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ewmayer 2009-07-22 23:14

Official "Science News" Thread
Post interesting science news links (which may not warrant their own thread) here. For instance, the following astronomical story, brought to you by DeBeers:

[url=]Diamond star thrills astronomers[/url]: [i]Twinkling in the sky is a diamond star of 10 billion trillion trillion carats, astronomers have discovered.[/i]

Spherical Cow 2009-07-24 20:56


Here's an article about the recent photos of the Apollo landing sites- At the Apollo 14 site, you can actually see the astronaut's tracks out to the science experiment set-up location.


Batalov 2009-07-24 23:03

A German farmer who lost both arms in an accident is able to raise his arms a year after a groundbreaking transplant operation. The 55-year-old patient hopes to get back on a tractor - and a motorcycle - soon.


ewmayer 2009-07-27 19:49

[url=]Chile’s Antibiotics Use on Salmon Farms Dwarfs That of a Top Rival’s[/url]: [i]Chile used almost 350 times more antibiotics in its farmed salmon in 2008 than Norway, its chief competitor and the largest salmon producer in the world, according to official data from both countries.[/i]

How incredibly irresponsible of them. Make sure to ask where that salmon is from next time you're contemplating ordering one.

Jeff Gilchrist 2009-07-30 14:56

[QUOTE=ewmayer;183021]How incredibly irresponsible of them. Make sure to ask where that salmon is from next time you're contemplating ordering one.[/QUOTE]

On a similar note, sounds like big-agro business in the US is going to try and squash a new measure to limit antibiotic use for non-medical purposes in livestock:

Spherical Cow 2009-08-11 14:28

The Mars rover Opportunity found another meteorite on Mars- big one, too.


(That's more than I've found in my entire life...)


ewmayer 2009-08-14 20:21

Drug Compound That Kills Cancer Stem Cells Found
[url=]Drug Compound That Kills Cancer Stem Cells Identified[/url]: [i]A drug that can selectively target and kill the stem cells that drive the growth of tumors has been identified for the first time by scientists who searched more than 16,000 compounds to find it.[/i]
[quote]Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Broad Institute looked for compounds that could destroy the stem cells, which often resist conventional cancer treatment. One, salinomycin, cut the number of stem cells at least 100 times more than did Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Taxol, a common chemotherapy medicine, according to a report on the findings published today in the journal Cell.

The researchers will conduct further testing of salinomycin in animals to assess its potential to treat humans, said Piyush Gupta, a researcher at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Broad Institute and co-author of the study. While the outcome of that research is unknown, he said, the work has strengthened a theory that stem cells fuel cancer and may have created a way to find effective drugs.

“We now have a method that researchers anywhere in the world can use to find agents that can kill cancer stem cells and potentially treat cancer,” Gupta said today in a telephone interview.

Stem cells appear to fuel the growth of several kinds of cancer including breast, lung and brain tumors, according to studies done in recent years. The cells are resistant to standard cancer therapy, so finding a way to thwart them is important, said Judy Lieberman, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School who researches cancer stem cells.

[b]Tumor-Initiating Cells[/b]

Research by Jenny Chang at the Baylor College of Medicine has shown that after breast-cancer patients received chemotherapy and hormone treatments, the remaining tumors had a greater percentage of malignancy-initiating cells, the cancer stem cells, than before.

The researchers at MIT and Broad grew cancer cells from breast tumors in a way that increased the number of stem cells. They then used rapid screening techniques to test 16,000 commercially available chemical compounds. They identified 32 candidates before settling on salinomycin as the most potent.

They also tested the compound in mice in two ways. First, they exposed breast cancer stem cells in laboratory dishes to salinomycin and Taxol and tallied how many cells they would need to inject in a mouse to trigger a tumor. It took many more of the salinomycin-treated cells to spur cancer, showing that the compound was inhibiting cancer development, Gupta said.

Second, they induced tumors in mice and treated them with the two drugs. While both drugs exerted “significant anti-tumor effects,” the mice treated with Taxol had a greater proportion of cancer stem cells left in the remaining tumor. Taxol enriched the population of cancer stem cells and salinomycin reduced it, Gupta said.

“We have now a systematic way to look for compounds that selectively kill cancer stem cells,” Gupta said. “We’ve taken a lot of the serendipity out of the equation.”[/quote]

Spherical Cow 2009-08-17 21:47

First detection of an amino acid in a comet- The craft Stardust brought back glycine from Comet Wild 2.



cheesehead 2009-08-18 06:07

Closing the X-File on the Tunguska mystery!
Something I missed at the end of June:

[B]Closing the X-File on the Tunguska mystery![/B]

Thrust for a NASA space shuttle liftoff comes from (a) solid rocket boosters (SRBs) and (b) the shuttle's main engines burning fuel (H[sub]2[/sub]) and oxidizer (O[sub]2[/sub]) from that big tank. Once the SRBs drop off at an altitude of about 45 km (28 miles), the exhaust left in the shuttle's plume is just water vapor.
[/SIZE] It has been repeatedly observed that this high-altitude injection of many tons of water vapor leads to the formation of noctilucent clouds as far away as the north and south polar regions. (Yes, the shuttle's water exhaust winds up at high altitudes as far as the Arctic and Antarctic, within a few days.)

But why doesn't it disperse so widely that too little reaches the polar regions to form noticeable clouds?

It turns out that giant mesospheric eddies formed with this water vapor can rapidly travel thousands of miles before dispersing. [I]This[/I] is the key to overcoming a previous objection to the theory that the Tunguska object was a mostly-ice comet.

It had been thought there was no mechanism for transporting large amounts of water vapor thousands of miles (such as Tunguska -> London) within a day. "Bright nights" started over northern Europe on July 1, 1908, just one day after the Tunguska explosion.

A research team from Cornell U. put together the shuttle observations, eddy findings and historic records of the "bright nights" over northern Europe and Great Britain for several days immediately following the Tunguska event. Conclusion: the Tunguska event was probably an ice comet explosion that injected massive amounts of water vapor into the mesosphere, causing thick noctilucent clouds to form and light up northern European nights for a while.

"1908 Tunguska Event Caused by Comet, New Research Reveals"


[quote]The 1908 Tunguska event has always been mysterious and intriguing because no one has been able to fully explain the explosion that leveled 830 square miles of Siberian forest. But the latest research has concluded that the Tunguska explosion was almost certainly caused by a comet entering the [URL=""]Earth[/URL]’s atmosphere. And how researcher Michael Kelly from Cornell University came to that conclusion is quite interesting: He analyzed the space shuttle's exhaust plume and noctilucent clouds.

. . .

“There is a mean transport of this material for tens of thousands of kilometers in a very short time, and there is no model that predicts that,” Kelley said. “It’s totally new and unexpected physics.”

This “new” physics, the researchers contend, is tied up in counter-rotating eddies with extreme energy. Once the water vapor got caught up in these eddies, the water traveled very quickly — close to 300 feet per second.[/quote]"Space Shuttle Exhaust Provides Clues to the Mysterious Tunguska Event"


Fantastic! I love it when astronomically-related mysteries are solved!

BTW ... chalk up an actual, though indirect, science result to the space shuttle. What else would have injected such massive amounts of water vapor at that height, so as to allow discovery of the Fast Eddies? :-)

Fellow X-File fans: sorry about that.

ewmayer 2009-08-18 18:15

Mystery of Mozart's Death Solved at Last?
[url=]Study: Mozart "Was killed by superbug like MSRA"[/url]
[quote]The composer's untimely death at the age of 35 has remained a mystery ever since he passed away in the early hours of 5 December 1791.

Rumours immediately began circulating that he had been poisoned, while theories over the centuries have included renal failure and tuberculosis.

Now a group of Dutch researchers has suggested that he died from a bacterial infection spread by soldiers which was rife in Vienna at the time.

By studying the city's death register, they found that the three most common causes of death among men of his age were tuberculosis, severe weight loss and a condition called 'oedema' or 'dropsy' – an accumulation of fluids causing the body to swell up.

Mozart's symptoms match the last of the three, according to Dr Richard Zeger, from the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, who said it could have been caused by a bacterial infection.

He said: "I think you can compare this to a superbug like MRSA or C.difficile."

Eyewitnesses who saw Mozart days before he died, including his sister-in-law Sophie Haibel, said he was covered in a rash – consistent with a bacterial infection – and severely swollen – consistent with oedema or dropsy.

The outbreak probably started in a military hospital with poor hygiene, before spreading to the wider community, according to their research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

At the time Vienna was full of soldiers from the Austro-Turkish war who had been struck down by disease. [/quote]
[i]My Comment:[/i] The "Great Mass in C-Diff Major?" (Tasteless, I know).

cheesehead 2009-08-19 05:10

Because-it-doesn't-know-the-words Department
"Earth Hums, and It's 'Loudest' in Europe, Americas"


xilman 2009-08-28 08:02

This [url][/url] is [i]really[/i] impressive!

A beautiful image of the electron density within a single pentacene molecule. Pentacene is five benzene rings fused in a linear fashion. Note the larger bumps at each end, corresponding to the C-H bonds.


davieddy 2009-08-28 15:58

[quote=xilman;187763]This [URL][/URL] is [I]really[/I] impressive!

A beautiful image of the electron density within a single pentacene molecule. Pentacene is five benzene rings fused in a linear fashion. Note the larger bumps at each end, corresponding to the C-H bonds.

THX Paul.
Hope Davar55 is interested:smile:


davar55 2009-08-28 18:30

[quote=davieddy;187804]THX Paul.
Hope Davar55 is interested:smile:


Thanks even for thinking of me.

Yes indeed these images show finer details and are,
of course, esthetically fascinating.
Does pentacene come from penta+(benz)ene or something else too?

davar55 2009-08-30 12:38

I tried Google and Wikipedia and couldn't get deeper than
acene for the etymology of pentacene.
So I'm currently assuming that these linearly linked
benzene ring molecules were just arbitrarily given their
designation as acenes because the letter c sounds nice there.

davar55 2009-09-03 13:50

[quote=davar55;188042]I tried Google and Wikipedia and couldn't get deeper than
acene for the etymology of pentacene.
So I'm currently assuming that these linearly linked
benzene ring molecules were just arbitrarily given their
designation as acenes because the letter c sounds nice there.[/quote]

Or maybe "c" for "cyclic ring".

sichase 2009-09-04 16:23

[quote=davar55;188521]Or maybe "c" for "cyclic ring".[/quote]

Actually, "pentacene" is named according to the IUPAC naming rules for cyclic hydrocarbons. Linear sequences of benzene rings are named according to the number of rings using the root "acene", which derives from "anthracene", the traditional name (probably of quite old origin, but I don't know the history) of the simplest member (3 rings) of the family. There are also tetracene, pentacene, etc.

You probably can really find this on the web if you search hard enough. But the fact that this kind of basic but specialized information is even hard to google just goes to show you how "skin deep" the web really is. The vast majority of human knowledge is not on-line... yet.


davar55 2009-09-05 10:34

Anthracene apparently comes from anthrax + ene.

My good old paper dictionary mentions a Latin / French possible
derivation from anthracitis, a form of coal.
That would give the "c" I was looking for.

only_human 2009-11-07 23:12

Free Conference Nov 16th L.A. Convention Ctr.
I didn't feel that this warranted a thread in either Software or here as under Technology but this might be useful to someone; I might attend if my health allows . I signed up and can confirm that no money, credit card numbers or any other financial strings were attached to the registration of this specific session.

I have been using Mark Russinovich's nice utilities for years.


Windows 7 Developer Boot Camp
Landy Wang, Mark Russinovich, Arun Kishan at location Petree Hall D

Jump-start your Windows 7 experience by joining some of the top Windows 7 engineers, including Mark Russinovich [(I[I] have been using Mark Russinovich's nice utilities for years[/I].)] , Landy Wang, and Arun Kishan, for an intense, high quality boot camp. Whether you are looking to create more performant, reliable, or secure applications, or you are an application developer looking to leapfrog past your competition, this FREE Boot Camp can get you from zero to hero in less than eight hours! This fast-paced Windows 7 marathon will cover it all including: (1) Kernel and architectural improvements, (2) new shell integration points: taskbar, libraries and search, and (3) applied tips for getting the most out of today’s hardware with the sensor & location platform, multitouch, and the new graphics libraries (Direct2D, DirectX 11) that take advantage of the GPU. Whether you’re a C++, C# or Visual Basic developer, building a .NET or a Win32 application, we’ll give you actionable tips to get the most out of the Windows platform.

ewmayer 2009-11-13 18:07

Want Stronger Bones?
Just [url=]jump up and down[/url] several times per day. (And maybe whack a heavy bag a couple times to get the arm bones, too).

The link with severe endurance sports and weaker bones is interesting.

CADavis 2009-11-13 21:09

[QUOTE] Most of the time, Dr. Barry says, “fragile bones don’t matter, from a clinical standpoint, if you don’t fall down."[/QUOTE]


cheesehead 2009-11-15 15:46


The complete paragraph (with my italics) is:

[quote]If hopping seems an undignified exercise regimen, bear in mind that it has one additional benefit: [I]It tends to aid in balance, which may be as important as bone strength in keeping fractures at bay.[/I] Most of the time, Dr. Barry says, “fragile bones don’t matter, from a clinical standpoint, if you don’t fall down.”[/quote]Similarly, in chess a theoretical weakness in one's position doesn't matter as long as the opponent has no way to attack it.

ewmayer 2010-03-02 23:14

Quantum Comp.: Electron Spin Control Breakthrough
[url=] Breakthrough in Electron Spin Control Brings Quantum Computers Closer to Reality[/url]: [i]Research allows control of a single electron without disturbing other nearby electrons[/i]
[quote]The method developed by a team of researchers led by Jason Petta, assistant professor of physics at Princeton University, traps one or two electrons in microscopic corrals created by applying voltages to minuscule electrodes giving them an ability to control spin orientation.

The accomplishment overcomes a major challenge to creating scalable semiconductor-based quantum computers that use the intrinsic spin of individual electrons to store and manipulate information. Previous methods, namely electron spin resonance or ESR, unselectively sprayed microwave radiation on a sample, causing all the electrons in the sample to adopt the same spin orientation. This defeated the goal of having distinct electrons work together to represent data.

In their latest research, Petta and his team control electron spin using a method similar to splitting a beam of light. The path length of one of the resulting two beams is carefully adjusted so that when they recombine, their peaks and troughs either reinforce or cancel out each other. By doing this, researchers can control the constructive or destructive outcome of the resultant beam after recombination. Likewise, by carefully adjusting how the peaks and troughs of two quantum spin waves align, Petta's team is able to constructively or destructively manage the condition of an electron's spin and control its orientation.

What's more, the new method controls the spin of electrons in approximately one-billionth of a second. "This is nearly 100 times faster than conventional electron spin resonance," said Petta.

The spin of an electron forms a quantum bit, also called a qubit. Qubits are to quantum computing what "bits" are to conventional computing--a basic unit of information representing either a 1 or 0. But in quantum computing, a qubit can represent 1 and 0 at the same time making way for a dramatic increase in computing speed for certain types of computation.

Researchers ultimately would like to have a quantum computer consisting of many densely packed single electron spins. But in order to make this new type of computer a reality, they would need to control the spin orientation of a selected qubit without disturbing the other nearby spin qubits.

The challenge has been achieving the fast single spin rotations that are required to control a spin qubit without allowing the system to suffer "decoherence" or loss of quantum mechanical behavior.

"Think of a spinning top," said Petta. "Sooner or later it falls down due to friction. Our quantum system in some sense does the same thing. In order for a qubit to be technologically relevant, we need to be able to manipulate its state many times before it loses its quantum coherence."

Regarding future research, Petta explained that "the next big step for the spin qubit community is to coherently couple two spin qubits, implementing what is called a "two-qubit gate." Our work demonstrates single qubit control. In the long run, it is necessary to couple adjacent qubits and have them interact."[/quote]

ewmayer 2010-03-25 23:51

DNA identifies new ancient human species
[url=]DNA identifies new ancient human dubbed 'X-woman'[/url]: [i]Scientists have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human through analysis of DNA from a finger bone unearthed in a Siberian cave.[/i]
[quote]The extinct "hominin" (human-like creature) lived in Central Asia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago.

An international team has sequenced genetic material from the fossil showing that it is distinct from that of Neanderthals and modern humans.

Details of the find, dubbed "X-woman", have been published in Nature journal.

Ornaments were found in the same ground layer as the finger bone, including a bracelet.

Professor Chris Stringer, human origins researcher at London's Natural History Museum, called the discovery "a very exciting development".

"This new DNA work provides an entirely new way of looking at the still poorly-understood evolution of humans in central and eastern Asia."

The discovery raises the intriguing possibility that three forms of human - Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and the species represented by X-woman - could have met each other and interacted in southern Siberia.

The tiny fragment of bone from a fifth finger was uncovered by archaeologists working at Denisova Cave in Siberia's Altai Mountains in 2008.

An international team of researchers extracted mitochondrial DNA from the bone and compared the genetic sequence with those from modern humans and Neanderthals.[/quote]

Spherical Cow 2010-03-30 00:49

An interesting news article from an MIT publication on theories of gravity. (And the reader's comments section suggests that the Mersenne Forum certainly does not have a monopoly on "gibberish".)



retina 2010-03-30 01:51

[QUOTE=Spherical Cow;210014]An interesting news article from an MIT publication on theories of gravity. (And the reader's comments section suggests that the Mersenne Forum certainly does not have a monopoly on "gibberish".)


[URL=""][/URL][/QUOTE]Wow, there sure some very high quality nonsense posted there. I wonder if it is even human generated? It seems more like some random number generator was used to select words from a lexicon and then pass them through a Markoff chain generator of some sort.

xilman 2010-04-08 18:36

Dust ring eclipsing ε Aur.
Beuatiful pictures of an eclipse of ε Aurigae here:



cheesehead 2010-04-08 18:46

[quote=xilman;211033]Beuatiful pictures of an eclipse of ε Aurigae here:



A dust ring shepherded by a single B-type companion, not a black hole or neutron star.

... except ...

it's the bright F-type star we see that's the companion! It's about 2-3 solar masses, whereas the "dwarf" (4 times as wide as our Sun) B-type star mostly hidden within the dust cloud is 5.9 solar masses.

So, it's really the B-type primary within the dust ring, with the F-type secondary (135 times as wide as our Sun) orbiting it outside the dust ring. (Yeah, [I]really[/I] they both swing around their barycenter outside the dust ring.)

The 7.6-AU-wide ring would fit comfortably inside Jupiter's orbit. (Jupiter is 5.2 AU from the Sun.)

The F and B stars orbit 18.1-19.6 AU apart. (Uranus is 19.2 AU from the Sun.)

This table has the latest figures:


Numbers in other articles below are sometimes outdated estimates from before 2009.




Catch an artist's concept picture here: [URL][/URL], but note that one comment says, "The image shown is wrong and not at all proportional. The F star from that perspective would be much smaller."

I remember reading about ε Aurigae in old Sky & Telescope articles, but hadn't marked my calendar. In the early 1980s I was too occupied with non-astronomy stuff.

cheesehead 2010-04-09 06:13

Another periodic astronomical phenomenon
"Cassini eavesdrops on orbit-swapping moons"


[quote]. . .

But there’s more to these moons. Amazingly, Janus and Epimetheus are on almost — but not [I]quite [/I] — the same orbit around Saturn! Currently, Janus is a bit closer to Saturn than Epimetheus.

I say "currently", because every four years [I]these moons swap orbits![/I] Since Janus has an orbit slightly closer to Saturn, it is moving faster around the planet than Epimetheus. It slowly but eventually catches up to the outer moon. As they approach, Janus pulls back slightly on Epimetheus, and Epimetheus pulls Janus forward. In other words, Janus steals orbital energy [from] Epimetheus! This means Epimetheus drops into a slightly lower orbit, and Janus gets boosted into a slightly higher one, effectively swapping the orbits of the two moons. Although the two orbital paths are separated by only about 50 km (30 miles) — smaller than the radii of either moon — they never collide. The swap takes place when the moons are still more than 10,000 km apart, so they never get a chance to bump uglies.

. . .[/quote]Furthermore, there's an animation sequence of photos, taken by the Cassini spacecraft, of Janus passing Epimethus in 2005 (i.e., one swap earlier than the latest). A forum entry at [URL][/URL] explains it. The animation is at [URL][/URL]

There's another animation at [URL][/URL], but this is a cut-and-paste of actual Cassini moon photos overlaid on a more detailed star background, showing fainter stars than are actually visible in the first animation.

cheesehead 2010-04-09 06:23

A Martian phenomenon
[B]"[/B]Martian avalanche crashes the party"


[quote]... These pictures from the orbiting HiRISE camera never get old because they’re frakking amazing! [URL=""]Here is another awesome avalanche[/URL] caught in the act… on Mars!

This may be my favorite Red Planet avalanche of them all. On the left you can see the surface of Mars: that’s frozen carbon dioxide — dry ice — covering the ground. The red brick-like pattern to the right of the ice is actually the face of a scarp, a steep cliff. We’re looking almost straight down on it, so it’s foreshortened, but don’t let that fool you; it’s 700 meters (2000 feet) high! On the right is the greyish floor, dusty basaltic rock. You can see sand dunes rippling across it, as well as a few boulders here and there.

But right there is the plume of a large avalanche, the cloud still rising above the floor! Clearly this was caught within seconds of the landslide hitting the floor of the scarp. The shadow of the plume is clear and obvious below and to the left. That’s particularly cool because knowing the Sun angle in the image means the plume height can be determined. They generally rise to 50 or more meters.

It’s spring in the northern hemisphere of Mars, and the warming temperatures are sublimating the dry ice. This may be causing the slides; the CO2 gets in the cracks of the rocks and dust, and when it goes away the loose debris can be free to fall. The folks at HiRISE have been targeting scarps like this one just in case they can catch avalanches like this.

I like this avalanche shot in particular because you can really see the contrast between the layer of ice, the scarp wall, and the floor. It makes for a wonderfully complete scene, and for some reason reminds me of Earth… maybe it’s because I live in Boulder, and I’m used to seeing ice covered red rocks with lots of interesting geological bits around. I’m not sure. But like all the other avalanche shots, it reminds me that Mars is a planet, a world, a location, an actual [I]place[/I]. It may lack the dynamic and diverse weather we get here on Earth, but there’s still plenty going on at that little ball.[/quote]

ewmayer 2010-04-16 22:45

New Exoplanets Shake Up Space Theory
[url=]New Exoplanets Shake Up Space Theory[/url][quote]Apr 13 2010, 3:00 PM ET

Researchers [url=]have discovered nine new exoplanets[/url], overturning a pillar of planetary theory. Previously, astronomers thought that all planets orbit their suns in the same direction as the suns rotate, but two of the new exoplanets have opposite, or retrograde, orbits.

Planets were thought to develop from dust and gas orbiting a young star, thus developing an orbit in the same direction as the star's rotation. The retrograde orbits, however, suggest that some developing planets could get caught in a long-term "gravitational tug-of-war" between other stars and planets, pushing the new planets into eccentric orbits around their transit stars. Such a development process would exclude the possibility of an Earth-like planet developing alongside the Jupiter-sized retrograde planets, since the latter's jerky movements would knock out smaller competition.

The new exoplanets are also notable for the way they were discovered. Scientists have found most of the 452 recorded exoplanets by noting their gravitational pull on their transit stars' light. Researchers found the newcomers, however, when the planets passed directly in front of their transit stars.

The same method recently disclosed another exoplanet, this one notable for its similarities to the members of our solar system: it resembles Jupiter in size but Mercury in orbit, giving it much lower temperatures than the gas giant. Since astronomers can learn more about this planet every 95 days, when it orbits past its sun, they will be able to conduct much more thorough research than if they had found it using traditional methods.[/quote]

ewmayer 2010-05-04 00:01

"Loop Current" Could Push Oil Spill Up East Coast

Not looking good ...

cheesehead 2010-05-07 22:45

A little uplift to contemplate instead of the spill, perhaps ...

"Peak Picked for World's Largest Scope"


[quote]Yesterday officials from the European Southern Observatory [URL=""]announced[/URL][/quote][URL][/URL]
[quote]where they plan to build the E-ELT, short for European Extremely Large Telescope.

. . .

... Its primary's mosaic of 1,000 hexagonal mirrors will create an aperture 138 feet (42 meters) across. That's a huge engineering leap: four times the diameter of the largest single-aperture optical telescopes today. To put the optics in perspective, the E-ELT's [I]secondary[/I] mirror will be bigger than the venerable Hale Telescope's 200-inch primary.

. . .[/quote]I've visited Mt. Palomar. 200 inches looked pretty big.

BTW, recall that the observer's cage at the primary focus of the 200-inch Hale telescope is big enough for a man to sit in. It obscures only a small percentage of the 200-inch aperture.

42 * 39.37 inches = 1654 inches (and a man-sized cage would obscure only a small percentage of its secondary mirror)

ewmayer 2010-05-10 17:03

DNA Study Indicates Neandertals & Humans Interbred
[url=]Scientists Discover New Proof of the Neanderthal Within[/url]:

[i]It turns out there really is a little caveman in a lot of us.An international team of scientists has for the first time decoded the complete Neanderthal genome, and the results, to be reported in the May 7 issue of Science, offer new insights into our closest evolutionary relatives and an exciting new way to explore the genetic basis of what makes humans unique. But the big news? The scientists also found evidence that humans and Neanderthals interbred. And the results of that prehistoric coupling can be found in most people's DNA.[/i]

davieddy 2010-05-11 13:18

Non PC but I love it


Batalov 2010-05-11 22:05

[URL=""]Harsh Reaction to Chemistry Claims Cast Doubt on Reactome Paper[/URL]

("old" news, sorry ...wandered there from a sub-story about Neandertal jewelry and even earlier links to [I]absence[/I] of cross-species mating which was then believed)

cheesehead 2010-05-18 17:26

A new feature by the European Space Agency side of the Hubble project:

Hubble Picture of the Week


(BTW, the Space Telescope Science Institute site is [url][/url])

ewmayer 2010-05-26 16:53

C-Diff Goes Airborne
[url=]New Way Bacterium Spreads in Hospital[/url]
[quote]Health care workers and patients have yet another source of hospital-acquired infection to worry about, British researchers are reporting.

Clostridium difficile, a germ that causes deadly intestinal infections in hospital patients, has long been thought to be spread only by contact with contaminated surfaces. But a new study finds that it can also travel through the air.

The researchers emphasized that there is no evidence that C. difficile can be contracted by inhaling the germs. Rather, they float on the air, landing in places where more people can touch them.

The bug is commonly spread by contact with infected feces, and the British scientists said the new study made it even more urgent to isolate hospital patients with diarrhea as soon as possible — even before tests confirm a C. difficile infection.

“We don’t want people to wait for the confirmation,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Mark H. Wilcox, a professor of medical microbiology at the University of Leeds. [b]“By then, the cat’s out of the bag.”[/b][/quote]
[i]My Comment:[/i] With respect to the bolded text, I would have preferred "the shit has hit the fan" as being a more appropriate metaphor.

davieddy 2010-05-27 09:00

[quote=ewmayer;216227][URL=""]New Way Bacterium Spreads in Hospital[/URL]

[I]My Comment:[/I] With respect to the bolded text, I would have preferred "the shit has hit the fan" as being a more appropriate metaphor.[/quote]
My favourite metaphor :poop:

As for the bolded text, he meant:
"By the time the cat is out of the bag, the horse has bolted".


retina 2010-05-27 09:41

[QUOTE=ewmayer;216227]... "the shit has hit the fan" ...[/QUOTE]Erm, do you mean that the unwanted brown pungent waste matter has hit the rotating air displacement device?


So now we need a thread to enumerate all the possible expansions of "the shit has hit the fan".

Flatlander 2010-05-28 16:38

[URL=""]Aliens are coming![/URL]

cheesehead 2010-05-29 09:16

SOFIA first-light
"Giant airplane-mounted telescope sees first light!"


Uncwilly 2010-05-29 17:41

[QUOTE=cheesehead;216551]"Giant airplane-mounted telescope sees first light!"[/QUOTE]Finally. I was sad that the [URL=""]KAO[/URL] was taken out of service to help fund this. The importance of having a major telescope that one can move to a specific ground track is huge.

cheesehead 2010-06-04 11:55

"BREAKING: Another Jupiter impact?"


[quote][I][Update (19:00 Mountain time): [B]CONFIRMED[/B]! [URL=""]A poster on the Unmanned Space Flight forum reports[/URL] that another amateur astronomer, [URL=""]Christopher Go[/URL] (link goes to home page, no news there yet) has confirmed Anthony Wesley's observation and [URL=""]also has video[/URL]. Though I'm having some trouble playing it, I did see the flash in the video. I think it's safe to call this one real!]

[/I][I][UPDATE 2: Wesley [URL=""]has put up his video[/URL], and it's [B]very[/B] cool. The impact is, um, pretty obvious. Bright, too, which makes me think this was a significant object. I'm very surprised at how quickly it brightens and fades, though; I'd expect the flash from the object itself to last a few seconds, and then to see some sort of glowing plume. Perhaps the object itself was a small comet or a loosely packed asteroid -- a so-called "rubble pile " -- which fell apart and vaporized while still high in the atmosphere. I'm guessing, so I'll wait and see what the experts say soon.[/I]]

In what turns out to be a major coincidence, Anthony Wesley, an amateur astronomer in Australia, [URL=""]is reporting[/URL] that he recorded another impact on Jupiter! This time he has video of the impact, which he claims was quite bright and lasted about two seconds.[/quote]

Jeff Gilchrist 2010-06-04 18:32

Adiabatic quantum computers slower than classic on
Adiabatic quantum computers slower than classic ones at solving NP-complete problems.

"In the end, they conclude that NP-complete problems are just as hard on an adiabatic quantum computer as on a classical computer. And, since earlier work showed the equivalence between different variants of quantum computers, that pretty much shuts down the possibility of any quantum computer helping with NP-complete problems."


only_human 2010-06-14 14:59

New Quantum Theory Separates Gravitational and Inertial Mass
[I]Technology Review[/I], published by MIT
[quote]They show how it is possible to create situations in the quantum world in which the effects of inertial and gravitational mass must be different. In fact, they show that these differences can be arbitrarily large.[/quote][url][/url]

only_human 2010-06-15 18:51


[QUOTE]As the first physics results begin to emerge at the expensively engineered and hugely complex Large Hadron Collider, New Scientist looks at the everyday equipment that particle physicists couldn't live without – from aspirin to dental floss.[/QUOTE]

ewmayer 2010-06-15 22:18

Correcting the Record on "Crack Baby" Hysteria
[url=]Who's on Crack Now? Correcting the Record on "Crack Baby" Hysteria[/url]
[quote]Remember the ostensible crack-baby crisis of the 1980s? I do, vividly. I was a kid then, and scare tactics were all the rage. I spent half of junior high watching b-movie filmstrips about the slippery slope from smoking a joint to shooting heroin to dying alone in a gutter while belatedly remembering mom. Feel a rising tide of hysteria all of a sudden? This is your brain on the '80s.

Of all the forms that hysteria took, one of the most egregious was the fate that was forecast for so-called crack babies. Infants born to crack-addicted mothers, we were told, would be so emotionally and intellectually stunted they would lack true personhood. They wouldn't be able "to have consciousness of God." (That's courtesy of then-Boston University President John Silber.) They would grow up to be low-IQ, high-aggression "super-predators" -- a kind of "bio-underclass." [/quote]
[i]My comment:[/i] BTW [read the rest of the article for context - it's not long], Krauthammer is German for "weed hammer". Make of that what you will.

Batalov 2010-06-16 18:58

From Faculty-of-1000
[B][URL=""][SIZE=2][FONT=Arial Black][COLOR=#333399]Editor's Choice: Human behavior and our illusion of free will[/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE][/URL][/B]

[FONT=Fixedsys]<<[/FONT]Debates over the existence of free will are most commonly reserved for philosophers, but [URL=""][COLOR=#333399]Harold Erickson[/COLOR][/URL] of the [URL=""][COLOR=#333399]Structural Biology[/COLOR][/URL] Faculty highlights a paper that brings them slap bang into the realms of biology. The article tackles the notion of free will by investigating the biological mechanisms behind human behavior. Where this discussion finds social significance is in the criminal justice system.

Dr Erickson [URL=""][COLOR=#333399]begins[/COLOR][/URL]
"Dr Cashmore presents compelling arguments that free will does not exist, and that the behavior of every human is completely determined by their genetic make-up, environmental history, and stochasticism..."

He [URL=""][COLOR=#333399]explains[/COLOR][/URL]
"Dr Cashmore discusses in some detail how consciousness plays a major role in giving us the illusion of free will, but he raises the anomaly (recognized by the ancient Greeks) that 'will' is thought to be a non-physical entity that can influence conscious thought yet 'will' itself lacks any causal component -- a kind of magic."

He [URL=""][COLOR=#333399]continues[/COLOR][/URL]
"[The author] summarizes arguments that the evolution of society has likely selected for the illusion of free will and 'responsibility'. He concludes by discussing the implications for our criminal justice system."

He [URL=""][COLOR=#333399]justifies the implications[/COLOR][/URL], saying
"It would not actually change that much in practice, since it will still be necessary to incarcerate people to protect society and act as a deterrent."

Dr Erickson accurately classifies this paper as '[COLOR=green]Controversial[/COLOR]' and an 'Interesting Hypothesis'. Thankfully, we are likely far away from pardoning unlawful activity with the excuse that criminals are merely an impartial consequence of their genes and environmental history. However, this truly is a fascinating paper that could add a whole new dimension to the murky field of free will within the judicial system.[FONT=Fixedsys]>>[/FONT]

[COLOR=green]The article can be found [/COLOR][URL=""][COLOR=green]here[/COLOR][/URL][COLOR=green].[/COLOR]

wblipp 2010-06-16 20:52

Why would anyone bother to read the article? If the article is correct, then my response to it is predetermined.

Oh wait - the decision to READ the article must also be predetermined. I guess I'm predetermined to think this is pointless nonsense.

ewmayer 2010-06-16 22:11

I started chuckling - not of my own free will, mind you - when I saw the word "stochasticism" ... shades of Jeff Goldblum's character in [i]Jurassic Park[/i] impressing all the babes with his way-kewl leather jacket and hint-dropping mention of his exciting career as a "chaotician".

It's true, our behavior may be no more unpredictable than, say, weather - if you know the exact state of the universe at some given time and have an infinitely powerful computer and ignore little nuisancy details like quantum uncertainty, then sure, you can run the perfectly-simulated model universe forward any amount of time and thus predict with perfect accuracy. Of course, none of those conditions will ever apply in the real universe, so this scenario must forever remain a [i]Gedankenexperiment[/i].

But hey, I'm not a professional stochasticisticstician, so don't take my word for it. :)

OK, more seriously, there is a valid and interesting issue here, namely that even if one accounts for the stochasticity of all physical systems including the human brain, even leaving aside the existence (or not) of free will, what is the basis of sentience?

only_human 2010-06-16 23:08

[quote=ewmayer;218884]OK, more seriously, there is a valid and interesting issue here, namely that even if one accounts for the stochasticity of all physical systems including the human brain, even leaving aside the existence (or not) of free will, what is the basis of sentience?[/quote]I'll believe that the modeling of all this will still let Gödel have my back. I mean that if there are still predictions that we cannot make within the mathematical framework we devise, it will be effectively free will (or a reasonable facsimile). If it looks like a ghoti and gulps like a goldfish, it still eats too much if you let it -- but maybe it wants to and always [I]chooses [/I] to -- for at least 10 seconds (until it forgets).

ewmayer 2010-06-22 00:44

Proof that ignorance truly is bliss
[url=]The Anosognosic's Dilemma: Something's Wrong but You'll Never Know What It Is (Part 1)[/url]: [i]A ludicrously botched bank robbery leads to the question: Can you be too incompetent to understand just how incompetent you are?[/i]
[quote]DAVID DUNNING: Well, my specialty is decision-making. How well do people make the decisions they have to make in life? And I became very interested in judgments about the self, simply because, well, people tend to say things, whether it be in everyday life or in the lab, that just couldn’t possibly be true. And I became fascinated with that. Not just that people said these positive things about themselves, but they really, really believed them. Which led to my observation: if you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent.


DAVID DUNNING: If you knew it, you’d say, “Wait a minute. The decision I just made does not make much sense. I had better go and get some independent advice.” But [b]when you’re incompetent, the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.[/b][/quote]
[i]My Comment:[/i] LOL, lemon juice for invisibility ... but it did make for a very zesty arrest, I imagine.

xilman 2010-06-23 15:17

The sounds of particles

Beautiful, IMAO, but I'm a Stockhausen fan.


Spherical Cow 2010-06-25 14:47

In case you hadn't seen it- Scientists in Italy are actually being investigated for "gross negligent manslaughter" for failing to warn of the L'Aquila earthquake.


Pretty scary-


ewmayer 2010-06-25 15:27

Stem Cells For Corneal Damage a "Roaring Success"
[url=]Stem cells reverse blindness caused by chemical burns (AP)[/url]
[quote]Dozens of people who were blinded or otherwise suffered severe eye damage when they were splashed with caustic chemicals had their sight restored with transplants of their own stem cells — a stunning success for the burgeoning cell-therapy field, Italian researchers reported Wednesday.

The treatment worked completely in 82 of 107 eyes and partially in 14 others, with benefits lasting up to a decade so far. One man whose eyes were severely damaged more than 60 years ago now has near-normal vision.

"This is a roaring success," said ophthalmologist Dr. Ivan Schwab of the University of California, Davis, who had no role in the study — the longest and largest of its kind.

Stem cell transplants offer hope to the thousands of people worldwide every year who suffer chemical burns on their corneas from heavy-duty cleansers or other substances at work or at home.

The approach would not help people with damage to the optic nerve or macular degeneration, which involves the retina. Nor would it work in people who are completely blind in both eyes, because doctors need at least some healthy tissue that they can transplant.

In the study, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers took a small number of stem cells from a patient's healthy eye, multiplied them in the lab and placed them into the burned eye, where they were able to grow new corneal tissue to replace what had been damaged. Since the stem cells are from their own bodies, the patients do not need to take anti-rejection drugs.
Adult stem cells, which are found around the body, are different from embryonic stem cells, which come from human embryos and have stirred ethical concerns because removing the cells requires destroying the embryos.

Currently, people with eye burns can get an artificial cornea, a procedure that carries such complications as infection and glaucoma, or they can receive a transplant using stem cells from a cadaver, but that requires taking drugs to prevent rejection.

The Italian study involved 106 patients treated between 1998 and 2007. Most had extensive damage in one eye, and some had such limited vision that they could only sense light, count fingers or perceive hand motions. Many had been blind for years and had unsuccessful operations to restore their vision.

The cells were taken from the limbus, the rim around the cornea, the clear window that covers the colored part of the eye. In a normal eye, stem cells in the limbus are like factories, churning out new cells to replace dead corneal cells. When an injury kills off the stem cells, scar tissue forms over the cornea, clouding vision and causing blindness.

In the Italian study, the doctors removed scar tissue over the cornea and glued the laboratory-grown stem cells over the injured eye. In cases where both eyes were damaged by burns, cells were taken from an unaffected part of the limbus.

Researchers followed the patients for an average of three years and some as long as a decade. More than three-quarters regained sight after the transplant. An additional 13% were considered a partial success. Though their vision improved, they still had some cloudiness in the cornea.

Patients with superficial damage were able to see within one to two months. Those with more extensive injuries took several months longer.
One of the successful transplants in the Italian study involved a man who had severe damage in both eyes as a result of a chemical burn in 1948. Doctors grafted stem cells from a small section of his left eye to both eyes. His vision is now close to normal.

In 2008, there were 2,850 work-related chemical burns to the eyes in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Schwab of UC Davis said stem cell transplants would not help those blinded by burns in both eyes because doctors need stem cells to do the procedure.

"I don't want to give the false hope that this will answer their prayers," he said.

Dr. Sophie Deng, a cornea expert at the UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute, said the biggest advantage was that the Italian doctors were able to expand the number of stem cells in the lab. This technique is less invasive than taking a large tissue sample from the eye and lowers the chance of an eye injury.

"The key is whether you can find a good stem cell population and expand it," she said.[/quote]

cheesehead 2010-06-25 15:27

[quote=Spherical Cow;219869I]

Pretty scary-
[/quote]The comments, too.

Check #3 ("Ignorance like entropy goes only in one direction")

only_human 2010-06-29 05:56

[quote=ewmayer;219872][URL=""]Stem cells reverse blindness caused by chemical burns (AP)[/URL][/quote]
And here is a treatment that might repair dental cavities by the regeneration of teeth. [I]Tooth Regeneration Gel Could Replace Painful Fillings[/I] [URL][/URL]

apocalypse 2010-06-30 04:40

Donald Knuth promises [URL=""]"An Earthshaking Announcement"[/URL] tomorrow.

only_human 2010-06-30 12:10

[quote=apocalypse;220246]Donald Knuth promises [URL=""]"An Earthshaking Announcement"[/URL] tomorrow.[/quote]
Yeah, I noticed it mentioned on Slashdot. I looked around a bit trying to guess what's cooking but didn't catch a whiff. I consider it time well spent because I found this palindrome on Donald Knuth's website "All I saw Wasilla" and also because I found some interesting papers by a Kevin H. Knuth online. I especially liked [I]Deriving Laws from Ordering Relations [/I]

cheesehead 2010-06-30 20:17

[quote=only_human;220268]I consider it time well spent because I found this palindrome[/quote]Ahem ... that's [I]"Palin-[/I]drome", not merely palindrome.[quote=Donald Knuth]Message to Hannah Terret (née Terrett)

The Palin-drome I was trying to recall is: "All I saw: Wasilla."[/quote]

cheesehead 2010-07-08 16:10

"Goce satellite views Earth's gravity in high definition"


[quote][B]It is one of the most exquisite views we have ever had of the Earth.[/B]

This colourful new map traces the subtle but all pervasive influence the pull of gravity has across the globe.

Known as a geoid, it essentially defines where the level surface is on our planet; it tells us which way is "up" and which way is "down".

It is drawn from delicate measurements made by Europe's Goce satellite, which flies so low it comes perilously close to falling out of the sky.

. . .

One key beneficiary will be climate studies because the geoid can help researchers understand better how the great mass of ocean water is moving heat around the world.

. . .

Launched in 2009, the sleek satellite flies pole to pole at an altitude of just 254.9km - the lowest orbit of any research satellite in operation today.

The spacecraft carries three pairs of precision-built platinum blocks inside its gradiometer instrument that sense accelerations which are as small as 1 part in 10,000,000,000,000 of the gravity experienced on Earth.

This has allowed it to map the almost imperceptible differences in the pull exerted by the mass of the planet from one place to the next - from the great mountain ranges to the deepest ocean trenches.

. . .[/quote]

firejuggler 2010-07-08 17:26

[url=]baking is wonderfull! its like science for hungry people[/url]

only_human 2010-07-08 18:26

[quote=cheesehead;220336]Ahem ... that's [I]"Palin-[/I]drome", not merely palindrome.[/quote]I missed the significance of that but now am further rewarded because I've just learned that Palin-drome has a Palin specific entry in the Urban Dictionary: [URL][/URL][quote]Another Palin-drome from our favorite politician:

"As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where– where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border..."[/quote]

Batalov 2010-07-08 18:47

[URL=""]The size of the proton[/URL].
"...[This] result implies that either the Rydberg constant has to be shifted by −110[FONT=Arial Unicode MS] [/FONT]kHz/[I]c[/I] (4.9 standard deviations), or the calculations of the QED effects in atomic hydrogen or muonic hydrogen atoms are insufficient."

cheesehead 2010-07-08 19:32

[quote=only_human;220829]I missed the significance of that but now am further rewarded because I've just learned that Palin-drome has a Palin specific entry in the Urban Dictionary: [URL][/URL][/quote]Did you catch the name of the person to whom his message was addressed?

only_human 2010-07-09 00:48

[quote=cheesehead;220840]Did you catch the name of the person to whom his message was addressed?[/quote]I missed that too. I was lightly skimming that night looking for clues to his "earthshaking" announcement and now see that my blinders were a bit too..., ahem, blinding.


The possibly 4% smaller proton size that Batalov refers to is interesting. Are adjustments needed to keep observed spectral readings etc. consistent with Q.E.D. ?

only_human 2010-07-14 13:33

[quote]Batalov: [URL=""]The size of the proton[/URL].
"...[This] result implies that either the Rydberg constant has to be shifted by −110[FONT=Arial Unicode MS] [/FONT]kHz/[I]c[/I] (4.9 standard deviations), or the calculations of the QED effects in atomic hydrogen or muonic hydrogen atoms are insufficient." [quote=only_human;220874]The possibly 4% smaller proton size that Batalov refers to is interesting. Are adjustments needed to keep observed spectral readings etc. consistent with Q.E.D. ?[/quote][/quote]Here is the first article I've found that suggests a direction forward. It floats the proposition that the polarization of space may be increased in muonic atoms[quote]So is QED faulty? Not likely, says Rudolf Faustov, a theorist at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. He notes that the proton is actually a roiling mass of particles called quarks and gluons, all held together by the so-called strong force. That inner complexity, Faustov says, makes it difficult for physicists to handle precisely the electromagnetic force between the proton and muon in their calculations. "It's not quite clear how to separate these interactions," he says. In particular, he says, physicists may have to reconsider how the muon affects the proton.
The result may even point to new physics, says Krzysztof Pachucki, a theorist at the University of Warsaw. Thanks to quantum fluctuations, the proton is chock full of quark-antiquark pairs flitting into and out of existence. If the proton also contained lots of electron-positron pairs, they would increase the polarization of space with the muonic atom and resolve the discrepancy in the Lamb shift with no need to revise the textbook value of the proton's radius, Pachucki says. "That would be the first thing I would check."

Jeff Gilchrist 2010-07-14 18:43

[QUOTE=apocalypse;220246]Donald Knuth promises [URL=""]"An Earthshaking Announcement"[/URL] tomorrow.[/QUOTE]

Video of the announcement* available here:

* - no powerpoint here, old-school acetate slides


Jeff Gilchrist 2010-07-14 18:44

Not exactly "news" but an interesting new animation that explains the properties of Oxygen:


cheesehead 2010-07-15 18:32

Pretty pictures
Two photos of the recent total solar eclipse:


Pluto, temporarily easier to find (photo shows why):


Cassini (the spacecraft) just keeps chugging along:


A couple of Milky Way images:


The night sky, from Down Under:


Spherical Cow 2010-08-13 15:04

Here is a link to an article and fascinating video that compresses the time period of 1945 to 1998 into about 14 minutes (1 second = 1 month), and shows nuclear explosions on a map, in sequence. 2053 explosions. Starts out slow of course, but be patient. By the time you get to the Cold War, the little "beep" and "bomp" sounds they have for each explosion are coming fast enough to sound like music.

In that 53 year period, 2053 nuclear explosions works out to one every 9.5 days. I never would have guessed anything near that number.



ewmayer 2010-08-13 15:39

Scientists find new superbug spreading from India
[url=]Scientists find new superbug spreading from India[/url]. [i]A new superbug from India could spread around the world -- in part because of medical tourism -- and scientists say there are almost no drugs to treat it.[/i]

ewmayer 2010-10-21 20:27

Earliest Galaxy found in Hubble Ultra Deep Field
[url=,0,1727071.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fnews%2Fnationworld%2Fnation+(L.A.+Times+-+National+News)]Far-off galaxy is found[/url]: [i]Born just 500 million years after the Big Bang, the galaxy could help explain the 'reionization' of the universe.[/i]
[quote]Scientists have found the most distant space object yet observed, a galaxy born just 500 million years after the Big Bang.

The record-breaking discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, may aid exploration of a crucial period in the early history of the cosmos — a time when light from the earliest stars broke up the fog of hydrogen gas that shrouded the universe shortly after the Big Bang. That process created the "reionized" universe that exists today, scientists think.

"This is one of the most fundamental problems in astronomy — how the universe ionized," said the study's lead author, astronomer Matthew Lehnert of the Observatoire de Paris in France.

Lehnert said that though astronomers know reionization occurred, they don't understand how, because they haven't been able to observe the process underway. "That's why [seeing this object] matters," he said.[/quote]

ewmayer 2010-11-13 01:29

Scientists Solve Mystey of "How Do Cats Drink?"
[url=]For Cats, a Big Gulp With a Touch of the Tongue[/url]: [i]It has taken four highly qualified engineers and a bunch of integral equations to figure it out, but we now know how cats drink. The answer is: very elegantly, and not at all the way you might suppose[/i]
[quote]Cats lap water so fast that the human eye cannot follow what is happening, which is why the trick had apparently escaped attention until now. With the use of high-speed photography, the neatness of the feline solution has been captured.

The act of drinking may seem like no big deal for anyone who can fully close his mouth to create suction, as people can. But the various species that cannot do so — and that includes most adult carnivores — must resort to some other mechanism.

Dog owners are familiar with the unseemly lapping noises that ensue when their thirsty pet meets a bowl of water. The dog is thrusting its tongue into the water, forming a crude cup with it and hauling the liquid back into the muzzle.

Cats, both big and little, are so much classier, according to new research by Pedro M. Reis and Roman Stocker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, joined by Sunghwan Jung of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Jeffrey M. Aristoff of Princeton.

Writing in the Thursday issue of Science, the four engineers report that the cat’s lapping method depends on its instinctive ability to calculate the point at which gravitational force would overcome inertia and cause the water to fall.

What happens is that the cat darts its tongue, curving the upper side downward so that the tip lightly touches the surface of the water.

The tongue is then pulled upward at high speed, drawing a column of water behind it.

Just at the moment that gravity finally overcomes the rush of the water and starts to pull the column down — snap! The cat’s jaws have closed over the jet of water and swallowed it.
The cat laps four times a second — too fast for the human eye to see anything but a blur — and its tongue moves at a speed of one meter per second.
Being engineers, the cat-lapping team next tested its findings with a machine that mimicked a cat’s tongue, using a glass disk at the end of a piston to serve as the tip. After calculating things like the Froude number and the aspect ratio, they were able to figure out how fast a cat should lap to get the greatest amount of water into its mouth. The cats, it turns out, were way ahead of them — they lap at just that speed.

To the scientific mind, the next obvious question is whether bigger cats should lap at different speeds.

The engineers worked out a formula: the lapping frequency should be the weight of the cat species, raised to the power of minus one-sixth and multiplied by 4.6. They then made friends with a curator at Zoo New England, the nonprofit group that operates the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Mass., who let them videotape his big cats. Lions, leopards, jaguars and ocelots turned out to lap at the speeds predicted by the engineers.

The animal who inspired this exercise of the engineer’s art is a black cat named Cutta Cutta, who belongs to Dr. Stocker and his family. Cutta Cutta’s name comes from the word for “many stars” in Jawoyn, a language of the Australian aborigines.

Dr. Stocker’s day job at M.I.T. is applying physics to biological problems, like how plankton move in the ocean. “Three and a half years ago, I was watching Cutta Cutta lap over breakfast,” Dr. Stocker said. Naturally, he wondered what hydrodynamic problems the cat might be solving. He consulted Dr. Reis, an expert in fluid mechanics, and the study was under way.
At first, Dr. Stocker and his colleagues assumed that the raspy hairs on a cat’s tongue, so useful for grooming, must also be involved in drawing water into its mouth. But the tip of the tongue, which is smooth, turned out to be all that was needed.
The project required no financing. The robot that mimicked the cat’s tongue was built for an experiment on the International Space Station, and the engineers simply borrowed it from a neighboring lab.[/quote]

cheesehead 2010-11-13 12:27

[QUOTE=ewmayer;236891][URL=""]For Cats, a Big Gulp With a Touch of the Tongue[/URL]: [I]It has taken four highly qualified engineers and a bunch of integral equations to figure it out, but we now know how cats drink. The answer is: very elegantly, and not at all the way you might suppose[/I][/QUOTE]Amazing ... just amazing.

I, too, had supposed that the raspiness of the tongue was involved.

Just touching the surface with the tongue tip might be useful in desert, or other arid, situations where water might often be too shallow to allow the curled-tongue-cup to work well. I wonder if any other desert inhabitants use the same method as cats.

science_man_88 2010-11-13 13:07

yeah I found this one a few minutes ago.


xilman 2010-11-17 22:35

Anti-atoms captured and stored at Cern

Summary: a total of 38 anti-hydrogen atoms were stored in a magnetic bottle. Not for long, only 200ms each on average, but this is the first time it's been done.

Next step is to store them for much longer so some potentially interesting physics can be investigated.


Spherical Cow 2010-11-20 18:56

Sad news for all us amateur astronomers (as well as the professionals)- Brian Marsden, a great name in the field of comets and asteroids passed away. And great guy, from my very few interactions with him. Condolences to his family and friends at the Harvard-Smithsonian.



xilman 2010-11-27 18:25

A fascinating pre-print by Roger Penrose and Vahe Gurzadyan has just hit the world's media (the BBC link is [url][/url]) . The summary is that they claim to have detected observational evidence for a number of events that occurred before the big bang.

IMO, it is well worth reading the paper available at [url][/url]

Not yet entirely convinced, personally, but it sure is a nice paper.


ewmayer 2010-12-03 23:19

Arsenophilic Microbe Cultured, Redefines Life
[url=]Microbe Finds Arsenic Tasty; Redefines Life[/url]
[quote]Scientists said Thursday that they had trained a bacterium to eat and grow on a diet of arsenic, in place of phosphorus — one of six elements considered essential for life — opening up the possibility that organisms could exist elsewhere in the universe or even here on Earth using biochemical powers we have not yet dared to dream about.

The bacterium, scraped from the bottom of Mono Lake in California and grown for months in a lab mixture containing arsenic, gradually swapped out atoms of phosphorus in its little body for atoms of arsenic.[/quote]

Jeff Gilchrist 2010-12-06 19:01

Mmmmm arsenic....

ewmayer 2010-12-06 19:27

[QUOTE=Jeff Gilchrist;240332]Mmmmm arsenic....[/QUOTE]

We need someone to write a comedic play based on the science here ... titled, of course, "[b]As[/b], you like it".

"All the world's a petri dish..."

(Sincerest apologies to the late Mr. Wigglestick, as Bucky Katt of the comic [i]Get Fuzzy[/i] likes to call him.)

cheesehead 2010-12-09 18:32

"Mercury serves up a nuclear surprise

The discovery of a new type of fission turns a tenet of nuclear theory on its head."


[quote]The observation of an unexpected nuclear reaction by an unstable isotope of the element mercury has thrown up a rare puzzle. The enigma is helping theorists to tackle one of the trickiest problems in physics: developing a more complete model of the atomic nucleus.

Nuclear fission, the process in which a nucleus heavier than that of iron breaks into pieces, is generally observed to be symmetric, with the resulting fragments being roughly equal in size. Although instances of asymmetric fission are known, they are usually attributed to the preferential formation of 'magic' nuclei, in which shells in the nuclear structure are filled to capacity.

So when researchers on the ISOLDE experiment at CERN, Europe's particle-physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, set out to study the decay of mercury-180 — containing 80 protons and 100 neutrons — they expected it to break into two nuclei of zirconium-90, each containing 40 protons and 50 neutrons. They assumed that outcome would be particularly favoured because 40 and 50 are magic numbers for which shells would be exactly filled.

But the mercury dealt a surprise, splitting instead into ruthenium-100 and krypton-80. "A symmetric split should be dominant and we show that it doesn't happen," says ISOLDE member Andrei Andreyev, presently of the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley. [URL=""]The result[/URL] is in press at Physical Review Letters.

. . .

[B]Firming up fission[/B]

Nuclear theorist Witold Nazarewicz of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville says that the study demonstrates the extent to which, more than 70 years after the discovery of nuclear fission, we are still learning about the process. "This is very important information for any model of the nucleus," he says.

Nazarewicz says that although engineers' practical knowledge of fission has progressed far enough for us to build nuclear bombs and reactors, "I don't think we have a firm understanding of fission rooted in the interactions of the proton and neutron building blocks." The nuclei that form in a typical reactor core are generally understood, but models are not at the point at which they can be extrapolated to more exotic and unstable isotopes, he says. A better fundamental understanding of the theory may help the design of future generations of reactors.

. . .[/quote]

cheesehead 2010-12-09 18:37

"Earth's core lightens up

The movement of oxygen and sulphur at the heart of the planet may drive its magnetic field."


[quote]Seismologists have conducted a planetary ultrasound and found evidence that light elements such as oxygen and sulphur collect at the edge of Earth's core. The finding, if confirmed, could help to explain what keeps Earth's magnetic field going, and might also shed light on how the planet formed billions of years ago. The work appears in this week's issue of Nature.

. . .

Measuring multiple reflections of the waves as they bounced along the boundary between core and the mantle — the layer of molten rock around the core — the duo showed that the outermost 300 kilometres of the core are significantly less dense than the rest. The apparent difference is consistent with a level of 3–5% sulphur and oxygen at the core's edge, says Helffrich.

. . .

Helffrich says that the lighter elements may be getting concentrated in the outer core as the inner core solidifies. What's more, he speculates that as the light elements rise to the surface of the core, their motion drives a dynamo that powers Earth's protective magnetic field. Researchers have worried in the past about what keeps the dynamo going, says Helffrich. But the rise of light elements "releases a huge amount of gravitational potential energy".

. . .[/quote]

rogue 2010-12-14 19:00

3 Petaflop computer


science_man_88 2010-12-15 16:28


takes a while lol.

science_man_88 2010-12-15 16:31

[QUOTE=rogue;241825]3 Petaflop computer


[QUOTE]that uses hot water to cool the processors [/QUOTE] sounds sounds wasteful of energy and water and counter intuitive to me.

[QUOTE]The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, both funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, are each building a 20 petaflop computer. Both are expected to be operational in 2012.[/QUOTE] maybe we can get dead on weather forecasting by then lol.

xilman 2010-12-15 21:16

[QUOTE=science_man_88;241981]sounds sounds wasteful of energy and water and counter intuitive to me.

maybe we can get dead on weather forecasting by then lol.[/QUOTE]Waste of energy? Why?

To me it sounds like an extremely good use of energy. The electrical power was going to be used to run the computer anyway. Re-using that energy for space heating is markedly more efficient than just dumping it straight into the atmosphere or into ground water.


cheesehead 2010-12-15 23:51

[QUOTE=science_man_88;241981]sounds sounds wasteful of energy and water and counter intuitive to me.
[/QUOTE]See [url][/url]

There's no waste of water: it just circulates around.

There's _less_ waste of energy with this system than with conventional air-cooling.

Study some thermodynamics.

cmd 2010-12-16 03:45

[QUOTE=science_man_88;241981]sounds sounds wasteful of energy and water and counter intuitive to me.

maybe we can get dead on weather forecasting by then lol.[/QUOTE]

principle to take into

by-pie (single entropy)

it : moltiplica torta ( [URL=""]pencil[/URL] )

xilman 2010-12-28 11:03

Earth simulator

markr 2010-12-29 07:18

Political biology!
Starting from [URL=""]here[/URL], I came across these...

[QUOTE]The UCL findings indicate conservatives have thicker tissues in a part of the brain called the amygdala, the emotional area, and liberals have thicker anterior cingulates, which are associated with emotion, but also associated with learning.[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE]Liberals and conservatives don’t just think about things differently. They physically look at things differently. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has discovered they react in opposite ways to “gaze cues”, how other people's line of sight moves. Liberals follow eye movements to where another person is looking. Conservatives don’t.[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE]Liberals may owe their political outlook partly to their genetic make-up, according to new research from the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University. Ideology is affected not just by social factors, but also by a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4. The study's authors say this is the first research to identify a specific gene that predisposes people to certain political views.

Appearing in the latest edition of The Journal of Politics published by Cambridge University Press, the research focused on 2,000 subjects from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. By matching genetic information with maps of the subjects' social networks, the researchers were able to show that people with a specific variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to be liberal as adults, but only if they had an active social life in adolescence.[/QUOTE]

petrw1 2011-01-01 16:14

Polar Bears 3 - Cameras 0

davieddy 2011-01-01 18:14

Love it!

If you lived in the same surveillance-intensive environment as we do
in England, you would understand my enjoyment of that clip.


cheesehead 2011-01-04 06:15

Win some ...
[QUOTE=petrw1;244244][URL][/URL][/QUOTE]... "lose" some.


rogue 2011-01-06 16:22

Study link vaccines with autism a fraud:


Unfortunately this won't convince the conspiracy theorists.

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