In Iraq, Youngest US Troops Bore The Heaviest Toll

12:22:28 AM, Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"SILVANA, Wash. (AP) — In a hilltop graveyard overlooking this Stillaguamish River village lies a young soldier killed in the infancy of the Iraq war.

Army Spc. Justin W. Hebert's story is sad and sadly unremarkable, a tragedy bound up in the tale of a grinding war that took young lives with grievous regularity. Nearly one-third of U.S. troops killed in Iraq were age 18 to 21. Well over half were in the lowest enlisted ranks.

For Hebert, the Army was an adventure. But it didn't last long.

Barely two years after he finished high school, exactly three months after President George W. Bush declared the end of major combat in Iraq and just four days after his 20th birthday, Hebert was mortally wounded in an insurgent ambush that may have been a setup by an Iraqi "informant."

It was Aug. 1, 2003. The war, according to the Pentagon's plan, was supposed to be over. Baghdad had fallen swiftly. But a new, more menacing phase of conflict was just beginning. An insurgency was in the making, and in its formative months it perplexed U.S. commanders and cost Hebert his life..."



IBM Says New Chip Mimics The Human Brain

11:46:30 PM, Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Computers with processors that mimic the human brain's cognition, perception, and action abilities are a lot closer than they've ever been after IBM on Wednesday unveiled the first generation of chips that will power them.

The announcement comes nearly three years after IBM and several university partners were awarded a grant by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to re-create the brain's perception, cognitive, sensation, interaction, and action abilities, while also simulating its efficient size and low-power consumption.

The grant was part of Phase 2 of DARPA's Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) project, the goal of which, IBM said, is "to create a system that not only analyzes complex information from multiple sensory modalities at once but also dynamically rewires itself as it interacts with its environment--all while rivaling the brain's compact size and low-power usage."

According to IBM Research project leader Dharmendra Modha, the first tangible results of the grant and a great deal of work by those at six IBM labs and five universities is finally ready to be shown to the world.

"What I hold in my hand as I speak," Modha told CNET by phone Wednesday, "is our first cognitive computing core that combines computing in the form of neurons, memory in the form of synapses, and communications in the form of axons...[and] in working silicon, and not PowerPoint."

The development of the new chips comes two years after Modha's team finished work on an algorithm called BlueMatter that spelled out the connections between all the human brain's cortical and sub-cortical locations. That mapping is a critical step, Modha has said, for a true understanding of how the brain communicates and processes information..."



ScienceShot: Tree Gliders Are Energy Wasters

11:30:07 PM, Tuesday, August 23, 2011

-- "Gliding from tree to tree may not be as relaxing as it looks. A number of small mammals, including the colugo—a flying lemur (Galeopterus variegates) native to southeast Asia and the Philippines—get around by climbing up trees and then gliding across the canopies an average distance of 30 meters. But these animals could save more energy if they just ran on all fours, according to a study published today in the Journal of Experimental Biology. By attaching small data-logging packs with motion sensors to the backs of four colugos, researchers found that it takes one-and-a-half times more energy for the animals to climb up a tree and glide from point A to B than it does for them to move the same distance through the trees. So why do they do it? Perhaps, the researchers suggest, gliding in mammals evolved for survival reasons: since they feed on canopy leaves, gliding may have protected them if they fell from the branches. It also may have helped them escape from predators, giving a new meaning to the phrase "fight or flight.""



The Smallest Mini-Galaxy in the Universe

11:08:23 PM, Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Keep up the good work, if only for a while, if only for the twinkling of a tiny galaxy." -Wislawa Szymborska

Our Milky Way Galaxy is home to not only our Earth and our Solar System, but hundreds of billions of other stars.

Held together by not only the incredible gravity of all of our stars, but by dark gas and dust far outweighing all the stars, and by trillions of suns worth of dark matter as well, our galaxy represents one of perhaps a hundred billion just like it in our vast Universe.

Held together by not only the incredible gravity of all of our stars, but by dark gas and dust far outweighing all the stars, and by trillions of suns worth of dark matter as well, our galaxy represents one of perhaps a hundred billion just like it in our vast Universe.

You would think to look at small, satellite galaxies, like Leo A, above. But with millions of stars in even the smallest dwarf galaxies, we can go much smaller.

You might even think to go to a globular cluster, which is even smaller and less massive, with just hundreds of thousands of stars in most of them.

But very recently, we've been able to do one better. Take a look at this area of the sky, which houses the smallest "mini-galaxy" in the known Universe.

See it? Of course you don't. Most of the stars in this image come from our galaxy, and the mini-cluster, gravitationally bound together, is just a small number of faint stars in this image.

But using the Keck's Deep Extragalactic Imaging Multi-Object Spectrograph (DEIMOS) instrument, they were able to measure how these stars are moving relative to both each other and to the Milky Way galaxy..."



Obama Drilling Rules Thrown Out By Federal Judge

10:31:20 PM, Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- A judge on Friday threw out Obama administration rules that sought to slow down expedited environmental review of oil and gas drilling on federal land.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled in favor of a petroleum industry group, the Western Energy Alliance, in its lawsuit against the federal government, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The ruling reinstates Bush-era expedited oil and gas drilling under provisions called categorical exclusions on federal lands nationwide, Freudenthal said.

The government argued that oil and gas companies had no case because they didn't show how the new rules, implemented by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service last year, had created delays and added to the cost of drilling.

Freudenthal rejected that argument.

"Western Energy has demonstrated through its members recognizable injury," she said. "Those injuries are supported by the administrative record."

An attorney for the government declined to comment but Kathleen Sgamma, director of government and public affairs for the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance, praised the ruling..."



Breathing New Life Into Earth: New Research Shows Evidence Of Early Oxygen On Our Planet

4:27:15 PM, Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Today, oxygen takes up a hefty portion of Earth's atmosphere: Life-sustaining O2 molecules make up 21 percent of the air we breathe. However, very early in Earth's history, O2 was a rare — if not completely absent — player in the turbulent mix of primordial gases. It wasn't until the "Great Oxidation Event" (GOE), nearly 2.3 billion years ago, when oxygen made any measurable dent in the atmosphere, stimulating the evolution of air-breathing organisms and, ultimately, complex life as we know it today.

Now, new research from MIT suggests O2 may have been made on Earth hundreds of millions of years before its debut in the atmosphere, keeping a low profile in "oxygen oases" in the oceans. The MIT researchers found evidence that tiny aerobic organisms may have evolved to survive on extremely low levels of the gas in these undersea oases.

In laboratory experiments, former MIT graduate student Jacob Waldbauer, working with Professor of Geobiology Roger Summons and Dianne Newman, formerly of MIT's Department of Biology and now at the California Institute of Technology, found that yeast — an organism that can survive with or without oxygen — is able to produce key oxygen-dependent compounds, even with only miniscule puffs of the gas.

The findings suggest that early ancestors of yeast could have been similarly resourceful, working with whatever small amounts of O2 may have been circulating in the oceans before the gas was detectable in the atmosphere. The team published its findings last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences..."



North Sea Oil Spill: Shell Struggles To Shut Down Second Leak

4:22:54 PM, Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"LONDON -- Royal Dutch Shell struggled to contain the worst North Sea oil spill in a decade as well as damage to its credibility Tuesday as a second leak was found in an oil line the company had said was "under control."

Although the amount of oil involved in the Shell spill off the coast of Scotland is an order of magnitude smaller than BP's 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster – around 1,300 barrels so far compared to an estimated 4.9 million in the Gulf – the spill undercuts Shell's earlier suggestions that it is a safer company than BP.

The Gannet Alpha oil rig, 112 miles (180 kilometers) east of the Scottish city of Aberdeen, is operated by Shell and co-owned by Shell and Esso, a subsidiary of the U.S. oil firm Exxon Mobil. Shell first told U.K. authorities about a leak in a flow line at the rig on Wednesday.

Shell shut down the main leak by closing the well and isolating the reservoir, said Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell's European exploration and production activities. However, he acknowledged that a second, smaller leak at the rig has proved more elusive to control.

"It has proved difficult to find the exact source of the leak because we are dealing with a complex subsea infrastructure and the leak seems to be coming from an awkward place surrounded by marine growth," he said late Tuesday.

"We face a number of technical challenges to ensure that there is no further release of hydrocarbons to the sea, so we are working on this methodically and carefully."

He said the secondary spill is now pumping less than one barrel – or 42 gallons – into the cold water each day..."

-- A bit late, as I sad I'm cleaning up all the tabs I've had open for awhile and since this got 0 media coverage I'm posting anyway.



The Cleverlys Perform Bluegrass Cover of Super Mario Bros. Theme

11:01:45 PM, Monday, August 22, 2011


Copenhagen Apartment Complex Built Around Two Unused Seed Silos

7:23:07 PM, Monday, August 22, 2011

"..Copenhagen and its environs are now home to works by major architects like Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel, but no new building has captured the city's imagination quite like the 2005 Gemini Residence by the Rotterdam firm MVRDV. Located on Islands Brygge—or the Iceland Quay, the first neighborhood on Amager as you leave the city's historical center—the waterfront apartment building is a refurbishment of two mid-20th-century seed silos. The firm had the idea to build glass-enclosed apartments around the silos, instead of inside them, and in doing so they produced a kind of monumental, fantastical greenhouse, which has become a symbol of the reinvented city.

The Gemini Residence may be an icon, but it is also a condominium complex, where hundreds of people need to domesticate the building's unusual characteristics. Eight floors of apartments wrap around the concrete silos, creating rounded walls that resist everything from hung paintings to conventional furniture. And the apartments themselves are wrapped in terraces, flooding, even overwhelming, rather narrow living spaces with light..."



Age-Related Brain Shrinking Is Unique To Humans

3:27:17 PM, Monday, August 22, 2011

"The brains of our closest relatives, unlike our own, do not shrink with age.

The findings suggest that humans are more vulnerable than chimpanzees to age-related diseases because we live relatively longer.

Our longer lifespan is probably an adaptation to having bigger brains, the team suggests in their Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper.

Old age, the results indicate, has evolved to help meet the demands of raising smarter babies.

As we age, our brains get lighter. By 80, the average human brain has lost 15% of its original weight.

People suffering with age-related dementias, such as Alzheimer's, experience even more shrinkage.

This weight loss is associated with a decline in the delicate finger-like structures of neurons, and in the connections between them.

Alongside this slow decline in its fabric, the brain's ability to process thoughts and memories and signal to the rest of the body seems to diminish.

Researchers know that certain areas of the brain seem to fare worse; the cerebral cortex, which is involved in higher order thinking, experiences more shrinkage than the cerebellum, which is in charge of motor control..."



Black Hole Drinks 140 Trillion Earths' Worth of Water

2:21:59 PM, Monday, August 22, 2011

"We don't think of the universe as a terribly wet place, but in fact there's water out in space pretty much everywhere you look. A few billion years ago, Mars was awash in the stuff, with rivers scouring twisted channels en route to ancient seas. The solar system from Jupiter outward would be an interplanetary water park if most of the H2O out there weren't frozen. Saturn's rings are made mostly of trillions of chunks of ice. The comets are mostly ice. So is Pluto. Jupiter's moon Europa has a thick shell of ice surrounding a salty ocean, kept warm by the little world's internal heat. Saturn's moon Eceladus spews subsurface water into space in titanic geysers that form a ring of vapor that surrounds Saturn. Uranus and Neptune are known to planetary scientists simply as "ice giants."

And it doesn't stop in our solar system. Water — solid, liquid or vaporous — has been turning up for years, all over the cosmos. So it takes a pretty impressive discovery to put space water in the headlines. But impressive may be an understatement for what two international teams of astronomers have turned up. Peering out to the very edges of the visible universe, both groups have detected a cloud of water vapor, weighing in at a mind-bending 140 trillion times the mass of the world's oceans, swirling around a giant black hole 20 billion times the mass of the sun.

To be precise, the water vapor is mixed with dust and other gases, including carbon monoxide, forming a cloud hundreds of light-years across. (The star closest to Earth, Proxima Centauri, is less than four light-years away.) The cloud is so enormous that while it's incredibly massive, it's also vanishingly sparse: the thinnest morning fog is hundreds of trillions of times as dense.

Most surprising of all, perhaps, is that finding such an immense reservoir of water lurking in the cosmos just 1.6 billion years or so after the Big Bang makes perfect sense. Hydrogen has always been the most common element in the universe. Oxygen is less common, but there's still plenty of it, and the two love to combine whenever they get the chance. And in fact, earlier observations had turned up water from only about a billion years later in the life of the cosmos. Earthly astronomers have previously used water vapor swirling around a black hole to try to understand the mysterious dark energy that pervades the cosmos..."



'Bullet-Proof Skin', Made With Spider Silk And Goat's Milk, Created By Scientists

11:39:17 PM, Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Imagine having a gun fired at you, the bullet whizzing toward you at a super-fast speed. But instead of the bullet piercing your skin and traveling deep inside your body, what if it instead repelled off your skin?

What sounds like a scenario straight out of a superhero movie or a sci-fi novel could eventually become reality. Scientists have created a skin made with goat's milk packed with spider-silk proteins, according to news reports. Their hope is that they can eventually replace the keratin in human skin -- which makes it tough -- with the spider-silk proteins.

To make the bullet-proof material, Dutch scientists first engineered goats to produce milk that contains proteins from extra-strong spider silk. Then, using the milk from the goats, they spun a bullet-proof material; a layer of real human skin is then grown around that skin, a process that takes five weeks, the Daily Mail reported.

"Science-fiction? Maybe, but we can get a feeling of what this transhumanistic idea would be like by letting a bulletproof matrix of spidersilk merge with an in vitro human skin," researcher Jalila Essaidi told the Daily Mail..."



Woman Takes Off Her Pants While Riding The Subway

9:58:27 PM, Sunday, August 21, 2011

-- And this is exactly why I prefer to stand and not touch anything at all @ subway...



Darkest Planet Found: Coal-Black, It Reflects Almost No Light

9:15:51 PM, Sunday, August 21, 2011

"It may be hard to imagine a planet blacker than coal, but that's what astronomers say they've discovered in our home galaxy with NASA's Kepler space telescope.

Orbiting only about three million miles out from its star, the Jupiter-size gas giant planet, dubbed TrES-2b, is heated to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (980 degrees Celsius). Yet the apparently inky world appears to reflect almost none of the starlight that shines on it, according to a new study.

"Being less reflective than coal or even the blackest acrylic paint—this makes it by far the darkest planet ever discovered," lead study author David Kipping said.

"If we could see it up close it would look like a near-black ball of gas, with a slight glowing red tinge to it—a true exotic amongst exoplanets," added Kipping, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

NASA's Planet Detector

The Earth-orbiting Kepler spacecraft was specifically designed to find planets outside our solar system. But at such distances—TrES-2b, for instance, is 750 light-years from us—it's not as simple as snapping pictures of alien worlds.

Instead, Kepler—using light sensors called photometers that continuously monitor tens of thousands of stars—looks for the regular dimming of stars.

Such dips in stellar brightness may indicate that a planet is transiting, or passing in front of a star, relative to Earth, blocking some of the star's light—in the case of the coal-black planet, blocking surprisingly little of that light..."



Astronaut Photographs Perseid Meteor... From Space

8:54:03 PM, Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Seeing regular updates from the International Space Station (ISS) is a special joy of mine, especially since the shuttle fleet was retired last month. As poignantly noted by Irene in "Atlantis' Final Reentry Seen From Space," although the shuttle is gone, the U.S. presence on the ISS certainly is not.

So, in a stunning photograph taken by NASA astronaut Ron Garan through a space station window, a single Perseid meteor was captured as the piece of comet dust slammed into the Earth's atmosphere.

"What a 'Shooting Star' looks like #FromSpace Taken yesterday during Perseids Meteor Shower..." Garan tweeted from his Twitter account on Sunday. Garan is approaching the end of his six-month stay aboard the orbital outpost after he was launched as part of the Expedition 27 crew in April.

Interestingly, Garan's meteor doesn't look much different from a meteor you would see from the ground, but there is a key difference: this meteor is falling away from the observer (Garan); whereas for us terrestrial folk, meteors fall toward us.

It must have been a magical sight; one that is likely often seen from orbit, but rarely captured in a photograph."

-- That's not scary at all... While sitting in a little tin can that is ISS!



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