Thursday, February 28, 2013

Entire Maldives Nation Becoming Biosphere Reserve

The Maldives are made up of a chain of 1,192 small coral islands, which are grouped into clusters of atolls.

 

The entire Maldives nation has pledged to become a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve. The Maldives, an archipelago southwest of India, plans to implement the reserve plan on more than half of its islands by 2017.

To become an official UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Maldives must follow guidelines set forth by the UN’s Man and the Biosphere Program and the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Biosphere Reserve’s strategy must integrate management of natural resources with conservation and sustainable use. The plan also must seek to ensure equitable distribution of natural resource wealth. Currently, there are 610 biosphere reserves in 117 countries.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27502-entire-maldives-nation-becoming-biosphere-reserve.html

Huge Canyon Discovered Beneath Red Sea

A canyon on the floor of the Red Sea rendered in 3D and discovered by the UK Royal Navy's HMS Enterprise.


A canyon more than 800-foot-deep has been discovered on the floor of the Red Sea by the U.K. Royal Navy's HMS Enterprise, using an echo sounder that produce 3D images of the feature.

The survey ship was probing the topography of the bottom of the Red Sea as part of a mission to better understand the waters of the Red Sea west of Suez, Egypt, and their safety for shipping and navigation, according to a release from the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The multibeam echo sounder used by the ship sends out pulses of sound waves that bounce of seafloor features and return back to the instrument. The longer it takes for a pulse echo to return, the deeper the seafloor feature off which it bounced. (This method has also been used to map the Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the Earth's oceans.)

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27498-red-sea-canyon-discovered.html

Russian Meteor's Origin and Size Pinned Down

A meteor streaks across the sky in eastern Russia in this picture released by the Russian Emergency Ministry. Hundreds were injured in the Friday (Feb. 15) morning blast, mostly from falling glass shattered by the shock wave.  

 

A meteor that exploded over Russia earlier this month likely hit Earth after a long trip from beyond the orbit of Mars, scientists say.

Astronomers and the public were caught off guard by the Russian fireball, which damaged thousands of buildings and wounded more than 1,000 people when it detonated over the city of Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15.

But some YouTube-aided detective work suggests that the meteor's parent body belonged to the Apollo family of Earth-crossing asteroids, whose elliptical orbits take them farther than one Earth-sun distance (about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers) from our star at some point, researchers said.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27507-russian-meteor-explosion-origin-size.html

How Gruesome Parasite Lives in You for Decades

Researchers discovered the blood fluke Schistosoma mansoni harbors a population of non-sexual stem cells (yellow dots) that replenish its tissues and contribute to its ability to live in its host for decades. 

 

Blood flukes, or schistosomes, are parasitic flatworms that can live inside people for decades, and they make a rather gruesome journey to get there — after hatching in water contaminated by feces, the parasites hitch a ride into the human body on a tiny snail host that burrows through skin.

Now researchers may have found the secret to the blood fluke's long life cycle: They discovered stem cells lurking in a fluke, allowing it to keep regenerating its body parts.
  
For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27505-blood-flukes-life-cycle-secret.html

500-Million-Year-Old Sea Creature With Limbs Under Its Head Unearthed

Scientists have unearthed a stunningly preserved arthropod, called a fuxhianhuiid, in a flipped position that reveals its feeding limbs and nervous system.

 

Scientists have unearthed extraordinarily preserved fossils of a 520-million-year-old sea creature, one of the earliest animal fossils ever found, according to a new study.

The fossilized animal, an arthropod called a fuxhianhuiid, has primitive limbs under its head, as well as the earliest example of a nervous system that extended past the head. The primitive creature may have used the limbs to push food into its mouth as it crept across the seafloor. The limbs may shed light on the evolutionary history of arthropods, which include crustaceans and insects.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27504-cambrian-arthropod-fossil-discovered.html

Baby Boomers Take Biggest Career Risks

 

If you think that baby boomers are just looking to reach retirement, you may want to think again. New research has found that baby boomers are more entrepreneurial and take more risks than younger counterparts at work.

Forty-three percent of baby boomers described themselves as high risk in a recent survey, compared with just 28 percent of Generation Y respondents and 40 percent of Generation X. In the survey, people between ages 18 and 29 were considered Gen Y, people between ages 30 and 49 were considered Gen X, and people between ages 50 and 69 were considered baby boomers.

Working ... The New Retirement

 

The majority of Americans no longer view retirement as a time to kick back and relax, new research shows.

A study from CareerBuilder revealed that 60 percent of workers over the age of 60 plan to look for new jobs after retiring from their current companies, up from 57 percent a year ago.

While some employees over 60 plan to work only a few more years, many expect to stay employed into their 70s. The research found that 15 percent of workers in their 60s think it will be at least 7 more years before they can fully walk away, while more than 10 percent don't think they'll ever be able to retire.

Marco Polo: Facts, Biography & Travels

Marco Polo traveling 

Marco Polo was one of the first and most famous Europeans to travel to Asia during the Middle Ages. He traveled farther than any of his predecessors during his 24-year journey along the Silk Road, reaching China and Mongolia, where he became a confidant of Kublai Khan.

The story of his journey is told in "Il Milione" ("The Million"), commonly called "The Travels of Marco Polo." Polo's adventures influenced European mapmakers and inspired Christopher Columbus.
 
Early life

Marco Polo was born around 1254 into a wealthy Venetian merchant family, though the actual date and location of his birth are unknown. His father, Niccolo, and his uncle Maffeo were successful jewel merchants who spent much of Marco’s childhood in Asia. Marco's mother died when he was young; therefore, young Marco was primarily raised by extended family.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27513-marco-polo.html

Nut-Cracking Monkeys Show Humanlike Skills

 

Nut-cracking monkeys don't just use tools. They use tools with skill.

That's the conclusion of a new study that finds similar tool-use strategies between humans and Brazil's bearded capuchin monkeys, which use rocks to smash nuts for snacks. Both monkeys and humans given the nut-smashing task take the time to place the nuts in their most stable position on a stone "anvil," the study found, keeping the tasty morsels from rolling away.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27524-nut-cracking-monkeys-skilled-with-tools.html

Depression, Autism & ADHD May Share Genes

 

Five distinct psychiatric disordersautism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia may share some genetic risk factors, a new study finds.

During the study, researchers found four genetic markers that may play a role in all five diseases. These  markers were more common in people with the one of the psychiatric disorders compared to healthy people.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27532-psychiatric-disorders-common-genes.html

Higher Humidity Lowers Flu Transmission

You may be safer from the flu in a humid room than in a dry one, according to a new study from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  

To simulate flu transmission in a health care setting, the researchers used "coughing" and "breathing" mannequins that were placed about 6 feet apart. Flu virus particles were released during a "cough," and devices throughout the room and near each "breathing" mannequin's mouth captured the particles. The particles were then collected and tested for their ability to infect human cells.

At humidity levels of 23 percent, 70 to 77 percent of the flu virus particles were still able to cause an infection an hour after the coughing simulation. But when humidity levels were raised to 43 percent, just 14 percent of the virus particles had the ability to infect. Most of the flu particles became inactive 15 minutes after they were released into the humid air. "The virus just falls apart," at high humidity levels, said study researcher John Noti, of the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27533-flu-transmission-humidity.html

New Theory Tries To Explain Why Dinosaurs Grew So Huge — Especially Their Amazing Necks

 

Paleontologists  struggle with a lot of mysteries in their field of study, not the least of which is exactly what allowed some dinosaurs to get so insanely huge. In particular, the enormous necks of sauropods like brachiosaurus, diplodocus, or sauroposeidon (tallest of all dinosaurs, 56 feet in height) have long baffled researchers.Well, there’s a new theory about this, as some scientists suggest that unique respiratory traits and reptilian reproduction strategies allowed for such tremendous sizes and necks that have been unparalleled by any creature since.

Speculations about how dinosaurs got their growth spurts are many, and some of them suggest environmental factors like high oxygen levels or an overabundant amount of food. Strangely, baseball legend and noted non-paleontologist Jose Canseco recently tweeted that Earth may have had a low gravity in the old days, and that could explain the big animals our planet used to boast. This is not only an entertaining idea, but a great reminder of why we don’t get our science facts from has-been steroid abusers on social media.

The Cities Of Fire Britain Used To Fool German Bombers

 
A few other things that will probably come up this evening at the Architectural Association, in the context of the British Exploratory Land Archive project, are the so-called "Starfish sites" of World War II Britain. Starfish sites "were large-scale night-time decoys created during The Blitz to simulate burning British cities." 

For the rest of the story: http://bldgblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/starfish-city.html

Superfast Spinning Black Hole Tearing Up Space at Nearly the Speed of Light

Artist's illustration of matter falling into a black hole  
Black holes are the Universe’s ultimate garbage disposals: Stuff falls in, and never gets back out. It can’t. To get out, you’d have to travel faster than the speed of light, which (as far as we know) is impossible.

Black holes grow by consuming matter, and in the centers of galaxies they can grow to huge size. In the gorgeous barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 (shown below), there’s one lurking in the core that has about two million times as much mass as our Sun. Not only that, it is actively gobbling down matter, and that allows us to measure some interesting properties of this cosmic monster, including its spin.  Astronomers observed NGC 1365’s black hole using the NuSTAR and XMM-Newton observatories, and were surprised to find out it’s spinning so fast that the outer edge is moving at very nearly the speed of light!

This takes some explaining. Hang on tightly, and for your own safety please keep your arms inside the blog post at all times.

US hackers attacked military websites, says China's defence ministry

A Chinese People's Liberation Army soldier stands guard in front of "Unit 61398", a secretive Chinese military unit, in the outskirts of Shanghai, February 19, 2013 

Beijing has been accused by several governments and foreign companies of carrying out cyber espionage.

Hackers from the US have repeatedly launched attacks on two Chinese military websites, including that of the Defence Ministry, officials say.

The sites were subject to about 144,000 hacking attacks each month last year, two thirds of which came from the US, according to China's defence ministry.

The issue of cyber hacking has strained relations between the two countries.

Earlier this month a US cyber security firm said a secretive Chinese military unit was behind "prolific hacking".

Mandiant said that Unit 61398 was believed to have "systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data" from at least 141 organizations around the world. 


The most shocking photo of Beijing air pollution I’ve ever seen

At left, a view of downtown Beijing on a clear day. At right, the same view on Wednesday night, U.S. east coast time. (Photo by Bill Bishop) 

At left, a view of downtown Beijing on a clear day. At right, the same view on Wednesday night, U.S. east coast time.

China’s air pollution has been bad lately. Really, really bad. We’ve posted photos of it before, but the above shot really drives home how severe this has gotten.

Both photos were taken in Beijing by Bill Bishop, who runs an excellent all-things-China e-mail newsletter called Sinocism (go subscribe). The photo on the left shows his view on a clear day. That tall building is the mammoth China World Trade Center Tower III.

On the right is a photo of the same view, taken late on Wednesday, U.S. East Coast time, or about 8 a.m. Beijing time. The 81-story skyscraper is all but invisible, shrouded by a layer of pollution so dense that even close-up objects are a blur.

For the rest of the story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/02/28/the-most-shocking-photo-of-beijing-air-pollution-ive-ever-seen/

Inside the Abandoned Radioactive Towns of Japan

5883749952_8c847553fe_z.jpeg 

You might remember that way back in March 2011, a major tsunami struck the northeast shores of Japan, devastating the country and causing the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant's cooling systems to break down, which resulted in the worst nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl. Even if you don't recall that disaster, photographer Toshiya Watanabe does. His family home, Namie, where his mother and cousins still lived, was directly in the path of both the rising waters and the waves of radiation that came after. Nowadays, the town and all the others like it in the disaster zone sit abandoned, unchanged in the past two years, like a ghost town where the ghosts are nuclear-charged stray dogs and cattle. Toshiya has traveled back to his hometown many times, documenting the changes he saw, or lack thereof. We chatted with him about visiting the "no-go zone" that is now his hometown.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Brain Cells May Live Longer When Not Tied to Their Weakling, Mortal Flesh

 

Good news for you transhumanist hopefuls: Your dream of one day living forever as a brain in a jar—or as a Krang-like brain inside a bone-crushing robot—may be one step nearer.

Italian scientists at the universities of Pavia and Turin discovered in recent experiments that mouse neurons, when taken out of their short-lived mouse bodies and sustained elsewhere, can actually live much longer than their original bodies would have allowed. Bodies die because their cells die. But brains, their new study suggests, would last much longer if they didn’t depend on those same, pesky bodies to survive.

Most cells in the body reproduce themselves by replicating, and “age” by losing their ability to replicate—a phenomenon known as “replicative senescence.” As described in this Genes and Development article from 2010, replicative senescence, scientists believe, happens because cells do not fully reproduce their telomeres when they divide, whose job is to protect a cell's chromosomes from deteriorating. With each division, that telomere chain gets shorter and shorter until it reaches a “critical minimal length.”

For the rest of the story: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/brain-cells-may-live-longer-when-not-tied-to-their-weakling-mortal-flesh

Why Is the Sky Blue?

 

The light coming from the sun is made of many colors, each of which has a different wavelength. The atmosphere affects how each color of light passes through, as the light waves encounter molecules, small water droplets and bits of dust.

Blue light has a short wavelength, and the particles in the air scatter it around, making the sky appear blue. Red light has a longer wavelength, which acts more strongly and is not scattered as much.

For the rest of the story: http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/3205-what-will-happen-when-the-milky-way-collides-with-the-andromeda-galaxy.html

What Will Happen When the Milky Way Collides With the Andromeda Galaxy?

The Milky Way Galaxy is organized into spiral arms of giant stars that illuminate interstellar gas and dust. The sun is in a finger called the Orion Spur.  


This video shows a computer simulation of one possible collision scenario between the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. When galaxies "collide," they don't literally hit one another. Rather they pull on one another, and this alone could cause some damage.

For the rest of the story: http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/3205-what-will-happen-when-the-milky-way-collides-with-the-andromeda-galaxy.html

Will an Asteroid Hit Earth? Are We All Doomed?

This is the question we get most often around here, in one form or another. Often it comes from someone who is really, really worried (and you can blame the media for the outsized concerns).

So first things first: Don't worry. Now for the answer: Yes. And no.

Yes, an asteroid will hit Earth. In fact ten of them as big as refrigerators streak into the atmosphere every year. Most burn up on the way in, and about two-thirds of the rest (or chunks of them) fall harmlessly into the ocean (because the planet is about two-thirds ocean). Many smaller rocks plunge to the surface routinely (interestingly, about one rock from Mars arrives on Earth each month).


For the rest of the story: http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/429-will-an-asteroid-hit-earth-are-we-all-doomed.html

Ancient Helicoprion Fish Had Spiral-Toothed Jaw

 

The ancient marine animal Helicoprion had a bizarre spiral-toothed jaw. The fish was initially thought to be a species of shark, but researchers at Idaho State University have recently determined it was a type of ratfish. Using CAT scans and making 3-D virtual reconstructions of the jaws, they also determined the saw-like teeth were located in the back of Helicoprion's jaw. The scientists say the jaw created a rolling and slicing mechanism.

For the rest of the story: http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/3208-ancient-helicoprion-fish-had-spiral-toothed-jaw.html

Will Pluto Ever Hit Neptune?

Pluto and Neptune orbits are not in the same plane.

 

Jason asks: "Since Pluto's orbit intersects Neptune's orbit, will Pluto ever crash into Neptune or become one of Neptune's moons?"

Answer: No. From 1979 to 1999, Pluto was the eighth planet from the sun. In 1999, it slipped beyond Neptune to become the ninth.

Hubble Telescope Reveals Milky Way Galaxy's Cannibal Past

This illustration shows the disk of our Milky Way galaxy, surrounded by a faint halo of old stars. Hubble Space Telescope measurements of 13 halo stars' motion indicate the possible presence of a shell in the halo, which may have formed from the accretion of a dwarf galaxy.  

The Milky Way's far outer reaches may harbor a shell of stars left over from a long-ago act of galactic cannibalism, a new study suggests.

The finding supports the idea that our Milky Way has continued to grow over the eons by gobbling up smaller satellite galaxies, researchers said. And the results may help astronomers better understand how mass is distributed throughout the galaxy, which could shed light on the mysterious dark matter that's thought to make up more than 80 percent of all matter in the universe.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27490-milky-way-galaxy-cannibalism-hubble.html

Grand Canyon: Location, Formation & Facts

Grand Canyon viewed from Hopi Point, on the south rim. New evidence suggests the western Grand Canyon was cut to within 70 percent of its current depth long before the Colorado River existed.

Grand Canyon panorama from Hopi Point 
The Grand Canyon is indeed a very big hole in the ground. It is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and more than a mile (6,000 feet / 1,800 meters) deep. It is the result of constant erosion by the Colorado River over millions of years.

Where is the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon is in the northwest corner of Arizona, close to the borders of Utah and Nevada. Most of the Grand Canyon lies within Grand Canyon National Park and is managed by the National Park Service, the Hualapai Tribal Nation and the Havasupai Tribe.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27489-grand-canyon.html

Russian Meteor Fallout: What to Do Next Time?

 

This month's meteor detonation above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk and Earth's close shave with asteroid 2012 DA14 have kick-started conversations on lessons learned and what steps can be taken to prevent space rock impacts in the future.

One positive action item was actually in place prior to the dual asteroid events of Feb. 15: a new Memorandum of Agreement between the Air, Space, and Cyberspace Operations Directorate of the Air Force Space Command and NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

That document, which was signed on Jan. 18 of this year, spells out specifics for the public release of meteor data from sources such as high-flying, hush-hush U.S. government space sensors.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27488-russian-meteor-asteroid-deflection-options.html

Could Sons Shorten Women's Lives?

Over the last few centuries, women in Finland who had many sons tended to have a shorter life span after last giving birth than women who had daughters.

 

Having many sons may shorten women's lives after their last birth more than having daughters, according to new research.

The findings, which came from a group of Finnish women born mostly before industrialization, are correlational, so they can't prove sons actually cause shorter lives for their moms relative to daughters. And because the effect varies across the world, social factors, rather than intrinsic biological effects, may be to blame.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27466-sons-may-shorten-mothers-lives.html

Swine Flu Vaccine Linked to Narcolepsy in British Kids

 

Children in England who were given a version of the swine flu vaccine between 2009 and 2010 were at increased risk of developing narcolepsy after they got the shot, a new study suggests.

The findings are similar to those of previous studies conducted in Finland and Sweden, which also found a link between the 2009 swine flu vaccine called Pandemrix (made by GlaxoSmithKline) and narcolepsy in children.

However, because a large number of people were vaccinated and narcolepsy is rare, a child's chances of developing the disorder following vaccination were extremely small, around 1 in 55,000. What's more, these studies still show only an association and cannot prove the vaccine caused narcolepsy.
 

What the White House Looks Like Completely Gutted

In the late '40s, the executive mansion was in a condemnable state. To save it, everything had to go.


Harry S Truman inherited a White House that was in horrendous shape. After the British nearly burnt it to the ground in 1814, the construction of 20th-century innovations—indoor plumbing, electricity, and heating ducts—had also taken its toll on the structure. The building was nearly 150 years old, and it showed its age. In November 1948, the building was in a near-condemnable state, as The New York Times reported:

The ceiling of the East Room, elaborately done in the frescoes of fruits and reclining women and weighing seventy pounds to the square foot, was found to be sagging six inches on Oct. 26, and now is being held in place by scaffolding and supports.... But it took the $50,000 survey authorized by Congress to disclose the fact that the marble grand staircase is in imminent danger. Supporting bricks, bought second hand in 1880, are disintegrating.
 
 The social events of the 1948 holiday season had to be canceled. And with good reason: Experts called the third floor of the White House “an outstanding example of a firetrap.” The result of a federally commissioned report found the mansion’s plumbing “makeshift and unsanitary,” while “the structural deterioration [was] in ‘appalling degree,’ and threatening complete collapse.” The congressional commission on the matter was considering the option of abandoning the structure altogether in favor of a built-from-scratch mansion, but President Truman lobbied for the restoration.
  

Report: Majority of Convicted Terrorists in U.S. Are American Citizens -

They’re college-educated, have jobs and were born and raised here. A new study finds the terrorist threat is increasingly in our own backyard. Eli Lake reports. 

In 1997, a Sudanese man named Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl became the first person to plead guilty in the United States to offenses related to being part of al Qaeda. Between al-Fadl’s conviction and the end of 2011, 170 other individuals have been convicted by American courts or military commissions for committing crimes on behalf of, or inspired by, the organization responsible for the 9-11 attacks. - See more at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/26/report-majority-of-convicted-terrorists-in-u-s-are-american-citizens.html#sthash.KSZGzbCm.dpuf
In 1997, a Sudanese man named Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl became the first person to plead guilty in the United States to offenses related to being part of al Qaeda. Between al-Fadl’s conviction and the end of 2011, 170 other individuals have been convicted by American courts or military commissions for committing crimes on behalf of, or inspired by, the organization responsible for the 9-11 attacks. - See more at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/26/report-majority-of-convicted-terrorists-in-u-s-are-american-citizens.html#sthash.KSZGzbCm.dpuf
In 1997, a Sudanese man named Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl became the first person to plead guilty in the United States to offenses related to being part of al Qaeda. Between al-Fadl’s conviction and the end of 2011, 170 other individuals have been convicted by American courts or military commissions for committing crimes on behalf of, or inspired by, the organization responsible for the 9-11 attacks.

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A new study finds that a majority of these operatives were American citizens. Nearly a quarter were converts to Islam. More than half had completed some form of college course work.

Some of the names are well known, such as John Walker Lindh, the American who was found by U.S. troops in 2001 to be fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Others are described as al Qaeda aspirants, and were arrested and convicted of plotting terrorist acts after an informant or undercover FBI officer lured them into a sting.

For the rest of the story: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/26/report-majority-of-convicted-terrorists-in-u-s-are-american-citizens.html

Stretchy battery drawn to three times its size

Battery stretched by 300% 

Researchers have demonstrated a flat, "stretchy" battery that can be pulled to three times its size without a loss in performance.

While flexible and stretchable electronics have been on the rise, powering them with equally stretchy energy sources has been problematic.

The new idea in Nature Communications uses small "islands" of energy-storing materials dotted on a stretchy polymer.

The study also suggests the batteries can be recharged wirelessly.

In a sense, the battery is a latecomer to the push toward flexible, stretchable electronics. A number of applications have been envisioned for flexible devices, from implantable health monitors to roll-up displays.

But consumer products that fit the bendy, stretchy description are still very few - in part, because there have been no equally stretchy, rechargeable power sources for them. 

How Terrorist-Hunting Software Saved Lives During Hurricane Sandy

After the storm, nonprofits working on relief used predictive Palantir software--best known for its use by the CIA and FBI--to coordinate disaster response, rescue, and logistics.

When superstorm Sandy devastated New York this past fall, rescuers faced a logistical nightmare. In storm ravaged neighborhoods in Staten Island, the Rockaways, and Brooklyn, the traditional pattern of disaster relief was disrupted. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), along with state and local authorities, was poorly suited to deal with urban catastrophe. A disparate group of local emergency responders--primarily individuals, community organizations, and elements from Occupy Wall Street--were on the ground delivering food, medicine, and supplies to storm victims. Many of them used services from nonprofit Direct Relief, who license logistical software from shadowy data-analysis firm Palantir.

After Sandy made landfall, Direct Relief used Palantir products to correlate events on the ground with local aid demands and projected trends in the area. Palantir, which was founded by tech icon Peter Thiel and received initial funding from the CIA-backed venture capital firm In-Q-Tel (which “identifies, adapts, and delivers innovative technology solutions to support the missions of the Central Intelligence Agency”), specializes in data parsing products that let analysts correlate massive data sets with each other. Direct Relief’s software package took technology originally intended for the intelligence community and put it to work predicting where medicine, food, and clothing needs would be greatest.

For the rest of the story: http://www.fastcoexist.com/1681402/how-terrorist-hunting-software-saved-lives-during-hurricane-sandy

The American Government's Advice for Yeti Hunters, 1959

YetiMemoFinal 

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

This Foreign Service memo treats a science-fictional subject—the existence of the Yeti, or the Abominable Snowman—with utmost bureaucratic seriousness. Titled “Regulations Governing Mountain Climbing Expeditions in Nepal—Relating to Yeti,” it was issued from the American Embassy in Kathmandu on November 30, 1959.

For the rest of the story: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2013/02/26/search_for_yeti_the_foreign_service_memo_advising_yeti_hunters.html

China allowing sale of tiger bone wine

China is allowing the sale of tonic wine made using tiger bones, despite the fact that the practice has been illegal in the country since 1993.
 
  

AFP reports that the London-based Environment Investigation Agency (EIA) has uncovered evidence of a legalised domestic trade in captive-bred tiger products.

“The stark contradiction between China’s international posture supporting efforts to save the wild tiger and its domestic policies which drive the poaching of wild tigers is one of the biggest cons ever perpetrated in the history of tiger conservation,” Debbie Banks, head of the EIA Tiger Campaign, told AFP.

The EIA report also presented evidence that traders are using “secret” government notifications to legitimise the manufacture of tiger bone wine.

For the rest of the story: http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2013/02/china-allowing-sale-of-tiger-bone-wine/

Why You Pay More at the Grocery Store (and How to Stop)

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Many of us don't think too much about what we throw into our grocery carts—or how much it all costs. After all, we have to eat! But for most Americans, food makes up one of the largest expenses in the budget, right after paying for housing and transportation. If you can trim just $20 off your weekly grocery bill, it can save you $1,000 per year; saving $60 per week could put more than $3,000 extra in your pocket. 

Believe it or not, those kinds of savings aren't unrealistic, and you don't have to starve to death to achieve them. All you have to do is look at where grocery stores make their money and where you may have some bad shopping habits.

What You Pay More For 


It isn't hard to guess which items in the grocery store have the highest mark-ups; after all, you won't see a fancy display around cabbages or low-fat milk. In fact, the highest margin—and therefore lowest value—items will fall into one or more of the following categories.

Great White Shark Fatally Attacks Man In New Zealand As Police Fire At Least 20 Times

Swimmer mauled to death by Great White Shark in front of hundreds of tourists on New Zealand beach as armed police opened fire on the animal at least 20 times

    Adam Strange, 46, attacked at Muriwai beach near Auckland today
    Shark up to 14ft long pulled him under the water
    More sharks drawn to the attack as police fired shots in rescue attempt

Shark attack: Adam Strange was attacked at Muriwai Beach on Aucklands west coast of New Zealand  

An award-winning film and TV director was today mauled to death by a Great White shark as he swam off a popular New Zealand tourist beach.

Adam Strange, 46, was attacked and pulled under water about 200metres from Auckland’s Muriwai Beach at around 1.30pm in front of hundreds of beach tourists.

Up to three more sharks were said to have been drawn to the attack as police officers fired at least 20 shots from a lifeboat and helicopter in a desperate bid to rescue him.

The Great White eventually let go and moved away. It took rescuers – including three lifeguards who knew the victim - 30 minutes to retrieve the father-of-one’s body.

The remains of a shark were later dragged up on the beach.

For the rest of the story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2285192/Swimmer-mauled-death-Great-White-shark-New-Zealand-beach-despite-police-rescue-bid.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

The Geography of America's Freelance Economy

Writing in The Atlantic back in 2011, Sara Horowitz, the founder of Freelancers Union, dubbed the "freelance surge" the "Industrial Revolution of our time" — as significant a shift in employment patterns as has been seen since the transition from agriculture to industry in the 1800s. 

A recent report estimates that there are about 17 million full-employed freelancers, or independent workers, a number than swells to more than 40 million, roughly a third of the workforce, when you include temps, part-timers, contractors, contingent workers, and those who are under-employed or work without employer-sponsored health insurance, 401Ks or FLEX accounts, according to a post by Whitney Johnson in the Harvard Business Review.

For obvious reasons t's hard to get detailed geographic data on freelancers, but we can get very good figures on the number of Americans who are self-employed. 

•       •       •       •       •

Slightly more than 10 million American workers, or seven percent of the workforce, are self-employed, according to estimates compiled by Rob Sentz and his colleagues at Economic Modeling Specialists (EMSI, for short). EMSI's figures are based on data from the United States Census (American Community Survey and Non-employer Statistics). More than four million (43 percent) of those self-employed workers are members of the creative class of scientists and technologists, knowledge workers and professionals, artists, designers, entertainers, and media workers.

For the rest of the story: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2013/02/geography-americas-freelance-economy/4118/

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Debt Outweighs Savings for Many in US

Monetary policy determines the amount of money that flows through the economy. 

 

The uncertain economy is continuing to take its toll on Americans' personal finances, new research shows.

A study by Bankrate.com revealed that just 55 percent of U.S. consumers have more emergency savings than credit card debt.

While that's slightly up from 54 percent last year and 52 percent in 2011, Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's senior financial analyst, said the debt-to-savings ratio isn't really improving for most adults.

Brain Cells Can Outlive the Body

Mouse neurons implanted into a rat brain can live twice as long as the mice from which they were taken, new research suggests.

 

Brain cells can live at least twice as long as the organisms in which they reside, according to new research.

The study, published today (Feb. 25) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that mouse neurons, or brain cells, implanted into rats can survive with the rats into old age, twice as long as the life span of the original mice.

The findings are good news for life extension enthusiasts.

Spider-Man's Silk Really Could Stop a Train

The web of the Darwin's bark spider (Caerostris darwini), can span some square feet (2.8 square meters) and is attached to each riverbank by anchor threads as long as 82 feet (25 meters).

 

In the 2004 movie "Spider-Man 2," the superhero slings silk from his wrists to keep a runaway subway from plunging off the end of the tracks. Far-fetched as the scene may be, a group of physics students say Spidey's webbing material, if it was truly as strong as a spider's silk, could indeed stop a train.

"It is often quoted that spiderwebs are stronger than steel, so we thought it would be interesting to see whether this held true for Spider-Man's scaled-up version," Alex Stone, a 21-year-old physics student at the United Kingdom's University of Leicester, said in a statement. "Considering the subject matter we were surprised to find out that the webbing was portrayed accurately."
 
For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27430-spiderman-silk-could-stop-a-train.html

NASA to Unveil Black Hole Discovery Wednesday

An artist's impression of a black hole like the one weighed in this work, sitting in the core of a disk galaxy. The black-hole in NGC4526 weighs 450,000,000 times more than our own Sun.

 

NASA will reveal new findings about black holes during a news conference Wednesday (Feb. 27).

The news conference, which starts at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) Wednesday, will relay results based primarily on observations made by two X-ray space telescopes: NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton observatory, NASA officials said.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/27437-black-hole-discovery-nasa-nustar-telescope.html

'Sunglint' Silhouettes Northeast Coast in Astronaut Photo

Looking out at the Earth’s surface from the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts frequently observe sunglint highlighting both ocean and inland water surfaces.


The coast of the northeast United States is silhouetted against the shimmering water of Cape Cod Bay and Long Island Sound in a new photo captured by astronauts on the International Space Station.

The phenomenon of light from a setting sun reflecting off water to create a shining, mirrorlike surface is called sunglint, and is evident throughout the photo.

"The Atlantic Ocean — including Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay, along the coastlines of Massachusetts and Rhode Island — has a burnished, mirrorlike appearance in this image," the NASA's Earth Observatory wrote. "This is due to sunlight reflected off the water surface back towards the astronaut-photographer."

For the rest of the story: http://www.ouramazingplanet.com/4177-sunglint-coast-astronaut-photo.html

Extreme Weather Linked to Giant Waves in Atmosphere

Extremes heat waves, like the one shown here from early July, 2012, may result when massive waves of air stop circulating.

 

Extreme weather events have been on the rise in the last few decades, and man-made climate change may be causing them by interfering with global air-flow patterns, according to new research.

The Northern Hemisphere has taken a beating from extreme weather in recent years — the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood and the 2011 heat wave in the United States, for example. These events, in a general sense, are the result of the global movement of air.

For the rest of the story: http://www.ouramazingplanet.com/4178-giant-air-waves-extreme-weather.html

'Gigantic Jet' Lightning Spotted Over China

 

A rare glimpse of a "gigantic jet" — a huge and mysterious burst of lightning that connects a thunderstorm with the upper atmosphere — was made over China in 2010 and was recently described by scientists.

The gigantic jet took place in eastern China on Aug. 12, 2010 — the farthest a ground-based one has ever been observed from the equator, according to the research team.

Previous jets were mainly seen in tropical or subtropical regions, but this one took place around 35 degrees latitude, about the same as the southern part of Tennessee in the United States.

Could an Avocado a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

 

Eating avocados regularly may improve the quality of your diet and some key heath markers, according to a new analysis.

After crunching the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2001 to 2008, researchers found that eating avocados was associated with an overall better-quality diet; higher levels of HDL (the "good" cholesterol); a lower risk of metabolic syndrome; and a lower body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.

For the rest of the story: http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/3562-avocados-lower-risk-metabolic-syndrome.html

Kids With Ear Infections May Not Need Antibiotics, New Guidelines Say

 

Young children with ear infections don't necessarily need antibiotic treatment right away. In fact, they may not need the medication at all, according to new guidelines from an influential group of doctors.

Children ages 6 months to 2 years with an infection in one ear who don't have a high fever, severe pain or other complications can be watched for 48 hours without antibiotic treatment to see if the infection gets worse, the guidelines say. The same watching period applies to older children with a mild infection in one or both ears.

For the rest of the story: http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/3566-ear-infection-guidelines-aap.html

Iron and Zinc May Prevent PMS

 

Women who feel bloated, irritable or depressed before getting their periods — classic signs of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS — may want to pay attention to the amount of iron in their diets, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that women with an iron intake of more than 20 milligrams a day had about a 35 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with PMS than women who had the lowest iron intake, about 10 mg a day. To get the higher amount, a woman would only have to eat one cup of iron-fortified cereal, which typically contains about 24 mg of the mineral.

For the rest of the story: http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/3567-iron-zinc-premenstrual-syndrome.html

Holder: Feds to set pot legalization response 'relatively soon'

The federal government is nearly ready to announce how its law enforcement personnel and prosecutors will respond to the decision Colorado and Washington voters made in November to legalize marijuana use in their states, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.

"We’re still in the process of reviewing both of the initiatives that were passed," Holder said at a morning appearance, answering a question from Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. "I would say, and I mean this, that you’ll hear soon."

"We are, I think, in our last stages of that review, and are trying to make a determination as to what the policy ramifications are going to be, what our international obligations are. There are a whole variety of things that go into this determination," Holder said. "But the people in [Colorado] and Washington deserve that answer and we will have that, as I said, relatively soon."

Federal law treats marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance like Heroin and LSD. However, as pot has been legalized for medicinal use in 18 states in recent years, federal prosecutors have had to confront the awkwardness of prosecuting individuals for actions that are legal under state law. That predicament became even more intense after the passage of broad decriminalization measures in Colorado and Washington state last fall.

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