Archive for May, 2010

Reason #99,912 Why Nikola Tesla Rules: He Knew Mobile Phones Were Coming

Monday, May 10th, 2010


From a 1909 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.

It will soon be possible, for instance, for a business man in New York To dictate instructions and have them appear instantly in type in London or elsewhere. He will be able to call up from his desk and talk with any telephone subscriber in the world. It will only be necessary to carry an inexpensive instrument not bigger than a watch, which will enable its bearer to hear anywhere on sea or land for distances of thousands of miles. One may listen or transmit speech or song to the uttermost parts of the world.

He went on to say the that a digitally compiled “book of faces” would be the most successful way to hook up with the girl you had a crush on in high school 8 years after you graduated.

[Google Book via Boing Boing]

Have Scientists Found First Ever Proof Of Ejected Black Hole?

Friday, May 7th, 2010


Probably not, but maybe!

A mystery object in a galaxy far, far away could be a supermassive black hole that got booted from its home galaxy’s center, according to a new study.

Then again, the strange body could be a rare type of supernova or an oddball “midsize” black hole—more massive than black holes born when single stars explode but “lighter” than the supermassive ones at the centers of galaxies.

“All three of those [options] are exotic and have something peculiar to them,” said study co-author Peter Jonker, an astronomer with the Netherlands Institute for Space Research in Utrecht.

Guess which option we’re rooting for? I’ll give you a hint, the site isn’t “Moderately Surprising”. I believe in the ejected!

Scientists Chemically Alter Developing Fish Brains So They Resemble Other Species

Friday, May 7th, 2010


A breakthrough in how we understand brain development has led a group of researchers to totally change a developing fish brain into one that looks like another species of fish…

In another part of the study, the team wanted to see if they could use chemicals to change the patterns of gene expression and hence the brain development of the embryos. Could they, in fact, alter the brain of a rock-dwelling embryo to that of a sand-dwelling embryo? Turns out they could.

Sylvester treated the embryos with lithium chloride for three to five hours during an early stage of anterior-posterior patterning. After treatment, he returned the embryos to fish water and then took samples for study at different developmental stages. He found that each time he checked, treatment with lithium chloride up-regulated Wnt signaling, which led to a reallocation of brain precursors to the posterior thalamus.

So for those of you with “Playing God” bingo cards, please mark down that square.

[Science Daily]

What Technically Defines A River Monster?

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Above is a scene from Animal Planet’s series River Monsters. But although some fish look straight up and down bizarre (see the massive fugly catfish above) that doesn’t necessarily make them dangerous.

For example, hippos and alligators are far more murderous than say piranhas, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t once a fish that could cause some serious trouble.

A relative of the piranha, the Megapiranha, grew to 3-feet-long (1 meter), or four times the size of today’s piranhas. Scientists aren’t sure why the fish-beast had seven teeth arranged in a zig-zag row, while today’s piranhas sport six teeth. Fortunately the mega creature is not much of a threat, having died out several million years ago.

Read the whole Live Science article for far more info.

[Live Science]

Silver Lining To Recent Flood Victims, It Could Have Been A Megaflood

Thursday, May 6th, 2010


With all the talk of flooding in Tennessee, it helps to look back into history to gain perspective. After all, at least it wasn’t the megaflood that completely redefined that Alaskan landscape 15,000 years ago.

One of at least four megafloods from ancient Glacial Lake Atna, the deluge breached ice dams and covered more than 3,500 square miles (9,065 square kilometers) of land of what is today the Copper River Basin northeast of Anchorage. (The lake would’ve covered Rhode Island three times.)

Megafloods by definition have a flow of at least 264 million gallons of water per second (1,000 million liters of water per second). The largest known freshwater megaflood released about 4,500 million gallons of water per second (17,000 million liters of water per second) and originated out of Glacial Lake Missoula in Montana.

The megaflood from Atna likely had a flow of about 792 million gallons of water per second (3,000 million liters of water per second), and released a total of as much as 336 cubic miles (1,400 cubic kilometers) of water – enough to cover an area the size of Washington, D.C., to a depth of 5 miles (8 km).

So, at least they have that going for them.

In all seriousness, if you’d like to help by donating money or time to the relief effort in Tennessee, head here for more information.

[Live Science]

Asteroid (Sample Safely Harvested By Japanese Satellite) To Hit Earth!

Thursday, May 6th, 2010


Scientists might be able to gawk at a piece of asteroid that hasn’t been through the horrific re-entry process after a Japanese satellite sends a sample it collected back to Earth on June 13th.

Why do we care about this? It could revolutionize how Bruce Willis and a ragtag gang of oil drillers save the world…

As you can see in the picture, it’s covered in rubble, and lacks impact craters! This is strong evidence that it’s not a single, monolithic body; in other words, it’s not a solid rock. It may instead be more like a pile of rubble, an asteroid that has been shattered repeatedly by low-speed impacts with other rocks, but had its own gravity hold it together like a bag full of shattered glass.

Asteroids like this may comprise a significant percentage of all the asteroids we see. And if one of them is headed toward Earth, how we deal with a rubble pile may be very different than how we might try to push a solid rock out of the way. Studying Itokawa is therefore very important… and may just save the world.

The sample return capsule will land in Woomera, Australia, where it hopefully will not be attacked by venomous Koalas (everything Down Under can kill you).


[Bad Astronomy]

Video Proof Of Restarted Heart

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

We told you about this yesterday… but be prepared to witness the heart that was restarted 24 hours after it died in a Harvard laboratory.

[Singularity Hub]

Bat Boy Figure Released Just In Time For Mother’s Day

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010


Available on pre-order for only $24.99!

Thanks to reader Vox Anon for the tip.

[Go Hero Shop]

Breakthrough Solution Keeps Heart Alive Outside Of Body For 10 Days

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010


Behold, the heart that lived outside a human for 10 days but WOULD NOT DIE! (thunder clap!) It could revolutionize those who are relying on organ donations! (organ music!) It hopes to be on the open market soon! (maniacal laughter!)

[Pop Sci]

Maya Plumbing = Oldest Pressurized Water In New World

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010


The Maya people were forerunners on a lot of concepts. You can add piping pressurized water all over the place to that list.

A water feature found in the Maya city of Palenque, Mexico, is the earliest known example of engineered water pressure in the new world, according to a collaboration between two Penn State researchers, an archaeologist and a hydrologist. How the Maya used the pressurized water is, however, still unknown.

“Water pressure systems were previously thought to have entered the New World with the arrival of the Spanish,” the researchers said in a recent issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science. “Yet, archaeological data, seasonal climate conditions, geomorphic setting and simple hydraulic theory clearly show that the Maya of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico, had empirical knowledge of closed channel water pressure predating the arrival of Europeans.”

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

[Science Daily]

Newly Discovered Microbe Super Small, Bizarre, Works In Copper Mine

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010


Could this microbe be discovered under any less awesome conditions?

Researchers have discovered some of the tiniest and weirdest microbes ever seen growing in a copper mine sludge that is as acidic as battery acid.

Theses ultra-small microbes were first discovered four years ago, but now scientists have reconstructed their genomes (an organism’s genetic material) and found that they are among the simplest ever described for a living organism.

Named ARMAN, or archaeal Richmond Mine acidophilic nanoorganisms, as a nod to the mine’s owner, Ted Arman, these Archaea (the domain of life that groups together once-celled creatures) are rivaled in size only by a microbe that survives solely as a parasite attached to other cells. ARMAN, however, appears to exist largely as a free-living organism, but oddly, researchers discovered up to ten percent of their specimens impaled on needle-like protuberances originating from another microbe, Thermoplasmatales.

“It is really remarkable and suggests an interaction that has never been described before in nature,” said Brett J. Baker of the University of California at Berkeley.


[Live Science]

How Do You Deal With Zombie Satellites? Shoot Them With Lasers

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010


Everything dies. Somethings just die, only to be reborn as a deadly threat to those still living.

Everyone say hello to the Zombiesat, a term used by engineers to describe satellites which have lost communication with the ground are now just stumbling around as a shell of their former selves, posing a collision threat to other functional orbiters. So what are we to do with such a menace? Separate the head and destroy the brain?

Nope, turns out you just have to blow them higher into orbit so they either crash into each or slowly descend back into orbit and eventually burn up in the atmosphere.

Or… you could sign on to this awesome plan

Some more exotic measures involving tethers and other props have been proposed, Johnson said, but aren’t yet feasible.

For getting rid of very small pieces of space junk, there are two favorite ideas, he said. One involves shooting lasers at the objects to push them into lower-altitude orbits so they fall back down to Earth more quickly.

“That has technical, economic, as well as policy issues,” Johnson said.

Policy issues include a possible violation on the Total Badass Restriction Act of 1986.


Busy Beavers Build Dam That Can Be Seen From Space

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Behold! A wooden dam built by Canadian beavers in the Alberta wilderness. At about 1,500 feet in length it spans a larger range then the Hoover Dam, making us humans look like some real jerkface losers.


Ocean Germs Find Refuge On Islands Of Death, Fecal Matter

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010


Did you wake up today thinking that ocean wasn’t a festering tub of death, disease and decay?

Welcome… to Germ Island!

When plants and animals near the surface of the ocean die, they decay and gradually fall to the seafloor. This dead matter can clump together with sand, soot, fecal matter and other material to form what is called “marine snow,” so named because it looks like tiny bits of white fluff. Marine snow continuously rains down on the deep ocean, feeding many of the creatures that dwell there.

A group of scientists studying marine snow found that these clumps, or aggregates, may act as island-like refuges for pathogens, the general term for disease-causing organisms or germs, such as bacteria and viruses. (The “island” term comes from the comparison of the existence of pathogens on marine snow with the way insects, amphibians and other creatures establish homes and persist on remote islands in the oceans.)

The scientists are evaluating the degree to which aggregates made up of this decaying organic matter provide a favorable microclimate for aquatic pathogens. These “refuges” seem to protect pathogens from stressors, such as sunlight and salinity (amount of salt in the water) changes, and from predators. They also might provide sources of nourishment for the pathogens.


[Live Science]

Asteroid Discovery Could Lead To Intersteller Pit Stops

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010


Not going to lie to you folks, space is big. Like really big.

To get from one point to another you’re going to need more than just a full tank of gas and a Snapple pinched between your thighs because someone decided to use the cup holders for loose change and a half-drank, week-old Coke bottle.

Luckily, the recent discovery that some asteriods contain water compounds could mean the components of the water ice could be broken down and reassembled into rocket fuel.

“Water is the main component in how you might make propellants,” said Jerry Sanders, leader of in-situ resource utilization at NASA’s Lunar Surface Systems Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “If you’re going to go repeatedly to an asteroid, then the ability to basically start setting up gas stations could be extremely beneficial.”

Researchers announced last week that they had found definitive proof of frozen water, along with organic compounds, coating the surface of the large asteroid 24 Themis in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Previously, scientists had believed that asteroids there were too close to the sun to harbor water without it evaporating away.

Could be a big boon for longer voyages. No word yet on how hydrogen and oxygen could be reassembled to create Slim Jims.


Scientists Confirm Existence Of Dwarf Dinosaurs

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010


What an adorable discovery!

A relative of some of the largest dinosaurs to ever plod the Earth never grew to be more than horse-size, confirming the beast was indeed a dwarf dinosaur, a new study reveals.

The diminutive dino lived in what is now Transylvania, Romania, some 75 million to 70 million years ago.

The remains of the dinosaur, named Magyarosaurus dacus, have been debated by scientists for years. Did they belong to an actual dwarf dinosaur or a youngster that would later grow into a hefty adult?

And M. dacus belongs to a group of titanosaurs, which were giant sauropods (plant-eating dinosaurs). Compared with one of the largest titanosaurs, Argentinosaurus, which ballooned to about the weight of 10 African elephants, this guy would’ve been teensy.

Is this double weird considering the bones were found in Transylvania? Yes.

[Live Science]