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August 29, 2006, 5:15 AM CT

Acoustic data may reveal hidden oil supplies

Acoustic data may reveal hidden oil supplies
Just as doctors use ultrasound to image internal organs and unborn babies, MIT Earth Resources Laboratory scientists listen to the echoing language of rocks to map what's going on tens of thousands of feet below the Earth's surface.

With the help of a new $580,000 US Department of Energy (DOE) grant, the earth researchers will use their skills at interpreting underground sound to seek out "sweet spots"--pockets of natural gas and oil contained in fractured porous rocks--in a Wyoming oil field. If the method proves effective at determining where to drill wells, it could eventually be used at oil and gas fields across the country.

A major domestic source of natural gas is low-permeability or "tight" gas formations. Oil and gas come from organic materials that have been cooked for eons under the pressure and high heat of the Earth's crust. Some underground reservoirs contain large volumes of oil and gas that flow easily through permeable rocks, but sometimes the fluids are trapped in rocks with small, difficult-to-access pores, forming separate scattered pockets. Until recently, there was no technology available to get at tight gas.

Tight gas is now the largest of three unconventional gas resources, which also include coal beds and shale. Production of unconventional gas in the United States represented around 40 percent of the nation's total gas output in 2004, as per the DOE, but could grow to 50 percent by 2030 if advanced technologies are developed and implemented.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


August 28, 2006, 10:03 PM CT

A switch between life and death

A switch between life and death
Cells in an embryo divide at an amazing rate to build a whole body, but this growth needs to be controlled. Otherwise the result may be defects in embryonic development or cancer in adults. Controlling growth requires that some cells divide while others die; their fates are determined by signals that are passed from molecule to molecule within the cell. Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory [EMBL] in Heidelberg have now discovered how one of these signaling pathways controls the life and death of cells in the fruit fly. The study will be published in this week's issue of the journal Cell.

The breakthrough came as Barry Thompson from Stephen Cohen's group at EMBL looked at a recently discovered signaling pathway called Hippo.

"Hippo acts as a switch between cell division and death," says Barry Thompson, "if the pathway is too active, tissues overgrow because too many cells divide and too few die. But until now, we hadn't found a connection between the signals and the cellular machinery that drives growth".

Using sophisticated genetic techniques, Thompson and Cohen established that a small molecule, a microRNA called bantam, makes this link. Without bantam, tissues grow too slowly and remain smaller than normal. The amount of bantam produced by the cell directly depends on the amount of traffic on the Hippo signaling pathway, and higher levels of bantam prompt more cell division.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 28, 2006, 9:42 PM CT

Serious Mental Illness In Katrina Survivors

Serious Mental Illness In Katrina Survivors New Orleans Katrina survivors take the bus to schools Houston. (Photo DOD)
According to the most comprehensive survey yet completed of mental health among Hurricane Katrina survivors from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, the proportion of people with a serious mental illness doubled in the months after the hurricane compared to a survey carried out several years before the hurricane. The study also found that thoughts of suicide did not increase despite the dramatic increase in mental illness. The authors suggest that this low rate of suicide thoughts is due to optimistic beliefs about the success of future recovery efforts. The research, which was published recently in a special online edition of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, was led by researchers from Harvard Medical School (HMS).

"The increase in mental illness among Katrina survivors is not surprising, but the low suicidality is a surprise," says Ronald Kessler, PhD, professor of health care policy at HMS and lead author of the study. "Our concern, though, is that this lowering of suicidal tendencies appears to be strongly associated with expectations for recovery efforts that might not be realistic".

This report is the first in a planned series based on the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group, a statistically representative sample of hurricane survivors participating in ongoing tracking surveys to monitor the pace and mental health effects of hurricane recovery efforts. The project is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 28, 2006, 9:11 PM CT

Teen career plans out of sync with reality

Teen career plans out of sync with reality
So your high school senior says she wants to be a doctor. Great news, right? It is if she's got the talent and the grades to back up her ambition.

Unfortunately, the goals of too a number of teens now outpace what they are likely to achieve, a problem that can lead to wasted time and resources, not to mention anxiety and distress, as per a new Florida State University study.

Sociology Professor John Reynolds tracked changes in high school seniors' educational and occupational plans between 1976 and 2000 and found the gap in goals and actual achievements has grown over the 25-year period. The study, co-authored by FSU graduate students Michael Stewart, Ryan MacDonald and Lacey Sischo, was reported in the journal Social Problems.

"Today's teens are both highly ambitious and increasingly unrealistic," Reynolds said. "While some youth clearly benefit from heightened ambition, it can lead to disappointment and discouragement rather than optimism and success".

The study, which was supported by a $47,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, is the first to show with comparable, national data how dramatically high school seniors' plans have changed since the 1970s, how these expectations are increasingly out of sync with the achievements of their peers and that there is a corresponding decline in the payoffs of student ambition for future accomplishments in school.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 28, 2006, 9:08 PM CT

Nanocantilevers Yield Surprises

Nanocantilevers Yield Surprises
Scientists at Purdue University have made a discovery about the behavior of tiny structures called nanocantilevers that could be crucial in designing a new class of ultra-small sensors for detecting viruses, bacteria and other pathogens.

The nanocantilevers, which resemble tiny diving boards made of silicon, could be used in future detectors because they vibrate at different frequencies when contaminants stick to them, revealing the presence of dangerous substances. Because of the nanocantilever's minute size, it is more sensitive than larger devices, promising the development of advanced sensors that detect minute quantities of a contaminant to provide an early warning that a dangerous pathogen is present.

The scientists were surprised to learn that the cantilevers, coated with antibodies to detect certain viruses, attract different densities - or quantity of antibodies per area - depending on the size of the cantilever. The devices are immersed into a liquid containing the antibodies to allow the proteins to stick to the cantilever surface.

"But instead of simply attracting more antibodies because they are longer, the longer cantilevers also contained a greater density of antibodies, which was very unexpected," said Rashid Bashir, a researcher at the Birck Nanotechnology Center and a professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering at Purdue University. The research also shows that the density is greater toward the free end of the cantilevers.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


August 28, 2006, 9:04 PM CT

Why You Go Hairless?

Why You Go Hairless?
Scientists looking at mice may have discovered why certain people are hairier than others in what could provide clues as to the reason some men go bald prematurely.

The University of Manchester team has laid bare the molecular processes that determine which embryonic skin cells will form into hair follicles and determine the body's hair pattern.

The findings will be of interest to scientists looking at male-pattern baldness but have more direct implications for people who suffer from ectodermal dysplasia - a range of conditions where skin cells fail to develop into other tissue, including hair follicles.

"During human development, skin cells have the ability to turn into other types of cells to form hair follicles, sweat glands, teeth and nails," said Dr Denis Headon, who led the research. "Which cells are transformed into hair follicles is determined by three proteins that are produced by our genes.

"Our research has identified how one of these proteins working outside of the cell interacts at a molecular level to determine an individual's hair pattern as the embryonic skin spatially organises itself".

The team found that cells given the genetic command to become hair follicles will send out signals to neighbouring cells to prevent them from doing likewise, so producing a specific hair pattern.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 27, 2006, 9:18 PM CT

Low Altitude Flying With Coarse Maps

Low Altitude Flying With Coarse Maps This image provides views of Earth from the Moon on 2 September
What exactly determines the time of the SMART-1 impact? What causes the uncertainty in the impact time?

The SMART-1 spacecraft is currently expected to impact the Moon's surface on 3 September 2006, at 07:41 CEST (05:41 UT). However, it is also possible that the small satellite hits the Moon on the previous orbit at 02:37 CEST (00:37 UT). Why?

The time of impact has been determined by orbit predictions following the major thruster manoeuvres performed from 23 June to 2 July 2006 (plus a few trajectory correction manoeuvres performed on 27 and 28 July 2006) - aimed at changing the impact site from the lunar far-side to the lunar near-side, taking into account the Sun-Earth-Moon gravity perturbations. These make the SMART-1 orbit perilune (point of closest approach to the lunar surface) naturally drift down about one kilometre per orbit.

In determining the impact orbit, ESA's spacecraft control experts are also taking into account the tiny perturbations to the trajectory induced by the small hydrazine thrusters to offload the spacecraft reaction wheels, and some slight additional gravity perturbations. An additional slot is also available for a corrective manoeuvre on 1 and 2 September 2006 if needed, to maintain the impact time as planned and allow ground based observations.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 27, 2006, 9:01 PM CT

Turning Fuel Ethanol Into Beverage Alcohol

Turning Fuel Ethanol Into Beverage Alcohol
Fuel ethanol could be cheaply and quickly converted into the purer, cleaner alcohol that goes into alcoholic drinks, cough medicines, mouth washes and other products requiring food-grade alcohol, say Iowa State University researchers.

But there's still a lot of purifying and studying to be done before fuel made from corn is turned into your next vodka or mixed into your morning mouth wash.

Jacek Koziel, an Iowa State assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, is leading a research project that's attempting to develop and refine two technologies that work together to efficiently purify and remove bad-tasting components from fuel ethanol. The project is partially supported by a $79,900 grant from the state's Grow Iowa Values Fund.

Koziel is collaborating on the project with Hans van Leeuwen, the vice president of MellO3z, a Cedar Rapids company that has developed technology for purifying alcoholic beverages. Van Leeuwen is also an Iowa State professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering.

Iowa certainly has an abundance of fuel ethanol for the scientists to work with. Iowa is the country's leading producer of fuel ethanol. The Iowa Corn Promotion Board says the state has 25 plants capable of producing 1.5 billion gallons per year with more plants on the way.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


August 27, 2006, 8:50 PM CT

Forecast Accuracy Gets Boost

Forecast Accuracy Gets Boost
An advanced forecasting model that predicts several types of extreme weather with substantially improved accuracy has been adopted for day-to-day operational use by civilian and military weather forecasters. The new computer model was created through a partnership that includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and more than 150 other organizations and universities in the United States and abroad.

The high-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) is the first model to serve as both the backbone of the nation's public weather forecasts and a tool for cutting-edge weather research. Because the model fulfills both functions, it is easier for research findings to be translated into improved operational models, leading to better forecasts.

The model was adopted for use by NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) as the primary model for its one-to-three-day U.S. forecasts and as a key part of the NWS's ensemble modeling system for short-range forecasts. The U.S. Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) also has used WRF for several areas of operations around the world.

"The Weather Research and Forecasting model development project is the first time researchers and operational scientists have come together to collaborate on a weather modeling project of this magnitude," says Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 27, 2006, 8:03 PM CT

Remote Island Provides Clues On Population Growth

Remote Island Provides Clues On Population Growth
Halfway between South America and New Zealand, in the remote South Pacific, is Rapa. This horseshoe-shaped, 13.5 square-mile island of volcanic origin, located essentially in the middle of nowhere, is "a microcosm of the world's situation," says a University of Oregon archaeologist.

Until only recently, little was known about the French Polynesian Island, where the current population is less than 500. Archaeological, linguistic and genetic data suggest that the island, like much of East Polynesia, was inhabited in a final pulse of colonization by seafaring travelers who originated from Island Southeast Asia. New research, led by the University of Oregon's Douglas Kennett, has shed fresh new light on Rapa, especially on what life may have been like for as many as 1,500 to 2,000 people who lived there before the arrival of European explorers.

Kennett's team, which included researchers from three institutions, reported in the recent issue of the journal Antiquity that Polynesians arrived on the island around A.D. 1200, much later than long assumed. The settlers spread across the island, splintering from a shoreline-based society into competing groups that built and likely defended a growing number of spectacular fortifications carved from mountaintops in the years before English explorer George Vancouver sailed by in 1791, ushering in European contact.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


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