This Hubble video of supersonic jets from young stars from NASA and ESA is absolutely stunning.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
New research shows probiotic bacteria have the potential to alter brain neurochemistry.
ScienceDaily — Probiotic bacteria have the potential to alter brain neurochemistry and treat anxiety and depression-related disorders according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.The research, carried out by Dr Javier Bravo, and Professor John Cryan at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in University College Cork, along with collaborators from the Brain-Body Institute at McMaster University in Canada, demonstrated that mice fed with Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1 showed significantly fewer stress, anxiety and depression-related behaviours than those fed with just broth. Moreover, ingestion of the bacteria resulted in significantly lower levels of the stress-induced hormone, corticosterone.
"This study identifies potential brain targets and a pathway through which certain gut organisms can alter mouse brain chemistry and behaviour. These findings highlight the important role that gut bacteria play in the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain, the gut-brain axis, and opens up the intriguing opportunity of developing unique microbial-based strategies for treatment for stress-related psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression," said John F. Cryan, senior author on the publication and Professor of Anatomy and Principal Investigator at the Science Foundation Ireland funded Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, at UCC. The APC researchers included Dr Hélène Savignac and Professor Ted Dinan.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The Intentional Space Station may have to be evacuated in November due to lack of transportation because the U.S has discontinued the Space Shuttle fleet and the Russians aren't proving to be as reliable as hoped. Thanks, President Obama.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Astronauts may need to take the unprecedented step of temporarily abandoning the International Space Station if last week's Russian launch accident prevents new crews from flying there this fall.
Until officials figure out what went wrong with Russia's essential Soyuz rockets, there will be no way to launch any more astronauts before the current residents have to leave in mid-November.
The unsettling predicament comes just weeks after NASA's final space shuttle flight.
"We have plenty of options," NASA's space station program manager, Mike Suffredini, assured reporters Monday. "We'll focus on crew safety as we always do."
Abandoning the space station, even for a short period, would be an unpleasant last resort for the world's five space agencies that have spent decades working on the project. Astronauts have been living aboard the space station since 2000, and the goal is to keep it going until 2020.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Eating chocolate can reduce heart attacks and strokes by one-third!
Eating chocolate may reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by about one-third, a new study says.
The findings might sound a little familiar. A number of recent studies have shown that eating chocolate has a positive influence on human health. It's been shown to reduce blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity (insensitivity can be an early sign of diabetes). But its effect on heart disease and stroke risk was less clear, the researchers said.
However, the new results are not an excuse to gorge. A lot of chocolate that's sold in stores is packed with calories. Eating too much of it could, in itself, lead to weight gain, diabetes or heart disease.
An artist’s concept of a fission surface power system on the surface of the Moon. Credit: Galaxy Wire
A moon base nuclear power plant won't look anything like it's Earthly cousin.
(PhysOrg.com) -- The first nuclear power plant being considered for production of electricity for manned or unmanned bases on the Moon, Mars and other planets may really look like it came from outer space, according to a leader of the project who spoke here today at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
James E. Werner said that innovative fission technology for surface power applications is far different from the familiar terrestrial nuclear power stations, which sprawl over huge tracts of land and have large structures such as cooling towers.
"People would never recognize the fission power system as a nuclear power reactor," said Werner. "The reactor itself may be about 1 1/2 feet wide by 2 1/2 feet high, about the size of a carry-on suitcase. There are no cooling towers. A fission power system is a compact, reliable, safe system that may be critical to the establishment of outposts or habitats on other planets. Fission power technology can be applied on Earth's Moon, on Mars, or wherever NASA sees the need for continuous power."
The team is scheduled to build a technology demonstration unit in 2012. This is a cooperative project between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Werner leads the DOE's Idaho National Laboratory involvement in this effort, which includes participation in the reactor design and modeling teams, fuel development and fabrication and development of a small electrical pump for the liquid metal cooled system.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
These images show Type Ia supernova PTF 11kly. Credit: Peter Nugent/LBNL and Palomar Observatory
Supernova PTF 11kly is likely in the Pinwheel galaxy, but to say it is close is a relative term. The new supernova is approximately 21 million light-years away!
ScienceDaily — A supernova discovered August 24 is closer to Earth -- approximately 21 million light-years away -- than any other of its kind in a generation. Astronomers believe they caught the supernova within hours of its explosion, a rare feat made possible with a specialized survey telescope and state-of-the-art computational tools.
The finding of such a supernova so early and so close has energized the astronomical community as they are scrambling to observe it with as many telescopes as possible, including the Hubble Space Telescope.
Joshua Bloom, assistant professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, called it "the supernova of a generation." Astronomers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley, who made the discovery predict that it will be a target for research for the next decade, making it one of the most-studied supernova in history.
The supernova, dubbed PTF 11kly, occurred in the Pinwheel Galaxy, located in the "Big Dipper," otherwise known as the Ursa Major constellation. It was discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) survey, which is designed to observe and uncover astronomical events as they happen.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Crossbreeding with Neanderthals and the Denisovans gave early man a much needed immune boost as he moved into new environments. It is unclear is the sex was consensual or violent.
Sexual encounters with archaic humans like the Neanderthals produced children who inherited key genes that have helped modern humans fight illness and disease, a study has found.
"The cross-breeding wasn't just a random event that happened, it gave something useful to the gene pool of the modern human," said Stanford University's Peter Parham, senior author of the study in the journal Science.
Equipped with knowledge of the genome of the Neanderthals and the Denisovans, of whom a tooth and a finger bone were discovered in a Russian cave last year, researchers scoured the data for hints of what genes crossed over.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Image credit - Swinburne Astronomy Productions
This is one gigantic rock! Now, if we could only find a planet made of gold...
(PHYSORG)- A once-massive star that's been transformed into a small planet made of diamond: that is what University of Manchester astronomers think they've found in the Milky Way.
The discovery has been made by an international research team, led by Professor Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, and is reported in the journal Science.
The researchers, from The University of Manchester as well as institutions in Australia, Germany, Italy, and the USA, first detected an unusual star called a pulsar using the Parkes radio telescope of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and followed up their discovery with the Lovell radio telescope, based at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, and one of the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.
Pulsars are small spinning stars about 20 km in diameter – the size of a small city – that emit a beam of radio waves. As the star spins and the radio beam sweeps repeatedly over Earth, radio telescopes detect a regular pattern of radio pulses....
But pulsar J1719-1438 and its companion are so close together that the companion can only be a very stripped-down white dwarf, one that has lost its outer layers and over 99.9 per cent of its original mass.
"This remnant is likely to be largely carbon and oxygen, because a star made of lighter elements like hydrogen and helium would be too big to fit the measured orbiting times," said Dr Michael Keith (CSIRO), one of the research team members.
The density means that this material is certain to be crystalline: that is, a large part of the star may be similar to a diamond.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
This boat resembles a dolphin and can cruise on top of the water or underwater.
Samsung is arguing that as defense in a court case Apple computer filed against them claiming they stole their tablet design from Apple.
FRUIT THEMED FIRM Apple's arguments that Samsung stole the tablet design from it have been debunked by the latter's lawyers, who found the devices in Stanley Kubrick's classic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Apple versus Samsung tablet argument is keeping patent lawyers in sports cars and tailored suits at the moment and stopping judges from going on their summer breaks. Apple has argued that Samsung is aping its design and is fighting for a ban on imports, but Samsung has argued that you can see the design in 2001, a film that ironically starts with a bunch of apes hitting what looks like a rather large tablet.
2001 is a great film and we are always glad of a reminder, even when it appears on the Fosspatents blog. According to Florian Mueller, Samsung filed its defence against an injunction on imports last night, and included a screenshot from the film masterpiece that shows two tablets in use.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The blades are atomically sharp sharpened by "high-energy, ionized particles" to make them less than 100 atoms across.
WASHINGTON -- How much would you pay for a close shave? For those with the means, doling out $100,000 to avoid that five o'clock shadow is worth the cost.
A new razor hit the market earlier this summer made from a super rare material called iridium. Sorry, Wolverine. Only three tons of the mineral are manufactured each year, which might help account for the small supply of razors -- just 99 will be made.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Incredible views of Hurricane Irene via the space station. (raw video)
Artist's conception of 2007 OR10: Credit: NASA
The dwarf planet "Snow White" is half covered in water ice.
(PHYSORG)- Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered that the dwarf planet 2007 OR10—nicknamed Snow White—is an icy world, with about half its surface covered in water ice that once flowed from ancient, slush-spewing volcanoes. The new findings also suggest that the red-tinged dwarf planet may be covered in a thin layer of methane, the remnants of an atmosphere that's slowly being lost into space.
"You get to see this nice picture of what once was an active little world with water volcanoes and an atmosphere, and it's now just frozen, dead, with an atmosphere that's slowly slipping away," says Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy, who is the lead author on a paper to be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters describing the findings. The paper is now in press.
Snow White—which was discovered in 2007 as part of the PhD thesis of Brown's former graduate student Meg Schwamb—orbits the sun at the edge of the solar system and is about half the size of Pluto, making it the fifth largest dwarf planet. At the time, Brown had guessed incorrectly that it was an icy body that had broken off from another dwarf planet named Haumea; he nicknamed it Snow White for its presumed white color.
Soon, however, follow-up observations revealed that Snow White is actually one of the reddest objects in the solar system. A few other dwarf planets at the edge of the solar system are also red. These distant dwarf planets are themselves part of a larger group of icy bodies called Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). As far as the researchers could tell, Snow White, though relatively large, was unremarkable—just one out of more than 400 potential dwarf planets that are among hundreds of thousands of KBOs. Keep on reading...
The Universe is running out of gas and forming fewer stars than it used too.
ScienceDaily — A CSIRO study has shown why the lights are going out in the Universe. The Universe forms fewer stars than it used to, and a CSIRO study has now shown why: the galaxies are running out of gas.
Dr Robert Braun (CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science) and his colleagues used CSIRO's Mopra radio telescope near Coonabarabran, NSW, to study far-off galaxies and compare them with nearby ones.
Light (and radio waves) from the distant galaxies has taken time to travel to us, so we see the galaxies as they were between three and five billion years ago.
Galaxies at this stage of the Universe's life appear to contain considerably more molecular hydrogen gas than comparable galaxies in today's Universe, the research team found.
Stars form from clouds of molecular hydrogen. The less molecular hydrogen there is, the fewer stars will form.
The research team's paper is in press in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Monday, August 22, 2011
The discovery that bacteria thrived on an Earth that had no oxygen offers hope for life on mars and elsewhere.
(PHYSORG)- Microfossils found in Australia show that more than 3.4 billion years ago, bacteria thrived on an Earth that had no oxygen, a finding that boosts hopes life has existed on Mars, a study published Sunday says.
Researchers from the University of Western Australia and Oxford University say the remains of microbes, located in ancient sedimentary rocks that have triggered debate for nearly a decade, have been confirmed as the earliest fossils ever recorded.
The sample came from the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, a site called Strelley Pool, where the microbes, after dying, had been finely preserved between quartz sand grains.
Pilbara has some of the planet's oldest rock formations, set down in the so-called Archean Eon when the infant Earth was a primeval water world, with seas that were the temperature of a hot bath.
In 2002, another team of scientists, working in the same region just 35 kilometres (20 miles) away, said they had found bacteria fossils in the same formation.
But the claim was disputed, with some experts saying that the tiny pockmarks were not the signatures of once-living organisms but the result of mineralisation of the rocks.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Credit: John Russell, Vanderbilt University
This new 'bionic' prosthetic leg offers a natural gait.
ScienceDaily — A new lower-limb prosthetic developed at Vanderbilt University allows amputees to walk without the leg-dragging gait characteristic of conventional artificial legs.
The device uses the latest advances in computer, sensor, electric motor and battery technology to give it bionic capabilities: It is the first prosthetic with powered knee and ankle joints that operate in unison. It comes equipped with sensors that monitor its user's motion. It has microprocessors programmed to use this data to predict what the person is trying to do and operate the device in ways that facilitate these movements.
A passive leg is always a step behind me. The Vanderbilt leg is only a split-second behind.""When it's working, it's totally different from my current prosthetic," said Craig Hutto, the 23-year-old amputee who has been testing the leg for several years. "A passive leg is always a step behind me. The Vanderbilt leg is only a split-second behind."
The bionic leg is the result of a seven-year research effort at the Vanderbilt Center for Intelligent Mechatronics, directed by Michael Goldfarb, the H. Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering... Keep on reading...
Space Dirigibles may offer a different twist on space tourism.
bloon's flight simulation
As early as five years from now, you may be on your way to the outer atmosphere via the “Bloon”—a space tourism project by Spanish aerospace firm zero2infinity.
bloon's flight simulation
Saturday, August 20, 2011
CREDIT: Don Davis/NASAScientists plan to test asteroid deflection on Apophis in 2015. ESA will impact it with a spacecraft named Hidalgo and see how that changed the asteroids path.
Apophis, a 1,600-foot-wide asteroid, has a one in 250,000 chance of hitting Earth in 2036, creating a real-life Armageddon situation. But scientists are not taking any chances in assuming the odds are in our favor.
Though the asteroid is expected to pass Earth in 2029, it could enter a gravitational keyhole, which could send it back towards Earth with the potential for impact in 2036. According to Technology Review, keyholes are small — the one in question being 600 meters wide — so deflecting the asteroid just a touch would be enough to send it off course and ensure it doesn’t come back toward Earth seven years later.
The European Space Agency and Chinese researchers have independently announced plans to begin testing methods of asteroid deflection. Scientists at both European Space Agency and Tsinghua University in Beijing believe that spacecraft collision with the asteroid is the best way to set it off course.
The European Space Agency will test its technique against a real asteroid in 2015 in a mission called Don Quijote. Don Quijote involves two spacecrafts. One, called Hidalgo, will impact the asteroid at a speed of six miles per second while the other (Sancho) will orbit the asteroid before and after collision collecting data and analyzing just how far off course the impactor spacecraft threw the asteroid.
The ESA's Asteroid Intercept Mission Video
Car makers are testing a system that senses brain waves via sensors in the headrest. If you fall asleep, your car would wake you up!
(PhysOrg.com) -- Car manufacturers are looking at a technology that sets off an alarm for drivers if they are falling asleep at the wheel. Sensors embedded in the driver’s headrest would read the brain’s electrical activity pasterns. The sensors would sound an alarm if detecting the driver might nod off. The company with the technology is San Jose-based NeuroSky. The company makes electroencephalography (EEG) headsets and has other technologies that translate brain-signal readings into practical use. The company promotes itself as on a mission to make BCI (brain computer interface) technologies available to any industry, and the auto solution is reported to be in the works.
In theory, developing hardware and software that can understand brain signals and delivering products that translate the information for practical use promise limitless applications. In theory. The traditional use of the EEG (electroencephalogram) in lab and clinical settings has involved reading brain signals by hooking the user up to electrodes applied on the scalp with a thick medical gel to raise the brainwave signal. For widespread use, companies like NeuroSky want to be the ones to deliver brain-signal-reading devices outside the labs into real-life settings.
NeuroSky’s auto application involves gel-free sensors. In the scenario, no headset used for scalp-touching to pick up the brain's signals is involved. The sensors instead work through the headrest’s fabric.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Have WW2 Foo Fighters returned to Great Britain? A BBC reported was 'freaked out' by this orb.
AN EERIE-looking UFO can be seen in our shock footage darting through the sky, close to the spot where a 'freaked out' BBC reporter saw a craft.
The stunning video shows a glowing white dot hovering over the M11 in broad daylight.
A series of bright lights then appear to shoot out from it through the clouds, towards passing vehicles...
Mike, 41 - who works for Radio 5 Live - said it too was bright and "disc-shaped".
Describing what he saw, the BBC man went on: "I saw this big light in the sky descending towards the road.
"As it got closer it banked to the left. It went cross-country.
"I could see underneath and it wasn't an aeroplane."
Scientists extract biodiesel from alligator fat.
(PhysOrg.com) -- In addition to being a novelty food, alligators could also provide a feedstock for biodiesel. Every year, the alligator meat industry disposes of about 15 million pounds of alligator fat in landfills. Now scientists have found that oil can be extracted from the fat and used to make a high-quality biodiesel.
The researchers, Rakesh Bajpai and coauthors from the University of Louisiana, have published their study on the possibility of using alligator fat as fuel in a recent issue of the American Chemical Society journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.
In 2008, the US produced about 700 million gallons of biodiesel to help supply some of the 45 billion gallons of diesel consumed that year. Most of the biodiesel came from soybean oil. Due to concerns that using food crops to produce fuels will raise the price of food, scientists have been investigating alternative feedstocks, including sewage sludge, Chinese tallow, and used vegetable oil.
By showing in experiments that oil extracted from alligator fat meets nearly all of the official standards for high-quality biodiesel, the Louisiana researchers have added another feedstock to the list.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
A new study, carried out by researchers from Schillerhoehe Hospital in Germany, suggests that sniffer dogs can reliably detect lung cancer.
(ScienceDaily) — Sniffer dogs could be used for the early detection of lung cancer, according to new research published in the European Respiratory Journal.
The study, carried out by researchers from Schillerhoehe Hospital in Germany, is the first to find that sniffer dogs can reliably detect lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the second most frequent form of cancer in men and women across Europe with over 340,000 deaths per year. It is also the most common cause of death from cancer worldwide.
The disease is not strongly associated with any symptoms and early detection is often by chance. Current methods of detection are unreliable and scientists have been working on using exhaled breath specimens from patients for future screening tests.
This method relies on identifying volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are linked to the presence of cancer. Although many different technological applications have been developed, this method is still difficult to apply in a clinical setting as patients aren't allowed to smoke or eat before the test, sample analysis can take a long time and there is also a high risk of interference. Because of these reasons, no lung cancer-specific VOCs have yet been identified.
The moon may not be new, but now it is a little newer than previously thought.
(ABC News)- "The moon's a harsh mistress," goes the song. It does not surrender its secrets easily. Scientists have thought it was 4.6 billion years old -- but now Lars Borg of Lawrence Livermore National Lab, writing in today's edition of the journal Nature, says the real number is more like 4.4 billion. That's a difference of 200 million years.
This matters, say scientists. It's not just an argument about the age of rocks. It has to do with how the world came to be, how quickly, and how it affects our existence today.
Scientists theorized that the moon probably formed when the solar system was young and filled with debris, and something -- an object roughly the size of Mars -- crashed into Earth and sent molten chunks in all directions. Over the next several hundred million years, the debris coalesced, cooled, and formed the moon that orbits us today.
The oldest piece of the moon we have -- or so scientists have believed -- was brought back by astronauts John Young and Charles Duke of Apollo 16, in April 1972. The age, based on the decay of chemical isotopes inside, was estimated at 4.56 billion years, and two other Apollo samples have been dated at 4.47 billion years -- impossible if Borg and his colleagues are correct.
(PHYSORG)- Computers, like humans, can learn. But when Google tries to fill in your search box based only on a few keystrokes, or your iPhone predicts words as you type a text message, it's only a narrow mimicry of what the human brain is capable.
The challenge in training a computer to behave like a human brain is technological and physiological, testing the limits of computer and brain science. But researchers from IBM Corp. say they've made a key step toward combining the two worlds.
The company announced Thursday that it has built two prototype chips that it says process data more like how humans digest information than the chips that now power PCs and supercomputers.
The chips represent a significant milestone in a six-year-long project that has involved 100 researchers and some $41 million in funding from the government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. IBM has also committed an undisclosed amount of money.
The prototypes offer further evidence of the growing importance of "parallel processing," or computers doing multiple tasks simultaneously. That is important for rendering graphics and crunching large amounts of data.
The uses of the IBM chips so far are prosaic, such as steering a simulated car through a maze, or playing Pong. It may be a decade or longer before the chips make their way out of the lab and into actual products.
But what's important is not what the chips are doing, but how they're doing it, says Giulio Tononi, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who worked with IBM on the project.
The chips' ability to adapt to types of information that it wasn't specifically programmed to expect is a key feature.
"There's a lot of work to do still, but the most important thing is usually the first step," Tononi said in an interview. "And this is not one step, it's a few steps."
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
New research suggests the possibility of temporarily reversing the effects of aging on immunity.
ScienceDaily — Researchers have discovered a new mechanism controlling aging in white blood cells. The research, published in the September issue of the Journal of Immunology, opens up the possibility of temporarily reversing the effects of aging on immunity and could, in the future, allow for the short-term boosting of the immune systems of older people.
Weakened immunity is a serious issue for older people. Because our immune systems become less effective as we age we suffer from more infections and these are often more severe. This takes a serious toll on health and quality of life.
Professor Arne Akbar of UCL (University College London), who led this research, explains "Our immune systems get progressively weaker as we age because each time we recover from an infection a proportion of our white blood cells become deactivated. This is an important process that has probably evolved to prevent certain cancers, but as the proportion of inactive cells builds up over time our defenses become weakened.
"What this research shows is that some of these cells are being actively switched off in our bodies by a mechanism which hadn't been identified before as important in aging in the immune system. Whilst we wouldn't want to reactivate these cells permanently, we have an idea now of how to wake them from their slumber temporarily, just to give the immune system a little boost."
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Scientists confirm sunflowers were domesticated at on e site in the Eastern United Stated.
ScienceDaily — New genetic evidence presented by a team led by Indiana University biology doctoral graduate Benjamin Blackman confirms what is now the eastern United States as the single geographic domestication site of modern sunflowers. Co-authors on the findings published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences include Blackman's advisor, IU Distinguished Professor of Biology Loren H. Rieseberg, and four others from Rieseberg's lab, as well as collaborators from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and the University of Cincinnati.
Through a comprehensive examination of the geographic diversity in three recently identified early domestication genes of Helianthus annuus, the researchers also reported finding no DNA evidence to support suggestions based on archaeological evidence that a second, independent domestication event had occurred in what is now Mexico.
"Our results affirm that the eastern United States was an independent center of plant domestication and that all known living cultivated sunflowers shared a common origin there," Blackman said.
The Sun's magnetic field protects against Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs) and Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs). We will soon enter a solar minimum.
(PhysOrg.com) -- Radiation risks to airplanes and spacecraft are likely to increase when the Sun moves from its present grand solar maximum to lower levels of activity, says research from the University of Reading.
The researchers say this a serious concern because our present day engineering, design, operation and insurance of vulnerable technology is based on past experience from the space age and does not yet account for long-term change in space climate.
The scientists have paid particular attention to the radiation effects on aircraft crew and passengers on long-distance flights.
The Sun has been in a ‘grand solar maximum' which has already lasted longer than any other such maximum in the past 9.3 millennia and is expected to end soon. The changes in near-Earth space that will result will return Earth to conditions that last prevailed before the advent of susceptible modern operational systems, such as spacecraft, power distribution grids and aircraft.
The study says that at cruise altitudes of commercial aviation, particularly at higher latitudes, high-energy ionising radiations such as Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs) and Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs) pose threats through single event upsets in electronics critical to flight safety, and through the radiation exposure of crew and passengers.
GCRs are high energy particles generated by supernovae explosions in our galaxy and, because of the shielding effect of our Sun's magnetic field, they give a continuous radiation dose throughout the solar system that increases during a solar activity minimum and decreases during a solar maximum. SEPs are bursts of energetic particles that are formed from supersonic ejections of material from the solar atmosphere.
Monday, August 15, 2011
scientists are looking for Bay Area volunteers to help develop the world's largest, low-cost strong motion seismic network.
(FOX Science)-With the threat of devastating earthquakes looming in California's future, scientists are racing to develop an early warning system, much like Japan's, where mobile alerts are saving lives.
"If we can see the earthquake with more sensors up close, we can learn more about how the earthquakes rupture, and understanding earthquakes better is better for all of us," said Jesse Lawrence, assistant geophysics professor at Stanford University.
The sensors -- called accelerometers -- are cheap and easy to make. Lawrence said they're like the chips in Wii gaming systems, or in laptops.
The challenge is getting them into as many homes and offices as possible, which is where Stanford's Quake Catcher Network comes in.
Across the Bay Area, volunteers like Carl Holzwarth are signing up to help develop the world's largest, low-cost strong motion seismic network. A Silicon Valley engineer -- and seismology enthusiast -- he's agreed to lend the Quake Catcher Network his extra bandwidth space on his home computer for at least a year.
Now, researchers at Stanford University are testing a potential game-changer that relies on a massive array of tiny, low-cost earthquake sensors and a network of volunteers to become quake catchers.
A dolphin can often survive having a basketball-sized chunk bitten out during a shark attack. One surgeon wants to learn how they accomplish this feat.
(ABC News)- The remarkably clever dolphin has amused us with its tricks and intrigued us with its intelligence, and now it turns out that it routinely defies death. It can ignore a wound that would kill a human within hours. Dolphins, according to a new study, are frequently attacked by sharks that leave gaping holes bigger than a basketball.
"Why don't they bleed to death?" asks Michael Zasloff, professor of surgery and immunology at Georgetown University Medical Center. "Why don't they get infections? Why aren't they eaten after the injury? Why doesn't the shark finish the job?"
Zasloff thinks he may have at least partial answers to those questions, although much more research needs to be done.
"I have concluded that what we see when we look at the dolphin is a medical miracle," he said in a telephone interview. And if scientists can figure out exactly how the dolphin cheats death, maybe humans can eventually learn how to do it too, through better treatment of all sorts of injuries, not just shark bites.
Zasloff is a surgeon, not a dolphin expert, but his interest in this sea-going mammal began nine years ago when he was visiting a marine lab in Scotland. He was told that 70 to 80 percent of the dolphins that swim in the waters near Australia have shark bites.
"When I heard that I was taken aback," he said. "How in the heck does a mammal, like you and me, survive a shark bite in the ocean, unattended, with no antibiotics? "Keep on reading...
This unmanned, one-winged flight machine, by Lockheed Martin's Intelligent Robotics Laboratories, is based on the flight of maple seeds
(PHYSORG)-The seeds that drop from maple trees each fall, whirring softly to the ground like silent one-winged helicopters, are the inspiration for a new kind of flying machine that could be useful for military information-gathering.
Lockheed Martin's Intelligent Robotics Laboratories, based in Cherry Hill, N.J., has spent the last five years developing an unmanned craft to replicate the motion.
The device, dubbed the Samarai, is scheduled to make its public debut next week at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington, D.C.
Its engineers gave The Associated Press a preview Wednesday at an indoor soccer field in Southampton, N.J.
The Samarai is about a foot long, and has just two moving parts plus a camera. It can be controlled by a remote control or by an app on a tablet computer.
Duke scientists trick water into staying still.
ScienceDaily — Duke engineers have already shown that they can "cloak" light and sound, making objects invisible. Now, they have demonstrated the theoretical ability to significantly increase the efficiency of ships by tricking the surrounding water into staying still.
"Ships expend a great deal of energy pushing the water around them out of the way as they move forward," said Yaroslav Urzhumov, assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "What our cloak accomplishes is that it reduces the mass of fluid that has to be displaced to a bare minimum.
"We accomplish this by tricking the water into being perfectly still everywhere outside the cloak," Urzhumov said. "Since the water is still, there is no shear force, and you don't have to drag anything extra with your object. So, comparing a regular vessel and a cloak of the same size, the latter needs to push a much smaller volume of water, and that's where the hypothesized energy efficiency comes from."
The results of Urzhumov's analysis were published online in the journal Physical Review Letters. The research was supported by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant through the U.S. Army Research Office. Urzhumov works in the laboratory of David R. Smith, William Bevan Professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Credit: Peter Allen, University of California, Santa Barbara
New study cast light on link between obesity and Type II Diabetes.
(Medicalpress)- Newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics tend to have one thing in common: obesity. Exactly how diet and obesity trigger diabetes has long been the subject of intense scientific research. A new study led by Jamey D. Marth, Ph.D., director of the Center for Nanomedicine, a collaboration between the University of California, Santa Barbara and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham), has revealed a pathway that links high-fat diets to a sequence of molecular events responsible for the onset and severity of diabetes. These findings were published online August 14 in Nature Medicine.
In studies spanning mice and humans, Dr. Marth's team discovered a pathway to disease that is activated in pancreatic beta cells, and then leads to metabolic defects in other organs and tissues, including the liver, muscle and adipose (fat). Together, this adds up to diabetes.
"We were initially surprised to learn how much the pancreatic beta cell contributes to the onset and severity of diabetes," said Dr. Marth."The observation that beta cell malfunction significantly contributes to multiple disease signs, including insulin resistance, was unexpected. We noted, however, that studies from other laboratories published over the past few decades had alluded to this possibility."
In healthy people, pancreatic beta cells monitor the bloodstream for glucose using glucose transporters anchored in their cellular membranes. When blood glucose is high, such as after a meal, beta cells take in this additional glucose and respond by secreting insulin in a timed and measured response. In turn, insulin stimulates other cells in the body to take up glucose, a nutrient they need to produce energy.
Sunday Morning Video: Tasmanian devil keepers at Taronga Zoo in Syndey, Australia show off four "joeys"
These "joeys" are very cute and may help prevent Tasmanian Devil extinction.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
The claims that Arctic ice would be gone by 2012 or 2013 were vastly overblown.
ScienceDaily — Although Arctic sea ice appears fated to melt away as the climate continues to warm, the ice may temporarily stabilize or somewhat expand at times over the next few decades, new research indicates.In other news, the 'row to the pole' is iced in.
The computer modeling study, by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, reinforces previous findings by other research teams that the level of Arctic sea ice loss observed in recent decades cannot be explained by natural causes alone, and that the ice will eventually disappear during summer if climate change continues.
But in an unexpected new result, the NCAR research team found that Arctic ice under current climate conditions is as likely to expand as it is to contract for periods of up to about a decade.
"One of the results that surprised us all was the number of computer simulations that indicated a temporary halt to the loss of the ice," says NCAR scientist Jennifer Kay, the lead author. "The computer simulations suggest that we could see a 10-year period of stable ice or even a slight increase in the extent of the ice. Even though the observed ice loss has accelerated over the last decade, the fate of sea ice over the next decade depends not only on human activity but also on climate variability that cannot be predicted."
Kay explains that variations in atmospheric conditions such as wind patterns could, for example, temporarily halt the sea ice loss. Still, the ultimate fate of the ice in a warming world is clear.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Artist's conception: David A. Aguilar (CfA)
This Jupiter-sized planet is as dark as coal.
(PhysOrg.com) -- Astronomers have discovered the darkest known exoplanet - a distant, Jupiter-sized gas giant known as TrES-2b. Their measurements show that TrES-2b reflects less than one percent of the sunlight falling on it, making it blacker than coal or any planet or moon in our solar system.
"TrES-2b is considerably less reflective than black acrylic paint, so it's truly an alien world," said astronomer David Kipping of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), lead author on the paper reporting the research.
In our solar system, Jupiter is swathed in bright clouds of ammonia that reflect more than a third of the sunlight reaching it. In contrast, TrES-2b (which was discovered in 2006 by the Trans-Atlantic Exoplanet Survey, or TrES) lacks reflective clouds due to its high temperature.
TrES-2b orbits its star at a distance of only three million miles. The star's intense light heats TrES-2b to a temperature of more than 1,800° Fahrenheit - much too hot for ammonia clouds. Instead, its exotic atmosphere contains light-absorbing chemicals like vaporized sodium and potassium, or gaseous titanium oxide. Yet none of these chemicals fully explain the extreme blackness of TrES-2b.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
That something is information.
New research by scientists at the University of York gives a fresh perspective on the physics of black holes.
Black holes are objects in space that are so massive and compact they were described by Einstein as "bending" space. Conventional thinking asserts that black holes swallow everything that gets too close and that nothing can escape, but the study by Professor Samuel Braunstein and Dr Manas Patra suggests that information could escape from black holes after all.
The implications could be revolutionary, suggesting that gravity may not be a fundamental force of Nature.
Professor Braunstein says: "Our results didn't need the details of a black hole's curved space geometry. That lends support to recent proposals that space, time and even gravity itself may be emergent properties within a deeper theory. Our work subtly changes those proposals, by identifying quantum information theory as the likely candidate for the source of an emergent theory of gravity."Abstract
Verlinde recently suggested that gravity, inertia, and even spacetime may be emergent properties of an underlying thermodynamic theory. This vision was motivated in part by Jacobson’s 1995 surprise result that the Einstein equations of gravity follow from the thermodynamic properties of event horizons. Taking a first tentative step in such a program, we derive the evaporation rate (or radiation spectrum) from black hole event horizons in a spacetime-free manner. Our result relies on a Hilbert space description of black hole evaporation, symmetries therein which follow from the inherent high dimensionality of black holes, global conservation of the no-hair quantities, and the existence of Penrose processes. Our analysis is not wedded to standard general relativity and so should apply to extended gravity theories where we find that the black hole area must be replaced by some other property in any generalized area theorem.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Scientists have developed a precision virus that hunts down HIV infected cells.
ScienceDaily — In what represents an important step toward curing HIV, a USC scientist has created a virus that hunts down HIV-infected cells.
Dr. Pin Wang's lentiviral vector latches onto HIV-infected cells, flagging them with what is called "suicide gene therapy" -- allowing drugs to later target and destroy them.
"If you deplete all of the HIV-infected cells, you can at least partially solve the problem," said Wang, chemical engineering professor with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
The process is analogous to the military practice of "buddy lasing" -- that is, having a soldier on the ground illuminate a target with a laser to guide a precision bombing strike from an aircraft.
Like a precision bombing raid, the lentiviral vector approach to targeting HIV has the advantage of avoiding collateral damage, keeping cells that are not infected by HIV out of harm's way. Such accuracy has not been achieved by using drugs alone, Wang said.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
The orange goo washing ashore in Alaska is millions of microscopic eggs filled with fatty droplets.
(AP) -- Scientists have identified an orange-colored gunk that appeared along the shore of a remote Alaska village as millions of microscopic eggs filled with fatty droplets.
But the mystery is not quite solved. Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday they don't know for sure what species the eggs are, although they believe they are some kind of crustacean eggs or embryos. They also don't know if the eggs are toxic, and that worries many of the 374 residents of Kivalina, an Inupiat Eskimo community located at the tip of an 8-mile barrier reef on Alaska's northwest coast.
There's been at least one report of dead minnows found in the lagoon of the village the night the eggs appeared last week. Residents also are worried about the community's dwindling reserves in village water tanks even though the orange mass has dissipated from the lagoon and Wulik River, said city administrator Janet Mitchell.
"It seems to be all gone," she said. "But if they're microscopic eggs, who's to say they're not still in the river?"
Scientists also don't know why the unidentified eggs suddenly emerged on the shores of Kivalina last week. Villagers say they've never seen such a phenomenon before.
"We'll probably find some clues, but we'll likely never have a definitive answer on that," NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Google's self-driving car ran into a Prius.
(PHYSORG)- Google Inc.'s quest to popularize cars that drive themselves seemed to hit a roadblock Friday when news emerged that one of the automated vehicles was in an accident. But in an ironic twist, the company is saying that the car was not driving itself; a human was.
Auto blog Jalopnik posted a photo apparently showing a Google car pulled to the side of the road after banging into another Prius near Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. In the photo, the Google car, with its telltale rack of roof electronics, is parked behind the other vehicle as a policeman and other drivers look on.
Self-driving cars must legally have a human at the wheel, ready to assume control if anything goes wrong. Google says that in this case, the human driver was operating the car in manual mode at the time of the accident.
"Safety is our top priority. One of our goals is to prevent fender-benders like this one, which occurred while a person was manually driving the car," according to a Google spokesperson, adding that the cars have now traveled more than 160,000 miles autonomously "without incident."
In June, Nevada became the first state to legalize self-driving cars, a victory for Google's driverless ambitions.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
I think I prefer my squid fried, but live is good in Japan.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Changing your environment can help you lose weight with less willpower.
ScienceDaily — Dieters may not need as much willpower as they think, if they make simple changes in their surroundings that can result in eating healthier without a second thought, said a consumer psychologist at the American Psychological Association's 119th Annual Convention.
"Our homes are filled with hidden eating traps," said Brian Wansink, PhD, who presented his findings and strategies for a healthier lifestyle in a plenary address entitled "Modifying the Food Environment: From Mindless Eating to Mindlessly Eating Better."
"Most of us have too much chaos going on in our lives to consciously focus on every bite we eat, and then ask ourselves if we're full. The secret is to change your environment so it works for you rather than against you," Wansink said.
Wansink identified several myths about eating behaviors as a way to explain why Americans, on average, have been getting fatter. "People don't think that something as simple as the size of a bowl would influence how much an informed person eats," he said.
Credit: Portable Antiquities Scheme and the University of Exeter
This is the first major evidence of Romans in the South West Peninsula of Britain.
(PHYSORG)- A University of Exeter archaeologist’s research has uncovered the largest Roman settlement ever found in Devon. The discovery could force us to rewrite the history of the Romans in Britain.
The discovery of a large Roman Settlement in Devon was the result of a chance metal detecting coin find. Danielle Wootton, the Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and archaeologist at the University of Exeter was called on to investigate further.
Two metal detectorists discovered nearly a hundred Roman coins in a series of fields a several miles west of Exeter. This would not be unusual in other parts of Britain but it has always been thought that Roman influence never made it this far into Devon as there is little evidence of Romans in the South West Peninsula of Britain.
After the results of a geophysical survey Wootton was astonished to find evidence of a huge settlement including roundhouses, quarry pits and track ways. The site covers at least thirteen fields and is the first of its kind for the county.
Wootton received funding from the British Museum, the Roman Research Trust and Devon County Council Archaeology Service to carry out a trial excavation on the site in June. This has uncovered evidence of trade with Europe, a road possibly linking to the major settlement at Exeter, and some intriguing structures, as well as many more coins.
Friday, August 5, 2011
The Juno probe begins its five year journey to study Jupiter.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal water may flow on Mars during the warmest months. The chances for life on Mars are going up.
ScienceDaily — Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.
"NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, "and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration."
Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.
"The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. McEwen is the principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and lead author of a report about the recurring flows published in the journal Science.
Some aspects of the observations still puzzle researchers, but flows of liquid brine fit the features' characteristics better than alternate hypotheses. Saltiness lowers the freezing temperature of water. Sites with active flows get warm enough, even in the shallow subsurface, to sustain liquid water that is about as salty as Earth's oceans, while pure water would freeze at the observed temperatures.
"These dark lineations are different from other types of features on Martian slopes," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist Richard Zurek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Repeated observations show they extend ever farther downhill with time during the warm season."
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Do we live inside a bubble? Are there multiple alternative universes? Scientists are learning how to answer these questions.
(PHYSORG)- The theory that our universe is contained inside a bubble, and that multiple alternative universes exist inside their own bubbles – making up the 'multiverse' – is, for the first time, being tested by physicists.
Two research papers published in Physical Review Letters and Physical Review D are the first to detail how to search for signatures of other universes. Physicists are now searching for disk-like patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation - relic heat radiation left over from the Big Bang – which could provide tell-tale evidence of collisions between other universes and our own.
Many modern theories of fundamental physics predict that our universe is contained inside a bubble. In addition to our bubble, this `multiverse' will contain others, each of which can be thought of as containing a universe. In the other 'pocket universes' the fundamental constants, and even the basic laws of nature, might be different.
Until now, nobody had been able to find a way to efficiently search for signs of bubble universe collisions - and therefore proof of the multiverse - in the CMB radiation, as the disc-like patterns in the radiation could be located anywhere in the sky. Additionally, physicists needed to be able to test whether any patterns they detected were the result of collisions or just random patterns in the noisy data.
A team of cosmologists based at University College London (UCL), Imperial College London and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics has now tackled this problem.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
From Oregon State University via WUWT:
Ancient tides different from today – some dramatically higher
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The ebb and flow of the ocean tides, generally thought to be one of the most predictable forces on Earth, are actually quite variable over long time periods, in ways that have not been adequately accounted for in most evaluations of prehistoric sea level changes.
Due to phenomena such as ice ages, plate tectonics, land uplift, erosion and sedimentation, tides have changed dramatically over thousands of years and may change again in the future, a new study concludes.
Some tides on the East Coast of the United States, for instance, may at times in the past have been enormously higher than they are today – a difference between low and high tide of 10-20 feet, instead of the current 3-6 foot range. Continue reading →
Fundy Tides - Scotts Bay Timelapse
The ingenuity of animals is amazing. The African crested rat uses a 'poison arrow' toxin to deter attack.
Woe to the clueless predator trying to make a meal of the African crested rat, a rodent that applies poisonous plant toxin to sponge-like hairs on its flanks, a discovery recently made by Jonathan Kingdon and colleagues from the National Museums of Kenya, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and University of Oxford.
In the only known instance of a mammal acquiring a lethal toxin from a plant for defense, the researchers have discovered where the African crested rat (or maned rat) gets its poison: the Acokanthera tree, the same source used by East African hunters for poison arrows.
The study appears online in the Proceedings of The Royal Society B. The authors include: Jonathan Kingdon, Chris Holland, Tom Gheysens, Maxime Boulet-Audet, and Fritz Vollrath of the University of Oxford; Bernard Agwanda of the National Museums of Kenya; and Margaret Kinnaird and Tim O'Brien of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
"The African crested rat is a fascinating example of how a species can evolve a unique set of defenses in response to pressure from predators," said Dr. Tim O'Brien, Senior Scientist of the Wildlife Conservation Society and a co-author on the study. "The animal and its acquired toxicity is unique among placental mammals."
Scientists have long suspected that the African crested rat is poisonous, primarily due to the animal's specialized behavior, such as exposing a black-and-white coloration on its flanks when threatened by predators, and accounts of dogs becoming ill or dying after encounters with rats. The new discovery concerns the nature of the chemical defense. Instead of producing poison itself—as is the case with poisonous mammals such as the duck-billed platypus and solenodon—the African crested rat finds its toxin (called ouabain) in tree bark.