000 years, she had been perfectly preserved in the icy earth.

But as scientists examined this baby mammoth hoping to unlock her ancient secrets, there was a rather urgent complication.

She began to thaw. They then came up with a somewhat unscientific solution - they carried her out of the lab and into the snow.

Thanks to their swift action, the 3ft mammoth, discovered by reindeer herders in the Russian Arctic, remains the best preserved specimen of her kind.

Discovered in 2007, she is thought to have died in a mudslide at a month old.

The mud effectively ‘pickled’ the baby, who has been named Lyuba, preserving her in a nearly pristine state.

Read more ....

Inside The Baby Mind

(iStock photo)


It's unfocused, random, and extremely good at what it does. How we can learn from a baby's brain.

WHAT IS IT like to be a baby? For centuries, this question would have seemed absurd: behind that adorable facade was a mostly empty head. A baby, after all, is missing most of the capabilities that define the human mind, such as language and the ability to reason. Rene Descartes argued that the young child was entirely bound by sensation, hopelessly trapped in the confusing rush of the here and now. A newborn, in this sense, is just a lump of need, a bundle of reflexes that can only eat and cry. To think like a baby is to not think at all.

Read more ....

Mechanisms Of Self-Control Pinpointed In Brain

This 3-D projection of a transparent brain shows the regions of activation: the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is in red, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is in green. Activity in the vmPFC reflects the value assigned to foods during decision-making. When self-control is exercised, DLPFC activity increases and appears to interact with the activity in the vmPFC to increase the influence of health considerations. (Credit: Caltech/Todd Hare)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (May 1, 2009) — When you're on a diet, deciding to skip your favorite calorie-laden foods and eat something healthier takes a whole lot of self-control--an ability that seems to come easier to some of us than others. Now, scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have uncovered differences in the brains of people who are able to exercise self-control versus those who find it almost impossible.

The key? While everyone uses the same single area of the brain to make these sorts of value-laden decisions, a second brain region modulates the activity of the first region in people with good self-control, allowing them to weigh more abstract factors--healthiness, for example--in addition to basic desires such as taste to make a better overall choice.

Read more ....

Origin Of Life: What Are The Odds?

A mineral chimney and microbe mats on the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico in one of the newfound scenes that scientists described as otherworldly. Mineral chimneys are associated with sea vents that release oil and gas. The microbe mats are lying on sediments next to the mineral chimney.Credit: Ian MacDonald, Texas A&M University

From Live Science:

And it really bothers us. "Many people, perhaps most, hate the idea that life might depend on chance processes," writes biologist Dave Deamer on his blog.

Scientists have hypothesized that it started around hot vents on the seafloor, or that things heated up between the mica sheets, or that it came in a comet (which doesn't really solve the origin problem). But nobody knows.

Those who promote intelligent design — an attack on the theory of evolution thought by many scientists to be a thinly veiled effort to get religious ideas into science classrooms — suggest the the astronomical odds of it point to a designer being involved, rather than pure chance.

Read more ....

Still 10-15 Years to Commercialize 10+ Megawatt Superconducting Wind Turbines

From The Next Big Picture:

AMSC (American Superconductor and Texas-based TECO-Westinghouse Motor Co have been working an estimated $6.8 million project to design components for a 10-MW HTS generator. Another HTS device manufacturer, Germany’s Zenergy Power Group, is working with Converteam Ltd in the UK to commercialize an 8-MW HTS wind-turbine generator. Because of the practical limitations to erecting large turbines, a generator’s size and weight do matter, says Larry Masur, a Zenergy vice president. Several groups expect to have generator prototypes ready for testing within two years but commercialization will take 10-15 years to get competitive costs. Kite generated wind and other alternatives to turbines seem like the better approach.

Read more ....

Unknown Internet 3: How Big Is The Net?

(Click on Image to Enlarge)
The exploding internet 2008

From New Scientist:

"The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time," said the 18th-century scientist John Playfair, recalling the moment he learned of the Earth's long history. If Playfair could peer into the depths of the internet he might get that giddy feeling again. In 2005, Google estimated the internet contained some 5 million terabytes of data - that's more than 1 gigabyte for each of Earth's 4.5 billion trips around the sun.

There are simpler ways to appreciate the internet's sheer scale. Recent estimates suggest that well over 1 billion people rely on computers to access the internet (see graphics of internet traffic in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008). Yet there are also a billion or so other people who use cellphones to visit cyberspace, making them as much a part of the online community as someone surfing from a PC.

Read more ....

Friday, May 1, 2009

NZ Glacier Findings Upset Climate Theory

Image: Fox Glacier is one of the world's climate change indicators. Photo / Supplied

From NZHerald:

Research by three New Zealand scientists may have solved the mystery of why glaciers behave differently in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Geologist David Barrell of GNS Science, Victoria University geomorphologist Andrew Mackintosh and glaciologist Trevor Chinn of the Alpine and Polar Processes Consultancy have helped provide definitive dating for changes in glacier behaviour.

They were part of a team of nine scientists, led by Joerg Schaefer of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York, who used an isotope-dating technique to get very precise ages for glacial deposits near Mt Cook.

Read more ....

Magic And The Brain: Teller Reveals The Neuroscience Of Illusion

From Wired News:

One of the first tricks in Penn and Teller's Las Vegas show begins when Teller—the short, quiet one—strolls onstage with a lit cigarette, inhales, drops it to the floor, and stamps it out. Then he takes another cigarette from his suit pocket and lights it.

No magic there, right? But then Teller pivots so the audience can see him from the other side. He goes through the same set of motions, except this time everything is different: Much of what just transpired, the audience now perceives, was a charade, a carefully orchestrated stack of lies. He doesn't stamp out the first cigarette—he palms it, then puts it in his ear. There is no second cigarette; it's a pencil stub. The smoke from the first butt is real, but the lighter used on the pencil is actually a flashlight. Yet the illusion is executed so perfectly that every step looks real, even when you're shown that it is not.

Read more ....

'Worst-Case' Scenario For Flu Estimated

This map shows the projected number of H1N1 "swine flu" cases in the United States at the county level, 28 days from now. Credit: Christian Thiemann, Rafael Brune, and Alejandro Morales Gallardo/Northwestern University

For Live Science:

There will be about 1,700 U.S. cases of the new H1N1 flu, aka "swine flu," in the next four weeks under a worst-case scenario, according to a research team's new simulations.

And a second team working independently, about 200 miles away, on exactly the same question came up with a similar forecast.

As of Thursday, there were 109 lab-confirmed U.S. cases of the new influenza, according to the World Health Organization, which earlier this week raised the risk level of the influenza to one stage below pandemic because the virus is being transmitted within at least two countries in one region of the world. A full pandemic — the virus is also being transmitted within a third country in a different region — is considered imminent.

Read more ....

Ancient Egypt Brought To Life With Virtual Model Of Historic Temple Complex

Digital recreation shows what Karnak probably looked like in ancient times. (Credit: UCLA/ETC)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 30, 2009) — For the past two years, a team of UCLA Egyptologists, digital modelers, web designers, staff and students has been building a three-dimensional virtual-reality model of the ancient Egyptian religious site known as Karnak, one of the largest temple complexes ever constructed.

The result is Digital Karnak, a high-tech model that runs in real time and allows users to navigate 2,000 years of history at the popular ancient Egyptian tourist site near modern-day Luxor, where generations of pharaohs constructed temples, chapels, obelisks, sphinxes, shrines and other sacred structures beginning in the 20th century B.C.

Read more ....

Pushing Plastic Solar Cells

Image: Powerful polymers: This illustration shows the different layers that make up a new plastic solar cell with nearly perfect internal efficiency. From bottom to top, the layers are glass, a transparent electrode, two polymer layers, a titanium oxide layer that redistributes light, and an aluminum electrode. Credit: Nature Photonics

From Technology Review:

Researchers make cells with near-perfect internal efficiency.

Plastic solar cells are lightweight, flexible, and, most important, cheap to make. But so far, these devices have been too inefficient to compete with silicon solar cells for most applications. Now researchers from a few institutions claim to have made polymer solar cells with record-breaking efficiencies. These cells still aren't good enough to compete with silicon, but polymer efficiencies have been increasing at a rate of about 1 percent a year. If they can keep this up, say researchers, plastic solar cells will be competing with silicon within a few years.

Read more ....

China's Secret Tea Revealed As Fat-Busting Wonder Cuppa By Scientists

From The Scotsman:

A DAILY cup of special tea may combat the obesity epidemic, scientists will say today.
An extract of white tea prevents new fat cells from forming and helps to burn off mature ones, according to research.

The herbal brew increases the metabolism and boosts slimming by having a very high concentration of antioxidants compared to the more popular green variety.

Nutritionist Marc Winnefeld said: "In the industrialised countries, the rising incidence of obesity-associated disorders including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes constitutes a growing problem.

Read more ....

Hackers Weigh In: 8 Big Things To Do With A Mini Server

MINI SERVER: Marvell Technology's SheevaPlug is a two-inch by four-inch (five- by 10-centimeter) box that plugs into any wall outlet and is almost indistinguishable from an oversize power supply. © MARVELL TECHNOLOGY

From Scientific American:

We weren't sure what to do with a SheevaPlug, a cheap and powerful home server stuffed into a package the size of a power brick, so we asked a bunch of uber-geeks--Here's what they said.

Tiny computers are everywhere—our cell phones, handheld gaming devices and set-top boxes, to name a few—so it should be no surprise that Marvell Technology in Santa Clara, Calif., one of the companies that makes the chips that go into such devices, managed to cram an entire home server into the SheevaPlug, a two-inch by four-inch (five- by 10-centimeter) box that plugs into any wall outlet and is almost indistinguishable from an oversize power supply.

Read more ....