Tuesday, July 25, 2006 

Titan may be a land of lakes after all

At last, we know that Titan has lakes. Probably. NASA's Cassini spacecraft buzzed the giant moon again this weekend, and raked its radar beam across Titan's north pole. The image it returned shows black patches near the pole, some of them apparently fed by drainage channels.

The darkness of these areas implies that none of the radar beam bounced back to Cassini. The most likely explanation is that it hit a very smooth surface – probably liquid methane or ethane, which are stable at the -180°C temperatures of Titan's surface. If this is truly the case, then Titan is only the second body known to have surface liquids, after the Earth.

Earlier images from Titan also showed dark patches that were considered possible lakes, but they were less dark. "In this case it is much clearer. The contrast is so great that there are few doubts that the surface is a liquid one," says Enrico Flamini of the Italian Space Agency in Rome, a member of the radar instrument team.

The lakes are presumably filled by rainfall, perhaps by seasonal storms, and then evaporate slowly to replenish the atmosphere and complete Titan's methane cycle. The largest of the apparent lakes osbserved are around 100 kilometres across – a little too small to be called seas – as well as a network of smaller, interconnected lakes resembling parts of Finland and Canada. Some have rims that might be deposits left behind as the methane evaporates. >> more


Was Bush right to veto embryonic stem cell research bill?

Ethics and politics. The stem cell research debate is infused with these elements now that both sides are posturing for the moral high ground. Common sense and a law of logic (the law of non-contradiction) dictate that opposing views cannot both be correct. So, who’s right?

Last Wednesday, President Bush issued his first veto by rejecting Congress' bid to lift funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research. The president’s position is that this veto demonstrates his valuing of human life and demonstrates the “compassionate conservative” message he campaigned on. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin called the veto "a shameful display of cruelty, hypocrisy and ignorance.” >> more

Frankly I feel Michael McNeil's arguments in this article are just flat out stupid. The real debate should be "are these embryo's going to be destroyed anyway?" and if yes, then why can't they be used for research purposes. It's unfortunate that our lives are still being dictated by religious fanatics that have no real understanding of anything outside the "Good Book".

For fuck sake! Why are these people even in office? Get them the hell out of there and lets get some people w/ brains making the decisions. We need leaders who aren't afraid to think outside the box and are willing to take a chance for the benefit of all...


Monday, July 24, 2006 

Israel Using 'Vacuum' & White Phosphorus On Lebanese

U.S. military intelligence sources have told WMR that the artillery shell shown below being used by an Israel Defense Force member in Lebanon, is a type of dual and multi-use weapon the neocons falsely accused Saddam Hussein of possessing. Although the canister artillery shell is marketed as an anti-land mine fuel-air bomb, its payload can also include the chemicals used in thermobaric bombs, white phosphorous weapons, and chemical weapons. Thermobaric bombs contain polymer-bonded explosives or solid fuel-air explosives in their payloads.

Thermobarics use a fuse munition unit (FMU) such as that seen on the nose of the Israeli artillery shell. The shell penetrates buildings, underground shelters, or tunnels, creating such a blast pressure that all the oxygen is sucked out from the spaces and the lungs of anyone who happens to be in proximity. Israel's use of such "vacuum" weapons has been reported from across Lebanon. >> more


Vampire sea spiders

Weird spider-like creatures that live at the bottom of the ocean and use a 'straw' to suck on their prey are baffling scientists.

These sea spiders, some of which are blind, are defying scientific classification.

Marine zoologist Dr Claudia Arango of the Australian Museum in Sydney agrees they are arthropods, but which type?

She presented her research on these unusual and poorly understood animals recently at the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research meeting in Hobart.

"They are very weird looking animals," says Arango.

For over 100 years, scientists have been puzzling over how exactly to classify sea spiders or pycnogonids.

They crawl along the bottom of the sea floor, sometimes more than 6000 to 7000 metres down, where they live in the dark, feeding on slow-moving soft-bodied sponges and sea slugs.

The creatures are segmented and have an exoskeleton, which makes them an arthropod, the same grouping as crustaceans, insects, centipedes and spiders.

But they also have a very strange collection of features, including a unique feeding structure.

"They have a proboscis that's like a straw that they insert into the animals and suck out the juices," says Arango. >> more

An unusual Antarctic sea spider with five pairs of legs. Its large proboscis is protruding towards the bottom of the picture (Image: Claudia Arango)

Sunday, July 23, 2006 

Tut's gem hints at space impact

n 1996 in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Italian mineralogist Vincenzo de Michele spotted an unusual yellow-green gem in the middle of one of Tutankhamun's necklaces.

The jewel was tested and found to be glass, but intriguingly it is older than the earliest Egyptian civilisation.

Working with Egyptian geologist Aly Barakat, they traced its origins to unexplained chunks of glass found scattered in the sand in a remote region of the Sahara Desert.

But the glass is itself a scientific enigma. How did it get to be there and who or what made it?

Thursday's BBC Horizon programme reports an extraordinary new theory linking Tutankhamun's gem with a meteor. >> more


Astronomers glimpse exploded star

A star on the brink of exploding as a spectacular supernova has been glimpsed by international astronomers.

The star flared up suddenly last February, briefly becoming 1,000 times brighter than normal.

RS Ophiuchi is close to destroying itself in a nuclear explosion called a type 1a supernova, scientists report in the journal Nature.

These are among the brightest phenomena in the Universe, radiating five billion times as much light as the Sun.

They are so bright they can be seen far across the cosmos.

They also seem to be remarkably uniform - they always appear to give off the same amount of light, so that their visibility from Earth, dimmed only by their immense distance, has been used to measure the size of the Universe.

The only problem, which is a great embarrassment to astronomers, is that they have never seen a type 1a close up - their measurements are all based on theory.

They are so rare that the last one known in our galaxy was seen in 1572 by the great Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who first coined the term nova, for "new star", not realising he was in fact witnessing the violent end of an unknown star. >> more


A picture is worth a thousand words

"A PICTURE is worth a thousand words" may sum up how people with autism see the world.

Brains scans of people with the condition show that they place excessive reliance on the parietal cortex, which analyses images, even when interpreting sentences free of any imagery. In other people, the image centre appears to be active only when the sentences contain imagery.

The results agree with anecdotal reports that people with autism are fixated on imagery but struggle to interpret words and language. They frequently excel at recording visual detail, but overlook the bigger picture and the context that comes with it. >> more

Friday, July 21, 2006 

Scientists Strengthen Case For Life On Earth More Than 3.8 Billion Years Ago

Ten years ago, an international team of scientists reported evidence, in a controversial cover story in the journal Nature, that life on Earth began more than 3.8 billion years ago--400 million years earlier than previously thought. A UCLA professor who was not part of that team and two of the original authors will report in late July that the evidence is stronger than ever. >> more


Relic neutrinos join the hunt for dark energy

MASSIVE optical telescopes on mountain tops have been the main tools for exploring dark energy - the mysterious stuff that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. Soon the quest could move underground. Neutrinos born in stellar cataclysms and detected in gigantic water tanks buried in mines may become the new probes for dark energy.

Dark energy was discovered in the late 1990s by astronomers studying the light from stellar explosions known as type 1a supernovae. Since then telescopes around the world, such as the Very Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal in Chile, have been used to study the light from more and more supernovae. Now Lawrence Hall of the University of California at Berkeley and colleagues think that neutrinos spewed out in another type of stellar explosion, a core-collapse supernova, could be just the tool for studying dark energy.

When the core of a massive star grows too large, it collapses under its own gravity, releasing a flood of neutrinos - a theory confirmed in 1987 when a supernova went off in a nearby dwarf galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, and a sudden wave of the particles hit neutrino detectors on Earth. Two of them, Kamiokande-II in Japan and the IMB detector in the US, were underground water tanks. Photomultiplier tubes lining these tanks detected the distinctive and rare blue flashes of light emitted when a neutrino hits an electron. >> more


How nicotine helps cancer grow

Nicotine influences a key cancer pathway in cells, which may explain how it speeds up cancer growth, says a new study. The researchers believe their results may help in the design of better anti-cancer drugs.

"We believe that these components can be targeted for cancer therapy," says Srikumar Chellappan of the University of South Florida, in Tampa, US, who led the study. "So we are quite excited about the new therapeutic avenues this study has revealed."

Rather than initiate cancer, nicotine seems to make existing cancers more aggressive, he says. Previous studies have found, for example, that breast cancer is more likely to spread to the lungs of patients who smoke than those who do not. And blocking the receptors for nicotine on the surface of aggressive cancer cells in a laboratory dish halts their growth (see Nicotine speeds the growth of lung cancers).

Cigarette smoking can nevertheless trigger the development of cancer, stresses Chellappan. By-products of nicotine and other compounds are to blame, though, rather than nicotine itself. >> more


"Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley

This has to be the koolest thing I have ever seen and ever will see on MTV.


President blocked surveillance probe

A quote from the article:
"Since its creation some 31 years ago, OPR has conducted many highly sensitive investigations involving Executive Branch programs and has obtained access to information classified at the highest levels," chief lawyer H. Marshall Jarrett wrote in a memorandum released Tuesday. "In all those years, OPR has never been prevented from initiating or pursuing an investigation." >> more

Thursday, July 20, 2006 

Nuclear Explosion On A Dead Star

A team of astronomers from the UK and Germany have found that a nuclear explosion on the surface of a star 5,000 light years from Earth resulted in a blast wave moving at over 1,700 km per second. Dr. Richard Porcas from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn coordinated the observations with the European VLBI network (EVN). The discovery, reported in the 20th July issue of Nature, was made by bringing together many of the world's radio telescopes into arrays capable of seeing the aftermath of the explosion in incredible detail.

During the night of 12th February this year Japanese astronomers reported that a star called RS Ophiuchi had suddenly brightened and become clearly visible in the night sky. Although this was the latest in a series of such outbursts that have been spotted over the last hundred years or so, it was the first since 1985 and therefore an opportunity to bring to bear new, more powerful, telescopes in an effort to understand the causes and consequences of these eruptions. >> more


SpongeBob SquarePants - Patrick Smartpants


Math evolved with language

We can thank our verbal nature, along with our fingers, for the ability to develop complex number systems, a new study suggests.

The authors theorise that language and maths co-evolved in humans, with language probably emerging just ahead of basic mathematical concepts.

"I do not think counting words were among the first words spoken by our species, because their application makes use of a fairly sophisticated pattern of linking that occurred ... relatively late in linguistic evolution," says author Dr Heike Wiese, whose study has been accepted for publication in the journal Lingua. >> more


Bush vetoes stem cell bill, to scientists' dismay

President George W Bush has kept his promise to veto a bill supporting stem cell research, much to the dismay of scientists across the country and prominent members of his own Republican party.

The bill, which would have loosened restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research, had just received approval from the Senate by a vote of 63 to 37 (see Senate passes stem cell Act, but Bush may veto it) on Tuesday.

Following Bush's announcement of a veto, the issue went back to the US House of Representatives. But with 235 to 193 votes in favour of overturning the veto, the House’s vote still fell short of the two-thirds majority needed.

US scientists have argued that the lack of federal funding for studies on new types of stem cells has hindered the development of potentially life-saving therapies. Stem cell research is considered by experts as promising for the treatment of illnesses such as Parkinson's disease and diabetes. >> more

It seems to me, people like this are only willing to step into the unknown when it affects their lives directly. If it was his son, wife, father, mother, brother or friend who could benefit from this research, i'm sure he would be all for it. Stupid prick!


Yet another Linux powered robot

A French start-up created to build autonomous, easily programmable, affordable humanoid robots has emerged from stealth mode. Aldebaran Robotics, of Paris, expects to ship its first product -- a humanoid household service robot running Linux -- in early 2007. >> more


Hacked Ad Seen on MySpace Served Spyware to a Million

An online banner advertisement that ran on MySpace.com and other sites over the past week used a Windows security flaw to infect more than a million users with spyware when people merely browsed the sites with unpatched versions of Windows, according to data collected by iDefense, a Verisign company. >> more

The wonderful world of Windows! Aren't you happy to be apart of it?


The 12 Differences Between Super Mario Bros. 2 and Doki Doki Panic

When Mario 2 for the NES was released in the U.S., it looked and played differently than anyone had expected. It turned out that Mario 2 was not really a Mario title at all, but a game released in Japan as Doki Doki Panic. Nintendo had decided the actual Mario 2 was too difficult for an overseas release and pulled the title and modified Doki Doki instead. In order to make Doki Doki Panic Mario-like, they made some small changes, upgraded the character graphics, and sent "Mario 2" onto the market. >> more

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 

Holding back!

and i still am, i suppose...


Metasploit Creator Releases Malware Search Engine

H.D. Moore, creator of the Metasploit hacking tool and the security researcher behind the MoBB (Month of Browser Bugs) project, has released a search engine that finds live malware samples through Google queries.

The new Malware Search engine provides a Web interface that allows anyone to enter the name of a known virus or Trojan and find Google results for Web sites hosting malicious executables. >> more


Open, programmable humanoid robot runs Linux

Four companies in Japan have created a low-cost, user-programmable humanoid robot targeting educational and research applications. The HRP-2m Choromet uses technology from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), and is user-programmable thanks to open software running on a user-space real-time Linux implementation. >> more

Thursday, July 13, 2006 

Former CIA Officer Sues Cheney and his Gimps Over Leak

The former CIA agent whose identity was leaked to reporters by administration officials filed a civil lawsuit today against Vice President Dick Cheney, his former top aide, top presidential adviser Karl Rove and other White House officials, accusing them of conspiring to destroy her career out of revenge.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, former CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, accused the officials of leaking her identity to reporters to get back at Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration's motives for going to war in Iraq. >> more

It's really about time she did something! Don't you think?


The living was easy for young tyrannosaurs

Youth was easy for big predatory dinosaurs – but adulthood and old age much harder to survive, a mass graveyard of tyrannosaur fossils suggests.

This first study of dinosaur population distributions shows that most juvenile tyrannosaurs survived to reach sexual maturity, but then their death rate increased sharply in adulthood. This life-pattern is similar to those of long-lived birds and mammals.

Palaeontologists have long wondered why fossils of juvenile dinosaurs are few and far between. The answer is "they just didn't die at those ages", says Gregory Erickson of Florida State University in Tallahassee, US, who led the new study. "Not until they reached mid-life did they start getting knocked off." He says the pattern echoes that of large modern herbivores like elephants and cape buffalo's.

Biologists study population distributions of modern animals by counting individuals and keeping track of deaths. This is not possible for extinct creatures, and fossilized remains are also scant for many dinosaurs. But Erickson turned to the tyrannosaur family that roamed North America from about 80 to 65 million years ago, late in the Cretaceous period, which left abundant fossils. >> more


Inflatable spacecraft blows itself up

A small test version of an inflatable space hotel has reached orbit and filled with air.

Bigelow Aerospace made contact with its Genesis I spacecraft for the first time on Wednesday. Then, just after midnight GMT on Thursday, the spacecraft passed over the company's control centre in Las Vegas, Nevada, US.

Information received from the spacecraft indicates that it has inflated successfully – to 3 metres long and 2.4 metres wide – and that its solar panels have deployed. The temperature inside the spacecraft was measured at a cosy 26° Celsius.

The Genesis I craft lifted off on Wednesday at 1453 GMT from a site in Yasny, Russia. The Dnepr rocket, a converted intercontinental ballistic missile, "flawlessly delivered the Genesis I into the target orbit", company founder Robert Bigelow said on the firm's website.

The spacecraft is orbiting 550 kilometres above Earth, with a 64° inclination to the equator. >> more

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 

'Killer kangaroo' evidence found

Palaeontologists digging in northern Australia have found fossil evidence of several new species - including a "killer kangaroo".

The flesh-eating marsupial would have lived between 10 and 20 million years ago, scientists say.

The research team has also unearthed evidence of a large carnivorous bird dubbed the "demon duck of doom".

The dig site in Queensland has yielded remains of at least 20 previously unknown creatures.

The team from the University of New South Wales made the discoveries in the Riversleigh fossil fields in the north-west of the state. >> more


Magic mushrooms hit the God spot

The active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms produces a spiritual experience that can have lasting positive effects, a trial has shown. >> more


Monday, July 10, 2006 

Adware Spreads Through Myspace

Thus, another reason why people need to stop using Windows. Can you say Linux? I know, I sure as fuck can... >> more


Midgets And Giants In The Deep Sea

How is the deep sea like a desert island? It sounds like a child's riddle, but it's actually a serious scientific question with implications for both terrestrial and marine biology. Biologists have long observed that when animals colonize and evolve on isolated islands, small animals tend to become larger while large animals tend to become smaller. Recent research led by MBARI postdoctoral fellow Craig McClain suggests that a similar trend affects animals as they adapt to life in the deep sea. McClain will present a summary of these findings today at the 11th International Deep-Sea Biology Symposium in Southampton, England. A full article is in press in the peer-reviewed Journal of Biogeography. >> more

This giant deep-sea isopod is an example of an animal that has evolved to a much larger size in deeper water. These isopods are distant relatives of the tiny "pill bugs" found in many gardens. They are also related to small shallow-water isopods that live in tide pools.(Image: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)


Replace your mouse with your eye

Computers of the future could be controlled by eye movements, rather than a mouse or keyboard.

Scientists at Imperial College, London, are working on eye-tracking technology that analyses the way we look at things.

The team is trying to gain an insight into visual knowledge - the way we see objects and translate that information into actions.

"Eye-trackers will one day be so reliable and so simple that they will become yet another input device on your computer, like a much more sophisticated mouse," said Professor Guang-Zhong Yang of the Department of Computing at Imperial College. >> more