Friday, July 20, 2007

Swedish Woman Gets Superfast Internet

"She is a latecomer to the information superhighway, but 75-year-old Sigbritt Lothberg is now cruising the Internet with a dizzying speed. Lothberg's 40 gigabits-per-second fiber-optic connection in Karlstad is believed to be the fastest residential uplink in the world, Karlstad city officials said.

In less than 2 seconds, Lothberg can download a full-length movie on her home computer - many thousand times faster than most residential connections, said Hafsteinn Jonsson, head of the Karlstad city network unit.

Jonsson and Lothberg's son, Peter, worked together to install the connection.

The speed is reached using a new modulation technique that allows the sending of data between two routers placed up to 1,240 miles apart, without any transponders in between, Jonsson said.

"We wanted to show that that there are no limitations to Internet speed," he said.

Peter Lothberg, who is a networking expert, said he wanted to demonstrate the new technology while providing a computer link for his mother.

"She's a brand-new Internet user," Lothberg said by phone from California, where he lives. "She didn't even have a computer before."

His mother isn't exactly making the most of her high-speed connection. She only uses it to read Web-based newspapers."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Humans walk upright to conserve energy

"Why did humans evolve to walk upright? Perhaps because it's just plain easier. Make that "energetically less costly," in science-speak, and you have the conclusion of researchers who are proposing a likely reason for our modern gait.

Bipedalism - walking on two feet - is one of the defining characteristics of being human, and scientists have debated for years how it came about. In the latest attempt to find an explanation, researchers trained five chimpanzees to walk on a treadmill while wearing masks that allowed measurement of their oxygen consumption.

The chimps were measured both while walking upright and while moving on their legs and knuckles. That measurement of the energy needed to move around was compared with similar tests on humans and the results are published in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It turns out that humans walking on two legs use only one-quarter of the energy that chimpanzees use while knuckle-walking on four limbs. And the chimps, on average, use as much energy using two legs as they did when they used all four limbs.

However, there was variability among chimpanzees in how much energy they used, and this difference corresponded to their different gaits and anatomy.

One of the chimps used less energy on two legs, one used about the same and the others used more, said David Raichlen, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona.

"What we were surprised at was the variation," he said in a telephone interview. "That was pretty exciting, because when you talk about how evolution works, variation is the bottom line, without variation there is no evolution."

If an individual can save energy moving around and hunting and spend more of it on reproduction, "that's how you end up getting new species," he said.

Walking on two legs freed our arms, opening the door to manipulating the world, Raichlen said. "We think about the evolution of bipedalism as one of first events that led hominids down the path to being human."

Theirs is the latest of several explanations for walking upright. Among the others have been the need to used the arms in food gathering, the need to use the upper limbs to bring food to a mate and offspring and raising the body higher to dissipate heat in the breeze.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the L. S. B. Leakey Foundation."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Baby Panther Adopted by Dog

Man's best friend helped save this tiny cat

"A 15-day-old female panther named Milica has been adopted by a Rhodesian
Ridgeback after her mother refused to feed her and tried to kill her in
the Belgrade zoo.

"The mother panther has killed all her cubs since 1999," zookeeper Dragan Jovanovic said.

"We believe she has been traumatized by the sound of NATO bombs" during
airstrikes in the Serbian capital intended to stop former President
Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists in
1999, he said.

Now Milica fights with several newborn puppies
over milk from her adopted mother. She also appears to enjoy every bit
of attention she gets from her new family.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Did Ancient Volcano Alter Human History?

"An ancient volcanic super-eruption, one of the largest known in Earth's
history, may not have devastated the world and humanity as much as once

The eruption at what is now Lake Toba in the Indonesia island of
Sumatra roughly 75,000 years ago was the largest in the last 2 million
years. This gigantic blast released at least 7.7 trillion tons or 670 cubic miles of magma, equivalent in mass to more than 19 million Empire State Buildings.

Vast plumes of ash stretched from the South China Sea to the Arabian
Sea and likely blotted out the sun and drastically cooled the Earth for
years—a "volcanic winter." Scientists have suggested the environmental
catastrophe that might have resulted could have influenced the course
of human history, with people today evolving from the few thousand survivors of that disaster.

Newly unearthed prehistoric artifacts now suggest the blast might not
have been "as catastrophic as before thought," said Cambridge
University archaeologist Michael Petraglia.

Indirect clues

Petraglia and his colleagues investigated deposits of ash from Toba more than eight feet thick near the southern Indian village of Jwalapuram. They found hundreds of
stone blades and other tools just below and above this ash layer—effectively immediately before and after the eruption—that are fairly similar to each other. With the artifacts, they also found pieces of red ochre, a mineral used for body art and cave drawings, as well as for helping to stick tools together.

The artifacts appeared similar to some from modern humans dating to
around the same time period in Africa. These findings suggest humans
continued to live in the area after the blast.

"We would have had very mobile populations of hunter-gatherers here, able to cope with all sorts of disasters," Petraglia told LiveScience. "If we were talking about settled people with agriculture, the Toba super-eruption would have been a cataclysm."

The research was detailed in the July 6 issue of the journal Science.

More evidence needed

Not everyone thinks the new evidence is convincing. Anthropological archaeologist Stanley Ambrose at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who proposed that the Toba catastrophe influenced human evolution, found the published data inadequate.

"The only way to prove their assertions is to find human skeletons below the ash that look like Africans," Ambrose said.

Petraglia said they had "thousands more artifacts than we presented in the paper" to support the new claim, but did agree that fossils would be definitive proof. "We don't have human fossils, we don't have Neanderthal fossils, we don't have any fossils. We'd love to find fossils," Petraglia said.

An exciting but controversial aspect of their findings is that modern humans got out of Africa far earlier than was thought. "For the last 150 years, archaeologists
have concentrated on when modern humans got out of Africa into Europe, but our findings suggest they might have gotten to India 30,000 years before they got to Europe," Petraglia said.

"There's a lot of really remarkable archaeology that can be done in India that we're excited about exploring," he said."