Sunday, July 31, 2005

Study: Warming Making Hurricanes Stronger

"Is global warming making hurricanes more ferocious? New research suggests the answer is yes. Scientists call the findings both surprising and 'alarming' because they suggest global warming is influencing storms now - rather than in the distant future."

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Ice lake found on the Red Planet

"A giant patch of frozen water has been pictured nestled within an unnamed impact crater on Mars.

The photographs were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board Mars Express, the European Space Agency probe which is exploring the planet.

The ice disc is located on Vastitas Borealis, a broad plain that covers much of Mars' far northern latitudes.

The existence of the water-ice patch on Mars raises the prospect that past or present life will one day be detected.

It also boosts the chances that manned missions could eventually be sent to the Red Planet - because they would probably need accessible water to survive.

Highly visible
The highly visible ice lake is sitting in a crater which is 35 km (23 miles) wide, with a maximum depth of about two km (1.2 miles).
Scientists believe the water-ice is present all year round because the temperature and pressure are not sufficient to allow it to change states.

Researchers studying the images are sure it is not frozen carbon dioxide (CO2), because CO2 ice had already disappeared from the north polar cap at the time the image was taken.

The team has also been able to detect faint traces of water-ice along the rim of the crater and on the crater walls.

Mars is covered with deep gorges, apparently carved out by rivers and glaciers, although most of the water vanished millions of years ago.

Earlier this year, the European Space Agency detected what they called a huge 'frozen sea', but it is located below a crust of surface deposits.

Large reserves of water-ice are also known to be held at the poles on Mars, and probably at great depth at many locations around the planet. "

Thursday, July 28, 2005

PGP Inventor to Encrypt Net Calls

"The creator of a well-known tool for keeping e-mail safe from prying eyes is now working on a program that he says will help stop eavesdroppers from listening in on Internet-based phone calls.

Phil Zimmermann, who created the Pretty Good Privacy program for encrypting e-mail traffic, planned to demonstrate a prototype of his Voice over Internet Protocol security program Thursday during the Black Hat Briefings security conference in Las Vegas."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Funny Fruit

A couple of months ago, I published some incredible Chinese Watermelon carvings, which you might want to take a look at again here.

Here we have a more whimsical approach:

Monday, July 25, 2005

New Scientist SPACE - Breaking News - Has Huygens found life on Titan?

"IF LIFE exists on Titan, Saturn's biggest moon, we could soon know about it - as long as it's the methane-spewing variety. The chemical signature of microbial life could be hidden in readings taken by the European Space Agency's Huygens probe when it landed on Titan in January.

Titan's atmosphere is about 5 per cent methane, and Chris McKay of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, California, thinks that some of it could be coming from methanogens, or methane-producing microbes. Now he and Heather Smith of the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, have worked out the likely diet of such organisms on Titan."

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Genetics Leave Felines Without Sweet Tooth

"Cats are notoriously finicky eaters, as millions of pet owners can attest. Now, there's a scientific theory explaining, at least in part, why cats have such snobby eating habits: genetics.

Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and their collaborators said Sunday they found a dysfunctional feline gene that probably prevents cats from tasting sweets, a sensation nearly every other mammal on the planet experiences to varying degrees.

Researchers took saliva and blood samples from six cats, including a tiger and a cheetah and found each had a useless gene that other mammals use to create a "sweet receptor" on their tongues. The gene in question does not produce one of the two vital proteins needed to form the receptors.

"Because cats can't taste sweets, they're cranky," joked Joseph Brand, Monell's associate director and an author of the paper being published Sunday in the inaugural issue of the Public Library of Science's journal Genetics."

Scientists Say More Right Whales Are Dying

"More than eight in 10 right whale deaths may be going undiscovered, according to marine scientists who called for emergency action to help prevent humans from accidentally killing the rare animal.

In an article published in the journal Science, researchers estimated that deaths of North Atlantic right whales may be underreported by as much as 83 percent annually. At least eight whales have died in the last 16 months, and only 350 of the animals are believed to exist."

I was fortunate enough to see one of these magnificent cetaceans while on a whalewatch off Cape Cod about 25 years ago.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Lunar Module Engineer Now Home Inspector

Here's an interesting story, quite close to home (both my mother and brother live in Stroudsburg). A further interesting connection to me is that I lived in Montclair, NJ for about 20 years...which is where Buzz Aldrin was born and raised...the 'second' man on the Moon (there's a little plaque in front of his house there).

"STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) - As a longtime engineer for Grumman Corp., Joel Schachter helped design parts for the space vehicle that landed man on the moon. Today, the 65-year-old aerospace expert earns a more down-to-earth living, climbing onto roofs and slithering into crawl spaces as surely the most overqualified home inspector in the Poconos."

..."Schachter's team designed several components of the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM, including the footpads, a mechanism that opened its spindly legs, and the ladder astronaut Neil Armstrong descended before taking his "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.'"

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Dylan 'Judas' concert to be screened

"The legendary moment when Bob Dylan was heckled with a cry of "Judas" at a 1966 concert is to be shown on film for the first time.

Footage of the incident - considered by many to be one of the defining events in rock history - has lain undiscovered for nearly 40 years.

Now it is to be broadcast in a BBC2 documentary of the singer made by Martin Scorsese for the channel's arts strand Arena.

The documentary, No Direction Home - Bob Dylan, also contains a rare interview with the famously private star, in which he discusses his childhood, his relationships and his music.

The "Judas" moment occurred on May 17, 1966 during a gig at Manchester's Free Trade Hall.

After playing the first half of the gig as an acoustic folk set, Dylan introduced his band and turned electric � to the outrage of some in the audience.

Dylan responded to the "Judas" cry with a blistering performance of Like A Rolling Stone.

Arena editor Anthony Wall described his astonishment at seeing the footage for the first time. "I was just gobsmacked. I thought they would never have captured that," he said.

"To see the moment when Judas is actually screamed at him is quite disconcerting."

He went on: "Every night Dylan would do the acoustic half of the set then bring on a group who later became The Band, and they were very, very loud - at that time in 1966 even the Beatles had relatively small amplifiers.

"50% of the audience every night jeered and booed. He was making the most revolutionary music and it was obviously a very turbulent time."

Several people claimed responsibility for the notorious remark.

The interview with Dylan, now 64, was condensed from a 10-hour discussion with his manager Jeff Rosen.

Remarkably, director Scorsese elected not to meet Dylan throughout the making of the documentary.

“He decided he would give himself a distance,” Wall said. “To people of a certain generation there is something overwhelming about Dylan as a phenomenon or presence. It’s a bit like meeting Nelson Mandela or something.”

The film, which also contains interviews with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, will go out on September 26 and 27.

It will be shown on the same day by the BBC and the public service broadcasting network PBS in the US."

Ashes of Star Trek star to be sent into space

"The ashes of Star Trek's James Doohan, who died Wednesday at his home in Redmond, Washington, will be sent into space in accordance with his wishes, his agent here said.

James Doohan (Top R) as Scotty posing with the rest of 'Starship Enterprise' crew in 1999 (AFP/file)

The 85-year-old actor, who played engineer Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott in the original 'Star Trek' TV series in the 1960s and the motion pictures that it spawned, died early in the morning of pneumonia and complications from Alzheimer's disease, said Steven Stevens.

The actor's ashes are to be sent into space -- as Doohan had wanted -- by a company called Space Services Inc., according to the agent.

The Houston-based company teams with commercial launch organizations in offering out-of-this-world memorial services and it has sent into space the ashes of 'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry and drug guru Timothy Leary.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is offering a moreearthly tribute to Doohan Wednesday afternoon, when representatives will place flowers on Doohan's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

'I don't think anyone loved his fans and appreciated his fans more than he did,' said Stevens. 'He just adored them, and it shows -- they adored him.'"

Deep Impact photo

NASA / JPL / Caltech / UMD
A newly released photo from NASA's Deep Impact mothership shows the first flash from the impactor probe's collision with Comet Tempel 1

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Wired News: Unorthodox Chess From an Odd Mind

"Two dozen programmers from around the world have signed up to compete in Germany next month in the first computer chess tournament devoted to Chess960, a game variant invented by fugitive chess genius Bobby Fischer that's slowly gaining rank among grandmasters.

The rules of Chess960 are mostly the same as orthodox chess -- but the setup incorporates something once considered anathema to the game: chance. Pawns begin where they always do. However, the pieces behind them on the white side are arranged at random, with the proviso that bishops must end up on opposite colors, and the king dwell somewhere between the two rooks. The black pieces are lined up to mirror the white.

That makes for 960 different starting positions in the game, instead of just one. The point of Chess960 is to free chess from the yoke of memorization.

The opening phase of a chess game as currently played has been subject to a hundred years of scholarship and play, and today players are hard pressed to find so much as a viable pawn push within the first 20 moves that hasn't been thoroughly analyzed."

Read more of this interesting article by clicking on the title link above.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Titan's Big Smile

"Based on Space Science Institute report

Unusual bright spot offers Titan mystery.
Credit: NASA/JPL

During a recent pass of Saturn's moon Titan, one of more than 40 during Cassini's planned four-year mission, the spacecraft acquired this infrared view of the bright Xanadu region and the moon's south pole. Titan is 5,150 kilometers (3,200 miles) across.

Southeast of Xanadu (and above the center in this view) is a peculiar semi-circular feature informally referred to by imaging scientists as 'the Smile.' This surface feature is the brightest spot on Titan's surface, not only to the imaging science subsystem cameras, but also to the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer instrument, which sees the surface at even longer wavelengths. The Smile is 560 kilometers (345 miles) wide.

At the landing site of the successful Huygens probe mission, brighter regions correspond to icy upland areas, while the darker regions are lowlands that possess a higher proportion of the organic byproducts of Titan's atmospheric photochemistry. Those results seem to confirm the long-standing hypothesis that Xanadu is a relatively high region of less contaminated ice. However, the cause of the even brighter Smile is a mystery that is still under study.

Farther south, a field of bright clouds arcs around the pole, moving at a few meters per second. Around the limb (edge), Cassini peers through Titan's smoggy, nitrogen-rich atmosphere.

North in this image is toward the upper left.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 4, 2005, at a distance of approximately 1.2 million kilometers"

Monday, July 18, 2005 celebrates 10th with Dylan

"SEATTLE -- celebrated its 10th anniversary with an all-star lineup that included Bob Dylan and Norah Jones and streamed the event live to its website.

'Dylan -- live on your computer,'cracked comedian-host Bill Maher. 'I remember it was a big deal when he went electric.'"

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Dylan, American 'Master' of enigma

"LOS ANGELES - Bob Dylan has always been a mercurial, artistic icon - revered, reviled, ever recasting himself, never justifying a thing. The first public glimpse of PBS' much-awaited Martin Scorsese portrait 'No Direction Home' makes clear Scorsese won't pin down the 1960s phenomenon. In fact, as TV critics learned Wednesday night at a heavily secured screening on a studio lot, the film seems destined, if not designed, to perpetuate the enigmatic persona.

Dylan exercised unusual control over this 'American Masters' installment airing Sept. 25 and 26. While Dylan's management provided Scorsese a wealth of rare and unseen film footage from Dylan's breakthrough years, they also provided all the relatively recent interview footage with intimates such as Joan Baez, Dave Van Ronk, Al Kooper and Allen Ginsberg as well as Dylan himself. Rather than encompass his far-reaching musical legacy and impact, the portrait confines itself to his early musician years, from his Greenwich Village folk fame to his inflammatory decision to 'go electric.'"

Friday, July 15, 2005

IcelandReview - Fischer Considering Match

"Chess grand master and new Icelandic citizen Bobby Fischer is considering playing another chess match, according to the online edition of daily newspaper Morgunbla. The controversial player had vowed never to return to traditional versions of the sport which made him famous, and that he would only be willing to compete in matches of "random chess". A Fischer creation, random chess involves placing the pawns in the same positions as normal chess, but all the other pieces in random places behind them.

American-Russian businessman Alex Titomirov is behind the offer. He came to Iceland in late May with Boris Spassky, Fischer's opponent in the famous match of 1972, to discuss the idea with the reclusive Fischer.

Fischer will meet with his supporters in Iceland today to decide whether to accept the offer. If the contest goes ahead, it will probably take place within a year, against an as-yet unnamed foreign player. "

Tsunami quake caused huge sea floor rupture - Science -

"LONDON - The earthquake that triggered December's devastating Indian Ocean tsunami caused a 1,000 km (620 mile) rupture in the sea floor, scientists said on Wednesday.

Using data from 60 Global Positioning System monitoring sites in southeast Asia, scientists at ENS/CNRS research institute in Paris calculated the unprecedented scale of the quake.
'We show that the rupture plane for this earthquake must have been at least 1,000 kilometers long,' said Christophe Vigny who headed the research team."

Historic Outer Space Meeting Commemorated

"Jul 14, 9:08 PM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - When U.S. and Soviet space vessels met in orbit in 1975, a handshake was heralded as a symbolic step toward a future of international space-travel cooperation. Astronauts and cosmonauts of the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft said Thursday that their mission led directly to the cooperation necessary for the international space station and other multinational projects.

'I am convinced that all future flights will be international,' cosmonaut Aleksei A. Leonov said at a NASA-sponsored ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the first manned space flight managed jointly by two nations. 'It's possible that an international crew would land on Mars.'"

Sunday, July 10, 2005

NPR : Deep Sea Sponges Are Master Builders in Glass

"Sponges may conjure visions of the soft and squishy, but some of those living deep beneath the sea build complex glass structures that are marvels of engineering.

The deep-sea sponge Venus' Flower Basket constructs a glass building that houses a pair of mating shrimp. Courtesy of Lucent Technologies/Bell Labs

The sponge, from the genus Euplectella, uses a host of tricks for turning its brittle, primarily glass skeleton into strong structures, researchers report in the current issue of the journal Science. In fact, scientists are looking to the sponge for new ideas in materials science and engineering.

The remarkable design of Venus' Flower Basket contains core construction strategies used in civil and mechanical engineering, and at a scale 1,000 times smaller. Courtesy of Joanna Aizenberg (structure compared with the Swiss Tower in London, the Hotel De Las Artes in Barcelona, and a fragment of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.)

The sponge first builds strong microscopic fibers by gluing together thin layers of glass. Then it gathers these laminated fibers together for even more strength. It's like a bundle of sticks tied together -- much harder to break than a single twig. The bundles are arranged in a grid that gets embedded into glass cement, so it becomes like reinforced concrete.

People use these kinds of techniques to build structures such as skyscrapers. But Joanna Aizenberg of Bell Laboratories says what's amazing is that the sponge grows its lattice -- and its glasswork doesn't require the kind of red-hot furnace that human glass makers need.

'I cannot imagine how a structure of this sophistication can be produced,' says Aizenberg, the study's lead author."

Precocious parrot grasps the concept of zero - LiveScience -

"A parrot has grasped the concept of zero, something humans can't do until at least the toddler phase, researchers say.

Alex, a 28-year-old African gray parrot who lives in a lab at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, has a brain the size of a walnut. But when confronted with no items on a tray where usually there are some, he says 'none.'

Zero is thought to be a rather abstract concept even for people. Children typically don't grasp it until age 3 or 4, Brandeis researchers say. Some ancient cultures lacked a formal term for zilch, even as recently as the Middle Ages."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Secrets of skilled didgeridoo playing revealed

"It's easy to produce a simple sound but virtuoso didgeridoo playing involves tricky breathing and a certain way of opening the vocal tract, Australian physicists said on Wednesday.
The unusual instrument, which originated in northern Australia and is made from the trunk of a tree hollowed out by termites, usually plays only one note.
But skilled performers can produce a range of resonating sounds."

Officials Investigate Mysterious Bird-Kills Along Atlantic Coast

"Virginia Beach, VA -- Wildlife officials are trying to determine what is killing hundreds of sea birds that have washed ashore in Virginia Beach and other locations along the Atlantic coast in the past several weeks.

Similar reports have come from the Outer Banks of North Carolina; as well as Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head in South Carolina.

Most of the birds are greater shearwaters, which are now migrating north from their breeding grounds in the South Atlantic. "

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Astrologer Sues NASA Over Comet Mission

"MOSCOW - NASA's mission that sent a space probe smashing into a comet raised more than cosmic dust - it also brought a lawsuit from a Russian astrologer.
Marina Bai has sued the U.S. space agency, claiming the Deep Impact probe that punched a crater into the comet Tempel 1 late Sunday 'ruins the natural balance of forces in the universe,' the newspaper Izvestia reported Tuesday. A Moscow court has postponed hearings on the case until late July, the paper said."

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

New Dolphin Species Found in Australia

Excite News: "SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Australian researchers said Tuesday they have identified a new species of dolphin living in the coastal waters of northern Australia.

The Australian Snubfin Dolphin, which is related to Irrawaddy dolphins found along the coasts and major rivers of Asia and northern Australia, was formally identified as a new species thanks to genetic research carried out in California, Queensland state researchers said in a statement."