How 'Super Sand' Could Provide Drinking Water To Millions Of People
|3:52:07 PM, Saturday, August 27, 2011|
"Sand is a cheap and easy to find water filter. It's also not a very good water filter. But a new development--coating sand in graphite--could make it possible for everyone in the world to have easy access to clean water.
Nearly one billion people lack access to safe drinking water. There are creative ways to purify dirty water when a Brita isn't handy, to be sure--people living in areas with plentiful sand, for example, can pour water through sand and pebble-filled filters. But while the sand quickly filters water and removes large particles, it is, not surprisingly, ineffective at removing heavy metals, pathogens, and other toxins that find their way into dirty water.
A newly developed "coated sand," uses graphite oxide--a substance used in the chemical process for making pencil lead (or graphite)--to filter out the contaminants that regular sand can't touch. It could be cheap to produce and almost as plentiful as plain old sand.
When Rice University researchers ran two model contaminants (mercury and Rhodamine B dye) through the super sand, they found that the coated substance removed contaminants as well as commercially available active carbon filtration systems. The big difference: The super sand is cheap. Graphite is inexpensive (waste graphite from mining operations could even be used), and the coating process can occur at room temperature..."
100+ CEOs Promise No Campaign Donations
|10:12:18 PM, Thursday, August 25, 2011|
"NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- You know who's really mad at Washington? Corporate America.
Led by Howard Schultz of Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500), more than 100 CEOs have signed a pledge to halt all political campaign contributions until lawmakers, as Schultz puts it, "stop the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C."
Last week, he mounted a one-man bull rush against a political culture that has "chosen to put partisan and ideological purity over the well being of the people."
Schultz said he was going to stop writing checks, and he asked other CEOs to join him.
AOL's (AOL) Tim Armstrong, Frontier Communications' (FTR) Maggie Wilderotter, Zipcar's (ZIP) Scott Griffith, Whole Foods' (WFM) Walter Robb and Intuit's (INTU) Bill Campbell have all signed up..."
Article: Cosmic Crashes May Give Habitable Planets the Boot
|10:06:44 PM, Thursday, August 25, 2011|
"Long-ago collisions between clouds of gas and dust could explain why many alien solar systems have planets with strange, highly tilted orbits — and why habitable worlds may be rare in the universe, a new study suggests.
Newly forming solar systems may be jostled by interactions with nearby clumps of matter, leading to systems in which alien planets have dramatically tilted orbits and the smaller (and potentially habitable) worlds are ejected, according to the study.
"We may be on the cusp of solving the mystery of why some planetary systems are tilted so much and lack places where life could thrive," said study lead author Pavel Kroupa, of the University of Bonn in Germany, in a statement. "Our work should help other scientists refine their search for life elsewhere in the universe."
Tilting a planet nursery
Most of the planets in our own solar system, including Earth, have relatively circular orbits and are lined up along a plane that isn't tilted much from the sun's equator. They also orbit in the same direction around the sun as our star spins.
But many other solar systems are not so neatly ordered, harboring planets that move in the opposite direction of their stars' spin on highly tilted orbits. The new study offers a possible explanation for these seemingly irregular traits..."
Honeycomb Carbon Crystals Possibly Detected in Space
|5:54:57 PM, Thursday, August 25, 2011|
"NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted the signature of flat carbon flakes, called graphene, in space. If confirmed, this would be the first-ever cosmic detection of the material -- which is arranged like chicken wire in flat sheets that are one atom thick.
Graphene was first synthesized in a lab in 2004, and subsequent research on its unique properties garnered the Nobel Prize in 2010. It's as strong as it is thin, and conducts electricity as well as copper. Some think it's the "material of the future," with applications in computers, screens on electrical devices, solar panels and more.
Graphene in space isn't going to result in any super-fast computers, but researchers are interested in learning more about how it is created. Understanding chemical reactions involving carbon in space may hold clues to how our own carbon-based selves and other life on Earth developed.
Spitzer identified signs of the graphene in two small galaxies outside of our own, called the Magellanic Clouds, specifically in the material shed by dying stars, called planetary nebulae. The infrared-sensing telescope also spotted a related molecule, called C70, in the same region – marking the first detection of this chemical outside our galaxy.
C70 and graphene belong to the fullerene family, which includes molecules called "buckyballs," or C60. These carbon spheres contain 60 carbon atoms arranged like a soccer ball, and were named after their resemblance to the architectural domes of Buckminister Fuller. C70 molecules contain 70 carbon atoms and are longer in shape, more like a rugby ball.
Fullerenes have been found in meteorites carrying extraterrestrial gases, and water has been very recently encapsulated in buckyballs by using new laboratory techniques. These findings suggest fullerenes may have helped transport materials from space to Earth long ago, possibly helping to kick-start life..."
Scientists Find Underground River Beneath Amazon
|5:28:10 PM, Thursday, August 25, 2011|
"SAO PAULO — Brazilian scientists have discovered an underground river some 4,000 meters (13,000) feet deep, which flows from west to east like the country's famous waterway.
A statement this week from Brazil's National Observatory named the underground river Hamza and said it represents one of two different draining systems for the large rainforest region.
A team of scientists led by Elizabeth Pimentel came to the conclusion from studying 241 wells drilled by the state oil giant Petrobras in the Amazon region.
Even though the two rivers cover a similar path they have differences. The underground river flows at a far slower pace and empties into the ocean deep underground.
"It is likely that this river is responsible for the low level of salinity in the waters around the mouth of the Amazon," the statement said..."
Vatican Admits Priests are Raping Nuns Around the World
|4:04:39 PM, Thursday, August 25, 2011|
"It's not just little kids who are endangered by Catholic priests -- Catholic nuns also have reason to fear. The Vatican has finally admitted that nuns all around the world have been sexually abused and even raped by priests. Africa has had the most problems, but many other countries have been involved as well, including India, Ireland, Italy, the Philippines and the United States.
Confidential Vatican reports obtained by the National Catholic Reporter, a weekly magazine in the US, have revealed that members of the Catholic clergy have been exploiting their financial and spiritual authority to gain sexual favours from nuns, particularly those from the Third World who are more likely to be culturally conditioned to be subservient to men.
The reports, some of which are recent and some of which have been in circulation for at least seven years, said that such priests had demanded sex in exchange for favours, such as certification to work in a given diocese.
In extreme instances, the priests had made nuns pregnant and then encouraged them to have abortions.
The US article was based on five documents, which senior women from religious orders and priests have presented to the Vatican over the past decade. They describe a particularly bad situation in Africa. In a continent devastated by Aids, nuns, along with early adolescent girls, are perceived by some as safe sexual targets. The reports said that the church authorities had done little to tackle the problem.
The Vatican reports cited countless cases of nuns forced to have sex with priests. Some were obliged to take the pill, others became pregnant and were encouraged to have abortions. In one case in which an African sister was forced to have an abortion, she died during the operation and her aggressor led the funeral mass. Another case involved 29 sisters from the same congregation who all became pregnant to priests in the diocese..."
Record Industry Braces for Artists’ Battles Over Song Rights
|4:02:21 PM, Thursday, August 25, 2011|
"Since their release in 1978, hit albums like Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” Billy Joel’s “52nd Street,” the Doobie Brothers’ “Minute by Minute,” Kenny Rogers’s “Gambler” and Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove” have generated tens of millions of dollars for record companies. But thanks to a little-noted provision in United States copyright law, those artists — and thousands more — now have the right to reclaim ownership of their recordings, potentially leaving the labels out in the cold.
When copyright law was revised in the mid-1970s, musicians, like creators of other works of art, were granted “termination rights,” which allow them to regain control of their work after 35 years, so long as they apply at least two years in advance. Recordings from 1978 are the first to fall under the purview of the law, but in a matter of months, hits from 1979, like “The Long Run” by the Eagles and “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer, will be in the same situation — and then, as the calendar advances, every other master recording once it reaches the 35-year mark.
The provision also permits songwriters to reclaim ownership of qualifying songs. Bob Dylan has already filed to regain some of his compositions, as have other rock, pop and country performers like Tom Petty, Bryan Adams, Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Waits and Charlie Daniels, according to records on file at the United States Copyright Office..."
Largest Recorded Tundra Fire Yields Scientific Surprises
|3:44:50 PM, Thursday, August 25, 2011|
"In 2007 the largest recorded tundra fire in the circumpolar arctic released approximately as much carbon into the atmosphere as the tundra has stored in the previous 50 years, say scientists in the July 28 issue of the journal Nature. The study of the Anaktuvuk River fire on Alaska's North Slope revealed how rapidly a single tundra fire can offset or reverse a half-century worth of soil-stored carbon.
Tundra soils store huge amounts of carbon hundreds to thousands of years old. Intact, the layers of organic soil insulate the permanently frozen ground, called permafrost, below.
"Fire has been largely absent from tundra for the past 11,000 or so years, but the frequency of tundra fires is increasing, probably as a response to climate warming," said co-author Syndonia "Donie" Bret-Harte, an ecosystem ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology.
The Anaktuvuk River fire burned 1,039 square kilometers (401 square miles), an area roughly the size of Cape Cod and visible from space, and released more than 2.1 teragrams (2.3 million tons) of carbon into the atmosphere. Radiocarbon dating of the soils revealed the maximum age of the soil carbon emitted from the fire was 50 years.
"The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from this fire is equivalent to the amount of carbon stored by the global tundra biome," said lead author Michelle Mack, a biologist from the University of Florida. "This was a boreal forest-sized fire."
Little is known about the effects of fire on carbon storage and cycling in tundra ecosystems. Cool, wet soils underlain by permafrost are thought to restrict fires to aboveground plants and ground-level plant litter leaving the carbon stored in soils relatively intact. As arctic summers get warmer and dryer, so too do the soils, which are highly flammable and able to burn more deeply when dry..."
Dark Winters 'Led To Bigger Human Brains And Eyeballs'
|3:31:08 PM, Thursday, August 25, 2011|
"Humans living at high latitude have bigger eyes and bigger brains to cope with poor light during long winters and cloudy days, UK scientists have said.
Virginia Earthquake Waves Ripple Across The US
|6:33:11 PM, Wednesday, August 24, 2011|
"This is very cool: seismometers deployed across the United States detected the seismic waves from the magnitude 5.9 earthquake that hit Virginia on August 23, 2011. In this animation showing the data you can actually see the wave rippling across the country!
What you’re seeing here are vertical displacement measurements from an array of detectors that are part of the USArray/EarthScope facility (you can read more about the array and the animation on the IRIS website). These are very sensitive instruments; note the scale on the lower graph showing the motion is only about 40 microns top-to-bottom! That’s less than the thickness of a human hair.
Red dots represent upward motion, and blue downward. The intensity of the color represents the amplitude (height) of the wave. Animations like this make it very easy to see the waves moving across the country; the arc even gives you a rough idea of where the epicenter was.
I grew up in Virginia, and went to UVa not far from the quake’s epicenter of Mineral, Virginia. I felt several earthquakes when I lived in California, and ironically there was a moderate quake about 360 km south of me in Colorado last night, but I never felt it! The Virginia quake, though, was felt as far away as Canada, apparently due to the East coast’s different crust structure than on the West coast, where quakes aren’t felt so far away. I didn’t know that, and that’s pretty interesting. Every state in the US has earthquakes, but the East coast quakes can be particularly dangerous because structures like houses and buildings aren’t built to withstand them. Perhaps this quake will be a wake-up call to construction companies and the government which regulates the industry..."
Electronic Skin Tattoo Has Medical, Gaming, Spy Uses
|2:12:17 AM, Wednesday, August 24, 2011|
"A hair-thin electronic patch that adheres to the skin like a temporary tattoo could transform medical sensing, computer gaming and even spy operations, according to a US study published Thursday.
The micro-electronics technology, called an epidermal electronic system (EES), was developed by an international team of researchers from the United States, China and Singapore, and is described in the journal Science.
"It's a technology that blurs the distinction between electronics and biology," said co-author John Rogers, a professor in materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"Our goal was to develop an electronic technology that could integrate with the skin in a way that is mechanically and physiologically invisible to the user."
The patch could be used instead of bulky electrodes to monitor brain, heart and muscle tissue activity and when placed on the throat it allowed users to operate a voice-activated video game with better than 90 percent accuracy.
"This type of device might provide utility for those who suffer from certain diseases of the larynx," said Rogers. "It could also form the basis of a sub-vocal communication capability, suitable for covert or other uses."
The wireless device is nearly weightless and requires so little power it can fuel itself with miniature solar collectors or by picking up stray or transmitted electromagnetic radiation, the study said.
Less than 50-microns thick -- slightly thinner than a human hair -- the devices are able to adhere to the skin without glue or sticky material..."
Monster Truck Tug Of War Suprise Ending
|12:49:49 AM, Wednesday, August 24, 2011|
-- Should have made sure his truck is not a POS rust bucket before doing something stupid like that!
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.""
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