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August 2, 2006, 6:44 AM CT

15 Billion Kms And Counting

15 Billion Kms And Counting
The Voyager 1 spacecraft set off from the Earth in 1977 and has clocked up quite a few miles since. On 16th August it is due to reach a whopping 100 AU - 14,959,787,069 km or 9,295,573,000 miles - from the Sun. Eventhough 15 billion kilometres is peanuts by the standards of our local stars, that is well beyond all the planets in our Solar System and is the furthest that any artificial object from the Earth has ever been.

Voyager 1 is now heading away from the Sun at a speedy 17 km/s (38,250 mph) through the heliosheath and should pass beyond the heliopause - the point where the wind from the Sun is balanced by the wind from other stars which demarks interstellar space - within the next 10 years. The flight controllers expect that Voyager 1 (and Voyager 2) will still keep returning data up until 2020, so hopefully our first interstellar travellers will then be able to send back some interesting information about the heliopause.

For more information listen to a nice JPL podcast (13.3 MB).........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 1, 2006, 11:37 PM CT

Threats To Planet's Life

Threats To Planet's Life
In a report released recently, scientists call for a new systematic study of the Earth's "critical zone"--the life-sustaining outermost surface of the planet, from the vegetation canopy to groundwater and everything in between.Understanding and predicting responses to global and regional change is necessary, they say, to mitigate the impacts of humans on complex ecosystems and ultimately sustain food production.

"Development is having a great effect on the critical zone," said soil scientist Donald Sparks of the University of Delaware and co-chair of the NSF workshop that led to the report, entitled Frontiers in Exploration of the Critical Zone. "Converting some of the best land around the world into buildings, roads and concrete has implications for air and water quality and biodiversity, and over time could put pressure on our ability to produce food.

Critical zone sites include an extraordinary diversity of soils and ecosystems ranging from the tropics to the poles, from deserts to wetlands, and from rock-bound uplands to delta sediments.

"Because the critical zone includes air, water and soil and is the focal point of food production, it has a major effect on human life," Sparks said. "It is imperative that we better understand the interactions that occur there".........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 1, 2006, 11:33 PM CT

Underwater Robots Work Together

Underwater Robots Work Together
This August in Monterey Bay, Calif., an entire fleet of undersea robots will for the first time work together without the aid of humans to make detailed and efficient observations of the ocean.

The oceanographic test bed in Monterey is expected to yield rich information in particular about a periodic upwelling of cold water that occurs at this time of year near Point Año Nuevo, northwest of Monterey Bay.

But the project has potentially larger implications. It may lead to the development of robot fleets that forecast ocean conditions and better protect endangered marine animals, track oil spills, and guide military operations at sea. Moreover, the mathematical system that allows the undersea robots to self-choreograph their movements in response to their environment might one day power other robotic teams that -- without human supervision -- could explore not just oceans, but deserts, rain forests and even other planets.

In addition, the ability to coordinate autonomous vehicles -- a challenge inspired by the grace of bird flocks and fish schools -- may give biologists greater insight into the highly efficient behaviors of animals.

The August field experiment is the centerpiece of a three-year program known as Adaptive Sampling and Prediction (ASAP), which is funded by the Office of Naval Research. The two co-leaders of ASAP are Naomi Ehrich Leonard of Princeton University and Steven Ramp of the Naval Postgraduate School.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 1, 2006, 11:23 PM CT

98 Per Cent Of Gaza's Children Experience Or Witness War Trauma

98 Per Cent Of Gaza's Children Experience Or Witness War Trauma Courtesy Social Program Evaluation Group
Most children in the Gaza Strip have been tear gassed, have had their homes searched and damaged, and have witnessed shooting, fighting and explosions. Many have been injured or tortured as a result of chronic war that spans generations, says a recent Queen's University study.

According to the study, there is a pattern of violence against Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip that has serious and debilitating psychiatric and psychological effects.

"Gaza has been an occupied territory for a long time, and still is; Israel controls its borders, its air and water access. It has been described as a vast open-air detention centre" says Queen's community health and epidemiology researcher John Pringle. "Bombs are being launched into Gaza during this latest eruption of Middle East violence, but are being ignored in light of other crises".

The Psychological Effects of War on Palestinian Children is Pringle's Master's thesis and the only study of its kind, analyzing data from The Gaza Child Health Survey to describe relationships between war trauma and psychological problems in children.

According to the study, a child in Gaza who has had a severe head injury has 4 times the risk of emotional disorder. A child who has been severely beaten has 3.9 times the risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A child who has witnessed friends injured or killed has 13 times the risk of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A child in a refugee camp has 5 times a greater chance of witnessing traumatic events and 4 times a greater chance of direct physical trauma.........

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August 1, 2006, 11:14 PM CT

Locating Storm-Fueling Moisture

Locating Storm-Fueling Moisture
People planning ball games, picnics, and other outdoor events may soon have more precise short-term forecasts of rainfall, thanks to an observing strategy now being tested by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). An NCAR field project this summer is, for the first time, using multiple Doppler weather radars to track water vapor in the lower atmosphere. Measuring the low-level moisture is expected to help forecasters pin down the locations and timing of storms that might rage a few minutes to a few hours later.

The project is named REFRACTT (Refractivity Experiment For H2O Research And Collaborative operational Technology Transfer). Researchers are measuring changes in the speed of radar signals caused by refraction, which in turn reveal the presence or absence of atmospheric moisture. If the project proves successful, this refractivity technique could be added in the next few years to the national network of Doppler radars operated by NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS).

"Nobody's ever seen such high-resolution data on moisture before. We believe this could greatly help forecasters predict where heavy rains might develop," says NCAR scientist Rita Roberts, the lead principal investigator for REFRACTT.

REFRACTT runs from June 5 to August 11 and is being funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's primary sponsor. Along with four radars, scientists are using computer models, satellites, NCAR radionsondes (weather balloons), and ground-based sensors that intercept Global Positioning System signals and infer atmospheric moisture.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 1, 2006, 10:14 PM CT

New Shuffle-lookalike UP3

New Shuffle-lookalike UP3
Do you still remember LG's Shuffle-lookalike UP3? Well, the Korean giant has just another added two members into this series, which are UP3 Flat and UP3 Sharp accordingly.

LG UP3 Flat is a screen-less MP3 player but just LED indicators. It does playback MP3, WMA (DRM supported), OGG, and ASF audio. Its built-in battery allows up to 10 hours of playback continously. The dimension of UP3 Flat is 78 x 24 x 9.5mm.

On the other hand, UP3 Sharp comes with a OLED display. Most of the features are same as Up3 Flat, except the UP3 Sharp has only 8 hours of battery life and a dimension of 85 x 25 x 10mm. Althought it is said to be used patented fingerprint-resistant material as its case, it seems doesn't work at all.

Both models are available 512MB and 1GB. They are expected to be released in the end of this July.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 1, 2006, 9:54 PM CT

Google Vision concept

Google Vision concept
I was recently given a pack of exotic fruit by a friend of mine who didn't know the popular name for it. And the next day, in my quest to dig out the name, I googled and googled and googled. in vain. But I guess most folks would empathize with me because I really didn't have an exact idea about what I was searching for.

So this new concept proposed by UK designer Callum Peden, called Google Vision, really excites me. It's a concept for a new googling device that will provide you with information about real-world objects based on the pictures that you take of the objects and feed into the device. In my case, if I could feed the photos of the fruit into this device, it would map the fruit with its actual name, origin and other relevant information (similar to Wikipedia) based on built-in image recognition mechanisms. The information would then be displayed on its roll-out LCD screen. The device will only make use of already existing technologies and building it would just mean putting all the parts together. Cool, huh? If Google (or anybody else) would sponsor this device, it would take google search out of the computer and into your hands. Literally.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 1, 2006, 7:13 AM CT

Species unique to tidal marshes face extinction

Species unique to tidal marshes face extinction
Tidal marshes occur in mid to high latitudes, along coasts that are protected within estuaries or behind barrier islands. They are most common in North America and China. Some tidal marsh species are protected from high salinity by relatively impermeable skin, and others have kidneys that can concentrate salts from large volumes of water or specialized glands that exude salt. A number of are gray or black in color, which is thought to bean advantage because it matches the dark color of the soils often found in tidal marshes. Why endemic tidal marsh species seem to be largely restricted to North America--which has 24 of the worldwide total of 25--is not clear. Eventhough it could reflect differing taxonomic practices in different countries, it may be correlation to the history of glaciation or of agriculture.
Endemic tidal marsh species are vulnerable to coastal development and to sea level rise, both of which are rapidly reducing the area of tidal marshes. They are also threatened by toxic wastes and invasive species. Greenberg and his coauthors argue for an expanded research program to try to understand how species will respond to these threats.

BioScience publishes commentary and peer-evaluated articles covering a wide range of biological fields, with a focus on Organisms from Molecules to the Environment. The journal has been published since 1964 by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents some 200 member societies and organizations with a combined membership of about 250,000.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


July 31, 2006, 11:03 PM CT

On The Trail Of Columbus' Sunken Ships

On The Trail Of Columbus' Sunken Ships
A 300-pound kedge anchor is about to be brought to the surface.
As luck would have it, time ran short, and the silt and mud in La Isabela Bay on the north coast of the Dominican Republic ran deep.

Despite these setbacks, Indiana University archaeologists are confident they are closer to discovering some of Christopher Columbus' lost ships -- and the answer to a 500-year-old mystery, "What was on those ships?".

"The discovery of a Columbus shipwreck, let alone the finding of the flagship Mariagalante, would be a tremendous contribution to maritime archaeology," said Charles Beeker, director of Academic Diving and Underwater Science Programs in IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "Perhaps more important would be the cargo. Were the ships laden with native Taino Indian artifacts heading to Spain? Such a find would shed new light on the nature of the contact period between the Old and the New Worlds".

Earlier this summer, Beeker and Geoffrey Conrad, director of IUB's Mathers Museum of World Cultures, took a team of faculty and graduate students to the Dominican Republic to explore intriguing magnetometer anomalies the IU researchers had discovered 10 years ago. The readings suggest large objects buried under silt and mud, and within coral colonies. The readings indicate also that the objects are scattered -- similar to how a shipwreck, or several for that matter, would appear -- in a 75-square-meter area.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


July 31, 2006, 10:28 PM CT

Summer Program For Young Researchers

Summer Program For Young Researchers
Celina Dozier, a chemical engineering major from Florida A&M University, has always known she wanted to come to MIT. This summer, thanks to the MIT Summer Research Program, she put her plan into action.

"There are so a number of resources here at MIT that we do not have at my university," said Dozier, who is spending her summer working on a research project in chemical engineering with Professor Paula Hammond and graduate student Marianne Terrot.

Dozier is at MIT along with 57 other university students from around the world as part of the annual MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP). The 2006 program started June 12 and runs through Aug. 13. MSRP interns work for two months with MIT faculty mentors on research projects in their respective fields.

Started in 1986, MSRP was part of an institutional effort to address the small numbers of African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans and Puerto Ricans in engineering and science in the United States. In the past 20 years, 450 interns have gone through the program.

Over the years the program has grown and expanded. Now it is open to students with a broad array of backgrounds. In the past two years, MSRP has also doubled its enrollment with close to 60 interns participating in both 2005 and 2006.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


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