Astronomy Picture of the Day: Hidden Treasures of M78
|2:41:03 PM, Saturday, February 19, 2011|
M78 isn't really hiding in planet Earth's night sky. About 1,600 light-years away and nestled in the nebula rich constellation Orion, the large, bright, reflection nebula is well-known to telescopic skygazers. But this gorgeous image of M78 was selected as the winner of the Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition. Held by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the competition challenged amateur astronomers to process data from ESO's astronomical archive in search of cosmic gems. The winning entry shows off amazing details within bluish M78 (center) embraced in dark, dusty clouds, along with a smaller reflection nebula in the region, NGC 2071 (top). Yellowish and even more compact, the recently discovered, variable McNeil's Nebula is prominent in the scene below and right of center. Based on data from ESO's WFI camera and 2.2 meter telescope at La Silla, Chile, this image spans just over 0.5 degrees on the sky. That corresponds to 15 light-years at the estimated distance of M78.
China and Colombia Announce 'Alternative Panama Canal'
|2:36:07 PM, Saturday, February 19, 2011|
“Colombia has announced it is negotiating with China to build an alternative to the Panama Canal.
The proposed transport route is intended to promote the flow of goods between Asia and Latin America.
The plan is to create a "dry canal" where the Pacific port of Buenaventura would be linked by rail, across Colombia, to the Atlantic Coast.
Trade between Colombia and China has increased from $10m in 1980 to more than $5bn last year.
The announcement came from the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, who told the Financial Times that the project was "a real proposal... and it is quite advanced".
China has been increasing its involvement across Latin America to feed a growing need for raw materials and commodities.
According to BBC Bogota correspondent Jeremy McDermott, President Santos has departed from the emphasis on security of his predecessor Alvaro Uribe.
Mr Uribe's Democratic Security Policy, backed by US military aid, is credited with halving the numbers of Marxist rebels and pushing them into the more remote jungles and mountains.
Mr Santos is concentrating on what he calls "democratic prosperity", our correspondent says.
He hopes that economic development will address some of the root issues of the 46-year civil conflict, such as poverty and the lack of opportunities, which have pushed people into being rebels or into the lucrative drug trade, our correspondent says…”
-- Trade between Colombia and China has increased from $10m in 1980 to more than $5bn last year.
FBI Urges Congress to Expand Internet Wiretapping
|2:25:39 PM, Saturday, February 19, 2011|
“The FBI urged members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security on Thursday to update the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and make it easier for authorities to eavesdrop on Internet.
The act was passed in 1994 and requires telecommunication companies to design their equipment and services to ensure that law enforcement and national security officials can monitor telephone and other communications whenever necessary.
"Over the years, through interpretation of the statute by the Federal Communications Commission, the reach of CALEA has been expanded to include facilities-based broadband internet access and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that are fully inter-connected with the public switched telephone network," FBI General Counsel Valeria Caproni told the subcommittee.
"Although that expansion of coverage has been extremely helpful, CALEA does not cover popular Internet-based communications modalities such as webmail, social networking sites or peer-to-peer services."
"As a result, although the government may obtain a court order authorizing the collection of certain communications, it often serves that order on a provider who does not have an obligation under CALEA to be prepared to execute it," she explained. "Such providers may not have intercept capabilities in place at the time that they receive the order."
The proposal to expand CALEA would require companies involved in online communications to re-engineer their software so that law enforcement could easily access it.
In October 2010, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration was drafting new regulations to make it easier for authorities to eavesdrop on Internet and e-mail communications…”
100-Foot-Long Narco Sub Found in Colombia
|12:16:31 AM, Friday, February 18, 2011|
“The Colombian military has seized a 100-foot-long submarine capable of transporting eight tons of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico, news reports say.
The vessel was found in a jungle area in Timbiqui in southwestern Colombia on Sunday, according to a report from RTT News.
Colombian navy officials said the homemade sub had two diesel engines and sophisticated navigational equipment that would enable it to travel to Mexico while remaining up to 30 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
The vessel was set up for a crew of four but was unoccupied when found, RTT reported. Officials estimated it would have cost $2 million to build.
The submarine is just the latest example of crafts smugglers have made to try to get their illicit cargo past law enforcement.
Last year, VBS.TV got access to the Colombian naval base where many captured smuggling vessels are taken.”
-- It doesn't look very ocean worthy... Let alone 30ft under water.
Thousands of New Stars Emerge in Glowing Nebula
|9:25:00 PM, Thursday, February 17, 2011|
“Thousands of young stars come to the fore in in this beautiful new image from the Spitzer Space Telescope.
The previously unseen stars were born around 1,800 light-years from Earth in a region called the North American Nebula. In images that capture the same range of light that human eyes can see, the nebula looks like the eastern seaboard of the United States, down to the Gulf of Mexico. But most of that light is reflected off clouds of dust that hide infant stars. Only about 200 young stars were known before.
This image breaks through the clouds to find more than 2,000 new objects that may be young stars. (More data processing will determine their nature.) Because Spitzer is sensitive to infrared wavelengths that can sense heat, it can see the glow of the dusty, buried stars.
“One of the things that makes me so excited about this image is how different it is from the visible image, and how much more we can see in the infrared than in the visible,” said Spitzer astronomer Luisa Rebullin a press release. “The Spitzer image reveals a wealth of detail about the dust and the young stars here.” A paper detailing the observations has been accepted in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.
Stars are born inside collapsing balls of gas and dust, which flattens into a disk that spins together with the star like a record album. As the star ages, the disk is thought to congeal into planets. Most of the dust is expected to dissipate by the time the star is at the center of a mature solar system.
The new Spitzer image shows stars in all stages of development, from dust-blanketed infancy to early adulthood, when stars are new parents to a growing family of planets.
Despite the new views of its growing stellar family, the North American nebula is still shrouded in mystery. The group of massive stars that is thought to dominate the nebula is still unseen. The Spitzer image and images from other telescopes hint that the missing stars lurk behind the Gulf of Mexico portion of the nebula.
In this image, infrared light with a wavelength of 3.6 microns is colored blue; 8.0-micron light is green; and 24-micron light is red. Since taking this image, Spitzer ran out of the coolant needed to keep the two longest wavelength detectors working. Spitzer is still snapping photos in the two shorter wavelength bands.”
'Periodic Table of Shapes' to Give a New Dimension to Math
|9:14:12 PM, Thursday, February 17, 2011|
“Mathematicians are creating their own version of the periodic table that will provide a vast directory of all the possible shapes in the universe across three, four and five dimensions, linking shapes together in the same way as the periodic table links groups of chemical elements.
The three-year project should provide a resource that mathematicians, physicists and other scientists can use for calculations and research in a range of areas, including computer vision, number theory, and theoretical physics.
The researchers, from Imperial College London and institutions in Australia, Japan and Russia, are aiming to identify all the shapes across three, four and five dimensions that cannot be divided into other shapes.
As these building block shapes are revealed, the mathematicians will work out the equations that describe each shape and through this, they expect to develop a better understanding of the shapes' geometric properties and how different shapes are related to one another.
The work is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Society and the European Research Council.
Project leader Professor Alessio Corti, from the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College London, explained: "The periodic table is one of the most important tools in chemistry. It lists the atoms from which everything else is made, and explains their chemical properties. Our work aims to do the same thing for three, four and five-dimensional shapes -- to create a directory that lists all the geometric building blocks and breaks down each one's properties using relatively simple equations. We think we may find vast numbers of these shapes, so you probably won't be able to stick our table on your wall, but we expect it to be a very useful tool…””
Fort Wayne Has Some Balls
|8:53:34 PM, Thursday, February 17, 2011|
-- Wait… Are you telling me people didn't take an online poll seriously? I find that hard to believe.
Bees Who Work For the Police
|12:28:00 PM, Thursday, February 17, 2011|
“Here's a nerve-wracking notion. Let's say you have an illegal plant in your garden or even in your home. And let's presume this plant (because it's marijuana, or some genetically altered vegetable that's illegal in Europe) will get you in trouble if the police find out.
Now imagine that your local police have their own bees, bees they release each morning to scour the neighborhood looking for illegal plants.
Getting nervous? Now look at this interview with a man who appears to be some kind of London Police Inspector with their "Genetics Surveillance Unit":
This video was created by Thomas Thwaites. He calls it, "Policing Genes." In it, Mark Machan, identified as a Metropolitan Police Bee Keeper, explains how the police maintain 43 bee hives in South London and, "a little bit of [nearby] Kent," how these bees collect pollen in the neighborhood and then, being bees, they return to the hive to tell the other bees exactly where the good plants are. Bees give directions by performing a "waggle" dance.
The police, meanwhile, have developed software to read bee communications. As Mr. Machan explains, "There's a video camera in each hive. And what we're able to do is to decode that, to tell us where the location of the pollen is." In the video, a computer seems to lock onto the waggle dance and transmit decoding signals in green, red and blue…”
Planting Grass by by Yang Zhichao
|1:08:20 AM, Thursday, February 17, 2011|
“Performance by Yang Zhichao
Time: November 5/ 2000.
Duration: 45 minutes.
Explanation: at 10:00 A.M. on November 5/2000, second floor of No.1133, Suzhou road Shanghai where "Fuck off" was on show, I made an operation platform with 200X80X78cm, an operational scalpel was incised into my left scapula by a surgeon. Without any anesthesia, the scalpel made 2 cuts with 1 centimeter deep and 1 centimeter wide. Afterwards, grass picked at the banks of Suzhou River was plant into the two cuts.”
-- Awesome?! Or not so much?
Tomas Saraceno Biospheres, Copenhagen
|12:31:53 AM, Thursday, February 17, 2011|
Child Capybara Enjoying Hot Spa Shower
|5:18:19 PM, Wednesday, February 16, 2011|
Monitoring Killer Mice from Space: Green on Satellite Images Warns of Hantavirus Outbreaks
|3:06:56 PM, Wednesday, February 16, 2011|
“The risk of deadly hantavirus outbreaks in people can be predicted months ahead of time by using satellite images to monitor surges in vegetation that boost mouse populations, a University of Utah study says. The method also might forecast outbreaks of other rodent-borne illnesses worldwide.
"It's a way to remotely track a disease without having to go out and trap animals all the time," says Denise Dearing, professor of biology at the University of Utah and co-author of the study published online Feb. 16, in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography. "The satellite measures the greenness of the Earth, and we found that greenness predicts deer mouse population density."
While the study focused on hantavirus in deer mice, its findings could help health officials fight other rodent-borne diseases such as rat-bite fever, Lyme disease, bubonic plague, Lassa fever, salmonella infection and various hemorrhagic fevers.
The method was tested on deer mice that carry hantavirus and proliferate when their food supply is abundant, "but it potentially could be applied to any animal that responds to vegetation," says Dearing. "It would have to be calibrated against each specific species of rodent and the disease, but it's really powerful when it's done."
The study combined satellite imagery with data from thousands of mice captured over three years in central Utah. The total number of trapped mice and the number of mice with the disease, a strain of hantavirus known as Sin Nombre virus, both climbed after peaks in greenery.
Sin Nombre virus is carried by rodents, primarily deer mice, in the western United States. In humans, it causes a disease known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. It was discovered in 1993 after several young, otherwise healthy people in the Four Corners area of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona died of a mysterious respiratory illness. Hantavirus kills 42 percent of its victims and is contracted by inhaling dust containing mouse urine or feces…”
Ice Age by Thomas
|12:16:24 AM, Wednesday, February 16, 2011|
Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Rippled Red Ribbons of SNR 0509
|12:11:05 AM, Wednesday, February 16, 2011|
-- "What is causing the picturesque ripples of supernova remnant SNR 0509-67.5? The ripples, as well as the greater nebula, were imaged in unprecedented detail by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2006 and again late last year. The red color was recoded by a Hubble filter that left only the light emitted by energetic hydrogen. The precise reason for the ripples remains unknown, with two considered origin hypotheses relating them to relatively dense portions of either ejected or impacted gas. The reason for the broader red glowing ring is more clear, with expansion speed and light echos relating it to a classic Type Ia supernova explosion that must have occurred about 400 years earlier. SNR 0509 currently spans about 23 light years and lies about 160,000 light years away toward the constellation of the dolphinfish (Dorado) in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The expanding ring carries with it another great mystery, however: why wasn't this supernova seen 400 years ago when light from the initial blast should have passed the Earth?"
Quest for Extinct Giant Rats Leads Scientists to Ancient Face Carvings
|12:08:07 AM, Wednesday, February 16, 2011|
“Ancient stone faces carved into the walls of a well-known limestone cave in East Timor have been discovered by a team searching for fossils of extinct giant rats.
The team of archaeologists and palaeontologists were working in Lene Hara Cave on the northeast tip of East Timor.
"Looking up from the cave floor at a colleague sitting on a ledge, my head torch shone on what seemed to be a weathered carving," CSIRO's Dr Ken Aplin said.
"I shone the torch around and saw a whole panel of engraved prehistoric human faces on the wall of the cave.
"The local landowners with whom we were working were stunned by the findings. They said the faces had chosen that day to reveal themselves because they were pleased by the field work we were doing."
The Lene Hara carvings, or petroglyphs, are frontal, stylised faces each with eyes, a nose and a mouth. One has a circular headdress with rays that frame the face.
Uranium isotope dating by colleagues at the University of Queensland revealed the 'sun ray' face to be around 10,000 to 12,000 years old, placing it in the late Pleistocene. The other faces could not be dated but are likely to be equally ancient…”
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