Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.
This week's featured stories come from Life's Little Mysteries via MSNBC.
The 10 Noblest Nobel Prize Winners of All Time
updated 10/4/2011 4:49:45 PM ET
The 2011 Nobel Prizes are being handed out this week. So far, the prize for physiology or medicine has gone to a trio of researchers who uncovered various aspects of the nature of immunity, and the physics prize has gone to a trio of physicists who discovered in the late 1990s that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.
These achievements are great indeed, and the winners join a list of some of humanity's finest representatives. Here's a sampling of notable Nobel Prize recipients of the past, and what they accomplished.
Top 5 Nobel Prize Goof-Ups
By Natalie Wolchover
updated 10/5/2011 11:20:04 AM ET
This week, the Nobel Prize committees are announcing their picks for the 2011 prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, economics, literature and peace.
We've made our own picks of the worst decisions in the history of the venerable institution.
More science, space, and environment stories after the jump, including Insight: Nobel winner's last big experiment: Himself in Medicine and Biotechnology, Speeding universe work wins Nobel in Physics, and Ridiculed crystal work wins Nobel for Israeli in Chemistry.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
This week in science: Comets and Stardust
Amy of Discovery News on YouTube: What Kind of Genius Was Steve Jobs? It seems some of our Discovery News readers disagree.
Kowch737 on YouTube: Team Pipistrel-USA.com of State College, Pa. flew away with the largest prize in aviation history, 1.35 million dollars, at NASA's Green Flight Challenge in Santa Rosa, Calif.
The three-member Expedition 29 crew of Commander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov continues preparing for the October 29 undocking of the Progress 42 resupply craft from the International Space Station.
New measurements from the Herschel Space Observatory show that comet Hartley 2, which comes from the distant Kuiper Belt, contains the same kind of water as Earth's oceans.
Results from a NASA-led study, shows unprecedented depletion of ozone protection in the area above the Arctic.
The Nobel prize for physics. Dr. Adam Reiss from Baltimore, Maryland's Space Telescope Science Institute is now the latest is this long line of notable recipients.
A new Space Act agreement revives a commitment to economic development aimed at supporting NASA's current and future missions.
Visitors to the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton on a recent Friday night were greeted by an ice sculpture ... a stunning crystalline likeness of a space shuttle.
Hispanic American Heritage Month Profile: Eric Aguilar -- JPL (CP)
Large fires burning throughout Australia; dust plumes over the Mediterranean sea. Both have been captured by NASA's busy Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers.
Thirty-seven teachers from across the country recently participated in two, three-day workshops in Palmdale, California, as part of NASA's Airborne Research Experiences for Educators program, AREES.
This unique corn maze in Lathrop, Calif. is one of seven at so-called space farms across the country honoring NASA and the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight.
MSNBC: Mummified dinosaur set for auction block
LiveScience via MSNBC: Stanford Preserve cougars caught on camera
Photos, the first for area, show that mountain lions likely come from one group
By Jennifer Welsh
updated 10/7/2011 2:05:39 PM ET
To catch a glimpse of a mountain lion, automatic cameras seem to be the best bet, as the elusive wildlife are not much for interacting with humans and they prefer nighttime jaunts.
New images and video from Stanford University's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve have done just that. They've caught the wild mountain lions (also called pumas or cougars) making regular visits to the preserve.
The camera traps shoot pictures and video when they sense any movement, typically from any passing animal. They record in infrared, so even in the dark of night, when the mountain lions like to roam, the animal can be visualized.
MSNBC: New planets from old pictures
By Alan Boyle
New techniques for analyzing decade-old images from the Hubble Space Telescope are helping astronomers track planets that went undiscovered at the time. So far, the techniques have confirmed the existence of planets that were found in the meantime using other methods — but astronomers will be checking hundreds of stars in hopes of making brand-new discoveries.
Remi Soummer, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore who led the new study, compared the technique to a "time machine" for seeking out planets beyond our solar system.
The key to the time machine is a huge database of observations made in the '90s by the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Oblect Spectrometer, or NICMOS. The instrument was used back then to look for dusty planetary disks and brown dwarfs. NICMOS focused on the regions around hundreds of stars, using a coronagraphic disc to block out the glare of the stars themselves.
Discovery News via MSNBC: Uranus may have taken many hits to cause its tilt
Scientists theorize multiple pummelings explain why its moons spin sideways, too
By Irene Klotz
updated 10/7/2011 4:13:54 PM ET
What toppled giant Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, to its tilt is a long-standing puzzle. Scientists suspect it was left spinning on its side after a collision with an object about twice the size of Earth.
But that doesn't explain why Uranus' moons spin sideways, relative to their orbital planes, matching almost exactly their parent planet's 98-degree tilt.
Jupiter's spin axis, by comparison is tilted 3 degrees; Earth's, 23 degrees; Saturn and Neptune, 29 degrees.
The answer, suggests a team of scientists, is that Uranus was pummeled more than once. Computer models show a series of impacts by Earth-sized objects could have left Uranus on its side before its moons formed.
Reuters: Comets a water source for thirsty early Earth
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON | Wed Oct 5, 2011 1:15pm EDT
Astronomers have found the first comet with ocean-like water in a major boost to the theory that the celestial bodies were a significant source of water for a thirsty early Earth.
The intense heat of the planet immediately after it formed means any initial water would have quickly evaporated and scientists believe the oceans emerged around 8 million years later.
The puzzle is where the water, which is vital for life on Earth, came from.
Space.com via MSNBC: Spectacular Draconid meteor shower returns ... maybe
Bright moon, bad timing may hinder viewing, but there could be an 'October surprise'
By Joe Rao
updated 10/7/2011 6:22:44 PM ET
For meteor enthusiasts, October usually means watching for the reliable Orionid meteors late in the month. But this year could bring an "October surprise." Skywatchers are hoping that the long-dormant Draconid meteor shower will come streaking out of the constellation Draco on Saturday, even though the nearly full moon and the shower's timing may interfere.
The peak of the Draconid meteor shower promises hundreds of "shooting stars" per hour, but it will occur during daylight hours for observers in North America, spoiling the view. For observers outside the United States, the nearly full moon may outshine the meteor shower display.
Discovery News via MSNBC: Someone gave that prehistoric dog a bone...
Mammoth treat probably put there by human; find shows relationships with canines
By Jennifer Viegas
updated 10/7/2011 2:33:59 PM ET
The remains of three Paleolithic dogs, including one with a mammoth bone in its mouth, have been unearthed at Predmosti in the Czech Republic, according to a new Journal of Archaeological Science paper.
The remains indicate what life was like for these prehistoric dogs in this region, and how humans viewed canines. The dogs appear to have often sunk their teeth into meaty mammoth bones. These weren’t just mammoth in terms of size, but came from actual mammoths.
In the case of the dog found with the bone in its mouth, the researchers believe a human inserted it there after death.
The Arizona Republic: Food archaeologist gives new life to nearly extinct grains, veggies
by Richard Ruelas - Oct. 1, 2011 06:43 PM
The Arizona Republic
PATAGONIA - Gary Nabhan has written stacks of research papers about culture, archaeology and food for academic journals, and has authored at least a dozen books, some meant for popular consumption, others the academic kind whose titles have colons and subtitles that are longer than the main title.
But the gist of his high-minded, dense research is this: People lived here thousands of years ago and they must have eaten something.
To get that something, they didn't go to the supermarket or big-box discount store. They grew and raised their foodstuffs on arid desert lands.
Nabhan, 59, has made it his life's work to figure out what those foods were and, if possible, to bring those nearly extinct foods back to life.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
LiveScience via MSNBC: Chivalry not dead — but it may kill male crickets
Researchers find insects will at times lay down their lives for their mates
By Charles Choi
updated 10/6/2011 6:48:47 PM ET
Males chivalrous enough to lay their lives down for their lovers can be found even among crickets, scientists now reveal.
Male crickets are probably best known for their songs, making chirping sounds by rubbing their wings together in order to woo females. Now it appears the insects may behave romantically not just during courtship, but also in what might be their last act.
"Many people probably think that 'chivalrous' behavior is exclusive of humans or closely related mammals, linking it in some way to education, intelligence or affection," said researcher Rolando Rodriguez-Munoz, a behavioral biologist at the University of Exeter in England. "We show that even males of small insects, which we would not define as intelligent or affective, can be 'chivalrous' or protective with their partners."
Boing Boing: How To: Use vinegar to diagnose cervical cancer
By Maggie Koerth-Baker at 10:04 am Tuesday, Sep 27
In developing countries, a new, inexpensive treatment allows nurses to spot pre-cancerous lesions on a woman's cervix and remove them—without needing a medical lab, and without surgery. It has huge implications for women's health, because cervical cancer kills 250,000 women every year.
In fact, before pap smears became commonplace, cervical cancer killed more American women than any other sort of cancer. But in places where the pap smear isn't practical, this new technique can help.
Hat/tip to nonnie9999 for this story.
Reuters: Insight: Nobel winner's last big experiment: Himself
By Julie Steenhuysen and Michelle Nichols
CHICAGO/NEW YORK | Thu Oct 6, 2011 6:20pm EDT
In the last few years of his life, Dr. Ralph Steinman made himself into an extraordinary human lab experiment, testing a series of unproven therapies - including some he helped to create - as he waged a very personal battle with pancreatic cancer.
The winner of the 2011 Nobel prize in medicine, who died only three days before the award was announced on Monday, ultimately tried as many as eight unproven treatments.
"He felt that human clinical investigation was the highest form of research, that it was critical to engage in it," Dr. Sarah Schlesinger, Steinman's clinical lab director and colleague at New York's Rockefeller University, told Reuters. "He had great criticism of how slowly the process moved ... he was impatient with data and mice," she added.
This article is accompanied by Factbox: Winners of 2011 Nobel Medicine Prize
Reuters: John Shepherd, cardiovascular expert, dies at 92
By Andrew Stern
MINNEAPOLIS | Fri Oct 7, 2011 1:21pm EDT
Dr. John Shepherd, whose discoveries have led to new ways to treat high blood pressure and who helped astronauts withstand the rigors of space travel, has died, his family and colleagues said on Friday.
Shepherd, who had suffered from Alzheimer's disease, was 92 when he died on Tuesday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he began working full time in 1957 after immigrating from Northern Ireland.
A colleague at the famed Mayo Clinic, Dr. Michael Joyner, said Shepherd was one of the top cardiovascular researchers of the past half-century.
Reuters: Scientists use cloning to make human stem cells
By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO | Wed Oct 5, 2011 1:42pm EDT
U.S. scientists for the first time have used a cloning technique to get tailor-made embryonic stem cells to grow in unfertilized human egg cells, a landmark finding and a potential new flashpoint for opponents of stem cell research.
The researchers were trying to prove it is possible to use a cloning technology called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT, to make embryonic stem cells that match a patient's DNA.
The achievement, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is significant because such patient-specific cells potentially can be transplanted to replace damaged cells in people with diabetes and other diseases without rejection by the immune system.
This technique could ignite new controversy because some opponents consider it to be cloning, which they fiercely oppose.
Post and Courier: Low water draws lake looters
By Bo Petersen
Saturday, October 8, 2011
LAKE MARION -- Four years ago, the bare bottoms of the drought-stricken Marion-Moultrie lakes were combed by people with metal detectors, and a trove of historic artifacts were looted by the curious and the craven.
Now, the first sets of meandering footprints have turned up again on exposed strips of shallows bottom, alarming wildlife agents and others who battled the plundering in 2007.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
MSNBC: How we'll eat the same with climate change
By John Roach
Want a varied, abundant, and healthy diet in the decades ahead? Then be glad that researchers are beginning to pinpoint the genes that allow plants to thrive and adapt to different climates.
That's because our agricultural system is largely adapted to perform in today's climate, which despite some warmer and cooler swings over the past 10,000 years or so, has been relatively stable.
That's unlikely to be the case in the future, meaning we will need to adapt our agricultural system to a changing climate if we aim to maintain our current eating and drinking habits.
Our Amazing Planet via MSNBC: Remains of a massive ancient landslide discovered
It's one of world's best-preserved accessible examples of awesome phenomenon
updated 10/7/2011 11:43:26 AM ET
The remains of a monstrous ancient landslide have been discovered in the Canary Islands.
The remnants are one of the world's best-preserved examples of a huge landslide that followed a mammoth volcanic eruption, allowing a team of researchers to pinpoint the date that the landslide occurred.
During what is known as a volcanic flank collapse, the southeast slopes of the island of Tenerife collapsed into the sea around 733,000 years ago during the eruption. A growing dome of hot lava pushed the side of the volcano outward and triggered the landslide. The volcanic flank collapse traveled 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) to the shoreline and then farther into the ocean.
Reuters: Monkey mind control -- a breakthrough for paralysis?
By Tatiana Ramil
SAO PAULO | Thu Oct 6, 2011 4:19pm EDT
Scientists believe they are a step closer to enabling paralyzed people to walk and use artificial arms after an experiment in which monkeys moved and sensed objects using only their minds.
The monkeys were able to operate a virtual arm to search for objects through brain activity that was picked up by implants -- a so-called brain-machine interface.
In a leap forward from previous studies, the primates were also able to experience the sense of touch -- a crucial element of any solution for paralyzed people because it enables them to judge the strength used to grasp and control objects.
Art Daily: Mexican archaeologists find human footprints in Chihuahua that may be 25,000 years old
MEXICO CITY.- Five footprints from human feet, calculated to be between 4,500 and 25,000 years old, were discovered in the Sierra Tarahumara, in Chihuahua. Specialists said that the foot prints could belong to the first men who lived in this region that is today known as northern Mexico.
These are the first human footprints that have been found in Chihuahua and once their age has been found out, they will be added to the few footprints from the first people that lived in the American continent that are preserved in Mexico, particularly in Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila and in a ranch in Sonora.
University of Chicago via physorg.com: Archaeologist argues world's oldest temples were not temples at all
October 6, 2011
Ancient structures uncovered in Turkey and thought to be the world's oldest temples may not have been strictly religious buildings after all, according to an article in the October issue of Current Anthropology. Archaeologist Ted Banning of the University of Toronto argues that the buildings found at Göbekli Tepe may have been houses for people, not the gods.
The buildings at Göbekli, a hilltop just outside of the Turkish city of Urfa, were found in 1995 by Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute and colleagues from the S,anl?urfa Museum in Turkey. The oldest of the structures at the site are immense buildings with large stone pillars, many of which feature carvings of snakes, scorpions, foxes, and other animals.
The presence of art in the buildings, the substantial effort that must have been involved in making and erecting them, and a lack of evidence for any permanent settlement in the area, led Schmidt and others to conclude that Göbekli must have been a sacred place where pilgrims traveled to worship, much like the Greek ruins of Delphi or Olympia. If that interpretation is true it would make the buildings, which date back more than 10,000 years to the early Neolithic, the oldest temples ever found.
The Epoch Times: Mesolithic Discovery Could Alter Our Understanding of Stonehenge
Epoch Times Staff
Created: Oct 5, 2011
A pair of carved stone ducks unearthed at Vespasian's Camp near Stonehenge are believed to be the oldest known figurines found in the UK, and are amongst other findings that suggest the sacred site was in use several thousand years before the megalith itself was constructed.
Led by archeologist David Jacques at The Open University, several students uncovered a hoard of artifacts from the mid-Stone Age, including a ceremonial dagger, the remains of an aurochs feast, and more than 5,000 flints and tools.
BBC: Pavlopetri: A window on to Bronze Age suburban life
By Dr Jon Henderson University of Nottingham
Semi-detached houses with gardens, clothes drying in the courtyards, walls and well-made streets - Pavlopetri epitomises the suburban way of life. Except that it's a Bronze Age port, submerged for millennia off the south-east coast of Greece.
This summer it became the first underwater city to be fully digitally mapped and recorded in three dimensions, and then brought back to life with computer graphics.
The result shows how much it has in common with port cities of today - Liverpool, London, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo or Shanghai - despite the fact that its heyday was 4,000 years ago.
Discovery News vis MSNBC: Prehistoric teen girl's grave found near henge
Discovery bolsters idea that death-related rituals took place at mysterious monuments
By Jennifer Viegas
Four to five thousand years ago, a wealthy teenage girl was laid to rest in a grave at what archaeologists believe is a newly found henge in Kent, England.
The discovery of the 17-year-old's grave — along with a unique prehistoric pot inside of a ringed ditch near two other women — strengthens the idea that important death-related rituals took place at Stonehenge and many of these mysterious ancient monuments when they were first erected.
The Daily Mail (UK): Sarcophagus lay for years in seaside museum before owners realised it was 3,500 years old - one of the most valuable ever
By Rob Waugh
The mummy in Torquay Museum had lain there for years, assumed to be between 2,400 and 2,600 years old and relatively uninteresting - until a visiting academic said, 'That's older than you think it is.'
Speaking to Mail Online today, museum curator Barry Chandler said, 'Dr Aidan Dodson, from Bristol University, looked at the design and realised it must have come from the Egyptian 'golden age - the time of Akhenaten and Tutankhamun.'
Not only that, the sarcophagus indicated it was made for a child of a high status, possibly even royal. It's among the most valuable such finds in Britain.
Miami Herald: Keys-based nonprofit seeks out ancient Mediterranean shipwrecks
By Cammy Clark
KEY LARGO -- The mysteries of the underwater world have intrigued Ian Koblick since he was a teenager diving into the unknown with homemade scuba gear and an air tank filled at a gas station.
His first underwater exploration yielded a lost boat motor in a California lake and a $10 reward. That started an eclectic marine career. He’s served as an aquanaut in the Tektite undersea research program off the Virgin Islands, searched for treasure from a sunken 1622 Spanish galleon with Mel Fisher and co-developed the Jules Undersea Lodge in Key Largo.
Now, through a nonprofit, Koblick, 72, helps operate multimillion-dollar marine expeditions that scour the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea for ancient shipwrecks.
“This is not treasure hunting; it’s archaeology,” he said recently from his office in Key Largo.
University of Colorado via physorg.com: Team discovers ancient road at Maya village buried by volcanic ash 1,400 years ago
October 5, 2011
A University of Colorado Boulder-led team excavating a Maya village in El Salvador buried by a volcanic eruption 1,400 years ago has unexpectedly hit an ancient white road that appears to lead to and from the town, which was frozen in time by a blanket of ash.
The road, known as a "sacbe," is roughly 6 feet across and is made from white volcanic ash from a previous eruption that was packed down and shored up along its edges by residents living there in roughly A.D. 600, said CU-Boulder Professor Payson Sheets, who discovered the buried village known as Ceren near the city of San Salvador in 1978. In Yucatan Maya, the word "sacbe" (SOCK'-bay) literally means "white way" or "white road" and is used to describe elevated ancient roads typically lined with stone and paved with white lime plaster and that sometimes connected temples, plazas and towns.
The Daily Mail (UK): A grisly end: 800-year-old remains of witch discovered in Italian graveyard… with seven nails driven through her jaw
By Nick Pisa
Last updated at 7:20 PM on 25th September 2011
These are the 800 year old remains of what archaeologists believe was a witch from the Middle Ages after seven nails were found driven through her jaw bone.
The grim discovery was made during a dig on what is thought to be a 'witches graveyard' after another woman's skeleton was found surrounded by 17 dice - a game which women were forbidden from playing 800 years ago.
Daily Press: Old Hampton taverns served the elite
Mark St. John Erickson,
6:49 p.m. EDT, September 30, 2011
HAMPTON —— Walk by the King Street wharf on any given day and you'll see a working waterfront marked by fishing boats, delivery trucks and forklifts toting bushels of crabs.
Not far away — just past old Rudd Lane — you may discover school kids getting off buses to tour the Virginia Air & Space Center and Hampton Carousel.
But step back 245 years and you'd find yourself in the midst of a scene you might not have expected in a town whose prominence faded long ago: Crowds of wealthy men and women arriving to celebrate the king's birthday by dining in style at two of Virginia's finest taverns.
University of Melborne (Australia) via physorg.com: Hundreds of undiscovered artefacts found at Gallipoli
October 5, 2011
More than 100 artefacts from the First World War have been uncovered in an archaeological fieldwork survey on the Gallipoli battlefield, leading to some interesting theories about life on the frontline according to University of Melbourne survey archaeologist Professor Antonio Sagona.
The discoveries were made as part of a second season of fieldwork undertaken as part of the Joint Historical and Archaeological Survey – the only systematic survey of the battlefields of Gallipoli since the First World War.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.
MSNBC: Prehistoric kids left marks in caves
By Alan Boyle
Archaeologists say the shapes of finger marks suggest that children as young as 2 years old made drawings on the walls of a Paleolithic cave dwelling, with an occasional boost from the grown-ups.
The tale of the "prehistoric preschool" was laid out by Cambridge University archaeologist Jessica Cooney last weekend at a conference on the archaeology of childhood. Cooney has been studying hundreds of markings made on the walls of France's Rouffignac cave complex. Many of the markings are thought to date back 13,000 years, to a hunter-gatherer culture known as the Magdalenian. The same culture is thought to have created the better-known cave drawings at Lascaux.
Reuters: Speeding universe work wins Nobel
By Anna Ringstrom
STOCKHOLM | Tue Oct 4, 2011 6:34pm EDT
The "astounding" discovery that the expansion of the universe is speeding up won the Nobel physics prize on Tuesday for three astronomers whose observations of exploding stars transformed our view of the world, and of how it may end.
Honouring two global teams of stargazers whose findings shook cosmology to its foundations in 1998, the Nobel Committee said Americans Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess showed how the universe that emerged from the Big Bang may fly apart so far, cooling as it goes, that it "will end in ice."
Their work gave birth to the theory of dark energy, a kind of inverse gravity, that causes the expansion to accelerate. Up to three quarters of the universe seems to comprise dark energy -- but just what it is is a matter of speculation, notably at facilities like the Large Hadron Collider at Geneva. Many hope an answer could reconcile apparent anomalies in physics.
This article is accompanied by Factbox: The Nobel prize for Physics
, Australian Nobel winner thought prize call was a prank
, and Nobel-winning astronomer thought discovery was error
MSNBC: Neutrinos spark wild scientific leaps
By Alan Boyle
Commentators have been surprisingly fast to point to faster-than-light neutrinos as evidence that scientists could be wrong about lots of things, including the causes of climate change. But the most likely scenario is that special relativity — a theory that contends nothing can be accelerated beyond the speed of light in a vacuum — will turn out to be right. Or at least relatively right.
Two weeks after the neutrino experiments first came to light, the prevailing view among physicists is that the observations will somehow be shown to be wrong. The time measurements had to be made to an accuracy of billionths of a second. Synchronizing the time signatures over a distance of more than 450 miles of neutrino flight, from the CERN particle-physics center on the French-Swiss border to Italy's Gran Sasso National Laboratory, is extremely challenging.
Nature News cites one paper questioning whether the clock synchronizations accounted for the varying gravitational force as the neutrinos sped through the planet. General relativity's gravitational time-dilation effect might have reduced the precision of the measurements, Imperial College London's Carlo Contaldi suggested. This wouldn't be the first time that special relativity and general relativity got tangled up with each other: The satellite-based GPS navigation system has to account not only for special relativity (which would make the satellite's clocks look as if they're moving slower from the perspective of earthly clocks) but also for general relativity (which would make them seem to move faster).
Reuters: Higgs boson reality or chimera? Next year will show
By Robert Evans
GENEVA | Thu Oct 6, 2011 3:16pm EDT
The long-sought Higgs boson, believed to have given shape to the universe after the Big Bang, will be found in the next 12 months or shown to be a chimera, heads of the three top physics research centers said on Thursday.
And the three scientists -- from Europe's CERN, the U.S. Fermilab and Japan's KEK -- also pronounced themselves skeptics on whether neutrino particles had broken accepted natural laws and travelled faster than the speed of light.
"I think by this time next year I will be able to bring you either the Higgs boson or the message that it doesn't exist," declared Rolf Heuer, director general of CERN whose Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is at the focus of the search.
Reuters: Ridiculed crystal work wins Nobel for Israeli
By Patrick Lannin and Veronica Ek
STOCKHOLM | Thu Oct 6, 2011 10:12am EDT
An Israeli scientist who suffered years of ridicule and even lost a research post for claiming to have found an entirely new class of solid material was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry on Wednesday for his discovery of quasicrystals.
Three decades after Dan Shechtman looked with an electron microscope at a metal alloy and saw a pattern familiar in Islamic art but then unknown at a molecular level, those non-stick, rust-free, heat-resistant quasicrystals are finding their way into tools from LEDs to engines and frying pans.
Shechtman, 70, from Israel's Technion institute in Haifa, was working in the United States in 1982 when he observed atoms in a crystal he had made form a five-sided pattern that did not repeat itself, defying received wisdom that they must create repetitious patterns, like triangles, squares or hexagons.
This article is accompanied by a Factbox: The Nobel prize for Chemistry.
MSNBC: Renewable rubber highlights new economy
By John Roach
In the world of synthetic biology, microbes engineered to produce medicines and biofuels generate plenty of buzz, but the real money-making opportunity may lie in less sexy products such as tires.
That's the bet California-based synthetic chemical firm Amyris and the Paris-based Michelin tire company are making with the recent announcement of a new partnership to develop and commercialize isoprene, the chemical building block of synthetic rubber.
While rubber is found in nature — think trees — isoprene is one of the many products made with chemicals derived from oil.
Discovery News via MSNBC: Is thorium the future of nuclear power?
Backers say it's more abundant, produces less waste and is less dangerous than uranium
By Eric Niiler
updated 10/7/2011 3:44:04 PM ET
With the nuclear industry in a bit of a post-Fukushima funk right now, advocates of clean energy are dusting off plans to use the lesser-known metal thorium to run power plants and vehicles as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Supporters say thorium — an element named for Thor, the Norse God of Thunder — is more abundant, produces less waste and is less dangerous than uranium, while at the same time a great source of energy that won’t add to greenhouse gas emissions.
"We are spreading the word and reacting to an amazing amount of interest," said John Durham, an entrepreneur and co-founder of the London-based Weinberg Foundation, which launched last month to promote thorium as a fuel source.
MSNBC: Can urine whiz rockets to Mars?
By John Roach
The idea of using urine to whiz rockets to the moon and beyond is once again leaking into the realm of possibility.
That's because scientists have begun to crack the code of how bacteria that live without the aid of oxygen convert ammonium — a key chemical in urine — into hydrazine, which is a type of rocket fuel.
The urine-to-fuel concept first gained traction in the 1990s when scientists discovered the microbe, called anammox for anaerobic ammonium oxidation, that does this, but the idea stalled out when scientists realized only small quantities of the fuel are produced.
MSNBC: Electric plane wins $1.35 million
By Alan Boyle
NASA says it has awarded the largest prize in aviation history, $1.35 million, to Team Pipistrel-USA.com for pushing the envelope on electric-powered flying.
To win the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, the Pennsylvania-based team's Taurus G4 electric airplane flew a 200-mile course from Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, Calif., in less than two hours. That's one of the requirements for the prize. Another is that the plane had to use less than the equivalent of a gallon of gas per person. The Pipistrel Taurus G4 exceeded that efficiency standard, flying the course on just a little more than a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger.
What's even more amazing is that the runner-up did nearly as well. That earned a $120,000 second-place purse for California-based Team e-Genius and its electric-powered plane.
"Two years ago, the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction," Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com, said in today's award announcement. "Now we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation."
MSNBC: Coffee-fueled car breaks record
By John Roach
Coffee fuels millions of human brains every day. Now, spent coffee grounds have set a land-speed record as a fuel for cars.
That's right; a coffee-fueled car built by an enterprising team of British engineers recently zipped into the Guinness World Records with a top speed of 77.5 miles per hour and an average of 66.5 miles per hour.
The Coffee Car effort is led by Martin Bacon and a team of Teasedale Conservation Volunteers who were inspired after realizing that coffee shops produce tons of grounds that could be used to get something else going.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
The Art Newspaper: Israeli archaeologists oppose privatisation bill
Proposed amendment related to disputed excavation
By Lauren Gelfond Feldinger |
Published online 6 Oct 11 (News)
JERUSALEM. More than 150 Israeli archaeologists and historians have petitioned the Israeli parliament to vote down an amendment to a bill that would privatise national parks, including archaeological and historic sites. The petition, delivered to the culture and environment ministers, charges that the changes to law, if passed, would fuel political interests, hurt minority communities and undermine unbiased scientific research. “We demand that the government not change the laws... and instead strengthens academic freedom and heritage without sectarian preference,” it says. The Union for Environmental Defence and The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel have also opposed the amendment.
The bill, to be voted on in October, was proposed following protests against the management of City of David, one of Israel’s most popular, albeit politically charged, archaeological parks, sponsored and managed by a private foundation.
Agence France Presse via physorg.com: Experts deny Taj Mahal 'collapse' claims
by Sasmita Mishra
October 7, 2011
Archeologists overseeing the upkeep of the Taj Mahal denied on Friday a press report that said the iconic structure could collapse in as little as two years because of its weakened foundations.
Earlier this week, Britain's Daily Mail newspaper quoted Agra's elected parliamentarian Ramshankar Katheria as saying the Taj would "cave in between two and five years" if conservation efforts were not launched.
The Archeological Survey of India (ASI), which began a major facelift for the Taj Mahal in 2007, dismissed the dire predictions for the 358-year-old monument.
The Art Newspaper: Turkish tourism drive threatens ancient sites
Push for economic progress and development sidelines scholarship
By Andrew Finkel | From issue 228, October 2011
Published online 6 Oct 11 (News)
ANKARA. Turkey’s ability to manage its vast cultural heritage may be at crisis point, experts warn. The recent decision to transfer the excavation permits from three well-known classical sites from non-Turkish to Turkish universities—a practice almost unheard of in the protocol-laden world of archaeology—is a cracking of the whip over foreign scholars regarded as not working fast enough to transform the country’s extensive array of antiquities into tourist attractions.
“The threats are direct and indirect and the atmosphere is just that much more difficult,” says Stephen Mitchell, the honorary secretary of the British Institute in Ankara. “Getting a permit is now a process of negotiation and academic concerns are not always the first priority,” he says.
Memphis Daily News: Fate of Ramesses Statue Still Hangs in Balance
By Bill Dries
The fate of the Ramesses statue outside The Pyramid was delayed for another two weeks at City Hall as a Memphis City Council member again derailed the effort to move the monolith to the University of Memphis campus.
With the coming conversion of The Pyramid into a Bass Pro Shops superstore, the Front Street side of the property – where the 25-foot-tall, 50-ton monument stands – will be converted to a lodge-like entrance.
City Council member Joe Brown on Tuesday, Oct. 4, called in former Memphis Mayor Dick Hackett as well as Glen Campbell, director of the former Wonders series of cultural exhibits, for more of the back story on the granite monument.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
MSNBC: Gov't picks tech to incubate
By John Roach
A web app that will ease the decision-making process and a hand-held device that sniffs out bombs are among the first crop of potential products from a program that aims to turn basic science research into marketplace successes.
A total of 21 awards were handed out today to the inaugural class of the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps, or I—Corps, a public-private program that was announced this July to help researchers make the leap to entrepreneurship.
"They are going to go from the not-for-profit sector to the for-profit sector, for those that prove successful," Errol Arkilic, the I-Corps program officer at the NSF, told me today.
"And when they get into the for-profit sector, they are fledging capitalist companies. They add value, they take in investment, they build economic power, they create jobs, they change industries."
MSNBC: Biofuel push a bust, report hints
By John Roach
Unless a major technological breakthrough occurs in the next few years, a U.S. government push to put 16 billions of gallons of cellulosic biofuel into gas tanks annually by 2022 will be a bust, hints a new report.
The push comes from the congressionally mandated Renewable Fuel Standard. Of the mandated total of 36 billion gallons from a mix of biofuels, the corn-derived ethanol target of 15 billion gallons is doable, the report says.
But a big part of the standard — 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels from non-edible plant material such as cornstalks and switchgrass — is unlikely to be met, Wallace Tyner, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, told me Tuesday.
"The technologies are just not advanced enough to be commercial, they are not cheap enough yet to be commercial, and we are going to have to invest more in R&D if we want to accelerate the pace," he said.
The Harvard Crimson: Peabody Director Talks Trash
By Brian C. Zhang, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Published: Friday, October 07, 2011
Since 1974, when Richard H. Meadow ’68 began excavating at the archaeological site of Harappa in Pakistan, trash has been essential to his work.
When the ruins of the Indus civilization were first uncovered, archaeologists observed brick settlements that had grown upward in time. The vertical rise was caused by the ancient practice of dumping trash into the streets, which piled up and blocked doorways. The city’s inhabitants were forced to knock down old structures and build on top of them, leading to mounds up to 20 meters high.
Meadow, the director of the Peabody Museum’s Zooarchaeology laboratory, spoke on “The Archaeologist’s View of Trash” at the Geological Lecture Hall last night. His lecture was the third in a series titled “Trash Talk: The Anthropology of Waste” and organized by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
Trash is often the exclusive source for understanding ancient civilizations in regions without a textual record, said Meadow, who is also a senior lecturer on anthropology.
Brainerd Dispatch: A Mille Lacs history lesson, one short chapter at a time
MINNESOTA STATE PARKS | ARCHAEOLOGY DAY
Posted: October 7, 2011 - 5:27pm
By Brian S. Peterson
ONAMIA — It wasn’t far from the bustling playground and other Archaeology Day activities. But shaded and sheltered on a bright and sunny day by towering trees on the edge of the forest, the area seemed far removed.
It is a far-away place, this archaeological playground, both in where it’s been and where it still may lead.
The excavation site several hundred yards from the Interpretive Center at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park was meant to be a centerpiece of sorts for Archaeology Day, an annual event held recently at the park. Archaeological films played inside the Interpretive Center throughout the day, and most other displays and activities were just outside its doors.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Science Writing and Reporting
LiveScience via MSNBC: Behind a visionary: The science of Steve Jobs
Talent like his is neither inborn nor learned, but a combination of the two, experts say
By Stephanie Pappas
updated 10/7/2011 12:59:41 PM ET
The death of Apple's Steve Jobs on Wednesday triggered an outpouring of mourning and celebration. As newspaper obits remembered Jobs as a "visionary" and the "Henry Ford of the computer industry," fans converged on Apple stores across the country to leave notes, bouquets and actual apples.
It's hard to imagine this sort of grief for most other chief executive officers — would the loss of the head of General Electric or Exxon Mobile spur 10,000 tweets per second? — but Jobs had a combination of smarts, entrepreneurship and salesmanship that linked him closely with Apple and its products. Exactly how a visionary such as Jobs develops, however, is still something of a mystery. Social scientists say that talent like Jobs' is neither inborn nor learned, but rather a combination of the two. And while intelligence is key, creativity and charisma matter, too.
"With somebody like Steve Jobs, you're talking about a constellation of personality and intellectual ability factors, and then the role of the environment that he selected for himself can't be underestimated," Michigan State University psychology Zach Hambrick told LiveScience.
Science is Cool
Life's Little Mysteries via MSNBC: UFOs and the Maya? Film sounds like more 2012 hype
'Revelations' are likely to be underwhelming, based on history of such claims
By Benjamin Radford
According to film producer Raul Julia-Levy, extraterrestrials contacted the Mayan civilization in Mexico thousands of years ago — and he claims he'll prove it in an upcoming film, "Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and Beyond."
Unproven claims of ancient astronauts in the Americas have been made for decades, most prominently by Erich von Daniken, author of the best-selling classic work of pseudoscience "Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past" (Putnam, 1968). Von Daniken wrote that ancient Egyptians had neither the intelligence nor the tools to create the massive pyramids at Giza, and thus they were made by aliens.
Some claim the giant drawings in the Nazca desert of Peru were created by spaceships. In fact, the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca Indians, probably as part of a ceremonial ritual.
Associated Press via News 3 (New Zealand): Vladimir Putin's treasure find on dive was a hoax
The widely publicised incident in which Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pulled up ancient Greek jug fragments from the seabed on a diving expedition was staged, his chief spokesman said.
The August dive in the Kerch Strait that connects the Black and Azov seas was reported extensively in Russian and overseas media. Putin is noted for his habit of appearing in vigorous and adventurous settings, including fishing while stripped to the waist and riding with leather-clad motorcyclists.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Senator Vreenak, what do you say about the above stories?
Thank you, Senator. Your opinion, Iago?
Thank you, Iago.
I have nothing to add to the above, so here's Putin tying a balloon animal.