Monday, January 31, 2011

Tracking the origins of speedy space particles

NASA - This is an artist's rendition of the five THEMIS space spacecraft traveling through the magnetic field lines around Earth.

NASA's Time History of Events and Macroscale Interaction during Substorms THEMIS spacecraft combined with computer models have helped track the origin of the energetic particles in Earth's magnetic atmosphere that appear during a kind of space weather called a substorm. Understanding the source of such particles and how they are shuttled through Earth's atmosphere is crucial to better understanding the Sun's complex space weather system and thus protect satellites or even humans in space.

The results show that these speedy electrons gain extra energy from changing magnetic fields far from the origin of the substorm that causes them.

THEMIS, which consists of five orbiting satellites, helped provide these insights when three of the spacecraft traveled through a large substorm on February 15, 2008. This allowed scientists to track changes in particle energy over a large distance. The observations were consistent with numerical models showing an increase in energy due to changing magnetic fields, a process known as betatron acceleration."The origin of fast electrons in substorms has been a puzzle," says Maha Ashour-Abdalla, the lead author of a Nature Physics paper that appeared online on January 30, 2011 on the subject and a physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles. "It hasn't been clear until now if they got their burst of speed in the middle of the storm, or from some place further away.

... "When the team looked at their models they saw that electrons near the reconnection sites didn't gain much energy. But as they looked closer to Earth, where the THEMIS satellites were located, their model showed particles that had some ten times as much energy – just as THEMIS had in fact observed.This is consistent with the betatron acceleration model. The electrons gain a small amount of energy from the reconnection and then travel toward Earth, crossing many changing magnetic field lines. These fields produce betatronic acceleration just as Kivelson predicted in the early 1980s, speeding the electrons up substantially. ...

via Tracking the origins of speedy space particles.

Two Simultaneous Major Eruptions on the Sun 28th began with not one but two major eruptions on the sun. Separated by more than a million kilometers, the two blasts occurred almost simultaneously on opposite corners of the solar disk....

On the lower left, a magnetic filament became unstable and erupted, hurling a portion of itself into space

. On the upper right, departing sunspot 1149 produced an M1-class solar flare and a bright coronal mass ejection (SOHO movie). Is this all a big coincidence? Maybe not. New research shows that eruptions on the sun can "go global" with widely separated blasts unfolding in concert as they trigger and feed off of one another.

These blasts are going to miss in concert, too. Plasma clouds ejected by the two eruptions will sail wide of our planet, one on the left and one on the right. No Earth-effects are expected; maybe next time.

via Time Machine.

Mummy fried - woman sets fire to house while trying to reanimate long-dead sister

A night fire in an apartment block has been caused by a woman who tried to reanimate her long-dead elder sister with electricity.

­The horrific story happened in Ekaterinburg, the biggest city in the Urals.

The suspected arsonist, 69, apparently was not completely of sound mind, judging by her mental health record.

A year ago, her 73-year-old sister died from natural causes, prosecutors told Noviy Region news agency. However, instead of reporting the death, the woman preserved the body with gasoline and had been trying the reanimate it ever since.

Her last macabre experiment on Tuesday night involved “jump starting” the mummified corpse with two wires connecting the body’s hand and neck to the mains.

Despite what Frankenstein movies suggest, the electric current did not revive the body, instead setting it on fire.

The surviving sister is now in hospital suffering from burns and smoke inhalation. ...

via Mummy fried - woman sets fire to house while trying to reanimate long-dead sister — RT.

Body snatchers steal dead Italian game show host

Mike Bongiorno /PAPolice are investigating after the body of Italy's best-loved TV quiz show host was stolen from its tomb.

Detectives believe the thieves plan to ransom the remains of Mike Bongiorno, Italy's equivalent of Bruce Forsyth.

Credited with pioneering the quiz show format in the 1950s, Bongiorno died of a heart attack in Sept 2009 at the age of 85.

Thieves broke into his tomb in a cemetery on the shores of Lake Maggiore, north of Milan, and removed his coffin.

His eldest son, Michele, said his family were "shocked and horrified" by the discovery. "Words cannot describe how we feel," he said.

Former singer and television star, Iva Zanicchi, now an MEP, described the theft as "monstrous".

Instead of Bruce Forsyth's "Nice to see you, to see you - nice!", Bongiorno's trademark greeting was "Allegria!" (Happiness!)

Flanked by bikini-clad showgirls, he presented shows such as the Italian version of Wheel of Fortune and Beat the Clock.

Such was his standing that he was given a state funeral in Milan which was attended by thousands of mourners, including Silvio Berlusconi. ...

via Thieves steal body of Italian Brucie | Orange UK.

"Ship" reaches "Mars" after 233 days with no women

The 'spaceship' for the simulated journey to Mars More than 40 years after Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the surface of the moon, the multinational crew of Russia's Mars 500 experiment will finally leave their spaceship in the coming weeks, and venture out – into an adjacent sandpit.

The "spaceship" for the simulated journey to Mars is in fact a cylindrical metal pod located in a scientific institute in north Moscow. For the last 233 days the six crew members have been locked inside to simulate the conditions of a trip to Mars. After their gruelling eight-month "journey", the crew will begin their orbit of the Red Planet on 1 February, and will touch down on 12 February.

They will step out into the sandpit, meant to simulate the surface of Mars, and perform a number of experiments, before re-entering the capsule for the long journey back to Earth.

"They are still motivated, but there is a certain fatigue, which is natural," said Boris Morukov, the mission director and a former cosmonaut. Talking to reporters in Moscow yesterday, he admitted that as the landing came and went and the crew prepared for another long stint inside the module, monotony would become difficult to bear. "The fatigue and the thought that the mission is over can be fraught with negative consequences."

The crew have no access to telephones, televisions or any other conveniences, and they are only able to make contact with the control room through emails, which are subject to an increasing time delay the "further away" they get from Earth.

Six men live on board the stationary spaceship – three from Russia, one each from France and China, and one Italian-Columbian. In a recent online blog, the French participant, Romain Charles, explained how the crew celebrated Christmas: "For a good Christmas ambience we needed a fireplace. This kind of device is quite difficult to find in a spaceship," wrote the almost-astronaut.

"However, Diego had the solution to our problem. He found a picture of a fireplace and printed a big poster of it." The crew also made a Christmas tree out of cardboard.

Nearly 6,000 people applied to take part in the project, and 20 per cent of them were women. The applicants were whittled down to a shortlist of 15, before the final six – all of whom were men – were chosen.

"There was no policy not to take women, and there were female candidates," said Mr Morukov yesterday. "But there is a certain psychological barrier for women – it's difficult for them to leave the environment that they are used to," he claimed. ...

via Out of the spaceship – and into a sandpit - Science, News - The Independent.

Black Widow attempted New Year Moscow attack but blew herself up by mistake

Russians celebrate the New Year on Red Square in MoscowThe woman intended to detonate a suicide belt on a busy square near Red Square on New Year's Eve in an attack that could have killed hundreds ...

The unnamed woman, who is thought to be part of the same group that struck Moscow's Domodedovo airport on Monday, intended to detonate a suicide belt on a busy square near Red Square on New Year's Eve in an attack that could have killed hundreds.

Security sources believe a spam message from her mobile phone operator wishing her a happy new year received just hours before the planned attack triggered her suicide belt, killing her but nobody else.

She was at her Moscow safe house at the time getting ready with two accomplices, both of whom survived and were seen fleeing the scene.

Islamist terrorists in Russia often use cheap unused mobile phones as detonators. The bomber's handler, who is usually watching their charge, sends the bomber a text message in order to set off his or her explosive belt at the moment when it is thought they can inflict maximum casualties.

The phones are usually kept switched off until the very last minute but in this case, Russian security sources believe, the terrorists were careless. ...

via Black Widow attempted New Year Moscow attack but blew herself up by mistake - Telegraph.

Yeah, that will make people think twice about getting together in large groups, such as protests and such.

Mystery of 200 Dead Cows in Wisconsin "Solved"

Dead CowsHugh Collins - Authorities investigating the deaths of 200 cows in Wisconsin have come up with an unlikely culprit: the sweet potato.

The cows were found dead in a Stockton pasture two weeks ago. Locals were left scratching their heads about what caused the mass die-off.

Investigators from the University of Wisconsin have determined that the animals were killed by a poison found in spoiled sweet potatoes that were part of the cattle's feed.

"It is likely that a mycotoxin from moldy sweet potato was a major factor in the disease and deaths of these steers," said Peter Vanderloo, associate director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

There's been a spate of mass animal deaths in recent weeks, from fish in Maryland and Arkansas to birds in Louisiana and South Dakota.

The farmer who owned the cows had thought they might have fallen victim to disease such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, according to The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune. Vanderloo and his team ruled that out.

"None of the major respiratory pathogens of cattle were identified in the samples provided to the lab," said Vanderloo.

He also explained that the toxic sweet potatoes were not in the human food supply chain, so there was no threat to people. ...

via Mystery of 200 Dead Cows in Wisconsin Solved.

Travis Walter Donovan - 200 cows were found dead Friday on a farm in Portage County, Wisconsin. The dead cows had to be removed with semi-trucks. The rest of the farm has not been quarantined, as officials say no threat is posed toward humans or other animals, according the The AP.

The owner of the dead cows was working with a local veterinarian, who initially believed a virus such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) or bovine virus diarrhea (BVD) could be the culprit, according to The Wausau Daily Herald. WSAW News reports that more recent updates have suggested pneumonia as the cause of the mass cow deaths, though such widespread cases of pneumonia are rare. Tests are still underway to determine what is responsible. See WSAW's full video report here.

Though likely unrelated, many other incidents of mass animal deaths have been reported in the U.S. and around the world in the past month.  ...- via HuffingtonPost

Is that "Solved" or "given a reason to be ignored"? Let's hope the sweet potato answer is right, because otherwise that UFO spotted emitting a death ray that killed fish has now been tuned to kill large mammals. How long do we have?

Adam Potter and the 1,000ft Mountain Fall Survival

Ben Nevis and the Carn Mor Dearg areteA climber who fell 1,000ft (300 metres) down the face of a Scottish mountain was found by a rescue helicopter, standing up and studying a map and suffering only cuts and bruises.

The 36-year-old man, who has been named as Adam Potter, from Glasgow, was in a group of four climbers who reached the 3,589ft summit of Sgurr Choinnich Mor, about five miles from Ben Nevis, early yesterday afternoon, when he lost his footing and fell. He was kept overnight at the Southern General hospital, in Glasgow, for observation for injuries that were said to be "non life-threatening".

Police said Potter was happy for his name to be released but would not be giving any interviews. They described him as "the very fortunate climber".

His first piece of good fortune was that a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter was already in the air on a training exercise and arrived at the scene only 35 minutes later.

The rest of the group pointed rescuers in the direction of Potter's fall, down the steep and craggy eastern slope of the mountain.

When they spotted somebody standing far below at 792.5 metres and beneath three high craggy outcrops, they assumed it must be the wrong man and flew back to the summit, where they saw bits of Potter's kit scattered in a vertical line down the face of the mountain.

A paramedic was winched down to check him and found him bruised, with a minor chest injury and some superficial cuts, although he was described as "shaking from extreme emotional shock and the sheer relief of still being alive".

"We honestly thought it couldn't have been him as he was on his feet, reading a map," Lieutenant Tim Barker, the observer for the crew from HMS Gannet, based in Prestwick, Ayrshire, said. "It was quite incredible. He must have literally glanced off the outcrops as he fell, almost flying."

Potter was winched on board the helicopter, where he was checked again by a doctor before being transferred to hospital in Glasgow. ...

via Climber found alive and standing after 1,000ft mountain fall | UK news |

Amazing, but the story above doesn't say if he was perhaps waving a short stick and muttering "Wingardium Leviosa" when they found him. ;-)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Free Music MP3 - Major Tom Saves The Earth

There are several songs I like about a character named Major Tom, the first was by David Bowie and then the one by Peter Schilling, called Major Tom Returns.
[Major Tom Returns by Schilling] is ...  a follow-up to David Bowie's 1969 song "Space Oddity," and continues the story of Major Tom, an astronaut who cuts off communication with Earth and floats into space.  ...

Bowie released his own sequel to "Space Oddity" in 1980 called "Ashes To Ashes," where Major Tom reestablishes communication with Earth.  - songfacts

My song "Home to You" is another adventure of Major Tom.

It is the year 3066. The Major has survived in top health as part of a human regeneration experiment.  As the most experienced person for the job, he is sent in an experimental ship to divert a solar flare which is about to destroy the earth. While on the mission, he is virtually projected at the same time so he is with his wife in the underground bunker waiting for the end. He saves the earth, but there is a problem and he gets thrown back in time to an earth with dinosaurs.

Download: Home to You (Major Tom Saves The Earth) by Xeno.

Another weird reason I wanted to write this song is that David Bowie and I share the same birthday with Elvis (Jan 8th).

If anyone can reach David Bowie, I'd love to thank him for the inspiration have him hear the song. I couldn't find his email address. Perhaps one of you who is already a premium member of his site could pass on a link to this blog entry.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Without Internet, Egyptians find new ways to get online

Nancy Gohring and Robert McMillan - "When countries block, we evolve," an activist with the group We Rebuild wrote in a Twitter message Friday.

That's just what many Egyptians have been doing this week, as groups like We Rebuild scramble to keep the country connected to the outside world, turning to landline telephones, fax machines and even ham radio to keep information flowing in and out of the country.

Although one Internet service provider -- Noor Group -- remains in operation, Egypt's government abruptly ordered the rest of the country's ISPs to shut down their services just after midnight local time Thursday. Mobile networks have also been turned off in some areas. The blackout appears designed to disrupt organization of the country's growing protest movement, which is calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"[B]asically, there are three ways of getting information out right now -- get access to the Noor ISP (which has about 8 percent of the market), use a land line to call someone, or use dial-up," Jillian York, a researcher with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said via e-mail.

Egyptians with dial-up modems get no Internet connection when they call into their local ISP, but calling an international number to reach a modem in another country gives them a connection to the outside world.

We Rebuild is looking to expand those dial-up options. It has set up a dial-up phone number in Sweden and is compiling a list of other numbers Egyptians can call. It is distributing information about its activities on a Wiki page. ...

via Without Internet, Egyptians find new ways to get online - Computerworld.

Fears of anarchy and looting linger as new day dawns in Egypt

Fires burn in the National Democratic Party ruling party headquarters, after it was set alight by anti-government protesters, in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)Fires burn in the National Democratic Party ruling party headquarters, after it was set alight by anti-government protesters, in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. - via washpost

Fear of anarchy and looting lingered in Egypt on Sunday, with many streets in the nation's capital left without security after police stopped patrolling.

"It seems that every major square and every small street in Cairo was basically taken over by communities ... people are parading the streets, walking around with baseball bats and knives," said Ahmed Rehab of the Council on American Islamic Relations from Cairo. "We didn't get any sleep all night."

As President Hosni Mubarak clung to power and tried to redeem his 30-year rule, the world's attention fell on central Cairo, where the army was deployed to replace police forces that clashed brutally with demonstrators.

Tanks and troops continued to stand guard in the streets Sunday morning, but it was unclear how large protests would be.

The powerful Egyptian army, deployed to the streets for the first time since the mid-1980s, is much more respected than the police, and many protesters have embraced their presence. But whether the 450,000-strong armed forces will remain loyal to Mubarak is key for the nation's future. ...

via Fears of anarchy and looting linger as new day dawns in Egypt -

dozens of would-be thieves started entering the grounds surrounding the museum, climbing over the metal fence or jumping inside from trees lining the sidewalk outside.One man pleaded with people outside the museum's gates on Tahrir Square not to loot the building, shouting at the crowd: "We are not like Baghdad." After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, thieves carted off thousands of artifacts from the National Museum in Baghdad - only a fraction of which have been recovered.

Suddenly other young men - some armed with truncheons taken from the police - formed a human chain outside the main entrance in an attempt to protect the collection inside.

"I'm standing here to defend and to protect our national treasure," said one of the men, Farid Saad, a 40-year-old engineer.

Another man, 26-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim, said it was important to guard the museum because it "has 5,000 years of our history. If they steal it, we'll never find it again."

Finally, four armored vehicles took up posts outside the massive coral-colored building in downtown Cairo. Soldiers surrounded the building and moved inside to protect mummies, monumental stone statues, ornate royal jewelry and other pharaonic artifacts.

The soldiers appeared to have rounded up all the would-be looters who made it onto the museum grounds ...

via WashPost

Learn more quickly by transcranial magnetic brain stimulation

Dr. Klaus Funke - What sounds like science fiction is actually possible: thanks to magnetic stimulation, the activity of certain brain nerve cells can be deliberately influenced. What happens in the brain in this context has been unclear up to now. Medical experts from Bochum under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Klaus Funke (Department of Neurophysiology) have now shown that various stimulus patterns changed the activity of distinct neuronal cell types. In addition, certain stimulus patterns led to rats learning more easily. The knowledge obtained could contribute to cerebral stimulation being used more purposefully in future to treat functional disorders of the brain. The researchers have published their studies in the Journal of Neuroscience and in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

...Since the mid-1990's, repetitive TMS has been used to make purposeful changes to the activability of nerve cells in the human cortex: "In general, the activity of the cells drops as a result of a low-frequency stimulation, i.e. with one magnetic pulse per second. At higher frequencies from five to 50 pulses per second, the activity of the cells increases", explained Prof. Funke. Above all, the researchers are specifically addressing with the effects of specific stimulus patterns like the so-called theta burst stimulation (TBS), in which 50 Hz bursts are repeated with 5 Hz. "This rhythm is based on the natural theta rhythm of four to seven Hertz which can be observed in an EEG", says Funke. The effect is above all dependent on whether such stimulus patterns are provided continuously (cTBS, attenuating effect) or with interruptions (intermittent, iTBS, strengthening effect).

... It is unknown to a great extent how precisely the activity of nerve cells is changed by repeated stimulation. It is assumed that the contact points (synapses) between the cells are strengthened (synaptic potentation) or weakened (synaptic depression) as a result of the repeated stimulation, a process which also plays an important role in learning. Some time ago, it was also shown that the effects of TMS and learning interact in humans. ...

via Learn more quickly by transcranial magnetic brain stimulation.

Is there a rebound effect where you learn more slowly than normal after doing this for a while?

'Air laser' may sniff bombs, pollutants from a distance

Researchers at Princeton University developed a technique for generating a laser beam out of nothing but air. They focus a pump laser on a distant point in the air and another laser beam comes back. The image shows a pulse of infra-red light from this "air laser." The center region represents the highest intensity; the outer areas have lower intensity light. The technique could be used for sensing minute quantities of gas in the air from a distance.


Princeton University engineers have developed a new laser sensing technology that may allow soldiers to detect hidden bombs from a distance and scientists to better measure airborne environmental pollutants and greenhouse gasses.

"We are able to send a laser pulse out and get another pulse back from the air itself," said Richard Miles, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, the research group leader and co-author on the paper. "The returning beam interacts with the molecules in the air and carries their finger prints."

The new technique differs from previous remote laser-sensing methods in that the returning beam of light is not just a reflection or scattering of the outgoing beam. It is an entirely new laser beam generated by oxygen atoms whose electrons have been "excited" to high energy levels. This "air laser" is a much more powerful tool than previously existed for remote measurements of trace amounts of chemicals in the air. ...

via 'Air laser' may sniff bombs, pollutants from a distance.

Friday, January 28, 2011

DNA caught rock 'n rollin'

DNA, that marvelous, twisty molecule of life, has an alter ego, research at the University of Michigan and the University of California, Irvine reveals.

On rare occasions, its building blocks "rock and roll," deforming the familiar double helix into a different shape.

"We show that the simple DNA double helix exists in an alternative form—for one percent of the time—and that this alternative form is functional," said Hashim M. Al-Hashimi, who is the Robert L. Kuczkowski Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Biophysics at U-M. "Together, these data suggest that there are multiple layers of information stored in the genetic code." The findings were published online Jan. 26 in the journal Nature.

It's been known for some time that the DNA molecule can bend and flex, something like a rope ladder, but throughout these gyrations its building blocks—called bases—remain paired up just the way they were originally described by James Watson and Francis Crick, who proposed the spiral-staircase structure in 1953. By adapting nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology, Al-Hashimi's group was able to observe transient, alternative forms in which some steps on the stairway come apart and reassemble into stable structures other than the typical Watson-Crick base pairs. ...

Because critical interactions between DNA and proteins are thought to be directed by both the sequence of bases and the flexing of the molecule, these excited states represent a whole new level of information contained in the genetic code, Al-Hashimi said. ...

via DNA caught rock 'n rollin'.

... A Hoogsteen base pair is a variation of base-pairing in nucleic acids such as the A•T pair. In this manner, two nucleobases on each strand can be held together by hydrogen bonds in the major groove. A Hoogsteen base pair applies the N7 position of the purine base (as a hydrogen bond acceptor) and C6 amino group (as a donor), which bind the Watson-Crick (N3–N4) face of the pyrimidine base.

- via Wikipedia

We are so complicated.

Powerful 3-D X-rays for kids in braces should be the exception, not the rule

—Some orthodontists may be exposing young patients to unnecessary radiation when they order 3-D X-ray imaging for simple orthodontic cases before considering traditional 2-D imaging, suggests a paper published by University of Michigan faculty.

There is ongoing debate in the orthodontic community over if and when to use cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) for orthodontic diagnosis and treatment planning, said Dr. Sunil Kapila, lead author of the paper and chair of the Department of Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry at the U-M School of Dentistry.

A very small number of orthodontists utilize the 3-D imaging on a routine basis when developing a treatment plan, and this raises concerns of unnecessary radiation exposure. In contrast, the evidence summarized in Kapila's paper suggests that 2-D imaging would suffice in most routine orthodontic cases. One of the tradeoffs for the superb 3-D images is higher radiation exposure, Kapila said.

The amount of radiation produced by 3D CBCT imaging varies substantially depending on the machine used and the field of view exposed, and some clinicians may not realize how much higher that radiation is compared to conventional radiographs. One CBCT image can emit 87 to 200 microsieverts or more compared to 4 to 40 microsieverts for an entire series of 2-D X-rays required for orthodontic diagnosis, Kapila said. ...

via Powerful 3-D X-rays for kids in braces should be the exception, not the rule.

Berlin's Pergamon Museum exhibits Tell Halaf statues

StatueHow do you do a jig-saw puzzle of 27,000 pieces? In three dimensions?

That's the task a handful of archaeologists in Germany have just completed. It took them nine years, with all the pieces laid out in a room the size of a football field.

They claim to have enjoyed it.

The pieces were the shards of 3,000-year-old sculptures, smashed to smithereens as a result of the British bombing of Berlin in November 1943.

The result - 60 fantastical figures of people, scorpions, lions and birds - now stands in a series of rooms in the city's Pergamon Museum.

Before the war they were the private collection of Max Freiherr von Oppenheim, a member of the banking dynasty, and so rich beyond imagination.

He worked as a diplomat in Cairo, wandering the Middle East to keep his eye on the British who were also keen on a bit of empire-building in the region.

But he was also an archaeologist - a romantic figure comparable to Hollywood's Indiana Jones - and in 1899, near where the Berlin to Baghdad railway was being constructed, he came across the palace of an Aramaean king in what would now be north-east Syria, near the Turkish border.

He sought permission to excavate the site, known as Tell Halaf, between 1911 and 1913. Work started and then stopped because of World War I, but was completed in 1927.

What emerged were the stunning statues of gods and animals, sculpted in basalt.

The finds were divided between the national museum in Aleppo and Oppenheim himself, who took his share home to Berlin, where he created a private museum in an old iron-foundry....

via BBC News - Berlin's Pergamon Museum exhibits Tell Halaf statues.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Russia plans to send piloted rocket to Mars

Russia plans to develop a new super-heavy carrier rocket that will be used to launch piloted spacecraft to Mars.

"The super-heavy carrier rocket will be based on the design of the Angara rocket and its modifications - Amur and Yenisei," Anatoly Kuzin, deputy general director of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, said.

Angara rockets - designed to provide lifting capabilities between 2,000 and 40,500 kg into low earth orbit - are expected to become the core of Russia's carrier rocket fleet, replacing several existing systems.

The rockets have a modular design similar to the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), based on a common Universal Rocket Module (URM).

Russia will start testing first Angara rockets in 2013, while the first piloted mission to Mars under a unified Moon-Mars programme is expected to be launched in 2037.

via Russia plans to send piloted rocket to Mars.

Witnesses: UFO emits light, burns and kills fish near Barrancabermeja, Brazil

In Llanitos neighborhood, north of the city of Barrancabermeja, the collective death of two thousand fish is being attributed by the locals, to aliens. Witnesses said that saw an unidentified object that was hovering above the waters of a mangrove. The UFO emited a bright light and then, in few seconds disappeared. After that, the fish began to appear floating dead in the water. These fish showed signs of burns on the scales and gills.

A woman that is community leader from El Llanitos reported that the apparition of UFO phenomenon's lasted about 20 seconds. In the district of Puente Sogamoso, Puerto Wilches city, others people reported that they also saw the object, which was round and flew over the area with lateral movements.

The Municipal Department of Environment says the deaths are related to lack of oxygen in the waters of the swamp but the Fishermen's Association has rejected this hypothesis claiming that there was never a fish kills like was registered, now, in Barrancabermeja.

Furthermore, there is no known reason for this supposed lack of oxygen in the water. A committee headed by Environment Secretary, Isaac Lopez will inspect the marsh in order to ascertain the real causes of the phenomenon.

Mortandad de Peces en Barrancabermeja es atribuida a fenómeno sobrenatural.
IN RCN Rádio – published in 25/01/2011 [].
Muerte de peces en Colombia es atribuida a "fenómeno sobrenatural".
IN El Universal – published in 25/01/2011. [].

via Brazil Weird News.

Dude. I told you it was aliens testing a species specific death ray.   ;-)  No, but seriously, this is highly weird.  Can anyone who speaks the language check out the links and let us know if the witnesses seem credible?

God tells South Carolina woman to kills and burns 'devil dog' after pup bites bible.

Miriam Fowler Smith, 65, told cops she killed her nephew's pitbull after the animal chewed on her Bible. A South Carolina woman is claiming an act of canine cruelty was simply an act of divine intervention.

Miriam Fowler Smith, 65, told cops on Monday that she hung and burned her nephew's pit bull after the animal took a bite out of her bible.

She claimed God urged her to kill Diamond, a 1-year-old female dog, because the animal was a "devil dog" and would hurt neighborhood children.

Smith was arrested on Sunday and remains in Spartanburg County jail. She could face faces 180 days or up to five years behind bars if she's convicted with felony animal cruelty.

She does not have a lawyer yet.

Authorities said Smith confessed to wrapping an extension cord around Diamond's neck, hung the animal from a tree, and then set the pup on fire.

Andy Fowler, the dog's owner and Smith's nephew, left home on Jan. 9. When he returned on Jan. 15, his beloved dog was missing.

When Fowler confronted his aunt, she admitted to killing the dog, according to cops. ...

Police found the dead canine nearby under a pile of dried grass. Part of the orange cord was still wrapped around the dog's neck. The smell of kerosene lingered in the air, according to animal control's report.

Jaime Nelson, director of the county's Environmental Enforcement Department, said Smith's mental state could affect what type of punishment she receives.

He was shocked by the woman's detached attitude as she recounted the horrific slay. ...

via South Carolina woman, Miriam Fowler Smith, kills nephew's 'devil dog' after pup eats her Bible: cops.

Sex change? Anyway, how such demented individual avoided prison for 65 years is the real mystery. What else did God tell her do? Here are some unsolved murders in the area. Might want to check her back yard.


First Beatles graduate is announced

Beatles graduate Mary-Lu Zahalan-KennedyA Canadian singer has become the first person in the world to graduate with a Masters degree in The Beatles.

Former Miss Canada finalist Mary-Lu Zahalan-Kennedy, 53, was one of the first students to sign up for the course on the Fab Four when it launched at Liverpool Hope University in March 2009.

Twelve full-time students joined the Master of Arts course in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society that year and Mary-Lu is the first from her class to graduate.

She said: "I am so proud of my achievement. The course was challenging, enjoyable and it provided a great insight into the impact The Beatles had and still have to this day across all aspects of life.

"The faculty and students at Liverpool Hope University were crucial in providing an unforgettable experience and their support was invaluable." ...

via First Beatles graduate is announced - Telegraph.

Accused killer: I performed surgery on myself

Image: Tatsuya IchihashiWhile on the lam for 2½ years, a Japanese man wanted for the murder of a British woman says he scissored off his lower lip, dug two moles out of his cheek with a box cutter and gave himself a nose job in an attempt to obscure his identity.

The disclosures come in a book released Wednesday and written from jail by Tatsuya Ichihashi, who will stand trial later this year in the murder and rape of his English teacher, Lindsay Ann Hawker.

Hawker, 22, was found dead in a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony of Ichihashi's apartment in Chiba, east of Tokyo, in March 2007.

Ichihashi, arrested in 2009 after a lengthy nationwide manhunt, admits to taking Hawker's life in the book, "Until the Arrest." But he doesn't describe the crime or his motives, instead detailing his life at large, during which he traveled up and down the country, in constant fear of arrest and obsessed with cosmetic surgery.

While police say Ichihashi has confessed to assaulting Hawker and that she died from her injuries, he won't enter a plea until the trial begins. The details in the book do not take responsibility for anything beyond what Ichihashi has already told investigators. If convicted of murder, he could face the death penalty.

After escaping the police who came to his apartment to question him, he bound up his nose with a thread and needle — like a cook trussing a piece of meat — to make it narrower.

At first, Ichihashi, 32, wandered around Tokyo and then drifted north to Aomori prefecture, where he twice tried to cut off part of his lower lip to make it thinner. The first time, he couldn't follow through because of the excruciating pain, he wrote. He finished it up a few days later in a public bathroom.

He wore several layers of surgical masks to hide the scars, but apparently didn't stand out in the spring when many Japanese do the same to escape pollen. ...

"Having saved nearly 1 million yen ($12,100) from a string of construction jobs, he spent most of it on two plastic surgery operations, once to acquire a longer and narrower nose, and the second to raise the bridge of his nose."

via Accused killer: I performed surgery on myself - World news - Asia-Pacific -

The title and first part of the article are a bit misleading. If you read far enough you see that he had the nose job done at a clinic and this got him reported to the police. Police eventually stopped him on Nov. 10, 2009 at the ferry terminal in Osaka. When asked his name, he "gave his real name for the first time in 2½ years and was arrested." For a while I was trying to figure out how he could do that by himself to nose ...

Hubble telescope detects the oldest known galaxy

The Hubble Space Telescope has detected what scientists bThe Oldest Galaxyelieve may be the oldest galaxy ever observed.

It is thought the galaxy is more than 13 billion years old and existed 480 million years after the Big Bang.

A Nasa team says this was a period when galaxy formation in the early Universe was going into "overdrive".

The image, which has been published in Nature journal, was detected using Hubble's recently installed wide field camera.

According to Professor Richard Bouwens of Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands: "We're seeing these galaxies - 'star cities' - that are building themselves up over cosmic time."

The research team observed rapid growth over a relatively short period of time: Their sample data showed there was just one galaxy in existence about 500 million years after the Big Bang. But this rises to 10 galaxies some 150 million years later. The tally has doubled about 100 million years later.

"You start out with these little seeds in the very early Universe which would eventually have formed stars, then star clusters, baby galaxies then eventually these large majestic galaxies that we know today," according to Professor Bouwens. ...

via BBC News - Hubble telescope detects the oldest known galaxy.

The moss which only gathers on one stone: Tiny plant in Derbyshire Dale is one of world's rarest

Derbyshire Feather-moss photo: Natural EnglandRamblers and climbers pass by without a second glRare roots: A yard of riverbed in the Peak District is home to one of the world's rarest plantsance as they focus on the stunning scenery.

But only yards from their feet, in a raging stream, one of the rarest plants on the planet is growing.

A single square yard of stony riverbed in the Peak District contains the world’s entire stock of Derbyshire feather moss.

via The moss which only gathers on one stone: Tiny plant in Derbyshire Dale is one of world's rarest | Mail Online.

Derbyshire feather-moss is a species of aquatic moss which is only known from one site in the entire world. It is thought to have evolved in this one place in the Peak District and is therefore naturally rare.

Little is known about the environmental requirements of the moss, but the site and the area surrounding it are protected by Natural England, and the water quality is regularly monitored by the Environment Agency

via PeakDistrcit

Disabled Man Banned for Wheelchair Tank

British authorities have told a disabled man he cannot use his wheelchair on public streets because he requires a tank license to drive it.

Jim Starr, 36, has been banned from using his custom-made wheelchair by Britain's Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency, which claims it is actually a tank.

"The whole idea of the chair was that I could go down to the beach with the kids," said Starr. "It is a fantastic machine and can take me anywhere I want to go. It has no limits.

"It is ridiculous that I should have found a chair that could help me do all that ... only for the authorities to turn around and say that if I used it on the roads, I would be doing something illegal," he said.

A former landscape gardener, Starr has required a wheelchair since 1999 because of chronic back and joint conditions, neurological problems and arthritis.The $24,000 chair, given as a Christmas gift by a friend, is made in the United States.

Appropriately named the Tank Chair, the modified wheelchair was invented by Brad Soden, a U.S. Army veteran inspired by his time spent in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. ...

via Disabled Man Banned for Wheelchair Tank.

T-Rex hunted like a lion, did not scavenge like a hyena

A new study has revealed that Tyrannosaurus Rex wasn’t a scavenger like a hyena; rather it hunted like a lion.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) used an ecological model based on predator relationships in the Serengeti to find out if scavenging would have been an effective feeding strategy for the dinosaur.

“By understanding the ecological forces at work, we have been able to show that scavenging was not a viable option for T.rex as it was out-competed by smaller, more abundant predatory dinosaurs,” said Dr Chris Carbone.

“These smaller species would have discovered carcasses more quickly, making the most of ‘first-come-first-served’ opportunities.”

The study concluded that an individual T.rex would have roamed over large distances to catch its prey.

The research helps experts understand the behaviour of T.rex as a hunter.

The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

via T-Rex hunted like a lion, did not scavenge like a hyena | Discoveryon.

Training the brain to think ahead in addiction

The growing numbers of new cases of substance abuse disorders are perplexing. After all, the course of drug addiction so often ends badly. The negative consequences of drug abuse appear regularly on TV, from stories of celebrities behaving in socially inappropriate and self-destructive ways while intoxicated to dramatization of the rigors of drug withdrawal on "Intervention" and other reality shows.

Schools now educate students about the risks of addiction. While having a keen awareness of the negative long-term repercussions of substance use protects some people from developing addictions, others remain vulnerable.

One reason that education alone cannot prevent substance abuse is that people who are vulnerable to developing substance abuse disorders tend to exhibit a trait called "delay discounting", which is the tendency to devalue rewards and punishments that occur in the future. Delay discounting may be paralleled by "reward myopia", a tendency to opt for immediately rewarding stimuli, like drugs.

Thus, people vulnerable to addiction who know that drugs are harmful in the long run tend to devalue this information and to instead be drawn to the immediately rewarding effects of drugs.

Delay discounting is a cognitive function that involves circuits including the frontal cortex. It builds upon working memory, the brain's "scratchpad", i.e., a system for temporarily storing and managing information reasoning to guide behavior.

In a new article in Biological Psychiatry that studied this process, Warren Bickel and colleagues used an approach borrowed from the rehabilitation of individuals who have suffered a stroke or a traumatic brain injury. They had stimulant abusers repeatedly perform a working memory task, "exercising" their brains in a way that promoted the functional enhancement of the underlying cognitive circuits.

They found that this type of training improved working memory and also reduced their discounting of delayed rewards.

"The legal punishments and medical damages associated with the consumption of drugs of abuse may be meaningless to the addict in the moment when they have to choose whether or not to take their drug. Their mind is filled with the imagination of the pleasure to follow," commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "We now see evidence that this myopic view of immediate pleasures and delayed punishments is not a fixed feature of addiction. Perhaps cognitive training is one tool that clinicians may employ to end the hijacking of imagination by drugs of abuse." ...

via Training the brain to think ahead in addiction.

Scientists Determine What Makes an Orangutan an Orangutan

Photo of a baby orangutan hanging on to its mother.For the first time, scientists have mapped the genome--the genetic code--of orangutans. This new tool may be used to support efforts to maintain the genetic diversity of captive and wild orangutans. The new map of the orangutan genome may also be used to help improve our understanding of the evolution of primates, including humans. ...

The name "orangutan" is derived from the Malay term, "man of the forest," a fitting moniker for one of our closest relatives.

There are two species of orangutans, defined primarily by their island of origin--either Sumatra or Borneo. The outlook for orangutan survival is currently dire because there are estimated to be only about 7,500 orangutans in Sumatra, where they are considered critically endangered, and only about 50,000 orangutans in Borneo, where they are considered endangered.

The endangerment status of orangutans is determined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

There are no other wild populations of orangutans other than those in Sumatra and Borneo. The decline of the Sumatran and Borneo populations of orangutans is caused by varied threats, such as illegal logging, the conversion of rain forests to farmland and palm oil plantations, hunting and diseases.

Using a mix of legacy and novel technologies, the research team mapped the genomes of a total of 11 orangutans, including representatives of both the Sumatran and Bornean species.

The map of the orangutan genome may support conservation efforts by helping zoos create breeding programs designed to maintain the genetic diversity of captive populations. (The greater the genetic diversity of a species, the more resilient it is against threats to its survival.) The genome map may also help conservationists sample the genetic diversity of wild populations so they can prioritize populations of wild orangutans for conservation efforts.

Evolutionary implications

After scientists map a species' genome, they compare it to the genetic maps of other species. As they do so, they search for key differences that involve duplications, deletions and inversions of genetic material. These differences may contribute to the unique features of particular species. They may also provide information about general evolutionary trends, such as the overall rate at which genomic evolution has occurred.

Before the orangutan's genome was mapped, the genetic codes of three other great primates--humans, chimpanzees and rhesus macaques--were mapped.

The genomes of the gorilla and bonobo will soon be mapped, as well.

Analyses of the orangutan genome reveal that this primate has many unique features. For example, comparisons of the structural variation of the genomes of orangutans, humans, chimpanzees and rhesus macaques indicate that during the last 15 million years or so of primate evolution, the orangutan genome has generally been more stable than those of the other primates, with fewer large-scale structural changes. ...

via - National Science Foundation (NSF) News - Scientists Determine What Makes an Orangutan an Orangutan - US National Science Foundation (NSF).

Test shows dinosaurs survived mass extinction by 700,000 years

University of Alberta researchers determined that a fossilized dinosaur bone found in New Mexico confounds the long established paradigm that the age of dinosaurs ended between 65.5 and 66 million years ago.

The U of A team, led by Larry Heaman from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, determined the femur bone of a hadrosaur as being only 64.8 million years old. That means this particular plant eater was alive about 700,000 years after the mass extinction event many paleontologists believe wiped all non-avian dinosaurs off the face of earth, forever.

Heaman and colleagues used a new direct-dating method called U-Pb (uranium-lead) dating. A laser beam unseats minute particles of the fossil, which then undergo isotopic analysis. This new technique not only allows the age of fossil bone to be determined but potentially can distinguish the type of food a dinosaur eats. Living bone contains very low levels of uranium but during fossilization (typically less than 1000 years after death) bone is enriched in elements like uranium. The uranium atoms in bone decay spontaneously to lead over time and once fossilization is complete the uranium-lead clock starts ticking. The isotopic composition of lead determined in the hadrosaur's femur bone is therefore a measure of its absolute age.

via Test shows dinosaurs survived mass extinction by 700,000 years.

Little-known growth factor enhances memory, prevents forgetting in rats

Jules Asher - ... "To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of potent memory enhancement via a naturally occurring factor that readily passes through the blood-brain barrier – and thus may hold promise for treatment development," explained Cristina Alberini, Ph.D., of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, a grantee of the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Alberini and colleagues say IGF-II could become a potential drug target for boosting memory. They report on their discovery in the Jan. 27, 2011 issue of Nature. ...

The staying power of a memory depends on the synthesis of new proteins and structural changes in the connections between brain cells. These memory-strengthening changes occur within time-limited windows right after learning, when memories undergo consolidation, and also right after a memory is retrieved, a process called reconsolidation.

Hints from other studies led the researchers to suspect that IGF-II plays a role in these processes within the brain's memory center, the hippocampus, where it is relatively highly concentrated. The little-known growth factor is part of the brain's machinery for tissue repair and regeneration; it is important during development and declines with age....

via EurekaAlert

The Olive Oil Cure for Depression

Researchers from the universities of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria have demonstrated that the ingestion of trans-fats and saturated fats increase the risk of suffering depression, and that olive oil, on the other hand, protects against this mental illness.

They have confirmed this after studying 12,059 SUN Project volunteers over the course of six years; the volunteers had their diet, lifestyle and ailments analyzed at the beginning of the project, over its course and at the end of the project. In this way the researchers confirmed that despite the fact that at the beginning of the study none of the volunteers suffered from depression, at the end of the study 657 new cases had been detected.

Of all these cases, the participants with an elevated consumption of trans-fats (fats present in artificial form in industrially-produced pastries and fast food, and naturally present in certain whole milk products) "presented up to a 48% increase in the risk of depression when they were compared to participants who did not consume these fats," affirmed Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, first author of the article.

In addition, the study demonstrated a dose-response relationship, "whereby the more trans-fats were consumed, the greater the harmful effect they produced in the volunteers," the expert stated.

Furthermore, the team, directed by Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Navarra, also analyzed the influence of polyunsaturated fats (abundant in fish and vegetable oils) and of olive oil on the occurrence of depression. "In fact, we discovered that this type of healthier fats, together with olive oil, are associated with a lower risk of suffering depression," emphasized the researcher and director of the SUN Project.

150 million persons depressed worldwide

Thus, the results of the study corroborate the hypothesis of a greater incidence of the disease in countries of the north of Europe compared to the countries of the south, where a Mediterranean dietary pattern prevails. Nevertheless, experts have noted that the incidence of the disease has increased in recent years, so that today some 150 million persons are affected worldwide, where it is the principal cause of loss of years of life in those countries with a medium-to-high per capita income. ...

via Eating poorly can make us depressed.

The photo is Shelley Duvall, the actress who played Olive Oyl, in Altman's "Popeye".  There are different types of depression, of course.  Situational depression, when you lose someone you love, for example, is natural. Feel it, but don't let it make you sick, don't overwhelm yourself with grief. Keep your perspective.  Most depression can be cured by getting what I consider the basics: a healthy diet, exercise, enough sleep, sex, and sunlight.  I haven't felt depressed for no reason in a long time, but if I was, I'd have some olive oil on a fresh salad and watch Shelley Duvall.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The piece of paper that proved Hitler was fooled

It was an audacious double-cross that fooled the Nazis and shortened World War II. Now a newly-released document reveals the crucial role played by Britain's code-breaking experts in the 1944 invasion of France.

All the ingredients of a gripping spy thriller are there - intrigue, espionage, lies and black propaganda.

An elaborate British wartime plot succeeded in convincing Hitler that the Allies were about to stage the bulk of the D-Day landings in Pas de Calais rather than on the Normandy coast - a diversion that proved crucial in guaranteeing the invasion's success.

Now fresh documentary evidence has come to light showing how Britain's army of code-breakers received advance word that the Nazis had been fooled - meaning Allied troops had the go-ahead to attack.

An intercepted memo picked up by British agents and decoded by experts at Bletchley Park - the decryption centre depicted in the film Enigma - revealed that German intelligence had fallen for the ruse.

It was an insight that saved countless Allied lives and arguably hastened the end of the war. But the huge role played by Bletchley Park remains under-celebrated.

Now archivists at the site of the code-breaking centre hope that a new project to digitise and put online millions of documents, using equipment donated by electronics company Hewlett-Packard, will uncover further glimpses into an extraordinary past. ...

via BBC News - The piece of paper that proved Hitler was fooled.

Final US manufacturer ceases production of lethal injection drug; executions delayed

At the beginning of 2011, more than two thirds of the world had abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, and only 58 countries actively retained it. - link

The sole United States manufacturer of a key component of lethal injections announced Friday that it will cease production of the drug, contributing to shortages and delaying executions.

Sodium thiopental, the first of a three drug cocktail used in 34 states to render the prisoner to be executed unconscious, was manufactured in Italy until Italian authorities stated that they would only license the manufacture if it was used for medical purposes and not, crucially, for executions.

In a statement, the company, Hospira, said that they have never condoned the use of their drug, marketed as 'Pentothal', in executions, and that they could not "prevent the drug from being diverted to departments of corrections for use in capital punishment procedures".

The move means that the United States is without a viable supplier for sodium thiopental. Although many European countries manufacture the drug, which is primarily used in Europe as an anæsthetic, no manufacturer has been found that is willing to supply it for use in conjunction with the death penalty, the abolition of which has been lobbied by the EU since 2008.

The shortage means that executions in California and Oklahoma have been delayed, with Texas' last remaining stocks of the drug due to expire in March, weeks before two scheduled executions. These delays are likely to be prolonged as the legal process of drawing up new drugs to be used for injections is lengthy. Pentobarbital, an alternative which used at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, is used for lethal injections in Oregon, and has started to be used by Oklahoma.

Hospira's decision caused mixed reactions throughout the medical community, with the American Society of Anesthesiologists stating Monday that sodium thiopental is an "important and medically necessary anesthetic agent" that is a "first-line anesthetic in many cases", citing geriatric and cardiovascular conditions, among others. It said that, although they disagree with the death penalty, "we also do not condone using the issue as the basis to place undue burdens on the distribution of this critical drug to the United States. It is an unfortunate irony that many more lives will be lost or put in jeopardy as a result of not having the drug available for its legitimate medical use."

via Final US manufacturer ceases production of lethal injection drug; executions delayed - Wikinews, the free news source.

The use of sodium thiopental has been the cause of current Supreme Court challenges to the lethal injection protocol, after a study in the medical journal The Lancet, where autopsy studies on executed inmates revealed that there was not a high enough concentration of thiopental in their blood to have caused unconsciousness.

via Wikipedia

More lives may be lost, but in a natural way... in a way that is not state sanctioned murder.
" ... most death certificates for executed inmates check the cause of death as homicide since none of the other causes (natural, accidental, etc.) fit." - yahooanswer


Toyota recalls 1.7m cars after new concerns

Car manufacuturer Toyota are to recall almost 1.7 million cars in two simultaneous recalls, that include the Toyota Avensis and Lexus IS 250, after concerns over fuel systems, which, if combined, amount to the biggest Toyota recall for six years.

Japan's transport ministry stated that it was possible for slight cracks to appear in fuel pipes in Avensis models, which may widen if the cars continue to be used. In the United Kingdom, Toyota GB are offering free repairs, which are expected to take around four and a half hours each. The Lexus IS 250 is involved a separate recall, with around 280 thousand models outside of Japan being recalled over a faulty fuel pressure sensor, which can possibly come loose, causing a fuel leak.

The Managing Director of Toyota GB stated "We are committed to putting the customer first and have a total focus on the quality of all our products. We will liaise with our customers to carry out the repair procedures as efficiently as possible, with minimal disruption".

Toyota have recalled over 16 million cars globally since late 2009.

via Toyota recalls 1.7m cars after new concerns - Wikinews, the free news source.

Japan's unemployment rate is high, over 5% currently. With unemployment soaring, the economy tanking and jobs being cut, the people who still have jobs are way overworked and thus, more mistakes will happen.

One of Toyota Motor Corp.'s most remarkable achievements is that it has not laid off any of its permanent workers in more than half a century.

But the Japanese automaker may be about to relinquish that proud tradition. Japan's biggest business newspaper, the Nikkei, reported Friday that Toyota was considering cutting 1,000 jobs in Britain and the United States.


Other Japanese papers have suggested even bigger job cuts may be announced as Toyota moves to reduce its output and costs in response to plunging demand for vehicles worldwide.

Toyota already has slashed thousands of temporary workers at plants and offices in Japan, the United States and other regions.

From The Detroit News January 24. 2009:

Perhaps Toyota should not have "slashed thousands of temporary workers" at plants in 2009.   A few of those slashed people might have solved the problems Toyota is having. Over here, it is even worse.

The jobs crisis isn't going anywhere, according to the latest forecast from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which puts the national unemployment rate above 9 percent through 2011 and 8 percent through 2012.

Unemployment will fall to a more "natural rate" only in 2016, when CBO estimates it will reach 5.3 percent -- a projection roughly in line with private-sector figures.

via HuffingtonPost


Homeland Security to replace color-coded terror alerts

The color-coded terror alert system that has greeted travelers at airports since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings is being phased out, the government will announce today.

Long a joke on late-night talk shows, the color codes are being replaced by a system designed to give law enforcement and potential targets critical information without unnecessarily alarming or confusing the public, according to a Department of Homeland Security briefing paper on the change and lawmakers.

The five-step color codes, ranging from green to red, will be phased out in the next 90 days. Among the changes: Passengers will no longer hear the public-service recordings at airports announcing the alert level. The aviation threat has been on orange, or "high" alert, since 2006.

"The old color-coded system taught Americans to be scared, not prepared," said Rep. Bennie Thompson , D-Miss., the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. "Each and every time the threat level was raised, very rarely did the public know the reason, how to proceed, or for how long to be on alert."

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the chairman of the committee, also praises the move.

"Though the system served a valuable purpose in the terrible days and months following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, it was clearly time for the current color-coded system to be replaced with a more targeted system," he said.

... The government will not abandon alerts completely. According to the Homeland Security briefing paper, the agency may decide to issue specific warnings to local law enforcement agencies, airlines or businesses if it fears there is heightened risk of an attack. Or it could issue broader alerts through public announcements, it says.  ...

via Homeland Security to replace color-coded terror alerts -

Genghis Khan killed so many people that forests grew and carbon levels dropped

Genghis Khan has been branded the greenest invader in history - after his murderous conquests killed so many people that huge swathes of cultivated land returned to forest.

The Mongol leader, who established a vast empire between the 13th and 14th centuries, helped remove nearly 700million tons of carbon from the atmosphere, claims a new study.

The deaths of 40million people meant that large areas of cultivated land grew thick once again with trees, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

And, although his methods may be difficult for environmentalists to accept, ecologists believe it may be the first ever case of successful manmade global cooling.

‘It's a common misconception that the human impact on climate began with the large-scale burning of coal and oil in the industrial era,’ said Julia Pongratz, who headed the research by the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology.

‘Actually, humans started to influence the environment thousands of years ago by changing the vegetation cover of the Earth's landscapes when we cleared forests for agriculture,’ she told

The 700million tons of carbon absorbed as a result of the Mongol empire is about the same produced in a year from the global use of petrol. ...

The Carnegie study measured the carbon impact of a number of historical events that involved a large number of deaths.

Time periods also looked at included the Black Death in Europe, the fall of China's Ming Dynasty and the conquest of the Americas.

All of these events share a widespread return of forests after a period of massive depopulation.

But the bloody Mongol invasion, which lasted a century and a half and led to an empire that spanned 22 per cent of the Earth’s surface, immediately stood out for its longevity.

And this is how Genghis Khan, who repeatedly wiped out entire settlements, was able to scrub more carbon from the atmosphere than any other despot. ...

via Genghis Khan killed so many people that forests grew and carbon levels dropped | Mail Online.

No, Italian scientists have not discovered cold fusion

... physicists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of Italy's University of Bologna have unveiled their supposed massive breakthrough. They don't just claim to have figured out how to make a cold fusion reactor, the actually say that they have built one and already tested it, with lots of new reactors ready to ship within the next few months.

Before you get out your checkbook, let's examine what's going on here. The scientists claim that a reactor has been running a factory for the last two years, but nobody knows what they're talking about and the physicists did not elaborate on where or what this factory is.

They also don't have any theoretical foundation for their work. They say the reactor takes in nickel and hydrogen, and then it produces copper and tons of energy, all at room temperature. But they admit they don't know how any of that is going on, and there's a ton of theoretical work that says reactions don't work in the way the pair have described. It's not impossible for an empirical discovery to precede the theoretical understanding, but in this case it's an excellent reason to be very skeptical, if not outright dismissive.

The scientific community definitely wants nothing to do with their work, as Rossi and Focardi have had to create their own journal, the Journal of Nuclear Physics, just to get their scientific paper published. The European Patent Office has also pretty much rejected it out of hand, as a preliminary report explains:

"As the invention seems, at least at first, to offend against the generally accepted laws of physics and established theories, the disclosure should be detailed enough to prove to a skilled person conversant with mainstream science and technology that the invention is indeed feasible. … In the present case, the invention does not provide experimental evidence (nor any firm theoretical basis) which would enable the skilled person to assess the viability of the invention. The description is essentially based on general statement and speculations which are not apt to provide a clear and exhaustive technical teaching." ...

via No, Italian scientists have not discovered cold fusion.

Strange Exits: Man dies after fall into tortilla mixing machine

Police say a Brooklyn factory worker has died after falling into a machine used for mixing tortillas.

Police were called to the scene at around 2:30 a.m. When they arrived, they discovered the 22-year-old victim had fallen inside the waist-high machine at Tortilleria Chinantla in Williamsburg.

He was pronounced dead at the scene. His name was withheld until his family could be notified. Police say no criminality is suspected.

According to the company's website, it was founded in 1992 and makes tortillas for restaurants as well as for sale in local markets.

via Man dies after fall into tortilla mixing machine in Brooklyn |

650lbs grand piano mysteriously appears on Florida sandbar

It's causing no treble: A Coast Guard boat inspects the piano, which sits some 200 yards from the shore. Authorities have said it is not their job to move it and they won't until it presents a hazardIt's causing no treble: A battered grand piano, bearing the marks of its new position as a fancy roost for seagulls, is perched on a sandbar in Miami's Biscayne BayA 650lbs grand piano has mysteriously appeared on a sandbar in Miami's Biscayne Bay - and no one appears to be coming Bach for it.

The piano was placed at the highest point along the sandbar, about 200 yards from shore, so that it doesn't disappear underwater during high tide.

who put it there - and, almost more importantly, why - remains unknown.

It could have come from one of the condominiums that line the shore of the bay - or it could have come from further afield.

The one thing authorities do know is that unless the instrument turns from a minor into a major problem, they won't be moving it.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino told the Miami Herald that the agency is not responsible for moving such items.

And, he adds, unless it becomes a navigational hazard, the U.S. Coast Guard won't get involved.

For now, the piano has become a fancy roost for seagulls.

via Were they trying to tuna fish? 650lbs grand piano mysteriously appears on Florida sandbar | Mail Online.

Skywatchers Spot Secret U.S. Spy Satellite in Orbit | U.S. Delta 4-Heavy Rocket Launch, Amateur Astronomy

File:HST Lockheed Integration.jpgThe clandestine cargo carried into polar orbit Thursday aboard the first California-launched Delta 4-Heavy rocket was a crucial replacement satellite for the nation's surveillance and security network, amateur sky-watchers say.

The sophisticated imaging bird follows a long line of Keyhole-type spacecraft that provide ultra-high resolution imagery for the U.S. intelligence community, according to hobbyists who track orbiting satellites with remarkable precision.

Ever since the Delta 4-Heavy rocket fired away from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, the amateur observers have been hunting for the new satellite to figure out its identity. The conventional wisdom before the launch said the payload would fly into the Keyhole satellite constellation, and observations from the past few days proved the guess correct. ...

Needing to fill the void from the cancelled FIA program, the NRO ordered the construction of Keyhole satellites be restarted to build two additional satellites that would protect the nation's surveillance capabilities.

The mission patch for Thursday's NROL-49 launch actually included the Latin inscription: "melior diabolus quem scies." Loosely translated: "the devil you know." Better the devil you know (Keyhole) than the devil you don't know (FIA). ...

The triple-barreled Delta 4-Heavy dramatically rose into the clear sky with fire and smoke at 1:10 p.m. PST, then headed southward over the open Pacific for an ascent that Molczan said was timed perfectly to achieve the intended Keyhole orbit. ...

via Skywatchers Spot Secret U.S. Spy Satellite in Orbit | U.S. Delta 4-Heavy Rocket Launch, Amateur Astronomy |

The code named Kennan "Keyhole-class" (KH) reconnaissance satellites have been orbiting the Earth for more than 30 years. They are typically used to take overhead photos for military missions. The big question for a lot of people is: "What can they see?"

A KH-12 is a $1 billion satellite that resembles the Hubble Space Telescope, except it is looking at our planet. For security reasons, there are no published orbit schedules for the imagery spacecraft. They are supplemented by the 15-ton Lacrosse-class radar-imaging satellites.

You can think of a KH satellite as a gigantic orbiting digital camera with an incredibly huge lens on it. Optical image reconnaissance satellites use a charge coupled device (CCD) to gather images that make up a digital photograph for transmission back to Earth from an altitude of about 200 miles. Since the satellites are in orbit, they cannot hover over a given area or provide real-time video of a single location.

The satellites are often placed into various secret orbits by NASA space shuttles or Titan 4 rockets and managed by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), headquartered in Chantilly, Va. Digital images from the satellites are analyzed, manipulated and combined by powerful computers at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

The black and white images are used by the military and civilian communities. Many of the details about this class of satellites remain classified, but it is known that there are several of these overhead at any given time. They have an imaging resolution of 5-6 inches, which means they can see something 5 inches or larger on the ground. These satellites probably can't read your house number, but they can tell whether there is a bike parked in your driveway. ...

via Howstuffworks

Image: Hubble Space Telescope integration at Lockheed. The KH-11 KENNAN satellite is  "believed to resemble the Hubble Space Telescope in size and shape, as the satellites were shipped in similar containers."


Alien life deemed impossible by analysis of 500 planets

Howard Smith, a senior astrophysicist at Harvard, made the claim that we are alone in the universe after an analysis of the 500 planets discovered so far showed all were hostile to life.

Dr Smith said the extreme conditions found so far on planets discovered outside out Solar System are likely to be the norm, and that the hospitable conditions on Earth could be unique.

“We have found that most other planets and solar systems are wildly different from our own. They are very hostile to life as we know it,” he said.

He pointed to stars such as HD10180, which sparked great excitement when it was found to be orbited by a planet of similar size and appearance to Earth.

But the similarities turned out to be superficial. The planet lies less than two million miles from its sun, meaning it is roasting hot, stripped of its atmosphere and blasted by radiation. ...

"Extrasolar systems are far more diverse than we expected, and that means very few are likely to support life.

"Any hope of contact has to be limited to a relatively tiny bubble of space around the Earth, stretching perhaps 1,250 light years out from our planet, where aliens might be able to pick up our signals or send us their own. ...

via Alien life deemed impossible by analysis of 500 planets - Telegraph.

What professions have the lowest and highest unemployment rates?

The unemployment rate for dentists is less than 1 percent.Occupations with the lowest unemployment rates:

  • Appraisers and assessors of real estate: 0.4%

  • Therapists, all other: 0.4%

  • First-line managers of police and detectives: 0.4%

  • Locomotive engineers and operators: 0.4%

  • Directors, religious activities and education: 0.8%

  • Dentists: 0.8%

  • Speech-language pathologists: 0.8%

  • Detectives and criminal investigators: 0.8%

  • Physicians and surgeons: 0.9%

  • Occupational therapists: 1.0%

Occupations with the highest unemployment rates:
  • Helpers, construction trades: 36.0%

  • Telemarketers: 34.8%

  • Structural iron and steel workers: 28.4%

  • Roofers: 27.1%

  • Millwrights: 25.5%

  • Cement masons, concrete finishers, and terrazzo workers: 25.3%

  • Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons: 25.1%

  • Construction laborers: 25.0%

  • Drywall installers, ceiling tile installers, and tapers: 23.9%

  • Interviewers, except eligibility and loan: 23.4%

  • via NPR

    In 2010, the Labor Dept. tracked unemployment rates for more than 500 occupations--from travel agents (11% unemployed) to taxi drivers (10.7%). See how each occupation stacks up.

    Unemployment Rates, a Detailed Look - Infographic -

    I have a friend in construction who has been out work for about a year. I'm going to convince him to go to dental school.