August 2, 2014

Artist uses tiny insects to build his creations

Artist Hubert Duprat Collaborates with Caddisfly Larvae as They Build Aquatic Cocoons from Gold and Pearl

 Caddisfly Larvae Gold Cocoons

Right now, in almost every river in the world, some 12,000 different species of caddisfly larvae wriggle and crawl through sediment, twigs, and rocks in an attempt to build temporary aquatic cocoons. To do this, the small, slow-moving creatures excrete silk from salivary glands near their mouths which they use like mortar to stick together almost every available material into a cozy tube. A few weeks later a fully developed caddisfly emerges and almost immediately flies away.

After first learning about caddisflies, self-taught (and self-professed amateur) artist Hubert Duprat had a thought. Had a caddisfly ever naturally encountered a fleck of gold in a river and used it to build a home? And then one step further: what if a caddisfly had only gold and other precious stones or jewels to work with?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 AM | Permalink

July 23, 2014

Strange things: white holes, electric bacteria and what tree rings sound like when played on a turntable

A few of the  strangest things

White holes. Black holes explode when they die and become white holes at the end of their life spewing out all the matter it sucked in as a black hole

A new theory suggests that black holes might die by transforming into a 'white hole,'
which theoretically behave in the exact opposite manner as a black hole - rather than sucking all matter in, a 'white hole' spews it out.  The theory, as first reported by Nature.com, is based on the speculative quantum theory of gravity. Scientists believe it may help determine the great debate over black holes about whether they destroy the things they consume.  According to the theory, a 'white hole' would explosively expel all the material consumed by a black hole.
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It's long been suspected that gigantic black holes lurking in the heart of galaxies rotate faster and grow larger as they feast on gas, dust, stars and matter. But there hasn't been a reliable measurement of the spin rate of a black hole until last year. While black holes are difficult to detect, the region around them gives off telltale X-rays.

Using NASA's newly launched NuStar telescope and the European Space Agency's workhorse XMM-Newton, an international team observed high-energy X-rays released by a supermassive black hole in the middle of a nearby galaxy.
They calculated its spin at close to the speed of light — 670 million mph.
It was the first 'unambiguous measurement of the spin rate' of a supermassive black hole, University of Maryland astronomer Christopher Reynolds, who had no role in the research, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

 Black-Hole-To-White

Black holes: According to a new theory, a 'white hole' would explosively expel all the material consumed by a black hole

 White Hole Spewing Out

While a black hole sucks matter in, a white hole expels matter at an explosive rate

Electric bacteria Meet the electric life forms that live on pure energy

Unlike any other life on Earth, these extraordinary bacteria use energy in its purest form – they eat and breathe electrons – and they are everywhere.

STICK an electrode in the ground, pump electrons down it, and they will come: living cells that eat electricity. We have known bacteria to survive on a variety of energy sources, but none as weird as this. Think of Frankenstein's monster, brought to life by galvanic energy, except these "electric bacteria" are very real and are popping up all over the place.

Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity.

 Geobacter Geobacter

The discovery of electric bacteria shows that some very basic forms of life can do away with sugary middlemen and handle the energy in its purest form – electrons, harvested from the surface of minerals. "It is truly foreign, you know," says Nealson. "In a sense, alien."

What tree rings sound like when played on a turntable.

 Playing Tree Rings  Listen on Youtube here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2014

A flower and a bird under an x-ray

Colorized X-ray photographs of flora and fauna.  The Telegraph has a slideshow of the astonishing 1mages by Arie van't Riet.

 X-Ray-Animals-Flow

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 PM | Permalink

June 19, 2014

What's beneath our feet

Scientists See Earth's Most Abundant Mineral For The First Time Ever

Earth's most abundant mineral lies deep in the planet's interior, sealed off from human eyes.  Now, scientists for the first time have gotten a glimpse of the material in nature, enclosed inside a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite. The result: They have characterized and named the elusive mineral,formerly known by its chemical components and crystal structure — silicate-perovskite as bridgmanite, after Percy Bridgman, a 1946 Nobel Prize-winning physicist

The mineral likely resides beneath Earth's surface in an area called the lower mantle, between the transition zone in the mantle and the core-mantle boundary, or between the depths of416 and 1,802 miles scientists said.
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Researchers found the bridgmanite in a meteorite that had fallen to Earth near the Tenham station in western Queensland, Australia, in 1879.

 Bridgmanite-Mineral-Vein Bridgemante found in vein of meteor found in Australia

Earth may have underground 'ocean' three times that on surface

After decades of searching scientists have discovered that a vast reservoir of water, enough to fill the Earth’s oceans three times over, may be trapped hundreds of miles beneath the surface, potentially transforming our understanding of how the planet was formed.

The water is locked up in a mineral called ringwoodite about 400 miles beneath the crust of the Earth, researchers say. Geophysicist Steve Jacobsen from Northwestern University in the US co-authored the study published in the journal Science and said the discovery suggested Earth’s water may have come from within, driven to the surface by geological activity, rather than being deposited by icy comets hitting the forming planet as held by the prevailing theories.

Jacobsen and his colleagues are the first to provide direct evidence that there may be water in an area of the Earth’s mantle known as the transition zone. They based their findings on a study of a vast underground region extending across most of the interior of the US.
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Jacobsen told the New Scientist that the hidden water might also act as a buffer for the oceans on the surface, explaining why they have stayed the same size for millions of years. "If [the stored water] wasn't there, it would be on the surface of the Earth, and mountaintops would be the only land poking out," he said.
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Ringwoodite acts like a sponge due to a crystal structure that makes it attract hydrogen and trap water.

If just 1% of the weight of mantle rock located in the transition zone was water it would be equivalent to nearly three times the amount of water in our oceans, Jacobsen said.

 Ringwooditediamond A battered diamond that survived a trip from "hell" confirms a long-held theory: Earth's mantle is soaked.

"It's actually the confirmation that there is a very, very large amount of water that's trapped in a really distinct layer in the deep Earth," said Graham Pearson, lead study author and a geochemist at the University of Alberta in Canada. The findings were published on March 12 in the journal Nature.

The worthless-looking diamond encloses a tiny piece of an olivine mineral called ringwoodite, and it's the first time the mineral has been found on Earth's surface in anything other than meteorites or laboratories.

 Beneath Our Feet

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:18 AM | Permalink

June 18, 2014

Miscellany of links

Why I am very wary of the Internet of Things  The Nightmare on Connected Home Street  in Wired.

If you don't get Why Benghazi Matters, Bill Whittle explains in 10 minutes.

At Demilked 17 Flowers Masterfully Disguised As Something Else

Flowers-Look-Like-Something-Else-Orchids-Pareidolia-Thumb640

Meet the 11-year-old inventor of the 'unbreakable cup'

When Parkinson's caused her grandfather to spill his drinks, Lily Born decided to do something about it. So she came up with the revolutionary 3-legged Kangaroo Cup and raised money via Kickstarter.
 Kangaroo Cup Proto

Flight of the tiny robo-fly: World's smallest drone weighs less than a gram and navigates using light-sensitive 'eyes'

 RoboflyThe Robo-fly has a carbon fibre body weighing 106mg - a fraction of a gram; Its pair of flapping wings is powered by electronic ‘muscles’ and it balances thanks to a pyramid shaped light sensor on top of its ‘head .  The drone is powered and controlled through a lightweight tether wire and can perform the agile maneuvres of the ubiquitous insects. The robofly could be used in search and rescue operations, to squeeze through collapsed rubble, monitor environmental conditions, and pollinate crops

Now they tell us Don't wash raw chicken, health experts warn

Washing chicken can spread a type of bacteria around the kitchen through the splashing of water droplets which causes food poisoning

A better way to cut cake revealed by London mathematician who explains it all in a YouTube video

The method involves cutting parallel lines rather than wedges.  This allows the cake to be sealed with icing around it, keeping it fresh

Want whiter teeth? Munch on dark chocolate, cheese and strawberries, says leading dentist

Dr Harold Katz says dark chocolate helps harden the enamel surface of teeth.  He says green tea contains tannins which stop bacteria sticking to teeth.  And, he says strawberries contain malic acid which removes stains. Cheese, he says, makes the mouth less acidic so tooth erosion is reduced.

Can music lessons as a child boost your brainpower for life? Researchers find young musicians develop better problem solving skills

Could boost calls for more music training in schools and help the elderly or those with ADHD.  The research team  defined musically trained children as having played an instrument for at least two years.

The controlled study using functional MRI brain imaging was undertaken by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital.
'Since executive functioning is a strong predictor of academic achievement, even more than IQ, we think our findings have strong educational implications,' said Nadine Gaab, who led the research.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

April 3, 2014

Joanne Milne hears birdsong and a child's voice for the first time

We all take things too much for granted which we only realize when we hear a story like that of Joanne Milne.

 2Nd-Joanne Milne Hears

This is the magical moment a woman who has been deaf since birth was able to hear for the very first time after having electronic implants in her ears switched on.

Joanne Milne, 40, burst into tears when the sound of a nurse reciting the days of the week introduced her to a sensory world denied to her throughout her life.

She was fitted with cochlear implants in both ears last month, and on Monday her mother filmed the moment they were turned on by remote control.

Miss Milne, from Gateshead, said: “Hearing things for the first time is so, so emotional, from the ping of a light switch to running water. I can’t stop crying.
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Miss Milne, who works for the charity Sense, underwent surgery at the Midlands Implant Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. Cochlear implants, which were first developed in the 1960s and have been given to more than 300,000 people since then, stimulate auditory nerves to make patients artificially hear noises.

Miss Milne’s implant has been doubly important to her, as the rare Usher Syndrome that affects her hearing caused her to start losing her vision in her early 20s. She now has severe tunnel vision and is registered blind.

She said: “The switch-on was the most emotional and overwhelming experience of my life and I'm still in shock now. The hearing world sounds so loud and alien. The first day everybody sounded robotic and I have to learn to recognize what these sounds are as I build a sound library in my brain.

The elation of hearing birdsong, a gurgling tap and a child's voice: In an emotional interview, Joanne, who was filmed hearing her first sound last week after being deaf from birth, reveals how it felt

'It was overwhelming. I was overcome. I started to cry, and when I looked at my mum she was crying, too. My therapist's voice sounded robotic and high and the sounds lingered.

'I'd prepared myself mentally, but it was much louder than I'd expected. The sound seemed to course through my body. It was a  sensation I'd never experienced before and it made the hairs on my arm stand on end.

'It was emotional, exciting, amazing. I was so happy. I hadn't imagined it would be so wonderful and I wanted to savor every moment, I didn't want it to pass too quickly. A little voice in my head was saying, “This is what sound is like”, and it all surprised me.

'Since then I've come into a world of hustle-bustle: of birdsong and ticking clocks, of running water and traffic roaring. All these noises a hearing person takes for granted and it's so, so loud, so different and daunting. After the first two days I remember thinking: “I just want to get back in my silent house.”'
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She's always appreciated music — she could sense its rhythms and vibrations — but now she can hear tunes, instruments, lyrics. A friend has made a compilation of 40 tunes — one for each year of Joanne's life — and she is rationing her listening so she can relish each one.

'The first song I heard was John Lennon's Imagine, and it will stay with me for ever,' she says. 'I could identify the lyrics, and the fact there was more than one instrument playing — although I didn't know what they were. I sat with my friend and we listened together. We were in floods of tears at the end of it.'

During a week of vivid new experiences, I ask which has touched her most. She says it was hearing her four-year-old niece Casey's voice. 'She just said “Auntie Joanne, where are the biscuits?” and it was amazing on two levels. I'd heard her voice for the first time, and it was so sweet and beautiful.

'And I hadn't had to look at her, to lip-read. It was a life-changing moment. Then I heard her feet tap across the floor as she went to get a biscuit, and I had a little cry.'

There is something about Joanne and her remarkable story of hope that has lifted hearts the world over. Yet in a week of small miracles — of spring birdsong, music, rushing water and teeming streets — it was a child's simple words that moved her most.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:28 PM | Permalink

February 8, 2014

You always wondered and know you know it's the popping proteins

Why do your fingers wrinkle in the bath? It's all down to popping proteins, scientists say

Scientists have finally answered one of life's great mysteries - why our fingers get wrinkly in the bath.

German researchers have uncovered the secret of the skin's elasticity, and say it comes down to expandable lattices.
The team now say their research could lead to new treatments for skin complaints and more effective artificial skin.

 Structure Keratin Filaments

The outer layer of our skin absorbs water and swells up, forming ridges – but quickly returns to its old state when dry.
The swelling and absorption of water occur in the outermost skin layer, which is made of dead cells that are stacked in layers like bricks.  These cells are filled with a network of filaments made of the protein keratin.

These keratin strands interlock to form a three-dimensional lattice – which can increase its volume by five times when the strands stretch out, the researchers found.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 AM | Permalink

February 5, 2014

Stem cells - an incredible discovery

Stem cells' created in less than 30 minutes in 'groundbreaking' discovery

Scientists have turned adult cells back to their embryonic form in under 30 minutes by simply treating them with acid in a breakthough which could revolutionise personalized medicine.

Experts in the field of stem cells have hailed the research as groundbreaking and say, if replicated in humans, it would herald a new ‘age of  personalized medicine.’

Turning cells back to an embryonic – also known as pluripotent – state means they can then be turned into any other type of cell in the body.  Previously that could only be achieved through genetic manipulation which was time consuming and costly.  But scientists at the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, found that cells taken from newborn mice effectively ‘lose their identity’ within 30 minutes of being exposed to mildly acidic conditions.

Professor Austin Smith of Cambridge University, writing in the Journal Nature said the new cells could be seen as a ‘blank slate’ from which any cell could emerge depending on its environment.  “Remarkably, instead of triggering cell death or tumour growth as might be expected, a new cell state emerges that exhibits and unprecedented potential for differentiation into every possible cell type,” he said.
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Professor Chris Mason, Chair of Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing, at University College London.
“If it works in man, this could be the game changer that ultimately makes a wide range of cell therapies available using the patient’s own cells as starting material – the age of personalized medicine would have finally arrived.

“Who would have thought that to reprogram adult cells to an embryonic stem cell-like (pluripotent) state just required a small amount of acid for less than half an hour – an incredible discovery.”

I'm sure that tests on humans will start quickly.  How wonderful that this discovery could end the culture wars over the use of embryos to supply stem cells.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:37 PM | Permalink

February 4, 2014

Exciting Discoveries about the Brain including the area that is 'uniquely human'

Ultrathin slices of mouse brains offer a mesmerizing look at how brain cells communicate at the tiniest scale. This research may offer clues about how the dance of our own synapses guides and animates us.  From the National Geographic, Beautiful 3-D Brain Scans Show Every Synapse

   

Scientists have found the region of the brain that makes you feel bad about poor choices

A part of the brain that helps stop humans from making bad decisions and acts as our conscience has been discovered by scientists.

The small ball of neural tissue, named the lateral frontal pole, is vital for pondering the ‘what ifs’ of life, researchers said.  Other parts of the brain keep tabs on how well decisions are working, but this new region thinks over what we might have done instead.

Scientists at Oxford University made the discovery after scanning human brains in two different ways.  Scans from 25 men and women showed that this part of the brain is made up of a dozen smaller sections. The scans were then compared with monkey brains.  The scans showed that there is nothing like it in the brain of the macaque monkey, despite it being one of our closest relatives.

Oxford University scientist Matthew Rushworth said: ‘We’ve identified an area of the brain that appears to be uniquely human.’

The lateral frontal pole prefrontal cortex is found at the very front of the brain – with one just above each eyebrow.  In some people, it is the size of a Brussels sprout; in others, it is as big as a tangerine.

Previous research has shown it is particularly important in multi-tasking. For instance, if we decide to do one thing, it will continue to evaluate the other option – or think about what might have been.  While this might seem odd, it is good preparation for a later change of mind.

The tiny brain region helps us learn from watching others’ mistakes, speeding up the acquisition of new skills.
The study, published in the journal Neuron also revealed the people to have stronger wiring to brain regions involved in hearing – perhaps helping explain our ability to speak.

New region of the brain discovered that controls anxiety

A California team has discovered the region of the brain that controls how anxious we are - and found it wasn't where they had thought.  The team now say it could now be targeted with drugs, leading to far more effective treatments within a decade.
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Previous studies of anxiety in the brain have focused on the amygdala, an area known to play a role in fear.

However, a team of researchers led by biologists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) had a hunch that understanding a different brain area, the lateral septum (LS), could provide more clues into how the brain processes anxiety.  Their instincts paid off—using mouse models, the team has found a neural circuit that connects the LS with other brain structures in a manner that directly influences anxiety.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:31 PM | Permalink

January 8, 2014

Entanglement of Technology

It’s complicated  Human ingenuity has created a world that the mind cannot master. Have we finally reached our limits?

We are now living with the unintended consequences: a world we have created for ourselves that is too complicated for our humble human brains to handle….a world where nearly self-contained technological ecosystems operate outside of human knowledge and understanding. As a scientific paper in Nature in September 2013 put it, there is a complete ‘machine ecology beyond human response time’ in the financial world, where stocks are traded in an eyeblink, and mini-crashes and spikes can occur on the order of a second or less. When we try to push our financial trades to the limits of the speed of light, it is time to recognize that machines are interacting with each other in rich ways, essentially as algorithms trading among themselves, with humans on the sidelines.
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ever since the Enlightenment, we have moved steadily toward the ‘Entanglement’, a term coined by the American computer scientist Danny Hillis. The Entanglement is the trend towards more interconnected and less comprehensible technological surroundings. Hillis argues that our machines, while subject to rational rules, are now too complicated to understand. Whether it’s the entirety of the internet or other large pieces of our infrastructure, understanding the whole — keeping it in your head — is no longer even close to possible.
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Intellectual surrender in the face of increasing complexity seems too extreme and even a bit cowardly, but what should we replace it with if we can’t understand our creations any more?

The examples Samuel Arbesman uses include:  the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), financial trading, software, our legal system which includes the tax code and Obamacare and  evolutionary programming.

In Wired, How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and the other tech titans have had to fight for their lives against their own government. An exclusive look inside their year from hell—and why the Internet will never be the same.
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The hard-earned trust that the tech giants had spent years building was in danger of evaporating—and they seemed powerless to do anything about it. Legally gagged, they weren’t free to provide the full context of their cooperation or resistance. Even the most emphatic denial—a blog post by Google CEO Larry Page and chief legal officer David Drummond headlined, “What the …”—did not quell suspicions. How could it, when an NSA slide indicated that anyone’s personal information was just one click away? When Drummond took questions on the Guardian website later in the month, his interlocutors were hostile:

“Isn’t this whole show not just a face-saving exercise … after you have been found to be in cahoots with the NSA?”

“How can we tell if Google is lying to us?”

“We lost a decade-long trust in you, Google.”

“I will cease using Google mail.”
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“The fact is, the government can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” says Face­book’s global communications head, Michael Buckley. “We can put out any statement or statistics, but in the wake of what feels like weekly disclosures of other government activity, the question is, will anyone believe us?”
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At an appearance at a tech conference last September, Facebook’s Zuckerberg expressed his disgust. “The government blew it,” he said. But the consequences of the government’s actions—and the spectacular leak that informed the world about it—was now plopped into the problem set of Zuckerberg, Page, Tim Cook, Marissa Mayer, Steve Ballmer, and anyone else who worked for or invested in a company that held customer data on its servers.
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“At first we were in an arms race with sophisticated criminals,” says Eric Grosse, Google’s head of security. “Then we found ourselves in an arms race with certain nation-state actors [with a reputation for cyberattacks]. And now we’re in an arms race with the best nation-state actors.” Primarily, the US government.
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Research estimates that as much as $180 billion could be lost due in large part to overseas companies choosing not to patronize the American-based cloud. “American companies are feeling shellacked by overeager surveillance,” says US senator Wyden. “It reduces our competitiveness in a tough global economy.”
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“I was naive,” says Ray Ozzie, who as the inventor of Lotus Notes was an early industry advocate of strong encryption. “I always felt that the US was a little more pure. Our processes of getting information were upfront. There were requests, and they were narrow. But then came the awakening,” he says. “We’re just like everybody else.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:15 AM | Permalink

January 3, 2014

Graphic reveals how emotions cause real physical symptoms

Love DOES make us warm inside while disgust turns our stomach:

A study found that different emotions affect the body in different ways yet these effects are the same across cultures.
Love is felt right down to the toes and happiness suffuses the whole body
Angry people are more aware of their head and arms - this could be because they are subconsciously preparing for a fight
Sadness leaves the limbs feeling weak and disgust is primarily felt in the throat and digestive system

 Graphic Emotions

The findings come from Finnish researchers who showed 700 volunteers films and read them stories designed to evoke particular emotions.
The men and women were then given outlines of bodies and asked to colour in the parts they felt became more active or less active.
The results were the same across cultures, with love ‘felt’ right down to people’s toes and happiness suffusing the whole body with feeling.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

December 31, 2013

Miscellaneous wonders

Friend's dad got a call from his buddy to go check the sky outside  from Imgur's best images of 2013

 Halo Sun

Halos are produced by the ice crystals in cirrostratus clouds. The crystals behave like prisms and mirrors, refracting and reflecting sunlight between their faces, sending shafts of light in particular directions. These amateur sky-watchers were lucky enough to spot some outside their home in Finland, and in doing so, captured one of the most beautiful images this year.

Chinese scientists cultivate high-yield salt-resistant rice.  It could provide enormous economic benefits by enabling the cultivation of otherwise idle saline-alkali land.  Wang Cailin, chief scientist of the rice breeding program in Jiangsu, said more than one quarter of the world's land is saline-alkali soil and another 20 percent of farmland is at risk of salination.

Global warming scientists forced to admit defeat… because of too much ice: Stranded Antarctic ship's crew will be rescued by helicopter

They went in search evidence of the world’s melting ice caps, but instead a team of climate scientists have been forced to abandon their mission … because the Antarctic ice is thicker than usual at this time of year.

The scientists have been stuck aboard the stricken MV Akademik Schokalskiy since Christmas Day, with repeated sea rescue attempts being abandoned as icebreaking ships failed to reach them.  Now that effort has been ditched, with experts admitting the ice is just too thick. Instead the crew have built an icy helipad, with plans afoot to rescue the 74-strong team by helicopter.

Algae to crude oil: Million-year natural process takes minutes in the lab

Engineers have created a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil minutes after they pour in harvested algae — a verdant green paste with the consistency of pea soup.

The research by engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was reported recently in the journal Algal Research. A biofuels company, Utah-based Genifuel Corp., has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.

In the PNNL process, a slurry of wet algae is pumped into the front end of a chemical reactor. Once the system is up and running, out comes crude oil in less than an hour, along with water and a byproduct stream of material containing phosphorus that can be recycled to grow more algae.

Brain function improves for DAYS after reading a novel

U.S. researchers used fMRI scanners to identify brain networks associated with reading stories and found that changes in the brain linger for a few days after reading a powerful work of fiction. 

Scientists from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said reading a novel can cause changes in the ‘resting-state’ of the brain, which can last for days.
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The neural changes that we found, associated with physical sensation and movement systems, suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist, ’Professor Berns said.

‘We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.’
He claims that the neural changes are not immediate reactions as they linger five days after the participants completed the novel.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 PM | Permalink

December 18, 2013

A Peacock in Full Flight

 Peacock Full Flight

We never imagined that it could be so magnificent - like a phoenix in a fairy tale!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:21 PM | Permalink

December 16, 2013

"It is an amazing process – it is like a Lego building that puts itself together."

An astonishing and a very welcome medical advance.  Congratulations.

Kidney grown from stem cells by Australian scientists
Australian scientists grow world's first kidney from stem cells in a breakthrough that could alleviate the demand for organ transplants

"This is the first time anybody has managed to direct stem cells into the functional units of a kidney," Professor Brandon Wainwright, from the University of Queensland, told The Telegraph.

"It is an amazing process – it is like a Lego building that puts itself together."

The engineered kidney was developed by a team of Australian scientists led by the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:17 PM | Permalink

December 13, 2013

Two studies on Brain Wiring: the differences between the sexes and paternal deprivation

Once again, science demonstrates what we already knew.  Men and women are very different and they complement each other.  That is unless you are one of those who believe that  'social constructs' and personal preference trump biology.  What neuroscience can give us is a fresh start to understanding how diseases affect the two sexes differently.

By far the most interesting study in this past week is the last one:  the first research showing that paternal deprivation during development affects the neurobiology of the offspring.’

Science News Brain Connectivity Study Reveals Striking Differences Between Men and Women

A new brain connectivity study from Penn Medicine published today in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences found striking differences in the neural wiring of men and women that's lending credence to some commonly-held beliefs about their behavior.
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"These maps show us a stark difference--and complementarity--in the architecture of the human brain that helps provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks, and women at others," said Verma.

For instance, on average, men are more likely better at learning and performing a single task at hand, like cycling or navigating directions, whereas women have superior memory and social cognition skills, making them more equipped for multitasking and creating solutions that work for a group. They have a mentalistic approach, so to speak.
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"It's quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are," said Dr. Ruben Gur.

The Anchoress comments So, Science Supports Complementarity? Why…YES!

How politically incorrect of science to suggest that men and women are not only different, but — egad! — apparently designed to complement each other. Almost as though they are meant to fulfill each other.

Men's and women's brains: the truth! As research proves the sexes' brains ARE wired differently

Neurologists used magnetic resonance imaging (radio-wave scans that produce detailed images of the inside of the body) to study the brains of almost 1,000 volunteers.  The differences between the genders were so profound that men and women might almost be separate species.

Men generally have more connections within each hemisphere and between the front and back of the brain.  In women the stronger connections usually run from side to side, between the left and right hemispheres.

In essence, what this means is that men are more logical and better at coordination and spatial awareness. Women are more intuitive, have greater 'emotional intelligence' and better memories for words and faces.

WSJ  Differences in How Men and Women Think Are Hard-Wired
Recent Studies Raise the Possibility That Male Brains Are Wired for Focus, Female Brains for Multitasking

"It certainly is incendiary," said Paul Thompson, a professor of neurology and director of the University of Southern California's Imaging Genetics Center. He is directing an effort to assemble a database of 26,000 brain scans from 20 countries to cross-check neuroimaging findings. "People who look at findings about sex differences are excited or enraged," he said.

 Male Female BrainscansCombined brain scans of 949 subjects, ages 8 to 22, show how neural connections differ by gender. Male brains, top, have more connections within hemispheres (blue lines). Female brains, bottom, have more between hemispheres (orange lines). Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences/University of Pennsylvania

Researchers are looking at the variations to explain the different ways men and women respond to health issues ranging from autism, which is more common among men, and multiple sclerosis, which is more common among women, to strokes, aging and depression. "We have to find the differences first before we can try to understand them," said Neda Jahanshad, a neurologist at USC who led the research while at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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"In childhood, we did not see much difference" between male and female, Dr. Verma said. "Most of the changes we see start happening in adolescence. That is when most of the male-female differences come about."

Growing up without a father can permanently alter the BRAIN: Fatherless children are more likely to grow up angry and turn to drugs
Canadian scientists believe growing up in a fatherless household could have a greater impact on daughters than on sons.

Growing up without a father could permanently alter the structure of the brain and produce children who are more aggressive and angry, scientists have warned.  Children brought up only by a single mother have a higher risk of developing ‘deviant behavior’, including drug abuse, new research suggests.
It is also feared that growing up in a fatherless household could have a greater impact on daughters than on sons.
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Dr Gabriella Gobbi, who carried out the research with colleagues at the medical faculty at McGill University in Canada, said: ‘This is the first time research findings have shown that paternal deprivation during development affects the neurobiology of the offspring.’

The research, which was carried out on mice, compared the social behavior and brain anatomy of youngsters with two parents to those growing up with mothers alone.  The team said the findings had direct relevance to human society.  They used California mice, which, like humans, are monogamous and raise their offspring together.

Mice studies in the laboratory may therefore be clearer to interpret than human ones, where it is impossible to control all the influences during development.’
The brains of the fatherless mice developed differently, Dr Gobbi said, with the main impacts seen in the prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain which controls social and cognitive activity.
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Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

November 22, 2013

Dried Human Tears

Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher's latest project is called “Topography of Tears.  She uses microscopes to give us an unexpected view of dried human tears.

In the Smithsonian.  The Microscopic Structures of Dried Human Tears

“I started the project about five years ago, during a period of copious tears, amid lots of change and loss—so I had a surplus of raw material,” Fisher says. …..“everything we see in our lives is just the tip of the iceberg, visually,” she explains. “So I had this moment where I suddenly thought, ‘I wonder what a tear looks like up close?’”
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Scientifically, tears are divided into three different types, based on their origin. Both tears of grief and joy are psychic tears, triggered by extreme emotions, whether positive or negative. Basal tears are released continuously in tiny quantities (on average, 0.75 to 1.1 grams over a 24-hour period) to keep the cornea lubricated. Reflex tears are secreted in response to an irritant, like dust, onion vapors or tear gas.

 Tears Onion-1    Onion tears

 Tears Grief    Tears of Grief

 Tears Laughing    Tears of Laughter

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 PM | Permalink

November 5, 2013

Complacency and Cognitive Bias Can Blind

What ties these four articles together is the pernicious effect of complacency and cognitive bias that blinds minds .  Atheists think they know what believers mean by God; Theology is only for the devout.  Peer-reviewed scientific studies are all true.  Automating tasks makes us smarter

Father Robert  Barron on why Atheists Don't Get God

It is not so much that Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins disagree with Thomas Aquinas on the existence of God; it is that neither Hitchens nor Dawkins has any real grasp of what Aquinas even means when he speaks of God.

To a person, the new atheists hold that God is some being in the world, the maximum instance, if you want, of the category of "being." But this is precisely what Aquinas and serious thinkers in all of the great theistic traditions hold that God is not. Thomas explicitly states that God is not in any genus, including that most generic genus of all, namely being. He is not one thing or individual -- however supreme -- among many. Rather, God is, in Aquinas's pithy Latin phrase, esse ipsum subsistens, the sheer act of being itself.
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I often tease the critics of religion who take pride in the rigor of their rationalism. I tell them that, though they are willing to ask and answer all sorts of questions about reality, they become radically uncurious, irrational even, just when the most interesting question of all is posed: why is there something rather than nothing? Why should the universe exist at all?

Study Theology, Even If You Don't Believe in God  writes Tara Burton in the Atlantic

While the study of history taught me the story of humanity on a broader scale, the study of theology allowed me insight into the minds and hearts, fears and concerns, of those in circumstances were so wildly different from my own.
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If history and comparative religion alike offer us perspective on world events from the “outside,” the study of theology offers us a chance to study those same events “from within”: an opportunity to get inside the heads of those whose beliefs and choices shaped so much of our history, and who—in the world outside the ivory tower—still shape plenty of the world today. That such avenues of inquiry have virtually vanished from many of the institutions where they were once best explored is hardly a triumph of progress or of secularism. Instead, the absence of theology in our universities is an unfortunate example of blindness—willful or no—to the fact that engagement with the past requires more than mere objective or comparative analysis. It requires a willingness to look outside our own perspectives in order engage with the great questions—and questioners—of history on their own terms. Even Dawkins might well agree with that.

I have to remember when I quote from scientific studies that  Science has lost its way, at a big cost to humanity  writes Michael Hiltzik in the LA Times.

A  few years ago, scientists at the Thousand Oaks biotech firm Amgen set out to double-check the results of 53 landmark papers in their fields of cancer research and blood biology.  The idea was to make sure that research on which Amgen was spending millions of development dollars still held up. They figured that a few of the studies would fail the test — that the original results couldn't be reproduced because the findings were especially novel or described fresh therapeutic approaches.

But what they found was startling: Of the 53 landmark papers, only six could be proved valid.

"Even knowing the limitations of preclinical research," observed C. Glenn Begley, then Amgen's head of global cancer research, "this was a shocking result."

Unfortunately, it wasn't unique. A group at Bayer HealthCare in Germany similarly found that only 25% of published papers on which it was basing R&D projects could be validated, suggesting that projects in which the firm had sunk huge resources should be abandoned. Whole fields of research, including some in which patients were already participating in clinical trials, are based on science that hasn't been, and possibly can't be, validated.
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The demand for sexy results, combined with indifferent follow-up, means that billions of dollars in worldwide resources devoted to finding and developing remedies for the diseases that afflict us all is being thrown down a rathole. NIH and the rest of the scientific community are just now waking up to the realization that science has lost its way, and it may take years to get back on the right path.

All Can Be Lost: The Risk of Putting Our Knowledge in the Hands of Machines by Nicholas Carr in the Atlantic
We rely on computers to fly our planes, find our cancers, design our buildings, audit our businesses. That's all well and good. But what happens when the computer fails?

Automation has become so sophisticated that on a typical passenger flight, a human pilot holds the controls for a grand total of just three minutes. What pilots spend a lot of time doing is monitoring screens and keying in data. They’ve become, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say, computer operators....Overuse of automation erodes pilots’ expertise and dulls their reflexes, leading to what Jan Noyes, an ergonomics expert at Britain’s University of Bristol, terms “a de-skilling of the crew.”
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Psychologists have found that when we work with computers, we often fall victim to two cognitive ailments—complacency and bias—that can undercut our performance and lead to mistakes.....The way computers can weaken awareness and attentiveness points to a deeper problem. Automation turns us from actors into observers. Instead of manipulating the yoke, we watch the screen. That shift may make our lives easier, but it can also inhibit the development of expertise.
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Whether it’s a pilot on a flight deck, a doctor in an examination room, or an Inuit hunter on an ice floe, knowing demands doing. One of the most remarkable things about us is also one of the easiest to overlook: each time we collide with the real, we deepen our understanding of the world and become more fully a part of it. While we’re wrestling with a difficult task, we may be motivated by an anticipation of the ends of our labor, but it’s the work itself—the means—that makes us who we are. Computer automation severs the ends from the means. It makes getting what we want easier, but it distances us from the work of knowing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:02 PM | Permalink

October 17, 2013

The Amazing Reason Why We Sleep, "Balm of hurt minds"

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.
Shakespeare

 Sleep-Better

The BBC  Sleep 'cleans' the brain of toxins

The brain uses sleep to wash away the waste toxins built up during a hard day's thinking, researchers have shown.  The US team believe the "waste removal system" is one of the fundamental reasons for sleep. Their study, in the journal Science, showed brain cells shrink during sleep to open up the gaps between neurons and allow fluid to wash the brain clean.

They also suggest that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders.

Their findings build on last year's discovery of the brain's own network of plumbing pipes - known as the glymphatic system - which carry waste material out of the brain. Scientists, who imaged the brains of mice, showed that the glymphatic system became 10-times more active when the mice were asleep.

Cells in the brain, probably the glial cells which keep nerve cells alive, shrink during sleep. This increases the size of the interstitial space, the gaps between brain tissue, allowing more fluid to be pumped in and wash the toxins away.

Dr Nedergaard said this was a "vital" function for staying alive, but did not appear to be possible while the mind was awake.

While Bad sleep 'dramatically' alters the body

A run of poor sleep can have a potentially profound effect on the internal workings of the human body, say UK researchers.  The activity of hundreds of genes was altered when people's sleep was cut to less than six hours a day for a week.
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Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and poor brain function have all been linked to substandard sleep.

Prof Colin Smith, from the University of Surrey, " "Clearly sleep is critical to rebuilding the body and maintaining a functional state, all kinds of damage appear to occur - hinting at what may lead to ill health.

"If we can't actually replenish and replace new cells, then that's going to lead to degenerative diseases."

How to Sleep Like an Olympic Athlete

1. Darkness.  Cover up any blue lights and blinking lights.  Avoid  screens  for an hour before you go to bed.

"Sleeping in low light is important," says Mednick. "You need the hormone melatonin to sleep, and melatonin is only released under low-light conditions."

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2.  Cool room. "The room temp needs to be on the cooler side," says Daniel McNally, MD, MD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center. "Your body temperature tracks your circadian rhythm, so as night begins, your body temp falls and it reaches a minimum right after you go to bed. If you are in an environment where you can't lose body heat, for instance if it's hot and humid, you won't sleep well."

3. Noise control.  Mask intrusive sounds with background noise, like a fan or sound machine.

4. Comfortable bed, soft pillows and cotton sheets

Foods That Help or Harm Your Sleep   Milk and carbs help.  Avoid protein, high fat, heavy, spicy foods.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:18 PM | Permalink

October 16, 2013

Listen to crickets slowed way down until they become a heavenly choir

Where it not for the Anchoress and Simcha Fisher, I never would have heard this extraordinary recording of Crickets slowed way down

At Soundcloud you read commentary by Tom Waits, " I heard a recording recently of crickets slowed way down. It sounds like a choir, it sounds like angel music. Something sparkling, celestial with full harmony and bass parts - you wouldn't believe it. It's like a sweeping chorus of heaven, and it's just slowed down, they didn't manipulate the tape at all."

Simcha Fisher writes  All Creation Rightly Sings Your Praise

Here is the sound of crickets, slowed down and down until they become a choir.  I listened, first skeptically, then fascinated, and finally almost in tears, waiting for the basso profondos to stake their claim, for the sopranos to vault in exultation above the rest of the choir.  When we say to God "All creation rightly sings your praise, " this is what we mean.  Do the crickets know they are praising God?  Oh, yes and no.  Just being what they are, doing what they are made to do, they send forth this glorious roundsong
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What the Father wants is for us to rejoice in our very existence, because through our lives we praise Him.  Through our good works, yes, and through our efforts and sacrifices and conversions of heart.  But also just because we are here -- because we are.

This is why our hearts beat even as we sleep, with every beat gushing forth life.  This is why suicides tie their feet together before they dive into the cold river:  because they know they will try to save themselves despite themselves, because life works so hard to be alive.  This is why babies love other babies.  What do they know?  Not a thing.  Only that we are here, we are here, we are here.  Praise God.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 AM | Permalink

July 19, 2013

PandoraViruses: Possible "Fourth Domain" of Life

From Inside Science, Jumbo Viruses Hint At 'Fourth Domain' of Life

The discovery of two new jumbo-sized viruses is blurring the lines between viral and cellular life and could point to the existence of a new type of life, scientists suggest.

The two large viruses, detailed in this week's issue of the journal Science, have been dubbed "Pandoraviruses" because of the surprises they may hold for biologists, in reference to the mythical Greek figure who opened a box and released evil into the world.

The discovery of Pandoraviruses is an indication that our knowledge of Earth's microbial biodiversity is still incomplete, explained study coauthor Jean-Michel Claverie, a virologist at the French National Research Agency at Aix-Marseille University. "Huge discoveries remain to be made at the most fundamental level that may change our present conception about the origin of life and its evolution," Claverie said.

Claverie's lab found one of the viruses, Pandoravirus salinus, in sediments collected off the coast of Chile. The other, Pandoravirus dulcis, was lurking in mud in a freshwater pond near Melbourne, Australia.

 Pandoravirus

Both of the new viruses are so massive that they can be seen using a traditional light microscope. Their genomes are also super-sized: the genome of P. salinus is 1.91 million DNA bases long, while that of P. dulcis is 2.47 million DNA bases. For comparison, the size of the previous viral genome record holder, Megavirus chilensis, is 1.18 million bases…..A typical flu virus can have as few as 10 genes, and M. chilensis has only about 1,000 genes.

What's more, scientists don't know what most of the Pandoravirus genes do
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According to a theory preferred by Claverie and his team, the ancient ancestors of Pandoraviruses were once free-living cells that gradually lost most of their genes as they became parasites. Some scientists think this hypothetical ancestral cell could have constituted a so-called "fourth domain" of life — that is, a previously unknown branch of life that is distinct from the accepted three domains: Bacteria; Archaea, another type of single-celled organism; and Eukaryotes, the domain that animals and plants belong to.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2013

Science, Fate and Free Will

Brendan O'Neill Standing up to the white-coated gods of fortune  Science has replaced Fortuna in fancying itself as the revealer of men's fates.

We use and abuse neuroscience to claim certain people are ‘born this way’. We claim evolutionary psychology explains why people behave and think the way they do. We use phrases like ‘weather of mass destruction’, in place of ‘gods’, to push the idea that mankind is a little thing battered by awesome, destiny-determining forces. Fate has been brought back from the dead and she’s been dolled up in pseudoscientific rags.

The intellectual challenge to the idea of fate was one of the most significant things about the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. There had always been an inkling of a belief within mankind that it was possible for individuals to at least influence their destiny, if not actually shape it. The Romans, for example, believed Fortuna would be kinder to brave, virtuous men. If you did good and took risks you had a better chance of being smiled upon by Fortuna. ‘Fortune favors the brave.’ But it wasn’t until the Renaissance that the idea that men could make their own fortunes really took hold. It’s then we see the emergence of the belief that by exercising his free will, a man can become master of his fate.
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But the new determinism isn’t religious or supernatural, as it was in the pre-Enlightened era - it’s scientific determinism, or rather pseudo-scientific determinism.

There’s neuro-determinism, the idea that we’re fundamentally products of the accidental shape or chemical liveliness of our brains. Everything from our criminal instincts to our musical giftedness to our political orientation is now said to have been bestowed on us by the grey matter in our heads. A recent study on the ‘neurobiology of politics’ claimed that whether a person becomes a liberal or a conservative depends on his ‘brain circuits’, particularly the circuits that deal with conflict. So now, we can’t even choose our political outlook, apparently; we’re not even in control of our voting destinies.

Then there’s evolutionary determinism - the idea that we’re compelled by what one author calls our ‘evolutionary wiring’.
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These modern determinisms are far worse than the old pre-modern belief in fate. At least ancient communities, like the Romans, believed that by being brave and virtuous an individual could offset the harshest judgements of the gods of fortune. The new determinism offers no such scope for the exercise of bravery or autonomy. Instead it demands that we be meek and apologetic in the face of awesome powers like angry nature. It demands that we accept that tiny cliques of experts – whether brain-scanners, parenting gurus or climatologists – are the only ones who can reveal to us our fate and advise us on how to prepare for its inevitable playing out. It tells us we’re not really the subjects of history, but the objects of history, tossed about by this and that powerful force.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink

July 13, 2013

The Amazing Lyre Bird

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2013

The Secret of Ancient Roman Concrete which is far superior to concrete today

We all have seen decaying concrete.

 Decaying-Concrete

So how did the Romans make the concrete Pantheon last over 2000 years?

 Pantheon

Ancient Roman Concrete Is About to Revolutionize Modern Architecture

After 2,000 years, a long-lost secret behind the creation of one of the world’s most durable man-made creations ever—Roman concrete—has finally been discovered by an international team of scientists, and it may have a significant impact on how we build cities of the future.

As anyone who’s ever visited Italy knows, the ancient Romans were master engineers. Their roads, aqueducts, and temples are still holding up remarkably well despite coming under siege over the centuries by waves of sacking marauders, mobs of tourists, and the occasional earthquake. One such structure that has fascinated geologists and engineers throughout the ages is the Roman harbor. Over the past decade, researchers from Italy and the U.S. have analyzed 11 harbors in the Mediterranean basin where, in many cases, 2,000-year-old (and sometimes older) breakwaters constructed out of Roman concrete stand perfectly intact despite constant pounding by the sea.

The most common blend of modern concrete, known as Portland cement, a formulation in use for nearly 200 years, can’t come close to matching that track record,
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The analysis, the scientists believe, reveals the lost recipe of Roman concrete, and it also points to how much more stable and less environmentally damaging it is than today’s blend.
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The secret to Roman concrete lies in its unique mineral formulation and production technique. As the researchers explain in a press release outlining their findings, “The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock. For underwater structures, lime and volcanic ash were mixed to form mortar, and this mortar and volcanic tuff were packed into wooden forms. The seawater instantly triggered a hot chemical reaction. The lime was hydrated—incorporating water molecules into its structure—and reacted with the ash to cement the whole mixture together.”

The Portland cement formula crucially lacks the lyme and volcanic ash mixture. As a result, it doesn’t bind quite as well when compared with the Roman concrete, researchers found. It is this inferior binding property that explains why structures made of Portland cement tend to weaken and crack after a few decades of use.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 AM | Permalink

June 5, 2013

Interesting links to a few science stories

BBC Centuries-old frozen plants revived  Plants that were frozen during the "Little Ice Age" centuries ago have been observed sprouting new growth, scientists say.

Russian scientists make rare find of 'blood' in a mammoth that died some 10,000 - 15,000 years ago

Chemists Grew Microscopic Crystal Flowers on a Razor Blade   Amazingly beautiful

World's oldest marijuana stash totally busted  Two pounds of still-green weed found in a 2,700-year-old Gobi Desert grave.

Ancient Egyptians wore jewelry made from 5,000 year old meteorites, Gifts from the gods

35 Scientific Concepts That Will Help You Understand The World.  Below are a few examples. Go to the link to see the authors responsible

Constraint satisfaction.  Too many choices can lead to indecision paralysis. 
Having constraints, or any sort of limits, is beneficial and leads to solution.

Cultural attractor.  We are attracted to ideas and concepts that are easy to accept or digest.

Cumulative error.  When information travels through multiple channels, it's easy for some elements of the message to get distorted —  by biases, or simple human error.

Failure liberates success

Fear of the unknown.  Our attachment to the familiar keeps us from taking risks and making real strides and breakthroughs. We often don't accurately assess the risk/benefit ratio; our irrational fears get in the way of real progress.

Holism.  'The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.' . Just look at DNA, and other much broader systems, like cities, that operate only if each individual element does its part.  "Holism does not come naturally. It is an appreciation not of the simple but of the complex."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 AM | Permalink

May 30, 2013

Manhattanhenge

-Manhattanhenge

Manhattanhenge, that is also referred to as the Manhattan Solstice, occurs when the setting sun aligns with the east–west streets of the street grid in the city.
The best view of the sun perfectly setting between some of New York's most iconic buildings was offered at 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th, and those streets nearby at around 8:15pm.
The phenomena usually strikes in late May and usually occurs again in mid July. The next alignment is scheduled for July 12.

'Epic epic experience. Only happens twice a year and the disregard for traffic was awesome,' one Twitter user wrote.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

May 22, 2013

A respite for wonderful news

From Slashdot Cell Phones As a Dirty Bomb Detection Network

"The Idaho National Laboratory has built a dirty bomb detection network out of cell phones. Camera phones operate by detecting photons and storing them as a picture. The INL discovered that high energy photons from radiological sources distort the image in ways detectable through image processing. KSL TV reports that the INL's mobile app detects radiation sources and then reports positive 'hits' to a central server. Terrorists deploying a dirty bomb will inevitably pass by people carrying cell phones. By crowdsourcing cell phones, the INL has created a potentially very large, inexpensive, and randomly mobile radiation detection grid."

First Responders Rescued Over 100 Survivors in Moore, Oklahoma in the Midnight Hours (Video)

The faith and resiliency of Oklahomans

On Tuesday morning, a helicopter was circling overhead and thunder rumbled from a new storm as 35-year-old Moore resident Juan Dills and his family rummaged through the remains of what was once his mother’s home. The foundation was laid bare, the roof ripped away and only one wall was still standing. They found a few family photo albums, but little else.
We are still in shock,” he said. “But we will come through. We’re from Oklahoma.”

 Girl-Rescued-From Rubble Okl

The Inspiring Story of What an Arizona Cop Did to a Teen She Found Walking 9 Miles

An Arizona teenager working at a fast food restaurant had to walk nine miles home if he missed the last bus of the evening.

Christian Felix still had several miles to go when Phoenix Sgt. Natalie Simonick spotted him around 11 p.m. last month. When she pulled over thinking he was breaking curfew, she learned he was 18 years old and thus not in violation, but she also learned a few other things about the young adult, ABC News reported.

At a press conference last week she said she saw a strong work ethic in Felix, the local ABC affiliate KNXV reported. She also found Felix had never learned to ride a bike nor had he ever driven a car.

“He never had a father in his life, so he had no one to teach him,” Simonick said.

That’s when Simonick took it upon herself, asking her husband if they could give the teen their extra bike so he would have a more reliable form of transportation. Last month, she and other officers even gave him a lesson.

Helen Mirren takes the Queen's place to grant a dying boy with Down's syndrome his fondest wish to have tea with the Queen of England

After the show, Mirren, still dressed as the Queen and in character, invited the 10-year-old backstage to have tea and cakes served by footmen. She also introduced Burton to her corgis.

“She stayed in character for the whole thing. Oliver thought she was the real Queen, and well, that’s good enough for us,” the boy’s father, James Browne, said, according to the Daily Mail.

Mirren also knighted 10-year-old Oliver, giving him the official title of “Sir.”


 Helen Mirren Dying Down'ssyn Boy
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 AM | Permalink

March 28, 2013

Tech roundup: intelligent goo, Google Glass, Perforene and privacy no more

The blob of virtual goo that can calculate the quickest travel routes… and could help your online deliveries arrive faster

'Intelligent' goo created by scientists at University of the West of England is placed in a petri dish with dots representing destinations and cities
The Goo clings to the dots as it shrinks - revealing shortest connecting routes.  This simple system could be used to help configure delivery routes in the future

From Earth and Sky, an amazing time-lapse video of auroras as a coronal mass ejection from the sun hits Earth's magnetic field.

Japan breaks China's stranglehold on rare metals with sea-mud bonanza

Japanese scientists have found vast reserves of rare earth metals on the Pacific seabed that can be mined cheaply, a discovery that may break the Chinese monopoly on a crucial raw material needed in hi-tech industries and advanced weapons systems.


How the Internet is Making Us Poor
by  replacing knowledge workers with software.

Sixty percent of the jobs in the US are information-processing jobs,….Economist Andrew McAfee, Brynjolfsson’s co-author, has called these displaced people “routine cognitive workers.” Technology, he says, is now smart enough to automate their often repetitive, programmatic tasks. ”We are in a desperate, serious competition with these machines,” concurs Larry Kotlikoff, a professor of economics at Boston University. “It seems like the machines are taking over all possible jobs.”
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Web pioneer and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen describes this process as “software is eating the world.” As he wrote in an editorial (paywall) for the Wall Street Journal, “More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services—from movies to agriculture to national defense.”

Lockheed Martin Says This Desalination Technology Is An Industry Game-Changer.  Uses graphene  (Graphene researchers won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for developing the wonder-material).

The film is super thin — just a single atom thick — so that the water simply "pops through the very, very small holes that we make in the graphene and leaves the salt behind," John Stetson, the chief technologist at Lockheed for this initiative .
Lockheed anticipates that their filters will be able to provide clean drinking water "at a fraction of the cost of industry-standard reverse osmosis systems," their press release says. Water-poor regions of the world will be the first to benefit.

The perforated graphene is aptly called Perforene which  has a smoky grey-color film that is translucent, even though its carbon, because it is so thin. It's also about 1,000 times stronger than steel, but still has a permeability that is about 100 times greater than the best competitive membrane out in the market, said Stetson.
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The great news is that this technology is not just limited to desalination plants. It can potentially be used for pharmaceutical filtration, dialysis, and gas separation, to a name a few other uses.

Google's sinister glasses will turn the whole world into search giant's spies

But of all the promised features of these spectacular specs, it is the glasses’ ability to take pictures and shoot video footage and upload it instantly to the internet that is proving most disturbing.  Some fear candid camera snooping will become all too easy when no one realizes that the person simply looking in their direction is actually filming them.
And it gets worse.

According to Google  co-founder Sergey Brin, the company plans to have Google Glass fitted with an automatic picture-taking mode, snapping photos at pre-set intervals. This could be as often as every five seconds.  While people may rightly worry about being photographed without their knowledge or permission, such fears pale into insignificance when you consider the true extent of the insidious reach of Google Glass.

Time and again, Google has proved that it has no time for that quaint old concept called ‘privacy’.

No more passwords! Smartphones could soon be unlocked by face and fingerprint recognition

Apple is preparing to abolish passwords in favor of fingerprint recognition.  The Technology could also be used to access bank accounts and email accounts

The Internet is a surveillance state by Bruce Schneier, Special to CNN

The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period.
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This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it's efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell.
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And welcome to a world where all of this, and everything else that you do or is done on a computer, is saved, correlated, studied, passed around from company to company without your knowledge or consent; and where the government accesses it at will without a warrant.

Welcome to an Internet without privacy, and we've ended up here with hardly a fight.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:45 PM | Permalink

March 21, 2013

Amazing discovery

Most of Earth covered with life powered on hydrogen.

Acording to some researchers the largest ecosystem on Earth was just discovered and announced last Thursday, and it’s powered by hydrogen, not photosynthesis.

The Oceanic Crust is the rocky hard part under the mud that lies under the ocean. It covers 60% of the planet and it’s 10km thick. (The oceans themselves are a paltry 4km deep on average.) We’ve known for years that the isolated hot springs in trenches held life. But who thought that all the hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of basalt rock in between had its own life cycle? Last week a group from the Center for Geomicrobiology at Aarhus University, Denmark announced that they had drilled through crust that was 2.5km underwater and 55 km away from anything that mattered. They found life in the basalt.

Life Found Deep inside Earth's Oceanic Crust  Scientific American

Microbes have been found living deep inside crust at the bottom of the sea. The crust is several kilometers thick and covers 60 percent of the planet's surface, making it the largest habitat on Earth.

For the first time, scientists have discovered microbes living deep inside Earth’s oceanic crust — the dark volcanic rock at the bottom of the sea. This crust is several kilometers thick and covers 60% of the planet’s surface, making it the largest habitat on Earth.

The microbes inside it seem to survive largely by using hydrogen, formed when water flows through the iron-rich rock, to convert carbon dioxide into organic matter. This process, known as chemosynthesis, is distinct from photosynthesis, which uses sunlight for the same purpose.

The 'Parallel universe' of life in oceanic crust could be Earth's largest ecosystem

 Parallel Universe Oceanic Crust

Persisting in microscopic cracks in the basalt rocks of Earth's oceanic crust is a complex microbial ecosystem fuelled entirely by chemical reactions with rocks and seawater, rather than sunlight or the organic byproducts of light-harvesting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

--The paper represents the culmination of findings that have gathered over the last two decades, starting in the 90s with the discovery of strange microscopic holes in the basalt rocks that form much of Earth's outer crust, floating above the planet's viscous upper mantle and below seafloor sediments.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2013

Good news for the whole world, wonderful man and toy stories

Wonderful news for the world - Cheap, clean water may soon be available for the whole planet.

According to Reuters, defense contractor Lockheed Martin has developed a filter that will hugely reduce the amount of energy necessary to turn sea water into fresh water. The filter, which is five hundred times thinner then others currently available, lets water pass through but blocks all salt molecules. It will use almost 100 times less energy than other methods for making salt water drinkable, giving third world countries another way of expanding access to drinking water without having to create costly pumping stations.

A righteous and humble man gets recognized for his life-saving acts of kindness.  YouTube link

In 1938, Nicholas Winton helped 669 Jewish kids escape certain death from the Nazis. He never told anyone that he did this.

While on ski trip in Switzerland, Winton took a detour in Czechoslovakia to help the children of refugees. Nazi Germany had recently annexed a large part of Czechoslovakia and the news of Kristallnacht, a violent attack on Jews in Germany and Austria, had just reached Prague.

Winton set up a rescue operation for the children, filling out the required paperwork for them to be sent to homes in Sweden and Great Britain. He had to raise money to fund foster homes for all of them, and then he sent 669 children away from Czechoslovakia on trains before the Nazis closed down the borders.

Winton told no one that he did this, not even his wife. In 1988, his wife found a scrapbook full of pictures of the children and letters from parents in their attic. She arranged to have Winton's story appear in newspapers.    Many of the children Winton saved went on the BBC television program, That's Life, to meet him for the first time since the war. They refer to themselves as "Winton's children". 

Winton is now 101 years old and has received awards from Israel and the Czech Republic as well as Knighthood from the Queen of England in 1993.

Toy Stories  Fantastic Photos of Children from Around the World with Their Prized Possessions.

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti spent 18 months photographing children from around the world and their most prized toy possessions. His website

 Galimberti-Toy-Stories-5

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 PM | Permalink

January 28, 2013

The Placebo Effect

I've long been fascinated by the placebo and wondered why more study was not being to see how they work.

Well, at Harvard, they are doing just that.    An acupuncturist by training, Ted Kaptchuk, is an unlikely leader in the halls of academia, but he's an ingenious researcher in the search for the real ingredients of 'fake"'medicine.

The Placebo Phenomenon

researchers have found that placebo treatments—interventions with no active drug ingredients—can stimulate real physiological responses, from changes in heart rate and blood pressure to chemical activity in the brain, in cases involving pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and even some symptoms of Parkinson’s.
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Last year, he and colleagues from several Harvard-affiliated hospitals created the Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS), headquartered at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center—the only multidisciplinary institute dedicated solely to placebo study.  It’s a nod to changing attitudes in Western medicine, and a direct result of the small but growing group of researchers like Kaptchuk who study not if, but how, placebo effects work. Explanations for the phenomenon come from fields across the scientific map—clinical science, psychology, anthropology, biology, social economics, neuroscience. Disregarding the knowledge that placebo treatments can affect certain ailments, Kaptchuk says, “is like ignoring a huge chunk of healthcare.” As caregivers, “we should be using every tool in the box."
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The study’s results shocked the investigators themselves: even patients who knew they were taking placebos described real improvement, reporting twice as much symptom relief as the no-treatment group. That’s a difference so significant, says Kaptchuk, it’s comparable to the improvement seen in trials for the best real IBS drugs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:47 PM | Permalink

January 13, 2013

Can lead be linked to violent behavior?

This is a most intriguing study.

Did outlawing leaded gasoline cause the crime rate to drop? Researchers link toxic element to violent behavior

A new study links leaded gasoline to violent crime rates in six cities.

High lead levels have long been known to cause birth defects, lower intelligence and hearing problems - but now researchers are beginning to find that it also causes high levels of aggression.

Tulane University toxicologist Howard W. Mielke says high levels of lead exposure in children in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in a dramatic uptick in crime two decades later.

When the use of leaded gasoline declined in the 1980s, crime rates dropped off at corresponding rates.

Mielke found that in all six cities - Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and San Diego - every one percent increase in the number of tons of lead released into the atmosphere resulted in a half percentage point increase in the aggravated assault rate 22 years later.
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Dr Herbert Needleman, a University of Pittsburgh researcher, conducted a 1996 study that showed that children with high lead levels were much more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior than those with normal levels.

A 2002 study showed that youths had been arrested had far higher levels of lead in their bones, on average, than their non-delinquent peers.

Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum reports that the leaded gasoline theory is the only explanation for the dramatic rise and fall of violent crime across the country.
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General Motors developed a lead additive for gasoline to prevent engine knock in the 1920s. The most popular additive was tetraethyllead, which soon became nearly universal.

By the 1970s, cars were being made with catalytic converters, which were incompatible with leaded gasoline.

Leaded gas was quickly phased out by the 1980s. It was banned for use in vehicles on U.S. roadways in 1996.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:10 PM | Permalink

December 11, 2012

Smorgasbord of delightful links

"Aid is just a stop-gap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid." said U2's Bono in a speech at Georgetown.

I hope he makes a mint.  Pet owner invents a doggie doorbell after his pooch kept scratching door to be let outside

Santa lulls a fussy newborn back to sleep

 Santa's Baby


THEY RUN NEW YORK

It seemed like nobody in New York had gasoline during Sandy, but all the union men in Brooklyn mysteriously had three full cans in their garage. If you want tickets to a sold-out show or you want to see a closed exhibit at the Met, it’s not a problem. They drink for free, eat for free, and renovate their homes with supplies stolen from a building site. In a multicultural metropolis revolving around money, this strange sect has maintained a century-old monoculture that exists under the radar and thrives on the barter system. It seems archaic when you first encounter it, but a quick glance at where America is headed makes it clear the Brooklyn way is our future. So instead of putting them on some nostalgic pedestal, go meet them. You could learn a lot from dese fuggin’ idiots.

In 2010 I posted what Theodore Dalyrmple wrote about Political Correctness and I post again because it bears repeating

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

Another astonishing medical breakthrough Turning urine into brain cells. 

A new method for generating brain cells from urine samples could be useful for research into neurodegenerative diseases and for screening for new drugs.

It was a babysitting experience that turned out into a fatal attraction

 Monkey In Ikea-1

Noah's Ark Great Flood may have happened, says Robert Ballard, the underwater archaeologist who found the Titanic.

In an interview with ABC News's Christiane Amanpour, Mr Ballard explains that he investigated a theory proposed by two scientists from Columbia University that there was a massive flood in the Black Sea region. They believe that the Black Sea was once an isolated freshwater lake surrounded by farmland until it was flooded by a torrent of water.

"We went in there to look for the flood," he told ABC News. "Not just a slow moving, advancing rise of sea level, but a really big flood that then stayed … The land that went under stayed under."

Although they did not find the Ark, they found an ancient shoreline which Mr Ballard believes is proof such an event did take place. He believes that, by using carbon dating shells found along the shoreline, it took place around 5,000 BC.

"It probably was a bad day," he said. "At some magic moment, it broke through and flooded this place violently, and a lot of real estate, 150,000 square kilometers of land, went under."

Why compete with your neighbor's Christmas lights?

 Ditto Lights

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 PM | Permalink

December 6, 2012

The "Pinocchio Effect" illustrated

Researchers Confirm the “Pinocchio Effect”: When you Lie, your Nose Temperature Raises

  Red Nose Pinocchio Effect

Using thermography,researchers at the University of Granada, Department of Experimental Psychology report:

When you lie, your nose temperature rises.
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When a mental effort is made (performing difficult tasks, being interrogated on a specific event or lying) face temperature changes.
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When we lie on our feelings, the temperature around our nose raises and a brain element called “insula” is activate.
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When a person is dancing flamenco the temperature in their buttocks drops and increases in their forearms.  Each dance modality has a specific thermal footprint.
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When a highly empathic person sees another person having an electric discharge in their forearm, they become infected by their suffering and temperature in their forearm increases.
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Sexual excitement and desire can be identified in men and women using thermography, since they induce an increase in chest and genital temperature.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2012

Odd bits from the science world

Life really is a roller coaster: Researchers say the universe is expanding as if we were 'rushing downhill' on a fairground attraction

Astronomers at the University of Portsmouth have been involved in a project examining how the universe has evolved since the big bang occurred 13.75 billion years ago.  Dr Mat Pieri, Marie Curie research fellow at the University of Portsmouth and co-author of the study, ...explained that the universe's growth when it was young was slowed by the effects of gravity but in the past five billion years it has begun to rapidly expand because of a mysterious force which scientists have called dark energy.

Dr Pieri likened this slow rise then rapid expansion to a roller coaster….'If we think of the universe as a roller coaster, then today we are rushing downhill, gaining speed as we go.

BBC's star science presenter Brian Cox's search for alien life was nixed by BBC health and safety tsars'

Cox, the former pop star turned particle physicist, wanted to use the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire to listen in to a newly discovered planet in search of alien life for his BBC2 series Stargazing Live.
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"The BBC actually said, 'But you can't do that because we need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilization'.

"You mean we would discover the first hint that there is other intelligent life in the universe beyond Earth, live on air, and you're worried about the health and safety of it?    "It was incredible. They did have guidelines. Compliance."

Corridors of the Mind. Could neuroscientists be the next great architects?

 Basilica Assisi
The design of the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, in Italy, helped prompt the polio vaccine.

Early in his career, when he was still struggling to find a cure for polio, Jonas Salk retreated to Umbria, Italy, to the monastery at the Basilica of Assisi. The 13th-century Franciscan monastery rises out of the hillside in geometric white stone, with Romanesque arches framing its quiet courtyards. Salk would insist, for the rest of his life, that something about this place—the design and the environment in which he found himself—helped to clear his obstructed mind, inspiring the solution that led to his famous polio vaccine.

Four teenagers build a urine-powered generator

The 2012 Maker Faire Africa held in Lagos, Nigeria this week brought together people who build things, from traditional crafts to modern inventions. Four teenage girls made a particularly lasting impression at the event with their generator that is powered by urine.  Amazingly, the generator, built by Duro-Aina Adebola (14 years of age), Akindele Abiola (14), Faleke Oluwatoyin (14) and Bello Eniola (15), needs only about a quart of urine to provide up to six hours of electricity.

It works by adding urine to an electrolytic cell to separate the hydrogen. The hydrogen moves into a water purification filter and is then pushed into a gas cylinder. This forces the hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, removing the moisture from the gas and from there, it is pushed into the generator. Voila! Pee-powered energy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink

October 23, 2012

Bits and pieces: Texas postman and Hermes, Noc the whale, Republicans more knowledgeable, writing that works, a humble politician

How a Texas Postman Became an Hermes Designer

Oliver is 70 years old. He wears his mustache trim and neat. And though he's one of the most important living African-American painters, he just doesn't understand what the fuss is about. Never mind that he's the only American artist ever to design a scarf for Hermès — which he's done 16 times.
Again, he's also an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.

"He doesn't believe he can make a living as a painter," Sheeler says. "He doesn't even believe that he's that good — those are his words. He just likes to paint.    He works overnight at the post office, comes home, paints a little bit, takes a nap and then does it all over again. He survives on two to three hours of sleep. Eats a sandwich on his break at the post office. He gets a 30-minute break, and then he goes back to sorting mail."

Pew Research: Republicans More Knowledgeable Than Democrats
In a scientific survey of 1,168 adults conducted during September and October of last year, respondents were asked not only multiple-choice questions, but also queries using maps, photographs and symbols.  Among other subjects, participants identified international leaders, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, nations on a world map, the current unemployment and poverty rates and war casualty totals.

In a 2010 Pew survey, Republicans outperformed Democrats on 10 of 12 questions, with one tie and Democrats outperforming Republicans on just 1 of the 12.  In the latest survey, however, Republicans outperformed Democrats on every single one of 19 questions.

On YouTube, Marriage=Biology (Not Bigotry).  The best argument I've ever heard for the traditional definition of marriage.  Don't miss it.

Noc the whale who imitated a human voice

The male named Noc had a distinctly human-like voice, much to the surprise of scientists who previously thought whales typically produce sounds in a manner that is wholly different from humans.  Noc died five years ago after 30 years of living amongst dolphins and other white whales and being in contact with humans at the National Marine Mammal Foundation based in San Diego in California. the incredible recordings of the whale were revealed for the first time as the team published their findings.

However, the incredible recordings of the whale were revealed for the first time as the team published their findings. Sam Ridgway, who led the study, said: 'Our observations suggest that the whale had to modify its vocal mechanics in order to make the speech-like sounds. 'Such obvious effort suggests motivation for contact.'
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The study 'Spontaneous human speech mimicry by a cetacean' are published in the latest issue of Current Biology.

In the Atlantic, The Writing Revolution

For years, nothing seemed capable of turning around New Dorp High School’s dismal performance—not firing bad teachers, not flashy education technology, not after-school programs. So, faced with closure, the school’s principal went all-in on a very specific curriculum reform, placing an overwhelming focus on teaching the basics of analytic writing, every day, in virtually every class. What followed was an extraordinary blossoming of student potential, across nearly every subject—one that has made New Dorp a model for educational reform.
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A lightbulb, says Simmons, went on in her head. These 14- and 15-year-olds didn’t know how to use some basic parts of speech. With such grammatical gaps, it was a wonder they learned as much as they did. “Yes, they could read simple sentences,” but works like the Gettysburg Address were beyond them—not because they were too lazy to look up words they didn’t know, but because “they were missing a crucial understanding of how language works. They didn’t understand that the key information in a sentence doesn’t always come at the beginning of that sentence.”
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The Hochman Program, as it is sometimes called, would not be un­familiar to nuns who taught in Catholic schools circa 1950. Children do not have to “catch” a single thing. They are explicitly taught how to turn ideas into simple sentences, and how to construct complex sentences from simple ones by supplying the answer to three prompts—but, because, and so. They are instructed on how to use appositive clauses to vary the way their sentences begin. Later on, they are taught how to recognize sentence fragments, how to pull the main idea from a paragraph, and how to form a main idea on their own. It is, at least initially, a rigid, unswerving formula. “I prefer recipe,” Hochman says, “but formula? Yes! Okay!”

5 Life Advantages You Acquire from Experiencing Poverty

1) Once things have been really bad, you’re not as frightened of tough times and risks.
5) Being poor makes you work hard not to be destitute again.

The Anchoress on George McGovern on Realities of Market Economy and Sweeping Legislation

unlike the pols of today, he wasn’t afraid to say there was something he didn’t know, an answer he didn’t have and even something he may have gotten wrong. Such humility is unthinkable in 21st century politicking.
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In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

October 19, 2012

Gasoline from the air

Pioneering British firm produces 'petrol from air' in breakthrough that could solve the world's energy crisis

A British firm has produced the first 'petrol from air', it emerged today - in a pioneering scientific breakthrough that could end mankind's reliance on declining fossil fuels.

Air Fuel Synthesis in Stockton-on-Tees, Teesside, claims to have made five litres of petrol since August using a small refinery that synthesizes the fuel from carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Experts have hailed the incredible breakthrough as a potential 'game-changer' in the battle against climate change and solution to the globe's escalating energy crisis.

While the company is still developing their process and still need to take electricity from the national grid, it believes it will eventually be possible to power the synthesis entirely from renewable sources.

Within two years it hopes to build a commercial-scale plant capable of making a ton of petrol a day and expand into producing green aviation fuel to make airline travel more eco-friendly
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Company officials say they had produced five litres of petrol in less than three months from a small refinery in Stockton-on-Tees, Teesside.
The fuel that is produced can be used in any regular petrol tank and, if renewable energy is used to provide the electricity it could become “completely carbon neutral”.
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But company executives hope to build a large plant, which could produce more than a tone of petrol every day, within two years and a refinery size operation within the next 15 years..
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:37 PM | Permalink

October 11, 2012

Sounds of the seas

 Whalesongs-Visualized
False killer whale, White beaked dolphin, Humpback whale

White beaked dolphin,  Northern minke whale, Humpback whale

Sounds of our seas revealed - and they look a lot like the view through a kaleidoscope

Mark Fischer, the owner of Aquasonic Acoustics in California, takes whale songs and transforms them into beautiful images. The 51-year-old converts the voices of the 100-ton mammals into 'wavelets' and then colors them in with imaging software. He also uses the technique to capture the melodies of humpback whales, dolphins and birds.
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The Californian said the images were well received by the public - but only aesthetically.    'Rarely are they interested in how the images are made, what kind of mathematics is behind the image or even what species made the sound,' he added.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:50 PM | Permalink

September 27, 2012

We surrounded by a halo

 Halo Surrounding Galaxy
artist's illustration

Nasa reveals massive halo of hot gas that envelops our universe

It is an astonishing reminder of just how large the universe is.  Nasa today revealed this incredible image showing our Milky Way Galaxy is embedded in an enormous halo of hot gas that extends for hundreds of thousands of light years.

The estimated mass of the halo is comparable to the mass of all the stars in the galaxy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:56 PM | Permalink

September 12, 2012

Some things I learned this week

Blowing the whistle on a corporate tax cheat can make you a lot of money.

Jailed tax cheat whistleblower gets $104m reward from the IRS for exposing secret offshore accounts held by American millionaires in Swiss bank

Bradley Birkenfeld has been awarded $104 million weeks after being released for withholding information about his own role in Swiss bank UBS AG's tax avoidance schemes.  Mr. Birkenfeld's $104 million reward works out at $4,600 for every hour of the two-and-a-half years he spent in prison.

He took advantage of a 2006 law passed by Congress that awards whistleblowers up to 30 percent of the revenue they help to recover with the information that they supply to the IRS.  The IRS whistleblower statute targets high-income tax dodgers and guarantees rewards for qualified whistleblowers if the company in question owes at least $2 million in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties.

All part of a case that shook Swiss banking to its core in 2009  when UBS entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and paid $780 million in fines, penalties, interest and restitution to settle charges that it helped 17,000 U.S. clients hide $20 billion

There is no 'junk DNA' and what we called 'junk' turns out to be incredibly valuable.

Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From ‘Junk,’ Play Crucial Role

The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

The findings, which are the fruit of an immense federal project involving 440 scientists from 32 laboratories around the world, will have immediate applications for understanding how alterations in the non-gene parts of DNA contribute to human diseases, which may in turn lead to new drugs. They can also help explain how the environment can affect disease risk. In the case of identical twins, small changes in environmental exposure can slightly alter gene switches, with the result that one twin gets a disease and the other does not.

As scientists delved into the “junk” — parts of the DNA that are not actual genes containing instructions for proteins — they discovered a complex system that controls genes. At least 80 percent of this DNA is active and needed.

Dark Energy is real and is fueling the expansion of the universe and scientists have no idea what it's made of

Dark energy, the mysterious cosmic force thought to be the fuel behind the accelerating expansion of the universe, is real, according to an Anglo-German team of astronomers.

After a two-year study, scientists at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom and LMU University Munich in Germany have concluded that the likelihood of dark energy's existence stands at 99.996 percent.
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A basic premise of modern cosmology is that the visible universe of stars, planets and gases makes up about 4 percent of the cosmos and is sitting like flotsam in a massive sea of unknown material referred to as dark energy.
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Dark energy is one of the great scientific mysteries of our time, so it isn't surprising that so many researchers question its existence,' 'But with our new work, we're more confident than ever that this exotic component of the universe is real - even if we still have no idea what it consists of.'
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Dark energy is thought to make up 73 percent of the cosmos, while the slightly less mysterious dark matter comprises the remaining 23 percent.

Wood has amazing qualities that we never knew before.

Treating modern violins with fungi makes them 'sound like a rare Stradivarius'

A wood researcher in Switzerland has succeeded in modifying wood for a violin by treating it with special fungi which alters the acoustic properties of the instrument, making it sound almost identical to a Stradivarius violin.
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Together with the violin makers Martin Schleske and Michael Rhonheimer, Professor Schwarze developed violins made of mycowood - wood treated with the fungi.  In 2009 the violins were played in a blind test alongside a Stradivarius from 1711. All the violins were played by the British violinist Matthew Trusler.  Both the jury of experts and the majority of the audience thought that the mycowood violin that Schwarze had treated with fungi for nine months was the actual Stradivarius.

Why wood pulp is world's new wonder material

THE hottest new material in town is light, strong and conducts electricity. What's more, it's been around a long, long time.

Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), which is produced by processing wood pulp, is being hailed as the latest wonder material. Japan-based Pioneer Electronics is applying it to the next generation of flexible electronic displays. IBM is using it to create components for computers. Even the US army is getting in on the act, using it to make lightweight body armor and ballistic glass.  To ramp up production, the US opened its first NCC factory in Madison, Wisconsin, on 26 July, marking the rise of what the US National Science Foundation predicts will become a $600 billion industry by 2020.

So why all the fuss? Well, not only is NCC transparent but it is made from a tightly packed array of needle-like crystals which have a strength-to-weight ratio that is eight times better than stainless steel. Even better, it's incredibly cheap.  "It is the natural, renewable version of a carbon nanotube at a fraction of the price," says Jeff Youngblood of Purdue University's NanoForestry Institute in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Giving a sleeping pill to someone in a long-term coma might just wake them up.

Medical miracle? Father 'wakes up' from seven-year coma after he is given a sleeping pill

A South African man who had been in a coma for seven years was 'woken up' after being given a sleeping pill.  Ayanda Nqinana, from Johannseburg, was left with severe brain injuries after his car crashed along an Eastern Cape road in 2005.  His doctors said the father-of-one would most likely never recover.

But his wife Nomfundo recently read a newspaper article about other long-term coma patients who had woken up after being fed sleeping pill Stilnox.
She insisted her husband be given the tablets and, just five days later, Mr Nqinana was awake and able to talk.  He even recognized relatives, including his son Ayavuya, and could recall conversations from before his crash.

Mrs Nqinana told TimesLive.co.za: 'Ayavuya was so excited that he kept running to me saying: "Mum! Daddy knows my name." 'I will never forget the day Ayanda woke up; it was the happiest day of my life."

The shiniest living thing in the world is an African fruit with no nutritional value whatsoever.

 Polla Condensata

Tiny glittering berries belonging to the plant Pollia condensata have been labeled the shiniest living things in the world, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But it's more than their brilliance that makes these tropical fruits, native to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda in particular, noteworthy.  The plant is made up of special layer of cells that reflects light to give the fruit its iridescent hues - a phenomenon known as structural coloration.  "The optics are impressive," Silvia Vignolini, co-author of the study, told Nature. "There are no previous examples of this in nature."


P. condensata's dazzling color rarely changes either, since it has no pigments that might fade and no pulp that might lead to rotting.  The irresistible-looking fruit is, in fact, resistible - at least in terms of diet. It has no nutritional value and cannot be eaten. Beverly Glover, co-author of the study, believes that the bright berries entice birds who then decorate their nests with the fruit.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:07 PM | Permalink

September 10, 2012

Hot faces and cool gloves

Thermal camera that can tell if you had too much to drink

Thermal cameras could one day pick drunk people out of a crowd, by monitoring the body temperature of various parts of their face.

Scientists in Greece have published a paper detailing how two computer formulas, in conjunction with the camera, can spot physical differences, such as the dilation of blood vessels in a drunk's cheek, or the slight increase in heat on a drunk person's nose when compared with their forehead.

 Hotnose Drunk Thermal Camera

Hot face gives it away when you've drunk too much

There's even an app that checks your heart rate in seconds by staring at your face.  Apparently, light reflectivity is also based on blood flow.  Cardiio on iTunes.

Standford Cooling Glove

As everyone has learned from this era of athletes using performance-enhancing drugs, steroids and doping is against the rules. But researchers at Stanford have created a cooling glove that according to one of the lead scientists on the team is “Equal to or substantially better than steroids … and it’s not illegal.”

How can a cooling glove improve athletic performance? The researchers got lucky and noticed the glove dramatically reduced muscle fatigue. The device works by creating a low pressure environment around the hand, expanding arteriovenous anastomoses (vessels responsible for controlling body temperature).  A cooling liquid  is concurrently circulated throughout the glove, rapidly lowering core body temperature.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:29 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2012

What a color blind person sees and why blue always comes last

The incredible images that show how a color-blind person sees the world (and why it might explain Van Gogh's genius)

An expert in color science has hit upon an intriguing idea on why Van Gogh painted as he did - and his insights could change the way we view the Master's art.

It has long-been rumored than Van Gogh was color-blind, and this theory is often cited as to why the artist painted with such bold strokes and vibrant, occasionally quirky hues.

When Japanese-based Kazunori Asada, giving a speech in Hokkaido about vision deficiencies, found himself viewing Van Gogh's work in a room illuminated to give the impression of colorblindness, he found the pieces of art transformed into even better pieces of art.

Here's one example.  Below is the original and familiar Starry Night.

 Starry-Night-Original

Below is Starry Night as a color-blind person would see it.

-Starry-Night-Colorblind

Speaking of colors, if you haven't heard Radioland's  podcast on colors, you can stream it here

What is the color of honey, and "faces pale with fear"? If you're Homer--one of the most influential poets in human history--that color is green. And the sea is "wine-dark," just like oxen…though sheep are violet. Which all sounds…well, really off. Producer Tim Howard introduces us to linguist Guy Deutscher, and the story of William Gladstone (a British Prime Minister back in the 1800s, and a huge Homer-ophile). Gladstone conducted an exhaustive study of every color reference in The Odyssey and The Iliad. And he found something startling: No blue! Tim pays a visit to the New York Public Library, where a book of German philosophy from the late 19th Century helps reveal a pattern: across all cultures, words for colors appear in stages. And blue always comes last
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:06 PM | Permalink

September 5, 2012

Astonishing video on how to get to Mars

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 PM | Permalink

August 23, 2012

Amazing scientific breakthroughs

All-in-one magic makeup camouflages soldiers, repels mosquitoes AND protects against bomb blasts

Scientists have developed camouflage makeup that not only helps soldiers hide from the enemy, but also shields them from the searing heat of bomb blasts – and it’s thinner than a sheet of paper.

The heat-resistant face paint, developed for the US military, has been described as one of the most fundamental changes in thousands of years to camouflage, and could also benefit fire fighters.

The material is powerful enough to protect against a thermal blast that can reach 600 degrees Celsius (1,112 degrees Fahrenheit), as hot as a burning cigarette.

Scientists discover how to stop bananas from rotting…by covering them with seafood.

  It's a paper-thin hydrogel coating of the chemical chitosan, a substance derived from shellfish that blocks the bananas' respiration

The giant 3D printer than could create a HOUSE in 24 hours

The cup of herbal tea that could help fight breast cancer: Plant extract can kill cells in test tube 

Extracts from the plant known as virgin’s mantle, which is used as a medicinal tea in some countries, can kill cancerous cells in the test tube.  The plant-based tea is already drunk by women in rural Pakistan who have breast cancer, but until now its use as a treatment has been regarded as folklore.

Research by scientists at Aston University, Birmingham, and Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, suggests it contains potent anti-cancer agents that act singly or in combination against the proliferation of cancer cells.  Laboratory tests showed they arrested the growth of cells within five hours of application and caused them to die within 24 hours.

Professor Helen Griffiths and Professor Amtul R Carmichael, who headed the study, found herbal tea made from the extract of the plant destroys cancer cells but, unlike conventional chemotherapy, treatment does not damage normal breast cells, thus reducing side effects.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:22 PM | Permalink

August 18, 2012

A Range of Astonishing

Astonishing.  Harvard Researchers Can Store All the Data Humans Make in a Year on 4 grams of DNA

Forget that hard drive humming inside your computer – the most efficient memory storage device on the planet might be locked up in each and every cell in your body…The result is a method of storing data so dense that it makes most modern tech seem like wasted space.

The team estimates that the every piece of digital information humankind produces in a year could be stored in about four grams of DNA.

Astonishing. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has begun crucifixions

The Arab Spring takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood has run amok, with reports from several different media agencies that the radical Muslims have begun crucifying opponents of newly installed President Mohammed Morsi.

Middle East media confirm that during a recent rampage, Muslim Brotherhood operatives “crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

Astonishing. Incredible shot of US swimmer that perfectly shows the phenomenon of surface tension

 Us Swimmer Surface Tension Water
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:30 PM | Permalink

July 16, 2012

Fountain of color

Something wonderful.  Natural kaleidoscope: Rainbow forms in spray at bottom of waterfall as spectacular fusion of colors hovers above the ground

As far as natural phenomenons go, it is one of the most spectacular.  These images capture the moment a waterfall in Yosemite National Park turns into a beautiful fountain of color.  A rainbow forms in the spray emitted by the California waterfall, creating a dazzling effect.

 Yosemite Rainbow Waterfall

The natural wonder was captured by photographer Justin Lee, who was overjoyed to find himself in exactly the right place at the right time.  Mr Lee, from British Columbia, Canada, was standing close to a cliff at the Tunnel View lookout when he spotted the colorful scene.  'I couldn't believe how lucky I was to see such a sight, and just had to start taking pictures straight away.'

Secondview Yosemite Rainbow Fall

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 PM | Permalink

July 6, 2012

The development of the human face in the womb in 30 seconds

Do you know why we have that tiny vertical groove from our nose to the outside of our upper lip?  It's called a philtrum, a word I can never remember. 

 Philtrum

What it's for, I never knew until today when I saw this amazing BBC video that shows the development of the human face in the womb.

Produced for the BBC series Inside the Human Body that was aired last year, the animation is based on scans of a developing embryo and captures the formation of the face in the womb.

The video reveals how sections of the face grow and fit together like a puzzle just three months after conception.  BBC’s Michael Mosley said: 'The three main sections of the puzzle meet in the middle of your top lip, creating the groove that is your philtrum.'

The 30-second clip strings together 3-D models of the developing face based on scans taken in the first trimester. Their formation is a complicated ballet of growth and fusion of moving plates of tissue.'  Plates of tissue that fuse at the philtrum, which can be long or short and deep or shallow, depending on a person’s genetic makeup.  The failure of those plates to fuse can cause a cleft lip or palate. And a smooth philtrum can signal disorders like fetal alcohol syndrome.

'This whole amazing process – the bits coming together to produce a recognizable human face – happens in the womb between two and three months,' said Mr Mosley. 'If it doesn’t happen then, it never will.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:56 AM | Permalink

July 4, 2012

Congratulations to CERN

How wonderful it is to see scientists break through to truth by uncovering, discovering,  what is already there and which, up to this time, was only a theory.  The Higgs Boson is the new subatomic particle confirmed by great work by a great many over 40 years.    Hearty congratulations.

Scientists discover new subatomic particle at the center of everything

A half-century scientific quest culminated early Wednesday as physicists announced the discovery of a new subatomic particle — one theorized to be so fundamental that without it, nothing could exist.

Dubbed the Higgs boson — or the “God particle,” to the chagrin of scientists — the particle is thought to create a sort of force field that permeates the universe, imbuing everything that we can see and touch with the fundamental property known as mass.
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We have a discovery,” Heuer said. “We have discovered a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson. It’s a historic milestone today.”

Applause broke out.  The scientists at CERN then stood, applauded and cheered for a full minute.  The video feed from CERN showed Peter Higgs, the University of Edinburgh physicist who theorized the existence of this exotic particle in 1964, tearing up.


 Prof Higgs 83 July32012

Moments later, Higgs stood and said, “For me, it’s really an incredible thing that happened in my lifetime.”
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“We know the Higgs is at the center of everything,” said Lykken. “This is why [Nobel Prize-winning physicist] Leon Lederman called it the God particle. It talks to all the other particles in some fundamental way.”

When the other particles that make up the stuff of the universe — protons, neutrons, electrons and so on — interact with the Higgs field, they acquire the trait known as mass. More massive objects get tangled up in the field — and hence, slowed down as they move — more than less massive objects.

One way to think of the Higgs field: It’s the water the entire universe swims in.

The CERN physicists did not see this new particle directly, because it disintegrates too quickly. Rather, they divined its existence from sifting through the debris of millions of high-energy subatomic collisions and then searching for clues that the Higgs had been there. It’s like divining the presence of an elusive snow leopard by studying thousands of criss-crossed paw prints.

But by studying these traces, the CERN physicists saw a “bump” in their data consistent with a Higgs boson.

The idea of the Higgs, or something like it, has been around since 1964, when it was first hypothesized by Peter Higgs. The Standard Model of physics had a hole in it — one that needed to be filled by a particle that imbues everything with mass. It became known as the Higgs boson — and its discovery, many scientists say, will now surely garner a Nobel Prize.

Mass is not the same thing as weight, although the two concepts are easily confused. An object has mass even in outer space. Mass is an object’s resistance to being shoved around — its inertia.

A photon, which is a light particle, has no mass because it zips through the Higgs ocean without interacting with it. Light speed is the cosmic speed limit for this reason — because nothing can have less-than-zero interaction with the Higgs field. (Mass can then be described as the quality that keeps everything from moving at the speed of light.)

Physicists will now turn their attention to understanding the new particle.

Crucially, they will want to know whether it behaves like a mass-giving Higgs, and more specifically whether it behaves like the Higgs predicted in the standard model.
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“Fine, there is something there — a resonance," says Martinus Veltman, emeritus professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who shared the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the standard model. “Now we have to find out if it has all the properties that the Higgs is supposed to have.”


The phrase "God particle" was coined by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman
but is used by laymen, not physicists, as an easier way of explaining how the subatomic universe works and got started.

Professor Higgs wipes a tear from his eye as fellow scientists find his 'God particle' on 'momentous day for science' - 40 years after he predicted its existence

The hunt for the Higgs boson - the ‘God particle’ that holds the universe together - is over.

Scientists at Switzerland's CERN (the European Council for Nuclear Research) announced the discovery to an audience including Professor Peter Higgs, who first suggested the existence of the particle in 1964 after he dreamed up the idea while walking in the Highlands.

Professor Higgs, 83, wiped a tear from his eye as the findings were announced, and later said: 'It's really an incredible thing that it's happened in my lifetime.'

An audience of the world's leading physicists rose in a standing ovation to celebrate the find - the culmination of a decades-long search at the Large Hadron Collider and other particle accelerators such as America's Tevatron.

The discovery is the biggest leap in physics for decades - filling in a crucial gap in our understanding of the atom. In the long term, the discovery could lead to new technologies.
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The discovery fills in the last gap in the 'standard model' of physics - proving Einstein right, and possibly leading to new technologies built on our understanding of the workings of the atom. In December last year scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - the ‘Big Bang’ particle accelerator which recreates conditions a billionth of a second after the birth of the universe - revealed they had caught a first tantalizing glimpse of the Higgs.
Since then they have sifted through vast quantities of data from innumerable high energy collisions in an effort to reduce the odds of being wrong.

A statistical standard of proof known as ‘five sigma’ is the ultimate confirmation of a discovery.

‘We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma,’ said ATLAS experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti, ‘but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.’

‘The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found,’ said CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela.
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Physicists needed the Higgs to plug a gaping hole in the ‘Standard Model’, the theory that explains all the particles, forces and interactions making up the universe.

So far nothing has been observed to account for mass, and the fact that some particles weigh more than others.

According to the theory, the Higgs boson is the emissary of an all-pervading ‘Higgs field’ that gives matter mass. The more particles interact with the field, the more massive they become and the heavier they are.

A Standard Model universe without the Higgs boson could not exist. Everything would behave as light does, floating freely and not combining with anything else. There would be no atoms, made from conglomerations of protons, neutrons and electrons, no ordinary matter, and no us.

Professor Paul Dauncey, Professor of Particle Physics at Imperial College London said: 'This is a major breakthrough for our understanding of the Universe…..'But no-one thinks that's really the end of the story, so it might also be the beginning of a new chapter in physics, the first step to a more fundamental view of how everything came to exist. That's why physicists are excited; we just don't know where this will lead.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:06 PM | Permalink

June 8, 2012

Finally, the elimination of the blind spot UPDATED

Math professor's side mirror that eliminates 'blind spot' receives US patent

A side-by-side comparison of a standard flat driver's side mirror with the mirror designed by Dr. R. Andrew Hicks, mathematics professor at Drexel University. With minimal distortion, Hicks's mirror shows a much wider field of view (the wide area to the left of the silver car seen in the distance, behind the tree, in this image). Hicks's mirror has a field of view of about 45 degrees, compared to 15 to 17 degrees of view in a flat mirror. Hicks's mirror received a US patent in May 2012.

A side mirror that eliminates the dangerous "blind spot" for drivers has now received a U.S. patent. The subtly curved mirror, invented by Drexel University mathematics professor Dr. R. Andrew Hicks, dramatically increases the field of view with minimal distortion.

 Side Mirrors Comparison

Kudos to Professor Drexel.

UPDATE:  Government regulations prevent its use

In the United States, regulations dictate that cars coming off of the assembly line must have a flat mirror on the driver's side. Curved mirrors are allowed for cars' passenger-side mirrors only if they include the phrase "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."

Because of these regulations, Hicks's mirrors will not be installed on new cars sold in the U.S. any time soon. The mirror may be manufactured and sold as an aftermarket product that drivers and mechanics can install on cars after purchase. Some countries in Europe and Asia do allow slightly curved mirrors on new cars. Hicks has received interest from investors and manufacturers who may pursue opportunities to license and produce the mirror.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink

May 22, 2012

Tree power

 American Elm
The American Elm tree is also the state tree of Massachusetts



“Concerning trees and leaves… there's a real power here. It is amazing that trees can turn gravel and bitter salts into these soft-lipped lobes, as if I were to bite down on a granite slab and start to swell, bud and flower. Every year a given tree creates absolutely from scratch ninety-nine percent of its living parts. Water lifting up tree trunks can climb one hundred and fifty feet an hour; in full summer a tree can, and does, heave a ton of water every day. A big elm in a single season might make as many as six million leaves, wholly intricate, without budging an inch; I couldn't make one. A tree stands there, accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes, it splits, sucks and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling. No person taps this free power; the dynamo in the tulip tree pumps out even more tulip tree, and it runs on rain and air.”

Annie Dillard,  Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 Fall New England
Fall in New England

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink

May 21, 2012

Yale students find plastic-eating fungi

Could a plastic-eating fungi save world from biggest man-made environmental catastrophe?

The world's addiction to plastic packaging and products threatens to choke many of the eco-systems that life relies on for survival.  The usually synthetic material, which is most commonly made from petrochemicals, degrades very slowly because it's complex chemical bonds make it resistant to natural processes of decomposition.  Since the 1950s, one billion tons of plastic are thought to have been discarded - and the waste may persist for hundreds or even thousands of years.
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A group of students from Yale University, Connecticut, have found a fungus in the Amazon rainforest that can break down the common plastic polyurethane….As part of Yale's Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory educational program me, the researchers scoured the Ecuadorian rainforest for plants and cultured the micro-organisms within their tissue.
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Writing in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, they say: 'Endophytes were isolated from plant stems collected in the Ecuadorian rainforest.  Endophytes are micro-organisms that live within the inner tissues of plants, but do not cause any noticeable disease symptoms in their hosts.  They often play a key role in the decomposition of the plants after death, but never before have they been tested for their ability to degrade synthetic materials.

The authors of the study hold out hope that further exploration of properties of endophytes could reveal more miracle metabolisers that could potentially be used to degrade other kinds of plastics.

'Each of the more than 300,000 land plant species on Earth potentially hosts multiple endophyte species,' they write.  'Only a small sampling of plants have been examined for their endophytic associations, yet many of these organisms can be readily cultured.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

May 7, 2012

‘Nobody has ever grown a nose before.’

Making organ donation a thing of the past - the British lab growing human spare parts

'This is a nose we’re growing for a patient next month,’ Professor Alexander Seifalian says matter-of-factly, plucking a Petri dish from the bench beside him.  Inside is an utterly lifelike appendage, swimming in red goo. Alongside it is another dish containing an ear.

‘It’s a world first,’ he says smiling.

 Prof Alexander Salefallian

Seifalian leads University College London’s (UCL) Department of Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine, which he jokingly calls the ‘human body parts store’. Seifalian and his team are focusing on growing replacement organs and body parts to order using a patient's own cells

As he takes me on a tour of his lab I’m bombarded with one medical breakthrough after another. At one desk he picks up a glass mould that shaped the trachea – windpipe – used in the world’s first synthetic organ transplant.  At another are the ingredients for the revolutionary nano material at the heart of his creations, and just beyond that is a large machine with a pale, gossamer-thin cable inside that’s pulsing with what looks like a heartbeat. It’s an artery.

‘We are the first in the world working on this,’ Seifalian says casually.

‘Other groups have tried to tackle nose replacement with implants but we’ve found they don’t last,’ says Adelola Oseni, one of Seifalian’s team. ‘They migrate, the shape of the nose changes. But our one will hold itself completely, as it’s an entire nose shape made out of polymer.’

Looking like very thin Latex rubber, the polymer is made up of billions of molecules, each measuring just over one nanometre (a billionth of a metro), or 40,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Working at molecular level allows the material itself to be intricately detailed.

‘Inside this nano material are thousands of small holes,’ says Seifalian. ‘Tissue grows into these and becomes part of it. It becomes the same as a nose and will even feel like one.’

When the nose is transferred to the patient, it doesn’t go directly onto the face but will be placed inside a balloon inserted beneath the skin on their arm.  After four weeks, during which time skin and blood vessels can grow, the nose can be monitored, then it can be transplanted to the face.

At the Mayo Clinic, similar exciting work is going on as they as also Growing Your Own Organs, in this case, heart tissue.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:55 AM | Permalink

May 6, 2012

Dazzling solar halo

 Solar Halo

Rare solar halo dazzles in the sky above China

Known to weather experts as a '22 degrees halo' - because of its circular formation of 22° around the sun - the phenomenon is also known as a solar halo, icebox, sun dog and - for those who aren't into the whole brevity thing - circumzenithal arc.

The optical phenomenon is an an ice-halo formed by plate-shaped ice crystals in atmospheric clouds known as cirrus.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 PM | Permalink

April 28, 2012

We are probably all alone

I think this is probably the case.

Scientists say Earth may be a 'one-off fluke' and the Milky Way's billions of other planets may all be lifeless

Nasa has said there are 'billions' of planets in our own Milky Way galaxy - but a new study suggests that the idea that they are teeming with alien lifeforms may just be wishful thinking.

Two Princeton scientists used what's known as 'Bayesian analysis' - a technique that 'boils down' ideas to the actual data, as opposed to scientists' own ideas about what 'should' be true.

They suggest that it's very possible Earth is a one-off aberration where life took hold unusually fast - and on the average extraterrestrial planet, the chances of life are very low indeed.

 Sunrise From Space

"Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering."
Arthur C. Clarke

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 PM | Permalink

April 27, 2012

Repeating patterns in nature and the cosmos

God, being a fine artist does not repeat himself, but he does rhyme.

 God Braincell Universe

See it in hi-res and read the text.

From sea shells to spiral galaxies, repeating patterns are the law of nature and the cosmos.  There's a long article at the Journal of Cosmology by Rhawn Joseph that teases out the mathematical implications with some beautiful examples

The symmetry and patterns exhibited by elementary particles, atoms, snail shells, sea shells, whirlpools, cyclones, solar systems, and spiral galaxies, should be applied to all galaxies, collectively, and to the cosmos. What these patterns have in common is they can be predicted from formulations first proposed by Pythagoras, and secondly, all orbit an eye or hole at their center.

 Goldenratio

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 PM | Permalink

April 24, 2012

The beauty of the world below

Spectacular underwater images from the University of Miami's annual Underwater Photography contest.

'The quality of photos keeps getting better each year,' UM lecturer and photographer Myron Wang who judged among the panel of experts said in a release by the school

 Beneath Mangroves Matthew Potenski
Under mangrove trees

 Swimming Jellyfish
Sea nettle jellyfish swimming

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:05 PM | Permalink

April 12, 2012

Scientists revolt at NASA

Hansen and Schmidt of NASA GISS under fire for climate stance: Engineers, scientists, astronauts ask NASA administration to look at empirical evidence rather than climate models.

When Chris Kraft, the man who presided over NASA’s finest hour, and the engineering miracle of saving Apollo 13 speaks, people listen.
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From the joint letter to NASA Administrator

49 former NASA scientists and astronauts sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last week admonishing the agency for it’s role in advocating a high degree of certainty that man-made CO2 is a major cause of climate change while neglecting empirical evidence that calls the theory into question.
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Select excerpts from the letter:
“The unbridled advocacy of CO2 being the major cause of climate change is unbecoming of NASA’s history of making an objective assessment of all available scientific data prior to making decisions or public statements.”

“We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated.”

“We request that NASA refrain from including unproven and unsupported remarks in its future releases and websites on this subject.”

Science is never settled when  scientists look to discover truth.  If someone says "the science is settled" they have forsaken truth to promote an agenda.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink

April 10, 2012

Moonbow at Victoria Falls

 Moonbow Victoriafalls

How wonderful photography that we can see so many of nature's marvels.

More astonishing shots by Charlie Hamilton James  here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 PM | Permalink

March 28, 2012

Reverberations from the Big Bang

When Albert Einstein listened to the Belgian priest and physicist Georges Lemaitre describe his theory of the origins of the universe as the Big Bang, he said, "It's the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation I've ever heard".

More in Manjit Kumar's book review of Chris Impey's book, How It Began: A Time-Traveler's Guide to the Universe.

According to the Big Bang model that has grown from Lemaître's insight, the moment of instantaneous creation was 13.75 billion years ago and began with a singularity, a point of infinite mass and density where our present understanding of physics simply breaks down. Yet "the Big Bang is all around us," Mr. Impey notes, in the form of cosmic microwave background radiation, which suffuses the entire universe. Soon after it was discovered in 1964, scientists recognized this radiation as the echo of the Big Bang, an afterglow from the era when the universe was hotter and denser. "There are tens of thousands of microwaves from creation in every breath you take," Mr. Impey delights in revealing.

The static you hear on a radio or see on a TV  is reverberations from the Big Bang

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:50 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2012

Neanderthals

You may want to revise whatever you thought you knew about Neanderthals and the origins of humans. 

New theory of the origins of humans  Neanderthal predation created modern humans proposed by Danny Vendramini.

 

Them and Us.  How Neanderthal predation created modern humans.

 Neanderthal Front-200W

NP theory reveals that Eurasian Neanderthals hunted, killed and cannibalised early humans for 50,000 years in an area of the Middle East known as the Mediterranean Levant.

Because the two species were sexually compatible, Eurasian Neanderthals also abducted and raped human females.

Them and Us cites new evidence from archaeology and genetics to demonstrate that this prolonged period of cannibalistic and sexual predation began about 100,000 years ago and that by 50,000 years ago, the human population in the Levant was reduced to as few as 50 individuals.

The death toll from Neanderthal predation generated the selection pressure that transformed the tiny survivor population of early humans into modern humans.

This Levantine group became the founding population of all humans living today.
NP theory argues that modern human physiology, sexuality, aggression, propensity for inter-group violence and human nature all emerged as a direct consequence of systematic long-term dietary and sexual predation by Eurasian Neanderthals.

Vendramini's discovery of the traumatic secret history of our ancestors resolves the last great mysteries of our species - how, why, when and where we became human beings.
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It is unquestionable the biggest shake-up in evolutionary theory since Darwin.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:10 PM | Permalink

February 29, 2012

Stone Age wanderers across the Atlantic Ice

For as long as I can remember people have wondered about the Clovis people, the first human inhabitants of the New World and why they disappeared leaving their stone spear points all over the the country, mainly in the Southwest.

Everybody thought they came, like the Indians, from Asia over the Bering Strait and down the coast.  So I was flabbergasted to learn  that the Clovis people may have come across the Atlantic ice from Europe during the Ice Age.  That at least is the conclusion drawn from the archeological evidence of Clovis type tools found along the East coast at six different locations.

That find is being called one of the most important archaeological breakthroughs in several decades

 Clovis Migration

Three of the sites were discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware, while another one is in Pennsylvania and a fifth site is in Virginia.

Fishermen discovered a sixth on a seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast, which in prehistoric times would have been dry land.
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But the age of the newly-discovered tools are from between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago and are virtually exactly the same as western European materials from that time, reported The Independent.

Professor Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter, were the two leading archaeologists who analysed  the evidence.

They have argued that Stone Age humans were able to make the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic ice and suggested that from Western Europe, Stone Age people migrated to North America at the height of the Ice Age.

About three million square miles of the North Atlantic was covered in thick ice for all or part of the year at the peak of the Ice Age.
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However, beyond the ice, the lure of the open ocean began would have been extremely rich in food resources for hunters.

The two archaeologists have just published their book Across Atlantic Ice.

 Across Atlantic Ice-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:40 PM | Permalink

February 24, 2012

Stella rainbows, UFO clouds and shooting stars

An amateur photographer captures stunning glowing cloud in the skies above Russia

 Ufo Cloud

A stunning stella rainbow captured in the skies above Italy by a photographer using long-exposure techniques.

 Stella Rainbow Italy

When you have a few minutes to watch rolling skies, shooting stars, lenticular clouds and the American southwest in all its glory.
you can not do better than Epic Skies by Tony Rowell on Vimeo.

 Purple Mountains

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2012

The effect on the Japanese people of the radiation leaked from the Fukusima nuclear plant

A year after the great Japanese earthquake and resulting damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant and it's not what many people think.

So far no one has died from radiation leaks as a result of the plant's damage. No one has even been reported as becoming sick. In fact, no one has required decontamination except plant workers. In other words, the leak was minimal and not problematic. There wasn't a huge meltdown, there wasn't a Chernobyl style disaster.

In fact, as Andrew Bolt links, even Chernobyl wasn't as bad as people thought:
As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident but others who died as late as 2004.

The new numbers are presented in a landmark digest report, “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts,” just released by the Chernobyl Forum. The digest, based on a three-volume, 600-page report and incorporating the work of hundreds of scientists, economists and health experts, assesses the 20-year impact of the largest nuclear accident in history.
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And so it is with nuclear power. Plants are better built now, better understood, and safer. If a massive quake and tsunami did so little damage to a plant, shouldn't we be a little more willing to give these clean, abundant power sources a chance?

This is extremely good news,  And for the vast majority of us unsuspected and surprising.  After all, we all read stories along these lines. 

"The Japanese crews will slough their skin and muscles, and bleed out internally under the full glare of the world's media"

That was Guy Rundle last March in the Australian Crikey.

Another case where what the media's propagation of fears is completely divorced from what has been shown by scientists seeking truth, making careful observations, collecting and analyzing data and then drawing careful conclusions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink

February 5, 2012

Lighting up the night

 Timelapse Fireflies Tsuneaki Hiramatsu

Stunning time-lapse photographs of fireflies by Japanese photographer Tsuneaki Hiramatsu

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:33 PM | Permalink

January 30, 2012

January 27, 2012

When Stubborn Facts Pummel "Post-Normal" Science

I was so happy to see this in the Wall Street Journal today.  It means the return of real science and the decline of post-normal science

Once there was modern science, which was hard work; now we have postmodern science, where the quest for real, absolute truth is outdated, and "science" is a wax nose that can be twisted in any direction to underpin the latest lying narrative in the pursuit of power.

Sixteen ConcernedScientists say No Need to Panic About Global Warming

There's no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to 'decarbonize' the world's economy.
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The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts. 

Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.
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The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause
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The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere's life cycle. Plants do so much better with more CO2 that greenhouse operators often increase the CO2 concentrations by factors of three or four to get better growth.
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Why is there so much passion about global warming, ... There are several reasons, but a good place to start is the old question "cui bono?" Or the modern update, "Follow the money."

Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet.
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Every candidate should support rational measures to protect and improve our environment, but it makes no sense at all to back expensive programs that divert resources from real needs and are based on alarming but untenable claims of "incontrovertible" evidence.

Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris;
J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting;
Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University;
Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society;
Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences;
William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton;
Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.;
William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology;
Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT;
James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University;
Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences;
Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne;
Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator;
Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem;
Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service;
Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:13 PM | Permalink

January 24, 2012

Good news about tequila and beer

Tequila Can Be Turned into Diamonds

“We were in doubt over whether the great amount of chemicals present in tequila, other than water and ethanol, would contaminate or obstruct the process, ” the study’s co-author, Lius Miguel Apåtiga, told PhysOrg. “It turned out to be not so. The results were amazing, same as with the ethanol and water compound, we obtained almost spherical shaped diamonds of nanometric size. There is no doubt; tequila has the exact proportion of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms necessary to form diamonds.”

Now that they know the process works, scientists can use the tequila-made diamond film substance for everything from semiconductors to radiation detectors.

10 Surprising Health Benefits of Beer

1. Stronger Bones

Beer contains high levels of silicon, which is linked to bone health. In a 2009 study at Tufts University and other centers, older men and women who swigged one or two drinks daily had higher bone density, with the greatest benefits found in those who favored beer or wine. However, downing more than two drinks was linked to increased risk for fractures.

2. A Stronger Heart

A 2011 analysis of 16 earlier studies involving more than 200,000 people, conducted by researchers at Italy’s Fondazion di Ricerca e Cura, found a 31 percent reduced risk of heart disease in those who quaffed about a pint of beer daily, while risk surged in those who guzzled higher amounts of alcohol, whether beer, wine, or spirits.

3. Healthier Kidneys

4. Boosting Brain Health

A beer a day may help keep Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia at bay, researchers say.

5. Reduced Cancer Risk

A Portuguese study found that marinating steak in beer eliminates almost 70 percent of the carcinogens, called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) produced when the meat is pan-fried. Researchers theorize that beer’s sugars help block HCAs from forming.

6. Boosting Vitamin Levels

A Dutch study, performed at the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute, found that beer-drinking participants had 30 percent higher levels of vitamin B6 levels in their blood than their non-drinking counterparts, and twice as much as wine drinkers. Beer also contains vitamin B12 and folic acid.

7. Guarding Against Stroke

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that moderate amounts of alcohol, including beer, help prevent blood clots that block blood flow to the heart, neck and brain—the clots that cause ischemic stroke, the most common type.

8. Reduced Risk for Diabetes

Drink up: A 2011 Harvard study of about 38,000 middle-aged men found that when those who only drank occasionally raised their alcohol intake to one to two beers or other drinks daily, their risk of developing type 2 diabetes dropped by 25 percent. The researchers found no benefit to quaffing more than two drinks. The researchers found that alcohol increases insulin sensitivity, thus helping protect against diabetes.

9. Lower Blood Pressure

Wine is fine for your heart, but beer may be even better: A Harvard study of 70,000 women ages 25 to 40 found that moderate beer drinkers were less likely to develop high blood pressure—a major risk factor for heart attack—than women who sipped wine or spirits.

10. Longer Life

In a 2005 review of 50 studies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that moderate drinkers live longer. The USDA also estimates that moderate drinking prevents about 26,000 deaths a year, due to lower rates of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:49 PM | Permalink

January 12, 2012

What is the color of the Milky Way?

Milky Way is 'pure white, like a snowflake', say astronomers seeking the true colour of our galaxy

Astronomers seeking the true colour of the Milky Way have revealed that our galaxy is so white that it would resemble fresh snow to the human eye.

A team from the University of Pittsburgh has presented research revealing the Milky Way to be 'a very pure white, almost mirroring a fresh spring snowfall.'

The colour of a galaxy is one of its most important properties because it reveals age, and they are usually split into two broad categories.

Red galaxies are older because they rarely form new stars, while blue galaxies are younger as new stars are still being born.

The new measurements place the Milky Way near the division between the two classes.

Just right

 Milkywaygalaxy

Milky Way facts

If the Milky Way were the size of a football field, 100 meters or 110 yards, our entire solar system would be only 1 mm big, like a grain of sand.  The Milky Way galaxy has at least 200 billion stars in it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:27 PM | Permalink

December 27, 2011

Every sixty seconds

Astonishing infographic on the Incredible Things That Happen Every 60 Seconds On The Internet

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 AM | Permalink

December 21, 2011

Explaining the God particle

Michael Gerson writes  The search for the God particle goes beyond mere physicsT

The God particle — really the Higgs boson — still resists confirmation, though scientists at the Large Hadron Collider recently reported “tantalizing hints” of its existence. They also reject the notion that their search has anything to do with God, which is only technically true.

Modern physics can explain just about everything, except why anything has mass. The Standard Model of physics, which emerged four decades ago, employs an elegant mathematical formula to account for most of the elemental forces in the universe. It correctly predicted the discovery of various leptons and quarks in the laboratory.

But the equation doesn’t explain gravity. So the Standard Model requires the existence of some other force that seized the massless particles produced by the Big Bang and sucked them into physicality. The detection of Higgs bosons would confirm this theory — which is why scientists are smashing protons into one another in a 17-mile round particle accelerator and picking through the subatomic wreckage.

 Cern Inside
The Large Hadron Collider at CERN

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Not only does the universe unexpectedly correspond to mathematical theories, it is self-organizing — from biology to astrophysics — in unlikely ways. The physical constants of the universe seem finely tuned for the emergence of complexity and life. Slightly modify the strength of gravity, or the chemistry of carbon, or the ratio of the mass of protons and electrons, and biological systems become impossible. The universe-ending Big Crunch comes too soon, or carbon isn’t produced, or suns explode.
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One reasonable alternative — the one advocated by Louis — is theism. It explains a universe finely tuned for life and accessible to human reason. It accounts for the cosmic coincidences. And a theistic universe, unlike the alternatives, also makes sense of free will and moral responsibility.

This is not proof for the existence of God. But the conflict here is not between faith and science; it is between the competing faiths of theism and materialism, neither of which can claim to be proved by science. Modern physics has accelerated smack into the limits of the scientific method. It raises questions it cannot answer but that human beings cannot avoid — matters of meaning and purpose. This is not a failure of science, just a recognition that measurement is not the only source of meaning.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:19 PM | Permalink

December 13, 2011

A wonder of the universe every day of Advent

If you haven't already, check out the 2011 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar in the Atlantic.  A new photo every day manifesting the glories of the universe.

 Butterfuly Nebula

Butterfly Nebula, Dec 6

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2011

White Rainbow over North Pole

-White Rainbow

Rare white rainbow lights up the North Pole

This is the amazing moment a white rainbow streaks across the Arctic sky.

The rare phenomena, named a fog bow, was spotted by Sam Dobson during a recent expedition to the North Pole.  As their ice breaking ship cruised through the chilly waters, Sam clocked the arching rainbow but was stunned to see it was completely white.  He quickly grabbed his camera, and despite freezing temperatures, captured the unique sight.  The 51-year-old, from Russia, said:

'It was around midnight, but because of the time of year it was still fairly light.

'At first it just looked like a cloud, but as we got closer it was a solid rainbow, but white.

'We were so impressed with it we all got off onto a floating slab of ice to take a closer look.It is actually closer than it looks in the pictures.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

October 25, 2011

Loops for better hearing

Great news for the hearing impaired, A Hearing Aid That Cuts Out All the Clatter

And it all has to do with a hearing loop.

The technology, which has been widely adopted in Northern Europe, has the potential to transform the lives of tens of millions of Americans, according to national advocacy groups. As loops are installed in stores, banks, museums, subway stations and other public spaces, people who have felt excluded are suddenly back in the conversation.

A hearing loop, typically installed on the floor around the periphery of a room, is a thin strand of copper wire radiating electromagnetic signals that can be picked up by a tiny receiver already built into most hearing aids and cochlear implants. When the receiver is turned on, the hearing aid receives only the sounds coming directly from a microphone, not the background cacophony.

The response of one composer, Richard Einhorn, who had lost much of his hearing.

“There I was at ‘Wicked’ weeping uncontrollably — and I don’t even like musicals,” he said. “For the first time since I lost most of my hearing,  live music was perfectly clear, perfectly clean and incredibly rich.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:00 AM | Permalink

October 10, 2011

Small Wonders

Do you know what this is?

 Sand Bigpicture Nikon Photomicrography.

It's a photo of sand!  From The Big Picture, the Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.

“Among the many thousands of things that I have never been able to understand, one in particular stands out. That is the question of who was the first person who stood by a pile of sand and said, "You know, I bet if we took some of this and mixed it with a little potash and heated it, we could make a material that would be solid and yet transparent. We could call it glass." Call me obtuse, but you could stand me on a beach till the end of time and never would it occur to me to try to make it into windows.”

Bill Bryson

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:17 PM | Permalink

September 29, 2011

Breaking through barriers

Astonishing photo of a Tomcat fighter breaking the sound barrier.  It really looks as if it's breaking through from another dimension.

 Breaking Sound Barrier

It looks like a Hollywood special effect, but there’s actually no computer trickery involved – just two high-powered jet engines.

This is the moment an F14D Tomcat fighter smashed the sound barrier as it roared above the flight deck of USS Theodore Roosevelt during a fly-past.

The dramatic cloud effect occurs when humidity is high and the air condenses behind the plane. It is accompanied by a loud crack, caused by compressed air waves exploding.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

September 21, 2011

The Nose Knows

From the New Scientist, The unsung sense: How smell rules your life

it is becoming clear that the brain's olfactory centres are intimately linked to its limbic system, which is involved in emotion, fear and memory. That suggests a link between smell and the way we think.

Rob Holland and colleagues at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, meanwhile, have found that the hint of aroma wafting out of a hidden bucket of citrus-scented cleaner was enough to persuade students to clean up after themselves - even though the vast majority of them hadn't actually registered the smell
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work by Mujica-Parodi suggests we can sense another's fear from their sweat.

 Nose

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The smell of fear may be just one of many olfactory signals emitted by the human body. Another study this year, by Yaara Yeshurun at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, and her team found that the imperceptible smell of women's tears decreases sexual arousal in men.
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The surprising thing about these studies is that few of the subjects were aware of the smells that they were facing, yet their behaviour was altered nevertheless.
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Smells are especially good memory evokers, but it's actually a myth that odours trigger more detailed memories than other stimuli. "The memory is not more accurate and you don't remember more details," says Yaara Yeshurun at the Weizmann Instititute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, "but it is unique in that it is more emotional." 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

September 3, 2011

Take a gander

Two snow geese flying south.

 Snowgoose

1.5 million snow geese take flight at the same time at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri.

 Snowgoose Migration 1.3Million

Photographer Mike Hollingshead in  Ready, steady, goose!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:05 PM | Permalink

Star trails down under

 Star Trails Lincoln Harrison

Photographer Lincoln Harrison captures stunning images of star trails in Australis with time-lapse photography and 15 hour photo shoots.    More photos here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

August 24, 2011

"A false statement of fact, made deliberately, is the most serious crime a scientist can commit."

‘The only ethical principle which has made science possible is that the truth shall be told all the time.  If we do not penalize false statements made in error, we open up the way for false statements by intention.  And a false statement of fact, made deliberately, is the most serious crime a scientist can commit.’ 

Dorothy L Sayers in her murder mystery Gaudy night

via Bookworm in Global warmists - garbage in, garbage out

Jim Lacey explains clearly the problem with global warming science:  it’s so hopelessly corrupt that it’s no longer possible to tell what the truth is any more.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:53 PM | Permalink

August 7, 2011

Happy Birthday and Thank You to Sir Tim

World Wide Web celebrates its 20th birthday

First web page born on August 6, 1991
Now there are more than 19.68 billion pages


It began as a simple page of links that allowed a group of scientists to share data in the confines of their laboratories.

But in the 20 years since, it has become an inextricable part of the lives of billions of people.

The World Wide Web (WWW) was born on August 6, 1991, when the first web page was launched on the internet by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
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The WWW should not be confused with the internet. They are related, but not the same.
The term internet, coined in 1974, refers to the vast networking infrastructure that connects millions of computers, while the WWW is the method of accessing information over the internet through web pages.

Seems like it's been around forever and I can't imagine life without it.  Thank you Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Berners-Lee isn't credited with connecting up all the computers - he developed three technologies that made it possible for users to better find and share information among these connected systems.

The first development were uniform resource locators (URLs), which are like mailing addresses for information.
The second is HyperText Markup Language (HTML), which is the code a web browser needs to show the text, graphics and hyperlinking systems.

His third invention was the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that enables requests and file transmissions to occur between Web browsers and web servers
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:51 PM | Permalink

August 6, 2011

The Rainbow in a Vast Cloud

 Vastcloud

Terrifying moment vast cloud threatened to engulf whole street

This is the terrifying moment a cloud threatened to develop in to a full blown tornado and engulf a whole row of family houses.

Brave photographer Pat Kavanagh took this shot of an explosive black storm from the roof of his house in Taber in Alberta, Canada, last month.

Expecting the sunny weather to take a turn for the worst, he watched intently as the billows started spinning into a furious funnel.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

Faster please

Good, no great news on the technological front.

Energy in America: New Liquid Fuel Faster, More Efficient -- and Greener, Too

With a little help from genetic engineering, researchers at one Massachusetts company say they've created an organism that takes sunlight, water and carbon dioxide and creates liquid fuel.

Bill Sims, CEO of Cambridge-based Joule Unlimited, says the process utilizes a bacteria, produces a chemical product and secretes it. The result? A fuel that can fill demands for diesel and ethanol.

"The product that we make is diesel. It's very high cetane to very premium diesel. It is fungible, so it's infrastructure compatible," said Sims.

The product can be used in trucks, heavy equipment and further refined into jet fuel. Simply put, the organism created secretes the fuel in a direct process, working faster than current biofuel technology that often uses algae.

From the company's website, Joule Unlimited

Joule’s renewable fuel platform will best the scale, productivities and costs of any known alternative to fossil fuel today, with no use of biomass, arable land or fresh water. Our inputs are sunlight and waste CO2. Our expected output? Millions of gallons of clean, renewable fuel that drops into existing infrastructure. Next step: change the world.

As Glenn Reynolds would say, Faster please.

Under the Nebraska small town of Elk Creek lies "rare earth" minerals in quantities sufficient to challenge China's dominance.

Elk Creek, Neb. (population 112), may not be so tiny much longer. Reports suggest that the southeastern Nebraska hamlet may be sitting on the world’s largest untapped deposit of “rare earth” minerals, which have proved to be indispensable to a slew of high-tech and military applications such as laser pointers, stadium lighting, electric car batteries and sophisticated missile-guidance systems.
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The U.S. has relied on China for years for the 17 minerals that are defined as rare earths by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. Despite having such obscure names as praseodymium, promethium and samarium - no copper or zinc here - they are necessary for such routine contemporary technologies as magnets, laser pointers and miniature electronics, such as iPods.
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China has emerged as the world’s predominant supplier, controlling 97 percent of the global market for rare earths. In recent years, lawmakers have expressed concerns about China’s “rare earth” dominance, and these concerns were heightened when Beijing temporarily halted exports to Japan last year during a territorial dispute.

A Brazilian engineer invented the solar light made of a plastic bottle, water and bleach stuck through a roof during an energy blackout in 2002.

 Water-Bottle-Solar-Light

A band of MIT students installed 10,000 of them in Manila slums.

Currently, millions of Filipinos live without any kind of light source at all, but a band of resourceful MIT students have begun changing that. The students found that a one liter plastic bottle filled with bleach water and installed on top of a metal roof is a surprisingly simple way to light homes that have neither electrical connectivity nor natural lighting. The plastic defracts light and pushes it to every corner of a small slum house instead of beaming it onto one area like a typical lamp might. As part of their Solar Bottle Project, the organization Isang Litrong Liwanag, which means “A Liter of Light,” has already installed 10,000 of these ridiculously basic but amazing lamps throughout Manila.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2011

Lightbulbs, Mozart, Microbes and more

Some things I learned last week.

At last.  House turns off light bulb standards by voice vote  thus pleasing 67% of Americans who were opposed to the light bulb ban that was to begin next January.  Remember when Energy Secretary Chu said,

"We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money."

Mozart Probably Died Young From Not Getting Enough Sun

A new theory suggests legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at 35 due in part to a vitamin D deficiency. 

Vitamin D is produced when the body is exposed to natural sunlight and Mozart spent his life in high-latitude Austria, working at night and sleeping during the day

The Equality Principle is not what you think according to some judges.

A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down Proposition 2, Michigan’s 2006 initiative banning racial preferences in education, public employment, and contracting. Employing the Orwellian reasoning that so often characterizes such decisions, the panel’s 2–1 ruling held that in passing a measure mandating that all citizens be treated equally by the state, Michigan’s electorate had violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

The Toronto District School Board decrees that Only White People Are Racist

Reuters reports that Black men survive longer in prison than out.

Boston is the #1 city for meanness.

Father and son at first and last shuttle watch, bookends to America's space age

 Father-Son-Shuttle-Launch

Matt Labash on Keeping America Mediocre or embracing the new dumbness.

The University of Iowa’s MBA program has just announced a $37,000 scholarship based on one application Tweet, as opposed to an essay. “We want {applicants} to show us more about themselves,” the director for the Tippie School of Management said. “This would give us a lot more depth and show us a lot more about a candidate than an essay would show.” Seriously? Sometimes, there are no words

U.S. Department of Education report suggests that "the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests,”  While FBI estimates that half of the priest cases were exaggerations or fraud.  That means that there may have been as many as two hundred times as much abuse by teachers than priests in the same time period.

A hundred times as many, as much as Two hundred times? Sure, kick the priests around but they're pikers compared to teachers. They aren't even in the same league.

Experts train bacteria to restore 17c frescoes in Spain.

The Trillions of Microbes That Call Us Home and Keep Us Healthy

LaTuga is one of several medical researchers at Duke working with microbial ecologists to study the development of the human microbiome—the enormous population of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that live in the human body, predominantly in the gut. There are 20 times as many of these microbes as there are cells in the body, up to 200 trillion in an adult, and each of us hosts at least 1,000 different species. Seen through the prism of the microbiome, a person is not so much an individual human body as a superorganism made up of diverse ecosystems, each teeming with microscopic creatures that are essential to our well-being.
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Khoruts and his colleagues reported last summer that they were able to use a fecal transplant to treat and apparently cure a woman with a life-threatening Clostridium difficile infection, which causes severe inflammation of the colon. The patient had an extremely poor prognosis: Suffering from chronic diarrhea, she had lost 60 pounds over eight months. “All antibiotics were failing, and she was in really bad shape,” Khoruts says. In a last-ditch effort to improve her condition, he mixed a small sample of the patient’s husband’s stool with saline solution and injected it into her colon. Within 24 hours her diarrhea had stopped. After a few days, the symptoms were gone.

In studying this patient’s progress, Khoruts was initially surprised to find that there was a nearly complete replacement of the woman’s microbial flora with her husband’s microbes. “By the time these patients get to this desperate treatment point, they’ve taken so many antibiotics that their microbiome has been decimated,” he says. “So when we transplant the new bacteria, they simply move in to occupy the empty space.” Before Khoruts and his team performed the procedure, no research had been done on how fecal transplants work or how they impact the microbiome. “Since then we’ve done another 23 patients,” he reports, “all with dramatic stories.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 16, 2011

Incredible Moonbow at Yosemite

Lunar rainbows are rare phenomena.  Yosemite National Park is one of the few places they can sometimes be seen

Somewhere over the... moonbow: Dazzling arc of colour lights up night sky at Yosemite National Park

This dazzling arc of colour soaring across the night sky looks unreal.

But this is no fantasy or trick of the light, it is known as a moonbow, the rainbow of the night.

 Moonbow Yosemite

Many more photos at the link

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2011

See a rainbow toad for the first time.

No one had seen the Bornean rainbow toad since 1924. 

After months of scouring remote forests, conservation scientists found him, no longer a lost amphibian.

Elusive rainbow toad photographed in colour for the first time, after almost a century in hiding

 Rainbow Toad

Isn't he beautiful.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:32 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2011

'New York City, there is a massive double rainbow outside. Leave your desks immediately,'

 Rainbowcurve Manhattan

Stunning photograph by Inga Sarda-Sorenson of Central Park under a double rainbow after an early evening downpour on Wednesday .  Her blog is Inga's Angle, One shutterbug's tale on the Big Apple

Heads turned upwards and Twitter and Facebook went a buzz with excited messages.

'New York City, there is a massive double rainbow outside. Leave your desks immediately,' tweeted one worker.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 PM | Permalink

July 6, 2011

Licking the morning dew off its eyeballs

 Gecko Licking Eyeball

From the Telegraph's Picture of the day

A gecko licks the morning dew off its eyeballs. This gecko is found on coastal sand dunes in Namibia. The nocturnal reptiles collect water on their eyeballs in the early morning when a mist bank descends as cool coastal air hits warm desert air. Then they lick it off to have a drink. It took photographer Isak Pretorius three days in to get the licking picture, following gecko tracks across the dunes through the mist.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

June 3, 2011

Perfect Roundness in the SubAtomic World

The more the scientists discover, the more marvelous and mysterious the world appears.  There's not a chance I could explain what an electron is other than to say it is an elementary particle that carries a negative charge  that  together with atomic nuclei made of protons and neutrons make up atoms.

Now we learn that electrons are almost perfectly round.

 Electrons

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

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

In layman’s terms, this means that if an electron was magnified to the size of the solar system, it would still appear spherical to within the width of a human hair.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:14 PM | Permalink

May 20, 2011

Predicting earthquakes

This is the first evidence that earthquakes might be predicated fairly easily

A warning sign? Atmosphere above epicentre of deadly Japan earthquake heated up 'rapidly' in days before disaster

It is believed that in the days before an earthquake, the stresses on geological faults in the Earth's crust causes the release of large amounts of radon gas.

This radioactive gas ionises the air, giving it a charge, and since water is polar it is attracted to the charged particles in the air.

This then leads to the water molecules in the air condensing (turning into liquid) - a process which releases heat.

It was this excess heat which was observed in the form of infrared radiation in recordings taken three days before the deadly magnitude 9 earthquake struck.

 Ioniszation-Chart Japan Earthquake

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 PM | Permalink

May 16, 2011

Breakthroughs in genetic medicine

Lots of news on the genetic front that promise new drugs in the future based on your personal genetic profile. 

Scientists, in two separate studies, find genetic link to depression - 3p25-26

“In a large number of families where two or more members have depression we found robust evidence that a region [of chromosome 3] called 3p25-26 is strongly linked to the disorder,” said Gerome Breen, lead author of the King’s study. “These findings are truly exciting as possibly for the first time we have found a genetic locus for depression.“
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Many genes – probably more than 100 – contribute to a greater or lesser extent to depression. But unlocking the mechanism of just one, even if it is responsible directly for only a small part of the genetic risk, could make an important contribution to understanding the disease, said Lefkos Middleton, Professor of Clinical Neurology at Imperial College London.

Scientists find "master switch" gene for obesity - KLF14 gene

Scientists have found that a gene linked to diabetes and cholesterol is a "master switch" that controls other genes found in fat in the body, and say it should help in the search for treatments for obesity-related diseases.

In a study published in the journal Nature Genetics, the British researchers said that since fat plays an important role in peoples' susceptibility to metabolic diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes, the regulating gene could be target for drugs to treat such illnesses.

"This is the first major study that shows how small changes in one master regulator gene can cause a cascade of other metabolic effects in other genes," said Tim Spector of King's College London, who led the study.

In Britain, a blood test that tells you how long you'll live will go on sale to the general public this year.  Call it  Telomere testing

The controversial test measures vital structures on the tips of a person's chromosomes, called telomeres, which scientists believe are one of the most important and accurate indicators of the speed at which a person is ageing.

Scientists behind the €500 (£435) test said it will be possible to tell whether a person's "biological age", as measured by the length of their telomeres, is older or younger than their actual chronological age.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:56 PM | Permalink

May 11, 2011

Mobile phones are killing the bees

Forget global carbon emissions.  What really endangers our lives on the planet are mobile phones because they kills the bees who fertilize our food crops.

 Bee-On-Sunflower-1

Mobile phones ARE to blame for killing off the world's bee populations, scientists claim

Scientists claim to have proved that signals from mobile phones are behind the sudden decline of the world's bee population, which plays a vital role in both agriculture and horticulture.

Lead researcher Daniel Favre from Lausanne, Switzerland, placed phones in a series of hives under controlled conditions and monitored the results.

The study - published in the beekeepers' magazine Apidologie - found that the phone signals confused the bees who began to fly erratically before suddenly dying.


The scientists carried out 83 experiments in hives and recorded the bees' reactions to mobile phones in off, standby and call-making modes.

The noise produced by the bees increased more than ten-fold whenever a phone made or received a call - the noise dropped to normal level when the phone was off or on standby.

Mr Favre explained: 'The bees' noise drastically increases as soon as the phone rings - the rays from the phone and the noise clearly disturbs the bees.

'This gives the bees the signal to leave the hive. But often they are so confused they fly to their death.
'Mobile phone technology is fateful for bees. The study definitely proves that.'

The study isn't the first to link mobile phones with the death of bees.In 2008, a German researcher found that bees refuse to return to their hive when mobile phones are placed alongside it.

Lost and disoriented, they die. The result is abandoned hives, a possible honey shortage and, most gravely, a lack of pollinators for our flowers and crops.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 PM | Permalink

May 8, 2011

War Dogs

2800 dogs are on active duty with the U.S. military.  They have their own tactical assault vests and some are even equipped with video cams.        They serve as assault weapons, bomb sniffers, loyal guardians and even 'vapor-wake' dogs, alert to the moving scent of explosive devices and materials left behind in the air as a suicide bomber walks through a crowd. 

 Wardogs

From Rebecca  Frankel's report and remarkable photo essay in Foreign Policy, War Dog.

 Wardogs, Jump Paratrooper

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:52 AM | Permalink

April 19, 2011

Tickling a penguin

A sound I've never heard before, a penguin being tickled.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:05 AM | Permalink

April 14, 2011

How science loses credibility

Two prominent bioethicists on the danger of discounting ethics and overselling science.

Stem Cells: The Scientists knew They Were Lying

AC: Here’s an assertion that you hear all the time: “Stem-cell research will help Alzheimer’s.” But stem cell research has no possibility of helping Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a gunk-up-the-brain disease, where every cell is affected. You can’t fix it by any sort of stem cell research. Model it? Maybe. Cure it? Never.

RG: In 2003 or 2004, a major Washington Post article quoting the central authorities on this made exactly the same point. Now that’s the kind of dishonesty that threatens to alienate the public from science. Because even if the public buys it in the beginning, and the scientists win the political debate, when they can’t deliver on the promises they made, people’s faith in scientists—crucial for the funding of science—is placed in jeopardy.

It's a stem cell war.  Unlike embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells do have a record of healing, but you wouldn't know it from the media

“That happens all the time!” an exasperated Dr. Theresa Deisher told me. Deisher is the Stanford-trained biotech researcher whose lawsuit last year shut down government funding of ESCR for 17 days. I discovered that the controversial scientist, profiled recently in the journal Nature as the “Sarah Palin of stem cells,” works just up the street from me in Seattle. “People are treated with adult stem cells and they twist the story to promote embryonic stem cells,” she said.

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We can do well, helping people to get well, by doing good and refraining from doing harm to innocent life. How unfortunate that when it comes to treatments with adult stem cells — for stroke, diabetes, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and other maladies — the government is reluctant to make an adequate investment--
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The real war here is not a war on science. It’s a war on truth.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 11, 2011

Bring me sunshine

It's a cloudy Monday morning, so here is some sunshine to start the week, thanks to the Jive Aces.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

April 9, 2011

Weekend Catchup: London stags, the Pope and a beggar, morphine, beer and discrimination

London's secret wildlife wonderland revealed by photographer who rose at dawn every day to capture studding images.

 Londonstags Alexsaberi

The photographer is Alex Saberi.

 Swan Dawn Alexsaberi

From the Deacon's Bench, the beauty of humility in a wonderful story  about Pope John Paul 2 and the  beggar

Waste Ash from Coal Could Save Billions in Repairing US Bridges and Roads

Coating concrete destined to rebuild America's crumbling bridges and roadways with some of the millions of tons of ash left over from burning coal could extend the life of those structures by decades, saving billions of dollars of taxpayer money, scientists reported in Anaheim, California at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society on March 29. They reported on a new coating material for concrete made from flyash that is hundreds of times more durable than existing coatings and costs only half as much.

A literary appreciation for paper pushers and makers of boilerplate

Indeed, the boilerplate metaphor could itself be a metaphor for a larger transformation, two centuries in the making, that has taken many of us away from extracting coal and forging iron and assembling boilers toward waiting for an inspector to come sign off on a certificate that needs to be filed with the local Department of Buildings.

Meditation 'better than morphine' at easing pain

'One of the reasons that meditation may have been so effective in blocking pain  was that it did not work at just one place in the brain but instead reduced  pain at multiple levels of processing.

The Lenten fast on beer only continues

For the 46 days of Lent, J. Wilson is forgoing solid food and only drinking beer and water - just as Bavarian monks did hundreds of years ago.

Wilson is a husband, father, newspaper editor and beer enthusiast. The 38-year-old is the proprietor of the beer blog
brewvana, where the motto is, "An ideal condition of harmony, beer and joy."

"Three hundred or four hundred years ago, a group of Paulaner monks in a Bavarian region had made a stronger beer in a town called Einbeck and they called it bock. The monks started making a stronger beer, a double beer, called doppelbock," Sorensen said. "The story goes the monks would give up eating and literally would drink this 'liquid bread' to sustain them through their Lenten fast."

How's it going?  Here's Wilson's diary of a part-time monk

In the four months of their honeymoon, a Swedish couple survived six natural disasters: severe snowstorm, cyclone, flooding, bush fires and two earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand and Tokyo. 

Conflict History Browse the timeline of war and conflict across the world and down the centuries.

One man makes a shocking confession.  The Cause of All Discrimination? Me.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 1, 2011

True Grit and a Grain of Sand

In Fast Company, Why True Grit Matters in the Face of Adversity

In fact, new psychological research suggests that grit -- defined as endurance in pursuit of long-term goals and an ability to persist in the face of adversity -- is a key part of what makes people successful. In a culture that values quick results -- this quarter's numbers, this week's weight loss, this month's click-throughs -- grit can be an underappreciated secret weapon.
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Grit is not synonymous with hard work. It involves a certain single-mindedness. ...Grit is often undervalued in business, because businesspeople like breakthroughs, which are good ideas that you'll have next week.

Single-mindedness and persistence because of an idea that you just can't get out of your head.    Listen to what Rummer Godden has to say about grit. 

“Every piece of writing... starts from what I call a grit... a sight or sound, a sentence or happening that does not pass away... but quite inexplicably lodges in the mind.”

We think of grit, physical grit, as nothing more than grains of sand, too often found in shoes and on newly mopped floors. 

It took Gary Greenberg to show me the secret beauty and wonder of each sand grain. 

 Mauipieces-Gary-Greenberg-1

On an ordinary day, sand is just that brown stuff you walk on by the water.  Up close, each grain is a small jewel. unique in all the world.  Like God sees us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink

March 28, 2011

Photosynthesis to power your home with artificial leaves

The 'Holy Grail' of science: The artificial leaf researchers claim will turn every home into its own power station

Scientists claim to have found the 'Holy Grail' of science in an artificial leaf that could turn ever British home into its own power station.

The leaf, which is the same size as a playing card, mimics the process of photosynthesis that plants use to convert sunlight and water into energy.

Dr Daniel Nocera, who led the research team, said: 'A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades.

'We believe we have done it.
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Nocera, who is with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, points out that the 'artificial leaf' is not a new concept.

The first artificial leaf was developed more than a decade ago by John Turner of the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

Although highly efficient at carrying out photosynthesis, Turner's device was impractical for wider use, as it was composed of rare, expensive metals and was highly unstable — with a lifespan of barely one day.Nocera's new leaf overcomes these problems.

It is made of inexpensive materials that are widely available, works under simple conditions and is highly stable. In laboratory studies, he showed that an artificial leaf prototype could operate continuously for at least 45 hours without a drop in activity.

The key to this breakthrough is Nocera's recent discovery of several powerful new, inexpensive catalysts, made of nickel and cobalt, that are capable of efficiently splitting water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, under simple conditions.

"Our goal is to make each home its own power station"  said Dr. Daniel Nocera
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:35 PM | Permalink

March 9, 2011

Best investment they ever made

This is the first case I know of where an umbilical cord was preserved for its stem cells and, in fact, saved a young girl's life.

Cord blood stem cells used to help cure girl of brain cancer in Spain

A four-year-old girl has become the first patient in Spain to recover from brain cancer after being treated with stem cells from her own umbilical cord blood.

Alba was born healthy in 2007, but at age two she was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. Her treatment consisted of extracting the majority of the tumor from her brain. She was then given chemotherapy to reduce and eventually eliminate the remainder of the tumor.

Alba's blood system was destroyed during the final round of chemo, thus requiring a transplant of cord blood stem cells.

The procedure was carried out in 2009 by Dr. Luis Madero of the Department of Oncology and Hematology at the Nino Jesus Hospital in Madrid.

Today, four year-old Alba is a healthy girl.
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Alba’s father, Santiago, who is a computer engineer, and her mother, Teresa, a literature professor, agreed that keeping the blood from Alba’s umbilical cord was the “best investment” they ever made.

Santiago said he had previously seen a report “on the treatment for Parkinson’s using stem cells … and was sympathetic to the idea of using stem cells to treat degenerative diseases.”

“Keeping the umbilical cord is a wager for the future, a life insurance policy that you don’t know if you will need but that could save a life,” Teresa added.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 4, 2011

Kaleidoscope in the sky

 Startrail Mteverest Jankovy

This stunning photograph of a swirling star trail above Mt. Everest to months of waiting and persistence to make.

For the Kaleidoscope in the sky,  congratulations to 23-year-old Anton Jankovoy

'Then four years ago, after saving for a year-and-a-half, I made my first trip to the Himalayas.

'I visited Mount Everest and it was like a revelation to me, a different world, a different way of life, almost a different universe to what I had known in the Ukraine.

'It had a profound effect on me and seriously changed my life. I fell in love with Nepal, the people and the amazing scenery.

'When I came home I realised I couldn't go back to my old way of life and so for the last three years I've lived in Nepal for six months of the year.

'It has taken a lot of dedication and patience but the result has been worth it.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:07 AM | Permalink

February 22, 2011

Six-legged meat

From the Wall Street Journal, The Six-Legged Meat of the Future by two Dutch professors of entomology.

Insects are nutritious and easy to raise without harming the environment. They also have a nice nutty taste

       Blue-Dragon-Fly
    Image: Miroslaw Swietek via Daily Mail, Hi res photos of sleeping insects covered with morning dew

Not long ago, foods like kiwis and sushi weren't widely known or available. It is quite likely that in 2020 we will look back in surprise at the era when our menus didn't include locusts, beetle larvae, dragonfly larvae, crickets and other insect delights.

Not me,  it creeps me out.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:11 PM | Permalink

October 20, 2010

Medical Reversals and Bad Science

A Greek mathematical genius, who is also an American-trained physician,  becomes a "meta-researcher" and discovers that much of medical research is "misleading, exaggerated or flat-out wrong".

-John-Ioannidis

Described as " neat and compact 45-year-old with a trim mustache, he presents as a sort of dashing nerd—Giancarlo Giannini with a bit of Mr. Bean", Professor John Ioannidis is profiled by David Freedman in the Atlantic, Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Science

In poring over medical journals, he was struck by how many findings of all types were refuted by later findings. Of course, medical-science “never minds” are hardly secret. And they sometimes make headlines, as when in recent years large studies or growing consensuses of researchers concluded that mammograms, colonoscopies, and PSA tests are far less useful cancer-detection tools than we had been told; or when widely prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil were revealed to be no more effective than a placebo for most cases of depression; or when we learned that staying out of the sun entirely can actually increase cancer risks; or when we were told that the advice to drink lots of water during intense exercise was potentially fatal; or when, last April, we were informed that taking fish oil, exercising, and doing puzzles doesn’t really help fend off Alzheimer’s disease, as long claimed. Peer-reviewed studies have come to opposite conclusions on whether using cell phones can cause brain cancer, whether sleeping more than eight hours a night is healthful or dangerous, whether taking aspirin every day is more likely to save your life or cut it short, and whether routine angioplasty works better than pills to unclog heart arteries.
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Ioannidis laid out a detailed mathematical proof that, assuming modest levels of researcher bias, typically imperfect research techniques, and the well-known tendency to focus on exciting rather than highly plausible theories,
researchers will come up with wrong findings most of the time.

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He zoomed in on 49 of the most highly regarded research findings in medicine over the previous 13 years -- that helped lead to the widespread popularity of treatments such as the use of hormone-replacement therapy for menopausal women, vitamin E to reduce the risk of heart disease, coronary stents to ward off heart attacks, and daily low-dose aspirin to control blood pressure and prevent heart attacks and strokes -- thirty-four of these claims had been retested, and 14 of these, or 41 percent, had been convincingly shown to be wrong or significantly exaggerated.
If between a third and a half of the most acclaimed research in medicine was proving untrustworthy, the scope and impact of the problem were undeniable.
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We could solve much of the wrongness problem, Ioannidis says, if the world simply stopped expecting scientists to be right. That’s because being wrong in science is fine, and even necessary—as long as scientists recognize that they blew it, report their mistake openly instead of disguising it as a success, and then move on to the next thing, until they come up with the very occasional genuine breakthrough. But as long as careers remain contingent on producing a stream of research that’s dressed up to seem more right than it is, scientists will keep delivering exactly that.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:02 PM | Permalink

October 11, 2010

Hal Lewis, the Martin Luther of Science

Anthony Watts describes the letter Hal Lewis sent to resign from the American Physical Society it as an important moment in science history.

I would describe it as a letter on the scale of Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door. It is worthy of repeating this letter in entirety on every blog that discusses science.

Harold "Hal" Lewis is the Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara and he attacks the American Physical Society of perpetuating the global warming scam and shutting down all debate.  Here are excerpts from the letter

Dear Curt:

When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago).
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How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
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Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.
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This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst.
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Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation.

It has never ceased to amaze how so-called scientists fail to look their own self-interested motives when they shutdown debate particularly on this issue.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

August 12, 2010

Perseid Showers tonight

Perseid-Meteor-Shower

Miss Kelley alerted me to the annual Perseid shower that peaks tonight when one can see as many as 50 meteors an hour

The Perseids are among the most reliable of the year’s cosmic fireworks displays. In mid-August, Earth passes through a stream of grit left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle in its eccentric 130-year orbit. Flecks of debris burn up as they pass through the atmosphere, at a height of about 60 miles, producing streaks of light — and sometimes leaving behind glowing trails that fade into the night....The Perseids are so called because the point they appear to come from, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus.

The meteors hit the Earth's atmosphere at about 140,000 miles an hour.  The celestial show begins at sundown, NASA said, when Venus, Saturn, Mars, and the crescent moon hang close together until around 10 p.m., when the Perseid shower is expected to start....the shooting streaks of light most visible between midnight and dawn Friday because the moon will not be up during that time.

The showers are also called "The burning tears of St Lawrence" because they appear every around his feast day. St. Lawrence  is the patron saint  of the poor, librarians and cooks.  The latter because he was roasted  to death and yet managed to joke with his executioners,  "Now you may turn me over, my body is roasted enough on this side."

The best way to see the shooting stars is to find a dark place without a lot of competing lights, lie down on the ground, face south and gaze skyward.    Get your kids out of bed and into the backyard.

The only equipment needed is a sleeping bag or blanket.  Telescopes and binoculars restrict the range of vision when what you want is the largest range possible.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:49 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2010

"The heart of the farming technique was the compost pit"

I found  My Grandfather's Earthworm Farm absolutely fascinating and compelling in practicality of the picture of order and harmony with nature it draws when I read it for the first time several years ago.  Reading it again, I feel the same awe.

And now enters the earthworm. For more than sixty years these 160 acres had been farmed without a single crop failure. My grandfather was known far and wide for the unequalled excellence of his corn and other grain, and a large part of his surplus was disposed of at top prices for seed purposes. The farm combined general farming and stock raising; my grandfather's hobby, for pleasure and profit, was the breeding and training of fine saddle horses and matched Hambletonian teams. He maintained a herd of about fifty horses, including stud, brood mares, and colts in all stages of development. In addition to horses, he had cattle, sheep, hogs, and a variety of fowl, including a flock of about five hundred chickens which had the run of the barnyard,with a flock of ducks. Usually about three hundred head of stock were wintered. The hired help consisted of three or four men, according to the season, with additional help at rush seasons. This establishment was maintained in prosperity and plenty, and my grandfather attributed his unvarying success as a farmer to his utilization of earthworms in maintaining and rebuilding the fertility of the soil in an unbroken cycle. The heart of the farming technique was the compost pit.


Thanks to Maggie's Farm for the repost

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:00 AM | Permalink

July 7, 2010

The Universe photographed

When I was a child, probably like you, I sometimes would write my return address as Boston, Massachusetts, the United States, North America,  the Earth, the Solar System, the Milky Way galaxy, the Universe.  I never thought I'd see a photograph of it like this one from Europe's Planck telescope.

 Universe

It's a spectacular picture; it's a thing of beauty," Dr Jan Tauber, the European Space Agency's (Esa) Planck project scientist, told BBC News.

Dominating the foreground are large segments of our Milky Way Galaxy.

The bright horizontal line running the full length of the image is the galaxy's main disc - the plane in which the Sun and the Earth also reside.

Planck telescope reveals ancient cosmic light.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:20 AM | Permalink

June 23, 2010

What does the sun sound like?

Listen to the music of the sun recorded by scientists

Astronomers at the University of Sheffield have managed to record for the first time the eerie musical harmonies produced by the magnetic field in the outer atmosphere of the sun.

They found that huge magnetic loops that have been observed coiling away from the outer layer of the sun's atmosphere, known as coronal loops, vibrate like strings on a musical instrument.

In other cases they behave more like soundwaves as they travel through a wind instrument.

Using satellite images of these loops, which can be over 60,000 miles long, the scientists were able to recreate the sound by turning the visible vibrations into noises and speeding up the frequency so it is audible to the human ear.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

June 22, 2010

Canyon carved in three days in Texas flood

This is amazing.  Science Daily reports Canyon Carved in Just Three Days in Texas Flood

In the summer of 2002, a week of heavy rains in Central Texas caused Canyon Lake -- the reservoir of the Canyon Dam -- to flood over its spillway and down the Guadalupe River Valley in a planned diversion to save the dam from catastrophic failure. The flood, which continued for six weeks, stripped the valley of mesquite, oak trees, and soil; destroyed a bridge; and plucked meter-wide boulders from the ground. And, in a remarkable demonstration of the power of raging waters, the flood excavated a 2.2-kilometer-long, 7-meter-deep canyon in the bedrock.

According to a new analysis of the flood and its aftermath -- performed by Michael Lamb, assistant professor of geology at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and Mark Fonstad of Texas State University -- the canyon formed in just three days.

A paper about the research appears in the June 20 advance online edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

June 2, 2010

To hear for the first time

The moment when young Jonathan hears for the first time.

Cochlear implants are still a relatively new technology.  Here are 9 more people hearing for the first time.

And there's Harold Whittle who long ago heard sound for the first time after being fitted with a hearing aid.

The-Face-Of-A-Boy-Hearing-For-The-First-Time-20780-1238001482-30

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:58 AM | Permalink

May 15, 2010

The big fish in a small town

From the Guardian, U.K. and its series Eyewitness comes this remarkable photograph of a big fish in a small lake in France. 

 Carp French Brother

French photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta captures the hour- long battle between a 15kg (33lb) carp and his brother at a small lake near Montpellier in southern France

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 PM | Permalink

May 9, 2010

Make hay on the water

Via American Digest, comes this brilliant way to clean up the oil before it reaches shore and sand.

It's totally amazing.    Nothing could be simpler, greener or cheaper.   

But it has to be done before the oil hits the shore.

Hire them now!

Make hay on the water now! 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

April 30, 2010

Cuddle spray

Forget Viagra, what most women want more of from their men is more cuddling

Scientists develop spray to make men more affectionate using 'cuddle' hormone oxytocin

Scientists have invented what women want in a man - the sensitivity spray.

They say it is capable of turning the most macho of hunks into a dewy-eyed baby-kisser who says all the right things and stops going down the pub.

Researchers of the Neuromudlation of Emotion - NEMO - faculty at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University of Bonn say the spray uses the hormone oxytocin, sometimes called 'the cuddle chemical' as it stimulates affectionate feelings in humans.

The scientists worked with researchers at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge and the results of their work are published today FRI in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 AM | Permalink

April 22, 2010

New Eye on the Sun

-Ultraviolet-View-Sun

This ultraviolet image of the sun was taken on March 20,2010 by NASA's recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory or SDO.  NASA's New Eye on the Sun.

"These initial images show a dynamic sun that I had never seen in more than 40 years of solar research,” said Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "SDO will change our understanding of the sun and its processes, which affect our lives and society. This mission will have a huge impact on science, similar to the impact of the Hubble Space Telescope on modern astrophysics.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:16 PM | Permalink

April 19, 2010

The Beauty of the Enemy

-Pollen

Microscopic images reveal the invisible enemies of hay fever sufferers.

The pictures - captured using a scanning electron microscope - highlight the amazing variety of pollens that float invisibly through the air.
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The grains are between 1.5 and 10 hundredths of a millimetres across - making them too small to see with the naked eye.
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These images were captured by Swiss photographer Martin Oeggerli using a £250,000 scanning electron microscope stored in his cellar.

"People know a lot about pollen, what with so many hay fever sufferers during the summer," he said. "So it's funny to think that until now a lot of them will have never seen the grains before.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:47 AM | Permalink

March 4, 2010

Genetic test to help you lose weight

The amount of weight you will lose on a diet appears to be related to your genetic makeup.

New gene test may help you pick your diet

Can't lose weight on a low-fat diet? Maybe you need to cut carbs instead, and a new genetic test may point the way, maker Interleukin Genetics Inc reported on Wednesday.

The small study of about 140 overweight or obese women showed that those on diets "appropriate" for their genetic makeup lost more weight than those on less appropriate diets, researchers told an American Heart Association meeting.
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Massachusetts-based Interleukin's $149 test looks for mutations in three genes, known as FABP2, PPARG and ADRB2.

The company says 39 percent of white Americans have the low-fat genotype, 45 percent have the type that responds best to a diet low in processed carbohydrates and an unlucky 16 percent have gene mutations that mean they have to watch both fat and processed carbohydrates.
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Over a year, people on diets appropriate to their genetic makeup, as determined by the test, lost 5.3 percent of body weight. People on mismatched diets lost 2.3 percent, the Stanford researchers told the meeting.

Cholesterol levels improved in line with weight loss, they said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 PM | Permalink

February 22, 2010

Great new archeological finds

In Turkey, there is History in the Remaking as archeologists have found a temple complex that predates the Pyramids, called  "Potbelly Hill, Göbekli Tepe in Turkish

Standing on the hill at dawn, overseeing a team of 40 Kurdish diggers, the German-born archeologist waves a hand over his discovery here, a revolution in the story of human origins. Schmidt has uncovered a vast and beautiful temple complex, a structure so ancient that it may be the very first thing human beings ever built. The site isn't just old, it redefines old: the temple was built 11,500 years ago—a staggering 7,000 years before the Great Pyramid, and more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge first took shape. The ruins are so early that they predate villages, pottery, domesticated animals, and even agriculture—the first embers of civilization. In fact, Schmidt thinks the temple itself, built after the end of the last Ice Age by hunter-gatherers, became that ember—the spark that launched mankind toward farming, urban life, and all that followed.

After a dozen years of patient work, Schmidt has uncovered what he thinks is definitive proof that a huge ceremonial site flourished here, a "Rome of the Ice Age," as he puts it, where hunter-gatherers met to build a complex religious community. Across the hill, he has found carved and polished circles of stone, with terrazzo flooring and double benches. All the circles feature massive T-shaped pillars that evoke the monoliths of Easter Island.

 Turkey-Ruins

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Schmidt's thesis is simple and bold: it was the urge to worship that brought mankind together in the very first urban conglomerations. The need to build and maintain this temple, he says, drove the builders to seek stable food sources, like grains and animals that could be domesticated, and then to settle down to guard their new way of life. The temple begat the city.

While in Jerusalem, new excavations ihave revealed fortifications that date back 3000 years,

Archaeologist sees proof for Bible in ancient wall

An Israeli archaeologist said Monday that ancient fortifications recently excavated in Jerusalem date back 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and support the biblical narrative about the era.
If the age of the wall is correct, the finding would be an indication that Jerusalem was home to a strong central government that had the resources and manpower needed to build massive fortifications in the 10th century B.C.


That's a key point of dispute among scholars, because it would match the Bible's account that the Hebrew kings David and Solomon ruled from Jerusalem around that time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:41 PM | Permalink

Growing in water

For close to 15 years now, I've thought that algae were the ultimate replacement for oil.  But then, I've always had a soft spot for fish and vegetables that can be grown in water.

Scientists discuss use of algae as a biofuel

Experts project that algae-based biofuels could displace large volumes of diesel and jet transportation fuels.
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Algae is emerging as an attractive resource because it reproduces quickly, uses large quantities of carbon dioxide and can thrive in non-freshwater, including brackish and marine water, thus avoiding competition with traditional agriculture's freshwater needs. In addition, algae can produce biomass and oils, and is attractive as feedstock for renewable fuels, with potentially greater productivity and significantly less land use requirements than with other commodity crop feedstocks such as corn, soy and canola.

On the more personal side, you can grow fish, tomatoes and winter lettuce in a 250 feet greenhouse in Boulder, Colorado and create The Spotless Garden.

A form of year-round, sustainable agriculture called aquaponics — a combination of hydroponics (or water-based planting) and aquaculture (fish cultivation) — has recently attracted a zealous following of kitchen gardeners, futurists, tinkerers and practical environmentalists. It is either a glimpse into the future of food growing or a very strange hobby — possibly both.

 Silvia Bernstein-Aquaponics

Sylvia Bernstein, who has a blog devoted to aquaponics and who teaches it at the Denver Botanic Gardens, has set up quarters in a 240-square-foot greenhouse in her backyard in Boulder, Colo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:53 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2010

Elastic water

Elastic Water could eventually replace plastic

 Elastic Water

Bernama, a part of the Malaysian National News Agency, reports that Japanese scientists have created “elastic water." Developed at the Tokyo University, the new material consists mostly of water--95-percent--with an added two grams of clay and organic material. The resulting substance resembles jelly, but is extremely elastic and transparent.

The invention was originally revealed last week in the latest issue of the Nature scientific magazine. According to the article, the new material is quite safe for the environment and humans, and may be a “long-term” tool in medical technology, possibly to help wounded or surgically cut tissue to remain closed.

Bernama also reports that--by increasing its density--the new material could be used to produce "ecologically plastic materials," or could replace plastic altogether.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 AM | Permalink

January 15, 2010

Blazing ring of fire

 Solar Ringoffire
The sky over Hongdao, China, yesterday

Longest solar eclipse for 1000 years

Millions of people were plunged into darkness today as the longest solar eclipse for 1,000 years turned the Sun into a blazing ring of fire.  Such a spectacle will not be seen again until December 23rd, 3043.

Unlike eclipses which block out the Sun entirely this one was annular meaning the Moon blocked most of the Sun's middle, but not its edges, causing it to look like a circular band of light.

These eclipses, which are considered far less important to astronomers than total eclipses of the Sun, occur about 66 times a century and can only be viewed by people in the narrow band along its path. On this occasion the band was 190 miles wide and passed over half the globe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 PM | Permalink

December 21, 2009

Snow crystals, letters from heaven

I spent a good deal of yesterday shoveling snow and I still can appreciate the extraordinary beauty of these fabulous snowflakes.  Kudos to David Defranza who put together the slideshow, The Unbelievable World of Snowflakes.

"Snow crystals," Ukichiro Nakaya wrote in 1939, "may be called letters sent from heaven." The Japanese physicist spent his life studying snowflakes, eventually becoming the first to create an artificial snow crystal in the laboratory.

 Snowflake

British Novelist Jeanette Winterson commented: "They say that every snowflake is different. If that were true, how could the world go on? How could we ever get up off our knees? How could we ever recover from the wonder of it?"

Though written centuries earlier Francis Bacon has a response: "Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand—and melting like a snowflake..."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 PM | Permalink

December 18, 2009

Cosmic firework

An accountant by day, Wally Pacholka is an award-winning photographer of the night skies. 

Last month in the Mojave Desert, he was taking photos of the annual Geminid meteor shower when he captured this huge meteor hurtling to earth.

 Meteor Mohave Pacholka

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:19 PM | Permalink

Depigmentation

Northern Europeans are uniquely depigmented and it has something to do with solar UV, oceans and vitamin D and grains.

In my mind, the most interesting article I've read this week.  Why Are Europeans White?

 White Europeans 1
a satellite map of solar UV

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 PM | Permalink

December 9, 2009

Is there anything that beer can't do?

Beer could be the new weapon against cancer

MEN now have another excuse to go down the pub thanks to new research suggesting that a compound in beer may prevent prostate cancer.

Tests showed that the ingredient, xanthohumol, blocked a biological pathway that allows prostate cancer to be fuelled by the male hormone testosterone.

The disease is commonly treated with drugs that act in a similar way.

Xanthohumol is a powerful antioxidant derived from hops. It belongs to a family of chemicals called flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables that are known to have anti-cancer properties.

Previous studies have already suggested that xanthohumol may block the female hormone oestrogen's ability to stimulate breast cancer. Scientists now believe it may have a similar effect in men.

In laboratory tests, the compound blocked the molecular "switch" that allows testosterone to trigger changes in prostate cells that may lead to cancer.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 PM | Permalink

Spiral blue light in Norway. This is not a special effect

-Mysterious-Blue-Light

A mysterious light display appearing over Norway last night has left thousands of residents in the north of the country baffled.
--
Within seconds a giant spiral had covered the entire sky. Then a green-blue beam of light shot out from its centre - lasting for ten to twelve minutes before disappearing completely.

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute was flooded with telephone calls after the light storm - which astronomers have said did not appear to have been connected to the aurora, or Northern Lights, so common in that area of the world.

The mystery deepened tonight as Russia denied it had been conducting missile tests in the area.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:02 PM | Permalink

December 8, 2009

The Heavens from the Hubble

 Advent Hubble 1
Planetary nebula NGC 2818


In a repeat of the tradition begun last year, The Boston Globe's Big Picture offers up the Hubble Space Telescope Advent calendar with a new photo each day.  The first is above.  Below is today's.

 Hubble Omegacentauri
The glittering light of some two million stars from the Omega Cenauri globular cluster, 17,000 light years away.  About 200 such globular clusters orbit the Milky Way.

How did we ever think that space was empty?  There is a fullness and abundance in this vast expanse we can only dimly grasp.  To look at these photos is to grasp the awe the psalmist felt, "The heavens declare the glory of God". - Psalm 19.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 PM | Permalink

December 1, 2009

Stunning natural display

-Starlings Whale

This awesome airborne Moby Dick is not fictional but a work of nature - comprised of countless starlings moving in formation in the winter breeze.

Safety in numbers: The starlings having a whale of a time

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:48 PM | Permalink

"The most complicated photograph I have ever taken"

 Analemma

"I should say it is the most complicated photograph I have ever made. It shows position of the Sun on the sky in the same time of a day during one year..."

Analemma is the name given to the trace of the annual movement of the Sun on the sky.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 AM | Permalink

November 30, 2009

Power line corridors save species

Good news.  Sometimes, high-voltage power line corridors can save a species. 

Green lines

The corridors - carefully maintained to prevent trees from growing high enough to touch tension lines - can recreate the meadow and shrubby landscape that once dominated New England. Some scientists are even looking at these corridors as grassy escape routes for animals and plants from the harsher effects of climate change as temperatures rise worldwide.

“It’s hard to explain to conservation groups that [species] are being saved in the most unpopular and disturbed kinds of landscapes,” said Robert Askins, a biology professor at Connecticut College who has studied birds in transmission corridors. “I was shocked originally to be working in them myself.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:58 PM | Permalink

Climategate again

What kind of scientists dump their original data on which all their calculations have been based because of lack of space?

Climate change data dumped
SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.
--
In a statement on its website, the CRU said: “
We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

Mark Steyn comments
Hysterical queens like Gordon Brown are demanding we introduce global taxation, micro-regulation of every aspect of your life, massive multi-trillion dollar transfers from the productive sector to eco-rackets and transnational bureaucracies, bovine flatulence levies and extraterrestrial surveillance of once sovereign states on the basis of fevered speculations for which there is no raw data:

Shannon Loves writes  Arguably, these are the most important computer programs in the world. These programs generate the data that is used to create the climate models which purport to show an inevitable catastrophic warming caused by human activity. It is on the basis of these programs that we are supposed to massively reengineer the entire planetary economy and technology base.

The dumped files revealed that those critical programs are complete and utter train wrecks.

In the London Telegraph, Christopher Booker writes Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with the Climategate whitewash.

This is a huge scientific scandal and a journalistic one as well.  Steyn again.
If you rely on the lavishly remunerated "climate correspondents" of the big newspapers and networks, you'll know nothing about the Climate Research Unit scandals - just the business-as-usual drivel about Boston being underwater by 2011. Indeed, even when a prominent media warm-monger addresses the issue, the newspaper prefers to reprint a month-old column predating the scandal. If you follow online analysis from obscure websites on the fringes of the map, you'll know what's going on. If you go to the convenience store and buy today's newspaper, you won't. That's the problem.

Richard Fernandez takes a more measured tone.
The main objective criticism of the carbon-based warming model is that it is not proved. That’s different from saying it’s not true. It may or may not be true. However, until it is conclusively shown to be true and the results can be reproduced, it would be unwise public policy to embark on a trillion dollar amelioration program, with far-reaching economic, social and environmental effects. Government normally intervenes when there is a compelling public interest to do so. It should never intervene on the basis of an uncertain bet. Government is not the racetrack where bureaucrats can bet taxpayer money on the horses they fancy.

So what are the 192 countries who are about to converge on Copenhagen to do?  Roger L. Simon says
The time would be better spent drinking aquavit in Tivoli Gardens than it would spending a fair portion of the world’s wealth on anthropogenic global warming that could be either an illusion or a very minor contributing factor to a far more complex problem. Let’s postpone.

The UN doubles down Leaked emails won't harm UN climate body.   So has President Obama who announced a major commitment to cutting greenhouse gases.  On what basis?  This is ridiculous, a commitment based on no facts  without any scientific grounding.

Let's just note for the record the complete failure of Cap and Trade in Europe which so far is estimated to have cost European taxpayers $140 billion last year alone.

UPDATE.  What one climate researcher, Eduardo Zorita says
Research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. .... The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas...

I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere -and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations,even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the 'politically correct picture'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink

November 23, 2009

Locked-In

Patient trapped in a 23-year 'coma' was conscious all along

A car crash victim diagnosed as being in a coma for the past 23 years has been conscious the whole time.

Rom Houben was paralysed but had no way of letting doctors know that he could hear every word they were saying.

'I dreamed myself away,' said Mr Houben, now 46, who doctors thought was in a persistent vegatative state.

He added: 'I screamed, but there was nothing to hear.'
--
Mr Houben described the moment as 'my second birth'. Therapy has since allowed him to tap out messages on a computer screen.

Mr Houben said: 'All that time I just literally dreamed of a better life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt.'

It was a high tech brain scan that revealed that Houben's brain was still functioning almost completely normally.

It's almost to imagine the extraordinary isolation of those aware but unable to communicate. 

They are The Undead.

On the Very Edge of Life and Death. 

There's More 'There' There.

The sensation surrounding the publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by the French editor Jean-Dominque Bauby was as much for the revelation of the existence of such a thing as  'locked-in syndrome' as for the courage and humanity of Jean Do, who wrote his memoir in his head and communicated sentence by sentence through the  blinking of his eyes.

Later, the artist Julian Schnabel made the quite extraordinary movie of the same name in 2007 which was nominated for four Academy awards. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:31 AM | Permalink

Global Warming Scientific Fraud

Philip Jones is a climatologist at the University of East Anglia which maintains the "instrumental temperature record" on which much of global warming theory depends.  He is director of the Climate Research Unit (CRU).

A couple of days ago, a hacker broke into that CRU  and released 61 megabites of confidential files onto the internet.

James Delingpole calls it  Climategate and asks whether it's  the final nail in the coffin of 'Anthropogenic Global Warming'?

When you read some of those files – including 1079 emails and 72 documents – you realise just why the boffins at Hadley CRU might have preferred to keep them confidential. As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be “the greatest in modern science”. These alleged emails – supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory – suggest:

Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.
--
But perhaps the most damaging revelations  – the scientific equivalent of the Telegraph’s MPs’ expenses scandal – are those concerning the way
Warmist scientists may variously have manipulated or suppressed evidence in order to support their cause.

Delingpole summarizes: they  manipulated evidence, had private doubts whether the world really is heating up, suppressed evidence, had fantasies of violence against climate sceptic scientists and discussed how best to squeeze dissenting scientists out of the peer review process.

Remember this when people argue the science is settled. 

Andrew Bolt excerpts the most damning of Professor Jones's emails.

Nigel Lawson in The London Times, Copenhagen will fail - and quite right too

Astonishingly, what appears, at least at first blush, to have emerged is that (a) the scientists have been manipulating the raw temperature figures to show a relentlessly rising global warming trend; (b) they have consistently refused outsiders access to the raw data; (c) the scientists have been trying to avoid freedom of information requests; and (d) they have been discussing ways to prevent papers by dissenting scientists being published in learned journals.

There may be a perfectly innocent explanation. But what is clear is that
the integrity of the scientific evidence on which not merely the British Government, but other countries, too, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claim to base far-reaching and hugely expensive policy decisions, has been called into question. And the reputation of British science has been seriously tarnished. A high-level independent inquiry must be set up without delay.

The Founder of the Weather Channel and 30,000 other scientists wanting to sue Al Gore for Global Warming Fraud

It's about time since for years  global warming scientists have been unwilling to debate the skeptics.  Instead they insisted the science was settled, the consensus was overwhelming and called skeptics the equivalent of Holocaust deniers.

When faced with fraud charges, they will be forced to defend their claims, reveal their evidence and submit to cross-examination. 

Christopher Booker, The Obsession With 'Climate Change' Turning Out To Be The Most Costly Scientific Blunder In History

the most notorious example of this was the so-called 'hockey stick' graph, which for years was brandished to show that, after flat-lining for 1,000 years, global temperatures had suddenly soared upwards in the late 20th century to levels never known before in recorded history.

The hockey stick was used by the IPCC and Gore as the supreme icon of their cause. Then, two statisticians revealed that the graph had been created by a computer model programmed to produce hockey stick shapes whatever data were fed into it.

Before it is too late, we must insist our politicians re- examine the increasingly shaky scientific case on which all those proposals are based.
-.
No one has put this better than Professor Lindzen, one of the world's leading climatologists, when he wrote:
'Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st-century's developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally average temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree, and on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections contemplated a roll-back of the industrial age.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:45 AM | Permalink

November 14, 2009

"Holy crap, that's it"

Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything

An impoverished surfer has drawn up a new theory of the universe, seen by some as the Holy Grail of physics, which has received rave reviews from scientists.

Garrett Lisi, 39, has a doctorate but no university affiliation and spends most of the year surfing in Hawaii, where he has also been a hiking guide and bridge builder (when he slept in a jungle yurt).

 Garrett Lisi Surferdude Physicist

Lee Smolin at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, describes Lisi's work as "fabulous". "It is one of the most compelling unification models I've seen in many, many years," he says.
--
Lisi's inspiration lies in the most elegant and intricate shape known to mathematics, called E8 - a complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887, but only fully understood by mathematicians this year after workings, that, if written out in tiny print, would cover an area the size of Manhattan.

E8 encapsulates the symmetries of a geometric object that is 57-dimensional and is itself is 248-dimensional. Lisi says "I think our universe is this beautiful shape."
--
Lisi's breakthrough came when he noticed that some of the equations describing E8's structure matched his own. "My brain exploded with the implications and the beauty of the thing," he tells New Scientist. "I thought: 'Holy crap, that's it!'"

The above linked article by Roger Highfield appeared in 2007 and since has been viewed over a million times as Highfield follows up in the Surfer dude's theory of everything: the magic of Garrett Lisi

There is no way I can grasp what he is doing but the video that purports to explain it is stunningly beautiful and ordered, so I conclude he's on to something.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2009

The Center of Our Galaxy

 Milky Way

The dazzling image combining reds, yellows, blues and purples, was created by layering stunningly detailed pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory on top of each other.

The Milky Way is at the centre of our own galaxy and this image shows its core. The image was created to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first demonstration of his telescope.

Each telescope's contribution has been presented in a different colour. Yellow represents the near-infrared observations of Hubble, which is better known for its astonishing visible-light pictures.These infrared observations outline the most active regions where stars are being born and reveal hundreds of thousands of stars.

Red represents the infrared observations of Spitzer. The radiation and winds from stars create glowing dust clouds that form complex structures from compact spheres to long, stringy filaments.

Blue and violet represent the X-ray observations of Chandra. X-rays are emitted by gas heated to millions of degrees by stellar explosions and outflows from the super-massive black hole in the galaxy's centre.

The bright blue blob on the left side is an emission from a double star system containing either a neutron star or a black hole. A supermassive black hole - some four million times more massive than the Sun - resides within the bright region in the lower right.

When these views are brought together, the composite image provides one of the most detailed views ever of our galaxy's mysterious core.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:52 PM | Permalink

October 29, 2009

"We still don't know how ordinary window glass works and keeps it shape."

 Dna Nebula -1

DNA Nebula

Seven questions that keep physicists up at night.  Among them:

Why this universe?

What is everything made of?

How does complexity happen?

What is reality really?

"We still don't know how ordinary window glass works and keeps it shape,"  said Professor Leo Kandanoff from the University of Chicago, one of the physicists interviewed.

Is it a liquid,  a solid or some "distinctly different structure with properties of both liquids and solids?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 PM | Permalink

Down to Nanoworld

Look at this amazing demonstration of Cell Size and Scale from the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah.

Use the slider to zoom into the nanoworld from coffee bean on down to the carbon atom, passing egg, sperm, influenza virus and water molecule along the way.

Via Kottke, The long zoom of cells

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 PM | Permalink

October 26, 2009

Psychedelic look of aspirin

 Aspirin

Aspirin crystals

The Most Amazing Medical Images of 2009_

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 AM | Permalink

October 22, 2009

Kingfisher

From the National Geographic comes a photo gallery by Charlie Hamilton James, featuring the Eurasian kingfisher, a Blaze of Blue

 Kingfisher

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:25 PM | Permalink

October 20, 2009

Thank the marvelous snake

Mother Nature has provided a rich source of raw materials for a host of important drugs: aspirin comes from willow tree bark; the blood pressure drug captopril from the venom of a pit viper; warfarin, the widely used blood thinner, was derived from moldy sweet clover.

Now researchers think that desperately ill heart failure patients may find relief with the help of the eastern green mamba snake.

 Green Mamba Snake


That's the hope, at least, of John Burnett, a heart failure expert at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. He and his colleagues have fashioned an experimental drug based in part on the venom of the snake, a tree-dwelling relative of the cobra that is found in eastern Africa.

The Deadly Mamba as a Lifesaver

Marvelous.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:27 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2009

Every three days, a new heart

I found this fascinating.

Self-Destructive Behavior in Cells May Hold Key to a Longer Life

Deep down, we are all cannibals. Our cells are perpetually devouring themselves, shredding their own complex molecules to pieces and recycling them for new parts. Many of the details of our endless self-destruction have come to light only in the past few years. And to the surprise of many scientists, links are now emerging between this inner cannibalism and diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

--
In fact, as Dr. Klionsky wrote in a paper published online in Trends in Cell Biology, this cannibalism may extend our lifespan. Increasing our body’s ability to self-destruct may, paradoxically, let us live longer.
-
A cell uses the material to build new molecules, gradually recreating itself from old parts. “Every three days, you basically have a new heart,” said Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo, a molecular biologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
--
Unfortunately, as we get older, our cells lose their cannibalistic prowess. The decline of autophagy may be an important factor in the rise of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that become common in old age. Unable to clear away the cellular garbage, our bodies start to fail.

 Lysosome Intracellular Digestion

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:55 PM | Permalink

September 30, 2009

The Creative Power of Love

Scientific American has a most interesting article, Does Falling in Love Make Us More Creative?

why is love such a stimulating emotion? Why does the act of falling in love – or at least thinking about love – lead to such a spur of creative productivity?

One possibility is that when we’re in love we actually think differently. This romantic hypothesis was recently tested by the psychologists Jens Förster, Kai Epstude, and Amina Özelsel at the University of Amsterdam. The researchers found that love really does alter our thoughts, and that this profound emotion affects us in a way that is different than simply thinking about sex.

The clever experiments demonstrated that love makes us think differently in that it triggers global processing, which in turn promotes creative thinking and interferes with analytic thinking. Thinking about sex, however, has the opposite effect: it triggers local processing, which in turn promotes analytic thinking and interferes with creativity.

--
The takeaway lesson is that thinking about love, or anything that promotes a distal perspective or global processing, can make us more creative. Perhaps love is an especially potent way to induce in us a sense of transcendence – being in the here and now yet also contemplating the distant future and maybe even eternity.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

September 13, 2009

Unseen Harmony

I love these  Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

I saw a picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes (no Photoshop edit). I knew it wasn't the most original idea in the universe. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.

Part of the Unseen Harmony can also be heard in the Sound of Your Cells that make music way down at the molecular level.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:47 PM | Permalink

The Butterfly Nebula

Just how much better is the "New' Hubble?

 Hubble Compared

Much better.  Compare the earlier image of the Betterfly Nebula with the later one above.

Click on the thumbnail image of the entire Butterfly Nebula below to see it in its full glory.

Butterfly Nebula

Unfathomable beauty.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:50 PM | Permalink

September 9, 2009

Liposuction leftovers make easy stem cells

Who knew that recycling fat could have such astounding effects?

Fat sucked out of chunky thighs or flabby bellies might provide an easy source of stem cells made using new and promising technology, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

They found immature fat cells in the material removed during liposuction were easy to transform into cells called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells.

They were easier to work with than the skin cells usually used to make iPS cells, the team at Stanford University's School of Medicine in California reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Liposuction leftovers make easy stem cells: study

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 AM | Permalink

August 13, 2009

Lunar rainbows

Who knew that Yosemite was a hotspot for lunar rainbows also known as moonbows

 Lunar-Rainbow Yosemite

Here's what the pioneering naturalist John Muir wrote about seeing such a sight in his 1912 book, The Yosemite.

“This grand arc of color, glowing in mild, shapely beauty in so weird and huge a chamber of night shadows, and amid the rush and roar and tumultuous dashing of this thunder-voiced fall, is one of the most impressive and most cheering of all the blessed mountain evangels.”

Thanks to Environmental Graffiti who has much more on The Elusive Beauty of Lunar Rainbows.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:36 PM | Permalink

August 2, 2009

Awesome

From APOD, what the sun's corona looks like in all its waves and filaments if you digitally process 33 photographs of the solar eclipse in March 2006.

Corona Vangorp

The Big Picture has fine photos of The longest solar eclipse of the century and  the people who turned out for it last week.

 Solar Eclipse July 09

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:17 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2009

Aurora Australis: The Southern Lights

 Southern Lights

Stunning video of Aurora Australis: The Southern Lights, time lapse photography by Anthony Powell

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 PM | Permalink

July 14, 2009

Alive and happy

 Meg Wedding

At 19, Meg was told her brain tumor was inoperable by her British doctors.  Nonsense said her mother, I won't let my daughter die

Without the doctor she found in Boston who did operate successfully, Meg would not be alive, married and with a new job in publishing and a new charity to give support to other people suffering with brain tumors. 

Meg was out of hospital within three days and back home within the month, just in time to celebrate her 2:1 degree result. Soon after she took a job in publishing.

'I can't forget about my brain tumour as I still have annual scans and will need them for the rest of my life,' she says. 'But they show that everything is fine and there are no cancer cells. I'm incredibly lucky.'

Meg didn't hesitate when Josh, an investment consultant, proposed on a trip to Venice last summer.

'Sadly Professor Black wasn't able to come to the wedding,' says Meg. 'But Josh and I thought about him so much that day. I owe my life to him - and to my mum who wouldn't give up until she had found a cure.
--
'I've no doubt that, without my operation, I'd now be dead. Britain is gradually catching up with America. But, sadly, we still don't yet have the same high level of technology. I wish everyone could have the same chance I had.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:51 PM | Permalink

July 3, 2009

Eye tooth

I have a lot of open tabs and many things to blog about, but this is the strangest, most surprising and wonderful news I've heard this week.

Blind man sees wife for first time after having a TOOTH implanted in his eye

'The doctors took the bandages off and it was like looking through water and then I saw this figure and it was her. She's wonderful and lovely. It was unbelievable to see her for the first time.'
---
'I feel fantastic getting my sight back,' he said. 'I can't really describe it - it's beyond words. I was blind for 12 years and when my sight came back everything had changed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:29 PM | Permalink

June 5, 2009

Milky Way

Take 40 seconds and watch as the Milky Way passes over the night sky

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo. via Neatorama

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

May 17, 2009

"Seeing deeper into the whole of creation"

A lovely piece by Vanderleun reminding me that Miracles and Wonders Continue

And so, while the petty politicians bleat, and the small and not so small wars rage on in fits and starts, almost everyone on the Earth will sleep tonight with someone they don't really mind all that much. And tomorrow the kids in the playground across the street will run and skip and jump at recess. And tomorrow our planet, one of many like it or perhaps alone in the universe, will turn full of much more goodness and grace than hate and suffering.

And tomorrow, somewhere in mid-heaven, floating weightless between the Earth and the Sun, men and women will carefully repair and refurbish a telescope so that we might see ever deeper into the whole of creation, and perhaps even, just a bit, into the mind and purposes of God.

        cats-eye_nebula

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 AM | Permalink

April 29, 2009

8-hour workday is in your genes

Biological Clock


You've heard about circadian cycles but did you know that the thousands of genes in the body switch on and off over the 12-hour cycles governed by light and dark that set our waking an sleeping hours and eating habits.

Now scientists are finding that shorter cycles are also biologically encoded. 8 hour workday biologically wired

New research from the University of Pennsylvania and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies suggests that humans are biologically hard-wired to work only eight hours a day.

The standard work cycle appears to be programmed in the genes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:49 PM | Permalink

April 15, 2009

The Cosmic Dance

What is going on in the sky above that is otherwise invisible to your naked eye outside your suburban Boston Home.

Mosaic Sky-Above

  As I grew older,...eventually I made some startling discoveries -- three of them -- and they have changed my life forever. The first of these is the amazing revelation that I am made up of stardust, that every part and parcel of who I am materially was once a piece of a star shining in the heavens. The second discovery is that the air I breathe is the air that has circled the globe and been drawn in and out by people, creatures and vegetation in lands and seas far away. But the most astounding discovery that both awakened and affirmed my early childhood awareness is the fact that I am part of a vast and marvelous dance that goes on unceasingly at every moment in the most minute particles of the universe....

Joyce Rupp

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2009

Dark particle, dark matter and dark energy in Indra's Net

Reality is stranger than we can imagine and so odd I can't even understand it.

A new strange particle that may break all known rules for creating matter was discovered in Illinois's Fermilab auto smasher and called the Y(4140).  I do hope they get a better name.  Maybe, the "dark particle" to join the other dark mysteries of the cosmos

Cosmic Web.  Much of the missing "normal" matter from the in the cosmos resulting from the Big Bang  has been found  clustering around wispy ropes of invisible matter forming part of the "vast weblike superstructure of the universe within which galaxies are embedded like sparkling sequins."

080521-Missing-Matter Big

The image from the University of Colorado at Boulder is a computer simulation of the universe showing a region of space
about 1.5. billion light-years a side.

Dark Matter ,an invisible form of matter that does not give off or reflect light yet accounts for the vast majority of mass in the universe,  has been mapped in 3D and seems to provide "compelling evidence that the mysterious substance is the scaffolding upon which stars and galaxies are assembled".

Dark-Matter 3Dmapped

Dark Energy, accounting for some 74% of energy in the universe repels gravity and is attributed to be the force behind the expansion of the universe.

-Dark-Energy Big

It  all reminds me of nothing so much as Indra's Net, the Buddhist concept of interpenetration of all phenomena.

"Imagine a multidimensional spider's web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the universe in an image." --Alan Watts

Indra Net

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:40 PM | Permalink