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12/31/09

SEASON'S GREETINGS

Russia may send spacecraft to knock away asteroid


MOSCOW – Russia's space agency chief said Wednesday a spacecraft may be dispatched to knock a large asteroid off course and reduce the chances of earth impact, even though U.S. scientists say such a scenario is unlikely.
Anatoly Perminov told Golos Rossii radio the space agency would hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis. He said his agency might eventually invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project.
When the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated its chances of smashing into Earth in its first flyby, in 2029, at 1-in-37.
Further studies have ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles (29,450 kilometers) from Earth's surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.
NASA had put the chances that Apophis could hit Earth in 2036 as 1-in-45,000. In October, after researchers recalculated the asteroid's path, the agency changed its estimate to 1-in-250,000.
NASA said another close encounter in 2068 will involve a 1-in-330,000 chance of impact.
Don Yeomans, who heads NASA's Near-Earth Object Program, said better calculations of Apophis' path in several years "will almost certainly remove any possibility of an Earth collision" in 2036.
"While Apophis is almost certainly not a problem, I am encouraged that the Russian science community is willing to study the various deflection options that would be available in the event of a future Earth threatening encounter by an asteroid," Yeomans said in an e-mail Wednesday.
Without mentioning NASA's conclusions, Perminov said that he heard from a scientist that Apophis is getting closer and may hit the planet. "I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032," Perminov said.
"People's lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow us to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people," Perminov said.
Scientists have long theorized about asteroid deflection strategies. Some have proposed sending a probe to circle around a dangerous asteroid to gradually change its trajectory. Others suggested sending a spacecraft to collide with the asteroid and alter its momentum, or hitting it with nuclear weapons.
Perminov wouldn't disclose any details of the project, saying they still need to be worked out. But he said the mission wouldn't require any nuclear explosions.
Hollywood action films "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon," have featured space missions scrambling to avoid catastrophic collisions. In both movies, space crews use nuclear bombs in an attempt to prevent collisions.
"Calculations show that it's possible to create a special purpose spacecraft within the time we have, which would help avoid the collision," Perminov said. "The threat of collision can be averted."
Boris Shustov, the director of the Institute of Astronomy under the Russian Academy of Sciences, hailed Perminov's statement as a signal that officials had come to recognize the danger posed by asteroids.
"Apophis is just a symbolic example, there are many other dangerous objects we know little about," he said, according to RIA Novosti news agency.
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press Writer

12/30/09

Japanese researchers develop see-through goldfish !


TOKYO (AFP) – First came see-through frogs. Now Japanese researchers have succeeded in producing goldfish whose beating hearts can be seen through translucent scales and skin.
The transparent creatures are part of efforts to reduce the need for dissections, which have become increasingly controversial, particularly in schools.
"You can see a live heart and other organs because the scales and skin have no pigments," said Yutaka Tamaru, an associate professor in the department of life science at Mie University.
"You don't have to cut it open. You can see a tiny brain above the goldfish's black eyes."
The joint team of researchers at Mie University and Nagoya University in central Japan produced the "ryukin" goldfish by picking mutant hatchery goldfish with pale skin and breeding them together.
"Having a pale colour is a disadvantage for goldfish in an aquarium but it's good to see how organs sit in a body three-dimensionally," Tamaru told AFP.
The fish are expected to live up to roughly 20 years and could grow as long as 25 centimetres (10 inches) and weigh more than two kilograms (five pounds), much bigger than other fish used in experiments, such as zebrafish and Japanese medaka, Tamaru said.
"As this goldfish grows bigger, you can watch its whole life," he said.
Meanwhile another group of researchers who announced in 2007 they had developed see-through frogs said they planned to start selling the four-legged creatures, whose skin is transparent from the tadpole stage.
"We are making progress in their mass-production. They are likely to be put on the market next year," said Masayuki Sumida, professor at the Institute for Amphibian Biology of Hiroshima University.
Sumida said see-through tadpoles and adult frogs would be available in the first half of next year in Japan for laboratories and schools and as pets, with a price tag expected to be below 10,000 yen (110 dollars) each.
He also wants to sell the creature abroad.
Animal rights activists have pressed for humane alternatives to dissections, such as using computer simulations.
Sumida's team produced the creature from rare mutants of the Japanese brown frog, or Rena japonica, whose backs are usually ochre or brown. Two kinds of recessive genes have been known to cause the frog to be pale.
While goldfish are easier to keep, frogs are higher forms of life and therefore preferable for experiments, Sumida said.
by Miwa Suzuki

12/29/09

The 10 most intriguing people of 2009 - CNN.com


Corvette "C6.BlackforceOne" !



The name of this vehicle is a show in itself : C6.BlackforceOne.
It is clearly reminiscent of the legendary Boeing Air Force One of the United States president - doubtless no accident by tuner LOMA-Performance. Yet when the C6.BlackforceOne available in Stealth matt black, Eurofighter matt grey and White Storm matt white (other colours on request) comes thundering round the corner, it is soon clear that it more than deserves its name - and has far more to offer than just an exciting label… No less than two metres from outside wheel to outside wheel, the C6.BlackforceOne is based on the "normal" Corvette (original width: 179cm) and not on a Z06 or ZR1 model. This means around ten centimetres more on each side and creates a real masculine feel. LOMA-Performance makes no effort to disguise the source of the additional width - indeed clearly and stylishly displays the carbon fibre wheel arch extensions and carbon fibre side skirts available with or without visible screws: the ultimate racing look. LOMA has installed a carbon fibre front lip and rear diffuser with integrated LED reverse light alongside the extensions, also in carbon fibre. The optional LOMA-Performance rear spoiler with a carbon fibre finish is easy to fit and detach. Circular daytime running lights are an eye-catching feature of the headlights. The front lip, rear diffuser and daytime running lights are incidentally available for all C6 Corvettes, including the Z06 and ZR1. 794 PS with bi-turbo charging The bi-turbo engine conversion is, however, exclusive to the C6.BlackforceOne and raises an incredible 794 PS from the V8 engine. 675 PS still reach the rear axle after transfer via a LOMA-Performance carbon fibre sports clutch, highly durable carbon fibre drive shafts and an overhauled gear unit; skilled hands are certainly needed at the wheel of the high-speed Corvette. It should hit 100km/h in just 3.4 seconds to furious roars from the LOMA Cup Sport Superlight exhaust unit and reach 330km/h. "Only" 330km/h? Yes, that's right, because LOMA believes in good acceleration in all situations rather final speed as a status-symbol, and has adjusted the C6.BlackforceOne accordingly. A propos adjustment: coilover suspension is fitted beneath the body to allow separate adjustment of pressure and rebound damping. Even the stabilisers are adjustable. An extra 8 centimetres' tread at the front and all of 14 centimetres at the rear ensure the C6 really hugs the road. The impression of sheer unlimited curve speed is of course also down to the Michelin Sport Cup high performance tyres in the dimensions 275/30R19 and 335/25R20 mounted on 10 x 19 and 12 x 20-inch shining black OZ Racing Ultraleggera HLT alloy wheels. Racing technology for the road LOMA-Performance can install a carbon fibre/ceramic brake unit from Mov'it for brutal deceleration to match the brutal acceleration. This is an impressive 15.5 kilograms lighter on the front axle and 10 kilograms lighter on the rear axle than, say, ZO6 brakes. In the interior, too, the team headed by Managing Director Mario Radosavljevic have been hard at work creating a great ambience with both technical and luxury features. The door panels, for example, are finished in carbon fibre and sections of the cockpit are covered with Alcantara. C6.BlackforceOne customers can choose from 300 different types of leather. The sports steering wheel - 34 centimetres in diameter with Alcantara - is smoothed off on the underside; the refitted seats with shoulder rests are only half as thick as their series equivalents. Special foam ensures these ultimate sports seats are still comfortable and great for long journeys. All electrical functions have been retained as has full airbag functionality. Limited Edition C6.BlackforceOne production is strictly limited to 25 vehicles. All are numbered and come with a full guarantee. LOMA provides an additional 12-month guarantee for the spectacular engine tuning. The prices for a complete vehicle start at 190,000 euros.
Full details, prices and delivery information are available from: LOMA-Performance OHG Köngener Strasse 10F1 73770 Denkendorf Germany Tel.: +49 (0)711 / 719 5024, +49 (0)711 / 71905022 Fax: +49 (0)711 / 719 5023

Natural Body Guards: How Your Killer Cells Get Motivated


Natural killer cells form the body's front line of defense. When viruses and cancers attack, the cells keep the invaders at bay while the rest of the immune system prepares.
Unlike our other immune cells, natural killer cells are always at the ready. They have an innate ability to recognize viruses and tumor cells, while other disease-fighting cells take precious time—two to three days—to build forces and learn what the enemy looks like.
Originally named for their apparent belligerency at birth, scientists have found that even natural killer cells need help maturing into warriors.
Killer Instinct
Researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Pasteur Institute in Paris recently discovered the molecular signals that spark this killer instinct.
"We've known these receptors work in other cells in the immune system," said neurobiologist Greg Lemke of the Salk Institute. "But we had no idea it had anything to do with natural killer cells."
The findings were published in the June 4 online issue of the journal Nature Immunology.
In our bone marrow, the body is constantly making new natural killer cells, which are a type of white blood cell defenders called lymphocytes. The small cells make up a large portion of the body's fortification; 10 to 15 percent of all lymphocytes are natural killer cells.
Inside each cell is an arsenal of lethal weapons. The cells patrol the body, searching for signs of infected or cancerous cells.
Once a natural killer cell recognizes a foe, it cuts open the cell and floods it with deadly enzymes. At the same time, the killer releases chemicals that signal the immune system to produce B and T cells, the second line of defense.
However, without the receptors that kick the first responders into gear, the armed cells never become combat-ready.
"When they see a target cell, they don't do anything," Lemke told LiveScience. "They're poor killers."
Harnessing the power
Mice missing the receptors grow sick and become prone to infections. But when immature cells are given the protein receptors, the natural killers start to recognize and respond to infected cells.
"The proteins we've identified are very efficient [at stimulating mature natural killer cells] in the mouse and cell culture," Lemke said. "If those worked in humans, we could, down the line, treat people."
In the future, immunologists might find a way to give these proteins to cancer patients and those suffering from autoimmune diseases, to jumpstart their natural killer cell firing squad and ramp up their immune systems.
By Corey Binns, Special to LiveScience

Why Are Humans Always So Sick ?


The swine flu outbreak this spring is just the latest in the mountain of ailments that seem to beset humanity, from the incurable common cold to each potentially deadly cancer diagnosed at the rate of every 30 seconds in the United States.
So is our species sicker than it has ever been? Or is our current lot far better than it used to be?
It turns out the answer to both questions might be yes. While humans as a whole do live longer than ever before, we now suffer certain illnesses to a degree never seen in the past — including skyrocketing rates of diabetes and obesity and, surprisingly, ailments such as hay fever.
Among the possible causes for our modern ills: super-hygiene, sedentary lifestyles, and a lack of worms in our stomachs.
Life expectancy shot up dramatically on average across the world during the 20th century, increasing from just age 30 or so in 1900 to roughly age 67 now. (It’s not that many people didn’t live to ripe old ages back then. Rather, the shift was due in large part to vast reductions in the number of infant deaths, which brought the average way down.) In 1900, there was just one country worldwide where under one in ten children died before their first birthday, while now out of the 187 nations for which there is data, this holds true for 168. These striking changes are due in large part to improvements in nutrition, sanitation and medicine.
"As a world population, on average we are far healthier than before," said historian of medicine Naomi Rogers at Yale University.
Modern ailments
Infectious diseases once were the main cause of death worldwide, "but around 1950 or so, there was a moment called the epidemiological transition, a long term that just means that in most Western nations, chronic diseases became the major causes of disability and death instead," Rogers explained.
Although infectious diseases seemed to Westerners to only be a "back then" or Third World problem for decades, ever since HIV in the 1980s and 1990s, "I think that element of hubris is gone," Rogers added. "But the infrastructure of public health facilities that responded to infectious disease and epidemics that disappeared in the United States has only slowly been rebuilt, and there's now that shock that comes with new epidemics."
The modern era has brought a unique host of problems. The number of American children with chronic illnesses has roughly quadrupled in the past 50 years, including an almost fourfold increase in childhood obesity in the past three decades and twice the asthma rates since the 1980s.
"It's a combination of environment and lifestyle," Rogers said. People are more sedentary and less physically active than before, and fast food is more available.
"A powerful way of thinking of metabolic problems such as obesity and diabetes regards toxic environments," she explained. "One study showed that pregnant women living in areas that had large numbers of fast food places gained very unhealthy levels of weight during pregnancy compared with pregnant women who maybe lived a mile further away. That's a toxic environment. So the society we live in has its own dangers."
Body fights itself
Unusually, the number of ailments involving malfunctions of the immune system has gone up as well.
Multiple sclerosis, a disease where the fatty insulation around the nervous system comes under attack, appears to be on the rise, and type I diabetes, "a childhood form of diabetes almost unheard of at the turn of the 20th century, is up from one in 5,000 or 10,000 to one in 250 in some regions," said Joel Weinstock, chief of gastroenterology at Tufts University Medical Center in Massachusetts.
Even hay fever, which plagues roughly 1 out of 4 people in the United States, is something that may have largely emerged only in the 20th century, Weinstock said "What if I told you that there are some countries that don't even know what hay fever is?" he asked.
The rise of these disorders might be due to the very improvements in hygiene that have helped reduce infections in much of the world. The body's immune system is regularly exposed to antigens, molecules that it recognizes and reacts to, such as compounds from viruses or bacteria.
"But the immune system needs to be controlled, needs to not act up when exposed to things that aren't truly injuring you," Weinstock explained. "What we think is happening is the regulation mechanisms are becoming less effective. As to why that is, is it possible that it's due to lack of exposure to antigens? Do you need to be exposed regularly to antigens for it to work properly?"
You need worms
For instance, many fewer people are infected with worms than before.
"If you look back at the human race in the 20th century, every child and adult had worms in their gastrointestinal tracts," Weinstock said. "They were part of the ecosystem of the gut. As it turns out, worms are very potent at controlling immune reactions, in order to live happily ever after in the gut. Our theory is that when we started deworming the population, that is one factor that led to the rise in immunological diseases."
As part of this "hygiene hypothesis," Weinstock also notes that dirt roads, horses and cattle used to be far more prevalent in life than they are now.
"Our theory is that when we moved to this super-hygiene environment, which only occurred in the last 50 to 100 years, this led to immune disregulation," he said. "We're not saying that sanitation is not a good thing — we don't want people to jog up to river banks and get indiscriminately contaminated. But we might want to better understand what factors in hygiene are healthy and what are probably detrimental, to establish a new balance and hopefully have the best of both worlds."
By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

Disinfectants Cause Some Bacteria to Adapt, Thrive


To keep sickness at bay, many of us constantly wash hands and disinfect surfaces. But a new lab study shows one pesky bacterium eats cleansers for breakfast: When disinfectant was applied to lab cultures of the bacteria, they adapted to survive not only the disinfectant but also a common antibiotic.
The research team focused on Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium responsible for a range of infections in people with weakened immune systems. When the scientists added increasing amounts of disinfectant to P. aeruginosa cultures, the bacteria adapted to survive not only the disinfectant but also the antibiotic called ciprofloxacin.
Here's how: The bacteria were able to more efficiently pump out antimicrobial agents. The adapted bacteria also had a genetic mutation that allowed them to resist ciprofloxacin-type antibiotics specifically.
"In principle this means that residue from incorrectly diluted disinfectants left on hospital surfaces could promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," said lead researcher Gerard Fleming of the National University of Ireland in Galway. "What is more worrying is that bacteria seem to be able to adapt to resist antibiotics without even being exposed to them."
The results, published in the January issue of the journal Microbiology, show just how savvy some bugs are, adding to research on superbugs - drug-resistant microbes that modern medicine struggles to combat.
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, has become a deadly and growing problem in hospitals in recent years. And news out this week suggests the country's first case of a highly drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.
A major factor in the emergence of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new study suggests disinfectants may be part of the problem, though more research is needed to firm up the link.
"We need to investigate the effects of using more than one type of disinfectant on promoting antibiotic-resistant strains," Fleming said. "This will increase the effectiveness of both our first and second lines of defense against hospital-acquired infections."
Fleming also stressed the importance of studying the environmental factors that might promote antibiotic resistance.
LiveScience.com

12/26/09

Forget the Remote; Control TV By Waving Your Hand


No need to worry about losing the remote with new touchless technology.
Touchscreens are so yesterday. Remote controls? So last century.
The future is controlling your devices with a simple wave of the hand.
A wiggle of the fingers will change television channels or turn the volume up or down. In video games, your movements will control your onscreen digital avatar.
It's called 3-D gesture recognition and while it may not be in stores this Christmas a number of technology companies are promising that it will be by next year.
Softkinetic, a Brussels-based software company, is one of the leaders in the gesture-control field and has teamed up with US semiconductor giant Texas Instruments and others to make this touchless vision of the future a reality.
Besides TI, Softkinetic has forged partnerships with France's Orange Vallee for interactive TV, another Belgian firm, Optrima, a maker of 3-D cameras and sensors, and with Connecting Technology, a French home automation company.
"On the consumer side you have three markets -- television, video games and personal computers," Softkinetic chief executive Michel Tombroff told AFP in a telephone interview.
"The objective is to be on the consumer market at the end of next year, by Christmas, so people can buy these things," he said.
"In the same way that the Nintendo Wii completely changed the way that people play video games this 3-D camera technology will allow us to completely transform the way people interact with television," Tombroff said.
WATCH VIDEO: Television's gone from black and white to color to high definition. So is 3-D holographic TV next?
http://news.discovery.com/tech/television-remote-gesture-recognition.html

12/25/09

Maine to consider cell phone cancer warning !


AUGUSTA, Maine – A Maine legislator wants to make the state the first to require cell phones to carry warnings that they can cause brain cancer, although there is no consensus among scientists that they do and industry leaders dispute the claim.
The now-ubiquitous devices carry such warnings in some countries, though no U.S. states require them, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. A similar effort is afoot in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom wants his city to be the nation's first to require the warnings.
Maine Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, said numerous studies point to the cancer risk, and she has persuaded legislative leaders to allow her proposal to come up for discussion during the 2010 session that begins in January, a session usually reserved for emergency and governors' bills.
Boland herself uses a cell phone, but with a speaker to keep the phone away from her head. She also leaves the phone off unless she's expecting a call. At issue is radiation emitted by all cell phones.
Under Boland's bill, manufacturers would have to put labels on phones and packaging warning of the potential for brain cancer associated with electromagnetic radiation. The warnings would recommend that users, especially children and pregnant women, keep the devices away from their head and body.
The Federal Communications Commission, which maintains that all cell phones sold in the U.S. are safe, has set a standard for the "specific absorption rate" of radiofrequency energy, but it doesn't require handset makers to divulge radiation levels.
The San Francisco proposal would require the display of the absorption rate level next to each phone in print at least as big as the price. Boland's bill is not specific about absorption rate levels, but would require a permanent, nonremovable advisory of risk in black type, except for the word "warning," which would be large and in red letters. It would also include a color graphic of a child's brain next to the warning.
While there's little agreement about the health hazards, Boland said Maine's roughly 950,000 cell phone users among its 1.3 million residents "do not know what the risks are."
All told, more than 270 million people subscribed to cellular telephone service last year in the United States, an increase from 110 million in 2000, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association. The industry group contends the devices are safe.
"With respect to the matter of health effects associated with wireless base stations and the use of wireless devices, CTIA and the wireless industry have always been guided by science, and the views of impartial health organizations. The peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose a public health risk," said CTIA's John Walls.
James Keller of Lewiston, whose cell phone serves as his only phone, seemed skeptical about warning labels. He said many things may cause cancer but lack scientific evidence to support that belief. Besides, he said, people can't live without cell phones.
"It seems a little silly to me, but it's not going to hurt anyone to have a warning on there. If they're really concerned about it, go ahead and put a warning on it," he said outside a sporting good store in Topsham. "It wouldn't deter me from buying a phone."
While there's been no long-term studies on cell phones and cancer, some scientists suggest erring on the side of caution.
Last year, Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, sent a memo to about 3,000 faculty and staff members warning of risks based on early, unpublished data. He said that children should use the phones only for emergencies because their brains were still developing and that adults should keep the phone away from the head and use a speakerphone or a wireless headset.
Herberman, who says scientific conclusions often take too long, is one of numerous doctors and researchers who have endorsed an August report by retired electronics engineer L. Lloyd Morgan. The report highlights a study that found significantly increased risk of brain tumors from 10 or more years of cell phone or cordless phone use.
Also, the BioInitiative Working Group, an international group of scientists, notes that many countries have issued warnings and that the European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for governmental action to address concerns over health risks from mobile phone use.
But the National Cancer Institute said studies thus far have turned up mixed and inconsistent results, noting that cell phones did not come into widespread use in the United States until the 1990s.
"Although research has not consistently demonstrated a link between cellular telephone use and cancer, scientists still caution that further surveillance is needed before conclusions can be drawn," according to the Cancer Institute's Web site.
Motorola Inc., one of the nation's major wireless phone makers, says on its Web site that all of its products comply with international safety guidelines for radiofrequency energy exposure.
A Motorola official referred questions to CTIA.
By GLENN ADAMS, Associated Press Writer

BANANAS with dark patches on yellow skin - for your info





The fully ripe banana produces a substance called TNF which has theability to combat abnormal cells. So don't be surprised if the shop goes out of stock forbananas.
As the banana ripens, it developes dark spots or patches on the skin.. Themore dark patches it has, the higher will be its immunity enhancement quality . Hence the Japanese love bananas for a good reason.
According to a Japanese scientific research, banana contains TNF which has anti-cancer properties. The degree of anti-cancer effect corresponds to the degree of ripening of the fruit, ie the riper the banana, the betterthe anti-cancer quality..
In an experiment carried out by a professor on animals in Tokyo comparingthe various health benefits of different fruits,using banana, grape,apple, water melon, pineapple, pear and persimmon, it was found thatbanana gave the best results. It increased the number of white bloodcells, enhanced the immunity of the body and produced anti-cancersubstance TNF.
The recommendation is to eat 1 to 2 banana a day to increase your bodyimmunity to diseases like cold, flu and others.
According to the Japanese professor, yellow skin bananas with dark spotson it are 8 times more effective in enhancing the property of whiteblood cells than the green skin version.

12/24/09

SEASON'S GREETINGS

ANTS DRINK WATER TOO !

Bees Always Have a Safe Landing


Find out why bees never crash land, and how their technique could help engineers to design new aircraft.
Whether landing on a picnic table, underneath a flower petal, or on a wall of a hive, bees always manage to touch down without crashing or tumbling.
Now, for the first time, scientists have figured out how these insects maneuver themselves onto all sorts of surfaces, from right side up to upside-down.
The bees' technique, which depends mostly on eyesight, may help engineers design a new generation of automated aircraft that would be undetectable to radar or sonar systems and would make perfectly gentle landings, even in outer space.
"This is something an engineer would not think of while sitting in an armchair and thinking about how to land an aircraft," said Mandyam Srinivasan, a neuroscientist at the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council's Vision Centre in Brisbane. "This is something we wouldn't have thought of if we hadn't watched bees do their landings."
When bees approach an object, according to previous work, they steadily slow down to a stop by adjusting their speed as the size of their target steadily looks larger. Srinivasan wanted to know what happens after that.
Along with colleagues, he set up a platform that could be adjusted to any angle from horizontal to vertical and even upside-down.
Using sugar water, the scientists trained honeybees to fly to the platform again and again. Then, the researchers turned on the high-speed camera.
Their footage showed that no matter how flat or steep the surface, bees slow to a hover at 13 millimeters (about half an inch) away from wherever they're going to land. That suggests, Srinivasan said, that the insects are somehow using their eyes to measure that specific distance.
"We don't know how they're doing it," he said, "But they're doing it."
By Emily Sohn /Discovery

12/23/09

4 Reasons you are "fake hungry"


Our appetites can be quite the pranksters. It often fools us to think we are hungry, when often, we may be suffering from something completely different. Distinguishing between false hunger and true hunger will help you know when your body really needs food and when it needs something else.
Hunger Due to Eating the Wrong Food: Symptoms include craving high sugar foods or feeling “hungry” soon after eating a meal. If you just had a big meal that is high in simple carbohydrates and did not contain fiber, protein or healthy fat, all of which help provide a sense of satiety, you may have experienced a drop in blood sugar. In this case, have a healthy snack, such as a piece of fresh fruit and nuts, or cottage cheese or celery and peanut butter or 1/2 of a sandwich on whole grain bread).
Emotional Hunger: Sometimes, our appetites can go haywire when we are experiencing boredom, fear, anxiety, stress or loneliness. Try taking a walk, journaling, listening to some favorite music, calling a friend or chewing a piece of mint gum instead. Read a book, go to a “safe place” like a library or museum or park where you will not be tempted to overeat or distracted by food. Take a bath, meditate, or think about what REALLY would satisfy you, vs. eating to stuff down emotions you do not want to confront.
Hunger Due to Sleepiness: Experts at http://www.webmd.com/ state that two major hormones, leptin and ghrelin, affect and control sensations of hunger and fullness. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin, made in fat cells, alerts the brain that you have had enough to eat. Lack of sleep causes a significant drop in leptin levels as well as an increase in ghrelin levels, a so called double whammy for appetite control and feelings of satiety. Daytime fatigue may lead people to overeat (often, high sugar, nutrient poor foods) in an attempt to get an extra surge of energy. This is equivalent to placing a Band-Aid on the true problem. It provides only temporary relief, which is soon followed by a crash in energy levels and a resurgence of “hunger” leading to more snacking, increased sugar cravings, etc….a vicious cycle. If you are feeling mid-afternoon hunger pains, try: a brisk 10 min walk around the block (fresh air helps, as does exercise, to boost alertness and increase circulation), a cup of green tea (high in antioxidants and low in caffeine relative to coffee), a 1/4 cup of almonds and a small apple (high in protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates, low in sugar, and a good source of magnesium and fiber). Even taking a few deep breaths can help curb fatigue!
Hunger Due to Thirst: We often mistake thirst for hunger. Try drinking a glass or two of water to identify whether you are truly hungry or just slightly dehydrated, in which case water is the perfect antidote!
When you are really experiencing true hunger, however, it is pretty clear to identify. For instance, a growling stomach will cause us to be cranky and unfocused…until we get some food, that is! If it has been four hours since your last meal or snack, you may well be truly hungry. Don’t ignore true hunger…doing so may exacerbate it and cause you to overeat to compensate for the missed calories. It is important to eat regularly and consistently to keep energy levels elevated and avoid dips in blood sugar. Try to include fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack, along with some protein (cheese, beans, lean meat/poultry/fish) and some healthy fat (avocado, olives, nuts, oil). This whole foods approach will help keep you at a healthy weight and lessen the likelihood for emotional hunger to rear its head!
by Brett Blumenthal - Sheer Balance,
Written by Brooke Joanna Benlifer, RD (www.brookejoannanutrition.com) for Sheer Balance

War-torn 'nursery' hopes to send monkeys to Mars !


The monkeys at this run-down research centre which was once the pride of Soviet science have seen it all -- a brutal civil war, freezing winters and starvation.
Now, if the scientists at the Institute of Experimental Pathology and Therapy have their way, one of these furry apes could someday be plucked from its cage and sent on a pioneering mission to Mars.
"We have plans to return to space," declared Zurab Mikvabia, the director of this institute nestled in a lush forest on a hill overlooking the Black Sea coast of Abkhazia, a breakaway region of ex-Soviet Georgia.
Residents of the Abkhaz capital Sukhumi call this place the "monkey nursery" and proudly recall how it produced groundbreaking medical research and raised two rhesus monkeys, Yerosha and Dryoma, sent into space in 1987.
But the institute fell on hard times after the collapse of the Soviet Union as Abkhazia fought a war to break free of Georgian control and fell into a long period of economic isolation.
Hundreds of apes died or disappeared during the 1992-93 war as Abkhaz separatists and Georgian troops fought over Sukhumi, an elegant seaside town famed as a resort in Soviet times.
"Many monkeys were shot. They were let out of their cages and just ran around the city," said Aldona, an institute employee who doubles as a tour guide for visitors.
Hunger and illness killed many more. There are now 350 apes, mostly baboons and macaques, confined in grim outdoor cages. The pre-war population was about 1,000 in Sukhumi plus thousands more at other branches of the institute.
At least a few dozen more monkeys are believed to be living in the wooded mountains of Abkhazia, descendants of a 1970s experiment where scientists released apes into the wild.
Testifying to the institute's glory days, a Soviet-era statue of a baboon stands in the central courtyard amid weeds and dry fountains.
In recent years, conditions for the apes have improved somewhat as Abkhazia enjoyed an investment boom, largely due to Russia, which recognised the region as an independent state in 2008 after a brief war with Georgia.
Only Nicaragua, Venezuela and the Pacific island nation of Nauru have joined Russia in recognising Abkhazia's independence, while the rest of the world considers it part of Georgia.
Mikvabia said the institute had improved the monkeys' diet and would soon start moving them from cages to large open-air enclosures where they would be able to run more freely.
"It's not normal to keep monkeys in small cages," said Mikvabia, a respected Abkhaz doctor who was appointed director of the institute in July.
As he smoked a pipe in his office, Mikvabia expressed his determination to bring serious science back to the institute after years when it essentially became a zoo for gawking tourists.
The institute is in preliminary talks with Russia's Cosmonautics Academy about preparing monkeys for a simulated Mars mission that could lay the groundwork for sending an ape to the Red Planet, Mikvabia said.
Such an initiative would build on Mars-500, a joint Russian-European project that saw six human volunteers confined in a capsule in Moscow for 120 days earlier this year to simulate a Mars mission.
"Earlier this programme was aimed at sending cosomonauts, people (to Mars)," Mikvabia said.
"But given the length of the flight to Mars, and given the cosmic rays for which we don't have adequate protection over such a long trip, discussions have focused recently on sending an ape instead of a person."
Estimates for the length of the journey to Mars vary depending on the type of mission envisioned, but the European Space Agency says its proposal for a round-trip mission would take 520 days, or about a year and a half.
If Russia pursues the idea of sending monkeys to Mars, Mikvabia's institute could become the site of an enclosed "biosphere" where apes would be kept for long periods to simulate spaceflights.
In a twist reminiscent of science fiction, the project would also include a robot designed to take care of the imprisoned ape.
"The robot will feed the monkey, will clean up after it. Our task will be to teach the monkey to cooperate with the robot," Mikvabia said.
History shows, however, that monkeys and technology can be a volatile combination.
Yerosha, perhaps the institute's best-known ape, freed a paw on his 13-day spaceflight in 1987 and started fiddling with buttons and tearing sensors off his body, much to the consternation of scientists on the ground.
Today's mission planners are determined to prevent such monkey business on the much longer and costlier trip to Mars.
"Technicians have told us that it's not difficult to build such a robot," Mikvabia said. "The hard part is teaching the monkey to live with the robot."
MARSDAILY / by Alexander Osipovich/Sukhumi, Georgia

Man jailed for eating rare tiger !


BEIJING (Reuters) – A man who killed and ate what may have been the last wild Indochinese tiger in China was sentenced to 12 years in jail, local media reported on Tuesday.
Kang Wannian, a villager from Mengla, Yunnan Province, met the tiger in February while gathering freshwater clams in a nature reserve near China's border with Laos. He claimed to have killed it in self-defense.
The only known wild Indochinese tiger in China, photographed in 2007 at the same reserve, has not been seen since Kang's meal, the Yunnan-based newspaper Life News reported earlier this month.
The paper quoted the provincial Forestry Bureau as saying there was no evidence the tiger was the last one in China.
A local court sentenced Kang to 10 years for killing a rare animal plus two years for illegal possession of firearms, the local web portal Yunnan.cn reported. Prosecutors said Kang did not need a gun to gather clams.
Four villagers who helped Kang dismember the tiger and ate its meat were also sentenced from three to four years for "covering up and concealing criminal gains," the report said.
Kang was also fined 480,000 yuan ($70,000).
The Indochinese tiger is on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 1,000 left in the forests of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.

The smallest Library in the World !








To everyone who complained about book abuse in the 478 comments in the Don’t Like Reading, Read On post, here is a little ray of sunshine for you. As both books and classic red phone booths are becoming a thing of the past, a village in Somerset, England has merged the two rare commodities. The bright red old phone booth was purchased for just 1 pound and remodeled as the smallest library in the world. Residents line up to swap their already read books for new ones left by other patrons. Over 100 books and a variety of movies and music CDs are available at this tiny library.
/Offbeat Earth

12/18/09

Cosmic Christmas Spotted in Space !


The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a festive view of the cosmos in time for the holiday season, with some saying the picture of a star nursery looks like a wreath, maybe a Christmas tree, or even Santa.
The spacecraft observed a group of young stars called R136, which is only a few million years old and inhabits the 30 Doradus Nebula, part of a relatively nearby satellite galaxy of our Milky Way called the Large Magellanic Cloud.
In the photograph, hundreds of brilliant blue stars are surrounded by a ring of warm, glowing orange clouds of dust. The colorful portrait evokes a giant wreath of pine boughs studded with glowing jewels — sort of. And in the hollow center, the dark shadow has the distinct silhouette of a Christmas tree. Really!
Finally, if flipped 90 degrees clockwise, the image even resembles the face and beard of Santa Claus himself. Somewhat.
Well, whether or not this heavenly view actually has anything to do with the season on Earth, it does teach scientists about what's happening up above.
The image was taken in ultraviolet, visible, and red light by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, and spans about 100 light-years across. A light-year is the distance light will travel in a year, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km).
Many of the young, hot stars in the picture are extremely large, with a few over 100 times more massive than our sun. The powerful stars are pouring out torrents of ultraviolet light and streams of charged particles called stellar winds, which are carving out deep cavities in the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud.
And a cycle of birth, death and rebirth is occurring. When the winds hit dense walls of gas, they create shocks, which in turn help to trigger a new wave of star birth. Meanwhile the large progenitor stars live out their lives relatively quickly, eventually exploding in supernovas like a string of firecrackers.

Nearby Super-Earth May Be a Waterworld


A rocky and water-rich planet, not much heftier than our own, has been discovered so close to our solar system that astronomers one day may be able to study its atmosphere.
And though astronomers are pretty certain the water exists, they don't know its state, with speculations ranging from liquid water to water ice and an exotic state called a superfluid.
The extrasolar planet, now named GJ 1214b, is about 40 light-years away. It orbits a red dwarf star. It is the only known "Super-Earth" exoplanet — worlds that have masses between Earth and Neptune — with a confirmed atmosphere.
"Astronomically speaking, this [planet] is on our block," meaning it's in our cosmic neighborhood, said study leader David Charbonneau of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Mass. "For perspective, our own TV signals have already passed beyond the distance of this star."
The planet is about three times the size of Earth and about 6.5 times as massive. It is the second smallest planet discovered outside of our solar system to date, trailing behind only CoRoT-7b, which is 1.7 times Earth's size and about five times as massive.
GJ 1214b is rare among known rocky exoplanets because it partially eclipses, or transits, its star as seen from Earth.
This fortunate alignment allows astronomers to calculate the size and density of the planet, and Charbonneau's team thinks GJ 1214b is likely a water world with a solid center. Moreover, the planet has a thick surrounding atmosphere of hydrogen and helium.
Normally, a planet located at that distance from this particular type of star would be so hot that any water on its surface would be in a vapor form.
But scientists think the thick atmosphere of GJ 1214b creates a high pressure environment that keeps water on the surface in a liquid state.
That's just speculation, however.
"It really depends on how hot the planet is on the inside, and we don't know that," Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at MIT, told SPACE.com. "I think this planet doesn't have liquid water because it is too hot on the inside. I think it goes from water ice, to a very exotic kind of water — a superfluid — and then it goes to vapor," added Seager, who just published a new eBook on exoplanets called "Is there Life Out There? The Search for Habitable Exoplanets."
(Seager was not involved in the new planet discovery.)
There are downsides to having such a thick atmosphere: First, the pressure is crushing, making life as we know it difficult. And secondly, the thick atmosphere blocks light from the feeble star from reaching the planet's surface.
"If you picture the sun as a 1,000-watt light bulb, this star is a 3-watt light bulb," Charbonneau said.
Whatever its exact composition, astronomers are excited about the finding. "We're really looking for a planet that's a big Earth orbiting in the Goldilocks zone of a small star, transiting," Seager said. "This one scores three out of four. We're excited because we're getting closer and closer to the thing we want to find." The missing piece: GJ 1214b doesn't orbit within the star's habitable, or Goldilocks, zone.
The planet was discovered using a suite of small, ground-based telescopes and is detailed in this week's issue of the journal Nature.
By Jeanna Bryner / Space.com

12/17/09

Doctors airlift boy with 42 needles stuck in him !


RIO DE JANEIRO – A 2-year-old boy with more than 40 sewing needles stuck in him is being airlifted to another hospital in northeastern Brazil because two of the needles are close to his heart, an official said Thursday.
A police official, meanwhile, told The Associated Press the boy's stepfather had been arrested, that he had confessed to sticking the needles into the boy with the help of a woman and that authorities were investigating whether black magic was involved.
Surgeons at a hospital in the town of Barreiras in Bahia state decided not to try to remove any needles after discovering that two were very near the boy's heart, said an official at Hospital do Oeste. Like the police official, she spoke on condition of anonymity as she was not authorized to discuss the case.
She said that doctors had located 42 needles in the boy — eight fewer than they had reported finding Wednesday. The boy was in intensive care but was in stable condition before being airlifted 240 miles (390 kilometers) to a hospital in the coastal city of Salvador with a special heart unit.
Dr. Luiz Cesar Soltoski at the Hospital Oeste, who was treating the boy, said Wednesday that surgeons had hoped to remove most of the needles — some as long as 2 inches (5 centimeters).
The boy's mother, a maid, took him to a hospital in the small northeastern city of Ibotirama last Thursday, saying he was complaining of pain. Three days later, after X-rays revealed many of the needles, doctors moved him to a larger hospital in the nearby city of Barreiras.
The mother told police she didn't know how the needles got inside her son, whose name was not released because of his age.
The boy's father, Gessivaldo Alves, earlier told the newspaper A Tarde that he believed his son could have been a victim of a black magic ritual. Alves reportedly said he visited the home where the boy was living and found unspecified items that could be used for black magic.
The doctor said he believed the needles were stuck into the child's body one by one.
"We think it could have only been by penetration because we found needles in the lung, the left leg and in different parts of the thorax. It couldn't have been by ingestion," Soltoski said.
Doctors found no signs of outside wounds on the boy. X-ray images carried by Brazilian Web sites clearly showed some of the needles deep inside his body.
By BRADLEY BROOKS, Associated Press Writer

Quick Tips to Enhance your Self Confidence !


Here are some quick tips to improve your Self Confidence. If we are committed to have a healthy self confidence there are many things you can do every day to boost your self confidence, each small steps that will help you to reach your goal. The good news is that self-esteem is not fixed and can be improved, try some of the steps below to boost your confidence and self-esteem.

1) Identify your successes. Everyone is good at something, so discover the things at which you excel, then focus on your talents. Give yourself permission to take pride in them. Give yourself credit for your successes. Inferiority is a state of mind in which you've declared yourself a victim. Do not allow yourself to be victimized.
2) Look in the mirror and smile. Studies surrounding what's called the "facial feedback theory" suggest that the expressions on your face can actually encourage your brain to register certain emotions. So by looking in the mirror and smiling every day, you might feel happier with yourself and more confident in the long run.
3) Exercise and eat healthy. Exercise raises adrenaline and makes one feel happier and healthier. It is certainly an easy and effective way to boost your self-confidence.
4) Turn feelings of envy or jealousy into a desire to achieve. Stop wanting what others have just because they have it; seek things simply because you want them, whether anybody else has them or not.
5) When you're feeling superbly insecure, write down a list of things that are good about you. Then read the list back. You'd be surprised at what you can come up with.
6) Don't be afraid to push yourself a bit - a little bit of pressure can actually show just how good you are!
7) You can try taking a martial arts or fitness class/course (or both). This will help build confidence and strength.
8) Invest in some new clothing and donate some of your old clothing to send a message to yourself that you both look sharp and feel sharp.
9) Try to make yourself talk positively at all times. When you hear yourself saying you can't do something, stop and say you can. Unless you try, you will never know whether you are able to or not.
10) Don't get wrapped up in your mistakes and dwell on bad points; they can contrast your good points or even give you something to improve. There's no feeling like being good at something you were really bad at.
11) Don't confuse what you have with who you are. People degrade their self worth when comparing possessions.
12) Surround yourself with nurturing friends, not overly critical individuals who make you feel inadequate or insecure. This could do great harm and damage to your self confidence.
From:
"Priya Malhotra"

12/16/09

In France, horse falling off restaurant menus !


PARIS (Reuters) – Many people love horses and traditionally, many French people have loved them even more with a side of salad.
That passion, however, has slowed to a trickle in the last couple of years as crisis-hit French consumers buy less meat and years of campaigning by animal rights groups take effect.
Looking to ram home their advantage, campaigners have launched a pre-Christmas blitz in Paris featuring posters of riding school ponies and graceful yearlings aimed at rending the hardest of hearts.
"Every year in France, riding school horses like Caramel are sent to the abattoir," says one poster by the Fondation Brigitte Bardot, featuring a photo of a perky grey pony reflected in a knife blade.
"It disturbs us that people continue to eat horses at all and we are going to go on campaigning until people stop eating it altogether," said Constance Cluset, a spokeswoman for the animal welfare group created by the former actress.
Last year, 15,820 horses were killed for their meat in France, of which over 7,000 were imported from abroad.
The group, whose campaign was timed to coincide with a horse fair, is pushing for a legislative bill to modify horses' legal status to companion from production-type animals such as sheep.
While horse meat is traditionally cheaper than other animals, the financial crisis has only pushed consumers to buy more chicken, according to French agriculture ministry figures.
Consumption of horse meat has fallen 12 percent in the last two years and currently makes up less than 1 percent of all meat consumed in France, the ministry said in a report.
And while only a few years ago horse meat was relatively easy to find, now it takes more time to track it down.
"Horse is indeed a French dish, but you'd be very hard-pressed to find it in any restaurants now," said the chef at restaurant Le Central in Paris, adding: "There's so much publicity against it."
Accounts vary on how France first took to eating equines.
Some historians say the country's appetite for horse meat dates from the Battle of Eylau in 1807, when the chief surgeon of Napoleon's army advised famished soldiers to feast on fallen horses on the battlefield.
The story adds that the cavalry cooked the trusted steeds using their breastplates as cooking pans.
By Sophie Taylor

Boeing's 787 jetliner finally takes to the air


EVERETT, Wash. – The first flight of Boeing's new 787 jetliner brought no surprises — exactly what pilots, engineers and company officials had anxiously sought for the long-delayed aircraft.
"The airplane responded just as we expected," Randy Neville, one of the two pilots, said after touchdown Tuesday at Seattle's Boeing Field. "It was a joy to fly."
Boeing has billions of dollars and its reputation riding on the sleek, blue-and-white aircraft that lifted off from Everett's Paine Field on a flight over western Washington, beginning the extensive flight testing program needed to obtain Federal Aviation Administration certification.
The widebody jet, the first commercial airplane made mostly of lightweight composite materials, is more than two years behind schedule because of parts problems and labor trouble. Chicago-based Boeing was determined the plane would fly before the end of the year to prove the program was back on track.
Neville and chief pilot Mike Carricker performed a variety of basic system checks, including testing the landing gear and the flaps, before landing about three hours later. Deteriorating but typical Northwest winter weather — rain, cold and wind — brought the plane back about an hour earlier than planned.
Before takeoff, the 186-foot-long aircraft paused for several minutes at the end of the runway for final checks, adding to the tension for Boeing employees, customers and airline executives standing on the tarmac. Loud cheers and applause built as the plane started its takeoff roll and took to the sky, its two huge engines kicking up clouds of mist.
"It's very historical. I can't think of a thing about it that I'm not impressed with," said Joe Bierce, a flight instructor for Delta Connection in Jacksonville, Fla., who was among the 25,000 people who gathered to watch the takeoff.
The 787 is a radical departure in aircraft design. Where other passenger jets are made mostly from aluminum and titanium, nearly all of the 787's fuselage and wings are made of lightweight composite materials such as carbon fiber, accounting for about 50 percent of the aircraft by weight.
Those materials have long been used on individual parts such as rudders, and on military planes, but the 787 is the most ambitious use of the technology aboard a passenger plane.
Boeing says the aircraft will be quieter, produce lower emissions and use 20 percent less fuel than comparable planes, while giving passengers a more comfortable cabin with better air quality and larger windows.
Officials cut the flight a little short after rain reduced visibility at Boeing Field and the aircraft ran into poor weather off the Washington coast.
Carriker said there was a "very, very aggressive plan" for tests on the initial flight and that he and Neville were able to accomplish about half those goals. The weather prevented them from flying the long straight stretches they expected, he said, but did allow them to test the plane in turbulence and icing, things not normally encountered on a first flight.
"There were no major issues with the plane, which considering the complexity is a huge statement," he said.
The plane is the first of six 787s Boeing will use in the nine-month flight-test program that will subject the aircraft to conditions well beyond those found in normal airline service, including temperature extremes, flying on one engine and slamming on the brakes at takeoff speed.
Boeing, which has orders for 840 of the jets, plans to make the first delivery to Japan's All Nippon Airways late next year. The 787 remains Boeing's best-selling new plane to date, though some airlines have been forced to cancel or postpone purchases because of the weak economy.
For the first time, Boeing has relied on suppliers around the globe to build nearly all components of the plane, which are then assembled in Everett. But that approach has proved problematic, with ill-fitting parts and other glitches hampering production.
The first flight was supposed to be in 2007, with deliveries the following year. Boeing was forced to push that back five times — delays that have cost the company credibility, sales and billions of dollars.
Most recently, Boeing needed to reinforce the area where the wings join the fuselage. Tests were completed on that fix just two weeks ago.
An eight-week strike last year by Seattle-area production workers also caused problems and factored into Boeing's decision in October to create a second 787 assembly line in North Charleston, S.C.
Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program, said he believes both the 200-day flight test program and efforts to ramp up 787 production will go as planned. The next test flight for the first 787 is expected in about a week, Carriker said.
The version being tested will be able to fly up to 250 passengers about 9,000 miles. A stretch version will be capable of carrying 290 passengers and a short-range model up to 330.
Boeing rival Airbus has developed the A350 XWB as the main competitor to the 787 line. Like Boeing's jetliner, the Airbus plane also features composite materials, including in the fuselage and wings.
Airbus says it had received 505 orders for the A350 from 32 customers as of November. The European company is aiming to deliver the first plane in 2013.
Tuesday's flight "was very mundane on takeoff and very mundane on the landing, and that's exactly what you want on the first flight of an experimental airplane," said analyst Scott Hamilton of Leeham Co., an aviation consulting firm in Issaquah, east of Seattle. "Boring is good in aviation."
But the significance, he said, lies in the 787's cutting-edge design and the way it's being manufactured.
"All of this is going to set the stage for all Boeing planes in the future," Hamilton said. "It's a very important milestone in the history of the company."
By GEORGE TIBBITS, Associated Press Writer

Aussie scientists find coconut-carrying octopus !


SYDNEY – Australian scientists have discovered an octopus in Indonesia that collects coconut shells for shelter — unusually sophisticated behavior that the researchers believe is the first evidence of tool use in an invertebrate animal.
The scientists filmed the veined octopus, Amphioctopus marginatus, selecting halved coconut shells from the sea floor, emptying them out, carrying them under their bodies up to 65 feet (20 meters), and assembling two shells together to make a spherical hiding spot.
Julian Finn and Mark Norman of Museum Victoria in Melbourne observed the odd activity in four of the creatures during a series of dive trips to North Sulawesi and Bali in Indonesia between 1998 and 2008. Their findings were published Tuesday in the journal Current Biology.
"I was gobsmacked," said Finn, a research biologist at the museum who specializes in cephalopods. "I mean, I've seen a lot of octopuses hiding in shells, but I've never seen one that grabs it up and jogs across the sea floor. I was trying hard not to laugh."
Octopuses often use foreign objects as shelter. But the scientists found the veined octopus going a step further by preparing the shells, carrying them long distances and reassembling them as shelter elsewhere.
That's an example of tool use, which has never been recorded in invertebrates before, Finn said.
"What makes it different from a hermit crab is this octopus collects shells for later use, so when it's transporting it, it's not getting any protection from it," Finn said. "It's that collecting it to use it later that is unusual."
The researchers think the creatures probably once used shells in the same way. But once humans began cutting coconuts in half and discarding the shells into the ocean, the octopuses discovered an even better kind of shelter, Finn said.
The findings are significant, in that they reveal just how capable the creatures are of complex behavior, said Simon Robson, associate professor of tropical biology at James Cook University in Townsville.
"Octopuses have always stood out as appearing to be particularly intelligent invertebrates," Robson said. "They have a fairly well-developed sense of vision and they have a fairly intelligent brain. So I think it shows the behavioral capabilities that these organisms have."
There is always debate in the scientific community about how to define tool use in the animal kingdom, Robson said. The Australian researchers defined a tool as an object carried or maintained for future use. But other scientists could define it differently, which means it's difficult to say for certain whether this is the first evidence of such behavior in invertebrates, Robson said.
Still, the findings are interesting, he said.
"It's another example where we can think about how similar humans are to the rest of the world," Robson said. "We are just a continuum of the entire planet."
By KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press Writer.

12/15/09

Scientists grow real human bones !


University of Houston scientists, studying the best way to prevent bone fractures, say they have created a process that grows human bones in tissue culture.
The researchers, led by Associate Professor Mark Clarke, said the best way to stop fractures is to stop bones from reaching the point where they might break. But understanding the process of how bones form and mature has been challenging.
Now Clarke and his colleagues say they can use their new process to investigate how bones form and grow.
"We have manufactured a structure that has no synthetic components," Clarke said. "It's all made by the two cell types bones start with inside the body. What you end up with is a piece of material that is identical to newly-formed, human, trabecular bone, including its mineral components, its histology and its growth factor content."
The scientists said the 3-dimensional bone constructs allowed ideal conditions to investigate how bone forms and, more importantly, how bone is lost in environments such as space flight and conditions present in post-menopausal women and spinal cord patients.
The university has licensed the technology to OsteoSphere Inc., a company formed by Clarke, which is looking at ways to commercialize the technology in a clinical setting.
INTERN DAILY

When Fat is good ?


You read that correctly. Certain fats are good for you and as important as other food groups for your body,
Agreed, it’s great to be thin. But when the ‘veins’ on your hands pop up and your face loses its glow, being thin doesn’t seem so great.
On the contrary, the gaunt look just indicates that your body is craving for fat — yes, the same thing you avoided like plague for a sub-zero figure.
Unless you are obese, you shouldn’t deprive your body of all fats. The key is to use up your body fat, and as you approach your ideal weight — when you are within 10 to 15 kg of it — start eating regimented amounts.
If you skip the butter and the ghee, don’t be surprised if you experience joint paints, lower back-ache and even problems of vision.
Why fat is important :
Fat is needed for the normal growth and development. Primarily because it:
• Provides long-lasting energy• Helps you feel full after eating• Helps in making hormones• Forms a part of the brain• Forms cell membranes for every cell in the body• Carries vitamins through the body • Helps regulate body temperature • Cushions your joints and helps them move smoothly.
It also provides you with two essential fatty acids — linoleic and linolenic — that your body cannot make by itself. These strengthen the immune system, protect the auto-immune system and form a protective shell over your organs.
The good fats :
Saturated fats >Saturated fatty acids or saturated fats have all the hydrogen the carbon atoms can hold. These are usually solid at room temperature, and they’re more stable; they don’t combine readily with oxygen. However, they are the main dietary factors, along with transfats in raising blood cholesterol.Sources: Home-made ghee, table butter, white butter, coconut oil, cheddar cheese and meat.
Unsaturated fats :
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids are found in liquid oils of vegetable origin. Polyunsaturated oils are liquid at room temperature and in the refrigerator. They help your body get rid of newly formed cholesterol, thus keeping blood cholesterol level down and reducing cholesterol deposits on artery walls.
Sources: Safflower, sesame, soy, corn and sunflower seed and nuts such as pista, almonds, cashewnuts,walnuts.
Monounsaturated oils are liquid at room temperature but solidify in the refrigerator. These may also help reduce blood cholesterol as long as the diet is very low in saturated fat.
Sources: Olive, canola and peanut oils and avocados. Omega 3 fatty acids are also a part of unsaturated fats. They reduce blood pressure and stimulate blood circulation. It will also give you glossy hair and rid you of varicose veins.
Sources: Salmon, mackerel, walnuts and flax seeds.Consume in moderation Since fats contain more than twice the calories of protein and carbohydrate, they should be eaten in moderation. About 30 per cent of the energy we eat should come from fat.
Balance your meals with carbohydrates, proteins and fat.
The ratio should be 1:1:1 — about 10 gm of saturates to 10 gm of mono-saturates to 10 gm of poly-saturates.
So a person maintaining his or her ideal weight can have 10 gm of ghee, 10 gm of olive oil and 10 gm of sunflower oil in a day.
/ Mohammad Ashraful Amin

12/14/09

Bad Traffic: The Illegal Trade in Wild Animals


Remember earlier this year, when smuggler Sonny Dong was caught with 14 birds stuffed in his pants at LAX? It seemed like a bizarre incident -- something so off the wall, it had to be completely out of the ordinary. Surprisingly, it's not. Trafficking usually brings to mind three things -- drugs, guns and humans smuggled into forced servitude. But according to the Smithsonian, there's another illicit trade on that shortlist, one that falls behind only drug and weapon trafficking in terms of value. Dong's shenanigans give it away: The illicit trade in wildlife brings in $10 billion annually, according to the U.S. State Department, as people across the world hoard birds in toilet paper tubes or stash drugged reptiles in their luggage. Birds, which can be culinary delicacies or exotic pets, bear the brunt of this smuggling: 2 to 5 million wild birds are traded illegally every year, a number also calculated by the State Department. Of course most countries don't condone the wild bird trade. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has regulated the careless swapping of plants and animals since 1973. The United States has even strengthened regulations through legislation like the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992. But in much of Central and South America, strong laws aren't enough. Tremendous biodiversity combined with poverty makes smuggling too tempting. Smithsonian writer Charles Bergman reports from Ecuador's Amazon Basin on the heartbreaking site of a felled tree -- poachers' preferred method for stealing nestlings -- and the forlorn parents who stay near the site even after the chicks are dead or gone. Obviously, such wild bird populations can only last so long if they're stripped of their ability to rear young. Here's hoping biodiversity-based tourism will ultimately outweigh the money to be made in poaching wild animals.
By Sarah Dowdey /Discovery News

Bear Quintuplets!



Black bears typically have two cubs; rarely, one or three. In 2007, in northern New Hampshire, a black bear Sow gave birth to five healthy young. There were two or three reports of sows with as many as 4 cubs, butfive was, and is, very extraordinary. I learned of them shortly after they emerged from their den and set myself a goal of photographing all five cubs with their mom - no matter how much time and effort was involved. I knew the trail they followed on a fairly regular basis, usually shortly before dark. After spending nearly four hours a day, seven days a week, for more than six weeks, I had that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
and photographed them. I used the equivalent of a very fast film speed on my digital camera. The print is properly focused and well exposed, with all six bears posing as if they were in a studio for a family portrait.
I stayed in touch with other people who saw the bears during the summer and into the fall hunting season. All six bears continued to thrive. As time for hibernation approached, I found still more folks who had seen them, and everything remained OK. I stayed away from the bears as I was concerned that they might become habituated to me, or to people in general, and treat them as `approachable friends'. This could easily become dangerous for both man and animal. After Halloween, I received no further reports and could only hope the bears survived until they hibernated. This spring, just before the snow disappeared, all six bears came out of their den and wandered all over the same familiar territory they trekked in the spring of 2007. I saw them before mid-April and dreamed nightly of taking another family portrait, a highly improbable second once-in-a-lifetime photograph. On 25 April 2008, I achieved my dream. When something as magical as this happens between man and animal, Native Americans say, "We have walked together in the shadow of a rainbow". And so it is with humility and great pleasure that I share these exhilarating photos with you. Do pass them on!
/Tom Sears ?

12/12/09

The 155-foot yacht 'Privacy' owned !


The 155-foot yacht 'Privacy' owned by golfer Tiger Woods is shown at its dock in the Old Port Cove Marina in North Palm Beach, Florida .
REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES SPORT GOLF YACHTING)

12/11/09

Facebook's New Privacy Settings: 5 Things You Should Know


Facebook has begun rolling out its new privacy settings to all of its 350 million users. If you haven't seen it already, you will soon have to go through a wizard that will guide you through the process of confirming your privacy settings.
The new settings are supposed to make it easier and simpler to control your information, but the changes are drawing a mix of criticism and praise from privacy watchdogs such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU), and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
The new privacy controls include some great changes, and some not-so-great changes, but here are five privacy issues you should know about as these settings roll out across Facebook.
Search Settings
When I checked my search settings this morning, the option to index my profile by public search engines had been turned on. This is despite the fact that I had explicitly turned off this setting when Facebook launched public search listings two years ago. If you don't want search engines like Google and Bing to index your profile, do yourself a favor and make sure those settings are still set the way you want them to be. To adjust your search privacy settings click on Settings>Privacy Settings>Search. If the "Allow indexing" box is checked, then search engines will be able to index your information.
Password Protection Layer: Not So Good
Facebook has added a new layer of protection for changing your privacy settings. Under the new policy you will have to enter your password whenever you want to change your privacy settings. This is a smart move, and quite a common policy with other Web services.
But in my tests, this extra protection did not work very well at all. Once I had chosen to exclude my Facebook profile from public search engines, I left my privacy settings page and returned to my profile (your settings are saved automatically). But when I went back to my privacy settings, the pages were wide open with no password requirement. I tested this out on several browsers and operating systems, I also signed out and back in several times to see if that would change anything. But each time I checked my security settings were wide open. The password protection eventually came back after half an hour or so, but that was far too long. The password requirement should come back automatically or Facebook should be telling you that this setting is set to time out.
PAI Changes
Facebook is also changing what it deems to be publicly available information (PAI), with almost no recourse for the user to control this--a change that does not sit well with the EFF. Information under the PAI umbrella includes your profile picture, friends list (Facebook says the view friends link has been removed from search results), fan pages, gender, geographic region, and networks (school, work, etc.).
There is almost no recourse to protect any of this information. To illustrate how important this setting could be, the EFF points out that you may belong to a fan page that supports or condemns gay marriage. Since this is such a controversial issue, that may be a position you are not willing to share with co-workers, fellow church members, or other Facebook friends.
Friends List
Although your friends list is technically under the PAI umbrella, you can still control who sees it. But controls for this information are found on your Facebook profile page -- not your privacy settings. If you want to restrict who sees your friends list within Facebook, click on the pencil icon next to your Friends widget below your profile picture, and uncheck the box that says "Show my friends on my profile."
Other information you can remove from your profile page includes your gender and current city.
Hyper Control
While Facebook is taking away some control over publicly available information, you are getting extreme control over other parts of your Facebook profile. Now you can restrict who sees your shared content on a per-post basis. Don't want certain friends to see your latest update? No problem. Need to keep those photos of you at the bar away from your co-workers? You can do that, too.
Facebook's new privacy settings are a mixed bag of better and simpler controls over some information, while loosening the restrictions on others. Of course, if you don't want some of that information to appear, you can always delete it from Facebook (you cannot delete your gender, but you can make it invisible). Facebook's privacy controls may not be perfect, but they will urge users to think even harder about what they're sharing on Facebook, and ultimately that may be a good thing.
Ian Paul / PCWorld