Recent Science Diaries and Stories
Watch this space!
Green diary rescue: Will a clean energy standard be a good thing?
by Meteor Blades
ROV 27: Japan Nuclear Disaster; Prime Minister Calls Situation'Dire'
by mahakali overdrive
Virtually Speaking Mar 27-Mar 31
Giant California Earthquakes and the Radiation Cloud: Geotripper Emerges From the Apocalypse
The Daily Bucket: Daily Kos Day Hike Day!
by Mark Sumner
Happy Birthday Leonard Nimoy!
This week in science
In keeping with the theme of the past month or so, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday is featuring science and other news from the major public research universities in the midwestern states where Republican governors and legislatures are threatening the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
University of Michigan: Can we get more social benefits from forests and have higher biodiversity?
March 24, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—When local residents are allowed to make rules about managing nearby forests, the forests are more likely to provide greater economic benefits to households and contain more biodiversity, two University of Michigan researchers and a colleague conclude from an analysis of forest practices in tropical developing countries of East Africa and South Asia.
Lauren Persha and Arun Agrawal of the University of Michigan and Ashwini Chhatre of the University of Illinois used evidence from more than 80 forest sites in six tropical countries to test how local participation affects social and ecological benefits from forests.
The social benefits include access to forest products that households rely on for their subsistence, such as firewood, fodder for livestock and timber for housing. The main ecological benefit is higher biodiversity in the tropical forests. The team's results will appear March 25 in the journal Science.
MSNBC: Supernova emits X-ray stripes
By John Roach
Scientists have discovered X-ray stripes in the remains of a supernova that may be the first direct evidence that these exploded stars can accelerate particles to energies a hundred times higher than those achieved with the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator on Earth.
The striking 3-D-esque image of the Tycho supernova remnant was made from a long observation with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. It could explain how some of the extremely energetic particles bombarding the Earth, called cosmic rays, are produced.
Since cosmic rays are composed of charged particles, like protons and electrons, their direction of motion changes when they encounter magnetic fields throughout the galaxy. As a result, the origin of individual cosmic rays detected on Earth cannot be determined, though supernova remnants have long been considered a good candidate for producing the most energetic cosmic rays in our galaxy.
Discovery News via MSNBC: Don't rule out life on those 'dead stars' just yet
White dwarfs often overlooked, but one astronomer says wait, not so fast
By Ian O'Neill
In our continuing mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out the potential for alien life and look for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations,* scientists are getting more and more creative when exploring new star systems they might have otherwise overlooked.
Enter the white dwarf: the "dead" remnant of a sunlike star that ate its entire supply of hydrogen, ultimately puffing up into a violent red giant, leaving a tiny sparkling jewel behind. This tiny, Earth-sized sparkling remnant is called a white dwarf, and in about 4 billion to 5 billion years, that's what our sun will look like.
According to Eric Agol from the University of Washington, perhaps we shouldn't discount white dwarfs from exoplanet studies. If the conditions are right, these tiny stellar objects could provide just enough heat to support their own habitable zones (i.e., a region surrounding the star where water existing on a planetary surface could be maintained in a liquid state).
Space.com via MSNBC: Solar eruption creates spectacular 'sun tentacle'
NASA spacecraft records tendril of magnetic plasma as it flies off into space
March 25, 2011
A NASA spacecraft watching the sun has caught a dazzling view of a solar eruption that launched a vast tendril of magnetic plasma into space.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the sun tentacle, which scientists call a solar prominence, on March 19 as it erupted into space with a rounded, twisting motion.
The eruption occurred over five hours as SDO watched the sun in the ultraviolet range of the light spectrum, SDO mission scientists said in a statement. The solar observatory watched as the prominence twisted up from the sun and expanded, then became unstable.
Space.com via MSNBC: NASA is gearing up for Endeavour's final flight
Veteran crew to be aboard for 14-day mission featuring four spacewalks
By Clara Moskowitz
HOUSTON — Six astronauts are almost ready to fly NASA's space shuttle Endeavour on one last mission – a space voyage slated to blast off on April 19.
Endeavour is slated to fly to the International Space Station, where it will deliver a $2 billion astrophysics experiment to detect cosmic rays from space. The mission will be the second-to-last orbiter flight before NASA retires its 30-year space shuttle program for good.
Astronaut Mark Kelly will command Endeavour's 14-day mission, which will feature four spacewalks jam-packed with tasks to upgrade the space station.
Michigan State University: In the race of life, better an adaptable tortoise than a fit hare
March 22, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — When it comes to survival of the fittest, it’s sometimes better to be an adaptable tortoise than a fitness-oriented hare, a Michigan State University evolutionary biologist says.
In this week’s Science magazine, Richard Lenski, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and colleagues show that more adaptable bacteria oriented toward long-term improvement prevailed over competitors that held a short-term advantage.
The discovery that the less-fit organisms overtook their in-shape counterparts surprised the researchers at first. But it turns out to work something like a game of chess.
“In games it makes sense to sacrifice some pieces for an eventual winning move,” said Lenski, co-principal investigator of BEACON, MSU’s National Science Foundation-funded Science and Technology Center. “The eventual winners were able to overcome their short-term disadvantage over the course of several evolutionary moves by producing more beneficial mutations.”
Michigan State University: Larger female hyenas produce more offspring
March 23, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — When it comes to producing more offspring, larger female hyenas outdo their smaller counterparts.
A new study by Michigan State University researchers, which appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society, revealed this as well as defined a new way to measure spotted hyenas’ size.
“This is the first study of its kind that provides an estimate of lifetime selection on a large carnivore,” said MSU graduate student Eli Swanson, who published the paper with MSU faculty members Ian Dworkin and Kay Holekamp, all members of the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. “In short, we were able to document that larger female hyenas have more cubs over their lifetime than do smaller females as well as develop a novel approach for estimating body size.”
Michigan State University: Research brings habitat models into the future
March 24, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Models of wildlife habitat now can monitor changes over time more accurately and more easily, thanks to Michigan State University research.
“Monitoring and projecting future changes are essential for sustainable management of coupled human and natural systems, including wildlife habitat,” said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability at MSU. “Innovative computer models are urgently needed for effective monitoring and projection.”
Mao-Ning Tuanmu, doctoral student in MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, and his colleagues combine habitat modeling and remote sensing technology, then gain the ability to use one model to monitor various changes over time. Their work is published online in the Journal of Biogeography.
Indiana University: IU researchers get NASA grant to study climate change in Bangladesh
March 23, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Faiz Rahman and Rinku Roy Chowdhury of the Indiana University Bloomington Department of Geography are receiving $637,000 from NASA to study the vulnerability of extensive mangrove forests in Bangladesh to climate change. The project is a collaboration by scientists from IU and the U.S. Forest Service.
"There's been a limited amount of research on the mangrove forests in this part of the world, so we are very pleased to receive the NASA grant to fund our work," said Rahman, the project's principal investigator.
The Sundarbans are the single largest block of mangrove forests in the world, covering nearly 10,000 square kilometers of the Bay of Bengal delta. Rahman says the mangrove trees play an important role in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, but the extent of the carbon sink and the forest's role in climate change remain to be understood.
University of Michigan: Early detection and intervention key to rehabilitating infant hearing loss
Delaying treatment may hinder speech and language development, U-M audiologist cautions
March 24, 2011
Early intervention and close follow-up are key to rehabilitating hearing loss in children, says Paul R. Kileny, Ph.D., director of the University of Michigan’s Audiology and Electrophysiology program.
“Timely treatment is crucial,” says Kileny, who specializes in hearing problems in newborns and infants. “If treatment is delayed, children can start falling behind in critical milestones for speech and language development, and they may never catch up.”
Kileny is concerned that recent national media coverage of a condition known as “auditory neuropathy” might cause parents to delay treatment in the hopes that their child will recover naturally. One headline proclaimed, “Don’t let a doctor destroy your baby’s hearing" and the coverage prompted several calls to Kileny’s clinic from concerned parents.
University of Michigan: Prostate cancer spreads to bones by overtaking the home of blood stem cells
March 23, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Like bad neighbors who decide to go wreck another community, prostate and breast cancer usually recur in the bone, according to a new University of Michigan study.
Now, U-M researchers believe they know why. Prostate cancer cells specifically target and eventually overrun the bone marrow niche, a specialized area for hematopoietic stem cells, which make red and white blood cells, said Russell Taichman, professor at the U-M School of Dentistry and senior author of the study.
Once in the niche, the cancer cells stay dormant and when they become active again years later, that's when tumors recur in the bone. The implication is that this may give us a window as to how dormancy and recurrence take place.
Wayne State University: Tugging of extracellular matrix creates "come hither" stimulus for cancer migration, Wayne State University study proves
March 22, 2011
DETROIT - Ninety percent of cancer deaths resulted from metastasis, the spread of cancer to different areas in the body, yet scientific exploration of the possible mechanical factors that promote metastasis has been limited. A Wayne State University researcher, however, is expanding the scientific understanding of what makes malignant tumors spread, and the answer lies within the dense, fibrous matrix that surrounds cancer cells.
Karen A. Beningo, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in WSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and resident of Plymouth, Mich., has found that the continuous restructuring of the extracellular matrix that upholds the weight of a tumor is one of the reasons highly invasive, malignant tumors are mechanically able to spread to other parts of the body. Beningo's study was recently published in PLoS ONE.
"This study has identified a novel physical parameter and a new conceptual framework in which to assess the process of invasion, not just of cancer cells but other invasive cell types as well," said Beningo.
University of Wisconsin: Childhood Illnesses Exact High Cost on the Entire Family
March 21, 2011
Madison, Wisconsin - Families whose children have serious health problems spend a much higher percentage of their incomes, averaging nearly $600 more a year on out-of-pocket health care costs than families of healthy children, a new national study reveals.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that families of children with activity limitations spent $594.36 more each year on out-of-pocket health care costs than families of healthy children spend.
Children with activity limitations include those who use wheelchairs or who are not able to engage in normal activities because of conditions such as asthma or obesity.
"What is most shocking is that these costs are not only for the child's health care. The costs for everyone in the family increase when a child has a limitation," says Dr. Whitney Witt, the study's lead author and assistant professor in the department of population health sciences. "What we're seeing here is negative spillover on the whole family."
Ohio State University: A DOSE OF SAFFLOWER OIL EACH DAY MIGHT HELP KEEP HEART DISEASE AT BAY
March 21, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A daily dose of safflower oil, a common cooking oil, for 16 weeks can improve such health measures as good cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity and inflammation in obese postmenopausal women who have Type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
This finding comes about 18 months after the same researchers discovered that safflower oil reduced abdominal fat and increased muscle tissue in this group of women after 16 weeks of daily supplementation.
This combination of health measures that are improved by the safflower oil is associated with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that can increase risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
These new findings have led the chief researcher to suggest that a daily dose of safflower oil in the diet – about 1 2/3 teaspoons – is a safe way to help reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
University of Wisconsin: UW-Madison lake scientist gets world's top water prize
by Terry Devitt
March 22, 2011
Noted University of Wisconsin-Madison limnologist Stephen Carpenter has been awarded the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize, the world's most prestigious award for water-related activities, it was announced in Stockholm, Sweden today (Tuesday, March 22).
The award, which comes with $150,000 and a specially designed crystal sculpture, honors individuals and organizations "whose work contributes broadly to the conservation and protection of water resources and to improved health of the planet's inhabitants and ecosystems."
The award will be conferred in August by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in a royal award ceremony at Stockholm City Hall.
Purdue University: Purdue center to seek solutions to enhance global food security
March 24, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University has established the Center for Global Food Security to take up one of the world's most pressing challenges: getting enough food to people who need it the most today and producing enough to meet even greater demand in years to come.
The center, a year in the making, has begun operations at the university's Discovery Park, a $500 million complex of organizations leading large-scale collaborative research efforts on campus.
"We are looking not only at food, agriculture and natural resource solutions for today but also for future generations," said the center's executive director, Gebisa Ejeta, Distinguished Professor of Agronomy and a 2009 World Food Prize laureate. "We must define what our legacy will be."
The issue of food security is a deepening global concern as the need for more food continues to increase with a rapidly growing world population. About 1 billion of the world's nearly 7 billion people suffer from chronic hunger because of economic, social, political and environmental conditions. Scientists project that agriculture will need to double plant and animal production by 2050, producing it more efficiently and safely on less farmland, to meet the needs of a population expected to reach 9 billion people.
Our Amazing Planet via MSNBC: 'Fossil seismograph' tells tale of ancient quakes
Ripples of mud in old lake bottoms tell story of upheavals, geologists say
By Charles Q. Choi
Ripples of mud in ancient lake bottoms could serve as evidence of earthquakes that ruptured in millennia past, researchers suggest.
By deducing the history of earthquakes in a locale, it may be possible to calculate how often quakes might occur there in the future, they added.
For about a century, scientists have analyzed earthquakes with instruments known as seismometers that detect the seismic rumbling temblors give off, investigating the resulting seismographs for details on a quake's magnitude and behavior. However, as one might expect, researching the specifics of earthquakes that shook before seismometers were developed is difficult.
Now, geologists at Tel Aviv University in Israel suggest that wavy features found in rock layers at two locations in the Dead Sea region could point out a new way to learn about ancient earthquakes.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
University of Michigan: Study shows real social costs of caring for cognitively impaired elders
March 22, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The real social costs of cognitive impairments among the elderly are being greatly underestimated without counting care given to older Americans who have not yet reached the diagnostic threshold for dementia.
That is the central finding of a University of Michigan study published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study is based on data from 169 primary family caregivers of individuals with dementia or cognitive impairment. The sample is part of the Aging, Demographics and Memory study, which examined a nationally representative sample of men and women age 70 and older as a supplement to the U-M Health and Retirement Study, funded primarily by the National Institute on Aging.
"We were surprised to learn how much time family members spend caring for loved ones who have some cognitive impairment, but whose impairments are not severe enough to be classified as dementia," said Gwenith Fisher, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). "These caregivers are dealing with many of the burdens of caring for an older, cognitively impaired family member, but they may not be eligible for much of the help available unless the diagnosis is dementia."
Ohio State University: FEELING ANGRY? SAY A PRAYER AND THE WRATH FADES AWAY
March 21, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Saying a prayer may help many people feel less angry and behave less aggressively after someone has left them fuming, new research suggests.
A series of studies showed that people who were provoked by insulting comments from a stranger showed less anger and aggression soon afterwards if they prayed for another person in the meantime.
The benefits of prayer identified in this study don’t rely on divine intervention: they probably occur because the act of praying changed the way people think about a negative situation, said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
“People often turn to prayer when they’re feeling negative emotions, including anger,” he said.
“We found that prayer really can help people cope with their anger, probably by helping them change how they view the events that angered them and helping them take it less personally.”
The Telegraph (India): Million-year-old tools found near Chennai - India’s prehistory pushed back
New Delhi, March 24: Archaeologists have discovered India’s oldest stone-age tools, up to 1.5 million years old, at a prehistoric site near Chennai. The discovery may change existing ideas about the earliest arrival of human ancestors from Africa into India.
A team of Indian and French archaeologists has used two dating methods to show that the stone hand-axes and cleavers from Attirampakkam are at least 1.07 million years old, and could date as far back as 1.5 million years.
In nearly 12 years of excavation, archaeologists Shanti Pappu and Kumar Akhilesh from the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, Chennai, have found 3,528 artefacts that are similar to the prehistoric tools discovered in western Asia and Africa.
The Witchita Eagle: Kansas evidence may predate Texas discovery
Artifacts may rewrite history
BY ROY WENZL
March 25, 2011
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Michael Waters said evidence already found in Kansas might shake up archaeology soon.
"Kansas is right in the bulls-eye for activity by the Paleo Indians," said Waters, a professor of anthropology and geography at Texas A&M and director of Center for the Study of the First Americans.
Two sites worked by Rolfe Mandel, a geoarchaeologist with the Kansas Geological Survey, and others near Kanorado and at Lovewell Reservoir in Jewell County might roll back the time by thousands of years.
The sites date back to 22,000 years ago, 6,000 years earlier than the discovery in the next article and 9,000 years earlier than the earliest date previously accepted for humans in North America.
N.Y. Times: Arrowheads Found in Texas Dial Back Arrival of Humans in America
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Published: March 24, 2011
For many years, scientists have thought that the first Americans came here from Asia 13,000 years ago, during the last ice age, probably by way of the Bering Strait. They were known as the Clovis people, after the town in New Mexico where their finely wrought spear points were first discovered in 1929.
But in more recent years, archaeologists have found more and more traces of even earlier people with a less refined technology inhabiting North America and spreading as far south as Chile.
And now clinching evidence in the mystery of the early peopling of America — Clovis or pre-Clovis? — for nearly all scientists appears to have turned up at a creek valley in the hill country of what is today Central Texas, 40 miles northwest of Austin.
News Channel 8 via Tampa Bay Online: 10,000-year-old spear is an archeological gem
BY JOSH GREEN
News Channel 8
Published: March 19, 2011
NORTH PORT - Archaeologists hope a major find in a spring an hour and a half south of Tampa helps piece together how Florida's earliest inhabitants lived.
On Friday, dive teams from The Florida Aquarium and the University of Miami exploring and excavating Little Salt Spring in southern Sarasota County carried to the surface a spear that dates back about 10,000 years.
When archaeologists put pieces of it back together, the artifact will measure more than a foot long.
"You're not just doing research for research sake," said Mike Terrell, dive training supervisor for The Florida Aquarium. "You are the steward of another culture that can't tell their story anymore because they're just simply not around."
N.Y. Times: In Israel, Treasures for Those Willing to Dig
By SAM ROBERTS
Published: March 25, 2011
YOU might have mistaken it for a typical summer barbecue: friends sprawled on a sandy ledge, shielded from the sun by a tarp flapping sporadically from an elusive sea breeze, listening to Kings of Leon blare from minispeakers connected to an iPod as they poked at the embers of a campfire.
Except the fire went out 2,500 years ago.
Still, the campers in Ashkelon, Israel, about 35 miles south of Tel Aviv along the Mediterranean coast, were mesmerized by the layer of white ash that adhered to a blackened base. Deftly wielding bamboo sticks, dental tools and trowels, they sifted the soot gingerly in an attempt to identify those who might have flanked this fire pit around 500 B.C., what was being cooked and where it came from.
LiveScience via MSNBC: Brains on campus, sure, but 2,500 years old?
Found in a skull, scientists puzzled by how fragile soft organ lasted so long
By Wynne Parry
A 2,500-year-old human skull uncovered in England was less of a surprise than what was in it: the brain. The discovery of the yellowish, crinkly, shrunken brain prompted questions about how such a fragile organ could have survived so long and how frequently this strange type of preservation occurs.
Except for the brain, all of the skull's soft tissue was gone when the skull was pulled from a muddy Iron Age pit where the University of York was planning to expand its Heslington East campus.
Asia News International via Yahoo! News India: Could artefacts in remote Jordan cave reveal Jesus' last years?
By ANI | ANI – Mon, Mar 21, 2011 12:39 PM IST
London, Mar 21 (ANI): Biblical artefacts discovered in a remote cave in Jordan could reveal the last years of Jesus' life if they are found to be genuine.
The discovery of the scrolls and 70 lead codices, tiny credit-card-sized volumes containing ancient Hebrew script talking of the Messiah and the Resurrection, has left Biblical scholars excited.
Much of the writing is in code, but experts have deciphered images, symbols and a few words and the texts could be 2,000 years old. Texts have been written on little sheets of lead bound together with wire.
Many of the codices are sealed which suggests that they could be secret writings referred to in the apocryphal Book of Ezra - an appendage to some versions of the Bible.
BBC: Roman quarry in Barry old harbour, claims archaeologist
March 21, 2011
An archaeologist believes he has discovered the remains of a Roman quarry in the old harbour at Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Karl-James Langford says the pottery find reinforces his belief that beach man-made walls may be 1,900 years old.
The quarry was operational until the 19th Century but its origins were unknown.
"It's not in the records - it may have been been completely ignored because it's too obvious," said Mr Langford.
He believes the quarry to be the source of limestone used for the Roman fort whose remains can be seen in the walls around Cardiff Castle, although historical records do not mention such a quarry.
The Guardian (UK): Looters strip Latin America of archaeological heritage
A century after Machu Picchu's rediscovery, ancient Mayan and Moche sites are being ransacked for tourist baubles
Rory Carroll , Latin America correspondent, and Matthew Barker in Galindo guardian.co.uk,
Monday 21 March 2011 18.59 GMT
Etched into the surviving art of the Moche, one of South America's most ancient and mysterious civilisations, is a fearsome creature dubbed the Decapitator. Also known as Ai Apaec, the octopus-type figure holds a knife in one hand and a severed head in the other in a graphic rendition of the human sacrifices the Moche practiced in northern Peru 1,500 years ago.
For archaeologists, the horror here is not in Moche iconography, which you see in pottery and mural fragments, but in the hundreds of thousands of trenches scarring the landscape: a warren of man-made pillage. Gangs of looters, known as huaqueros, are ransacking Peru's heritage to illegally sell artefacts to collectors and tourists.
"They come at night to explore the ruins and dig the holes," said Cuba Cruz de Metro, 58, a shopkeeper in the farming village of Galindo. "They don't know the history, they're just looking for bodies and for tombs. They're just looking for things to sell."
The Independent (UK): Treasure hunters rue their £3.2m find after row over reward ends friendship
By Genevieve Roberts
Two men who became millionaires overnight after discovering Britain's largest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasures have become embroiled in a bitter row and regret their find, each accusing the other of greed.
Terry Herbert, 56, unearthed the Staffordshire Hoard in July 2009, using a metal detector bought at a car boot sale for £2.50. He found it on farmer Fred Johnson's land at Brownhills in the West Midlands. The £3.28million find transformed the men's lives after they shared the reward equally. Archaeologists said they were "in awe" of the collection of 1,500 gold objects dating from the 7th or 8th Century.
The Scotsman (UK): Scotland's Dark Ages weren't so dark after all
By Craig Brown
Early Historic Scotland has long been thought of as a barbaric and dark time, dominated by blue-painted Picts and marauding Vikings.
But Scots academics are set to dispel this notion with research to be published later this year depicting the country during this period as a place of flourishing creative and intellectual work, open to, and trading with, the continent.
For the past three years, Alice Blackwell, Glenmorangie Research Officer with National Museums Scotland, has been studying artefacts from the period, which stretches from AD300 to AD900, in an attempt to gain a more cohesive, realistic picture of how people lived.
Slate: America's Ancient Cave Art
Deep in the Cumberland Plateau, mysterious drawings, thousands of years old, offer a glimpse of lost Native American cultures and traditions.
By John Jeremiah Sullivan
Updated Monday, March 21, 2011, at 6:57 AM ET
Over the past few decades, in Tennessee, archaeologists have unearthed an elaborate cave-art tradition thousands of years old. The pictures are found in dark zone sites—places where the Native American people who made the artwork did so at personal risk, crawling meters or, in some cases, miles underground with cane torches—as opposed to sites in the "twilight zone," speleologists' jargon for the stretch, just beyond the entry chamber, which is exposed to diffuse sunlight. A pair of local hobby cavers, friends who worked for the U.S. Forest Service, found the first of these sites in 1979. They'd been exploring an old root cellar and wriggled up into a higher passage. The walls were covered in a thin layer of clay sediment left there during long ago floods and maintained by the cave's unchanging temperature and humidity. The stuff was still soft. It looked at first as though someone had finger-painted all over, maybe a child—the men debated even saying anything. But the older of them was a student of local history. He knew some of those images from looking at drawings of pots and shell ornaments that emerged from the fields around there: bird men, a dancing warrior figure, a snake with horns. Here were naturalistic animals, too: an owl and turtle. Some of the pictures seemed to have been first made and then ritually mutilated in some way, stabbed or beaten with a stick.
Big Pond News (Australia): Aboriginal stone site feared wrecked
Friday, March 25, 2011 » 06:17pm
Landowners and an Aboriginal tribesman say they fear a Queensland coal seam gas company has destroyed parts of a sacred stone site west of Brisbane.
Cattle farmers Rob and Sharon Lohse say parts of the ancient Aboriginal stone arrangements have vanished with Queensland Gas Company's development of the Sean 12 gas well at Kogan, near Dalby.
The well is on a property known as Kerrsdale, adjacent to the Lohses's property Kia-Ora.
Mr Lohse told AAP the couple considered themselves to be guardians of the sacred site since they bought their property 15 years ago.
He said 25 per cent of the sacred site overlapped Kerrsdale, a claim that Queensland Gas Company denies.
The Irish Times: Archaeology Jobs Collapse: 80% Of Jobs Lost Since End Of Boom
Friday, March 25, 2011
EMPLOYMENT IN archaeology has collapsed from a high of 1,750 jobs at the height of the construction boom to 350, according to the Institute of Archaeologists.
The loss of jobs on an unprecedented scale has also resulted in a massive loss of skills and knowledge within the profession, according to Finola O’Carroll, chairwoman of the institute.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.
BBC: X-ray technique peers beneath archaeology's surface
By Jason Palmer Science and technology reporter, BBC News, Dallas
Striking discoveries in archaeology are being made possible by strong beams of X-rays, say researchers.
A report at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, showed how X-ray sources known as synchrotrons can unravel an artefact's mysteries.
Light given off after an X-ray blast yields a neat list of the atoms within.
The technique can illuminate layers of pigment beneath the surfaces of artefacts, or even show the traces of tools used thousands of years ago.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
University of Wisconsin: New imaging technique provides rapid, high-definition chemistry
March 21, 2011
With intensity a million times brighter than sunlight, a new synchrotron-based imaging technique offers high-resolution pictures of the molecular composition of tissues with unprecedented speed and quality. Carol Hirschmugl, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), led a team of researchers from UWM, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) to demonstrate these new capabilities.
Hirschmugl and UWM scientist Michael Nasse have built a facility called "Infrared Environmental Imaging (IRENI)," to perform the technique at the Synchrotron Radiation Center (SRC) at UW-Madison. The new technique employs multiple beams of synchrotron light to illuminate a state-of-the-art camera, instead of just one beam.
IRENI cuts the amount of time needed to image a sample from hours to minutes, while quadrupling the range of the sample size and producing high-resolution images of samples that do not have to be tagged or stained as they would for imaging with an optical microscope.
Ohio State University: SEEING IN STEREO: ENGINEERS INVENT LENS FOR 3D MICROSCOPE
March 21, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Engineers at Ohio State University have invented a lens that enables microscopic objects to be seen from nine different angles at once to create a 3D image.
Other 3D microscopes use multiple lenses or cameras that move around an object; the new lens is the first single, stationary lens to create microscopic 3D images by itself.
Allen Yi, associate professor of integrated systems engineering at Ohio State, and postdoctoral researcher Lei Li described the lens in a recent issue of the Journal of the Optical Society of America A.
Yi called the lens a proof of concept for manufacturers of microelectronics and medical devices, who currently use very complex machinery to view the tiny components that they assemble.
University of Wisconsin: Curiosities: What is the flattest thing in the world?
March 21, 2011
The answer depends on many factors, including how the measurement is made and the scale of interest. “A mountain can look very rough, but if you focus on a meadow from an airplane, it may look very flat,” says Max Lagally, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert on roughness.
At the atomic scale, flatness depends on the geometry of the atomic bonds. In graphene (a single layer of carbon atoms whose discovery won the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics), “the bonds between the carbon atoms all lie in one plane, and so the atoms form an atomically flat sheet,” Lagally says.
In contrast, the bonds between silicon cause ripples on the atomic scale.
University of Michigan: New fluorescent OLEDs display greater efficiencies than believed possible
March 23, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—University of Michigan engineering researchers have designed an exceptionally efficient fluorescent blue OLED, or organic light emitting diode.
OLEDs are the next generation display technology. They are already used in televisions, cell phones and computers, and they are candidates for a vast array of light sources from advertising billboards to indoor and outdoor illumination. Fluorescent OLEDs are typically less efficient at emitting light per unit area than their phosphorescent counterparts.
That may be changing, according to new findings by professor John Kieffer and graduate student Changgua Zhen of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. They released findings in the journal Advanced Functional Materials that shattered previous records. Traditionally, the ceiling for the efficiency of fluorescent OLEDs was believed to be 5 percent. Now, Kieffer and his collaborators have produced fluorescent OLEDs with close to 10 percent efficiency.
University of Michigan: Unemployment rate and cost of gas predict fuel economy of purchased vehicles
March 23, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Average fuel economy of purchased new vehicles has increased by more than 12 percent since late 2007, due mainly to high unemployment and gas prices, according to a University of Michigan study.
The average fuel economy of purchased new light-duty vehicles (cars, pickup trucks, minivans and SUVs) improved from 20.1 mpg in October 2007 to 22.6 mpg in February 2011—the highest it has ever been.
A new report by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute found that the national unemployment rate (currently just below 9 percent) and the price of gasoline (currently above $3.50 a gallon) together account for 83 percent of the variance in the average fuel economy of new cars purchased.
Purdue University: Purdue, General Atomics team develops lightweight, portable power using hydrogen fuel pellets
March 21, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University researchers have collaborated with scientists at General Atomics to create safe and efficient pellets to power hydrogen fuel cells that can run an array of portable electronic devices.
The technology will be on display in Indianapolis as part of Purdue Day at the Statehouse from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday (March 22) in the Statehouse Rotunda.
The marble-sized fuel pellets, which contain a solid compound that gives off hydrogen when heated, overcome the historic challenges in using hydrogen as a fuel, said P.V. Ramachandran, the Purdue professor of chemistry who led the research.
"Hydrogen gas takes up a lot of space, is unstable and unsafe to transport," Ramachandran said. "We've developed a way to use a very stable and safe compound that can release pure hydrogen gas on demand without any toxic or corrosive byproducts."
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
Wayne State University: Wayne State University hosts seminar on legal and regulatory issues associated with nanotechnology
March 24, 2011
DETROIT - Wayne State University is hosting a seminar on legal and regulatory issues associated with nanotechnology on Monday, April 11, 2011, from 2-3:30 p.m. in Bernath Auditorium, located in the David Adamany Undergraduate Library. The seminar is free and open to the public; registration is required due to limited seating. Those that should consider attending include nanoscientists; manufacturers of items using nanomaterials; persons associated with nanotechnology commercialization; or anyone interested in nanoscience and its products.
Indiana University: IU study: Smoke-free air law had no effect on off-track betting facility business activity
March 22, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana University study found that a smoke-free air law implemented in an Indiana community did not hurt business at the off-track betting facility in that community. The findings, the researchers said, suggest there is "no economic reason for policymakers to exclude OTB facilities from smoke-free legislation."
Indiana legislators are currently debating a statewide smoke-free air law. Exceptions could include casinos and other gaming venues. Jon Macy, assistant professor in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and lead author of the study, said past research has shown that smoke-free laws do not negatively affect businesses, but the findings concerning gambling facilities have been mixed.
"Prior research has very clearly demonstrated that laws prohibiting smoking in public places and workplaces have no negative economic consequences in multiple industries," Macy said. "Our study is one of the first to find that this holds true for gaming facilities as well."
MSNBC: Science thrives in virtual worlds
By Alan Boyle
Does the virtual-reality world known as Second Life have anything to offer for real-world scientists? Absolutely — and a trailblazing researcher says the payoffs are sure to increase when the Internet goes 3-D.
"We are really meant to interact in 3-D, with other people and with information," Caltech physicist George Djorgovski, director of the Meta Institute for Computational Astrophysics, told me today during an interview in Second Life. "Because this works so well with the human perception system, as soon as there is an easy and 'good enough' 3-D approach, people will switch en masse."
Djorgovski will talk about the past, present and future of virtual worlds on "Virtually Speaking Science," a talk show that's simulcast in Second Life and on the Web via BlogTalkRadio. I'm one of the co-hosts of the hourlong show, which airs on Sunday at 7 p.m. SLT/PT (10 p.m. ET).
University of Wisconsin: Two New Basic Science Departments Established
March 24, 2011
Madison, Wisconsin - The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) has created two new basic science departments - the department of neuroscience and the department of cell and regenerative biology.
The new departments replace the former departments of anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. Faculty, research and teaching staff, and resources from those three departments will be folded into the two new administrative units.
The reorganization reflects the school's current strengths and its goal of future distinction in areas that are among the most promising in science today.
"We hope that unifying several foci of excellence within our school in this way will provide synergistic opportunities for continued growth, even in the face of limited resources," says Dr. Robert N. Golden, dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health.
University of Wisconsin: Science is in your hands at annual Science Expeditions event
by Chris Barncard
March 24, 2011
A little hands-on exploration can open a whole new world, and Science Expeditions — set for Saturday, April 2, this year — is a passport to the world of research at UW–Madison.
The key to the annual campuswide science open house is not so much a collection of interactive exhibits, but the cast of interactive scientists that go along with them, according to Tom Zinnen, a Science Expeditions organizer.
“It’s an opportunity to interact with scientists that guide and coach you as you participate and develop your own scientific savvy,” says Zinnen, an outreach specialist for the Biotechnology Center. “You get to experience science as an explorer within this community of researchers.”
Purdue University: Purdue students create new products from corn and soybeans
March 23, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Teams of Purdue University students who developed a soy-based denture adhesive and a liquid bandage out of corn have won the top prizes in the annual Student Soybean and Corn Innovation Contests.
The awards were announced at a banquet Wednesday night (March 23) at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis.
The competition, sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, teaches students how to be innovative entrepreneurs with corn and soybeans.
"The versatility of corn and soybeans is limitless, and these competitions serve as a showcase not only for the potential new uses of crops grown here in Indiana but also for the students who put their time, effort and talent into their projects," said Jane Ade Stevens, executive director for both the corn and soybean checkoff organizations.
Purdue University: Technology education spotlighted during Purdue Tech Week 2011
March 24, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Purdue University College of Technology will celebrate its annual Technology Week April 9-15.
Using the theme, "We are Technology Makers," the college will showcase how its faculty, students and alumni are impacting society.
Purdue's College of Technology operates in 11 Indiana communities, from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan, offering degree programs with the same curriculum as programs at West Lafayette's main campus.
"Providing convenient access to cutting-edge technology and world-class education for millions of Hoosiers makes the College of Technology a powerful workforce development tool," said Dean Dennis Depew.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Michigan: Research practices must be changed to minimize fraud, deception
Scientists, journals, the media and public need to reassess how studies are conducted, published and promoted, say U-M physicians in JAMA commentary
March 22, 2011
Ann Arbor, Mich. — In 1998, a study linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism in children appeared in a respected medical journal. For a decade, the study grabbed headlines worldwide. Worried parents rejected the life-saving vaccine for their children and those with autistic children agonized that they allowed an injection that caused the condition.
But the vaccine-autism research was a fraud. The paper was retracted 12 years later, denounced as an elaborate deception.
“The fraud in that MMR study epitomizes how fabricated research can lead to a domino effect of tragic consequences,” says Vineet Chopra, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.H.M., assistant professor of Internal Medicine at U-M. “Patients fear potentially lifesaving interventions, clinicians alter practice and scientists and governments waste precious resources to evaluate researchers’ claims.”
Science is Cool
Michigan State University: Miller-Urey experiment recreated in art-science exhibit
March 23, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — How did life begin on Earth and other planets? A Michigan State University professor has combined art and science to explore that question.
Adam Brown’s “Origins of Life Experiment #1.2” is a recreation of the Miller-Urey experiment of 1952, considered to be the classic experiment on the origin of life. Brown’s work simulates what is thought to be Earth’s original atmosphere by combining hydrogen, ammonia and methane in a glass chamber. Add lightning and the result is amino acids.
“This experiment has the potential to reveal some of the underlying mechanisms of how life began on this planet and others,” said Brown, associate professor of electronic art and intermedia in the Department of Art and Art History. “But at the same time, we’re practicing science and creating an art piece. It’s a true hybrid.”
Brown’s art/science piece will be at the MSU Museum through May, after which it will travel to Vienna, Austria, for the science, art and film festival “Bio: Fiction.” His is an open source science experiment that will travel the world, asking other artists and scientists to contribute.
University of Wisconsin: New software will help Wisconsin communities redraw their electoral maps
by Bob Mitchell
March 21, 2011
With a few quick, deft movements of mouse and keyboard, Jim Beaudoin reorganized voting in Columbia County.
He collapsed 31 supervisory districts into two big ones, then grabbed a city block here, a rural block there, dragging them from one district to the other to balance the populations. Finally, he zoomed in to do similar surgery on wards and aldermanic districts. With that, he was done.
"I now have the perfect redistricting plan," he says with a smile.
This isn't exactly how things will go next month when Wisconsin's local officials begin the once-a-decade chore of adjusting voting districts. Local staff won't work this fast, or with such a heavy hand. But most of them will be using the same point-and-click, drag-and-drop technology, which Beaudoin, an applications developer with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Applied Population Laboratory and UW-Extension, has spent more than two years creating.
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