Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Team makes Tunguska crater claim

"Scientists have identified a possible crater left by the biggest space impact in modern times - the Tunguska event.

The blast leveled more than 2,000 sq km of forest near the Tunguska River in Siberia on 30 June 1908.

A comet or asteroid is thought to have exploded in the Earth's atmosphere with a force equal to 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Now, a University of Bologna team says a lake near the epicentre of the blast may be occupying a crater hollowed out by a chunk of rock that hit the ground.

Lake Cheko - though shallow - fits the proportions of a small, bowl-shaped impact crater, say the Italy-based scientists.

Their investigation of the lake bottom's geology reveals a funnel-like shape not seen in neighbouring lakes.

In addition, a geophysics survey of the lake bed has turned up an unusual feature about 10m down which could either be compacted lake sediments or a buried fragment of space rock.

Other features suggest a recent origin for the lake.

Shocking rocks

Luca Gasparini, Giuseppe Longo and colleagues from Bologna argue that the lake feature, about 8km north-north-west of the airburst epicentre, may have been gouged out by remnant material that made it to the ground.

"We have no positive proof this is an impact crater, but we were able to exclude some other hypotheses, and this led us to our conclusion," Professor Longo, the research team leader, told BBC News.

The object that hurtled through the atmosphere on the morning of 30 June, 1908, is thought to have detonated some 5-10km above the ground with an energy equivalent to about 20 million tonnes of TNT. The explosion was so bright it even lit up the sky in London, UK.

Small fragments of the body should have survived the airburst and made it Earth. But, mysteriously, no crater - or even the slightest trace of the impactor - has ever been positively identified.

The impact cratering community does not accept structures as craters unless there is evidence of high temperatures and high pressures.
Gareth Collins, Imperial College London

"In my opinion, they certainly haven't provided any conclusive evidence it's an impact structure," commented Dr Gareth Collins, a Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) research fellow at Imperial College London, UK.

He added: "The impact cratering community does not accept structures as craters unless there is evidence of high temperatures and high pressures. That requires evidence of rocks that have been melted or rocks that have been ground up by the impact."

Tree observation

Dr Collins pointed out that the Cheko feature was "anomalously" shallow and lacked the round shape of most craters - being more elliptical in its form. Elliptical craters only occur if the impactor's angle of entry is less than about 10 degrees.

"We know from modelling of the Tunguska event that the angle of entry must have been steeper than that," Dr Collins told BBC News.

A key feature of other impact craters is conspicuously missing from Lake Cheko - a "flap" around the crater rim of upside-down material tossed a short distance from the crater by the impact.

Dr Collins added that if pieces of the space rock had survived the airburst, they would have been too small and travelling too slowly to have generated a crater the size of Lake Cheko.

An impact would also have felled trees all around the crater, said the London geologist, yet there appeared to be trees older than 100 years still standing around Lake Cheko today.

Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, was also cautious about the findings, adding: "There has been an inflationary increase in the number of claims that allege discovery of impact events or impact craters."

Drill project

The Italian researchers argue that some of the lake's anomalous features could be explained if a space rock was travelling at a low speed and had a "soft" impact into the swampy Siberian taiga.

The crater could have become subsequently enlarged by the expulsion of water and gas from the ground.

The Bologna team says this could also account for the limited damage to the surrounding area and the absence of a rim of upturned ejecta.

"If formed during the impact, [the rim] would have been rapidly obliterated by collapse and gravity-failures during the subsequent degassing phase," the authors write in the journal Terra Nova.

Intriguingly, Lake Cheko does not appear on any maps before 1929, though the researchers admit the region was poorly charted before this time.

The University of Bologna team plans to mount another expedition to the Tunguska region in summer 2008.

The researchers aim to drill up to 10m below the lake bed to the anomaly picked up in the geophysics survey and determine whether it really is a piece of extraterrestrial rock.

Computer models carried out by other teams suggest that centimetre-sized fragments of the body could be found hundreds of kilometres away from Tunguska.

As the impactor plunged through the atmosphere, it pushed air out of its way, leaving a near-vacuum in its wake.

As it broke up, fragments would have expanded back up the vacuum and rained out over a much larger area."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Research shows chimps can be selfless

"Chimpanzees have shown they can help strangers at personal cost without apparent expectation of personal gain, a level of selfless behavior often claimed as unique to humans.

These new findings could shed light on the evolution of such altruism, researchers said.

Scientists think altruism evolved to help either kin or those willing and able of returning the favor — to help either one's genetic heritage or oneself. Humans, on the other hand, occasionally help strangers without apparent benefit for themselves, sometimes at great cost.

To investigate when chimpanzees might aid either humans or each other, researchers studied 36 chimps at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda that were born in the wild. In experiments, each chimp watched a person they had never seen before unsuccessfully reach for a wooden stick that was within reach of the ape. The person had struggled over the stick beforehand, suggesting it was valued.

Scientists found the chimpanzees often handed the stick over, even when the apes had to climb eight feet out of their way to get the stick and regardless of whether or not any reward was given. A similar result with 36 human infants just 18 months old yielded comparable results.

"Chimpanzees and such young infants both show that some level of altruism may be innate and not just a factor of education," said developmental and comparative psychologist Felix Warneken at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology at Leipzig, Germany. "People say we become altruistic because our parents teach us so, but that young children are originally selfish. This suggests maybe culture is not the only source of altruism."

Further testing

Still, humans at the sanctuary provide the chimpanzees food and shelter, so helping people out could simply be in their best interests. Experiments were then needed to see how willing the apes were to help out unrelated chimps.

The researchers set up closed rooms that each held a piece of banana or watermelon. The only way for a chimp to get in was if an unrelated spectator ape released a chain to open the room. Warneken and his colleagues found the spectators often altruistically helped the other chimps get the fruit, even if they got no reward themselves, findings detailed June 25 in the journal PLoS Biology.

These findings suggest the roots of human altruism go deeper than previously thought, reaching back as far as the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees.

"There is a biological predisposition to altruistic tendencies that we share with our common ancestor, and culture cultivates rather than implants the roots of altruism in the human psyche from primordial forms to more mature ones," Warneken told LiveScience.

Primal differences

Primatologist Frans de Waal at Emory University in Atlanta noted he recorded hundreds of cases of altruism among chimpanzees, "but skeptics like to downplay the evidence by saying it is not based on controlled experiments." These new experiments "thus confirm what observers of chimpanzees had said all along."

Still, altruism is rarely seen in chimps in the wild, and past research from the Max Planck Institute and others actually suggested that chimpanzees were not capable of human-like altruism. For instance, when chimps had the option of pulling a bar to feed either just themselves or themselves and another at no cost, UCLA primatologist Joan Silk and her colleagues had found the apes were no more likely to choose either option.

"In that experiment, maybe they were so occupied for retrieving food for themselves that they had no attention to spare for others," Warneken said. "So one difference between humans and chimps might be the ability to read the intentions of others and discriminate whether help is needed or not. You might have to make it very obvious that there's a problem the other faces."

Also, if chimps feel there is little chance they can get food for themselves, "maybe altruistic tendencies collapse," Warneken added. "For humans and chimps, selfish and altruistic motives are in competition with each other, and it could be that with chimps, selfish motives have to be pushed far off to the side to make room for altruism. So what distinguishes humans and chimps is not whether or not chimps have altruism but how fragile altruism might be."

Silk noted future experiments could test "how much the chimps are really willing to give up for such altruism." She added the experiments Warneken and his colleagues performed could be conducted with her own chimps, to see whether the absence of altruism they saw before "was based off the task we had them perform, or perhaps the individuals themselves."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Energetic Dylan electrifies crowd

This is the Dylan concert that my brother Albert and I attended last night:

"Which singer makes young girls scream and old men jump for joy? That would be Bob Dylan. Last night's concert at The Star Pavilion at Hersheypark Stadium brought out all generations to enjoy Dylan's timeless music.

Openers Jimmie Vaughn and Lou Ann Barton brought their own Southern charm. Singing a duet to "Sugar Coated Love," the pair was as sweet, smooth, and smoky as barbecue sauce.

But it was Dylan the crowds came to see.

To thunderous cheers, Dylan and his band took the stage silently. Dylan is known for his skilled word craft, but aside from singing, he did not speak a word -- letting the music do the talking.

He opened with a raucous rendition of "Cat's in the Well" and proceeded to take the audience on a journey from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, transitioning straight into "It Ain't Me, Babe." After that high-energy song, he led into the smooth "Lay, Lady, Lay."

Jumping back to the piano for "Rollin' and Tumblin'," Dylan drew the eye wherever he was without speaking a direct word to the audience.

He switched to harmonica for "My Back Pages," letting the instrument echo the lyrics in a deep twangy voice. Keeping it lively, a bang and a pop from the drums started out "Honest With Me" and set the tone for a sweet and almost bouncy rendition of "Spirit On the Water."

When Dylan sang the lines "Think I'm over the hill/ Think I'm past my prime," the audience cried out in the negative, cheering on their idol. Their praise must have pepped him up, because the next song was an electric "Highway 61 Revisited."

As the sun set on the stadium, blue light flickered across Dylan's dark suit and flat-topped hat for "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine," The blue tones stayed for "Nettie Moore." In this song, the rest of the band really shone, with a hauntingly mischievous turn from the violin and the drums beating like a pulse.

"Summer Days" brought back the upbeat energy, but it was the finale of "Like a Rolling Stone" that whipped the crowd into a swaying, hooting, whistling frenzy. Without a glance at the crowd, Dylan and the band slipped off the stage.

All fell to black, but suddenly a massive banner unfurled down the back of the stage and the black-lit tour logo burst to life. A massive eye, the logo was always in your line of vision--remaining burned into your eyelids even when you blinked.

Dylan took the stage again for "Thunder On The Mountain," but it was a hard rocking "All Along the Watchtower" that brought the show to an end. Dylan thanked his audience without a word, standing before them in line with the band and staring over their flailing arms and bouncing bodies.

Just as quietly as he came on, he left with the crowd of all ages screaming his name. "

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Beatles blast for beer burglar

"A judge sentenced a Beatles-loving thief by quoting 42 of the band's song titles in his verdict.

Andrew McCormack, 20, had been asked what sentence he thought he should get for stealing beer, he wrote: "Like The Beetles say, Let it Be."

But he had clearly come up against the wrong man in Montana's Judge Gregory Todd, reports the Daily Mirror.

Judge Todd replied: "'Hey Jude', 'Do You Want to Know a Secret'? The greatest band in history spelled its name B-e-a-t-l-e-s.

"Your response suggests there should be no consequences for your actions and I should 'Let it Be' so you can live in 'Strawberry Fields Forever'.

"Such reasoning is 'Here, There and Everywhere'. It does not require a 'Magical Mystery Tour' of interpretation to know 'The Word' means leave it alone. I trust we can all 'Come Together' on that meaning.

"If I were to overlook your actions I would ignore that 'Day in the Life' on April 21, 2006. That night you said to yourself 'I Feel Fine' while drinking beer. Later, whether you wanted 'Money' or were just trying to 'Act Naturally' you became the 'Fool on the Hill'.

"As 'Mr Moonlight' at 1.30am, you did not 'Think for Yourself' but just focused on 'I, Me, Mine'. 'Because' you didn't ask for 'Help'. 'Wait' for 'Something' else or listen to your conscience saying 'Honey Don't', the victim was later 'Fixing a Hole' in the glass door you broke."

Judge Todd went on: "After you stole the beer you decided it was time to 'Run For Your Life' and 'Carry That Weight'. But the witness said 'Baby it's You', the police said 'I'll Get You' and you had to admit 'You Really Got a Hold on Me'.

"You were not able to 'Get Back' home because of the 'Chains' they put on you. Although you hoped the police would say 'I Don't Want to Spoil the Party' and 'We Can Work it Out', you were in 'Misery' when they said you were a 'Bad Boy'.

"When they took you to jail, you experienced 'Something New' as they said 'Hello Goodbye' and you became a 'Nowhere Man'.

"Later you may have said 'I'll Cry Instead'. Now you are saying 'Let it Be' instead of 'I'm a Loser'. As a result of your 'Hard Day's Night' you're looking at a 'Ticket to Ride' that 'Long and Winding Road' to prison.

"Hopefully you can say both now and 'When I'm 64' that 'I Should Have Known Better'."

McCormack got probation, a community service order and a fine."

Girl, 2, becomes member of Mensa

"A two-year-old girl from Hampshire has become the youngest ever female member of British Mensa.

Georgia Brown, from Aldershot, Hampshire, astounded experts by scoring 152 in an IQ test - putting her in the top 2% of the population for her age.

Psychologist Joan Freeman, who tested Georgia, said she thought the toddler could have scored even higher but needed a nap after 45 minutes of work.

Georgia's mother, Lucy, said: "It's fantastic. We're so proud as a family."

She had spotted that her daughter was a strikingly quick learner.

Georgia was crawling at five months, walking at nine months and, by 18 months, was having proper conversations.

The Brown family called in Prof Freeman, from Middlesex University, to test her IQ level in relation to others of her age.

Prof Freeman said she used the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale test and was "elated" by what she found.

She told the BBC: "She is two years, nine months - not very much older than a toddler really - and she is able to answer questions five and six-year-olds can't.

"The test uses questions like 'If brother is to boy, then sister is to ...?'. If you take a normal two-year-old, they cannot hold a pencil, they don't know the colours and they would not be able to answer those simple questions.

'Amazing' concentration

"The thing I found most striking was the copying of a circle. Most two-year-olds cannot do that but she drew a perfect one.

"I was quite elated - I had come unexpectedly into the presence of something rather special.

"She scored 152 points but I think she could have got more - she just got very tired. Concentrating for three-quarters-of-an-hour at that young age is amazing."

Mensa confirmed Georgia was their youngest member at the moment and the youngest female member ever.

The youngest ever member was a boy, who was several days younger than Georgia when he joined in the 1990s."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Millions of Missing Birds, Vanishing in Plain Sight

June 19, 2007
Editorial Observer, NY Times
Millions of Missing Birds, Vanishing in Plain Sight

Last week, the Audubon Society released a new report describing the sharp and startling population decline of some of the most familiar and common birds in America: several kinds of sparrows, the Northern bobwhite, the Eastern meadowlark, the common grackle and the common tern. The average decline of the 20 species in the Audubon Society’s report is 68 percent.

Forty years ago, there were an estimated 31 million bobwhites. Now there are 5.5 million. Compared to the hundred-some condors presently in the wild, 5.5 million bobwhites sounds like a lot of birds. But what matters is the 25.5 million missing and the troubles that brought them down — and are all too likely to bring down the rest of them, too. So this is not extinction, but it is how things look before extinction happens.

The word “extinct” somehow brings to mind the birds that seem like special cases to us, the dodo or the great auk or the passenger pigeon. Most people would never have had a chance to see dodos and great auks on their remote islands before they were decimated in the 17th and 19th centuries. What is hard to remember about passenger pigeons isn’t merely their once enormous numbers. It’s the enormous numbers of humans to whom their comings and goings were a common sight and who supposed, erroneously, that such unending clouds of birds were indestructible. We recognize the extraordinary distinctness of the passenger pigeon now because we know its fate, killed off largely by humans. But we have moralized it thoroughly without ever really taking it to heart.

The question is whether we will see the distinctness of the field sparrow — its number is down from 18 million 40 years ago to 5.8 million — only when the last pair is being kept alive in a zoo somewhere. We love to finally care when the death watch is on. It makes us feel so very human.

Like you, I’ve been reading dire reports of declining species for many years now. They have the value of causing us to pay attention to species in trouble, and the sad fact is that the only species likely to endure are the ones we humans manage to pay attention to. There was a time when it was better, if you were a nonhuman species, to be ignored by humans because we trapped, shot or otherwise exploited all of the ones that got our attention. But in the past 40 years, we have killed all those millions of birds or, let us say, unintentionally caused a dramatic population loss, simply by going about business as usual.

Agriculture has intensified. So has development. Open space has been sharply reduced. We have simply pursued our livelihoods. We knew it was inimical to wolves and mountain lions. But we somehow trusted that all the innocent little birds were here to stay. What they actually need to survive, it turns out, is a landscape that is less intensely human.

The Audubon Society portrait of common bird species in decline is really a report on who humans are. Let me offer a proposition about Homo sapiens. We are the only species on earth capable of an ethical awareness of other species and, thus, the only species capable of happily ignoring that awareness. So far, our economic interests have proved to be completely incompatible with all but a very few forms of life. It’s not that we believe that other species don’t matter. It’s that, historically speaking, it hasn’t been worth believing one way or another. I don’t suppose that most Americans would actively kill a whippoorwill if they had the chance. Yet in the past 40 years its number has dropped by 1.6 million.

In our everyday economic behavior, we seem determined to discover whether we can live alone on earth. E.O. Wilson has argued eloquently and persuasively that we cannot, that who we are depends as much on the richness and diversity of the biological life around us as it does on any inherent quality in our genes. Environmentalists of every stripe argue that we must somehow begin to correlate our economic behavior — by which I mean every aspect of it: production, consumption, habitation — with the welfare of other species.

This is the premise of sustainability. But the very foundation of our economic interests is self-interest, and in the survival of other species we see way too little self to care.

The trouble with humans is that even the smallest changes in our behavior require an epiphany. And yet compared to the fixity of other species, the narrowness of their habitats, the strictness of their diets, the precision of the niches they occupy, we are flexibility itself.

We look around us, expecting the rest of the world’s occupants to adapt to the changes that we have caused, when, in fact, we have the right to expect adaptation only from ourselves.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Spain honours Bob Dylan with prestigious award

"Bob Dylan was awarded Spain's Prince of Asturias arts award, one of the country's most prestigious honours, Wednesday.

"He's a living legend of popular music," said Jose Llado Fernandez-Urrutia, president of the prize's panel of judges.

Dylan, 66, has been one of the most influential popular music artists in recent decades, and is regarded by many as a poet. His hits include "Blowin' in the Wind,'' "The Times They Are a-Changin','' "Like a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower.''

"He's considered one of the most important figures of song, a form in which he combines, in a majestic way, the beauty of his poetry and ethical commitment," said the prize foundation in a statement.

"For this reason, his music and message have had an outstanding influence on several generations of young people.''

Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minn., was ranked No. 2 in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004, second to the Beatles.

His most recent recording, Modern Times, on the Columbia Records label, entered the U.S. album charts at No. 1 one week after it was released in 2006.

"He pioneered the introduction of literature in popular music, bringing together for the first time European and Afro-American rhythms that were a decisive and revolutionary influence on later generations of musicians," the foundation said.

Eight Prince of Asturias awards are given annually in categories including arts, science, sports and humanities to Spaniards and foreigners alike.

They are announced during the year and presented each autumn in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo, capital of the Asturias region.

Last year's arts award was won by Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Stowaway bees could spread deadly mite

Here we have another entry in the continuing story about the plight of honeybees in the world. This one even has a fountain pen connection (see the penultimate -- pun intended -- paragraph).

"Diseased honey bees could threaten billions of dollars worth of honey production and pollination if they breach Australia's border controls, beekeepers say.

The Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) expresses its concerns in a submission to a Federal Government inquiry on the industry.

One of the diseases Australian beekeepers are particularly concerned about is caused by the mite Varroa destructor, which has been killing bees in New Zealand.

"It's a terrible thing," AHBIC executive director Stephen Ware said.

"It just sucks everything out of the bee and then it goes and reproduces in the [honeycomb]."

While there are strict quarantine rules for bees entering the country officially, illegal imports and accidental arrivals can pose a threat.

Dr Iain East of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) says quarantine authorities have so far destroyed 20 swarms of bees that arrived unannounced on ships.

Dr East coordinates the National Sentinel Hive Program, which is designed to help catch unchecked bees from entering Australia.

He says this involves placing 38 hives at 22 ports and airports around Australia to attract stowaway bees and these colonies can then checked for pests.

Apiarists nervous

But apiarists are nervous about how well the system works.

"It's too ad hoc," Mr Ware said.

"It needs to be better managed."

He says there needs to be a reassessment of whether there are enough hives in the right places.

He is also concerned the hives are not being properly checked.

CSIRO entomologist Dr Denis Anderson says the current sentinel hive program is serviced by volunteer beekeepers and state governments.

He says DAFF has proposed the program be more "fully funded" with support from state and territory governments and run by Animal Health Australia.

"We hope to have it [the new program] operating by 1 July 2008," he said.

Mr Ware says the Varroa mite is deadly to the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) and is costly to control in managed hives.

Feral honey bees

He says it also kills feral honey bees, whose hives can't be treated for the mite, adding that the horticulture industry relies on these bees to pollinate $3.8 billion worth of crops.

Mr Ware says New Zealand horticulturalists are paying beekeepers to put their managed hives on their properties to replace feral pollinators.

"The cost of pollinating crops tripled overnight," he said.

Dr Anderson says Australia is the only continent free of the Varroa mite.

But he says it is particularly vulnerable because of the country's strong dependence on feral bees for pollination.

While the sentinel hive program looks for pests in stowaway bees, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) tries to catch bees that enter by other means.

When imported bees enter quarantine they are allowed to lay eggs and are then killed to be examined for pests and disease.

Some of their progeny are also killed and examined.

Quarantine privatisation

Mr Ware says the bee industry is concerned that Australia's dedicated bee quarantine facility at Eastern Creek in Sydney will suffer from being privatised.

But AQIS says there are no plans to privatise operations.

A spokesperson says while the facility at Eastern Creek was sold to a private operator some years ago, it is still leased to AQIS, which will continue to run the quarantine program.

New facilities will be built before the lease expires in 2015, the spokesperson says.

AQIS says bees are sometimes imported illegally by post or with air passengers.

In one case, sniffer dogs found a passenger with six queen bees hidden in a fountain pen.

In the US, more than a quarter of honey bee colonies collapsed due to a mysterious "colony collapse disorder" and it is now importing live bees from Australia."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Japanese Monks Endure With a Vow of Patience

"In Japan, Buddhist monks wear black. Dead people wear white.

For more than seven years, Genshin Fujinami dressed in white from head to toe while covering the backwoods trails of this sacred mountain in one of the world’s most grueling feats — a punishing quest that combined starvation, isolation and the equivalent of a lap around the Equator.

For 1,000 days, rising well before dawn, Fujinami embarked alone, rain or shine, on his journey, running or briskly walking more than 50 miles — the distance of almost two marathons — each day as the trial neared its climax. Along with his white robes, his only gear was a pair of straw sandals, a long straw hat, candles, a shovel, a length of rope and a short sword.

The rope and sword were not for survival — if for some reason he could not complete his daily trek, he was to use them to kill himself."

Read the full article below:


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Chimps pass on gadget use like humans

"Chimpanzees readily learn and share techniques on how to fiddle with gadgets, new research shows, the best evidence yet that our closest living relatives pass on customs and culture just as humans do.

The new findings help shed light on the capabilities of last common ancestor of humans and chimps. And the research could also help develop better robots and artificial intelligences, the researchers say

In the wild, chimpanzee troops often are distinct from one another, possessing collections of up to 20 traditions or customary behaviors that altogether seem to form unique cultures. Such practices include various forms of tool use, including hammers and pestles; courtship rituals such as leaf-clipping, where leaves are clipped noisily with the teeth; social behaviors such as overhead hand-clasping during mutual grooming; and methods for eradicating parasites by either stabbing or squashing them.

While observing chimpanzees, evolutionary psychologist Antoine Spiteri at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland wanted to help settle the question of whether or not the apes learned such practices by watching others like humans do, as opposed to simply knowing how to perform such behaviors innately.

Spiteri and his colleagues investigated six groups of chimpanzees, each with eight to 11 apes, living in captivity in Bastrop, Texas. The researchers taught a lone chimpanzee from one group one technique for obtaining food from a complex gadget, such as stabbing food with a tool. They next taught one chimp from another group a different technique for extracting food from the same gadget, such as pushing it out down a ramp.

The extremely hot Texas weather made it hard for researchers to work, "and because participation by the chimpanzees in each of these studies has been completely voluntary, it sometimes means that we as experimenters have had to be extremely patient," Spiteri recalled. "Considering the insights we have gathered, it has been worth the sacrifice."

Over time, the researchers found each technique for tool use and food extraction spread within each group. In essence, these groups displayed their own unique culture and local traditions.

A number of these chimpanzee groups are next-door neighbors within eyeshot of each other, and researchers found traditions proved catching, with foraging practices spreading from one group to another, findings detailed in the June 19 issue of the journal Current Biology.

"The possibility that some primates may be able to learn from others has great implications on how we treat them and how we think about ourselves," Spiteri told LiveScience. "These results indicate to us that chimps have a capacity for cultural complexity, which was likely shared by our common ancestor going back around 5 million years ago."

This work is "particularly useful to robotic development and artificial intelligence," Spiteri added. 'Understanding how the mechanisms of imitation and social learning can help us develop artificial beings that can behave and evolve in the way that we do and ultimately it may help us create other brains.'"

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Enrique Iglesias Plays Ping Pong On New Hit

"The ping pong sample heard on Enrique Iglesias' new hit Do You Know (the Ping Pong Song) is actually the Latino pop hunk playing table tennis.

The Hero singer admits he grew up playing table tennis with his brother Julio Jr and was delighted when producers suggested his skills could be used in a song.

He says, "I grew up playing with my brother. We would imagine playing four (tennis) tournaments: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

"After school, we would play every single day, just to see who would win."

Ironically, Iglesias is now dating tennis babe-turned-model Anna Kournikova."

Chinese National TT team raps!

This is the why I've cut back on my table tennis. I really need to practice my Chinese rapping skills first.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Who killed the honeybees?

Here's an update on previous blog entries. This is not the last word, I'm sure.

"A round table of experts answer all our pressing questions about the sudden death of the nation's bees. What they have to say has a bigger sting than we ever expected.

The buzz about the alarming disappearance of bees has been all about people food. Honeybees pollinate one-third of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that end up in our homey kitchen baskets. If the tireless apian workers didn't fly from one flower to the next, depositing pollen grains so that fruit trees can bloom, America could well be asking where its next meal would come from. Last fall, the nation's beekeepers watched in horror as more than a quarter of their 2.4 million colonies collapsed, killing billions of nature's little fertilizers.

But as a Salon round table discussion with bee experts revealed, the mass exodus of bees to the great hive in the sky forebodes a bigger story. The faltering dance between honeybees and trees is symptomatic of industrial disease. As the scientists outlined some of the biological agents behind "colony collapse disorder," and dismissed the ones that are not -- sorry, friends, the Rapture is out -- they sketched a picture of how we are forever altering the planet's delicate web of life.

The scientists constituted a fascinating foursome, each with his own point of view."

You can read the entire article from Salon magazine by clicking the title above. You'll have to click through one online ad to do so.