Do 'environmentally friendly' LED lights cause BLINDNESS?
Eco-friendly LED lights may damage your eyes, according to new research. A study has discovered that exposure to LED lights can cause irreparable harm to the retina of the human eye.
LED lights have been touted as a super-efficient alternative to traditional bulbs because they use up to 85 per cent less energy and each bulb can last up to 10 years.
In April, Philips, the world's biggest lighting maker, reported a 38 per cent jump in LED light sales from last year.
They are already widely used in mobile phones, televisions, computer screens and can also be fitted as a replacement for traditional lighting in the home.
Deputy Parra responded, finding the father changing a headlight and the mother indoors doing housework. The family says Parra asked about the son's whereabouts, but did not ask for details regarding his condition or why the family called 911. More
International Space Station to boldly go with Linux over Windows
Dozens of laptops on the ISS's 'opsLAN' network - which provides the ship's crew with vital capabilities for day-to-day operations, from telling the astronauts where they are to interfacing with onboard cameras - will be switched, removing Windows entirely from the ISS.
“We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable – one that would give us in-house control. So if we needed to patch, adjust or adapt, we could," said Keith Chuvala of the United Space Alliance, which runs opsLAN for NASA. Astronauts using the system were trained on specific courses tailored by the non-profit Linux Foundation.
Linux is already used to run various systems aboard the ISS, including the world's first 'Robonaut', sent to the Space Station in 2011. 'R2' can be manipulated by astronauts as well as ground controllers and is designed to carry out tasks "too dangerous or mundane" for astronauts in microgravity, according to the Linux Foundation. More
Team reconstructs 'human ancestor'
The two-million-year-old remains of several partial skeletons belonging to a previously unknown humanlike species were found in 2008 near Johannesburg.
The new analysis shows this species - Australopithecus sediba - had a human-like pelvis, hands and teeth, and a chimpanzee-like foot.
The findings appear in Science journal.
In six separate research reports, scientists probed further into the anatomy of a juvenile male skeleton, commonly referred to as MH1, a female skeleton, known as MH2, and an isolated adult tibia or shinbone, known as MH4.
The specimens were found at Malapa in the famous Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, just to the northwest of Johannesburg.
They were pulled from a pit - a depression left in the ground by a cave complex that lost its roof through erosion. More
Researchers create 3Gbps LiFi network with LED bulbs
The concept of visible light communications (VLC), or LiFi as it is sometimes known, has received a lot of attention in recent years, mostly due to the growing prevalence of LED lighting. Unlike incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, LEDs are solid-state electronics, meaning they can be controlled in much the same way as any other electronic component, and switched at a high speed. VLC is essentially WiFi — but using terahertz radiation (light) instead of microwaves (WiFi). Instead of oscillating a WiFi transmitter, VLC oscillates an LED bulb — and of course, on the receiving end there’s a photodetector instead of an antenna.
Now, unfortunately the Fraunhofer press release is almost completely devoid of detail, except for the 3Gbps bit — but we do have the technical specifications of Fraunhofer’s previous VLC system, which the 3Gbps system is based on. The previous VLC system was capable of transmitting up to 500Mbps over four meters (13 feet), or 120Mbps over 20 meters (67 feet). Rather than actually using a standard LED bulb, Fraunhofer’s VLC system is a black box, with an LED and photodetector on the front, and an Ethernet jack on the back to connect it to the rest of the network. In this system, the hardware only allowed for 30MHz of bandwidth to be used, limiting the total throughput. More
Artificial Retina Receives FDA Approval
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted market approval to an artificial retina technology today, the first bionic eye to be approved for patients in the United States.
The prosthetic technology was developed in part with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The device, called the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System, transmits images from a small, eye-glass-mounted camera wirelessly to a microelectrode array implanted on a patient's damaged retina. The array sends electrical signals via the optic nerve, and the brain interprets a visual image.
The FDA approval currently applies to individuals who have lost sight as a result of severe to profound retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an ailment that affects one in every 4,000 Americans. The implant allows some individuals with RP, who are completely blind, to locate objects, detect movement, improve orientation and mobility skills and discern shapes such as large letters. More
Watch the Navy’s New Ship-Mounted Laser Cannon Kill a Drone
The tubular Laser Weapon System (LaWS) is a solid-state laser that’s been in development for six years, at a cost of $40 million. It’s a directed-energy descendent of the the radar-guided Close In Weapons System (CIWS; it rhymes with “Gee Whiz”) gun already aboard surface ships. In December, following the successful Dewey tests, Greenert ordered the laser “out to the fleet for an operational demonstration,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, the Navy’s chief of research. And so next year, LaWS will have its trial by fire, when the Navy puts it on the deck of its new afloat staging base USS Ponce for its maiden voyage to the Middle East — right in Iran’s backyard.
It just so happens that the LaWS’ ability to track and kill surveillance drones and swarming fast boats matches with Iran’s development of surveillance drones and swarming fast-boat tactics. And it just so happens that the Ponce will spend most of 2014 deployed in Iran’s backyard.
Neither Klunder nor Eccles will come out and say it exactly, but the maiden deployment of the LaWS has immediate implications for the U.S.’ ongoing sub rosa conflict with the Iranians — and provides a new weapon for the Navy at a time when it’s had to scale back its aircraft carrier presence off of Iran’s shores. More
Iran news agency claims scientist invented time machine, then deletes story
The state-run Fars new agency in Iran published a bold news article this week, reporting that an Iranian scientist invented a time machine. Then, the Fars new agency performed another magic trick: it made the article disappear.
But not before the story got mentioned by Fox, the Telegraph and Wired. The Daily Telegraph translated the story, reporting that Ali Razeghi, a Tehran scientist, had registered "The Aryayek Time Traveling Machine" with the state-run Centre for Strategic Inventions.
Well, that's at least a good first step in creating a time machine, right?
"It will not take you into the future, it will bring the future to you," he told Fars. More
FireFly Spacecraft Brings Asteroid Mining One Step Closer to Reality
With each passing day, real life inches closer and closer to science fiction territory and the news that Deep Space Industries, a company specializing in the asteroid mining sector, has developed spacecraft called FireFlies to aid in its endeavors only enhances the idea that we’re living in a future of which only novelists dared to dream.
In a recent statement, DSI CEO David Gump said:
While the FireFly, made from relatively low cost “CubeSat” components, might conjure up images of Joss Whedon’s freewheeling space western of the same name, DSI’s spacecraft are a mere 50 lbs and would theoretically piggyback on larger communications satellites to scout the cosmos for resource rich asteroids. Should a FireFly find asteroids ripe for mining, larger satellites called DragonFlies would be sent to collect samples to test their viability. Each DragonFly would be capable of transporting upwards of 330 lbs of raw material back to Earth, with missions projected to take 2-4 years to complete. DSI has set a target launch date for their FireFly prospecting spacecraft of 2015, with DragonFlies following in 2016. More
“Download this gun”: 3D-printed semi-automatic fires over 600 rounds
Cody Wilson, like many Texan gunsmiths, is fast-talkin’ and fast-shootin’—but unlike his predecessors in the Lone Star State, he’s got 3D printing technology to help him with his craft.
Wilson’s nonprofit organization, Defense Distributed, released a video this week showing a gun firing off over 600 rounds—illustrating what is likely to be the first wave of semi-automatic and automatic weapons produced by the additive manufacturing process.
Last year, his group famously demonstrated that it could use a 3D-printed “lower” for an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle—but the gun failed after six rounds. Now, after some re-tooling, Defense Distributed has shown that it has fixed the design flaws and a gun using its lower can seemingly fire for quite a while. (The AR-15 is the civilian version of the military M16 rifle.) More
The long-lost continent hidden underneath the Indian Ocean
Some 85 million years ago, a small landmass was sandwiched somewhere between what are now India and Madagascar. This ancient continent — Mauritia — was long the stuff of near legend, with geologists not totally sure if it ever even existed. But now, new evidence suggests that the long-lost prehistoric continent is actually buried — in pieces — underneath the waves of the Indian Ocean.
The world was a very different place back when Mauritia was around. Remember, until just 750 million years ago, our planet's landmasses were all joined in a supercontinent called Rodinia. But Rodinia was eventually busted up, and millions of years of volcanic eruptions and plate tectonics eventually cleaved thousands of miles between India and Madagascar, leaving Mauritia surrounded by ocean. Then, starting around 85 million years ago, the small desolate landmass broke apart and vanished.
In a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers from Norway, Germany, and Britain claim to have discovered a "hidden" ancient crust buried under certain parts of the Indian Ocean. This hidden crust has been obscured by younger, "fresh" lava from underwater volcanic activity, and in some places, exhibited slightly stronger gravitational fields.
This could have been due to a natural thickening of the Earth's crust caused by magma, but scientists had a hunch it was something else. More
Most Earth-Like Alien Planet Possibly Found
LONG BEACH, Calif. — A possible alien planet discovered by NASA's Kepler space telescope is the most Earth-like world yet detected beyond our solar system, scientists say.
With a radius that is just 1.5 times that of Earth, the potential planet is a so-called "super-Earth," meaning it is just slightly larger than the Earth. The candidate planet orbits a star similar to the sun at a distance that falls within the "habitable zone" — the region where liquid water could exist on the planet's surface. Scientists say the planet, if confirmed, could be a prime candidate to host alien life.
"This was very exciting because it's our fist habitable-zone super Earth around a sun-type star," astronomer Natalie Batalha, a Kepler co-investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said Tuesday. More
Storing Digital Data in DNA
Scientists have stored audio and text on fragments of DNA and then retrieved them with near-perfect fidelity—a technique that eventually may provide a way to handle the overwhelming data of the digital age.
The scientists encoded in DNA—the recipe of life—an audio clip of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, a photograph, a copy of Francis Crick and James Watson's famous "double helix" scientific paper on DNA from 1953 and Shakespeare's 154 sonnets. They later were able to retrieve them with 99.99% accuracy.
The experiment was reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.
"All we're doing is adapting what nature has hit upon—a very good way of storing information," said Nick Goldman, a computational biologist at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, England, and lead author of the Nature paper. More
Star Trek style 'tractor beam' created by scientists
A real-life "tractor beam", which uses light to attract objects, has been developed by scientists.
It is hoped it could have medical applications by targeting and attracting individual cells.
The research, published in Nature Photonics and led by the University of St Andrews, is limited to moving microscopic particles.
In science fiction programmes such as Star Trek, tractor beams are used to move much more massive objects.
It is not the first time science has aimed to replicate the feat - albeit at smaller scales.
In 2011, researchers from China and Hong Kong showed how it might be done with laser beams of a specific shape - and the US space agency Nasa has even funded a study to examine how the technique might help with manipulating samples in space. More
Dung beetles navigate using the Milky Way
Ever look up at the stars and wonder if some bug-eyed creature is doing the same? It turns out at least one does: the dung beetle uses the glow of the Milky Way to navigate.
Once a beetle (Scarabaeus satyrus) has constructed its dung ball, it moves off in a straight line in order to escape from rival beetles as quickly as possible, lest they try and steal its carefully crafted ball. This behaviour doesn't sound complicated, but several years ago, Marie Dacke of Lund University in Sweden and colleagues showed that polarised light from the moon is important for dung beetles to keep to a straight line.
Then the researchers were surprised to find the insects were able to stay on course even on a moonless night. "We thought there was something wrong in our set-up," Dacke says.
The team allowed the beetles to crawl around the floor of a plain-walled cylindrical drum with an open top, meaning they could only use the night sky to orientate themselves. The researchers timed how long it took the beetles to reach the edge of the drum from the centre, and found that under a full moon, the insects took around 20 seconds on average; on a starry but moonless night, they took around 40 seconds. More
UCSD gives birth to emotional baby robot
A robot developed at UC San Diego has the face of a boy and can smile, look sad, even angry.
Named after America’s Finest City, Diego-San is learning how to express human emotions in hopes it and others to come can develop relationships with humans in the future.
“Diego-San is part of a series of studies of how humans move and interact so we can build Humanoid robots in the future,” said post-doctoral researcher Deborah Forster. “What we do is we record a lot of infant smiling and then we take that data and we feed it to Diego-San.”
Researchers said this smart technology works similar to the one already in use in social media websites to recognize friend’s faces or cameras that set off a flash only when it detects people smiling. For example, if Diego-San detects a smiling face it can smile back.
“You can imagine a situation where you have a pretty smart device that learns to interact with you,” Forster said.
UCSD researchers are working with other labs across the country and scientists in Japan to develop and improve the different parts that make up Diego-San. More
Tau Ceti's planets nearest around single, Sun-like star
Our nearest single Sun-like star hosts five planets - one of which is in the "habitable zone" where liquid water can exist, astronomers say.
Tau Ceti's planetary quintet - reported in an online paper that will appear in Astronomy and Astrophysics - was found in existing planet-hunting data.
The study's refined methods of sifting through data should help find even more far-flung worlds.
The star now joins Alpha Centauri B as a nearby star known to host planets.
Tau Ceti lies 12 light-years distant; Alpha Centauri B, just four.
In both cases, the planets were found not by spying them through a telescope but rather by measuring the subtle effects they have on their host stars' light.
In the gravitational dance of a planet around a star, the planet does most of the moving. But the star too is tugged slightly to and fro as the planet orbits, and these subtle movements of the star show up as subtle shifts in the colour of the star's light we see from Earth. This "radial velocity" measurement is a tricky one; stars' light changes also for a range of other reasons, and requires picking out the specifically planetary component from all this "noise". More
Next-generation handcuffs deliver electric shocks, drugs to detainees
Covered in detail on Patent Bolt recently, a patent application for an advanced set of handcuffs was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark office during late November 2012. Filed by a group called Scottsdale Inventions during late 2010, technology that could potentially go into the handcuff design includes an accelerometer, a location sensing device, a microphone; a camera and a biometric sensor to measure a detainee’s physical state. However, the group has also designed the handcuffs to house electrodes that would deliver an electric shock to a detainee. shock
Regarding data, the handcuffs would keep track of the date and time of each shock, the severity of each shock, the volume of shocks, the specific person that delivered the shock and the recorded reason for each instance.
The handcuffs have been designed to deliver a shock between between 20,000 and 150,000 volts and between 0.5 and 6 milliamps. The duration of the shock can last from 0.5 and 10 seconds. In addition, the shock can be delivered in a constant jolt or at an intermittent frequency. More
Channeling Star Trek: Researchers to Begin Fusion Impulse Engine Experiments
Star Trek fans take note: Have a seat before you read the next sentence or prepare to swoon.
University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) aerospace engineers working with NASA, Boeing and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are investigating how to build fusion impulse rocket engines for extremely high-speed space travel.
“Star Trek fans love it, especially when we call the concept an impulse drive, which is what it is,” says team member Ross Cortez, an aerospace engineering Ph.D. candidate at UAH’s Aerophysics Research Center. Stay seated Trekkies, because there’s more.
“The fusion fuel we’re focusing on is deuterium [a stable isotope of hydrogen] and Li6 [a stable isotope of the metal lithium] in a crystal structure. That’s basically dilithium crystals we’re using,” Cortez says, referring to the real-world equivalent of the fictional element used to power Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise.
While this engine, if produced, wouldn’t generate a fraction of the velocity as the faster-than-light warp drives envisioned in the TV shows, books and movies, it could produce speeds that exceed other not-science-fiction-based systems that rocket scientists are investigating. More
The GM tree plantations bred to satisfy the world's energy needs
It's a timber company's dream but a horrific industrial vision for others: massive plantations of densely planted GM eucalyptus trees stretching across Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and China, engineered to grow 40% faster for use as paper, as pellets for power stations and as fuel for cars.
The prospect is close, says Stanley Hirsch, chief executive of the Israeli biotech company FuturaGene. All that is missing, he says, are permissions from governments for the trees to be grown commercially, and backing from conservation groups and certification bodies.
FuturaGene has spent 11 years trialling thousands of GM eucalyptus and poplar trees on 100-hectare plots in Israel, China and outside São Paulo in Brazil, and is now at the last stages of the Brazilian regulatory process for commercial planting.
Thanks to a gene taken from the common, fast-growing Arabidopsis weed, the company has found a way to alter the structure of plant cell walls to stimulate the natural growth process. The company says its modified eucalyptus trees can grow 5 metres (16ft) a year, with 20%-30% more mass than a normal eucalyptus. In just five and a half years they are 27 metres high. More
Water Ice Discovered on Mercury
It's time to add Mercury to the list of worlds where you can go ice-skating. Confirming decades of suspicion, a NASA spacecraft has spotted vast deposits of water ice on the planet closest to the sun.
Temperatures on Mercury can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius), but around the north pole, in areas permanently shielded from the sun's heat, NASA's Messenger spacecraft found a mix of frozen water and possible organic materials.
Evidence of big pockets of ice is visible from a latitude of 85 degrees north up to the pole, with smaller deposits scattered as far away as 65 degrees north.
The find is so enticing that NASA will direct Messenger's observation toward that area in the coming months — when the angle of the sun allows — to get a better look, said Gregory Neumann, a Messenger instrument scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. More
Step Aboard The One-Of-A-Kind Ship That's Leading Naval Exercises In The Gulf
Ordered by the U.S. Navy more than 45 years ago and cruising the world's oceans since 1971, the USS Ponce (pronounced pon-say) was given a new lease on life in March of this year.
It was almost literally pulled from the scrapyard, when CENTCOM Commander General James Mattis cancelled the Ponce's decommissioning and ordered updates fitting its new role in the Persian Gulf.
Almost immediately The Washington Post reported the hastily retrofitted Ponce was to be a commando base for U.S. special forces, but that was quickly quelled by the Pentagon.
Now listed as an Afloat Forward Staging Base, Interim — the former amphibious assault ship is the first U.S. floating base ever for military and humanitarian operations. More
63,000-Year-Old Modern Human Skull Found in Laos
According to an international team of anthropologists, an ancient skull collected from a cave in the Annamite Mountains in northern Laos is the oldest modern human fossil found in Southeast Asia.
The skull pushes back the clock on modern human migration through the region by as much as 20,000 years and indicates that ancient humans out of Africa left the coast and inhabited diverse habitats much earlier than previously appreciated.
The scientists, who found the skull in 2009, were likely the first to dig for ancient bones in Laos since the early 1900s, when a team found 16,000-year-old skulls and skeletons of several modern humans in another cave in the Annamite Mountains.
“It’s a particularly old modern human fossil and it’s also a particularly old modern human for that region,” said Dr Laura Shackelford, anthropologist at the University of Illinois and co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More
Army Wants Tiny Suicidal Drone to Kill From 6 Miles Away
Killer drones just keep getting smaller. The Army wants to know how prepared its defense-industry partners are to build what it calls a “Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System.” It’s for when the Army needs someone dead from up to six miles away in 30 minutes or less.
How small will the new mini-drone be? The Army’s less concerned about size than it is about the drone’s weight, according to a recent pre-solicitation for businesses potentially interested in building the thing. The whole system — drone, warhead and launch device — has to weigh under five pounds. An operator should be able to carry the future Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System, already given the acronym LMAMS in a backpack and be able to set it up to fly within two minutes.
The envisioned LMAMS, a “loitering precision guided munition” is designed for quick missions to take out specific targets, and the Army’s had its eye on something like it for years. Its small size means it can’t carry a lot of fuel. As first reported by (subscription only) InsideDefense, the Army needs it to stay aloft for a half hour at most. But during that half hour, the Army expects it to fly up to six miles to smash into a target, either directed by a human controller or pre-programmed through GPS. Whether it speeds to a target fairly distant from where an Army unit is set up or loiters over one until it gets a clear shot, it’s another step toward making drone strikes inconspicuous. More
Scientists create GM cow to cut milk allergies in children
Scientists have created a genetically modified (GM) cow that produces milk with low levels of a protein known to cause allergic reactions in a significant proportion of children. The researchers believe it could one day lead to the sale of "hypoallergenic" milk from herds of GM cows.
The calf had been cloned and genetically engineered with an extra piece of genetic material that switched off its natural gene for producing a milk protein called beta-lactoglobulin, which is not present in human milk and causes allergies in some young children.
Tests on the cow's milk showed that it contained less than 2 per cent of normal levels of beta-lactoglobulin and was far richer than usual in other kinds of milk proteins, such as the caseins used in cheese-making. The researchers also believe the GM cow's milk will also contain higher concentrations of calcium than ordinary milk. More
Landing people on Mars: 5 obstacles
Getting a six-wheeled car-size rover safely onto the surface of the red planet? Daunting, sure. But NASA did it with Curiosity.
Sending humans on a mission to Mars? That requires overcoming even more outlandish obstacles. Here's a look at five of the top challenges to safely getting astronauts to Mars, as well as potential solutions
Are we there yet?
Problem: Trip time.
A round-trip human expedition to Mars, using current technology, could take two to three years. The slower you go, the more supplies you are forced to take and the higher the odds of a catastrophic collision with a meteoroid. Astronauts would lose more muscle and bone mass as a result of the longer stay in microgravity. And they would be exposed to larger doses of cosmic rays and solar energetic particles, increasing the probability of cancer. More
New software uses smartphone camera for spying
Researchers from the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center have developed malicious software that can remotely seize control of the camera on an infected smartphone and employ it to spy on the phone’s user.
The malware, dubbed “PlaceRaider,” “allows remote hackers to reconstruct rich, three-dimensional models of the smartphone owner’s personal indoor spaces through completely opportunistic use of the camera,” the researchers said in a study published last week.
The program uses images from the camera and positional information from the smartphone’s gyroscopic and other sensors to map spaces the phone’s user spends a lot of time in, such as a home or office.
“Remote burglars” could use these three-dimensional models to “study the environment carefully and steal virtual objects [visible to the camera] … such as as financial documents [or] information on computer monitors,” the researchers reported. More
Alien Solar System Looks a Lot Like Our Own
Astronomers have discovered an alien solar system whose planets are arranged much like those in our own solar system, a find that suggests most planetary systems start out looking the same, scientists say. Researchers studying the star system
Kepler-30, which is 10,000 light-years from Earth, found that its three known worlds all orbit in the same plane, lined up with the rotation of the star — just like the planets in our own solar system do. The result supports the leading theory of planet formation, which posits that planets take shape from a disk of dust and gas that spins around newborn stars.
"In agreement with the theory, we have found the star's spin to be aligned with the planets," said study co-author Dan Fabrycky, of the University of California, Santa Cruz. "So this result is profound because it is basic data testing the standard planet formation theory." More
Apple’s New Lightning Connector: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Along with the iPhone 5 and its refreshed iPod line, Apple introduced something else this week: Its new 8-pin Lightning connector.
The change from the old 30-pin connector to the new format was expected, but that doesn’t make it any less of a headache for consumers. The Lightning connector leaves those who have products designed for the old connector needing to buy an adapter, ranging between $19 and $39, to use their old chargers and accessories with the iPhone 5. Even then, Apple says the adapter will not work with some products.
It’s all a bit confusing and frustrating for iOS device users who have invested a lot of money into compatible accessories. So why the change? Which accessories will work with the iPhone 5 and new iPods? If you’re planning on purchasing one of these devices, here are a few things you need to know about the Lightning connector. More
Neanderthal-Human Similarities Not Due to Mating
Sharing a common ancestor, rather than sharing a bed, may be a better explanation for the genetic traits shared by humans and Neanderthals, a U.K. study found.
Genetic similarities between the two species are unlikely to be the result of human-Neanderthal sex, known as hybridization, during their 15,000-year co-existence in Europe, researchers from the University of Cambridge wrote in a paper published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
People living outside Africa share as much as 4 percent of their DNA with Neanderthals, a cave-dwelling species with muscular short arms and legs and a brain slightly larger than ours. The Cambridge researchers examined demographic patterns suggesting that humans were far from intimate with the species they displaced in Europe almost 40,000 years ago. That conflicts with recent studies that found inter-species mating probably occurred. More
Reality Show on Mars Could Fund Manned Colony by 2023
A Dutch company aims to land humans on Mars by 2023 as the first step toward establishing a permanent colony on the Red Planet.
The project, called Mars One, plans to drop four astronauts on Mars in April 2023. New members of the nascent colony will arive every two years after that, and none of the Red Planet pioneers will ever return to Earth.
To pay for all of this, Mars One says it will stage a media spectacle the likes of which the world has never seen — a sort of interplanetary reality show a la "Big Brother." More
13 Ugliest Phones of the Mobile Era
Ever since Motorola's Razr and, later, the Apple iPhone, manufacturers have had to work hard on pleasing designs. Gorgeous, giant glass fronts framed in elegant black, sleek steel or shiny chrome, smartphones pack brains and beauty.
But not always. Before the mobile phone industry got all busy with design makeovers and tummy tucks, there were -- and still are -- some delightfully hideous phones that represented the other side of the beauty trend.
TheStreet has gone back through the past decade to dig up some of the best examples of designs that make you wince and stare in disbelief. The clueless stylings, the flights of fancy into odd shapes, the obsession with square versus rounded -- it is a wonderfully colorful history. Here are 13 of the ugliest phones ever in this century. More
New Planet UCF-1.01 Discovered, Covered In Oceans of Magma
When new planets are discovered, inevitably, excitement causes folks to wonder if it's inhabitable. Unfortunately, such is not the case with the (as of now) designated UCF-1.01. The planet is covered in "oceans" of magma and is most definitely not inhabitable to humans.
Perhaps most interesting is that, while most new planetary discoveries are of supersized planets larger than Jupiter, UCF-1.01 is about two-thirds the size of Earth. This is important to note in that the discovery is "really pushing the limits of what our telescopes can find," according to Kevin Stevenson (via ABC News), lead researcher who discovered the planet. NASA's Spitzer space telescope, which orbits the Earth, was used by the research team used to find the tiny magma planet. More
US geoengineers to spray sun-reflecting chemicals from balloon
Two Harvard engineers are to spray sun-reflecting chemical particles into the atmosphere to artificially cool the planet, using a balloon flying 80,000 feet over Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
The field experiment in solar geoengineering aims to ultimately create a technology to replicate the observed effects of volcanoes that spew sulphates into the stratosphere, using sulphate aerosols to bounce sunlight back to space and decrease the temperature of the Earth.
David Keith, one of the investigators, has argued that solar geoengineering could be an inexpensive method to slow down global warming, but other scientists warn that it could have unpredictable, disastrous consequences for the Earth's weather systems and food supplies. Environmental groups fear that the push to make geoengineering a "plan B" for climate change will undermine efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Keith, who manages a multimillion dollar geoengineering research fund provided by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, previously commissioned a study by a US aerospace company that made the case for the feasibility of large-scale deployment of solar geoengineering technologies. More
Mars rover Curiosity delivering treasure trove of photos
Three days into Mars rover Curiosity's mission, it's beginning to deliver to scientists a treasure trove of photos of the Red Planet.
In a Times/Google+ Hangout, reporter Scott Gold talked how the photos are a key first step in what will be a lengthy mission that scientists hope will provide massive amounts of new data about Mars.
On Wednesday, several high-resolution images from Mars were released by NASA. Black-and-white photos stitched together from the Curiosity rover’s Navcams show gravelly terrain with what looks like well-cut, pyramidal mountains in the background -– the kind of terrain found in the Mojave Desert.
On Tuesday, Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers received a new image of the landing zone, taken by an orbiting satellite. With tongue in cheek, this photo was labeled the "crime scene" photo, because it not only showed Curiosity on the ground, but all of the pieces of the spacecraft that the rover had discarded on its way down. More
Tesla Motors ready to launch its all-electric Model S sedan
Many in the traditional auto industry doubted that Tesla Motors (TSLA) could build an all-electric sedan from scratch in Silicon Valley. But next week the skeptics will witness the tech industry's most disruptive product launch of the year.
Tesla is counting down the hours to next Friday, when CEO Elon Musk will hand over the keys to a small group of customers who placed early reservations for the Model S sedan. It's a watershed moment for the Palo Alto-based company, manufacturing in California and the nascent electric vehicle industry, which has been struggling to live up to ambitious expectations.
"This is a tech product," said Theo O'Neill, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities who has been bullish on Tesla because the company is delivering the Model S ahead of schedule, something unheard of in the electric vehicle industry. "And it is bad news for the naysayers in Detroit who can't find their way out of a paper bag." More
Planet-Forming Disk Turns Off Lights, Locks Doors
That surprise you feel when your favorite store turns off its lights, locks up its doors, and suddenly, for no apparent reason, goes out of business? That's just how astronomers felt recently when a dusty disk of rocky debris around a nearby star abruptly shut down and by all appearances went out of business.
The star - designated TYC 8241 2652 and a young analog of our Sun - only a few years ago displayed all of the characteristics of hosting a solar system in the making. Now, it has transformed completely: very little of the warm dusty material thought to originate from collisions of rocky planets is apparent - it's a mystery that has astronomers baffled.
Carl Melis of the University of California, San Diego, led the discovery team, whose report is published in the July 5th issue of the journal Nature. He said, "It's like the classic magician's trick: now you see it, now you don't. Only in this case we're talking about enough dust to fill an inner solar system and it really is gone!" More
Reign of the Giant Insects Ended With the Evolution of Birds
Giant insects ruled the prehistoric skies during periods when Earth's atmosphere was rich in oxygen. Then came the birds. After the evolution of birds about 150 million years ago, insects got smaller despite rising oxygen levels, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Insects reached their biggest sizes about 300 million years ago during the late Carboniferous and early Permian periods. This was the reign of the predatory griffinflies, giant dragonfly-like insects with wingspans of up to 28 inches (70 centimeters). The leading theory attributes their large size to high oxygen concentrations in the atmosphere (over 30 percent, compared to 21 percent today), which allowed giant insects to get enough oxygen through the tiny breathing tubes that insects use instead of lungs.
The new study takes a close look at the relationship between insect size and prehistoric oxygen levels. Matthew Clapham, an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and Jered Karr, a UCSC graduate student who began working on the project as an undergraduate, compiled a huge dataset of wing lengths from published records of fossil insects, then analyzed insect size in relation to oxygen levels over hundreds of millions of years of insect evolution. Their findings are published in the June 4 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More
Robot sex and marriage: Will society accept it?
It’s hard to think of a more attention-grabbing title than “Robots, Men, and Sex Tourism”—especially in the academic world.
Written by researchers from New Zealand’s University of Wellington and published recently in the journal Futures, the paper predicts that in the decades to come, humans will patronize robot-staffed brothels, freeing them from the guilt associated with visiting a flesh-and-blood prostitute. Perhaps predictably, it sparked a lively conversation about whether the sex industry could be automated—and not a little squeamishness about the whole idea of robot-human relations.
That at least some of us will be having sexual intercourse with robots in the future should be obvious by now. Somebody out there will make love to just about any consumer good that enters the home (and if that’s not the first rule of product design, it should be). More
NASA says the Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered into an unprecedented region of space
Voyager 1 has been steadily working its way out of the solar system, and it now appears to have entered into a completely new region of space. NASA says it'll only be a matter of time before the spacecraft exits the solar system completely, becoming the first human-made object to enter interstellar space.
It takes 16 hours and 38 minutes for Voyager's faint transmissions to reach Earth, but the little-spacecraft-that-could keeps on sending remarkable data to NASA scientists. Its latest communication indicated that it has entered into a region of space where the intensity of charged particles coming from outside our solar system has markedly increased. This suggests that Voyager 1, which is 11.1 billion miles (17.8 billion kilometers) away, is truly at the edge of our solar system. More
Robot cars get ready to roll
When the first cars hit British roads in the late 19th Century, they had an unusual safety feature. Every “horseless carriage”, as they were known, was chaperoned by a man walking in front waving a red flag or carrying a lantern, to warn other road users of the vehicle's approach. There was a certain reassurance, it seems, from having a human present, even if done in such a preposterous way.
These early precautions – known the “red flag laws” – seem laughable now. But future generations may look at the safety measures that are imposed on self-driving – or robotic - cars in much the same way.
On the rare occasions these autonomous vehicles are allowed out in public they are usually chaperoned by a human who sits in the “driver’s seat”, ready to take control if something goes wrong. But the nascent industry developing these cars believes this kind of insurance policy will soon go the same way as red flags. More
Soviet rocket found water on the moon in 1976 - but the West ignored their discovery
In August 1976, a Soviet rocket landed on the moon, drilled six feet into the surface, extracted about half a pound of rock and flew back.
In the rocks that it brought back, water made up around 0.1%. It was the first time any spacecraft had found conclusive evidence of water on the moon.
The American Apollo landings had brought back moon rocks, but the samples were thought to have been contaminated with water from Earth.
In 1976, the evidence of water was an earth-shattering discovery - but it was almost entirely ignored in the West.
The paper, published in the Soviet journal Geokhimiia, which had an English version, has never been cited by any Western scientist - despite the fact that in one small sample it found something that eluded the West's best efforts.
The Apollo missions brought back 300 kilos of moon rock to Earth. Nasa's Clementine mission bounced radio waves off the surface of the moon in 1994, and found evidence of water. More
'Girls Around Me': The controversial pickup-artist app
"Girls Around Me," an app designed for men trying to pick up women, pulls phone location data and personal information from Foursquare, Facebook, and Google Maps to brief users about women in their immediate radius.
After viewing a woman's profile picture, users can message women directly or snoop through their profiles. Though the app has been downloaded more than 70,000 times, its developers recently pulled it from Apple's App Store after Foursquare withheld its services.
The Girls Around Me creators, I-Free Innovations, say the technology is perfectly legal because it culls information from records that the women have made public themselves, gleaning "likes" from the women's Facebook profiles, for example.
Does the app, which I-Free is hoping to launch for Android, deserve the criticism it's receiving, even though it technically hasn't violated any rules? More
Flying car aims to take wing in the commercial market
The Jetsons had one, and Fred MacMurray flew one in "Flubber." Novelist Ian Fleming included one in his children's book "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." James Bond's nemesis Francisco Scaramanga used one as a getaway vehicle in the film "The Man With the Golden Gun."
Now, a Massachusetts company hopes to commercially market a flying car — although "driving plane" might be a more accurate description.
At last week's New York International Auto Show, Terrafugia Inc. of Woburn, Mass., unveiled the Transition, a two-seat aircraft with foldable wings. Pending regulatory approvals — which by no means are assured — the company plans to sell the contraption by 2013 for $279,000.
"You can pull out of your garage, fill up with 91 octane at a gas station, drive to the nearest airport, unfold your wings, perform a preflight check and take off," said Terrafugia Chief Executive Carl Dietrich. So far, he said, about 100 people have put down $10,000 deposits to be among the first buyers. More
How do you like your meat?
You wouldn’t normally expect to find a thick red steak quietly pulsating in an oversized Petri dish inside a laboratory.
But such is the hype around the team scheduled to produce the world’s first lab-grown cut of meat this October that I can’t help but imagine it.
The research being done by bioengineer Dr Mark Post at Maastricht University in the Netherlands has provoked global headlines about “test tube meat” and fierce ethical and scientific debate. Getting access to his laboratory is about as exciting as it gets in the world of food engineering.
But when I arrive, the home of in vitro meat is quiet – no research assistants racing to turn out joints of beef, chicken or lamb. Instead, Post slowly opens the door to what looks like a large fridge, or a bioreactor. Within lie row upon row of tiny Petri dishes in which float minute fibres of almost transparent meat. I find it rather deflating but Post is excited. “I’ll need about 3,000 pellets of meat to make a hamburger,” he says. More
Rising gas prices give a jolt to sales of electric motorcycles
With new models coming out that can go freeway speeds and travel more than 100 miles on a single charge, electric motorcycles could be poised to move beyond novelty status.
When Harry Mallin commutes to work on his motorcycle, he stops at gas stations only to pick up a Diet Coke. He rides a Brammo Enertia, which won't ever be mistaken for a loud, heavy "hog." The Enertia is a plug-in electric motorcycle.
"I never have to stop at the pumps," said Mallin, who rides 25 miles round-trip to his job as a lawyer in Kansas City, Mo.
Electric motorcycles, though still a rarity on the nation's byways, have been available for years. But with new models coming out that can go freeway speeds and travel more than 100 miles on a single charge, electric motorcycles could be poised to move beyond novelty status.
Also helping to boost their prospects — the high cost of gasoline. More
America’s only rare earth metals mine gears up
Molycorp has begun a sequential start-up of its $895 million rare earth manufacturing facility — a milestone in a long, capital-intensive plan to restart the Mountain Pass mine in California and wrest market control away from China.
Why does this matter? Rare earth metals are used in just about every modern-day and cleantech device including hybrid cars, cell phones, laptops and numerous defense technologies. In other words, these 17 elements are critically important for the high-tech industry — and the consumers who enjoy their anti-lock brakes and smartphones. And while rare earths can be found all over the world, China produces 97 percent of them.
Molycorp’s aptly named Project Phoenix rare earth mine and manufacturing facility is not running at full capacity. The company is producing 2,800 short tons of fresh rare earth ore per day and expects to reach full production by April 1. Molycorp says it’s still on track to hit an annual rate of 19,050 metric tons of rare earth oxide –all of which already has a buyer — by the end of the third quarter. A Molycorp exec told me their next goal will be to double annual production by the end of the year. More
Neanderthals could have died out because their bodies overheated
Analysis of DNA obtained from Neanderthal remains has revealed key differences from modern humans that suggest their bodies produced excess heat.
While in the cold climate of an ice age this would have provided the species with an advantage, as the earth warmed they would have been less able to cope. Ultimately this would have caused their extinction around 24,000 years ago.
Scientists at Newcastle University have put forward the theory after examining a particular form of genetic material which was obtained from the fossilised bones of Neanderthals.
By comparing it with that found in modern humans, they discovered that Neanderthals had key differences in the sections responsible for producing energy in all living cells.
Professor Patrick Chinnery, a neurogeneticist at Newcastle University, believes the differences in this mitochondrial DNA could have caused Neanderthals to be inefficient at producing energy, meaning their cells leaked heat. . More
The Comeback King: Flywheels Make a Surprise Return to the 21st Century
The benefits of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources are clear. Environmental progress, increased national security, and greater energy diversity are just some of the advantages these sustainable technologies provide. Still, a universally acknowledged challenge exists: the power renewable energy sources provide can fluctuate with literally every passing cloud.
One solution that could help utilities stabilize the load on regional and national power grids involves an old technology taken to a colossal new scale: flywheels for energy storage.
Simple flywheels have been around for centuries, and were once a routine component of mechanical wristwatches and clocks. Like batteries, they are energy storage devices. But instead of stockpiling energy in chemical form, flywheels hold it in the kinetic energy of a spinning, low-friction rotor. The larger and heavier the rotor and the faster that it turns, the more energy is in the flywheel. Speeding up or slowing down the rotor transfers energy in and out of it. More
A medical study of the Haitian zombie
We hear a lot about zombies these days – in films, in music and even in philosophy – but many are unaware that in 1997 The Lancet published a medical study of three genuine Haitian zombies.
The cases studies were reported by British anthropologist Roland Littlewood and Haitian doctor Chavannes Douyon and concerned three individuals identified as zombies after they had apparently passed away.
The Haitian explanation for how zombies are created involves the distinction between different elements of the human being – including the body, the gwobon anj (the animating principle) and the ti-bon anj, which represents something akin to agency, awareness, and memory.
In line with these beliefs is the fact that awareness and agency can be split off from the human being – and can be captured and stored in a bottle by a bòkò, a type of magician and spirit worker who can be paid to send curses or help individuals achieve their aims. More
50 Places Linux is Running That You Might Not Expect
It was not long ago when Microsoft Windows had a tight stranglehold on the operating system market. Walk into a Circuit City or Staples, it seemed, and virtually any computer you took home would be running the most current flavor of Windows. Ditto for computers ordered direct from a manufacturer. In the last decade, though, the operating system market has begun to change. Slightly more than 5% of all computers now run Mac, according to NetMarketShare.com. Linux is hovering just beneath 1% of the overall market share in operating systems. And although that might sound like a small number, Linux is far more than just a fringe OS. In fact, it's running in quite a few more places than you probably suspect. Below are fifty places Linux is running today in place of Windows or Mac. For easy reading, they are divided amongst government, home, business, and educational usage. More
Move Over Electric Car, The Electric Airplane is Coming
Several years ago, when the auto industry faced government pressure to minimize its environmental footprint by reducing fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions, manufacturers turned first to hybrid-electric and then battery-electric powertrains that now move Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs.
Today, confronted with substantially the same environmental mandates, the aviation industry has begun gearing up to use those same green power plants to propel aircraft. The electric car is so yesterday; electric airplanes are coming.
EADS (European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company), the parent firm of Airbus, for example, has been flying a battery electric-powered ultralight aircraft for the last year, and at the recent Paris Air Show it introduced a series-hybrid motor glider as well as an ambitious future concept for an all-electric, 50-seat passenger plane powered by superconducting drive motors. Last fall, Boeing released details of a NASA-funded effort to use a hybrid battery-electric/gas turbine propulsion system to power a future 737-class commercial transport. A few months earlier, at the 2010 Oshkosh event, both Cessna and Sikorsky announced plans to fly some time this year electric-powered demonstrators—respectively, a light plane and a light helicopter. More
Laws of physics 'are different' depending on where you are in the universe
The laws of physics may not be as set in stone as previously imagined. One of the laws of nature seems to vary depending on where in the universe you are, research suggests.
The new analysis of data from Hawaii's Keck telescope and Chile's Extremely Large Telescope, could have profound implications for our understanding of the universe.
The 'constancy' of physics is one of the most cherished principles in science - but the scientists say that the 'laws' we know may be the galactic equivalent of 'local by-laws' and things may work quite differently elsewhere.
The discovery - if true - violates one of the underlying principles of Einstein's theory of General Relativity, and has profound implications for our understanding of space and time.
The findings could mean that the universe is far bigger than we thought - possibly even infinite.
It also means that in other parts of the universe, the laws of physics might be hostile to life - whereas in our small part of it, they seem fine-tuned to supporting it. More
Gut Bacteria In Autistic Children Different From Non-Autistic Children
Scientists have found that the bacteria in the gut of autistic children is different from that of non-autistic children.
Researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University found that microorganisms residing in the gut of autistic children are different from other children but they are yet to determine whether these gut differences are a cause or an effect of autism, reports the American Society For Microbiology (ASMUSA).
The results, published in the mBio journal, found that a bacteria belonging to the Sutterella group in the gut was found in 12 of 23 tissue samples from autistic children. The same bacteria were not present in the samples of non-autistic children.
According to Jorge Benach, Chairman of the Department of Microbiology at Stony Brook University: “The Sutterella bacteria has been associated with gastrointestinal diseases below the diaphragm, and whether it's a pathogen or not is still not clear. It is not a very well-known bacterium."
Scientists are now hoping to find out why this organism is only present in autistic children. More
One-man flying space hopper could become the 'air car' of the future
It might look like as space hopper surrounded by model helicopters, but the 16-rotor E-Volo is an entirely new kind of helicopter - which can hover motionless in the air without input from the pilot.
Its bold engineer, Thomas Senkel, took the machine on its first manned flight this week - lasting 1 minute 30 seconds.
It's not the first electric helicopter flight - but this is a new kind of machine, steered simply by joystick, with the pilot sitting above the rotors. Senkel says it could revolutionise transport.
The three inventors claim their flying machine could be used for inspecting pipelines, as an air ambulance or for taking aerial photographs - as well as just for fun.
Once they have solved the problem of how to keep it in the air for longer - and support more people - Senkel hopes it might replace helicopters for good. More
DNA: The next big hacking frontier
Imagine computer-designed viruses that cure disease, new bacteria capable of synthesizing an unlimited fuel supply, new organisms that wipe out entire populations and bio-toxins that target world leaders. They sound like devices restricted to feature-film script writers, but it is possible to create all of these today, using the latest advances in synthetic biology.
Just as the personal computer revolution brought information technology from corporate data centers to the masses, the biology revolution is personalizing science.
In 2000, scientists at a private company called Celera announced that the company had raced ahead of the U.S. government-led international effort decoding the DNA of a human being. Using the latest sequencing technology, plus the data available from the Human Genome project, Celera scientists had created a working draft of the genome. These efforts cost over $1 billion, combined. More
Prototype passenger spaceship poised for launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — A prototype passenger spaceship developed by privately owned Space Exploration Technologies arrived in Florida on Sunday for launch on a practice cargo run to the International Space Station, officials said on Monday.
Liftoff of the Dragon capsule aboard the company's Falcon 9 rocket is targeted for as early as December 19, although the final launch date will be set by NASA, which is sponsoring the flight, said Bobby Block, vice president for communications for Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX.
The mission will mark the third flight of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and the second for a Dragon capsule, which is designed to fly first cargo and later crew to the space station, among other missions.
With the retirement of the space shuttles this summer, NASA is dependent on partner countries to deliver cargo and to ferry astronauts to the orbital outpost, a $100 billion project of 16 nations that orbits about 225 miles above the planet. More
Meteorites: Tool kits for creating life on Earth
Meteorites hold a record of the chemicals that existed in the early Solar System and that may have been a crucial source of the organic compounds that gave rise to life on Earth. Since the 1960s, scientists have been trying to find proof that nucleobases, the building blocks of our genetic material, came to Earth on meteorites. New research, published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that certain nucleobases do reach the Earth from extraterrestrial sources, by way of certain meteorites, and in greater diversity and quantity than previously thought.
Extensive research has shown that amino acids, which string together to form proteins, exist in space and have arrived on our planet piggybacked on a type of organic-rich meteorite called carbonaceous chondrites. But it has been difficult to similarly prove that the nucleobases found on meteorite samples are not due to contamination from sources on Earth.
The research team, which included Jim Cleaves of Carnegie's Geophysical Laboratory, used advanced spectroscopy techniques to purify and analyze samples from 11 different carbonaceous chondrites and one ureilite, a very rare type of meteorite with a different type of chemical composition. Two of the carbonaceous chondrites contained a diverse array of nucleobases and compounds that are structurally similar, so-called nucleobase analogs.
Especially telling was the fact that three of these nucleobase analogs are very rare in terrestrial biology. What's more, significant concentrations of these nucleobases were not found in soil and ice samples from the areas near where the meteorites were collected. More
The 'Prius of bicycles' switches gears by reading your mind
Parlee Cycles's new bike looks ordinary enough, but the helmet gives it away. Plastic tentacles reach down from the headgear, pressing metal sensors against the cyclist's scalp.
This snug but comfortable helmet has a secret power. It reads minds.
Its array of neurotransmitters sends signals to a smart phone attached to the bicycle's handlebars, which then connects to the gear system. With a little training, a cyclist can change gears with a thought. One kind of brain wave commands the bike to downshift; another causes it to shift up.
"Sounds kind of crazy, right?" says Patrick Miller, senior creative engineer at Deeplocal, the company responsible for the digital end of this Prius X Parlee bicycle (PXP). "We underestimated how magical it would feel to shift with your mind."
PXP is a joint venture of Deeplocal; Parlee Cycles, a bike manufacturer that handcrafts carbon-fiber bikes; and Toyota, maker of the Prius hybrid car. More
Australian Aborigines: stargazers 20,000 years ago
Australia this week provided the world with an example of scientific excellence that has had a profound impact on how mankind understands the universe.
No, we're not talking about the Nobel Prize for physics, jointly awarded to Aussie scientist Brian Schmidt and his American colleagues, Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess for their research into supernovae.
Rather, a ring of waist-high boulders that could pre-date Britain's Stonehenge and Egypt's pyramids, suggest that Australia's ancient Aborigines not only studied the stars, but had a deep understanding of astronomy.
The stone arrangement, situated in the southern state Victoria not far from Melbourne, is known by its Aboriginal name Wurdi Youang. More
Kindle makes for heavy reading
One of the original selling points of Amazon's Kindle was that the device weighed no more than the average paperback. In the brave new world of the e-reader, bibliophiles could load their gadgets with the complete works of Proust, Tolstoy and Dickens without fear of spraining their wrists on their way to work.
So imagine the consternation among gadget fans when it emerged this week that the Kindle actually weighs more when it is fully loaded with books.
John Kubiatowicz, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, tackled this vital question for the New York Times. He explained that e-readers store data by trapping electrons, and while the number of electrons in the gadget's memory does not change, it takes more energy to hold them in place than to leave them roaming free. How much more energy? Around a billionth of a microjoule for each bit of data stored.
Working from Einstein's famous equation, which states that energy and mass are equivalent, Kubiatowicz worked out how much the weight of a Kindle might change as the books built up. He compared an empty four-gigabyte Kindle with a full one, in which half the electrons were trapped, requiring an extra 17 microjoules of energy. More
Genetic research confirms that non-Africans are part Neanderthal
Some of the human X chromosome originates from Neanderthals and is found exclusively in people outside Africa, according to an international team of researchers led by Damian Labuda of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center. The research was published in the July issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution.
"This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred," says Dr. Labuda. His team places the timing of such intimate contacts and/or family ties early on, probably at the crossroads of the Middle East.
Neanderthals, whose ancestors left Africa about 400,000 to 800,000 years ago, evolved in what is now mainly France, Spain, Germany and Russia, and are thought to have lived until about 30,000 years ago. Meanwhile, early modern humans left Africa about 80,000 to 50,000 years ago. The question on everyone's mind has always been whether the physically stronger Neanderthals, who possessed the gene for language and may have played the flute, were a separate species or could have interbred with modern humans. The answer is yes, the two lived in close association. More
Kepler Mission Discovers “Tatooine-like” Planet
Kepler mission scientists announced the first confirmed circumbinary planet ( a planet that orbits a binary star system). The planet in question, designated Kepler-16b has been compared to the planet Tatooine from the Star Wars saga.
Would it be possible for someone like Luke Skywalker to stand on the surface of Kepler-16b and see the famous “binary sunset” as depicted in Star Wars?
Despite the initial comparison between Kepler-16b and Tatooine, the planets really only have their orbit around a binary star system in common. Kepler-16b is estimated to weigh about a third the mass of Jupiter, with a radius of around three-quarters that of Jupiter.
Given the mass and radius estimates, this makes Kepler-16b closer to Saturn than the rocky, desert-like world of Tatooine. Kepler-16b’s orbit around its two parent stars takes about 229 days, which is similar to Venus’ 225-day orbit. At a distance of about 65 million miles from its parent stars, which are both cooler than our sun, temperatures on Kepler-16b are estimated in the range of around -100 C.
The team did mention that Kepler-16b is just outside of the habitable zone of the Kepler-16 system. Despite being just outside the habitable zone, the team did mention that it could be possible for Kepler-16b to have a habitable moon, if said moon had a thick, greenhouse gas atmosphere. More
Hackers Build Cheap Spy Drone that Rivals CIA Predator
LAS VEGAS (Hollywood Today) 8/10/11 – Hackers have built a DIY flying drone that can launch remote attacks which astounded attendees at the Black Hat/Defcon meet here.
The hackers built their drone for about $6,000, while the CIA coughs up about S4.5 million each for their Predator drones. Though it doesn’t fire a pair of Hellfire missiles like the CIA models, the hacker drone has some serious teeth.
Hackers could use them to to intercept all wifi traffic and steal credit card numbers, fly above corporations to steal intellectual property and other data from a network, as well as launch denial-of-service or man-in-the-middle attacks. They could also transmit a cell phone jamming signal to frustrate an enemy’s communications.
A drone could also be used to single out a target, using the target’s cellphone to identify him in a crowd, and then follow his movements. And it would be handy for drug smuggling, or for terrorists to trigger a dirty bomb. Guess you can’t get these at Radio Shack, though security researchers Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins did almost that. They went to an army surplus store, and built the rest with existing easily-found technology. More
Massive asteroid hurtling towards Earth (but don't worry, scientists say it will just miss us)
A massive asteroid will fly within the moon's orbit narrowly missing Earth later this year.
The space rock, called YU55, will hurtle past our planet at a distance of just 201,700 miles during its closest approach on November 8.
That is closer to Earth than the moon, which orbits 238,857miles away on average. With a width of some 400metres and weighing 55million tons, YU55 will be the largest object to ever approach Earth so close.
Nasa spokesman Don Yeomans said: 'On November 8, asteroid YU55 will fly past Earth and at its closest approach point will be about 325,000kms away.
'This asteroid is about 400 metres wide - the largest space rock we have identified that will come this close until 2028.'
Despite YU55's close proximity to Earth, its gravitational pull on our planet will be 'immeasurably miniscule'. More
Are Google’s Driverless Cars Legal?
Google's project to design driverless vehicles raised several questions about the future of driving. But it also raised a more topical question: Are Google's heavily-modified driverless vehicle prototypes even legal? We found out.
Researchers have been working on driverless vehicles since the late 1970s; European governments spent nearly $1 billion in the 1980s and '90s on automated vehicles, including a Mercedes sedan that passed other vehicles on the German autobahn in 1995 at speeds of 110 mph without human input.
In revealing its project Sunday, Google said it had racked up nearly 140,000 miles in its vehicles on public roads, including the Pacific Coast Highway and famous spots such as San Francisco's twisty Lombard Street. The computing giant says it alerted local law enforcement officials whenever testing took place.
According to California officials, there are no laws that would bar Google from testing such models, as long as there's a human behind the wheel who would be responsible should something go wrong. Google says its test vehicles always have at least three passengers: a driver behind the wheel and two technicians to monitor the software and systems. More
Researchers Announce a Breakthrough on HIV/AIDS Treatment
For the first time, researchers have shown that a cell-based therapy for HIV/AIDS can reduce the amount of virus in infected people. The breakthrough—big news for researchers, who have struggled for decades to create vaccines and cell-based therapies for HIV—was announced on Sunday at the 51st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago. To date, the sole treatment for HIV has been multidrug regimens that prolong life but never eliminate the virus.
Sangamo BioSciences of Richmond, California, says it has found a way to protect the T cells that HIV attacks first, so they can live to fight another day. The approach entails temporarily stopping a patient's antiretroviral therapy and removing T cells carrying the CD4 receptor. This surface protein is the doorway by which the virus gains entry into the cell. The collected T cells are exposed to zinc finger nuclease, an enzyme designed to remove the gene for a coreceptor of CD4 called CCR5. The cells are then reinfused into the patient. Once they're back in the body, the new study shows, the cells persist and travel in the body just like normal T cells. More
This is what astronomers call a "fluffy" spiral galaxy
This recent picture of spiral galaxy NGC 3521, snapped through the lens of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope, captures in stunning detail a flocculent galaxy's most distinguishing features: long, patchy, and irregular spiral arms that take on a distinctively wooly appearance when photographed from 35 million light years away — much like they do here.
Residing in the constellation of Leo and spanning about 50,000 light-years, the ESO says that NGC 3521 is close enough and bright enough that it can easily be spotted with a small telescope, like the one used by British astronomer William Herschel when he discovered the galaxy in the 18th century. More
Judging penis size by comparing index, ring fingers
Penis length cannot be determined by how big his hands or feet are -- those and other supposed indicators have been widely discredited for years. But now a team of Korean researchers has produced what may be a more reliable guide: the ratio of the length of his index finger to that of his ring finger. The lower that ratio, the longer the penis may be, the researchers wrote Monday in the Asian Journal of Andrology.
Dr. Tae Beom Kim, a urologist at Gachon University in Incheon, Korea, and his colleagues studied 144 men over the age of 20 who were undergoing urological surgery for conditions that do not affect the length of the penis. One member of the team carefully measured the lengths of the index and ring fingers on the subject's right hand before surgery -- left hands are thought to be more variable. A second team member then measured penis length immediately after the subject had been anesthetized. The length was measured both when the penis was flaccid and when it had been stretched as much as possible. Stretched length is thought to correlate to erect length, the team wrote. The team found that, in general, the lower the ratio of the lengths of the two fingers, the longer the stretched length of the penis. More
Aptera refunds deposits, future unclear
Those who have been waiting for their Aptera electric cars since 2008 are in for more bad news: The Carlsbad, Calif.-based company is returning all deposits made by customers who signed up to buy the Aptera 2e all-electric car or the 2h hybrid model.
Aptera rose to prominence in the green-car world by entering the Automotive X Prize in 2008. The company's two-seat, three-wheel commuter vehicle was claimed to get 300 mpg, at a price of less than $30,000.
The vehicle was said to be headed toward production in December of that year. But, in late 2009, the car still had not been produced, a result of money troubles and engineering changes. The company readjusted and estimated the vehicle would be available in 2010.
Now, Aptera says it is returning deposits because of a problem with its credit-card processor, which is designed for transactions to be completed in a six-month window-- far exceeded by the prolonged production time of the vehicle.Aptera issued a statement last week saying, in part: “Reservation-holder contact information will be moved to our newly created VIP database and used to provide you with exclusive information about future happenings at Aptera. More
Time need not end in the multiverse
GAMBLERS already had enough to think about without factoring the end of time into their calculations. But a year after a group of cosmologists argued that they should, another team says time need not end after all.
It all started with this thought experiment. In a back room in a Las Vegas casino, you are handed a fair coin to flip. You will not be allowed to see the outcome, and the moment the coin lands you will fall into a deep sleep. If the coin lands heads up, the dealer will wake you 1 minute later; tails, in 1 hour. Upon waking, you will have no idea how long you have just slept.
The dealer smiles: would you like to bet on heads or tails? Knowing it's a fair coin, you assume your odds are 50/50, so you choose tails. But the house has an advantage. The dealer knows you will almost certainly lose, because she is factoring in something you haven't: that we live in a multiverse.
The idea that our universe is just one of many crops up in a number of physicists' best theories, including inflation. It posits that different parts of space are always ballooning into separate universes, so that our observable universe is just a tiny island in an exponentially growing multiverse. More
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sensory Deprivation Tanks
On Fringe, a sensory deprivation tank can activate your mental powers and even open a gateway to another universe. But what can floating in a dark warm tank do for you in real life? And why would people even want to do such a thing?
The sensory deprivation tank — a temperature-regulated, salt-water filled, soundproof, lightproof tank that can isolate its occupant from numerous forms of sensory input all at once — has gone by many names over the years, but its overall design and purpose have remained largely unchanged: to find out what your brain does when it's shoved into a box all by itself and left alone for a while. Here's the complete lowdown on sensory deprivation tanks.
Back in the old days, if you wanted to experience sensory deprivation you wore a blindfold or stuck your fingers in your ears like everybody else. But that all changed in 1954, when neuroscientist John C. Lilly dared to question what would happen if the mind was deprived of as much external stimulus as possible.
In the original deprivation tank, you were suspended in 160 gallons of water with everything but the top of your head completely submerged. A nightmarish-looking "black-out" mask, similar to the ones pictured here, supplied you with air and blocked any light from reaching your eyes. The water and air temperature were kept at the same temperature as your skin, roughly 34 degrees celsius. More
NASA's Mars Rovers Are Great at Finding Meteorites!
NASA's two Mars Rovers have found some spectacular meteorites. On Earth, the only humans who are as successful at finding meteorites are professional meteorite hunters. Are meteorites that abundant on Mars or are these Rovers simply lucky?
The answer to this question has a lot to do with the environment of the two planets. The surface of Earth has an environment that is rich in oxygen and moisture - both of which are rapidly destructive to iron meteorites. A meteorite that lands on Earth's surface would rust away in a blink of geologic time. Mars, however, has very little oxygen and moisture in its atmosphere and surface soils. Meteorites that land on Mars can remain in excellent condition for millions - or even billions - of years. Mars is the perfect place to hunt for meteorites. More
Breakthrough: Electronic circuits that are integrated with your skin
A team of engineers today announced a discovery that could change the world of electronics forever. Called an "epidermal electronic system" (EES), it's basically an electronic circuit mounted on your skin, designed to stretch, flex, and twist — and to take input from the movements of your body.
EES is a leap forward for wearable technologies, and has potential applications ranging from medical diagnostics to video game control and accelerated wound-healing. Engineers John Rogers and Todd Coleman, who worked on the discovery, tell io9 it's a huge step towards erasing the divide that separates machine and human.
Coleman and Rogers say they developed EES to forego the hard and rigid electronic "wafer" format of traditional electronics in favor of a softer, more dynamic platform.
To accomplish this, their team brought together scientists from several labs to develop "filamentary serpentine" (threadlike and squiggly) circuitry. When this circuitry is mounted on a thin, rubber substrate with elastic properties similar to skin, the result is a flexible patch that can bend and twist, or expand and contract, all without affecting electronic performance. More
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
From the very beginning there was something uncanny about the cancer cells on Henrietta Lacks’s cervix. Even before killing Lacks herself in 1951, they took on a life of their own. Removed during a biopsy and cultured without her permission, the HeLa cells (named from the first two letters of her first and last names) reproduced boisterously in a lab at Johns Hopkins — the first human cells ever to do so.
HeLa became an instant biological celebrity, traveling to research labs all over the world. Meanwhile Lacks, a vivacious 31-year-old African-American who had once been a tobacco farmer, tended her five children and endured scarring radiation treatments in the hospital’s “colored” ward.
After Henrietta Lacks’s death, HeLa went viral, so to speak, becoming the godmother of virology and then biotech, benefiting practically anyone who’s ever taken a pill stronger than aspirin. Scientists have grown some 50 million metric tons of her cells, and you can get some for yourself simply by calling an 800 number. HeLa has helped build thousands of careers, not to mention more than 60,000 scientific studies, with nearly 10 more being published every day, revealing the secrets of everything from aging and cancer to mosquito mating and the cellular effects of working in sewers. More
Dawn probe has date with asteroid
The US space agency says its Dawn probe should now be in orbit around the asteroid Vesta. The robotic satellite will be spending a year at the 530km-wide body before moving on to the "dwarf planet" Ceres.
New pictures on Dawn's approach to Vesta show the giant rock in unprecedented detail.
The asteroid looks like a punctured football, the result of a colossal collision sometime in its past that knocked off its south polar region.
Confirmation that Dawn is safely circling the rock should come on Sunday (GMT) when the probe is due to return data on its status. Vesta was discovered in 1807, the fourth asteroid to be identified in the great belt of rocky debris orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. More
Researchers Unearth 'First Gay Caveman'
The first known "gay caveman" has been unearthed in a dig outside Prague, researchers believe. Archeological team members based their conclusion on the fact that the male body was interred in a ritualistic way reserved for females. "We know people from this period took funeral rites very seriously so it is highly unlikely that this positioning was a mistake," said the lead archaeologist. "Far more likely is that he was a man with a different sexual orientation—homosexual or transsexual," she added.
The body dates to as long ago as 2900 BC, reports the Telegraph, and was buried with the head pointing east and surrounded by domestic jugs.
Men at the time were buried facing west and surrounded by weapons and tools. "What we see here doesn't add up to traditional Corded Ware cultural norms," said the team leader. Another researcher classified it as "one of the earliest cases of what could be described as a 'transsexual' or 'third gender' grave." More
NASA to focus on deep space exploration with new spacecraft
NASA has decided to use designs originally planned for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle as the basis for a new transportation system that will carry U.S. astronauts into deep space in the future, NASA chief Charles Bolden said.
"As we aggressively continue our work on a heavy lift launch vehicle, we are moving forward with an existing contract to keep development of our new crew vehicle on track," Bolden said on Tuesday.
The Orion vehicle, which resembles the legendary Apollo spacecraft, was part of the Constellation program meant to return U.S. astronauts to the Moon and bring them to Mars.
The program was folded by the current Obama administration in 2010, but Lockheed Martin continued work on the Orion project to develop a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). More
Atlas Gives Scientists New View of the Brain
Scientists funded by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen unveiled a $55 million computerized atlas of the human brain Tuesday, offering the first interactive research guide to the anatomy and genes that animate the mind.
A project of the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science, the online atlas offers researchers a powerful new tool to understand where and how genes are at work in the brain. That could help them find new clues to conditions rooted in the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease, autism and mental-health disorders like depression.
"Until now, a definitive map of the human brain at this level of detail simply hasn't existed," said Allan Jones, the nonprofit institute's chief executive. "For the first time, we have generated a comprehensive map of the brain that includes the underlying biochemistry."
The engine has a rotor that's equipped with wave-like channels that trap and mix oxygen and fuel as the rotor spins. These central inlets are blocked off, building pressure within the chamber, causing a shock wave that ignites the compressed air and fuel to transmit energy. More
Teen hipsters discover joys of analog photography
SAN FRANCISCO--Carolyn LaHorgue might seem like the type of teenager who would embrace digital technology. She designed her own Web site, is a Facebook aficionado, and is planning to study media and communications at New York University this fall.
Yet the 17-year-old, who lives just north of San Francisco, totes around an artifact right out of the 19th century: an analog camera that uses actual film. "It represents the individualist lifestyle," LaHorgue says.
LaHorgue is not alone. Teenagers are leading a kind of backward transition, leaving digital devices behind, at least temporarily, for technology their grandparents pioneered.
Classic film cameras, such as Holga, Diana, Minolta, and Nikon, are being chosen over smaller-than-your-fist digital point-and-shoots on the theory that it's cool to struggle with manual aperture settings. Or it's rebellious to scope out the best lighting for a shot. More
After Earth: Why, Where, How, and When We Might Leave Our Home Planet
Earth won’t always be fit for occupation. We know that in two billion years or so, an expanding sun will boil away our oceans, leaving our home in the universe uninhabitable—unless, that is, we haven’t already been wiped out by the Andromeda galaxy, which is on a multibillion-year collision course with our Milky Way. Moreover, at least a third of the thousand mile-wide asteroids that hurtle across our orbital path will eventually crash into us, at a rate of about one every 300,000 years.
Indeed, in 1989 a far smaller asteroid, the impact of which would still have been equivalent in force to 1,000 nuclear bombs, crossed our orbit just six hours after Earth had passed. A recent report by the Lifeboat Foundation, whose hundreds of researchers track a dozen different existential risks to humanity, likens that one-in-300,000 chance of a catastrophic strike to a game of Russian roulette: “If we keep pulling the trigger long enough we’ll blow our head off, and there’s no guarantee it won’t be the next pull.”
Many of the threats that might lead us to consider off-Earth living arrangements are actually man-made, and not necessarily in the distant future. More
New Car Engine Sends Shock Waves Through Auto Industry
Despite shifting into higher gear within the consumer's green conscience, hybrid vehicles are still tethered to the gas pump via a fuel-thirsty 100-year-old invention: the internal combustion engine.
However, researchers at Michigan State University have built a prototype gasoline engine that requires no transmission, crankshaft, pistons, valves, fuel compression, cooling systems or fluids. Their so-called Wave Disk Generator could greatly improve the efficiency of gas-electric hybrid automobiles and potentially decrease auto emissions up to 90 percent when compared with conventional combustion engines.
The engine has a rotor that's equipped with wave-like channels that trap and mix oxygen and fuel as the rotor spins. These central inlets are blocked off, building pressure within the chamber, causing a shock wave that ignites the compressed air and fuel to transmit energy. More
Earthlings From Mars?
It's possible that the family tree of all life on Earth has its roots on Mars — and a new device could put that theory to the test in a few years, researchers say.
Researchers are developing an instrument that would search through samples of Martian dirt, isolating any genetic material from microbes that might be present — bugs that are living or that died relatively recently, within the last million years or so. Scientists could then use standard biochemical techniques to analyze any resulting genetic sequences, comparing them to what we find on Earth.
"It’s a long shot,” said MIT researcher Chris Carr, who's working on the life-detecting device, in a statement. "But if we go to Mars and find life that’s related to us, we could have originated on Mars. Or if it started here, it could have been transferred to Mars." More
World's smallest computer watches you — from within
Researchers recently unveiled the first complete millimeter-scale computing system that is about the size of the letter "N" on the back of a penny (or about the same size as the letter in this sentence).
This tiniest computer to date is a prototype of an implantable eye pressure monitor for glaucoma patients. Key to this unit linking up with other computers to form wireless sensor networks is a compact radio that needs no tuning to find the right frequency.
One day, these Lilliputian computers could track pollution, monitor structural integrity, perform surveillance, or make virtually any object smart and traceable.
"When you get smaller than hand-held devices, you turn to these monitoring devices," said David Blaauw, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan who is working on the new tiny computer. More
Comet-hunting spacecraft shuts down after 12 years
DENVER — NASA ordered its comet-hunting Stardust probe to burn its remaining fuel on Thursday, setting off a sequence that shut down the spacecraft after a 12-year career.
Stardust had finished its main mission in 2006, sending particles from a comet to Earth. It took on another job last month, photographing a crater on an asteroid.
It accomplished one last experiment on Thursday, firing its thrusters until its last hydrazine fuel was gone. The length of that burn, a little under 2 1/2 minutes, will tell engineers exactly how much fuel was left so they can see how accurate their calculations were.
That in turn will help with the design and operation of future probes. Spacecraft don't carry fuel gauges because they don't work in zero gravity.
Engineers gave Stardust the order to begin its final burn at 4:41 p.m. MDT. Once the fuel was gone, the probe lost its ability to keep its antennas pointed toward Earth, and the control room lost radio contact at 5:33 p.m. More
ZX81: Small black box of computing desire
Packing a heady 1KB of RAM, you would have needed many, many thousands of them to run Word or iTunes, but the ZX81 changed everything.
It didn't do colour, it didn't do sound, it didn't sync with your trendy Swap Shop style telephone, it didn't even have an off switch. But it brought computers into the home, over a million of them, and created a generation of software developers.
Before, computers had been giant expensive machines used by corporations and scientists - today, they are tiny machines made by giant corporations, with the power to make the miraculous routine. But in the gap between the two stood the ZX81.
It wasn't a lot of good at saving your work - you had to record finished programming onto cassette tape and hope there was no tape warp. It wasn't even that good at keeping your work, at least if you had the 16K extension pack stuck precariously into the back. More
New Photos of Mercury From NASA's Messenger Probe
NASA's Messenger spacecraft acquired this image of Mercury's horizon as the spacecraft was moving northward along the first orbit during which MDIS camera instrument was activated, which occurred on March 29, 2011. Bright rays from Hokusai can be seen running north to south in the image. The right side of this image is about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) in extent. More
Archaeologists Discover Saber-Toothed Vegetarian
Surprised scientists have discovered the remains of a saber-toothed vegetarian. The leaf-crunching animal - about the size of a large dog - lived 260 million years ago in what is now Brazil, researchers report in Friday's edition of the journal Science. Its upper canine teeth were nearly 5 inches long.
Such large teeth are more often the mark of a meat-eating animal, used to capture and kill prey.
The enormous canines were likely used by the plant-eating animals to fight each other or protect against predators, said research leader Juan Carlos Cisneros of the University of Piaui in northeastern Brazil.
For example, they might have fought for territory, resources or females, like the modern musk deer, which also have a pair of large, tusklike teeth, he said via email. More
Found: New Evidence of Ice Volcanoes on Titan
Saturn’s moon Titan has lakes on its surface and a thick atmosphere, but there’s one more way this cold, distant world is like the Earth: It appears to have volcanoes—though they’re a little chillier than Eyjafjallajökull.
Scientists have long suspected and presented some evidence that Titan could have these features, and this week at the American Geophysical Union meet-up, researchers presented a finding from the Cassini spacecraft that they say is the best evidence yet of a Titanic volcano.
“We finally have some proof that Titan is an active world,” said geophysicist Randolph Kirk of the U.S. Geological Survey, who presented the findings.
The place is called Sotra. It may have the look of an Earth volcano—a 3,000-foot-tall mountain with a crater in the middle—but this mountain isn’t erupting with liquid hot magma. The surface of Titan is nearly -300 degrees F, and the cryovolcano could be erupting water ice and ammonia. More
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It's the army's latest spy drone
A pocket-sized spy drone disguised as a hummingbird has been unveiled by a major Pentagon contractor measuring just 16 centimetres and weighing less than an AA battery.
The mini spy plane can fly up to 11 miles an hour and took five years to develop at a cost of $4million.
Army chiefs hope to use the drone’s tiny camera to spy on enemy positions in war zones without arousing detection and eventually deploy it into both rural and urban environments.
Experts hope the drone, which can fly just by flapping its wings, compared with current models which rely on propellers, will eventually be able to swoop through open windows and perch on power lines.
The demonstration by AeroVironment – one of the world’s biggest drone suppliers – lasted eight minutes and saw the new creation fly through a door into an building and out again, and withstand winds of five miles per hour. More
From Cave Paintings to the Internet: 50,000 years of Information Technology
Found on all corners of the globe and still in use among non-literate societies today, pictographs tell stories, leave instructions and depict local life. A significant step towards language and art, pictographs served humans need for communication for thousands of years. More
Progress on tablet computer for developing nations
Everybody is trying to grab a piece of the tablet action at the gadget geekfest known as the Consumer Electronics Show.
Among them, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, whose mission is to bring low-powered, low-cost devices to the developing world.
They have just launched a hybrid computer that turns into a tablet, but plan to release a dedicated device by 2012.
The new $165 (about £106) XO-1.75 laptop will start shipping after the summer to countries around the world to bring school children into the computer age. Its precursor cost around $199 (about £128) and OLPC says around two million have now been distributed.
The big challenge with the new laptop was to reduce power consumption. OLPC chief technology officer Ed McNierney told BBC News they have slashed the wattage from five watts to two by using low powered ARM-based chips from Marvell technology. More
Oxygen on Saturn's Moon
The Cassini mission has collected an impressive body of data from Saturn and it's many moons and rings. Evidence collected in 2008 seemed to suggest that its second moon, Rhea (about half the size of our own moon) may have a tiny ring structure of its own.
Follow-up observations showed that this discovery was mistaken and that these rings do not exist, but did reveal something just as interesting:
An atmosphere rich in oxygen. The chemistry is complex and scientists are still sifting through the mountain of information, but this is what Cassini team scientist Ben Teolis thinks is happening: Based on its density, Rhea seems to be composed of three parts water to one part rock.
Because of its cold location so far from the Sun, this water is frozen into ice. Now, solar radiation trapped by Saturn's magnetic field gets whipped around and accelerated into Rhea, and this causes breaks the water molecules down into hydrogen and oxygen. More
Early Humans Settled in Britain 800,000 Years Ago
Early humans migrating out of Africa adapted to freezing climes more than 800,000 years ago, far sooner than previously thought possible, according to a landmark study released Wednesday.
A trove of flint tools found near Happisburgh in the eastern English county of Norfolk marks Homo sapiens' earliest known settlement in a location where winter temperatures fell below zero degrees Celsius (minus 32 degrees Fahrenheit).
The discovery implies our ancestors some 26,000 generations ago survived climates like those of southern Sweden today, perhaps without the comforting benefit of fire or clothes, the study says.
Until now, almost every archaeological site testifying to habitation across Eurasia during the Early Pleistocene period, 1.8 million to 780,000 years ago, has been below the 45th parallel, suggesting a natural temperature barrier to further northward expansion. More
Scientists Trap Elusive Antimatter
It powered the Starship Enterprise's warp drive and almost blew up the Vatican in Dan Brown's novel "Angels & Demons." But antimatter is no longer confined to the realm of far-fetched fiction. Scientists have now discovered how to capture and contain matter's elusive and exotic counterpart.
In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland detail how they caught 38 atoms of anti-hydrogen -- the simplest type of antimatter -- and stored them for about two-tenths of a second. Sci-fi geeks or mad papal aides shouldn't celebrate yet, however.
"[Thirty-eight atoms is] an incredibly small amount," said Rob Thompson, head of physics and astronomy at Canada's University of Calgary and one of the paper's 42 co-authors. "Nothing like what we would need to power 'Star Trek's' Starship Enterprise or even to heat a cup of coffee." More
The Love Neuroscientist
Love is celebrated as a many-splendored thing, while lust is commonly regarded as downright primitive. Leave it to a Frenchwoman to discover that sexual desire is actually quite brainy. Stephanie Ortigue, an assistant professor of psychology at Syracuse University, uses brain scans to examine the divine madness of love and the blinding imperative of lust. Her goal: illuminating how these two forms of attraction work by mapping out which brain regions are active when we experience them. Her findings counter the assumption that desire is a simple animal urge motivated primarily by biochemistry and evolutionary directives.
Working with her frequent collaborator, psychiatrist Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli of Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland, Ortigue has found that lust involves complicated cognitive processing. Love, too, is not quite what we thought. Both romance and desire, she says, may be expressions of a “top-down” process in which intellect rules over instinct, not the other way around. Love may even make you smarter, by helping your brain process information more quickly. More
Huge Ocean Likely Covered More Than a Third of Mars 3.5 Billion Years Ago
It took NASA a few decades, several probes, and a whole lot of money to find hard evidence for the existence of water on the surface of Mars. But timing is everything. Had the agency been looking for water on the Red Planet a few billion years earlier, all they would've needed was a telescope. A new CU-Boulder analysis of the Martian surface has concluded that a massive ocean covered as much as a third of the planet around 3.5 billion years ago.
The CU researchers are by no means the first to suggest that Mars was once home to large oceans, but their research does lend a lot of credence to earlier assertions to that effect, assertions that have been challenged repeatedly over the years. The study is the first to mash up a huge body of data collected by NASA and ESA missions over the last decade. That data suggests Mars at one point had a hydrological cycle not too different from our own, including cloud formation, groundwater accumulation, and precipitation.
The ocean -- which likely covered about 36 percent of the planet and contained 30 million cubic miles of water, about ten times less than Earth's oceans -- was fed by at least 52 river deltas which were in turn fed by countless river valleys and tributaries. Half of those deltas were at similar elevations, most likely marking the ocean's boundaries. More
Anthropologists adopt a more favorable view of Neanderthals
Scientists are broadly rethinking the nature, skills and demise of the Neanderthals of Europe and Asia, steadily finding more ways that they were substantially like us and quite different from the limited, unchanging and ultimately doomed inferiors most commonly described in the past.
The latest revision involves Neanderthals who lived in southern Italy from about 42,000 to 35,000 years ago, a group that had to face fast-changing climate conditions that required them to adapt.
And that, says anthropologist Julien Riel-Salvatore, is precisely what they did: fashioning new hunting tools, targeting more-elusive prey and even wearing identifying ornaments and body painting.
Traditional Neanderthal theory has it that they changed their survival strategies only when they came into contact with more-modern early humans. But Riel-Salvatore, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver writing in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, says that was not the case in southern Italy. More
Secret Mini-Shuttle Lands in California
The Orbital Test Vehicle, also known as the X-37B, touched down at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, becoming the first U.S. vehicle to make an autonomous runway landing from space.
The former Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle accomplished the feat in 1988, following the sole spaceflight of the Soviet shuttle program.
The military won't say what the X-37B was doing during its seven-plus months in space, but officials were satisfied enough to reiterate their intention to launch a second X-37B vehicle in the spring of 2011.
Before the X-37B's launch on April 22, the program manager at the time said the primary purpose of the flight was to test the vehicle as a platform for experiments.
It is not known if the space plane carried anything in its small cargo hold.
"We are very pleased that the program completed all the on-orbit objectives for the first mission," program manager Lt. Col. Troy Giese said in a statement. More
Chunk of original earth found
Imagine you suddenly discovered part of your umbilical cord was still attached. Scientists just did that for the planet Earth.
What's been found is a clear sign that beneath the crust in northern Canada there is a chunk of pristine, undisturbed rock from the time when Earth was nothing but molten rock.
The evidence comes in the form of lava rocks that, themselves, are a mere 60 million years old. But these rocks contain an early Earth mixture of helium, lead and neodymium isotopes which suggest the mantle rock beneath the crust that yielded them is a virgin pocket of Earth's original material.
That pocket had survived for 4.5 billion years under Baffin Island without being mixed by plate tectonics or erupted onto the surface. More
'Renewable Girls' calendar strives to make solar power sexy
'Renewable Girls' is a new 2011 calendar that strives to make solar power sexy by pairing scantily clad ladies with various solar technology.
The calendar was shot by New York photographer Giacomo Fortunato and, according to Renewable Girls, "aims to widen solar's cultural appeal."
Addressing critics who find the approach distasteful, Renewable Girls founder John B. says, "Some tree huggers fear that degrading solar by exploiting woman will alienate potential adopters. Advertising industry experts, on the other hand, have found beautiful women to be remarkably successful in selling everything from gas guzzlers to designer hand bags.
Since when has solar been too clean to take a bubble bath with the most basic of desires?" More
Stone Age Color, Glue 'Factory' Found
The Stone Age version of successful businessmen like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates might have been involved in the color and glue trade.
A once-thriving 58,000-year-old ochre powder production site has just been discovered in South Africa. The discovery offers a glimpse of what early humans valued and used in their everyday lives.
The finding, which will be described in the Journal of Archaeological Science, also marks the first time that any Stone Age site has yielded evidence for ochre powder processing on cemented hearths -- an innovation for the period. A clever caveman must have figured out that white ash from hearths can cement and become rock hard, providing a sturdy work surface.
The map was created using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that has been circling the moon since June 2009. The orbiter measured the height of the surface by sending billions of laser pulses towards the surface and measuring the time it took for the pulses to return. The method is precise enough it would have been able to detect a small house if there were one, Head said. More
Moon Crater Map Reveals Early Solar System History
The first complete topographic map of the moon and its craters has revealed details of billions of years of bombardment by asteroids, and the early history of our solar system. Among other things, the map confirms theories of an onslaught of massive asteroids around 3.9 billion years ago that likely evaporated any water present on Earth at the time.
“Ever since the surface of the moon could be photographed, scientists have counted craters on the moon and tried to decipher the projectile-bombardment rate and the geological history of the moon,” said geologist James Head of Brown University, lead author of the study in Science Sept. 16. “But until now we’ve had uneven or low-resolution coverage.”
The map was created using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that has been circling the moon since June 2009. The orbiter measured the height of the surface by sending billions of laser pulses towards the surface and measuring the time it took for the pulses to return. The method is precise enough it would have been able to detect a small house if there were one, Head said. More
Eyeborg: Canadian replaces eye with video camera
When Canadian filmmaker Rob Spence was a kid, he would peer through the bionic eye of his Six Million Dollar Man action figure. After a shooting accident left him partially blind, he decided to create his own electronic eye. Now he calls himself Eyeborg.
Spence's bionic eye contains a battery-powered, wireless video camera. Not only can he record everything he sees just by looking around, but soon people will be able to log on to his video feed and view the world through his right eye.
Spence and his collaborators -- Kosta Grammatis, John Polanski, Martin Ling, Phil Bowen, and camera firm OmniVision -- managed to get a prototype working last year. Time magazine named it one of the best inventions of 2009. Now the group is developing a version that offers a clearer picture. More
Driving the world’s cheapest car: The 2011 Tata Nano CX
People love the idea of super-cheap transportation. Two generations ago, Volkswagen captured the world's attention with the Beetle (known originally as “the people's car), but when people finally drove it they realized it was more than just a cheap car. It was inexpensive, yes, but entirely fun to drive.
India’s Tata Motors picked up on the people’s car idea several years ago. Motorbikes and pedal bikes are the go-to transportation options for millions in India, which presented an opportunity. But with the average price of a new car in the U.S. hovering around $30,000, an inconceivable sum in the developing world, Tata would have to do something very different -- the tiny Nano was the result.
It's currently on sale in India at a cost in rupees of about $2,500. That sound you hear is over a billion people cheering because they can now envision themselves owning transportation they don't have to pedal. More
Could 'Goldilocks' planet be just right for life?
Astronomers say they have for the first time spotted a planet beyond our own in what is sometimes called the Goldilocks zone for life: Not too hot, not too cold. Juuuust right.
Not too far from its star, not too close. So it could contain liquid water.
The planet itself is neither too big nor too small for the proper surface, gravity and atmosphere. It's just right. Just like Earth.
"This really is the first Goldilocks planet," said co-discoverer R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
The new planet sits smack in the middle of what astronomers refer to as the habitable zone, unlike any of the nearly 500 other planets astronomers have found outside our solar system. And it is in our galactic neighborhood, suggesting that plenty of Earth-like planets circle other stars. More
I-5 to become the nation's first electric highway?
Starting this fall, you're likely to see a new breed of road sign along Interstate 5 for electric vehicle drivers looking for a spot to plug in and recharge.
With help from a $1.32 million federal grant, the state Transportation Department plans to turn Interstate 5 into the nation's first "electric highway" with enough charging stations so electric vehicles can make the entire 276-mile trip from the Canadian border to the Oregon state line, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Monday.
State officials are trying to gear up for the large infusion of electric vehicles expected over the next few years. The Nissan Leaf will debut in December along with a large deployment of charging infrastructure in Seattle and four other regions around the country as part of The EV Project, a federal study into the needs and driving habits of electric vehicle drivers. More
Virtual reality used to transfer men's minds into a woman's body
Scientists have transferred men's minds into a virtual woman's body in an experiment that could enlighten the prejudiced and shed light on how humans distinguish themselves from others.
In a study at Barcelona University, men donned a virtual reality (VR) headset that allowed them to see and hear the world as a female character. When they looked down they could even see their new body and clothes.
The "body-swapping" effect was so convincing that the men's sense of self was transferred into the virtual woman, causing them to react reflexively to events in the virtual world in which they were immersed.
Men who took part in the experiment reported feeling as though they occupied the woman's body and even gasped and flinched when she was slapped by another character in the virtual world. More
A New Way to Find Earths
A team of astronomers from Germany, Bulgaria and Poland have used a completely new technique to find an exotic extrasolar planet. The same approach is sensitive enough to find planets as small as the Earth in orbit around other stars.
The group, led by Dr. Gracjan Maciejewski of Jena University in Germany, used Transit Timing Variation to detect a planet with 15 times the mass of the Earth in the system WASP-3, 700 light-years from the Sun in the constellation of Lyra. They publish their work in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Transit Timing Variation (TTV) was suggested as a new technique for discovering planets a few years ago. Transits take place where a planet moves in front of the star it orbits, temporarily blocking some of the light from the star.
So far this method has been used to detect a number of planets and is being deployed by the Kepler and Corot space missions in its search for planets similar to the Earth. More
Anguish Of Romantic Rejection May Be Linked To Stimulation Of Areas Of Brain Related To Motivation, Reward And Addiction
Breaking up really is hard to do, and a recent study conducted at Stony Brook University found evidence that it may be partly due to the areas of the brain that are active during this difficult time.
The team of researchers, which included Arthur Aron, Ph.D., professor of social and health psychology in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, and former graduate students Greg Strong and Debra Mashek looked at subjects who had a recent break-up and found that the pain and anguish they were experiencing may be linked to activation of parts of the brain associated with motivation, reward and addiction cravings. The study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology.
"This brain imaging study of individuals who were still 'in love' with their rejecter supplies further evidence that the passion of 'romantic love' is a goal-oriented motivation state rather than a specific emotion" the researchers concluded, noting that brain imaging showed some similarities between romantic rejection and cocaine craving. "The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that romantic love is a specific form of addiction." More
Bionic British Cat Gets Faux Paws
LONDON -- Oscar the cat may have lost one of his nine lives, but his new prosthetic paws make him one of the world's few bionic cats.
After losing his two rear paws in a nasty encounter with a combine harvester last October, the black cat with green eyes was outfitted with metallic pegs that link the ankles to new prosthetic feet and mimic the way deer antlers grow through skin. Oscar is now back on his feet and hopping over hurdles like tissue paper rolls.
After Oscar's farming accident, which happened when the 2 1/2-year-old-cat was lazing in the sun in the British Channel Isles, his owners, Kate and Mike Nolan, took him to their local veterinarian. In turn, the vet referred Oscar to Dr. Noel Fitzpatrick, a neuro-orthopedic surgeon in Eashing, 35 miles southwest of London. More
Hey Good Lookin': Early Humans Dug Neanderthals
Be careful whom you call a Neanderthal. You may be one yourself. Or at least you may have Neanderthal ancestors.
That's the conclusion of a study being released Thursday that examined DNA extracted from Neanderthal bones more than 35,000 years old.
There's little question that modern humans and Neanderthals bumped into each other once upon a time.
"The archaeological record shows they overlapped between about 30,000 and 80,000 years ago," says David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School.
There was some fossil evidence that they may have done more than shake hands in passing, but the initial genetic evidence suggested otherwise. More
Stem-Cell Dental Implants Grow New Teeth In Your Mouth
The loss of a tooth is a minor deformity and a major pain. Although dental implants are available, the healing process can take months on end, and implants that fail to align with the ever-growing jawbone tend to fall out. If only adult teeth could be regenerated, right?
According to a study published in the latest Journal of Dental Research, a new tissue regeneration technique may allow people to simply regrow a new set of pearly whites.
Dr. Jeremy Mao, the Edward V. Zegarelli Professor of Dental Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, has unveiled a growth factor-infused, three-dimensional scaffold with the potential to regenerate an anatomically correct tooth in just nine weeks from implantation.
By using a procedure developed in the university's Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, Dr. Mao can direct the body's own stem cells toward the scaffold, which is made of natural materials. Once the stem cells have colonized the scaffold, a tooth can grow in the socket and then merge with the surrounding tissue. More
Astronomers Find Super-Earth Using Amateur, Off-the-Shelf Technology
Astronomers announced that they have discovered a "super-Earth" orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth. They found the distant planet with a small fleet of ground-based telescopes no larger than those many amateur astronomers have in their backyards. Although the super-Earth is too hot to sustain life, the discovery shows that current, ground-based technologies are capable of finding almost-Earth-sized planets in warm, life-friendly orbits.
The discovery is being published in the December 17 issue of the journal Nature. A super-Earth is defined as a planet between one and ten times the mass of the Earth.
The newfound world, GJ1214b, is about 6.5 times as massive as the Earth. Its host star, GJ1214, is a small, red type M star about one-fifth the size of the Sun. It has a surface temperature of only about 4,900 degrees F and a luminosity only three-thousandths as bright as the Sun. More
New Spider-Man Device Could Let Humans Walk on Walls
A new high-tech suction device could allow humans to walk on walls like Spider-Man or create adhesive devices that could be turned on and off with the flick of a switch.
The contraption, inspired by a beetle that can hold on to a leaf with a force 100 times its weight, uses the surface tension of water to make an adhesive bond, but it does so with a creative twist.
It could be used to create sticky shoes or gloves, researchers said today.
The device consists of a flat top plate riddled with tiny holes, each just a few hundred microns (a millionth of a meter) wide. A bottom plate holds water. In between is a porous layer. A 9-volt battery powers an electric field that forces water to squeeze through the tiny holes in the top layer. More
Sat-nav devices face big errors as solar activity rises
The Sun's irregular activity can wreak havoc with the weak sat-nav signals we use.
The last time the Sun reached a peak in activity, satellite navigation was barely a consumer product.
But the Sun is on its way to another solar maximum, which could generate large and unpredictable sat-nav errors.
It is not just car sat-nav devices that make use of the satellite signals; accurate and dependable sat-nav signals have, since the last solar maximum, quietly become a necessity for modern infrastructure.
They are used for high-precision surveying, docking ships and they may soon be used to automatically land commercial aircraft. More
Layers in a Mars Crater Record a History of Changes
Near the center of a Martian crater about the size of Connecticut, hundreds of exposed rock layers form a mound as tall as the Rockies and reveal a record of major environmental changes on Mars billions of years ago.
The history told by this tall parfait of layers inside Gale Crater matches what has been proposed in recent years as the dominant planet-wide pattern for early Mars, according to a new report by geologists using instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
"Looking at the layers from the bottom to the top, from the oldest to the youngest, you see a sequence of changing rocks that resulted from changes in environmental conditions through time," said Ralph Milliken of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "This thick sequence of rocks appears to be showing different steps in the drying-out of Mars." More
Ancient Greenland hunter reveals genetic secrets
Meet Inuk, a 4,000-year-old Arctic hunter. He lived in Greenland, ate a lot of seafood, and appears to have died young. And he is the first ancient human to have his genome almost completely reconstructed in a project that an international research team jokingly likens to "waking the dead."
Inuk will not be coming back to life, they say, but his genome, reconstructed from a tuft of his thick dark hair, provides a glimpse into his life and insight into ancient migrations across the Arctic.
Inuk, which means "man" or "human" in Greenlandic, had dark skin, brown eyes, type A+ blood, "shovel-shaped" front teeth, dark hair with a tendency to baldness and dry earwax, the team, led by Eske Willerslev at the University of Copenhagen, reports in the journal Nature. More
Hobbyist Shoots Earth From Edge of Space With Used Camera From eBay
A typical space shuttle mission flies 200 miles above the earth's surface and returns beautiful pictures on the way, but it involves 1,500 people, puts six or seven astronauts at risk and costs, depending on who's doing the counting, close to half a billion dollars.
Robert Harrison got some pretty good pictures too. He did it with a weather balloon, a used digital camera he picked up on eBay and some duct tape.
"I thought I was going to get some nice pictures," said Harrison, a computer engineer from the British town of Highburton, West Yorkshire, "but I didn't realize I'd see the curvature of the earth, the blue band of the atmosphere and the blackness of space." More
Boy discovers microbe that eats plastic
It's not your average science fair when the 16-year-old winner manages to solve a global waste crisis. But such was the case at last May's Canadian Science Fair in Waterloo, Ontario, where Daniel Burd, a high school student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, presented his research on microorganisms that can rapidly biodegrade plastic.
Daniel had a thought it seems even the most esteemed PhDs hadn't considered. Plastic, one of the most indestructible of manufactured materials, does in fact eventually decompose. It takes 1,000 years but decompose it does, which means there must be microorganisms out there to do the decomposing.
Could those microorganisms be bred to do the job faster? More
Star Trek-like Replicator? Electron Beam Device Makes Metal Parts, One Layer At A Time
A group of engineers working on a novel manufacturing technique at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., have come up with a new twist on the popular old saying about dreaming and doing: "If you can slice it, we can build it."
That's because layers mean everything to the environmentally-friendly construction process called Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication, or EBF3, and its operation sounds like something straight out of science fiction.
"You start with a drawing of the part you want to build, you push a button, and out comes the part," said Karen Taminger, the technology lead for the Virginia-based research project that is part of NASA's Fundamental Aeronautics Program.
She admits that, on the surface, EBF3 reminds many people of a Star Trek replicator in which, for example, Captain Picard announces out loud, "Tea, Earl Grey, hot." Then there is a brief hum, a flash of light and the stimulating drink appears from a nook in the wall. More
Europe's conquering heroes? Likely farmers
The conquerors who spread their seed across Europe in ancient times were prosperous farmers who imported their skills from the Middle East, researchers reported.
A study of the Y chromosome -- passed down with very little change from father to son -- suggests that the men of Europe are descended from populations that moved into Europe 10,000 years ago from the "Fertile Crescent", which stretches from Egypt across the Middle East into present-day Iraq.
"Maybe, back then, it was just sexier to be a farmer," Dr. Patricia Balaresque of Britain's University of Leicester said in a statement. More
Are Earth's Oceans Made Of Extraterrestrial Material?
Contrary to preconceived notions, the atmosphere and the oceans were perhaps not formed from vapors emitted during intense volcanism at the dawning of our planet. Francis Albarède of the Laboratoire des Sciences de la Terre (CNRS / ENS Lyon / Université Claude Bernard) suggests that water was not part of the Earth's initial inventory but stems from the turbulence caused in the outer Solar System by giant planets. Ice-covered asteroids thus reached the Earth around one hundred million years after the birth of the planets.
The Earth's water could therefore be extraterrestrial, have arrived late in its accretion history, and its presence could have facilitated plate tectonics even before life appeared.
The conclusions of the study carried out by Albarède feature in an article published on the 29 October 2009 in the journal Nature. More
Not So Cute: Dolphin Gang-Rape
Ever since Flipper appeared on our screens we’ve known dolphins to be highly intelligent, social creatures with an advanced communication system and the tendency to help humans when in trouble. Many of us have seen them performing tricks in captivity or watched them on television displaying the same manoeuvres in the wild. Some of us have even been lucky enough to swim with one. But how many of us are aware of their slightly less courteous behaviour?
Researchers have been studying the sexual behaviour of dolphins intensely for the last decade, after it was discovered they not only partake in homosexual activity, but also gang-rape and kidnap females who don’t reciprocate their sexual advances. More
Tablet wars: Google looks to take on Apple iPad
As the fanfare over Apple's new iPad reaches a fever pitch, Google is not standing idly by.
The search giant has already unveiled concept designs for its own version of a tablet, though it's unlikely that a Google tablet will hit store shelves until at least 2011.
Developers of Google Chrome OS, an open-source operating system that is set to debut in the second half of 2010, recently posted a mock tablet design on the developers' Web site chromium.org.
The design was actually unveiled two days before Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave the world its first glimpse at the iPad. But it wasn't widely noticed until this week. More
Moons Like Avatar's Pandora Could Be Found
The new science fiction blockbuster "Avatar" is set on habitable and inhabited moon Pandora, which orbits the fictional gas giant Polyphemus in the real Alpha Centauri system.
Although life-bearing moons like Pandora or the Star Wars forest moon of Endor are staples of science fiction, astronomers have yet to discover any moons beyond our solar system. However, they could be science fact, and researchers might soon not only be able to spot them, but also scan their atmospheres for key signs of life as we know it, such as oxygen and water.
"If Pandora existed, we potentially could detect it and study its atmosphere in the next decade," said astrophysicist Lisa Kaltenegger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.
Gas giants in our own solar system have many moons, and if the same holds true with alien planets and their moons, "that's a lot of potential habitats," Kaltenegger said. More
Say 'cheese'? No, say 'quantum mechanics.'
Getting a digital camera for Christmas? Before you fire it up to capture Uncle Wally's fateful fifth trip to the punch bowl, take a moment to picture this: You've got a genuine scientific marvel in your mitts. In fact, it took nothing less than two Nobel prizes and a revolution in physics in order for you to point and shoot.
Why? Because to take a filmless picture, your camera or camcorder relies on, um, quantum mechanics. In particular, it exploits the fact -- revealed by Albert Einstein himself -- that a beam of light, which behaves like a wave in some circumstances, acts like a bunch of separate particles in other circumstances. (If that seems infuriatingly contradictory, suck it up. It's just how we do things in this cosmos. Or go complain to the management.) More
The Big Dipper Adds a Star
It's no secret that at community star parties I bring small, squat telescopes specifically to attract little kids in the crowd. And one of my favorite targets is the paired stars Alcor and Mizar in the Big Dipper's handle.
I tell the kids this is a "star with a secret." With just the slightest optical aid, they can make out both stars, along with an unrelated field star known as Sidus Ludoviciana that lurks nearby, creating a satisfying little triangle.
Then I ask them to train their attention on the brightest of the three, and they quickly realize that Mizar is actually a double star. I cap off my little spiel by noting that each of those two stars is itself double. So one star by eye in the Big Dipper's handle is really six stars. More
Trapped in his own body for 23 years - the coma victim who screamed unheard
For 23 years Rom Houben was imprisoned in his own body. He saw his doctors and nurses as they visited him during their daily rounds; he listened to the conversations of his carers; he heard his mother deliver the news to him that his father had died. But he could do nothing. He was unable to communicate with his doctors or family. He could not move his head or weep, he could only listen.
Doctors presumed he was in a vegetative state following a near-fatal car crash in 1983. They believed he could feel nothing and hear nothing. For 23 years.
Then a neurologist, Steven Laureys, who decided to take a radical look at the state of diagnosed coma patients, released him from his torture. Using a state-of-the-art scanning system, Laureys found to his amazement that his brain was functioning almost normally. More
Curious Cold War communications
It is still possible to hear so called numbers stations on the airwaves.
The mysterious short-wave stations broadcast a string of apparently random numbers, usually preceded by a well-known folk tune.
It is widely believed that they are run by intelligence agencies sending coded messages to their agents overseas.
The subject has achieved cult status, with many bands using recordings of the stations in their songs.
Simon Mason from Anlaby has written articles and books on the subject. He has also appeared on many radio and television programmes talking about this secretive world. More
Space Sights and Smells Surprise Rookie Astronauts
For rookie astronauts flying aboard the International Space Station, the food is good, the rocket thrusters are loud and there's an odd tang in the air - apparently from outer space.
"It's a very, very different environment than I expected," Discovery shuttle pilot Kevin Ford, a first-time spaceflyer, said from orbit late Friday.
One of things Ford wasn't ready for is the weird smell.
"From the [spacewalks] there really is a distinct smell of space when they come back in," Ford said from the station in a Friday night news conference. "It's like...something I haven't ever smelled before, but I'll never forget it. You know how those things stick with you." In the past, astronauts have described the smell of space as something akin to gunpowder or ozone. More
Is the Large Hadron Collider sabotaging itself from the future?
Explosions, scientists arrested for alleged terrorism, mysterious breakdowns — recently Cern’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has begun to look like the world’s most ill-fated experiment.
Is it really nothing more than bad luck or is there something weirder at work? Such speculation generally belongs to the lunatic fringe, but serious scientists have begun to suggest that the frequency of Cern’s accidents and problems is far more than a coincidence.
The LHC, they suggest, may be sabotaging itself from the future — twisting time to generate a series of scientific setbacks that will prevent the machine fulfilling its destiny.
At first sight, this theory fits comfortably into the crackpot tradition linking the start-up of the LHC with terrible disasters. The best known is that the £3 billion particle accelerator might trigger a black hole capable of swallowing the Earth when it gets going. Scientists enjoy laughing at this one. More
Tapping into Mother Nature's R&D lab
If you want to find the world's savviest engineers, don't go to a laboratory. Go to nature.
San Diego's Qualcomm Inc. did that when it made a reflective display, derived from butterfly wings, that doesn't wash out in the sun and consumes much less power than traditional displays.
This new field of making products from nature's example, known as biomimicry, drew scientists, environmentalists and business executives to the San Diego Zoo this week for a conference on biomimicry Thursday and Friday, sponsored by the zoo and Qualcomm.
The zoo is promoting biomimicry to help its conservation efforts. If humans learn that nature is a treasure trove of engineering solutions perfected over millions of years, then conservation and environmental protection will take on commercial value, the reasoning goes. More
Exoplanets Clue To Sun's Curious Chemistry
A ground-breaking census of 500 stars, 70 of which are known to host planets, has successfully linked the long-standing "lithium mystery" observed in the Sun to the presence of planetary systems. Using ESO's successful HARPS spectrograph, a team of astronomers has found that sun-like stars that host planets have destroyed their lithium much more efficiently than "planet-free" stars.
"For almost 10 years we have tried to find out what distinguishes stars with planetary systems from their barren cousins," says Garik Israelian, lead author of a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature. "We have now found that the amount of lithium in Sun-like stars depends on whether or not they have planets." More
Australian scientists plan to regrow breasts after cancer
MELBOURNE – Australian scientists said they were to trial a revolutionary treatment which would allow women to regrow their breasts after cancer surgery.
Doctors from Melbourne's Bernard O'Brien Institute of Microsurgery said they had developed an implantable device that uses a woman's own fat cells to grow back breasts following a mastectomy.
"There is a dollop of fat that is put inside a device, a chamber, fed with the blood supply and then this dollop of fat will grow into the space and essentially feel normal to the patient," said lead researcher Phillip Marzella.
Resembling a perforated brassiere cup, Marzella said the chamber would eventually fill with fat as the initial deposit expands because "nature abhors a vacuum". More
Newfound Planet Orbits Backward
Planets orbit stars in the same direction that the stars rotate. They all do. Except one.
A newfound planet orbits the wrong way, backward compared to the rotation of its host star. Its discoverers think a near-collision may have created the retrograde orbit, as it is called.
The star and its planet, WASP-17, are about 1,000 light-years away. The setup was found by the UK's Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP) project in collaboration with Geneva Observatory. The discovery was announced today but has not yet been published in a journal.
"I would have to say this is one of the strangest planets we know about," said Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at MIT who was not involved in the discovery. More
Underground City Envisioned in Nevada
Sietch Nevada is a fascinating concept exhibited in Innovative Technologies and Climates at the University of Toronto. Fans of the science fiction novel Dune will immediately recognize this proposal - to build semi-subterranean terraced geometries in the Nevada desert.
"In Frank Herbert’s famous 1965 novel Dune, he describes a planet that has undergone nearly complete desertification. Dune has been called the “first planetary ecology novel” and forecasts a dystopian world without water.
The few remaining inhabitants have secluded themselves from their harsh environment in what could be called subterranean oasises. Far from idyllic, these havens, known as sietch, are essentially underground water storage banks.
Water is wealth in this alternate reality. It is preciously conserved, rationed with strict authority, and secretly hidden and protected," according to the Sietch Nevada project description. More
Tubular Clouds Defy Explanation
These long, crazy-looking clouds can grow to be 600 miles long and can move at up to 35 miles per hour, causing problems for aircraft even on windless days.
Known as Morning Glory clouds, they appear every fall over Burketown, Queensland, Australia, a remote town with fewer than 200 residents. A small number of pilots and tourists travel there each year in hopes of “cloud surfing” with the mysterious phenomenon. More
Snake with foot found in China
Dean Qiongxiu, 66, said she discovered the reptile clinging to the wall of her bedroom with its talons in the middle of the night.
"I woke up and heard a strange scratching sound. I turned on the light and saw this monster working its way along the wall using his claw," said Mrs Duan of Suining, southwest China.
Mrs Duan said she was so scared she grabbed a shoe and beat the snake to death before preserving its body in a bottle of alcohol.
The snake – 16 inches long and the thickness of a little finger – is now being studied at the Life Sciences Department at China's West Normal University in Nanchang. More
Evidence Found for Ancient Mars Lake
Several studies in recent years have claimed evidence for shorelines and other features that suggest ancient lakes on Mars. Firm evidence has remained elusive.
Now a University of Colorado at Boulder research team claims "the first definitive evidence of shorelines on Mars" in a statement released today.
The scientists see signs of "a deep, ancient lake," which would have implications for the potential for past life on Mars. Life as we know it requires water, and while Mars is dry now, if there was abundant water in the past -- as many studies have suggested -- then life would have been a possibility. There is, however, no firm evidence that life does or ever did exist on the red planet.
Researchers estimate the lake existed more than 3 billion years ago. It covered as much as 80 square miles and was up to 1,500 feet deep -- roughly the equivalent of Lake Champlain bordering the United States and Canada. More
Study links breastfeeding to high grades, college entry
NEW YORK – Breastfed babies seem more likely to do well at high school and to go on to attend college than infants raised on a bottle, according to a new US study.
Professors Joseph Sabia from the American University and Daniel Rees from the University of Colorado Denver based their research on 126 children from 59 families, comparing siblings who were breastfed as infants to others who were not. By comparing siblings, the study was able to account for the influence of a variety of difficult-to-measure factors such as maternal intelligence and the quality of the home environment.
The study, published in the Journal of Human Capital, found that an additional month of breastfeeding was associated with an increase in high school grade point averages of 0.019 points and an increase in the probability of college attendance of 0.014. More
Happy Trails With a Handy Guide
If a GPS unit talks in the woods, will anybody hear it?
Not my family, apparently. On a recent hike down to Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park, I poked haplessly at the gadget slung around my neck, trying to watch a video on the small screen, while my mom and my boyfriend loped along ahead of my dad and me on the trail. My father, meanwhile, was half-listening to the chipper female voice coming from the machine, but mostly he was checking out the scenery, not the screen.
My family and I were at the park for our annual Father's Day getaway, and I roped them into trying out GPS Rangers, which the park introduced last summer. Each paperback-size Global Positioning System device, created by a company named BarZ Adventures, contains recorded tours of four popular hikes: to the top of Hawksbill Mountain, down a hill to Dark Hollow Falls, along a one-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail and on a ramble through Big Meadow. More
Mystery of Giant Ice Circles Resolved
Strange circles have once again appeared in the frozen surface of Lake Baikal in Siberia, as spotted by astronauts aboard the International Space Station this April. News reports described the ice rings as a puzzling phenomenon.
But experts say they can explain the mystery, and it's not aliens — methane gas rising from the lake floor represents the likely culprit.
Methane emissions can create a rising mass of warm water that begins swirling in a circular pattern because of the Coriolis force, or the phenomenon caused by the Earth's rotation that also helps create cyclones.
"Once the water mass reaches the underside of the ice on the surface of the lake, the warm water melts the ice in a ring shape," said Marianne Moore, a marine ecologist at Wellesley College in Massachusetts who has spent much time studying Lake Baikal with Russian researchers. The lake is the largest (by volume) and deepest fresh water lake on Earth. More
New element named 'copernicium'
Discovered 13 years ago, and officially added to the periodic table just weeks ago, element 112 finally has a name.
It will be called "copernicium", with the symbol Cp, in honour of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
Copernicus deduced that the planets revolved around the Sun, and finally refuted the belief that the Earth was the centre of the Universe.
The team of scientists who discovered the element chose the name to honour the man who "changed our world view". More
Robotic Fish To Monitor Pollution
LONDON - A school of mechanical, battery-powered robots in the shape of fish will be released into a Spanish port to help monitor pollution there, scientists said Friday.
The 5-foot-long (1.5-meter-long) robots work by mimicking the swishing movements of a fish's tail, according to University of Essex robotics expert Huosheng Hu, whose team is manufacturing the machines.
He said the robo-fish would be equipped with sensors to monitor oxygen levels in the water, detect oil slicks spilled from ships or contaminants pumped into the water from underground pipes.
The robotic fish will patrol the harbor of Gijon, in northern Spain under a 2.5-million-pound ($3.6 million) grant from the European Union. Hu said Gijon was chosen because port authorities there had expressed an interest in the technology. More
Lesbian albatrosses and bisexual bonobos have last laugh on Darwin
Charles Darwin argued that sexual preferences can shape the progress of evolution, creating displays, such as the peacock’s tail, that are inexplicable by natural selection alone.
It’s safe to say, however, that he did not anticipate the lesbian albatrosses of Hawaii. Nor bisexual bonobos. Let alone sadomasochistic bat bugs or the gay penguins of New York. Homosexuality is so widespread among some animal species that it can reshape their social dynamics and even change their DNA, according to the first peer-reviewed survey of research on the subject. More
NASA's mission to bomb the Moon
NASA will tomorrow launch a spectacular mission to bomb the Moon. Their LCROSS mission will blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying a missile that will blast a hole in the lunar surface at twice the speed of a bullet.
The missile, a Centaur rocket, will be steered by a shepherding spacecraft that will guide it towards its target - a crater close to the Moon's south pole.
Scientists expect the blast to be so powerful that a huge plume of debris will be ejected.
The attack on the Moon is not a declaration of war or act of wanton vandalism. Space scientists want to see if any water ice or vapour is revealed in the cloud of debris.
Though the Moon mostly a dry airless desert, they believe ice could be trapped in crater shadows near the south pole which never receive any sunlight. If so it could provide vital supplies for a manned moonbase. More
Ultracapacitors can power cars, replace batteries
Forget hybrids and hydrogen-powered vehicles. EEStor, a stealth company in Cedar Park, Texas, is working on an “energy storage” device that could finally give the internal combustion engine a run for its money — and begin saving us from our oil addiction. “To call it a battery discredits it,” says Ian Clifford, the CEO of Toronto-based electric car company Feel Good Cars, which plans to incorporate EEStor’s technology in vehicles by 2008.
EEStor’s device is not technically a battery because no chemicals are involved. In fact, it contains no hazardous materials whatsoever. Yet it acts like a battery in that it stores electricity. If it works as it’s supposed to, it will charge up in five minutes and provide enough energy to drive 500 miles on about $9 worth of electricity. At today’s gas prices, covering that distance can cost $75 or more; the EEStor device would power a car for the equivalent of about 45 cents a gallon. And we mean power a car. “A four-passenger sedan will drive like a Ferrari,” Clifford predicts. More
Paleontologists Strike Fossil Gold in Colombia
BOGOTA, Colombia -- Carlos Jaramillo is 39 years old but loves to dig in the dirt -- especially the dry, flaky shale formations of Colombia's Guajira province. "If you talk to a paleontologist," he explained, "you're talking to a kid who never grew up."
For the past five years, Jaramillo and his team of paleontologists have been burrowing ground so rich in fossils that they have made the kinds of discoveries that thrill the scientific world. And they still have years of digging ahead of them at this site in the Cerrejon region of northeastern Colombia, a remote and oven-hot place not unaccustomed to drug traffickers and the occasional rebel column. More
Finally - A Cheap Electric Scooter
Here in the United States, the price of battery-powered scooters is hard to justify when compared to its gas-powered brethren.
KLD Technologies wants to change that with scooters it claims offer solid performance and cost about as much as a Vespa.
The scooters feature motors with something KLD Technologies calls nano-crystaline technology to improve efficiency over traditional iron-core motors. The company’s Neue drive eliminates the need for a transmission and will propel the scooters when they arrive in the U.S. next year. More
Extrasolar Planet Might Indeed Be Habitable
Scientists searching for a planet like Earth said they have found the smallest planet ever detected outside the solar system, less than twice the size of our own.
The exoplanet, a planet that orbits a star beyond the solar system, is called Gliese 581e after the star it circles. Because of its relatively small size it is likely rocky, like Earth, as opposed to gas giants such as Jupiter or Saturn, the astronomers said.
"It is the lightest planet detected outside the solar system so far," Dr. Gaspare Lo Curto, an astronomer at the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, told a news conference. More
Ancient DNA reveals some Neanderthals were redheads
Ancient DNA retrieved from the bones of two Neanderthals suggests that at least some of them had red hair and pale skin, scientists report this week in the journal Science. The international team says that Neanderthals' pigmentation may even have been as varied as that of modern humans, and that at least 1 percent of Neanderthals were likely redheads.
The scientists -- led by Holger Römpler of Harvard University and the University of Leipzig, Carles Lalueza-Fox of the University of Barcelona, and Michael Hofreiter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig -- extracted, amplified, and sequenced a pigmentation gene called MC1R from the bones of a 43,000-year-old Neanderthal from El Sidrón, Spain, and a 50,000-year-old individual from Monti Lessini, Italy. More
Spain plugs in largest solar-tower power plant
Abengoa Solar of Spain on Monday reported successful tests of its second solar tower in operation, in which the sun's heat is used to make electricity.
The 531-foot solar tower, located near Seville, Spain, features a number of improvements on the first design and has exceeded the anticipated output. Called PS20, the installation is the largest in the world with a capacity of 20 megawatts, enough electricity to supply 10,000 homes, according to the company.
A solar tower configuration uses a field of heliostats, or mirrors, to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver held in the tower. The heat creates steam which turns a turbine to make electricity. The PS20 project has 1,255 of these heliostats, with each heliostat having a surface area of 1,291 square feet. More
Chimpanzees exchange meat for sex
Chimpanzees enter into "deals" whereby they exchange meat for sex, according to researchers. Male chimps that are willing to share the proceeds of their hunting expeditions mate twice as often as their more selfish counterparts.
This is a long-term exchange, so males continue to share their catch with females when they are not fertile, copulating with them when they are. The team describe their findings in the journal PLoS One.
Cristina Gomes and her colleagues, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, studied chimps in the Tai Forest reserve in Ivory Coast. She and her team observed the animals as they hunted, and monitored the number of times they copulated. More
NASA scientist Steve Chesley got a call at home last October with bracing news: A telescope in Arizona had spotted an SUV-size asteroid that appeared to be on a collision course with Earth.
He raced to work, ran a computer calculation and saw something he had never seen before: a 100 percent chance of direct impact. He quickly checked to make sure the asteroid was the size advertised. It was. No reason to panic.
Hours later, the asteroid hit the atmosphere over northern Sudan's Nubian Desert and exploded 23 miles up with the force of a thousand tons of TNT. Witnesses saw the fireball and took pictures of the vapor trails in the sky. More
New Madrid fault system may be shutting down
A team from Purdue and Northwestern universities analyzed the fault motion for eight years using global positioning system measurements and found that it is much less than expected given the 500- to 1,000-year repeat cycle for major earthquakes on that fault. The last large earthquakes in the New Madrid seismic zone were magnitude 7-7.5 events in 1811 and 1812.
Estimating an accurate earthquake threat for the area, which includes parts of Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky, is crucial for the communities potentially affected, said Eric Calais, the Purdue researcher who led the study.
"Our findings suggest the steady-state model of quasi-cyclical earthquakes that works well for faults at the boundaries of tectonic plates, such as the San Andreas fault, does not apply to the New Madrid fault," said Calais, who is a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences. More
Mars Mission Has Some Seeing Red
PASADENA, Calif. -- In a "clean room" in Building 150 of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is something that looks very much like a flying saucer. It's a capsule containing a huge, brawny Mars rover, a Hummer compared with the Mini Coopers that have previously rolled across the Red Planet.
This is the Mars Science Laboratory, the space agency's next big mission to the most Earth-like planet in the solar system. But it's been a magnet for controversy, and a reminder that the robotic exploration of other worlds is never a snap, especially when engineers decide to get ambitious. More
Marijuana Chemical May Fight Brain Cancer
The active chemical in marijuana promotes the death of brain cancer cells by essentially helping them feed upon themselves, researchers in Spain report.
Guillermo Velasco and colleagues at Complutense University in Spain have found that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, causes brain cancer cells to undergo a process called autophagy. Autophagy is the breakdown of a cell that occurs when the cell essentially self-digests.
The team discovered that cannabinoids such as THC had anticancer effects in mice with human brain cancer cells and people with brain tumors. When mice with the human brain cancer cells received the THC, the tumor growth shrank. More
Tiny “Lab-on-a-Chip” Can Detect Pollutants, Disease and Biological Weapons
For centuries, animals have been our first line of defense against toxins. A canary in a coalmine served as a living monitor for poisonous gases. Scientists used fish to test for contaminants in our water. Even with modern advances, though, it can take days to detect a fatal chemical or organism.
Until now. Working in the miniaturized world of nanotechnology, Tel Aviv University researchers have made an enormous — and humane — leap forward in the detection of pollutants.
A team led by Prof. Yosi Shacham-Diamand, vice-dean of TAU’s Faculty of Engineering, has developed a nano-sized laboratory, complete with a microscopic workbench, to measure water quality in real time. Their “lab on a chip” is a breakthrough in the effort to keep water safe from pollution and bioterrorist threats, pairing biology with the cutting-edge capabilities of nanotechnology. More
Sex chemistry 'lasts two years'
A team from the University of Pisa in Italy found the bodily chemistry which makes people sexually attractive to new partners lasts, at most, two years.
When couples move into a "stable relationship" phase, other hormones take over, Chemistry World reports.
But one psychologist warned the hormone shift is wrongly seen as negative.
Dr Petra Boynton, of the British Psychological Society, said there was a danger people might feel they should take hormone supplements to make them feel the initial rush of lust once more. More
Quadruple Saturn moon transit snapped by Hubble
On February 24, 2009, the Hubble Space Telescope took a photo of four moons of Saturn passing in front of their parent planet. In this view, the giant orange moon Titan casts a large shadow onto Saturn's north polar hood. Below Titan, near the ring plane and to the left is the moon Mimas, casting a much smaller shadow onto Saturn's equatorial cloud tops. Farther to the left, and off Saturn's disk, are the bright moon Dione and the fainter moon Enceladus.
These rare moon transits only happen when the tilt of Saturn's ring plane is nearly "edge on" as seen from Earth. Saturn's rings will be perfectly edge on to our line of sight August 10 and September 4, 2009. Unfortunately, Saturn will be too close to the Sun to be seen by viewers on Earth at that time. This "ring plane crossing" occurs every 14-15 years. In 1995-96, Hubble witnessed the ring plane crossing event, as well as many moon transits and even helped discover several new moons of Saturn. More
Going Where Darwin Feared to Tread
In biology's most famous book, "On the Origin of Species," Charles Darwin steered clear of applying his revolutionary theory of evolution to the species of greatest interest to his readers -- their own.
He couldn't avoid it forever, of course.
He eventually wrote another tome nearly as famous, "The Descent of Man." But he knew in 1859, when "Species" was published, that to jump right into a description of how human beings had tussled with the environment and one another over eons, changing their appearance, capabilities and behavior in the process, would be hard for people to accept. Better to stick with birds and barnacles. More
Update on the Aptera: nearly ready to ship
I'm accelerating and cornering — hard — on three wheels, little wisps of tire smoke curling out of the slender front wheel pants as steering is cranked in and "throttle" applied. And no, I'm not in an early Volkswagen GTI that hikes up its inside rear tire. Rather, I've been given a drive in the Aptera 2e, a soon-to-be-produced electric vehicle whose shape is slipperier than a Teflon-coated salmon on glare ice, and whose composite construction offers both light weight and impressive structural integrity.
Better yet, the 2e is scheduled to begin rolling off the Vista, California, assembly line this October for an as-yet-to-be-determined price between $25,000 and $40,000. Charge it overnight from your 110-volt home outlet, and it's claimed to have a range of 100 miles...in the carpool lane, if you wish. More
Nearly 50 new species of prehistoric creatures discovered in record time
In just four years a University of Portsmouth palaeontologist has discovered 48 new species from the age of the dinosaurs - while other scientists took 180 years to identify the same number.
Dr Steve Sweetman's discoveries, found hidden in mud on the Isle of Wight, are around 130 million years old and shed valuable light on the poorly understood world in which well known dinosaurs roamed.
Steve, a research associate with the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has found in ancient river deposits, at least eight new dinosaurs, many different types of lizard, frogs, salamanders, and perhaps rarest of all from the time of the dinosaurs, six tiny mammals, some as small as a shrew. MoreIn a Big Year for Telescopes, Much Peering Into Wallets
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The big bang, black holes, dark matter, dark energy, extrasolar planets, brown dwarfs, quasars, pulsars, cosmic rays, the space-time continuum, galaxies and more galaxies. Do you see what Galileo started?
It's been 400 years since University of Padua professor Galileo Galilei, a precocious Italian of relatively modest achievement, had the bright idea of turning a modified spyglass toward the night sky. What he saw forever shattered the ancient Earth-centered cosmos.
Four centuries later, telescopes are among the greatest marvels of civilization, and they reveal daily that the universe is vaster, stranger and more violent than Galileo could have imagined. He incited what has become a compulsion to tunnel deeper into the sky, and the universe shows no sign of running out of surprises. More
Nuclear-powered passenger aircraft 'to transport millions'
Nuclear-powered aircraft may sound like a concept from Thunderbirds, but they will be transporting millions of passengers around the world later this century, the leader of a Government-funded project to reduce environmental damage from aviation believes.
The consolation of sitting a few yards from a nuclear reactor will be non-stop flights from London to Australia or New Zealand, because the aircraft will no longer need to land to refuel. The flights will also produce no carbon emissions and therefore make no contribution to global warming.
Ian Poll, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Cranfield university, and head of technology for the Government-funded Omega project, is calling for a big research programme to help the aviation industry convert from fossil fuels to nuclear energy. More
Scientists find hole in Earth's magnetic field
Recent satellite observations have revealed the largest breach yet seen in the magnetic field that protects Earth from most of the sun's violent blasts, researchers reported Tuesday. The discovery was made last summer by Themis, a fleet of five small NASA satellites.
Scientists have long known that the Earth's magnetic field, which guards against severe space weather, is similar to a drafty old house that sometimes lets in violent eruptions of charged particles from the sun. Such a breach can cause brilliant auroras or disrupt satellite and ground communications.
Observations from Themis show the Earth's magnetic field occasionally develops two cracks, allowing solar wind - a stream of charged particles spewing from the sun at 1 million mph - to penetrate the Earth's upper atmosphere. More
Electric car made of bamboo
"Bamgoo", an electric car with a body made out of bamboo, is displayed in Kyoto, western Japan. The sixty-kilogram single-seater ecologically friendly concept car, which measures 270 centimeters in length, 130 centimeters in width and 165 centimeters in height, is developed by Kyoto University Venture Business Laboratory, featuring bamboo articles in the Kyoto area. The car can run for 50 kilometers on a single charge.
Scientists High On Idea That Marijuana Reduces Memory Impairment
The more research they do, the more evidence Ohio State University scientists find that specific elements of marijuana can be good for the aging brain by reducing inflammation there and possibly even stimulating the formation of new brain cells.
The research suggests that the development of a legal drug that contains certain properties similar to those in marijuana might help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Though the exact cause of Alzheimer's remains unknown, chronic inflammation in the brain is believed to contribute to memory impairment.
Any new drug's properties would resemble those of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, but would not share its high-producing effects. THC joins nicotine, alcohol and caffeine as agents that, in moderation, have shown some protection against inflammation in the brain that might translate to better memory late in life. More
NASA probe shows Mercury more dynamic than thought
Earth's first nearly full look at Mercury reveals that the tiny lifeless planet took a far greater role in shaping itself than was thought, with volcanoes spewing "mysterious dark blue material." New images from NASA's Messenger space probe should help settle a decades-old debate about what caused parts of Mercury to be somewhat smoother than it should be.
NASA released photos, from Messenger's fly-by earlier this month, that gave the answer: Lots of volcanic activity, far more than signs from an earlier probe. Astronomers used to dismiss Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, as mere "dead rock," little more than a target for cosmic collisions that shaped it, said MIT planetary scientist Maria Zuber.
"Now, it's looking a lot more interesting," said Zuber, who has experiments on the Messenger probe. "It's an awful lot of volcanic material." More
Toyota's Winglet aims to usurp Segway
Prepare to step aside Segway, you had your chance to revolutionize personal transportation. Introducing the Toyota Winglet.
Still under development, Winglet's body has a 10.4 x 18-inch footprint and stands 1.5-, 2.2-, or 3.7-feet tall and features an electric motor capable of a max 6km/h cruising speed for up to 10km a jaunt.
Like the Segway, the user controls the Winglet by shifting his weight to move the transporter forward and back or to make tight turns.
Winglet will begin consumer testing at the Central Japan International Airport near Nagoya and Laguna Gamagori resort this Autumn with further testing in more crowded environments planned for 2009. It's planned to hit a production stride in 2010. More
Ancient Flying Reptile Bigger Than a Car
A fossil of a toothless flying pterosaur, with a body bigger than some family cars, represents the largest of these extinct reptiles ever to be found and has forced the creation of a new genus, scientists announced today.
Pterosaurs ruled the skies 115 million years ago during the dinosaur age. They are often mistaken for dinosaurs.
Mark Witton of the University of Portsmouth identified the creature from a partial skull fossil. Witton estimates the beast would have had a 5.5-yard (5-meter) wingspan. It stood more than a yard (about 1 meter) tall at the shoulder. More
New Flares of Activity Spotted on the Sun
After more than two years of very low sunspot activity and hardly any flares, the sun is ramping up activity now.
The sun's activity ebbs and flows on a roughly 11-year cycle. It can range from very quiet to violent space storms that knock out power grids on Earth and disrupt radio and satellite communications. The last peak was in 2000, and scientists have in recent months figured the low point was occurring. Fresh sunspots during October suggest the corner has been turned.
"I think solar minimum is behind us," said David Hathaway of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "Last month we counted five sunspot groups." he says. More
Solar panels on graves power Spanish town
MADRID, Spain — A new kind of silent hero has joined the fight against climate change.
Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a gritty, working-class town outside Barcelona, has placed a sea of solar panels atop mausoleums at its cemetery, transforming a place of perpetual rest into one buzzing with renewable energy.
Flat, open and sun-drenched land is so scarce in Santa Coloma that the graveyard was just about the only viable spot to move ahead with its solar energy program. The power the 462 panels produces — equivalent to the yearly use by 60 homes — flows into the local energy grid for normal consumption and is one community's odd nod to the fight against global warming. More
The 65 mpg Ford the U.S. Can't Have
If ever there was a car made for the times, this would seem to be it: a sporty subcompact that seats five, offers a navigation system, and gets a whopping 65 miles to the gallon. Oh yes, and the car is made by Ford Motor , known widely for lumbering gas hogs.
Ford's 2009 Fiesta ECOnetic goes on sale in November. But here's the catch: Despite the car's potential to transform Ford's image and help it compete with Toyota Motor and Honda Motor in its home market, the company will sell the little fuel sipper only in Europe. "We know it's an awesome vehicle," says Ford America President Mark Fields. "But there are business reasons why we can't sell it in the U.S." The main one: The Fiesta ECOnetic runs on diesel. More
BigDog is the alpha male of the Boston Dynamics family of robots. It is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog's legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight.
BigDog has an on-board computer that controls locomotion, servos the legs and handles a wide variety of sensors. BigDog’s control system manages the dynamics of its behavior to keep it balanced, steer, navigate, and regulate energetics as conditions vary. Sensors for locomotion include joint position, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a laser gyroscope, and a stereo vision system. Other sensors focus on the internal state of BigDog, monitoring the hydraulic pressure, oil temperature, engine temperature, rpm, battery charge and others. More
Study shows humans made fire 790,000 years ago
A new study conducted by Hebrew University shows that humans had the ability to make fire nearly 790,000 years ago, a skill that helped them migrate from Africa to Europe.
By analyzing flints at an archaeological site on the bank of the river Jordan researchers discovered that early civilizations had learned to light fires, a turning point that allowed them to venture into unknown lands.
A previous study of the site published in 2004 showed that man had been able to control fire - for example transferring it by means of burning branches - in that early time period. But researchers now say that ancient man could actually start fire, rather than relying on natural phenomena such as lightning. Advertisement That independence helped promoted migration northward, they say. More
Nearby star Epsilon Eridani has asteroid belts and planets
In the annals of planethood, astronomers consider the star Epsilon Eridani a member of the fabulous four. Along with Fomalhaut, Beta Pictoris and Vega, Epsilon Eridani is one of the first four stars scientists have found that has an icy ring of debris, an indication that the star has begun the process of forming planets.
Epsilon Eridani just got more fabulous: Researchers have discovered that the star, only 10.5 light-years from the sun, sports two inner asteroid belts in addition to the icy ring on the outskirts of the Epsilon Eridani system.
In both location and mass, Epsilon Eridani’s innermost asteroid belt is a virtual twin of the solar system’s asteroid belt. The second asteroid belt is farther out and about 20 times more massive than the solar system’s belt. This belt circles Epsilon Eridani at a distance roughly that at which Uranus orbits the sun. More
Wine Compound May Protect Against Radiation Exposure
The antioxidant resveratrol, found in many plants and in red wine, may help protect against radiation exposure, say University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers.
They gave acetyl-altered resveratrol to mice before exposure to radiation and found that the rodents' cells were protected from radiation-related damage. The team is conducting further studies to determine whether acetylated-resveratrol can help protect humans against radiation.
The findings were expected to be presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology annual meeting, in Boston. The research, led by Dr. Joel Greenberger, chairman of the department of radiation oncology, is overseen by the university's Center for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation.
The center's mandate is to identify and develop small molecules that can protect people against radiation in the event of a large-scale radiology or nuclear emergency. More
Robot powered by rat's brain in bizarre British experiment
It sounds like something out of a science fiction film, but British scientists have created a biological robot controlled by a blob of rat brain.
The wheeled machine is wirelessly linked to a bundle of neurons kept at body temperature in a sterile cabinet.
Signals from the 'brain' allow the robot to steer left or right to avoid objects in its path.
Researchers at the University of Reading are now trying to 'teach' the robot to become familiar with its surroundings. They hope the experiment will show how memories manifest themselves in nerve connections as the robot revisits territory it has been to before. More
Melting Glaciers Sculpted Mars Gullies
Some of the gullies that cut the sides of Martian craters were likely formed by meltwater from glaciers that existed a few million years ago, when Mars was wetter than it is now, a new study suggests.
The gully features are similar to ones seen in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, say the authors of the study, which is detailed in the Aug. 25 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. So this polar region of Earth can act as an analog for Mars' past.
The gullies, young features geologically speaking, were discovered in 2000 by NASA's orbiting Mars Global Surveyor, which is now out of commission. The discovery came as a surprise because scientists had thought that Mars was too dry in the past few million years to host liquid water at its surface, as it is today. More
GM engineer says rechargeable car is on schedule
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.—Early versions of the Chevrolet Volt's battery packs are powerful enough to run the high-stakes rechargeable car, but dozens of issues remain before General Motors Corp. can start selling the revolutionary vehicle in 2010 as planned.
The Volt's chief engineer is on a tight schedule to figure out how the car will handle the batteries' weight, dissipate their heat and mechanically transfer their power to the wheels. That's not to mention the list of issues that have nothing to do with the fact that the car plugs in to the wall for recharging.
But the 47-year-old veteran GM engineer who was recruited from a GM post in Germany to run the high-profile project is driven by knowing the entire company's future could rest on it.
"At this point, there's nothing standing in our way of continuing to do what we said we're going to do," Andrew Farah, the Volt's chief engineer, said in a recent interview. More
Kindling new US energy resources
Anthony Mihalsky drives 100 miles each day, commuting from a suburb north of the Californian city of Los Angeles into the city centre each morning and back again at the end of the day. It is not an unusual distance in LA - this is a city built for cars.
Sure, the freeways are often congested, but, as far as I could see, the culture of the middle-classes and the affluent in LA is to shun any public transport on offer. But Anthony has made some important changes to his life in recent weeks.
With petrol prices hovering around four dollars per gallon, he decided to trade in his large four-wheel drive vehicle in exchange for a smaller sedan. More
Scientists Say We Can See Sound
Turning conventional neuroscience on its head, new research suggests the human visual system processes sound and helps us see.
Here's the basics of what was Neuroscience 101: The auditory system records sound, while the visual system focuses, well, on the visuals, and never do they meet. Instead, a "higher cognitive" producer, like the brain's superior colliculus, uses these separate inputs to create our cinematic experiences.
The textbook rewrite: The brain can, if it must, directly use sound to see and light to hear.
The study was published in the journal BMC Neuroscience. More
Hospital shows off robot 'doctor'
POWAY ---- The future arrived at Pomerado Hospital on Thursday when officials showed off a $300,000 robot that lets doctors "visit" patients without stepping foot into the hospital.
Introduced to a roomful of reporters as the hospital's newest medical staff member, Robot RP-7 is a 5-foot-5-inch, 220-pound wireless machine that seemingly rolls easily around the hospital at up to 2 mph on its own, stopping to check on and chat with patients along the way.
In reality, there is a wizard behind the curtain.
Dr. Ben Kanter demonstrated the machine's "remote presence" capabilities by using a joystick to send the robot from the hospital's third-floor conference room to the second-floor bedside of Intensive Care Unit patient Phyllis Rodriguez. Kanter stayed behind in the conference room. More
Honda makes first hydrogen cars
The four-seater, called FCX Clarity, runs on electricity produced by combining hydrogen with oxygen, and emits water vapour.
Honda claims the vehicle offers three times better fuel efficiency than a traditional, petrol-powered car.
Honda plans to produce 200 of the cars over the next three years.
One of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of wider adoption of fuel-cell vehicles is the lack of hydrogen fuelling stations. More
Virus Infects Space Station Laptops
That's one small hack for coders, onde giant crash for mankind.
Viruses intended to steal passwords and send them to a remote server infected laptops in the International Space Station in July, NASA confirmed Tuesday. And according to NASA, this wasn't the first infection.
"This is not the first time we have had a worm or a virus," NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries said. "It's not a frequent occurrence, but this isn't the first time."
That suggests that even in the future where space travel becomes an experience to complain about, rather than get dressed up for, computer viruses will still be tagging along uninvited. More
Digital TV: Rough on Rabbit Ears
You've probably heard that over-the-air television as the U.S. has known it for the last 60 years is going to die next Feb. 17. The industry has been running portentous ads to let everyone know that the complete transition to digital is at hand. But it still hasn't informed people of just what it means and what they must do to prepare.
The great majority of American households get their signals via cable or satellite. New or old, their televisions will work fine after Feb. 17. I suspect, however, that many houses are like mine. Though cable is my primary source of TV service, I have a couple of old sets—one to fend off boredom while using an elliptical training machine, the other a tiny black-and-white set in the kitchen—that depend on over-the-air service. I recently used one of these old TVs as a guinea pig to see how hard it is to upgrade from analog to digital while continuing to use an antenna—and to find out what you get for the effort. More
Lagoons of Titan: Oily Liquid Confirmed on Saturn Moon
Earthlings might be scrambling to find liquid hydrocarbons buried in our planet, but Saturn's moon Titan has plenty to spare.
Scientists say that a dark, smooth surface feature spotted on the moon last year is definitely a lake filled primarily with liquid ethane, a simple hydrocarbon.
"This is the first observation that really pins down that Titan has a surface lake filled with liquid," said the paper's lead author, University of Arizona professor Robert Brown.
The new observations affirm that Titan is one of the likeliest places to look for life in our solar system. Some astrobiologists have speculated that life could develop in the moon's hydrocarbon lakes, although it would have to be substantially different from known life on Earth, which requires liquid water. More
Two Large Solar Plants Planned in California
Companies will build two solar power plants in California that together will put out more than 12 times as much electricity as the largest such plant today, the latest indication that solar energy is starting to achieve significant scale.
The plants will cover 12.5 square miles of central California with solar panels, and in the middle of a sunny day will generate about 800 megawatts of power, roughly equal to the size of a large coal-burning power plant or a small nuclear plant. A megawatt is enough power to run a large Wal-Mart store.
The power will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric, which is under a state mandate to get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.
The utility said that it expected the new plants, which will use photovoltaic technology to turn sunlight directly into electricity, to be competitive with other renewable energy sources, including wind turbines and solar thermal plants, which use the sun’s heat to boil water. More
3-wheelers on patrol
Minutes after expressing doubts about the balance of the newest police vehicles, Officer William Rich tumbled onto the sidewalk.
Rich was fine. He was more concerned that he had hurt the three-wheeled T3 Motion, which looks like a chariot crossed with a Segway. It was fine, too.
The Columbus Division of Police's bicycle day-patrol unit is testing the vehicles in teams and then evaluating them. Two T3 Motions, which sell for $8,988 each, are on loan to the department for testing. Police have yet to buy them.
Powered by two rechargeable batteries, the T3 Motion is equipped with lights and sirens.
"They're fun to ride," Officer Ron Zaleski said. "I'm going to give them a try." More
Humans and machines will merge in future
A group of experts from around the world will hold a first of its kind conference Thursday on global catastrophic risks.
They will discuss what should be done to prevent these risks from becoming realities that could lead to the end of human life on Earth as we know it.
Speakers at the four-day event at Oxford University in Britain will talk about topics including nuclear terrorism and what to do if a large asteroid were to be on a collision course with our planet.
On the final day of the Global Catastrophic Risk Conference, experts will focus on what could be the unintended consequences of new technologies, such as superintelligent machines that, if ill-conceived, might cause the demise of humans. More
Distant solar system body named 'Makemake'
One of the largest objects in the Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune, has finally gotten a name: Makemake, after a god in the culture of Easter Island. But the International Astronomical Union, which made the decision, may have a far tougher time christening the next dwarf planet because of controversy over who discovered it.
Makemake, formerly known as 2005 FY9, is the first dwarf planet to receive a name since 2006, when its neighbour 2003 UB313 was named Eris after the Greek goddess of discord. It joins Pluto and Eris as the only named 'plutoids', a term devised by the IAU to describe Pluto-like objects beyond Neptune.
The name Makemake belongs to the god who created humanity in the culture of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. The name was suggested by a team led by Mike Brown of Caltech, which discovered the object around Easter time in 2005. More
Hacking fears over wireless pacemakers
It is now possible to hack implanted devices such as pacemakers to obtain patient information or even make them lethal, a study has warned.
Implanted devices are used to keep the heart beating regularly, to shock a heart that is beating chaotically, to stimulate parts of the brain or to deliver drugs. Millions are in use worldwide.
The implants are increasingly equipped with wireless technology, allowing for remote device checks and freeing patients from repeated doctor visits. But a team of researchers in the US warns this convenience may come with unanticipated risks More
Sex invented in Australia
THE history of sex began in South Australia, around 570 million years ago.
Scientists believe they have discovered the earliest evidence of animal sex, between 30cm- long knobby tubular animals which lived on the then sea floor in the Ediacaran Hills within the Flinders Ranges.
Beating the previous record by 30 million years, the earliest known animals to have sex are now Funisia Dorothea, their exploits revealed this week in the international magazine Science.
Funisia Dorothea covered the seafloor of the region during the Neoproterozoic era, a 100-million-year period ending around 540 million years ago. More
Proposed Lunar Telescope Made From Moon Dust
A NASA scientist has a practical idea for building a telescope on the moon. Rather than flying one there, use the lunar soil to make one on site.
"We believe we have found a way to turn moon dust into a telescope," said Peter Chen, with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Chen, an inventor who has been working with carbon-fiber materials to produce high-quality telescope mirrors, began experimenting with tiny tubes of carbon, called nanotubes, glue-like epoxies and crushed rock that resembles lunar dust. More
Use GPS to Find Your Dead In New Forest Graveyards
Australia - Relatives and friends will require a satellite navigation device to find graves of loved ones in NSW's first eco-burial site.
The deceased will be buried in biodegradable coffins between gum trees in a protected koala sanctuary.
Reflecting a worldwide trend towards environmentally friendly burials, the site, on bushland attached to Lismore Memorial Park Cemetery in the Northern Rivers region, is due to open on July 1.
"It's an ideal way of utilising land and helping wildlife and vegetation," said Kris Whitney, Lismore Council co-ordinator of cemeteries. "We will allow headstones made from natural rock. For coffins, we'd rather people used woven wicker, plantation pine or recycled cardboard.
"A family can walk around the bushland and pick a site. The body can be oriented in any direction. We promise there will be no internments within five metres." More
Plants 'thrive' on Moon rock diet
Scientists with the European Space Agency (Esa) say the day when flowers bloom on the Moon has come closer.
An Esa-linked team has shown that marigolds can grow in crushed rock very like the lunar surface, with no need for plant food.
Some see growing plants on the Moon as a step towards human habitation.
But the concept is not an official aim of Esa, and one of the agency's senior officials has dismissed the idea as "science fiction".
The new research was presented at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting in Vienna, the largest annual European gathering of scientists studying the Earth, its climate and its neighbours in space. More
Humans nearly wiped out 70,000 years ago
Human beings may have had a brush with extinction 70,000 years ago, an extensive genetic study suggests.
The human population at that time was reduced to small isolated groups in Africa, apparently because of drought, according to an analysis released Thursday.
The report notes that a separate study by researchers at Stanford University estimated that the number of early humans may have shrunk as low as 2,000 before numbers began to expand again in the early Stone Age.
"This study illustrates the extraordinary power of genetics to reveal insights into some of the key events in our species' history," said Spencer Wells, National Geographic Society explorer in residence.
"Tiny bands of early humans, forced apart by harsh environmental conditions, coming back from the brink to reunite and populate the world. Truly an epic drama, written in our DNA.". More
US army develops robotic suits
On the big screen, films like Robocop, Universal Soldier and forthcoming release Iron Man show man-machines with superhuman powers. But in Utah they are turning science fiction into reality.
We are at a research facility on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, ringed by beautiful snow-capped mountains. Once they held the Winter Olympics here; now they are testing endurance in other ways.
The aluminium limbs gleam in the brilliant sunshine, as the strange metal skeleton hangs from a safety harness at the outdoor testing site. It seems to be treading water; actually its programme is telling it to keep the hydraulic fluid in its joints moving.
Rex Jameson, a software engineer here at laboratories run by Sarcos, the robotics firm which designed the XOS exoskeleton, steps up and into the suit. More
Old plant smells record
In the middle of the Palm Springs Desert in Southern California, US, the sun beats down at temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius.
The 160-kilometres-per-hour (100 miles per hour) winds that howl through the nearby mountain pass are so strong that rocks have been polished smooth by the sand carried in the powerful gusts.
But despite all this, scientists believe a group of bushes that have clung to the earth and survived these inhospitable conditions could be the oldest living plant on the planet.
Carbon dating tests are expected to show that the creosote bushes are even older than a gnarled clump of the same plant, said to be almost 11,700 years of age, in the nearby Mojave Desert. More
Mysterious Meteorites Stymie Scientists
A pair of mysterious meteorites discovered in Antarctica is baffling scientists who are struggling to determine the origin of the space rocks.
The meteorites, dubbed GRA 06128 and GRA 06129, were found in the Graves Nunataks region of Antarctica in 2006.
The rocks were oddly rusty and salty and smelled like rotten eggs, its discoverers said.
Initially, a team at the University of New Mexico (UNM) caused a stir when its analysis hinted that the pair may hail from Venus or the moon.
But other teams then hurried to get pieces of the space rocks for analyses of their own—and for the most part, they disagree. More
New Game Controller Reads Your Thoughts and Acts
An EPOC "neuroheadset" from Emotiv Systems reads thoughts and even senses expressions that video-game avatars can display on the screen. The EPOC brain-driven controller uses a gyroscope and Emotiv Systems is working on applications beyond video games. The EPOC headset from Emotiv Systems will sell for just under $300.
Looking like the shell of a high-tech bicycle helmet, the device reads the user's thoughts for such basic commands as "drop," "push," "pull" or "rotate" and wirelessly translates them into those actions on the screen.
The headset reads the mind's signals from 16 sensor points and a gyroscope orients the device to match the user's orientation. Based on noninvasive electroencephalography (EEG), which reads neuron activity in the brain, the device can also sense expressions. More
Jetsons car? Not yet
The Aptera (Greek for “wingless”) is an environmentally-friendly car that’s as clean and green as it is fantastically futuristic. The three-wheeled hybrid, which offers an all-electric or plug-in hybrid option, isn’t just a concept- you can reserve your own with just a $500 deposit. Seating 2.5 with plenty of room for luggage, the Aptera can get up to 230 miles per gallon at 55 miles per hour, and has an (electronically limited) top speed of 95 mph.
The two engine options are eco friendly- you can choose from an all-electric or plug-in hybrid version. The all-electric is powered exclusively with batteries, to last approximately 120 miles. At night you simply plug the Aptera into any standard 110 volt outlet and in just a few hours you will have a fully charged vehicle.
The plug-in series hybrid is powered by an electric drive train, assisted by a fuel efficient gasoline powered generator, stretching the travel range significantly further. In typical driving you may achieve over 300 miles per gallon and you will have range far beyond any passenger vehicle available today. More
NASA Dreams of 'Second Life' for Mars Crew
When NASA begins launching astronaut teams on 800-day missions to Mars, one of the greatest survival tests these explorers will face is the inevitable alienation they'll experience with their remoteness from Earth and the harshness of the frozen Red Planet.
After rocketing halfway around the solar system for 180 nights, these astronauts will start the first of 500 days on the Martian surface observing a cocoa-colored dusk fade into a star-saturated nightfall. Earth, 400 million kilometers away, will appear as just a twinkling blue diamond in the skies. The astronauts will have never felt so alone.
But NASA thinks it has an answer to the psychological challenge of interplanetary isolation. While aerospace engineers are designing the Ares rockets to be deployed in the Mars missions, a more starry-eyed contingent at NASA is testing networking and virtual reality technologies that they think will connect the first wave of Mars pioneers with their families, friends and colleagues back on Earth, in a 3-D virtual world cut from the mold of Second Life or World of Warcraft. More
GPS users hunt for hidden caches worldwide
A lone seeker scans the mushy ground on the edge of a cold forest. Nearby, a family of “muggles” chatter happily, enjoying a hike. The man lifts a device to his ear, pretending to be deep in conversation, as the family continues past him.
The man returns to his task, holding his electronic gizmo above the ground and checking coordinates.
Is he a wizard? A land surveyor? Some kind of weirdo?
Maybe a little of each, but one thing’s for sure: he’s having fun. Geocachers in 224 countries around the globe use their GPS receivers to hunt and find “caches” — hidden treasures — in an activity that guarantees to take you off the beaten path.
“Muggle” is the cachers’ slang term for someone who doesn’t know about geocaching. Much of the fun lies in the mystery — these hidden containers hold log books and token treasures such as toys, stickers, and wooden nickels. More
Russia can be the first to land astronauts on Mars
MOSCOW - Russia is technically ready for a manned flight to Mars in early 2020, Academician Lev Zelyony, the director of the Space Researches Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said.
"It is prestigious and real and it is Russia's priority to land a cosmonaut on Mars. This task can be solved both economically and technically," Zelyony told Interfax-AVN.
If one starts preparing a flight to Mars in the near future, a Russian astronaut could land on Mars in 2023-2025, the academician said.
Russia has done more than any other country, including the United States, as far as such an expedition to Mars is concerned, he said. More
Study Reveals Why Monkeys Shout During Sex
Female monkeys may shout during sex to help their male partners climax, research now reveals.
Without these yells, male Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) almost never ejaculated, scientists found.
Female monkeys often utter loud, distinctive calls before, during or after sex. Their exact function, if any, has remained heavily debated.
To investigate the purpose behind these calls, scientists at the German Primate Center in Göttingen focused on Barbary macaques for two years in a nature reserve in Gibraltar.. More
The Most Important Future Military Technologies
Tanks and missiles are the most obvious fruits of military research, but some defense analysts argue that information technology is the weapon that has most revolutionized warfare. Modern generals never face the command and control problems that plagued, say, Napoleon. Surveillance technologies like radar and spy satellites can warn of an approaching enemy, troops can be given orders in real time from thousands of miles away, and GPS navigation ensures they don’t get lost. These technologies allowed the U.S. military to sweep aside initial opposition in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to Philip Coyle, senior adviser for the Center for Defense Information and the Defense Department’s top technology tester during the Clinton administration, in recent years the Pentagon has increasingly relied on information. “Basically, you substitute electrons for armor,” he says. “The idea was if you had enough information, that would make up for armor.” More
Researchers: Human Evolution Speeding Up
Science fiction writers have suggested a future Earth populated by a blend of all races into a common human form. In real life, the reverse seems to be happening. People are evolving more rapidly than in the distant past, with residents of various continents becoming increasingly different from one another, researchers say.
"I was raised with the belief that modern humans showed up 40,000 to 50,000 years ago and haven't changed," explained Henry C. Harpending, an anthropologist at the University of Utah. "The opposite seems to be true."
"Our species is not static," Harpending added in a telephone interview. More
Big Chunk Of The Universe Is Missing -- Again
Not only has a large chunk of the universe thought to have been found in 2002 apparently gone missing again but it is taking some friends with it, according to new research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). The new calculations might leave the mass of the universe as much as ten to 20 percent lighter than previously calculated.
The same UAH group that found what was theorized to be a significant fraction of the "missing mass" that binds together the universe has discovered that some x-rays thought to come from intergalactic clouds of "warm" gas are instead probably caused by lightweight electrons.
If the source of so much x-ray energy is tiny electrons instead of hefty atoms, it is as if billions of lights thought to come from billions of aircraft carriers were found instead to come from billions of extremely bright fireflies. More
Led by Robots, Roaches Abandon Instincts
Many a mother has said, with a sigh, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?”
The answer, for cockroaches at least, may well be yes. Researchers using robotic roaches were able to persuade real cockroaches to do things that their instincts told them were not the best idea.
This experiment in bug peer pressure combined entomology, robotics and the study of ways that complex and even intelligent patterns can arise from simple behavior.
Animal behavior research shows that swarms working together can prosper where individuals might fail, and robotics researchers have been experimenting with simple robots that, together, act a little like a swarm. More
Rocket Junkyard Fuels Private Space Ventures
Let's say you're trying to build your own rocket, and the budget gets tight — maybe you fail to win an X Prize, or the dotcom mogul you had in your back pocket suddenly gets bored and takes up yacht racing. Where can you go for those pricey liquid oxygen valves and titanium fuel tanks? Norton Sales.
It's easy to find — it's the place with the bomb canisters and missile components in the window. Since the 1960s, Norton has been the premier US dealer of secondhand spaceship parts. The salvage company, located in scruffy North Hollywood, does 70 percent of its business with aerospace companies — both established firms and the new crop of private space ventures, like Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites and Elon Musk's SpaceX. More
Space rocks go under the hammer
Some of the world's most famous meteorites have gone under the hammer at a New York auction house in what is said to be the first sale of its kind.
The pieces were drawn from collections across the world and many examples are richly coloured and intricately patterned, some bearing gemstones.
A piece priced at $1.1m (£0.53m) did not sell but an iron meteorite from Siberia fetched $123,000 (£60,000).
And a US mailbox hit by a meteorite in 1984 sold for $83,000 (£40,000). More
Dramatic Comet Outburst Could Last Weeks
A comet that suddenly brightened earlier this week has astronomers around the globe fascinated. And the show could go on for some time.
Comet Holmes, discovered in 1892, had in recent years been visible only through telescopes until a dramatic outburst made it visible to the naked eye. In fewer than 24 hours, it brightened by a factor of nearly 400,000.
It has now brightened by a factor of a million times what it was before the outburst, a change "absolutely unprecedented in the annals of cometary astronomy," said Joe Rao, SPACE.com's Skywatching Columnist.
The comet is now rivaling some of the brighter stars in the sky. Anyone with a map should be able to spot it now. But Comet Holmes lacks a tail, so it's more like a fuzzy, yellow star, observers report. The view is improved with a small telescope.
"This is a terrific outburst," said Brian Marsden, director emeritus of the Minor Planet Center, which tracks known comets and asteroids. "And since it doesn't have a tail right now, some observers have confused it with a nova. We've had at least two reports of a new star." More
Dragonfly or Insect Spy?
Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.
"I heard someone say, 'Oh my god, look at those,' " the college senior from New York recalled. "I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects."
Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.
"I'd never seen anything like it in my life," the Washington lawyer said. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?'
" That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security. More
Can Ubuntu Linux Really Run My Small Business?
Ubuntu, the three-year-old Linux operating system that fast acquired the status of darling in the open-source community, has had a big 12 months.
Ubuntu released its seventh operating system, Feisty Fawn, in April. In May, Dell Computer, the second largest maker of PCs, began shipping machines with Ubuntu's new OS preinstalled. Worldwide Ubuntu users now exceed eight million; it took Red Hat and Novell much longer to garner as many devotees of their own Linux-based operating systems.
So Ubuntu is hot, but is it good enough to trust with your mission-critical business operations?
Chris Dawson, founder of Box Populi in Portland thinks it is. "Ubuntu is not perfect, but it works better than anything else that?s out there. It?s far superior." More
Verizon Adds iPhone Lookalike In Challenge To Apple
Verizon Wireless unveiled four new mobile phones for the 2007 holiday season, and it hopes that one of them is cool enough to shift the spotlight away from Apple's iPhone.
Attracting the most attention is the Voyager by LG Electronics, which resembles the iPhone in several ways. The Voyager, exclusively offered by Verizon Wireless, has a large external touch-screen that also slides open sideways for a full QWERTY keypad. This gives users a choice on how they access the phone's features, Verizon Wireless said.
The keyboard option is one advantage the Voyager could have over the iPhone's touch-screen only design, in addition to Verizon Wireless' fast 3G data network that the Voyager will use to access the mobile Internet. The iPhone doesn't use 3G technology, instead it uses the slower AT&T Edge data network.
The Shortcut Menu icons that appear on the Voyager's touch screen and another set of icons at the bottom of the screen bear another astonishing similarity to the iPhone. More
"Shot Guard" Underwear Foils Freaky Photographers
Thanks to new "Shot Guard" underwear from Cramer Japan, female athletes, students and children are now protected from infrared photography.
Yes indeed, Japan's legendary "hentai" (perverts) have found a new way to get their jollies: snapping photos of female athletes through their sports wear.
It seems that these Bizarro Superman wannabes are adapting the night-function capabilities of ordinary camcorders to take infrared photos of unsuspecting women & children in the daytime.
Since infrared radiation is emitted by the skin, the modified cameras can record the surface of said skin. The result is kind of dark and grainy, much like the thoughts of the perverted paparazzi. More
A case of Hubble envy?
Can a $20,000 camera coupled to a 60-year-old telescope shoot sharper images than the $1.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope? Absolutely, say astronomers from the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology.
To prove their point they suggest looking at the top of the Mount Palomar Observatory near San Diego. This summer a team from both universities grafted their “Lucky imaging” system onto the observatory’s Hale Telescope and aimed it at M13, a star cluster that’s 25,000 light years away. The results were much better than they expected. “What we’ve done for the first time is produce the highest-resolution [images] ever taken--and we took them from the ground,” says Craig Mackay of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, who led the team. “We are getting twice the resolution of Hubble.” More
Beijing Police Launch Virtual Web Patrol
Police in China's capital said Tuesday they will start patrolling the Web using animated beat officers that pop up on a user's browser and walk, bike or drive across the screen warning them to stay away from illegal Internet content.
Starting Sept. 1, the cartoon alerts will appear every half hour on 13 of China's top portals, including Sohu and Sina, and by the end of the year will appear on all Web sites registered with Beijing servers, the Beijing Public Security Ministry said in a statement.
The male and female cartoon officers, designed for the ministry by Sohu, will offer a text warning to surfers to abide by the law and tips on Internet security as they move across the screen in a virtual car, motorcycle or on foot, it said. More
British award given for design of outhouse
In the UK an award was granted for the design of an outhouse.
Outhouses were common in America until the widespread adoption of indoor plumbing in the 20th century, and are currently used mostly by toothless illiterate poor people.
Sheffield City Council and South Yorkshire Forest have received a national award from the Royal Institute of Architects for their unique composting toilet at Ecclesall Woods.
Recycled sawdust and shavings line the bottom of the toilet to catch deposits, producing a rich, harmless (and odourless) compost; no flushing is required.
The toilet uses three large wheelie bin type receptacles, which are rotated. More
Can We Control the Weather?
You may have heard of lake effect snow. You also might have heard of El Niño, a weather phenomena that affects weather around the globe; but have you ever heard of the arch effect? Probably not. The arch effect is one of the strangest occurances in weather. The arch effect is also manmade, and it is very real.
The St. Louis Arch, a 636 ft. monument on the west bank of the Mississippi River, has stood for nearly forty years. It is a shining monument built to convey St. Louis’s role as the Gateway to the West. Only now has the reason for its construction as well as its true purpose been revealed. It seems that some of the same scientists responsible for the doomsday weapon research in the deserts of the Southwest U.S. during the forties, were also interested in controlling the weather. They hoped to use weather control as a means to aid in troop movement and logistics for the Allies, as well as use it as a tactical weapon against the enemy. This, they hoped, would bring about a quick end to the war in Europe.
Thus, the design for the arch was conceived. The stainless steel structure, while able to produce an ionic pulse, is impervious to any lingering affects. Each leg of the arch is able to push positive and negative ions into the air so as to create a positive or negatively charged field that can ‘push’ storms out of the way. During the day this national monument stands as the gateway to the west, but after hours this man-made marvel turns into one of the most powerful weather controlling devices ever conceived. More
'Clear Signs of Water' on Distant Planet
Scientists have found the spectral imprints of water vapor in starlight filtered through the atmosphere of a giant gas planet outside our solar system.
Combined with a study announced earlier this year, the new finding provides strong evidence that extrasolar planets are as rich in water as the worlds in our solar system, scientists say.
The finding is detailed in the July 11 issue of the journal Nature. More
Poor Man's iPhone
The iPhone has proven to be largely a dud. But you still like the idea of a gadget that has those great features.
You can still salve your iPhone lust and envy by taking advantage of features built into your current phone that maybe you didn’t know you had, or by tricking it out with a number of iPhone-like add-ons.
Some were known and familiar, while others were found by searching on the term “iPhone-like” – which produced more than 200,000 hits. Keep in mind that these are just a handful of what’s likely to become a throng of iPhone-inspired add-ons for non-iPhones. More
Weird Stuff happening on seabed
Plunging into the sea takes you into a strange world that is totally unlike the world found on dry land.
This is particularly noticed when you see the creatures found underwater. They are sometimes outright strange in appearance, and their behavior is often a mystery as well..
A strange cephalopod has been found near Keahole Point on the big island of Hawaii. It appears to be a cross between an octopus and a squid, which is being called, you guessed it, an octosquid. The specimen, which has 8 tentacles, an octopus head and squid mantle, was brought up from a depth of 3000 feet by a pipeline operated by Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. More
Solar Powered Bikini Recharges Mobile Phones
A concept idea has been developed by American designer Andrew Schneider to cover bikini in solar cells and provide it with a socket for recharging a mobile phone while you sunbathe. The iDrink's photovoltaic film panels allow a fashionable fit while supplying the 6.5 volts @ 1.5 Amps needed to power a peltier junction and recharge a mobile phone.
Schneider says that schemed up and thrown-away as an idea in the same 5 minutes, this project is the straight-forward iteration of an idea about harnessing alternative power in interesting ways. It was originally submitted as a final project in Tom Igoe's Sustainable Practices class. More
Compressed Air Powers this Car
India’s largest automaker is set to start producing the world’s first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre for Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as opposed to the gas-and-oxygen explosions of internal-combustion models, to push its engine’s pistons. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008.
Barring any last-minute design changes on the way to production, the Air Car should be surprisingly practical. The $12,700 CityCAT, one of a handful of planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units; MDI says it should cost around $2 to fill the car’s carbon-fiber tanks with 340 liters of air at 4350 psi. Drivers also will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car’s built-in compressor to refill the tanks in about 4 hours. More
Send email to your future self
If you ever want to receive an email from yourself in the past, there is no time like the present to send it. You don't even need a time machine!
Click on over to FutureMe.org and give it a try. This site is one of a handful that let people send e-mails to themselves and others years in the future. A web based form allows you to compose a message, set the email address where it will go, and set a future date when the email will be sent.
It is currently set up to send an email as far in the future as December 31, 2037. You don't even need a flux capacitor or a DeLorean to send it. Send Email to yourself in the future
Spacecraft returns Jupiter images
Nasa's New Horizons spacecraft has returned stunning views of the Jupiter system captured during a recent flyby.
They include huge volcanic eruptions on the surface of the Io moon, as well as the first close-up look at a burgeoning red storm in Jupiter's atmosphere.
The probe passed within 2.3 million km of Jupiter in a gravity kick manoeuvre to pick up speed as it dashes towards its ultimate target of Pluto.
The flyby yielded the first close-up images of the Little Red Spot, an Earth-sized storm twisting and churning in Jupiter's atmosphere.
This feature formed from the merger of three smaller storms between 1998 and 2000. Its "big brother", a gigantic tempest known as the Great Red Spot, has existed on Jupiter for centuries. More
Is it a tree, or cellphone tower?
Throughout northern San Diego County, new trees are springing up everywhere. Unlike most palms and gymnosperms that take many decades to grow, these "new" trees appear within days. They are commonly used in indoor landscaping and to camouflage unsightly communication towers.
In order for us to communicate over cell phones, it is necessary to have a new type of telephone pole called a cell phone tower placed at proper intervals along our highways and byways. The density of these towers is directly proportional to the human population density. This mathematical principle called "cell tower proliferation" is a new subject for urban ecologists. Unlike unsightly telephone poles spanned by wires, cell phone towers are solitary structures.
Different cell phone carriers use separate antennas on the same tower. Rather than have obtrusive towers cluttering our cities and countryside, they are now being disguised in many clever ways. Some of these covert forms include trees, cactus, gas station signs, boulders, and even church steeples. More
Found 20 light years away: the New Earth
It's got the same climate as Earth, plus water and gravity. A newly discovered planet is the most stunning evidence that life - just like us - might be out there.
Above a calm, dark ocean, a huge, bloated red sun rises in the sky - a full ten times the size of our Sun as seen from Earth. Small waves lap at a sandy shore and on the beach, something stirs...
This may be the scene - on what is possibly the most extraordinary world to have been discovered by astronomers: the first truly Earth-like planet to have been found outside our Solar System. More
The 'Highest' Spot on Earth?
We all know that Mount Everest, at 29,035 feet above sea level, is the highest spot on our planet and is likely to remain so for a long, long time… unless we think about the word "highest" in a different way.
Suppose I asked you to find the spot on Earth where you would be closest to the moon, the stars and outer space. In other words, the point on Earth that is closest to "out there."
Most of us, again, would point to Mount Everest. But here's something you may not know: the Earth is not a perfect sphere. So it turns out, It is Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador that is closest to space and to the moon. More
Windows Vista Falls Short of Hype
Microsoft released Windows Vista and Office 2007 to great anticipation and fanfare as the stroke of midnight gave birth to Tuesday, Jan. 31 – or, at least, that’s what Microsoft would like you to believe.
Chairman Bill Gates kicked off the rounds of publicity on Monday, holding a large event at Times Square in New York City with a luncheon, live bands and a family from Maryland being given the command by CEO Steve Ballmer to “launch” the new software.
While Office 2007 has been commended on its new interface and file formats, Vista hasn’t received the same praise. The new “Aero” interface, designed to be brighter and flashier (the desktop background shows through the borders of each window), easier to use and to take advantage of today’s more powerful computers, has been slammed for not only having a style similar to the interface of rival Apple’s Mac OS X, but for only being available on more expensive versions of Vista, and for being automatically disabled on less powerful computers. More
Ubuntu Linux Available for Microsoft Refugees
If you are not ready to buy a system with Vista preinstalled, upgrading hardware to make it Vista ready can be an expensive matter. Licensing and activation can further complicate your choices.
If those options seem too troublesome, then Linux may be an attractive alternative that is low cost or even free.
Ubuntu is a complete desktop Linux operating system, freely available with both community and professional support. The Ubuntu community is built on the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu Manifesto: that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customize and alter their software in whatever way they see fit. "Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". The Ubuntu distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world. Ubuntu Site
Pillars of Creation Toppled By Stellar Blast
Seattle , WA - They helped open the public's eyes to the wonders of space when they were first photographed in 1995, but a new study suggests the famous Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula might have already been toppled long ago, and that what the Hubble Space Telescope actually captured was only a ghost image.
A new picture of the Eagle Nebula shot by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope show the intact pillars next to a giant cloud of glowing dust scorched by the heat of a massive stellar explosion known as a supernova.
"The pillars have already been destroyed by the shockwave," said study leader Nicolas Flagey of The Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale in France. More
Human-Animal Hybrids Approved in UK
London, UK - British researchers would be permitted to create human/animal embryo hybrids using test tube technology, under sweeping new proposals to be introduced by government health officials this week, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
Known as "chimeras", the embryos would be produced by combining human and animal genetic material within a laboratory setting--the North East England Stem Cell Institute has already requested permission to create an embryo that is part human and part cow.
"The overarching aim is to pursue the common good through a system broadly acceptable to society," British Health Minister Caroline Flint said in a report on the policy changes obtained by the Sunday Telegraph.
Other changes include removing the current requirement that a child's need for a father must be considered when a woman seeks fertility treatment. Single women and lesbian couples would have the same access to fertility treatments as heterosexual couples. More
These Boats Swim Like Dolphins
Boats are built for the water, and dolphins are built for the water--but when's the last time you saw a boat built like a dolphin?
This homemade single-seat design from a California company called Innespace Productions can travel both on and under the surface of the water. It does tricks, too, from barrel rolls to leaps above the waves.
The two seat Dolphin was recently selected as one of Time magazine's 2006 Best Inventions. The second model Innespace has designed and built, the new SeaBreacher is fifty percent larger than the original vessel in order to accommodate two full size occupants and larger engine packages. More
Grand Theft Naughty - Adult Gaming
“A little sex toy action might be fun.” Dirty talk is doing it for me. Jenna Jameson, the infamous porn star, wants me to shove a sex toy down her throat and I’m not about to argue. Using my touchpad, I scroll to the sex toy icon on the left side of the screen and drag it to her lips. Instantly, she starts sucking like it’s her last meal. Girlish groans gush from my laptop speakers. “Keep doing it, I really want it!” reads the text bar below a pixel-perfect Jameson.
As you can guess, no females are actually taking part in this encounter. This is a free demo of aVirtually Jenna, an online sex game where you control Jameson any way you want — oral sex, four-way orgies, BDSM, mutual masturbation, you name it.
This game isn’t brand-spanking new, but the concept is gaining momentum: sex as a main function of a video game, rather than a reward for finding a code. Lust takes center stage in a form of entertainment usually stereotyped as child’s play. More
Latest Military Weapon - Silly String
In an age of multimillion-dollar high-tech weapons systems, sometimes it's the simplest ideas that can save lives. Which is why a New Jersey mother is organizing a drive to send cans of Silly String to Iraq.
U.S. troops use the stuff to detect trip wires around bombs, as Marcelle Shriver learned from her son, a soldier in Iraq.
Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible. More
Brokeback Exercise - Japanese Style
Wave after wave of anime has flooded the USA from Japan. Other delights such as karaoke and sushi have followed.
Now a brand new exercise machine is making its way to the U.S. from Japan called Cowboying.
Machines like this are brand new to the United States and are making their way into more and more gyms and some stores.
"It is increasing in popularity in the U.S.," exercise physiologist Chris Mohr said. Mohr says the simulators can help increase metabolism, balance, improve posture, and tone muscles. More
Space Shuttle Grounded for New Year
The NASA space shuttle is an antique. It is so decrepit that NASA has resorted to buying parts on eBay for support equipment to keep the shuttle flying.
Now NASA is closely watching that the launch date of the next shuttle flight is not too late in the year because they are concerned that the shuttle computers aren't designed to make the change from the 365th day of the old year to the first day of the new year while in flight. NASA has never had a shuttle in space on the last day of the year or the first day of the following year.
The problem is that the shuttle's computers do not reset to day one, as ground-based systems that support shuttle navigation do. Instead, after December 31, the 365th day of the year, shuttle computers figure January 1 is just day 366.
"We've just never had the computers up and going when we've transitioned from one year to another," said Discovery astronaut Joan Higginbotham.
"We're not really sure how they're going to operate." More
Scientists Create Cloak of Partial Invisibility
Scientists have created a cloaking device that can reroute certain wavelengths of light, forcing them around objects like water flowing around boulders in a stream. To creatures or machines that see only in microwave light, the cloaked object would appear nearly invisible.
"The microwaves come in and are swept around the cloak and reconstructed on the other side while avoiding the interior region," said study team member David Smith at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering. "So it looks as if they just passed through free space."
The apparatus was made using "metamaterials," artificial materials engineered to have precisely patterned surfaces that interact with and manipulate light in novel ways. More
Raped by Lookalike Foods: Contaminated Rice
There is foul rice coming from the U.S. and flooding Europe, and possibly Asia. It is not Condoleezza Rice, but contaminated genetically modified (GM) rice that has the E.U. in such an uproar.
The world's biggest importer of rice has said it has ceased trading in US-grown rice because of fears about the GM variety, which has not been approved for human use.
Ebro Puleva, the Spanish rice processing company which controls 30% of the EU rice market, said it has stopped all US rice imports because of the threat of contamination by a strain of GM rice grown in crop trials by the GM company Bayer between 1998 and 2001.
The strain, known as LLRICE 601, was never approved for human consumption but has escaped in large quantities into the world food chain. More
Backyard Rocketeers Keeps the Solid Fuel Burning
GERLACH, Nev. — Wedge Oldham, a 49-year-old software engineer from Los Angeles, finds nothing sweeter than spending a fall weekend in the Black Rock desert, barking rocket launching commands like “Are we good to go?” into the hot dusty wind.
Nerves jangling, he awaits the moment when Carpe Diem, his homemade 18-foot-long rocket, hurls itself heavenward with 737 pounds of thrust, shockwaves — or “mach diamonds” — surging from its supersonic exhaust. With dazed exuberance he watches it recede into deep blue sky, and then, with the release of parachutes, gently drift four miles away, preserved for another flight.
From Florham Park, N.J., and as far away as London, 100 launchers came — plumbers, paint contractors, firefighters, bankers and Silicon Valley techies united by their passion for building rockets capable of blasting 94,000 feet into the air, at nearly three-and-one-half times the speed of sound, as one record-setter did this weekend. More
Tooth Rot, brought to you by Meth
Would you like to have a set of teeth like those pictured here? You might, if you get a serious methamphetamine habit going on.
The American Dental Association (ADA) warned users, and potential users, about the perils of methamphetamine to a healthy smile. One consequence of taking the drug called “meth mouth” could lead to rampant tooth decay and teeth that are blackened, rotting, crumbling or falling apart, said ADA president Robert M. Brandjord.
"Meth mouth robs people, especially young people of their teeth and frequently leads to full-mouth extractions and a lifetime of wearing dentures," Brandjord said. More
Crop Circle made by Humans to honor Firefox browser
In M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 thriller “Signs,” Graham Hess and his family aren’t pleased when they step outside their Bucks County, Pa., farm one morning and see crop circles in the fields surrounding the home.
Terry and Monty Woods, however, welcomed the addition of a 220-foot diameter design pressed into their oat field near Amity, knowing it was the work of Oregon State University students and Mozilla Corp. interns, not aliens or pranksters.
John Carey, film afficionado and intern at Mountain View, Calif.-based Mozilla, has long been fascinated with the crop circle phenomenon.
To celebrate Firefox’s recent 200 millionth download, Carey and fellow Mozilla intern Matt Shichtman, a Temple University junior, looked into the possibility of having a crop circle created replicating the Firefox logo. More
Tommy Chong converts 1946 Olds to electric
San Fernando, CA - Tommy Chong, of the Cheech and Chong stoner comedy duo, has been converting his 1946 Oldmobile to run on electricity.
When he finishes outfitting the Olds with a DC motor, enough serial-wired, nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) D-cell batteries to produce 340,000 watts of power, and a computerized controller to connect the two, Chong’s ride will be the first all-electric vehicle to bounce down San Fernando Road competing for glory with the ’60s-era Chevy Impalas of the Imperial Car Club. It will also do speed when necessary. “He’s getting a huge motor,” says Gadget of Chong. “He’ll be able to do burnouts in this car.”
"So what if the electric engine whines more than vrooms? “It’ll be my spaceship,” says Chong, who currently drives a Prius. “These cars glide. The only sound you’ll hear will be the sound system and the air bags.” Plus, he says, “by driving the ultimate electric stoner car, I can get off the titty. You know, the oil titty.”
If you pull up along Mr. Chong's automobile, and smoke is coming out of it, you can be assured the smoke is not coming from the tailpipe. More
Islamic cell phones has Koran and points way to Mecca
SINGAPORE - The world’s first cell phone for Muslims is now on the market. It was introduced in Asia by the Singapore based company Ilkone Asia.
According to the company’s web site, the Ilkone I-800 phone provides Islamic prayer times for users wherever they are in the world and even points them toward Mecca when they select the city and country where they may be.
The phone also contains the full text of the Koran with English translations.
“The objective of the i-800 is to satisfy the needs of specific Muslims around the world, and the Middle East in particular, through a range of phones providing advanced Islamic solutions, applications, and functionality,” Tellawi said. “Ilkone will be a relevant and integral part of the personal lives and practices of modern Muslims everywhere, and the advanced mobile technology of Ilkone phones will meet their practical, technological, and emotional needs.”
The name ‘Ilkone’ comes from the Arabic word meaning “universe. More
Blocking Unwanted Video & Still Photography
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have completed a prototype device that can block digital-camera function in a given area. Commercial versions of the technology could be used to stymie unwanted use of video or still cameras.
The prototype device, produced by a team in the Interactive and Intelligent Computing division of the Georgia Tech College of Computing (COC), uses off-the-shelf equipment – camera-mounted sensors, lighting equipment, a projector and a computer -- to scan for, find and neutralize digital cameras. The system works by looking for the reflectivity and shape of the image-producing sensors used in digital cameras.
Gregory Abowd, an associate professor leading the project, says the new camera-neutralizing technology shows commercial promise in two principal fields – protecting limited areas against clandestine photography or stopping video copying in larger areas such as theaters.. More
The future of transportation on one wheel
On the drawing board at Bombardier, who builds fun stuff like Rotax karts, Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles, Bombardier ATVs, Sea-Doo sport boats and Johnson and Evinrude outboard engines, is an exciting answer to the Segway Human Transporter.
Like the Segway, Bombardier's Embrio concept--a prototype that may or may not make production--uses gyroscope technology to balance riders but adds a dash of flair absent in the Segway.
The Embrio concept also uses one less wheel than the Segway and will attract, Bombardier hopes, a younger demographic. It is a fascinating idea because it combines the simplicity and alternative-fuel technology of forward-thinking commuting vehicles with the excitement of "recreational" products like ATVs. Indeed, the Embrio could attract people who drive a more fun sort of vehicle, what with its motorcycle-derived styling cues and, like an ATV, the fact that you have to lean in order to turn.
The Embrio is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, a technology that creates power by mixing hydrogen and oxygen, ideally resulting in water as the only exhaust. More
Cannabis reduces surgery pain
A cannabis plant extract provides pain relief for patients after major surgery, research has shown.
An Imperial College London team tested the extract - Cannador - on 65 patients after surgery such as knee replacements and found it helped manage pain.
The researchers believe the results could lead to new pain relief drugs, even though the chance of side effects increased with stronger doses. More
'Get More' info on RFID
RFID tags are becoming more common, and will one day replace the Universal Product Code we have all been familiar with for over 30 years.
These microchips each contain a unique ID number that can be linked to a database and accesed over a network.
The database can contain anything, including the product manufacture date, lot number, shipping route and dates, vendor, price, buyer ID, and location in real time each time it passes by a chip reader that is connected to the network.
This lovely lady is going to demonstrate how RFID tagging works with technology that is already implemented today. More
Korean Scientists Develop Female Android
Poontang, Korea - Standing 5.25 feet tall and weighing about 110 pounds, she can understand others, speak, blink with her eyes and makes several facial expressions. But she is not human, rather an android developed by a team of South Korean scientists.
EveR-1, a combination of Eve and robot, looks just like a Korean female in her early 20s including her shape that is benchmarked against the nation's model.
The human-sized robot can understand 400 words and make eye contact while talking via her lips that are synchronized with the pronunciation of words.
The Korean robot can move the upper half of her body such as arms and hands but she cannot travel because her lower half is immobile.
"But we are looking further ahead _ we are working on upgrading the android with the aim of making it move its legs by the end of this year. It will be able to sit down and stand up by then,'' a researcher expects.
Development of a "fully functional" model would lead to great market opportunities in China with its surplus of 15 million men. More
Drug companies 'inventing diseases to boost profits'
PHARMACEUTICAL companies are systematically creating diseases in order to sell more of their products, turning healthy people into patients and placing many at risk of harm, a special edition of a leading medical journal claims today.
The practice of “diseasemongering” by the drug industry is promoting non-existent illnesses or exaggerating minor ones for the sake of profits, according to a set of essays published by the open-access journal Public Library of Science Medicine.
“Disease-mongering turns healthy people into patients, wastes precious resources and causes iatrogenic (medically induced) harm,” they say. “Like the marketing strategies that drive it, disease-mongering poses a global challenge to those interested in public health, demanding in turn a global response.” More
Flying car? Not yet, but a Sky Cycle available now
Carter, Oklahoma - Leaping over road rage, rush-hour traffic and speed traps in a single bound, it's the Butterfly, a new "flying motorcycle" devised by Wise County pilot and mechanical engineer Larry Neal.
It's not faster than a speeding bullet, nor more powerful than a locomotive. But Neal says the Butterfly is the first gyroplane designed for mass production.
The gyroplane is sold as a kit. The two-seater Golden Butterfly can reach an altitude of 7,000 feet, fly up to 95 mph and cruise at 75 mph for 150 miles before refueling. More
A brief video news clip of the Sky Cycle in action: Watch the Video
Washington, DC - The latest shot in the Bush War on Science has been fired at studies supporting the medical use of marijuana. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced it does not support the use of smoked marijuana for medical purposes.
The FDA's statement is a contradiction of a review carried out by the Institute of Medicine in 1999, which found marijuana to be "moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting." More
Fremont, California -- You don't have to go to Disneyland or wait for some future urban planners to modernize their transportation system to get a ride on a monorail.
You can have your very own monorail in your backyard.
At the Pedersen residence, located in the Niles historic district in the City of Fremont, California, there is a monorail that runs around the property. The monorail gets power from two 12-volt motorcycle batteries, located in car two. More
In Southeast University in Nanjing, capital of eastern Jiangsu Province, the Thursday formal operation of China's sole laboratory with an AMS (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer) detector, called AMS-C, marked a significant move forward in China's search for antimatter.
"During the trial period, the AMS lab has detected signs of energetic particles from outer space which can help our understanding of the mysteries of astrophysics," said Nobel Laureate physicist Samuel Chao Chang Ting, who leads the international AMS experiment.
Designed by Ting's research team, the AMS is a three-ton detector which searches for the existence of antimatter nuclei. The search has to be done in a space where there is much less "background noise" from other particles, since antimatter, if it exists, will be extremely difficult to detect reliably. More
Microsoft to delay launch of Windows Vista
Broad availability of the Windows Vista client operating system has been pushed back to January 2007, according to Jim Allchin, Microsoft's co-president of the Platform and Services Division.
Allchin would not give specific reasons for Vista's delay, but he said that it involves a quality issue and that partners had requested the delay. He said that the partners wanted Microsoft to provide them with a clear date for release because Microsoft seemed unlikely to have the OS ready in time for them to ship it on hardware by late November. That is when the busy U.S. Christmas holiday buying season begins; Microsoft had originally targeted that time for the release of Vista PCs.
PC users who do not wish to wait for the next major release of the Windows operating system, or who do not like the licensing terms of the software, have other options. Instead of waiting for Microsoft to release Vista, a free download of Ubuntu linux is available now. More
Pirate radio heard by airline pilots
It began with airline pilots reporting hip-hop songs playing on two frequencies from a station calling itself Da Streetz.
Authorities pinpointed the source of the transmission: a stucco-and-brick, two-story warehouse in Opa-locka. Joseph Zeller, a state agent, discovered a large radio antenna mounted on a tower next to the building.
Armed with a search warrant, he confiscated three computers, a monitor, a mixing board, a stereo compressor, a microphone, a two-deck CD player, a telephone, a DSL modem, two stereo speakers, three gray three-ring binders and 10 cases filled with CDs.
But no radio transmitter. And no disc jockey. More
Ikea introduces the Fartfull
Ikea furniture stores has an interesting product in their line, the Fartfull.
Features include: Storage space for games and accessories under the seat. Mouse pad both for right-handed and for left-handed people. Seat part with handle; castered to be easy to move about. The metal front doubles as a magnetic board.
Ikea did not comment on how this item relates to flatulence. Have a look
U.S. Company Plans $265 Million Spaceport in U.A.E
LOS ANGELES — A day after Space Adventures announced it was in a venture to develop rocket ships for suborbital flights, the company said Friday it plans to build a $265 million spaceport in the United Arab Emirates.
The commercial spaceport would be based in Ras Al-Khaimah near the southern end of the Persian Gulf, and the UAE government has made an initial investment of $30 million, the Arlington, Va.-based company said in a statement. More
Scientists seek to create rabbit - human hybrid embryo
British scientists are seeking permission to create hybrid embryos in the lab by fusing human cells with rabbit eggs.
If granted consent, the team will use the embryos to produce stem cells that carry genetic defects, in the hope that studying them will help understand the complex mechanisms behind incurable human diseases.
Although made of rabbit cell material, scientists say the embryos would be controlled by human DNA.
Legal experts say it is not clear whether the embryos would be regarded in law as rabbit or human. The proposal drew strong criticism from opponents to embryo research who yesterday challenged the ethics of the research and branded the work repugnant. More
If you got a Video iPod for the holidays this year, you should be thanking your lucky stars it didn’t come from the Hawaiian Keeaumoku Wal-Wart.
Rachel Cambra, a mom and an employee of that Wal-Mart store, gave her son a Christmas gift which she believed to be a Video iPod she had put on layaway.
But when the big moment arrived on Christmas morning and the present was ripped open, there was no iPod to be found. Just a wrapped-up piece of meat, about as useful as a 10 gig tenderloin. More
Annoyed by company voice mail systems? Fight back!
Navigating a company voice mail system can be annoying and frustrating. Some are so poorly designed that you can follow each menu around in the third circle of voicemail hell. Now you can take matters into your own hands and find a shortcut to talk to a real live human.
Paul English has put up a web site where he shows shortcuts in voice mail systems that turn your call over to a human. Experimenting with systems not listed can lead to cracks in their system, which you may share with others. Of course, cross your fingers and hope that the human is not located in some far eastern call center. More
Korean scientists clone dog
South Korean scientists announced yesterday that they had created the world's first cloned dog - an Afghan hound called Snuppy - by the same somatic nuclear cell transfer method used to brew up Dolly the sheep.
Speculation is in the air about whether this will result in more pets, scientific research, or a tasty way to have something to serve with kimchi, a favorite Korean dish. More
Pirates thwarted by sound waves
A recent attack on the luxurious Seabourn Spirit off another pirate hotspot, the Somali coast, demonstrated how security on cruise ships has progressed. As armed men in two inflatable boats peppered the ship with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, security staff used high-pressure water hoses and a sonic device that blasts an ear-splitting, directed tone at targets.
Known as a Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, it was developed for the military after the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. More
Moving island defies efforts to map it
With roughly the dimensions of a football field, the island -- complete with nesting egrets, ducks, muskrats and a pair of tub-sized snapping turtles nicknamed Big Ben and Frankenstein -- has been cruising Island Pond for decades.
For a few years it was tethered by cable to a pair of trees behind a Roman Catholic high school at one end of the lake, but city conservation commissioners, who have jurisdiction over the island -- classified as a protected wetland -- ordered it freed. "We didn't want its uniqueness altered by being tethered," Tenerowicz said. "It's really pretty neat." More
Nasa admits space shuttle was a mistake
The space shuttle and International Space Station — nearly the whole of the U.S. manned space program for the past three decades — were mistakes, NASA chief Michael Griffin admitted. Griffin said NASA lost its way in the 1970s, when the agency ended the Apollo moon missions in favor of developing the shuttle and space station, which can only orbit Earth. The shuttle has cost the lives of 14 astronauts since the first flight in 1982. Roger Pielke Jr., a space policy expert at the University of Colorado, estimates that NASA has spent about $150 billion on the program since its inception in 1971. More
World's smallest "nanocar" developed
"You couldn't build a smaller car," says Jim Tour, professor of chemistry and leader of the Rice University research team. The Nanocar is built of a single molecule, and it's impossible to assemble anything smaller than an individual molecule.
It has four independently rotating axles, built-in suspension, and oversized wheels. But don't be looking for it to show up in a dealer showroom near you. More
Spooks invest in green energy
What if you had a power unit that generated substantial electrical energy with no fuel? What if it were so rugged that you could parachute it out of an airplane? What if it were so easy to set up that two people could have it running in just a few hours?
Now there is such a device - built by a small Virginia start-up - and the federal government has taken notice. SkyBuilt Power Inc. has developed solar and wind powered units that can be set up in remote places quickly. More
Come on, we know what they are
The nuclear reactor containment buildings at the San Onofre nucleat power plant are a prominent landmark. Their structure is designed to shield the fission reactor inside and to keep the outside world safe from contamination. But if anyone is not aware that they look like they could be supported by the worlds largest brassiere, then they must be a real boob. More
The voices in my head sound like Fred
A university research team says it has discovered why most people "hearing
voices" in hallucinations say they hear male voices. Among both men
and women, 71% of such "false" voices are male. More
In the years since the Viking probes sent back photos of the surface of Mars, some controversy has surrounded the images. Many believe they show a humanoid face carved into stone on the Martian surface. Photos taken since then by more advanced probes have not settled the question. However, the most recent photos from the European Space Agency probe showl in clear detail a large pair of buttocks sculpted on the Martian surface.
Images of Nicholson Crater, located at the southern edge of Amazonis Planitia on Mars, show two pairs of perfectly sculpted female buttocks. Other sculpted structures suggest female breasts. The structure is huge, being 34 miles long by 23 miles wide, and rising over 2 miles from the crater floor. This suggests a massive engineering project by a society that existed in ancient times. It is still unknown if this structure has any connection to the complex of structures in the Cydonia region, other than being on the same planet.
Jose Avila III moved to Tempe, Arizona with nothing more than clothes and work essentials. Avila was still stuck in a lease on his California apartment, and could barely afford his new apartment in Arizona. After some frustration over not having furniture, Avila had an innovative idea. Using hundreds of FedEx boxes and materials that he already had lying around for shipping various items, Avila constructed every piece of furniture in his apartment. A couch, bed, dining room table, and desk were all custom-designed pieces. More
new Internet Explorer 7 browser won't pass a stringent standards test
that rivals have embraced. In its browser blog, Microsoft acknowledged
that IE 7 would not pass the Web Standards Project's Acid2 test, which
examines a browser's support for W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) recommendations
including CSS1 (Cascading Style Sheets), HTML4 and PNG (Portable Network
How a woman can lose her mind
research indicates that parts of the brain that govern fear and anxiety
are switched off when a woman is having an orgasm. In the first study
to map brain function during orgasm, scientists from the Netherlands
also found that as a woman climaxes, an area of the brain that governs
emotional control is also heavily deactivated. More
Do you want dip with those chips?
Tommy Thompson, the Health and Human Services Secretary in President Bush's first term and a former Governor of Wisconsin, is going to get tagged. Thompson has joined the board of Applied Digital, which owns VeriChip, the company that specializes in subcutaneous RFID tags for humans and pets. To help promote the concepts behind the technology, Thompson himself will get an RFID tag implanted under his skin.. More
Bush kept alive by LifeVest?
Questions swirled concerning the nature of the hidden wires and boxes secretly worn by President Bush during one of his debates with John Kerry. Given his reputation for being as dumb as a fence post, most opinions leaned towards it being some kind of intercom to help him avoid another dumbstruck "deer caught in headlights" episode. But there is another possibility. He may be ill, and some medical technology may be keeping him alive. More