Monday, August 31, 2009

NASA Shuttle Discovery: Beauty in the Night

Image Credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph and Kevin O'Connell

Billows of smoke and steam rise above Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida alongside space shuttle Discovery as it races toward space on the STS-128 mission.

The STS-128 mission is the 30th International Space Station assembly flight and the 128th space shuttle flight.

The 13-day mission will deliver more than 7 tons of supplies, science racks and equipment, as well as additional environmental hardware to sustain six crew members on the International Space Station.

The equipment includes a freezer to store research samples, a new sleeping compartment and the COLBERT treadmill.

National Psoriasis Foundation - Addressing Psoriasis

National Psoriasis Foundation - Addressing Psoriasis

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month

Each August, the National Psoriasis Foundation of the US, sponsors Psoriasis Awareness Month, dedicated to raising awareness, educating the public and dispelling myths about psoriasis

Psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the U.S., affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals resulting in red, scaly patches on the skin that bleed and itch. Psoriasis is not contagious.

Psoriasis frequently occurs with a range of other health concerns including Crohn's disease, diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, depression and liver disease.

Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis, which causes pain, swelling and stiffness around the joints. People with mild psoriasis are just as likely to develop psoriatic arthritis as those with moderate or severe forms of the disease.

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Tevatron tightens up the race with LHC for the Higgs - New Scientist

Tevatron near Chicago could be in the running to discover the Higgs boson (Image: Fermilab)

(Image: Fermilab)

Tevatron near Chicago could be in the running to discover the Higgs boson

WITH the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) still in the repair shop, the race to find the Higgs boson has become a lot tighter, thanks to the older and less powerful but functioning, Tevatron collider near Chicago.

"The Tevatron definitely has a chance," says Greg Landsberg of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who works on one of the LHC's detectors.

With the LHC due to restart only in November at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, the Tevatron has been gaining ground in the search for the Higgs, the particle thought to give mass to other elementary particles. At last week's Lepton Photon conference in Hamburg, Germany, Tevatron physicists said that by early 2011 they will have recorded enough data to allow them to either find or rule out the Higgs as predicted by the standard model.

Tevatron physicists said that by early 2011 they will have the data to either find the Higgs or rule it out

The LHC will have to sprint to catch up, and it won't be easy. While the LHC's higher energies should produce more Higgs particles, it will also boost the production of other particles that can mimic a Higgs, says Gordon Kane of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Telling between the two will require a precise understanding of how the LHC's detectors are working, which takes time to develop.

The LHC, however, could become the first to find particles of dark matter, a search for which the Tevatron is not well suited

Medical scans can give nuclear-plant radiation doses - New Scientist

Medical scans can give nuclear-plant radiation doses - New Scientist

X-RAYS and CT scans expose a minority of Americans to radiation levels comparable to working in a nuclear power plant. We ask if such scans are really necessary or worth the risk?

Reza Fazel of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues looked at health insurance records for over 650,000 people who had at least one imaging procedure in a three-year period. Most received low doses of radiation, but around 2 per cent got doses equal to or above the suggested yearly exposure for someone working in a nuclear power plant (The New England Journal of Medicine, vol 361, p 849). Fazel says further studies are needed to work out if such medical scans benefit or damage health overall.
Some patients got doses above the suggested levels for someone working in a nuclear power plant

Commenting on the research, radiologist James Thrall at Harvard Medical School points to a recent study reporting that medical imaging accounted for a one-year rise in life expectancy in the US between 1991 and 2004.

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Serious Medical Concerns over Daily Aspirin

Healthy people taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks could be doing themselves more harm than good, experts have concluded.

Millions of Britons are believed to be taking a daily dose of the drug in the hope that it acts as an insurance against heart trouble

Its routine use for the prevention of vascular problems "cannot be supported", UK professors from the Aspirin for Asymptomatic Atherosclerosis (AAA) said.

Professor Peter Weissberg, of the British Heart Foundation which part-funded the research, said: "We know that patients with symptoms of artery disease, such as angina, heart attack or stroke, can reduce their risk of further problems by taking a small dose of aspirin each day.

"The findings of this study agree with our current advice that people who do not have symptomatic or diagnosed artery or heart disease should not take aspirin, because the risks of bleeding may outweigh the benefits."

Reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems had to be set against the increased risk of internal bleeding, the study said.

In patients who have already had a heart attack, the risk of a second is so much higher that the balance is in favour of taking aspirin, Professor Gerry Fowkes, from the Wolfson Unit for Prevention of Peripheral Vascular Diseases in Edinburgh, added.

Mosquito: The Human World's Deadliest Enemy

By transferring several types of deadly diseases into the bloodstream, mosquitoes are the world's deadliest animal (Image © AP/PA Photos)

The mosquito rarely lives longer than a month and is not as ferocious or visually intimidating as a raging carnivore, but it comes in much more regular and intimate contact with humans, than any other dangerous creature.

It also rapidly spreads deadly and contagious diseases, leading to the death of more humans, than any other member of the animal kingdom.

By injecting parasites and viruses into the blood stream, the mosquito causes upwards of two million deaths a year. According to Dr. Mark Rowland of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, malaria is responsible for 800,000 to one million of those deaths.

Malaria, Elephantiasis, West Nile virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, etc are all deadly diseases that are spread by mosquitoesand there are many more.

While the most dangerous breeds of the bug are local to Africa, Asia and North America, it’s still a good idea to stock up on bug repellent for those humid, mosquito-filled nights.

NASA Shuttle Discovery docks with ISS: After Thruster failures

Space shuttle Discovery has pulled up and docked at the international space station, delivering a full load of gear and science experiments.

The link-up occurred as the spacecraft zoomed more than 200 miles above the Atlantic, ending a round-the-world 'chase' of nearly two days.

The astronauts cheered when the hatches swung open, and the two crews greeted each other with hugs and handshakes.

A thruster failure made the rendezvous all the more challenging for shuttle commander Rick Sturckow.

One of Discovery's small thrusters began leaking shortly after Friday's midnight lift-off and was shut down.

None of the little jets was available for the rendezvous and docking, and Mr Sturckow had to use the bigger, more powerful primary thrusters, making for a somewhat bumpier, noisier ride.

Mr Sturckow had trained for this back-up method, but it had never before been attempted for a space station docking. Mission Control congratulated him on "a fantastic job".

Discovery will spend more than a week at the orbiting complex. The astronauts will perform three spacewalks to replace an ammonia tank and perform other outside maintenance, the first being on Tuesday night.

Synthetics and Biology: Is it a working Partnership?

"Plastics" may have been the Baby Boomer watchword, but "synthetic" rules today.

That's "synthetic" as in synthetic biology, the hottest biomedical buzzword, promising new drugs, new fuel and someday, new life.

"If we can make life, then we understand it," says molecular biologist Steven Benner of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, Fla.

Starting with the building blocks of animal and plant cells, synthetic biologists are reengineering living things today and hope to create synthetic life tomorrow. The ultimate goal, Benner says, is "synthesizing life from scratch."

That makes experts, including human genome pioneers Craig Venter of Rockville, Md., and Jay Keasling of the University of California-Berkeley, hopeful and cautious at the same time about the promise and peril of the field.

In July, a team led by Carole Lartigue of the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., reported the field's latest advance in the journal Science: a way to genetically engineer bacteria, previously considered impossible. "Nobody else has done anything remotely like this before," Venter says.

The immediate application is engineering defanged vaccine strains for use against the bacteria family chosen for the study. But a lot of other ideas are cooking, from saving the planet from global warming to figuring out just how life started in the first place.

The promise

In 1974, oncologist Wac{lstrok}aw Szybalski of the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison coined the term "synthetic biology" as a way to describe biologists shuffling genes among organisms. The term has taken on multiple meanings since then in science, says David Rejeski of the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. The public largely has no clue, he says: "Nobody really knows what it is."

One popular definition championed by MIT's Drew Endy, who founded the non-profit Biobrick Foundation, is an engineering one, in which the parts of cells act as the screws, bolts, bricks and mortar of future biology. Others, such as Venter and Harvard's George Church, talk of building completely man-made cells, with parts all made from scratch.

Some recent innovations:

• Last year, Keasling's lab unveiled bacteria that make the anti-malaria drug artemisinin by transferring 14 genes into a microbe.

• Benner's lab has created an artificial form of DNA that uses six chemicals for the "bases" of a genetic code, unlike the four found in human DNA.

• In March, Church announced the creation of artificial "ribosomes," cellular factories that take messenger genes and make proteins that keep cells alive.

"Over the next 25 years, synthetic biologically engineered antibiotics could be developed which monitor the adaptation of the bacteria they are designed to kill, and modify their response accordingly," says Richard Kitney of the United Kingdom's Imperial College. "Similarly, synthetically engineered T-cell (immune cell) components could be used to develop a device which is capable of finding and killing cancerous cells."

Sixty percent of adults can't digest milk -

Sixty percent of adults can't digest milk -

SAN FRANCISCO - Got milk? If you do, take a moment to ponder the true oddness of being able to drink milk after you're a baby.

No other species but humans can. And most humans can't either.

The long lists of food allergies some people claim to have can make it seem as if they're just finicky eaters trying to rationalize likes and dislikes. Not so. Eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish soy and gluten all can wreak havoc on the immune system of allergic individuals, even causing a deadly reaction called anaphylaxis.

But those allergic reactions are relatively rare, affecting an estimated 4% of adults.

Milk's different.

First off, it's not actually an allergy in that there's not an immune response.

People who are lactose intolerant can't digest the main sugar —lactose— found in milk. In normal humans, the enzyme that does so —lactase— stops being produced when the person is between two and five years old. The undigested sugars end up in the colon, where they begin to ferment, producing gas that can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea.

If you're American or European it's hard to realize this, but being able to digest milk as an adult is one weird genetic adaptation.

It's not normal. Somewhat less than 40% of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. The numbers are often given as close to 0% of Native Americans, 5% of Asians, 25% of African and Caribbean peoples, 50% of Mediterranean peoples and 90% of northern Europeans. Sweden has one of the world's highest percentages of lactase tolerant people.

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Remnants of Iraq Air Force Are Found -

Remnants of Iraq Air Force Are Found -

BAGHDAD - Iraqi officials have discovered that they may have a real air force, after all.

Johan Spanner for The New York Times

So far, the Iraqi Air Force has only 87 aircraft, mostly transport and reconnaissance planes.

The Defense Ministry revealed Sunday that it had recently learned that Iraq owns 19 MIG-21 and MIG-23 jet fighters, which are in storage in Serbia. Ministry officials are negotiating with the Serbs to restore and return the aircraft.

The Serbian government has tentatively promised to make two of the aircraft available “for immediate use,� according to a news release from the ministry. The rest would be restored on a rush basis, the ministry said.

An Iraqi delegation went to Serbia as part of an effort by the government to locate assets stashed abroad by Saddam Hussein to evade sanctions. Serbia had had friendly relations with Mr. Hussein’s government.

During that visit, Serbian defense officials told the Iraqis that Mr. Hussein had sent 19 fighter jets to Serbia for repairs in the late 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war, but was unable to bring them back after sanctions were imposed on his country.

Iraq immediately sent a technical delegation, led by the air force chief, Gen. Anwar Mohammed Amin.

The Web site of the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council, the leading Shiite political party, quoted the Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari as saying that the aircraft had been sent in 1989 “for maintenance, and everything was paid for by Iraq’s money.� Mr. Askari said the discovery was important because Iraq had no jet aircraft with defensive or offensive capabilities. “Our air force only has helicopters,� he said.

“Everyone knows how much we need fighter aircraft,� the ministry statement said. “We have reached a tentative agreement with the Serbian side to rehabilitate the aircraft and deliver them to Iraq in the shortest possible time, in recognition of Iraq’s need for such aircraft.�

The Defense Ministry statement was issued as a rebuttal to Iraqi news reports claiming that secret negotiations were under way with Serbia as part of a corrupt arms deal.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Robotic Assisted Limbs for Rent or Hire

NASA Shuttle Discovery Crew: Back in the Saddle again

Twitter / Home

Shuttle's Discovery's crew woke at 2:30p ET to the song "Back in the Saddle Again" by Gene Autry.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Balmy water once bathed Mars: Rocks claimed to host life

Balmy water once bathed Mars: Rocks claimed to host life - New Scientist

Possible Climatic Changes on ancient Mars brought about water losses and atmospheric deterioration

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What is Russia's Response to the US Shuttle Discovery Launch? Are they far Behind?

NASA Sending Astronauts to Lagrange Points: Gravity Holes

With doubts brewing about the feasibility of returning to the moon or aiming straight for Mars, another option has emerged for our next steps into space: gravitational "sweet spots" called Lagrange points that lie at least 1 million kilometres away.

A White House-commissioned task force charged with reviewing NASA's spaceflight plans is considering recommending this as part of a "deep space" option in a report expected soon. But why send humans to empty space?

Lagrange, or Lagrangian, points are great swathes of space where the gravitational acceleration from the Earth and the sun are exactly equal, letting objects stick there with very little effort.

Because they're far from warm stars and planets, they make useful havens for ultra-cold telescopes that measure fluctuations in the temperature of deep space.

The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which measures radiation from the big bang, lives at a Lagrange point called L2 more than 1 million kilometres away. The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the massive James Webb Space Telescope, will also be sent to the spot, which lies in line with the sun and Earth (see illustration).

NASA: Shuttle Discovery lifts off succesfully

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Space shuttle Discovery, with its seven-member crew, launched at 11:59 p.m. EDT Friday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The shuttle Discovery will deliver supplies, equipment and a new crew member to the International Space Station.

Inside the shuttle's cargo bay is the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, a pressurised "moving van" that will be temporarily installed to the station.

The module will deliver storage racks; materials and fluids science racks; a freezer to store research samples; a new sleeping compartment; an air purification system; and a treadmill named after comedian Stephen Colbert. The name "Colbert" received the most entries in NASA's online poll to name the station's Node 3. NASA named the node Tranquility.

Shortly before liftoff, Commander Rick Sturckow said, "Thanks to everyone who helped prepare for this mission. Let’s go step up the science on the International Space Station!"

The 13-day flight will include three spacewalks to replace experiments outside the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory, install a new ammonia storage tank and return the used one. Ammonia is needed to move excess heat from inside the station to the radiators located outside.

Sturckow is joined on the STS-128 mission by Pilot Kevin Ford, Mission Specialists Pat Forrester, Jose Hernandez, Danny Olivas and European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang. NASA astronaut Nicole Stott will fly to the complex aboard Discovery to begin a three-month mission as a station resident. She replaces NASA's Tim Kopra, who will return home on Discovery. Ford, Hernandez and Stott are first-time space fliers.

The mission marks the start of the transition from assembling the space station to using it for continuous scientific research. Assembly and maintenance activities have dominated the available time for crew work. As completion nears, additional facilities and the crew members to operate them will enable a measured increase in time devoted to research as a national and multinational orbiting laboratory.

Discovery's first landing opportunity at Kennedy is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 10, at 7:09 p.m. EDT. This mission is the 128th space shuttle flight, the 30th to the station, the 37th for Discovery and the fourth in 2009.

Dutch Moon Rock is a Fake: Is NASA Gift a fraud?

The piece of 'rock' supposedly brought back from the moon, seen in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 27 August 2009
The lump of 'moon rock' had been on proud display for decades

A treasured piece of Moon Rock at the Dutch Rijkmuseum (the national museum) is nothing more than petrified wood, curators say.

It was originally a gift directly from NASA to the Dutch people. NASA claimed that it was gathered during the first manned lunar landing. Clearly, this claim is now in doubt.

The 'moon rock' was gifted to former Prime Minister Willem Drees during a goodwill tour by the three Apollo-11 astronauts shortly after their moon mission in 1969.

Mr Drees cherished it until he died. The 'moon rock' was then put on display at the Amsterdam Rijkmuseum. Again, a mistake may have taken place at this point and the wrong rock selected for display.

At one point the 'moon rock' was insured for around $500,000 (£308,000), but tests have now proved that the 'rock' on display is not the genuine article.

"Hey, You can trust me, I'm an astronaut!"

The Rijksmuseum, which is perhaps better known for paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, says it will keep the piece as a curiosity.

"It's a good story, with some questions that are still unanswered," Xandra van Gelder, who oversaw the investigation that proved the piece was a fake, was quoted as saying. "We can laugh about it." The "moon rock" had originally been vetted and verified through a phone call to Nasa, she added.

NASA gave honorary 'moon rocks' to more than 100 countries following lunar missions in the 1970s, allegedly. NASA officials said they had no explanation for the Dutch discovery but you can be sure that there is now a race on, by other 'rock' owners, to authenticate their 'treasured' rocks.

Is it only the Dutch that would be so 'amused' at misplacing a $500,000 civic artifacts? It is not like them to be so easily fooled when it comes to economic matters. Perhaps there is a more interesting story here, that is not being told, allegedly.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Launch Forecast for Year End

The Boeing Company said Thursday that its troubled 787 Dreamliner would be ready for a test flight by the end of the year (2009) and its first delivery would be in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Boeing also said that it would book a pretax charge of $2.5 billion, or $2.21 a share, in the third quarter because of the delays.

The new schedule, Boeing said in a statement, will give the company time to fix a structural flaw where the wings join the fuselage. The test flight was initially expected at the end of 2007 with the first deliveries in May 2008.

The jetliner is supposed to be lighter and more fuel-efficient than other airliners, and Boeing has 850 advance orders. But it has faced several critical delays in the production of parts, many of which were outsourced.

The latest problem was reported earlier this month when Boeing said it had instructed an Italian company, Alenia Aeronautica, to stop making fuselage sections for the aircraft after small wrinkles were discovered in the carbon composite skin.

Despite the announcement, some airline industry officials remain skeptical that the Boeing will be able to meet the latest revised schedule.

Better Blood Tests Can Confirm Heart Attacks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A new generation of blood tests can quickly and reliably show if a person is having a heart attack, very soon after the severe chest pains start. Currently, tests are not sufficiently definitive.

The newer, sensitive tests give a much better way to tell who needs help fast. Each year, 15 million people in Europe and the United States go to emergency rooms (A&E) with symptoms of a heart attack, but most are suffering from other complaints.

Those who are truly having a heart attack need to have blocked arteries cleared or opened quickly, to limit the damage to the heart muscle, caused by the lack of blood flow.

Currently Doctors have two main ways of diagnosing a heart attack. 1) They can use an electrocardiogram, or ECG, to measure the electrical activity of the heartbeat for abnormalities. Unfortunately, that test is not always conclusive and relies on the calibration of the instrument and the expertise of the operator.

2) Doctors can also use blood tests to detect elevated levels of a heart muscle protein known as troponin, this is a sign of heart muscle injury. The problem with the old troponin test is its lack of sensitivity. It takes longer to detect increased troponin levels and by that time, heart damage may have already occurred.

Greater Accuracy

In extensive test cases, the accuracy of the newer tests was 94 to 96% accurate, compared with 85 to 90% for the older tests.

Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Allan Jaffe advocates using the newer tests. Several doctors said the new tests do not cost more than the older versions they are replacing, and are usually covered by insurance.

"You diagnose heart attacks faster and more accurately. You detect more people who are acctually having heart attacks and you can give them the priority they need," said Jaffe, who is independant of the studies and has no role in them.

He does agree that further studies are needed to determine if earlier detection of heart injury results in more lives being saved, but this is certainly a big step forward.

Green Technology: Solar Power Costs Fall 40%

There are brighter days ahead for solar shoppers these days. The price of installing solar power is perhaps not 'right', but it's certainly getting better.

Solar Panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year, driven down partly by an increase in the supply of a crucial ingredient for panels, according to commodity analysts.

The price drops, coupled with governmental support and incentives, could reduce the payback and return on investment (ROI) time. It can take solar panels a minimum of 16 years to pay for themselves and up to 22 years, in areas with higher electricity costs. That calculation does not include any 'green grants' or rebates, which will improve the economics considerably.

Consumers have the rest of the world to thank for the big solar price break. Until recently, panel makers had been constrained by limited production of polysilicon, which goes into most types of panels. Now, more factories have opened up that make the material, as have more solar panel assembly and production plants. Unfortunately most of these are in China.

At the same time, the global demand for solar panels has slowed enormously, particularly in Europe, previously the largest solar market. Photovoltaic installations in Europe are forecast to fall by 26 percent this year, compared with 2008.

Much of that decline can be attributed to a sharp slowdown in the Spanish market. Faced with high unemployment and a growing economic crisis, Spain slashed its generous subsidy for the panels last year because it was costing too much.

Dementia: The Networking Brain Breaks Down

The network structure of healthy brains allows very efficient communication between different brain regions (Image: George Mattei / SPL)

(Image: George Mattei / SPL)

The network structure of healthy brains allows very efficient communication between different brain regions.

YOU might expect the brain of someone with a mental disorder to be disorganised. But it's the nature of the disorganisation that's important - a finding that one day could help early diagnosis of different types of dementia.

We already know that the different regions of healthy brains are linked in a so-called small-world network, which makes communication very efficient. For people with Alzheimer's or other types of dementia, however, it's a different story.

In small-world networks - which also emerge, for example, in social networks - each node is connected to a lot of nearby nodes, but also has a few links to distant ones. Because of this, any node can communicate with almost any other in just a few hops.

This may explain the brain's formidable ability to process masses of information rapidly. "A small world, in theoretical terms, is the optimal network," says Willem de Haan of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

De Haan's team used scalp electrodes to measure the brain activity of resting volunteers, of whom 20 had mild to moderate Alzheimer's, 15 had a rare form of dementia called frontal temporal lobe dementia (FTLD), and 23 were healthy. The researchers figured out the underlying network structure of the volunteers' brains from the electrical activity in different regions over time.

In healthy brains, this structure resembled a small-world network, as expected. In people with Alzheimer's, the nodes were connected more randomly; in FTLD, the network was more ordered, with fewer long-distance links. The researchers think that in both abnormal cases the brain networks would be less efficient at exchanging information, and that this might explain some of the cognitive problems experienced by people with these disorders (BMC Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1186/1471-2202-10-101).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

YouTheria: Predictive Animal Database for Endangered species

A new animalia database that allows users to explore the factors that predispose different mammalian species to extinction – from human encroachment to slow reproductive rate – could be useful in planning conservation schemes, its developers say. Anyone can access the online system, YouTHERIA, which allows users to manipulate parameters including habitat ecology, litter size and diet, and test their own hypotheses.

It relies on a vast database of all known and recently extinct mammals, called PanTHERIA, which lists details of the species' ecology, behaviour, diet, geographical range and habitat, based on more than two decades of published research. The database also records the extent to which each of the 5000-odd species is being impacted by humans and habitat degradation.

Warning signs

Analysis of the database has already highlighted a set of key characteristics – slow reproductive rate being one – which predispose mammals to extinction.

"For example, the Seychelles flying fox isn't declining in abundance now because its habitat is intact," says Andy Purvis, a biodiversity researcher at Imperial College London, who helped produce the tools. "But our database suggests that its slow reproductive rate will predispose it to extinction if and when its habitat is disturbed."

Purvis also recommends that conservationists focus on protecting the tundras of Siberia and Canada, where mammals predisposed to extinction because of slow reproduction, are currently thriving in healthy habitat.

Until now, the database has been restricted to the team of biologists who developed it, but Kate Jones at the Zoological Society of London and colleagues have made it freely available to other researchers, hoping that they will contribute to the data.

Encyclopedia of Life, another collaborative database of species, launched two years ago, has already seen contributions from 2 million people from 200 countries. This week it reached its 150,000th entry.

Journal reference: Ecology, DOI: 10.1890/08-1494.1

Lebanon's Landmine Survivor Team: Football

Concerns over Long Distance Shotgun Taser Weapon

THE manufacturer of the Taser stun gun is sparking new controversy with the commercial launch of a long-range version that can be fired from a 12-bore shotgun.

Government-funded tests on initial versions of the new Extended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP) have revealed possible health risks to people on the receiving end, New Scientist has learned. The manufacturer, Taser International of Scottsdale, Arizona, says the issue has been addressed in redesigned devices, but these have yet to be independently tested.

Unlike the current Taser X26, which fires darts attached to short wires, the XREP is wire-free. Its projectile, the size of a shotgun cartridge, is designed to pierce the target's skin and contains battery-powered circuits that deliver a debilitating shock. It has a range of 20 metres or more, compared with 5 metres for previous Tasers.

A team led by Cynthia Bir, a trauma injury specialist at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, found that some of the 275 XREP cartridges that Taser supplied for testing last year were capable of delivering an electric shock for more than 5 minutes, rather than the 20 seconds of shocking current they are supposed to generate. Previous Taser stun guns shock for only 5 seconds per discharge, though that can be repeated.

Bir's team reported their findings at a conference on non-lethal weapons in Ettlingen, Germany, in May. Steve Wright of Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK, who has studied electric shock weapons, says Bir's report that the device can carry on shocking for 5 minutes is worrying. The effects of prolonged shocking are not known, he says, but the finding raises concerns about the potential damage to a victim's mental health.

Bir also found problems with the weapon's accuracy. In test firings, it proved difficult to aim, as the aerodynamics of the projectile caused it to fall below the aiming point at a range of 20 metres. "Any lack of accuracy means a greater risk of hitting an unintended part of the body and therefore greater risk of injury," says security researcher Neil Davison, author of a recent book on non-lethal weapons.

South Korean Rocket Launch Fails to reach orbit

South Korea's first rocket launch failed to push a satellite into orbit but may still anger rival North Korea, coming just months after the communist nation's own launch drew international condemnation.

Vice Science Minister Kim Jung-hyun told reporters Wednesday that one of two covers for the satellite apparently failed to come off, making it drop back toward Earth. The satellite is thought to have burned up while re-entering the atmosphere, he said.
The failure Tuesday dealt a blow to Seoul's quest to become a regional space power. It comes against the complex backdrop of relations on the Korean peninsula — and recent signs that months of heightened tension over the North's nuclear program may be easing.
A South Korean newspaper reported Tuesday that North Korea has invited two U.S. envoys for the first nuclear negotiations between the two countries during President Barack Obama's administration, but Washington quickly said it has no immediate plans to send the envoys to Pyongyang.

North Korea gave no immediate reaction to the rocket launch but has said it would be "watching closely" to see if the U.S. and regional powers refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council. A launch by North Korea in April was suspected to be a disguised test of long-range missile technology and drew a U.N. rebuke.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is the Trabi, East Germany's Clunker, On the Comeback?

East Germany's Clunker, the Trabi is on a Comeback?

The global rush into green technology could be setting the stage for a most unusual comeback: the foul-smelling Trabant, the oft-ridiculed symbol of communist East Germany, all but disappeared from German roadways after the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago. But now its makers are planning to introduce a climate-saving electric version of the Trabi, as it was affectionately known.

NASA Climate monitoring site: Eyes on the Earth 3D

Magic Ink: Now available for full colour Printing

Borrowing an idea from nature could lead to technology capable of producing full-colour A4 prints in a fraction of a second, according to South Korean engineers.

Many insects and birds owe their bright colours to the interaction of light with finely-patterned surface textures, rather than relying on pigments. The iridescent colours of a peacock's tail are largely a result of the interaction of light with just one biological material – melanin rods.

Engineers have long experimentedMovie Camera with replicating these so-called structural colours in synthetic materials, and now Sunghoon Kwon's team at Seoul National University in South Korea has managed it.

Their M-Ink can be used to produce any colour in the visible spectrum and could lead to a new method of cheap and fast full-colour printing, Kwon says.

Just add nanoparticles

M-Ink contains three ingredients: magnetic nanoparticles 100 to 200 nanometres across, a solvation liquid, and a resin.

The nanoparticles disperse throughout the resin, giving the ink a brown appearance. But when an external magnetic field is applied, the nanoparticles immediately snap to the magnetic field lines, forming chain-like structures.

The regularly-spaced nanoparticle chains interfere with incoming light, so that the light reflected from the surface is of a particular colour. Adjusting the magnetic field strength shifts the spacing of the field lines and changes the colour, says Kwon.

Chameleon Opal: Takes on any Colour


A new material could give a chameleon a run for its money - it can rapidly change colour to match that of any in the visible spectrum.

The synthetic material can be likened to an opal, a mineral that owes its variety of colours to its layered structure: regions with a high refractive index, in which light travels slowly, are interleaved with regions with a low refractive index. Light waves with a wavelength - or colour - similar to that of the space between layers are scattered in a way that gives opal its iridescent sheen.

The chameleon-like "opal" developed by British and Canadian chemists has a similar layered structure. But their material goes one better than nature. It can rapidly shrink or swell to change the distance between its layered regions, changing the colour of light that it scatters (see video above).

Discovery Launch Delayed because of Weather

Watch it on the NASA Blog!

Pollen(s) are the enemy or at least the irritant

Starting to sneeze? It's that season for folks allergic to ragweed, one of the most common causes of nasal allergy symptoms. Though medication can help, doctors say the best way to feel better is to limit exposure to irritating pollens.

Four tips:

•Keep house and car windows closed and use the air conditioner.

•Avoid outdoor activities before 10 a.m., when pollen levels are heaviest.

•Wear a mask to mow the lawn or work in the garden.

•Keep pollen off your pillow by showering before bed.

Learn more from the American College of Allergy & Immunology at

Chernobyl: The aftermath goes on!

Souz Chernobyl

The monument to Chernobyl in Sochi, a resort city on the Black Sea. On its base is part of a poem about the fate of the people who were drafted or volunteered to clean up the reactor: "We thought that our Motherland was with us. We were proud of the glitter of our golden epaulets. The steps of our rubber boots took measure. Of Chernobyl's deadly testing ground."

NY Times Article

New Clues in the Mass Death of Bees

New Clues in the Mass Death of Bees

Look after our Bees they are a vital link in the food chain and are adorable little creatures

Monday, August 24, 2009

Australian Solution for Clean Water: iStraw

One of the greatest needs for any human being is access to good drinking water. Without clean water a host of waterborne diseases can quickly ruin one’s day if not one’s life.

Here’s an Australian solution which addresses the problem of contaminated water, particularly for travellers. This Water Filter Drinking Straw is like taking some 1300 bottles of clean drinking water with you on your journeys.

Click on the Picture and read the Full Review

Here’s how it works.
As with all inventions, simplicity is key to success. The iStraw is built around the most basic of human reflexes: the sucking motion.

The first thing a new-born baby does with purpose is to suck and in old age, when most other parts of the human body have ceased to function properly, drinking through a straw is probably the only way to get some nutrition.

So the iStraw is basically one big straw with in-built filtration. How big is it? It’s the same length (20cm) as a normal straw but a lot thicker(17mm), like one of these big marker pens. It has a protective cap to cover the mouthpiece.

The comparatively small size and light weight (just 22g) makes it ideal for backpackers and business travellers alike. The iStraw’s filter is good for some 500 litres of clean water without the aftertaste that you have with water purification tablets.

How Clean is This Drinking Water?
The iStraw protects against waterborne bacteria and protozoa that are present in the drinking water of many countries.

It reduces up to 99.99999% of all these bacteria, including Giardia and Cryptosporidium. It filters down to 0.1 micron and both the iStraw itself and its micro-filtration process has been tested and approved by a NATA approved laboratory.

iPhones: Can they Transform your Life Online

Out with friends and last orders have been called in the pub. The alpha male of our group pulls out a stack of taxi numbers scrawled on old business cards.

None of the firms is close enough. "Richard has a new iPhone - let's try that," my wife suggests. I pull up an app called AroundMe, which tells me where the nearest cab company is.

Thirty seconds later and the taxi is on its way. My friends look on in envy and admiration. Alpha male looks despondent. "I am part man, part computer," I tell myself

Some might ask what all the fuss is about. After all, downloadable applications appeared on some cellphones such as the Palm Treo almost a decade ago, so what's different now? The short answer is that the old apps were not particularly good. They were either difficult to download or time-consuming to master, so few people used them, says Gerard Goggin at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, who has studied the sociological impact of the iPhone (Continuum, vol 23, p 231).

How your love life can influence cancer survival

How your love life can influence cancer survival rates

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Lightning Jets and Sprites

The ancient Greeks might have thought Zeus was furious with heaven itself. The power of lightning strikes and Sprites, that shoot upwards from storm clouds has been measured for the first time – and they turn out to be every bit as powerful as normal lightning.

First caught on camera in 2003, "gigantic jets" shoot upwards from thunderclouds and can reach altitudes above 80 kilometres. But it wasn't until 21 July last year that Steven Cummer at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and his colleagues managed to measure the electrical discharge from a single gigantic jet, released from tropical storm Cristobal.

"No one had been very close to one with the right radio instrumentation before," Cummer says. "So we didn't know whether they just petered out without doing anything much, or whether they actually took some charge and dumped it somewhere."

Mega Black Hole is Bigger than we first thought: Giga?

THE black hole at the centre of the M87 galaxy may be twice as big as originally thought - possibly large enough to measure directly.

M87 is 55 million light years away. Its central black hole devours vast amounts of gas and spews out a huge jet of particles that extends far into intergalactic space.

Karl Gebhardt at the University of Texas at Austin and Thomas Jens of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, weighed M87 by running existing data through a new model that simulates the galaxy on a supercomputer.

Unlike earlier efforts, the model accounts for the invisible halo of dark matter thought to surround the galaxy. Their analysis credited the monstrous central black hole with a mass of 6.4 billion suns - much more than was expected (The Astrophysical Journal, DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/700/2/1690).

Galaxies Missing in Space: Can Weak Gravity be the Culprit

LIKE moths about a flame, thousands of tiny satellite galaxies flutter about our Milky Way. For astronomers this is a dream scenario, fitting perfectly with the established models of how our galaxy's cosmic neighbourhood should be. Unfortunately, it's a dream in more ways than one and the reality could hardly be more different.

As far as we can tell, barely 25 straggly satellites loiter forlornly around the outskirts of the Milky Way. "We see only about 1 per cent of the predicted number of satellite galaxies," says Pavel Kroupa of the University of Bonn in Germany. "It is the cleanest case in which we can see there is something badly wrong with our standard picture of the origin of galaxies."

It isn't just the apparent dearth of galaxies that is causing consternation. At a conference earlier this year in the German town of Bad Honnef, Kroupa and his colleagues presented an analysis of the location and motion of the known satellite galaxies. They reported that most of those galaxies orbit the Milky Way in an unexpected manner and that, taken together, their results are at odds with mainstream cosmology. There is "only one way" to explain the results, says Kroupa: "Gravity has to be stronger than predicted by Newton."

Robot with Human Skeletal Structures

YOU may have more in common with this robot than any other - it was designed using your anatomy as a blueprint.

Conventional humanoid robots may look human, but the workings under their synthetic skins are radically different from our anatomy. A team with members across five European countries says this makes it difficult to build robots able to move like we do.

Their project, the Eccerobot, has been designed to duplicate the way human bones, muscles and tendons work and are linked together. The plastic bones copy biological shapes and are moved by kite-line that is tough like tendons, while elastic cords mimic the bounce of muscle.

Your Genome is not that Precious, share it around

Your genome isn't that precious share it around - New Scientist

GENETIC tests are becoming increasingly fashionable, and it's easy to see why: they allow people to find out all kinds of things about themselves, from their family's origin to the likelihood of developing certain diseases and passing on those risks to their children. But there's a flip side: discovering you are susceptible to an illness for which there is no effective cure or treatment can be devastating. There's also the possibility that your genetic data will find its way into the wrong hands and be used against you, allegedly.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Explained: The 10 Dimensions that make up our Universe

This is an excellent, clear and concise description of the 10 Dimensions that make up our perceived Universe. To connect with the 10 Dimensions CLICK HERE

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rude awakening for NASA's human space-flight dream - space - 20 August 2009 - New Scientist

Rude awakening for NASA's human space-flight dream - space - 20 August 2009 - New Scientist

Don't Look at me Buzz! It was here when I got here and it's got a parking ticket!

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NASA - Glint in the Cat's Eye

NASA - Glint in the Cat's Eye

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Inflatable Heat Shield Tested in Space

An inflatable heat shield was successfully tested on Monday, demonstrating for the first time that these light, flexible devices could be used to protect spacecraft on their way through planets' atmospheres.

Other spacecraft use solid heat shields that either drop away as the spacecraft near the surface, as happened with the Mars rovers, or gradually erode in the atmosphere.

These solid shields are heavy, and their weight limits the mass of the spacecraft they are designed to protect, since both must launch on the same rocket. Their physical size is also limiting, since the shields must be small enough to fit inside a launch rocket.

Balloon-like shields can in theory sidestep these issues, since they are lightweight and can inflate to relatively large sizes after being folded up during launch. These weight and size savings allow for heavier spacecraft payloads.

The new shield, called the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE), launched aboard a small rocket on Monday morning from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. It was the first successful test of an inflatable heat shield.

"We're totally thrilled with the data results we've received," says project manager Mary-Beth Wusk of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Windows WINS server attack coming from China

Yesterday, John Fontana reported that the vulnerability in the WINS service on Windows server was being exploited, and now researchers have found that the attacks are coming from China, despite some troubles with the undersea cables linking China to other parts of the world.

Attacks on the WINS service vulnerability in Windows Server are coming from China, but so far are not widespread, according to the Internet Storm Center.

The ISC, which is run by the SANS Institute, says they have only been able to collect limited information on the attacks, but confirmed that they are coming from IP addresses inside China.

The WINS service vulnerability was revealed last week when Microsoft issued patch MS09-039 as part of its regular Patch Tuesday release cycle

The vulnerability was rated as "critical."

Bojan Zdrnja, who is the current Handler on duty at the ISC, said in an email response that the ISC has received "several confirmations that the attacks appear to be real, and targeted against WINS servers that have not been patched with the MS09-039 patch."

He said ISC data shows that there is scanning going on, but so far there is no evidence of a widespread attack.

Why geeks get all the best girls - New Scientist

Why geeks get the girls - life - 19 August 2009 - New Scientist

This is something we all knew for years but now there is solid evidence! Pinch of salt anyone?

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Cocaine all over your paper money? - Short Sharp Science - New Scientist

Cocaine all over your dollar bills? - Short Sharp Science - New Scientist
Here are Country-by-country, city-by-city results of his US team's study. Mainly US based, they also looked at banknotes from Brazil, China and Japan.

* Detroit, MI - 100 %
* Boston, MA - 100%
* Cambridge, MA - 100 %
* Providence, RI - 80 %
* Miami, FL - 100 %
* Los Angeles, CA - 100 %
* Niagara Falls, NY - 67 %
* Washington, D.C. - 95 %
* Salt Lake City, UT - 77%
* Toronto, Canada - 88%
* Brasilia, Brazil - 75 %
* Sao Paulo, Brazil - 100%
* Tokyo, Japan - 20%
* Kyoto, Japan - 10%
* Shanghai, China - 0%
* Beijing, China - 20%

Surprise, surpsrise! Looks like the US has the biggest problem.

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The Tangled Web of Blood Clots

A better understanding of the mechanisms of blood clotting could help prevent the condition known as artherosclerosis - a chronic inflamation in the walls of arteries.

The glue that holds blood clots together is really a dense matrix made of a protein called fibrin, coloured orange in this image. Fibrin scaffolds can stretch up to three times their length without breaking, yet they’re porous enough for protein-eating enzymes to snake through the scaffold once a wound has healed.

When stretched, chaotic tangles of fibrin proteins align. As this scaffold stretches further, individual protein chains unfurl and kick out adjacent water molecules, shrinking the total volume of the matrix.

It is hoped that by examining and understanding these unusual properties of fibrin and blood-clotting they can be reversed, controlled and modulated - holding huge promise for the treatment of conditions such as artherosclerosis

Humanity Must Save the Wild Tigers: An Obligation without Negotiation

There are only 3000 Tigers left in the wild. There are only 3000 Tigers left in the wild. Sorry, but it needs repeating. Wild Tigers have never been in a tighter spot and only humanity can help.

Only 1.7 per cent of historical tiger numbers are alive today. Indian tigers, such as the one seen here charging the camera, could be a new focus of conservation.

New research in PLoS Genetics suggests that the most effective way to save the wild tiger or at least a representative group, is to focus conservation efforts on the Indian variety, which has over half of the species's genetic diversity. By default, this also means turning our backs on 50% of Tiger genes that we deem as 'un-saveable' or beyond 'salvation'. It brings great shame on humanity to admit this and endorse it.

Indian tigers are equipped with such eclectic genes, that it could be better able to adapt to the future change, inflicted on it by humanity, than any other tiger on Earth.

Why are we continuing to stress this species to extinction. Is it purely economics and money or is it simply a selfish drive to become, not only the dominant species on the Earth but the only species.