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December, 2005

South Korea's most famous scientist resigns in disgrace; questions arise about Snuppy, the dog he claimed he cloned

South Korea's most famous scientist resigned Friday in disgrace after his university said he faked stem cell research. Snuppy is an Afghan hound that researcher Hwang Woo-suk said he cloned, claiming to have created the world's first cloned dog. But like his other breakthroughs in stem-cell science, that assertion is now being questioned. A university panel that had been investigating a May paper in the journal Science on Hwang's stem-cell research said Friday that he had fabricated those results and it was now investigating the claims of the cloned dog as well.   Full Story   AP/Houston Chronicle_ 12/23/05

AOL's choice of Google shows how much Google has supplanted Microsoft

As recently as two weeks ago, Microsoft executives said they believed that their company was going to win the endorsement of Time Warner, AOL's parent, to form an advertising venture with AOL and become its provider of Web search technology. But tomorrow Time Warner is expected to announce that it will instead renew its three-year-old partnership with Google as the provider of search technology. The turn of events shows just how much Google has supplanted Microsoft as the force to be reckoned with in technology.  Full Story  New York Times_ 12/19/05 (logon required)

Honda to mass-produce solar batteries - report

Honda Motor Co., Japan's third-biggest auto maker, plans to build a 10 billion yen ($86 million) factory to produce solar batteries, the Japanese business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) reported on Sunday. The Kumamoto plant would initially have a capacity to produce about 30 megawatts worth of solar cells annually, enough for 10,000 households a year, it said.  Full Story Reuters_ 12/17/05

'Fish with chips' reveal ocean migration routes
Thousands of salmon, tuna and other fish with electronic tags are revealing mysterious Pacific Ocean migration highways that may give clues about how to rebuild dwindling stocks, scientists said on Wednesday. Marine experts also found 78 new species of fish in 2005 along with scores of other creatures ranging from a 3-meter (10 ft) rocket-shaped jellyfish in the Arctic to a tiny carnivorous sponge in the South Atlantic. "Fish with chips" -- hi-tech implants that enable either satellite or seabed tracking -- were one of the breakthroughs to uncover ocean migration paths, scientists in the 73-nation Census of Marine Life (COML) said.  One bluefin tuna swam the Pacific three times in 600 days according to satellite records -- an enormous 40,000 km (24,850 miles) or the distance around the world. That indicated that Japanese and American tuna stocks were one and the same. "Our studies show that the oceans are a much more complex system than we thought," said Fred Grassle, chair of the COML steering committee. The census aims to document the oceans as part of efforts to protect marine resources.  Full Story_ Reuters 12/14/05

Getting a grip on being cool on a hot day
For two years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which gave us the Internet, has been financing the research on a hand-held device that essentially cools the body from the inside. The device, CoreControl, is a coffee pot-size chamber with a cold metal cone in the center. The user grips the cone and holds it for three to five minutes. Afterward, users report feeling not cooler, but fresher and ready to work again. "All we're doing is putting the body back to normal by increasing heat loss capacity," said Prof. Craig Heller, a biologist at Stanford who, along with his colleague Dennis Grahn, invented CoreControl. Scientists say it is impossible to overuse.  Full Story  New York Times_ 12/13/05 (logon required)

Great Lakes near ecological breakdown: scientists
Stresses from polluted rivers to invasive species threaten to trigger an ecological breakdown in the Great Lakes, a group of scientists hoping to sway U.S. environmental policy said on Thursday.  Seventy-five scientists who study the world's largest collective body of fresh water released their report on the myriad problems that need cleanup or restoration ahead of two key policy announcements next week.  "This is just a critical period for the Great Lakes," Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office, said about next week's announcements.  A task force comprising federal agencies, Congress, local government officials and regional Indian tribes is scheduled to release its much-anticipated final plan for preserving the Great Lakes requested by U.S. President George W. Bush in 2004.  The body's preliminary report in July recommended $20 billion in federal, state and private funding over 15 years to upgrade antiquated municipal sewer systems, restore 500,000 acres of wetlands, clean polluted harbors and bays, and pay for other efforts. Full Story_Reuters 12/8/05

Scientists voice tsunami concern
A US scientist studying the islands off southern Sumatra says it is very clear the region can expect more big quakes and tsunami in the coming decades.  Prof Kerry Sieh is using a GPS network to monitor land movements close to the great fault line that ruptured to produce last December's awful events.  His work indicates there is still huge strain bound up in the fault, and that this could let go in the near future.  Full Story_BBC 12/07/05

November, 2005

More of Third World fit for wind power: UN study

Windmills have far bigger than expected potential for generating electricity in the Third World, according to new U.N. wind maps of countries from China to Nicaragua. "Our studies show about 13 percent of the land area has potential for development," Tom Hamlin of the U.N. Environment Program told Reuters on the fringes of a U.N. climate conference. Previously, he said, maybe just 1 percent of developing nations was judged sufficiently windy, discouraging governments and investors from considering the nonpolluting source as an alternative to burning oil, coal or natural gas. The new maps, part of a $9.3 million study, use data from satellites, balloons and other sources to model winds in 19 developing nations. Among the nations surveyed, Nicaragua, Mongolia and Vietnam had the greatest potential with about 40 percent of the land area suitable for windmills. Least promising was Bangladesh, with just 0.2 percent of the land area suited to windmills, along with countries including Cuba and Ghana.

Full Story   Reuters_ 12/4/05

November, 2005

Ocean changes to cool Europe
Changes to ocean currents in the Atlantic may cool European weather within a few decades, scientists say.  Researchers from the UK's National Oceanography Centre say currents derived from the Gulf Stream are weakening, bringing less heat north.  Their conclusions, reported in the scientific journal Nature, are based on 50 years of Atlantic observations.

They say that European political leaders need to plan for a future which may be cooler rather than warmer.  Full Story_BBC 11/30/05

Einstein equation marks 100 years
Physicists are celebrating the centenary of Albert Einstein's best known equation: E=mc².

In 1905, it was final proof of the genius and imagination of a young German-born scientist who had yet to land a university post. It seems so simple: three letters standing for energy, mass, and the speed of light, brought together with the tightness of a soundbite. Yet what it encapsulates is still hard for scientists to grasp. The equation rounded out the theory of relativity he had started earlier in the year.  Full Story  BBC News_ 11/21/05

Cisco acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta offers hint of future - it sits on top of a television

In announcing yesterday a $7 billion deal to acquire Scientific-Atlanta, the maker of television set-top boxes, Cisco signaled its commitment to a strategy of augmenting sales of its powerful routers that direct Internet traffic with more consumer-oriented technology. Cisco's decision is built on the idea that entertainment and communications will converge around the digital technology that it provides. It also has a more modest short-term goal: using its international sales force to increase sales at Scientific-Atlanta, which is largely unknown outside the United States.  Full Story  New York Times_ 11/19/05 (logon required)

Annan calls for digital bridges
The UN secretary general has called on the world to do more to narrow the technology gap between rich and poor.

Opening the World Summit on the Information Society, Kofi Annan said nations had to show the political will to bridge the digital divide. The Tunis summit had been threatened by a row over US control of the net. A last minute deal left the US in overall technical control, with an international forum being set up to discuss internet issues. The aim of the three-day meeting is to look at ways of using information communication technologies to help improve living standards in some of the world's poorest nations.  Full Story_BBC 11/16/05

U.S. creates intelligence center for unclassified information

The Open Source Center will gather and analyze information from the Web, broadcasts, newspapers and other unclassified sources around the world. The premise of the center, announced as part of the restructuring of the nation's intelligence agencies by the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, is that some critical information to understand threats to national security requires neither spies nor satellites to collect. The center is situated at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., and will be overseen by a subordinate of Mr. Negroponte called the assistant deputy director of national intelligence for open source. That position has not been filled, but one former intelligence official said the leading candidate was Eliot A. Jardines, 35, a former intelligence officer who ran and recently sold a software company, Open Source Publishing.  Full Story New York Times_ 11/9/05 (logon required)

First seconds of a quake can show size: study
With the devastation of last month's Pakistan earthquake still fresh in the mind, scientists said on Wednesday they have developed a way of predicting the size of a tremor even as it starts.  Seismologists have tried and failed for years to predict where and when quakes will happen and how big will they be. Now there is a glimmer of light on the horizon -- at least for the latter goal, according to scientists at the University of California, Berkeley.  "We can determine the magnitude within a couple of seconds of initiation of rupture and predict the ground motion from seconds to tens of seconds before it is felt," said lead researcher Richard Allen.  Although that time frame would be far too short for people to react and evacuate, it could be enough to tell local emergency services almost instantaneously the scale of the disaster they are likely to be facing when the dust settles.  Full Story_Reuters 11/9/05

The science of riding gravity waves
Many expect it to be one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of our age: "There'll certainly be a Nobel Prize in it for somebody," says Jim Hough. The UK professor is standing on a farm road in Lower Saxony, Germany, with a crop of beet on one side and sprouts on the other. But the real interest lies at his feet - with some shabby, corrugated metal sheeting. For a moment, it looks like an upturned pig trough until you realise it stretches for hundreds of metres. The sheeting hides a trench and, within it, the vacuumed tube of an experiment Hough believes will finally detect the most elusive of astrophysical phenomena - gravitational waves. The Glasgow University scientist has been chasing these "ripples" in space-time for more than 30 years and feels certain he is now just a matter of months away from bagging his quarry.  Full Story_BBC 11/8/05

Electronic paper moves from sci-fi to marketplace

"Electronic paper" is a display technology that makes possible flexible or even rollable displays which, unlike current computer screens, can be read in bright sunlight. But, much like when LCD displays came to the market, consumers are first likely to see the technology in clocks and watches. The popular example of an electronic newspaper that automatically updates itself wirelessly is still years away. A number of companies are currently working on such displays -- LG.Philips LCD and Massachusetts-based E Ink announced last month that they have developed a protype 10-inch display, and Fujitsu showed a color display in July. Philips' Polymer Vision unit aims to mass-produce a rollable 5-inch display by the end of 2006, and among the first consumer products is a watch with a curved electronic paper display from Seiko Epson, due to hit the Japanese market next year. Electronic paper was invented in the 1970s at Xerox' Palo Alto Research Center by Nick Sheridon, who now works as research director at Xerox subsidiary Gyricon, which makes electronic paper signs.  Full Story Reuters_ 11/4/05

October, 2005

Supercomputer doubles own record
The Blue Gene/L supercomputer has broken its own record to achieve more than double the number of calculations it can do a second. It reached 280.6 teraflops - that is 280.6 trillion calculations a second. The IBM machine, at the US Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, officially became the most powerful computer on the planet in June. The fastest supercomputers in the world are ranked by experts every six months in the Top 500 list. Blue Gene's performance, while it has been under construction, has quadrupled in just 12 months. Each person in the world with a handheld calculator would still take decades to do the same calculations Blue Gene is now able to do every second.  Full Story BBC News_ 10/28/05

Debate over clean car technology rages on
The debate over the best medium-term solution for cleaner cars looks set to lengthen as auto executives in Japan for the Tokyo Motor Show this week discussed more, not fewer, options for weaning cars off oil.  The race to develop more fuel-efficient and less polluting cars has picked up pace as gas prices, exacerbated by a series of devastating hurricanes in the United States, hit record levels this year and as worries heighten over the impact of global warming on climate patterns.  Most auto makers agree that fuel-cell cars powered by hydrogen produced with renewable energy sources are the end game since they would rely on no fossil fuels and emit only pure water. But most said the technology was at least a decade away.  Full Story_Reuters 10/20/05

Measuring the world: From material to ethereal

For 116 years, a cylinder made of platinum and iridium has been the world's defining unit of mass. It's an easy concept to understand. Now there's the "electronic kilogram" machine, a
a two-story-tall contraption that looks one part Star Trek, one part Wallace and Gromit. Briefly put, it measures the power needed to generate an electromagnetic force that balances the gravitational pull on a kilogram of mass. The high-tech kilogram is needed because scientists prefer a definition based on the universal constants of physics - something they could in principle calibrate in their own laboratories - rather than on an artifact sitting in a distant vault.  Full Story New York Times_ 10/16/05_ (logon required)

Next human pandemic "inevitable," says U.S. scientist

The world must prepare now against bird flu and other potentially deadly viruses, a top U.S. government scientist said on Saturday. "It's been over 30 years since we've had a pandemic, so inevitably we are going to have a pandemic within a reasonable period of time," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "It's not a matter of when or if," he told reporters in Vietnam, where 41 people have died from the H5N1 virus that has now spread to Europe. Fauci, part of a U.S. mission to Southeast Asian nations worst hit by the virus -- which has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003 -- said H5N1 was becoming more worrisome. Test results on Saturday detected the highly pathogenic virus in Romania and confirmed its arrival in mainland Europe. The virus was found last week in Turkey and experts say migratory birds may carry the disease farther.  Full Story Reuters_ 10/15/05

TVs and PCs 'take over US homes'
The average American spends more time using media such as TV and the internet than sleeping, a study has found.  US researchers found that Americans spend nine hours a day watching TV, using the web or talking on a mobile.  One-third of that time is devoted to using two or more media at once, noted Bob Papper, a Ball State University professor who co-authored the report.  "This is arguably in excess of anything we would have envisaged 10 years ago," Prof Papper said.   Full Story_BBC 10/7/05

Tests for nano toxicity coming later this month

A framework for assessing the potential health effects from inhaling or otherwise being exposed to nanoparticles will be released in Washington October 24.  The framework--prepared by the Nanomaterial Toxicity Screening Working Group of the International Life Sciences Institute Research Foundation/Risk Science Institute (ILSI RF/RSI)--outlines methods for testing for possible toxicity caused by nanomaterials, which are particles measuring 100 nanometers or less. (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter.).  While nanoparticles present potential health risks to the general public wearing pants or other products containing nanoparticles, the more likely health risk will be to factory workers who will work with these materials directly. Medical researchers also warn that molecular medicines could have unanticipated consequences.  Full Story_ CNET News.com 10/6/05

Green chemistry' work wins Nobel

France's Yves Chauvin and Americans Robert H. Grubbs and Richard R. Schrock won the 2005 Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday, for their work to reduce hazardous waste in forming new chemicals.  The trio won the award for their development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis -- which focuses on how chemical bonds are broken and made between carbon atoms, and which the Nobel Prize committee likened to a dance in which the couples change partners. FULL STORY_ CNN 10/5/05

X-Prize man launches rocket race
Peter Diamandis, the man behind the $10m X-Prize for suborbital space travel, has brought forward his new initiative: the Rocket Racing League. It's goal is to speed up aircraft and spacecraft design. The RRL will see Grand Prix-style races between rocket planes, flown by top pilots through a "3D trackway" just 5,000ft (1,500m) above the ground. The first races are planned for next year. Events will be staged across the US, culminating in a final in New Mexico.  Full Story  BBC News_ 10/04/05

September, 2005

PDAs expected to change healthcare in future
Personal digital assistants (PDAs) could change the way healthcare is delivered in the future by providing doctors with easy access to patient data and the latest information on treatment. Palm pilots and other hand-held computers were originally designed as personal organizers but they are becoming increasingly popular with doctors, medical students and even patients to improve the quality of care and safety. "The most commonly used clinical application is drug reference, so far. But it has gone beyond just looking up drugs and dosages and running interaction checks," Dr Daniel Baumgart, of the Charite Medical School of the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, said in an interview. PDAs with bar code scanners already exist which allow doctors to scan a patient's barcode bracelet to access their record, current medications and medication history, according to Baumgart. "You could improve or make sure the patient gets the right drug, at the right time and at the right dose," said Baumgart who reviewed the role of the technology in medicine in a report in The Lancet medical journal.  Full Story_ Reuters 9/29/05

Warming causes record Arctic ice melt: U.S. report
The Arctic ice shelf has melted for the fourth straight year to its smallest area in a century, driven by rising temperatures that appear linked to a buildup of greenhouse gases, U.S. scientists said on Wednesday.  Scientists at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which have monitored the ice via satellites since 1978, say the total Arctic ice in 2005 will cover the smallest area since they started measuring.  It is the least amount of Arctic ice in at least a century, according to both the satellite data and shipping data going back many more years, according to a report from the groups.  As of September 21, the Arctic sea ice area had dropped to 2.05 million square miles, the report said.  From 1978 to 2000, the sea ice area averaged 2.70 million square miles, the report said. It noted the melting trend had shrunk Inuit hunting grounds and endangered polar bears, seals and other wildlife.  Full Story_ Reuters 9/28/05

Computer terms 'confuse workers'
Most office workers find computer jargon as difficult to understand as a foreign language, a survey suggests. Three quarters of workers waste more than an hour a week deciphering what a technical term means, the poll found. Terms such as jpeg, javascript and cookies are among the problem words highlighted by firm Computer People. The findings revealed that younger workers were just as likely to make a mistake over computer language.  Full Story  BBC News_ 9/22/05

New trigonometry is a sign of the times: "Once you learn the five main rules of rational trigonometry... you realise that classical trigonometry represents a misunderstanding of geometry."
For the first time, scientists have identified an ant species that produces its own natural herbicide to poison unwanted plants.  What's more, his simple new framework means calculations can be done without trigonometric tables or calculators, yet often with greater accuracy.  Established by the ancient Greeks and Romans, trigonometry is used in surveying, navigation, engineering, construction and the sciences to calculate the relationships between the sides and vertices of triangles."Generations of students have struggled with classical trigonometry because the framework is wrong," says Wildberger.

Full Story_PHYSORG.com 9/15/05

Long life mobile battery 'vital': With more to do for phones, "power pain" has become a big issue

Top of the list for the most desirable feature of a next generation mobile device is not some fancy new function, but a battery that lasts much longer. Two-thirds of mobile and personal digital assistant owners in a marketing survey across 15 countries said two days' active battery life was vital.  It also showed almost half wanted more memory, and a high-resolution camera.  Full Story_BBC 9/21/05

The car that runs on water: 'Holy Grail' to ease the world's energy crisis?
A British company is on the brink of creating an 'ultra-green' family saloon which could be on the road within a decade.  If it goes into production the car would cost as little as a regular model, thanks to subsidies and grants. In scenes recalling the film Back To The Future, where a sports car's generator is fed with household scraps, a generator on this car will convert water into power.  Government sources say the technology - developed by Russian scientists who have set up a UK company called OM Energy - could eventually enable ships to use seawater for fuel. The breakthrough is the electro hydrogen generator which extracts hydrogen from water by spinning it at high speed.  The hydrogen is then mixed with the petrol supply to create an environmentally friendly 'super fuel' which 'stretches' the unleaded fuel, enabling the car to go further on less. The generator is spun using the engine's recycled exhaust gases. Experts see this as the 'holy grail' that could ease the world's energy crisis Full Story_ This is Money 9/21/05

Brit's bot chats way to artificial intelligence medal, but still no winner for biggest prize
A British computer chat program, called George, has won the international Loebner Prize for holding the most convincingly human-like conversation. George and its creator Rollo Carpenter competed against three other talkative bot finalists in New York. Reigning three-time winner, Alice, came fourth. The competition is based on the Turing Test, which suggests computers could be seen as "intelligent" if their chat was indistinguishable from humans. George managed to convince the judges enough to earn himself the Hugh Loebner's Bronze Medal, and $3,000 (£1,660), which goes to the most convincing entrant. The gold medal and Grand Prize of $100,000 (£55,400), which goes to the bot that completely fools the judges, has remained unclaimed since the competition's inception in 1990.  Full Story BBC News_ 9/20/05

Duplication rife in online efforts to reunite evacuees

People-finding efforts have led to confusion, frustration

Ritchie Priddy opted not to watch football last weekend, parking himself instead in front of his computer and entering data on Hurricane Katrina evacuees who wound up in his small town of St. Francisville, Louisiana. It took Priddy and three other volunteers from the First Baptist Church most of the weekend to post details online on about 500 evacuees.

Each person's data had to be typed in five times to populate just five of as many as 50 online databases and message boards created to connect those displaced by the disaster with loved ones. Although the Internet makes it simple for people around the world to help out with disaster relief, all the well-intentioned but largely duplicative people-finding efforts have led to confusion, frustration and wasted time.  Full Story_CNN 9/8/05

Hybrid cars burst onto scene at Frankfurt show
Record fuel costs pushed hybrid cars to center stage at the world's biggest car show this week but automakers argued over whether the rising popularity of petrol-electric vehicles was just the result of marketing hype. Long sniffed at as a fad by European carmakers enamoured of modern diesel motors that can be just as fuel efficient, hybrids are on the ascendancy as even erstwhile skeptics fall into line and rush to offer products with an environmental halo.  Full Story_ Reuters 9/14/05

Liquid drop takes big nano step
Edinburgh scientists have made a small blob of liquid move across a surface by shining a light in front of it.  It may not sound like much but the molecular engineering that went into this feat is said to be a step forward in the emerging area of nanotechnology.  The trick is in tiny "machines" about a millionth of a millimetre in size that coat the surface and propel the drop.  The team envisages this technology moving biological samples around a diagnostic chip to detect disease.  Full Story_ BBC News 9/7/05

Ideas floated for high-tech flood control
On a cold winter night in 1953, the Netherlands suffered a terrifying blow as old dikes and seawalls gave way during a violent storm.  Flooding killed nearly 2,000 people and forced the evacuation of 70,000 others. Icy waters turned villages and farm districts into lakes dotted with dead cows. Ultimately, the waters destroyed more than 4,000 buildings. Afterward, the Dutch--realizing that the disaster could have been much worse, since half the country, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, lies below sea level--vowed never again.  So at a cost of some $8 billion over a quarter century, the nation erected a futuristic system of coastal defenses that is admired around the world today as one of the best barriers against the sea's fury--one that could withstand the kind of storm that happens only once in 10,000 years.

The Dutch case is one of many in which low-lying cities and countries with long histories of flooding have turned science, technology and raw determination into ways of forestalling disaster. Experts in the United States say the foreign projects are worth studying for inspiration about how to rebuild New Orleans once the deadly waters of Hurricane Katrina recede into history.  Full Story_ The New York Times  9/6/05

Smart cars could cut accidents

Whether it is wafting lavender or citrus scents to calm drivers and keep them awake, or vibrating seat belts to get them to slow down, smart cars in the future could help reduce road accidents. Dr Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at England's University of Oxford, said on Monday scientists were studying utilizing the senses such as smell and touch to develop features in cars to make driving safer.  Full Story  Reuters_ 9/5/05

August, 2005

Ozone layer has stopped shrinking, US study finds

The ozone layer has stopped shrinking but it will take decades to start recovering, U.S. scientists reported on Tuesday. They said the 1987 Montreal Protocol to limit production of ozone-depleting chemicals has apparently worked, but the damage to ozone has not been halted completely. An analysis of satellite records and surface monitoring instruments shows the ozone layer has grown a bit thicker in some parts of the world, but is still well below normal levels, the scientists report in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research. The prime suspects in ozone destruction are chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, once commonly used in refrigeration, air conditioning and industrial cleaning.  Full Story Reuters_ 8/30/05

Storm's power, rapid growth attributed to depth of warm water in Gulf of Mexico
In the early-morning hours of Friday, Katrina exited the Florida peninsula and entered the Gulf of Mexico as a regular, unleaded tropical storm.  By Friday evening, though, it had blossomed into a potent hurricane, on its way to becoming one of the deepest, most-powerful storms on record. Meteorologists said Katrina was pushed around by large-scale weather systems, triple its size, over the United States and out in the Atlantic Ocean, and drew on some of its own chaotic energy. But it clearly was recharged by a deep, extensive pool of warm water in the Gulf of Mexico, part of the so-called Loop Current associated with the Gulf Stream.  Full Story_ The Seattle Times 8/30/05

Edinburgh University scientists use nanotechnology for the first time to move an object visible to the naked eye
Researchers moved a tiny droplet of water along a surface, and even up a slope, using only light sensitive molecules. They said it means that an age where laser beams are used to lift objects up and move them around could be closer than previously thought. The machines used were 80,000 times thinner than a hair's breadth. In the future, the technology could lead to artificial muscles being built and the creation of surfaces that change their shape in response to light or electricity. A human hair is about 80,000 nanometres wide, while one nanometre is about a million times smaller than the diameter of a pinhead.  Full Story  BBC News_ 8/29/05

Antarctic ozone hole grows from last year-WMO
The winter hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica appears to have grown from last year but is still smaller than in 2003, when it was at its largest, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday.  The UN agency's top ozone expert added that seasonal depletion of the protective gas layer, which filters harmful ultraviolet rays that can cause skin cancer, may become more pronounced in the near future before the problem diminishes. Large reductions in the ozone layer, which sits about 15-30 km (9-19 miles) above the earth, take place each winter over the polar regions, especially the Antarctic, as low temperatures allow the formation of stratospheric clouds that assist chemical reactions breaking down ozone.  The WMO said meteorological data showed last winter was warmer than in 2003 but colder than in 2004.  Full Story_ Reuters 8/23/05

El Niño data help African farmers
African farmers who use weather forecasts based on El Niño data are likely to see an increase in crop yields, according to a new study.  Researchers ran workshops in four Zimbabwean villages to inform farmers of the forecasts.  Those that used the information to choose when and what to plant saw greater yields of crops such as maize.  Details are released in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Full Story_ BBC 8/23/05

Synthesizer innovator Moog dies at 71

Robert A. Moog, whose self-named synthesizers turned electric currents into sound and opened the musical wave that became electronica, has died. He was 71.  Moog died Sunday at his home in Asheville, according to his company's Web site. He had suffered from an inoperable brain tumor, detected in April. A childhood interest in the theremin, one of the first electronic musical instruments, would lead Moog to a create a career and business that tied the name Moog as tightly to synthesizers as the name Les Paul is to electric guitars.  Full Story_CNN 8/22/05

'Silent aircraft' design launched

Passenger seating in 'flying wing' design is like flying in a theater
Plans for the world's first completely silent aircraft have been unveiled by Cambridge University engineers. Environmental campaigners and people living on flight paths have already welcomed the campaign to build the jet. Now it could become a reality some time in the next decade and Luton Airport is to be a partner in the venture. The main development is a new shape for the aircraft after engineers identified traditional designs caused much of the noise at landing and take-off.  Full Story_ BBC 8/17/05

Rice genome unravelled at last
Research will also help scientists understand other vital food crops

Scientists have unscrambled the genetic code of rice, a development that could help end hunger around the world, Nature magazine reports this week.  The blueprint will speed up the hunt for genes that improve productivity and guard against disease and pests.  In order to avoid shortages, rice yields must increase by 30% over the next 20 years, researchers say.  Full Story_ BBC 8/10/05

Longer daylight saving could mean tech trouble
In 2007, your VCR or DVD recorder could start recording shows an hour late

When daylight-saving time starts earlier than usual in the United States come 2007, your VCR or DVD recorder could start recording shows an hour late.  Cell phone companies could give you an extra hour of free weekend calls, and people who depend on online calendars may find themselves late for appointments.  An energy bill President Bush is to sign Monday would start daylight time three weeks earlier and end it a week later as an energy-saving measure.  Full Story_MSNBC 8/7/05

Bacteria, clams thrive in very cold water
In March, researchers discovered an enormous community of bacteria and clams living on the ocean floor in an area isolated for 10,000 years or more until the Larsen B Ice Shelf collapsed in 2002.  The discovery means "the chance of life happening in other places that are even more restricted is increased," Eugene Domack, a geosciences professor at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., told The Washington Post Monday.  Since the bacteria evolved at a depth of 2,800 feet in far colder conditions than any other known cold-seep community, scientists say they might have unique properties useful across a wide range of industries.   Full Story _ PhysOrg.com 8/1/05

July, 2005

High performing rope takes weight off

Technical textiles are not new -- think Kevlar, Mylar, Gore-Tex, Teflon and Velcro.  But where this rope differs is not how it is made, but what it can do, which is its ability to sense its own load and signal any weakness, sending the information to a handheld device well before it frays and gives way.  Full Story_ CNN 7/29/05

Japan to build world's fastest supercomputer

Teraflops to Petaflops

Japan has plans to start building a supercomputer next year that can operate 73 times faster than the world's fastest supercomputer, the government said.  The American Blue Gene/L system supercomputer developed by International Business Machine Corp. at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, currently holds the title of the world's fastest. That machine is capable of 136.8 teraflops, or 136.8 trillion calculations per second, according to Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.  Japan wants to develop a supercomputer that can operate at 10 petaflops, or 10 quadrillion calculations per second, which is 73 times faster than the Blue Gene, an official of the ministry said on condition of anonymity.  Kyodo News reported that the total amount for the project is estimated between 80 billion and 100 billion yen (U.S. $714 million to 893 million; euro593 million to 741 million) and the ministry will request 10 billion yen (U.S. $89 million; euro74 million) for the next fiscal year's budget.

Full Story_   CNN 7/25/05

Professors make password protection product

The increase in identity theft has prompted two Stanford University professors to develop software that protects computer passwords from Internet thieves.  John Mitchell and Dan Boneh will unveil Pwdhash, software that scrambles passwords typed into Web sites, then creates a unique sign-on for each site visited, at the Usenix Security Symposium in Baltimore next week.  It's the latest attempt to thwart attempts by cyber-criminals who steal passwords by creating phony online banking or e-commerce sites. Cyber criminals dupe victims into believing the site is legitimate and lure them into typing their passwords. The crooks then use the password to loot the victim's bank account. For e-commerce shoppers, many of whom have stored credit card information at their favorite online stores, the thieves may use their information to go on a shopping spree.  Full Story _AP 7/25/05

New weapon in fight against smog

From catalytic converters to alternative fuels, the fight against big-city smog has for years been fought inside combustion engines and exhaust pipes.  Now, scientists are taking the fight to the streets by developing "smart" building materials designed to clean the air with a little help from the elements.  Using technology already available for self-cleaning windows and bathroom tiles, scientists hope to paint up cities with materials that dissolve and wash away pollutants when exposed to sun and rain.  "Among other things, we want to constructconcrete walls that break down vehicle exhausts in road tunnels," said Karin Pettersson, a spokeswoman for Swedish construction giant Skanska. "It is also possible to make pavings that clean the air in cities."  Full Story_CNN7/22/05

Europe moving in 'R&D slow lane'
The stagnating state of science and technology investment in the European Union is laid bare by new statistics.

The figures show the bloc devoted just 1.93% of its wealth (GDP) in 2003 to this important area - compared with 2.59% in the US and 3.15% in Japan.  Some emerging Asian countries, such as China, are now increasing their R&D investment to a rate where they will soon catch and overtake Europe.  Full Story_BBC 7/20/05

Investors see green in clean tech
So-called clean technologies, which cover everything from renewable energy to water purification systems, are garnering more interest from investors and entrepreneurs previously tied to the information technology industry.  Venture investments in clean technologies are still a fraction of overall investments in technology. Still, some entrepreneurs are making the jump, motivated primarily by potential profits in an emerging field, as well as the beneficial effect on the environment.  Full Story_ CNET News7/20/05

Broadcasters agree to go to all-digital TV

Hastening the long-delayed switch to digital television, broadcasters on agreed to stop transmitting analog signals in 2009, potentially rendering millions of rabbit-eared sets obsolete. The about-face by broadcasters — who had long resisted a federal mandate to switch completely to digital — clears the way for a change in television no less significant than the transition to color more than 40 years ago, advocates said.  Full Story  Los Angeles Times_ 7/13/05 (logon required)


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