Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Iowa Prof. Seeks Funding for 'Body Farm'

"Iowa's rich topsoil and climate have nourished some of the nation's most plentiful corn and soybean crops. Tyler O'Brien wants to learn more about their influence on rotting corpses.

A biological anthropology professor at the University of Northern Iowa, O'Brien envisions turning some prime Iowa pasture into a body farm, where human bodies - buried, stuffed in car trunks or exposed to the elements - can provide scholars and criminalists with new benchmark data on human decay.

'This idea has strong scientific value,' O'Brien said. 'To answer the question of how long a body has been dead, how long a person has been missing, is critical to criminal investigations.'

O'Brien is seeking a grant of $400,000 to $500,000 from the National Institute of Justice and other organizations to obtain the land and set up the project."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Row, row, row your boat?

"A man rowed -- yes, rowed! -- across the Pacific Ocean.

HIS face was tanned a reddish brown, and his eyes rimmed raccoon-style by white circles left by the shades that had sheltered them from a sun shining mercilessly over an open sea. His hands were terribly calloused and he had lost 9kg. But Emmanuel Coindre, rower extraordinaire, was in high spirits.

For over 129 days, he pitted his puny human strength against the might of the Pacific Ocean in a bid to complete a solo ocean crossing in record time, and he had accomplished his mission -- albeit not as he had originally planned. Coindre, 32, who cites his profession as “adventurer”, had set off from the port of Choshi in Japan on June 24 in a boat christened the Lady Inky"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Scotsman.com News - Latest News - Bowie brings magic to new film role

"Rock idol David Bowie has landed a new movie role, playing the inventor and electrical genius Nikola Tesla.

Bowie, 58, will star alongside Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine in forthcoming film The Prestige, according to movie industry magazine Variety.

Tesla is regarded as one of the greatest scientists in the history of technology and one of the most innovative engineers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Serbian electrical engineer, who became an American citizen, was hailed in his lifetime as a 'magician' who conjured up amazing technical feats.

The new thriller is based on a 1996 novel by Christopher Priest. In the film, Tesla is approached by one of two rival magicians in turn-of-the-century London for help in pulling off the ultimate magic trick.

The Prestige will be directed by Briton Christopher Nolan, whose previous films include Batman Begins.

Bowie's previous film roles have included parts in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983), Basquiat (1996), and, most recently, Mr Rice's Secret (2000).
Bowie became friendly with Nolan when he wrote the tune Something In The Air for the close of Nolan's breakthrough film, Memento.

Filming will begin on The Prestige in January."

Pilgrims flock to see 'Buddha boy' said to have fasted six months

"Thousands of pilgrims are pouring into the dense jungle of southern Nepal to worship a 15-year-old boy who has been hailed as a new Buddha.

Devotees claim that Ram Bomjon, who is silently meditating beneath a tree, has not eaten or drunk anything since he sat down at his chosen spot six months ago.

Witnesses say they have seen light emanating from the teenager's forehead.

"It looks a bit like when you shine a torch through your hand," said Tek Bahadur Lama, a member of the committee responsible for dealing with the growing number of visitors from India and elsewhere in Nepal.

The fervour increased last week when a snake is said to have bitten Ram, and a curtain was drawn around him.

After five days it was opened and he spoke. "Tell the people not to call me a Buddha. I don't have the Buddha's energy. I am at the level of rinpoche [lesser divinity].

"A snake bit me but I do not need treatment. I need six years of deep meditation.'"

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

To the Moon, Alice! (Use Your Internet Connection, Dear)

"Imagine soaring over the surface of the Moon, dipping into a crater and seeing rock slides on its slopes and boulders piled up at the bottom.

Closeups of the crater Tycho

You don't have to wait for a spaceship or even the night sky to get such a close-up view of the Moon. You can visit it now with a PC and a broadband Internet connection, courtesy of a free public-access program developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Ames Research Center in California.

Users must have a high-speed, broadband Internet connection and a computer running Windows 2000 or XP. World Wind can be downloaded at worldwind.arc.nasa.gov.

Users of the public program have produced a Web site that provides instructions and help, as well as applications that use the World Wind data, such as an add-on program that makes it easier to find spots like the Apollo landing sites, Mr. Hogan said.

These features and help are online at worldwindcentral.com."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

New Domino Record

The organizers of Domino Day 2005 managed to set a new world record Friday after successfully toppling more than 4.1 million dominoes. Their record-breaking attempt nearly ended earlier this week, however, when a sparrow flew through an open window in the auditorium and knocked down 23,000 dominoes. A system of 750 safety blocks prevented the bird from bringing down most of the domino chain.

View 3 pages of incredible images from the event at dominodomain.com:

Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3

NASA - Space-time Vortex

"Is Earth in a vortex of space-time?

We'll soon know the answer: A NASA/Stanford physics experiment called Gravity Probe B (GP-B) recently finished a year of gathering science data in Earth orbit. The results, which will take another year to analyze, should reveal the shape of space-time around Earth--and, possibly, the vortex."

Click on the title to read the entire article.

Dylan snubs British music hall of fame

"LONDON: Rock legend Bob Dylan has upset organisers of the British Music Hall Of Fame by refusing to show up or make a video acceptance speech.

Dylan refused to appear at the event despite the organisers having to reschedule the ceremony to coincide with Dylan's Britain tour, reported Contactmusic.com.

Woddy Harrelson, an acquaintance of Dylan, accepted the award on his behalf. An organiser said: 'We made every effort to get him to accept it in person or with a video message, but he obviously prefers to remain as enigmatic as ever.'"

Friday, November 18, 2005

The show goes on for Stephen Hawking

"When you're recounting the drama of cosmic origins, the show must go on -- even if you're a quadriplegic recovering from a medical crisis.

Wednesday's appearance at the Paramount Theatre — presented by the Oregon-based Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy, or ISEPP — was the last of three scheduled stops on the Cambridge professor's U.S. lecture tour. Hawking, who suffers from a progressive neurodegenerative disease that has almost completely paralyzed him, was due to travel to Seattle from San Francisco. But when he was taken off his respirator Monday morning, "he basically flat-lined," said Terry Bristol, ISEPP's president and executive director.

"They had to resuscitate, and that panicked a few people," Bristol told the audience. "But he's been there before."

Once the crisis had passed, Hawking wanted to go ahead with the Seattle leg of the trip, but his medical caretakers — including his wife, Elaine — thought he should stay put awhile longer, Bristol said. So Hawking and his aides worked with Intel, ISEPP and the Paramount to set up a Web-based teleconferencing link from a Bay Area hotel.

Despite the teleconferenced video and the flat tone of Hawking's synthesized computer voice, his outspokenness and humor shone through as lively as ever. The highlight was a recap of Hawking's favorite answers to frequently asked questions — some of which drew so much applause from the Seattle crowd that Bristol, the master of ceremonies, occasionally had to repeat the answers. Some examples:

What did he think of "The Simpsons" TV show, which has had Hawking as an animated guest star? "It's the best thing on American TV."

What was his view of the Bush administration's limits on human embryonic stem-cell research: "America will be left behind if it doesn't change policy."

What did he think of the program to send American astronauts back to the moon? "Stupid," he answered. "Sending politicians would be much cheaper, because you don't have to bring them back."

How high is Hawking's IQ? The physicist replied that he didn't know. "People who boast about their IQ are losers," he said.
Which late personage would he rather meet, Isaac Newton or Marilyn Monroe? "Marilyn," Hawking said. "Newton seems to have been an unpleasant character.'"

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Harriet the tortoise turns 175

"One of the world's oldest living animals, Harriet the tortoise, celebrated her 175th birthday on Tuesday -- with a pink hibiscus flower cake at her retirement home in northern Australia.

Australia Zoo, where Harriet has spent the past 17 years, says the Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise was collected by scientist Charles Darwin in 1835, although some historians have disputed this.

There is no doubt however over the age of Harriet -- who for more than a century was thought to be a male and named Harry -- and she is recognised by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest living chelonian, or reptile with a shell of bony plates.

"She would definitely be the oldest living animal on Earth ... I can't see why she shouldn't live till 200," Australian conservationist and television celebrity Steve Irwin, who owns Australia Zoo north of the city of Brisbane, told Guinness World Records."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mysterious Runaway Star Stymies Scientist

"Astronomers have stumbled onto a runaway star inbound to our galaxy that might have been kicked out of our nearest galactic neighbor by a supermassive black hole.

The star, HE 0437-5439, was found on a star survey and initially led its discoverers to suspect their instruments were out of whack.

'We first thought our wavelength calibration was off,' said astronomer Ralf Napiwotzki of the University of Hertfordshire's Center for Astrophysics Research in the U.K.

The light from the star was both the wrong color (wavelength) for where the star is located and showed spectral signs that it is traveling inbound to the Milky Way at an unusually high speed -- about 1.6 million miles per hour (2.6 million kilometers per hour). "

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Enormous nuclear bunker for sale

"A nuclear bunker made to house the government and civil servants in the event of nuclear attack is for sale.

The existence of the underground complex at Corsham, Wiltshire, was kept secret until recently, but the Ministry of Defence is now inviting buyers.

Built in the late 1950s, the bunker covers many acres and was decommissioned in the 1980s.

It is underground - more than 100ft (30m) down - and includes a kitchen and BBC studio. "

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Israelite Alphabet May Have Been Found

"Two lines of an alphabet have been found inscribed in a stone in Israel, offering what some scholars say is the most solid evidence yet that the ancient Israelites were literate as early as the 10th century B.C.

'This is very rare. This stone will be written about for many years to come,' archaeologist Ron E. Tappy, a professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary who made the discovery, said Wednesday. 'This makes it very historically probable there were people in the 10th century (B.C.) who could write.'

Christopher Rollston, a professor of Semitic studies at Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tenn., who was not involved in the find, said the writing is probably Phoenician or a transitional language between Phoenician and Hebrew.

"We have little epigraphic material from the 10th century in Israel, and so this substantially augments the material we have," he said.

The stone was found in July, on the final day of a five-week dig at Tel Zayit, about 30 miles south of Tel Aviv."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bird Flu

cartoon by Bruce Pritchard Posted by Picasa

Grand Canyon to Get Glass Bridge

"Fear of heights? This is definitely no place for you.

The all-glass, balcony-like 'Skywalk'--shown in an illustration released this week--will extend over the edge of the Grand Canyon, 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) above the Colorado River.

'The Skywalk will be an attraction unlike any other in the world,' said Sheri Yellowhawk, CEO of the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation. The company is building the bridge in the Hualapai Indian Reservation on the south rim of the canyon.

The Skywalk is scheduled to open to the public in January 2006 as part of a new resort on the reservation. The resort, known as Grand Canyon West, is to include a re-created Indian village and a restaurant perched on the edge of the canyon. Tourism is the reservation's biggest source of income.

Grand Canyon West will be on the western edge of Grand Canyon National Park, about 120 miles (about 200 kilometers) from Las Vegas. But perhaps not even the Las Vegas Strip's over-the-top attractions will be a match for this glass-bottom walkway over the world's biggest gorge."

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Shave Your Yeti

For those of you who have always wanted to shave an Abominable Snowman, or Yeti (and really, who hasn't), now's your chance. Just click on the title link above if you already have Macromedia Flash installed on your computer. If not, it's a free download here.

Make sure you shave him completely!

New bird flu outbreaks hit Asia

"China and Vietnam have reported major new bird flu outbreaks, as Japan moved to cull 180,000 chickens at a farm where signs of the virus were found.

The lethal H5N1 virus killed nearly 9,000 chickens in China's Liaoning province and 3,000 birds in Bac Giang province in Vietnam, officials said.

Japanese officials said tests showed 80 chickens in Ibaraki had been exposed in the past to a virus from the H5 family. But the chickens had survived, and no active virus was found.
Further tests are needed to identify its exact strain.

The H5N1 virus has killed millions of birds across Asia, and millions more have been culled in an effort to stem the spread of the virus. At least 60 people have also died of the disease, since its resurgence at the end of 2003. There are fears the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily between people.

China's new outbreak - the fourth in three weeks - occurred on 26 October, the agriculture ministry said in a report posted on the website of the World Organisation for Animal Health."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Pluto found to have two more moons

"Two small moons have been discovered orbiting Pluto, bringing the planet's retinue of known satellites to three and leaving scientists to wonder how it could be.

The newfound moons orbit about 27,000 miles (44,000 kilometers) from Pluto, more than twice as far as Charon, Pluto's other satellite. They are 5,000 times dimmer than Charon."

On Gravity, Oreos and a Theory of Everything - New York Times

"The portal to the fifth dimension, sadly, is closed.
There used to be an ice cream parlor in the student center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And it was there, in the summer of 1998, that Lisa Randall, now a professor of physics at Harvard and a bit of a chocoholic, and Raman Sundrum, a professor at Johns Hopkins, took an imaginary trip right out of this earthly plane into a science fiction realm of parallel universes, warped space and otherworldly laws of physics.

They came back with a possible answer to a question that has tormented scientists for decades, namely why gravity is so weak compared with the other forces of nature: in effect, we are borrowing it from another universe. In so doing, Dr. Randall and Dr. Sundrum helped foment a revolution in the way scientists think about string theory - the vaunted 'theory of everything' - raising a glimmer of hope that coming experiments may actually test some of its ineffable sounding concepts.

Their work undermined well-worn concepts like the idea that we can even know how many dimensions of space we live in, or the reality of gravity, space and time.

The work has also made a star and an icon of Dr. Randall. The attention has been increased by the recent publication to laudatory reviews of her new book, 'Warped Passages, Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions,' A debate broke out on the physics blog Cosmic Variance a few weeks ago about whether it was appropriate, as a commentator on NPR had said, to say looked like Jodie Foster."

Study: Mice Sing in the Presence of Mates

"Songbirds may be the Sinatras of the animal world, but male mice can carry a tune too, say Washington University researchers who were surprised by what they heard.

Scientists have known for decades that male lab mice produce high-frequency sounds - undetectable by human ears - when they pick up the scent of a female mouse. This high-pitched babble is presumably for courtship, although scientists are not certain.

But it turns out those sounds are more complex and interesting than previously thought.

'It soon became ... apparent that these vocalizations were not random twitterings but songs,' said researcher Timothy Holy. 'There was a pattern to them. They sounded a lot like bird songs.'"