Thursday, June 12, 2008

Has Global Warming Research Misinterpreted Cloud Behavior?

ScienceDaily (Jun. 12, 2008) — Climate experts agree that the seriousness of manmade global warming depends greatly upon how clouds in the climate system respond to the small warming tendency from the extra carbon dioxide mankind produces.

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Is it already too late to stop climate change catastrophe?

Scientists at a conference in Canberra, Australia are saying that climate change is happening much faster, and likely to have much more dire consequences, than anyone imagined possible a year or two ago. What's more, we may have already passed the point of no return.

Climate change expert Barry Brook, a professor at Adelaide University, said that based on the volume of greenhouse gases being dumped into the atmosphere he expected an average 6 degree Celsius jump in worldwide temperatures. To put that into perspective, a 3 degree increase could wipe out the Amazon rain forest, and 5 degrees would mean an ice-free planet and a sea-level rises of 80 metres (260 feet).

Another researcher, Barrie Pittock, noted that CO2 emissions had already surpassed the worst-case scenario in Iast year's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and that the effects of climate change were occuring far more rapidly as a result.

Even more frightening, conference participants noted that feedback mechanisms would cause temperature increases to snowball, so to speak, even if carbon emissions were successfully reduced. The nature of these mechanisms means that once we reach certain "tipping points", there will be no way to prevent disaster. How close we are to these tipping points is uncertain, but Professor Brook observed that "We're seeing events predicted for the end of the 21st century happening already."

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Data Breach Study Spanning 500 Break-Ins Released

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday June 12, @07:57AM
from the did-you-update-the-windows dept.
Dr. Jim Anderson writes "The good folks over at Verizon Business have released a report that summarizes what they've found after looking through 500 forensic investigations involving 230 million records, and analyzes hundreds of corporate breaches including three of the five largest ones ever reported. What did they find? How about (1) Nearly nine in 10 corporate data breaches could have been prevented had reasonable security measures been in place, (2) Fewer than 25 percent of attacks took advantage of a known or unknown vulnerability and (3) attacks from Asia, particularly in China and Vietnam, often involve application exploits leading to data compromise, while defacements frequently originate from the Middle East."

UK Can Now Hold People Without Charge For 42 Days

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday June 12, @02:37AM
from the the-terrorists-have-won dept.
the_leander writes "Prime Minister Gordon Brown has narrowly won a House of Commons vote on extending the maximum time police can hold terror suspects to 42 days. There is talk of compensation packages available for the falsely accused. The chances of you getting that money however are slim to none, lets not forget, this is the same country that charges prisoners who have been falsely accused for bed and boarding costs."

Toyota to introduce plug-in hybrid for 2010, hybrid versions of all cars by 2029

Plug-in Prius
Toyota continues to lead the silent race to efficient cars with plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid in 2010 that will use lithium-ion batteries. Meanwhile, Toyota has been working with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co to develop batteries that will outperform lithium-ion batteries for its plans to introduce hybrid versions of every single car in its lineup between 2020 and 2029. If that seems too far away, the next generation Prius, due next year, will use NiMH batteries. Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters in Tokyo that it's time to move past oil and get serious about electric power. "Our view is that oil production will peak in the near future. We need to develop power train(s) for alternative energy sources."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Misplaced wings no sweat for DARPA's new aircraft control system

Rockwell Darpa damage tolerance test
One of the problems -- outside of the obvious -- with a significantly damaged aircraft is that pilots often overreact and add to the situation. In other words, when a plane gets nailed by something like a missile, the person at the wheel panics. DARPA and Athena's Damage Tolerance and Autonomous Landing Solution adds a full flight automation and backup system that uses a plane's internal inertial navigation system and GPS systems to land safely by automatically adjusting to the new configuration -- a physics computation that a human is in no condition to deal with during such a crisis. In a recent unmanned flight test, Rockwell Collins showed off the tech with a scaled-model F-18 in which nearly half a wing is blown off and then landing the plane safely. Hit the read link to watch the strangely calming video.

[Thanks, jr]

RIAA Throws In Towel On "Making Available" Case

Posted by timothy on Wednesday June 11, @04:09PM
from the that's-sure-a-big-towel-you've-got dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The RIAA has thrown in the towel on one of the leading cases challenging its 'making available' theory, Warner v. Cassin, in which the defendant had moved to dismiss the RIAA's complaint. We have just learned that the RIAA submitted a voluntary notice of dismissal before the judge got to decide the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint. It will be of interest to see if Ms. Cassin pursues a claim for attorneys' fees in view of recent court rulings that successful copyright defendants are presumptively entitled to an attorneys fee award, even if the dismissal came about from the plaintiffs' having 'thrown in the towel.'"

Shape Shifting Car

BMW is working on a shape-shifting car.

VIA Wired

Cancer-killing Viruses Influence Tumor Blood-vessel Growth

I am Legend Anyone?

ScienceDaily (Jun. 11, 2008) — Viruses genetically designed to kill cancer cells offer a promising strategy for treating incurable brain tumors such as glioblastoma, but the body's natural defenses often eliminate the viruses before they can eliminate the tumor.

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Who Shalt Not Kill? Brain Power Leads To Level-headedness When Faced With Moral Dilemmas

ScienceDaily (Jun. 11, 2008) — Should a sergeant sacrifice a wounded private on the battlefield in order to save the rest of his troops? Is euthanasia acceptable if it prevents needless suffering? Many of us will have to face some sort of extreme moral choice such as these at least once in our life. And we are also surrounded by less dramatic moral choices everyday: Do I buy the hybrid? Do I vote for a particular presidential candidate? Unfortunately, very little is known beyond philosophical speculation about how people understand morality and make decisions on moral issues.

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Study Finds Instant Messaging Helps Productivity

Posted by CmdrTaco on Wednesday June 11, @09:33AM
from the you-gotta-be-kidding-me dept.
MojoKid writes "Researchers at Ohio State University and the University of California, Irvine conducted a telephone study by randomly surveying individuals employed full-time who use computers in an office environment at least five hours per week. They netted 912 respondents, of which 29.8 percent claimed to use IM in the workplace "to keep connected with coworkers and clients." Neither occupation, education, gender, nor age seem to have an impact on whether an individual is an IM user or not. The study theorizes that using IM enables individuals to "flag their availability." Doing so can limit when IM interruptions occur. Even if an IM interruption comes when it is not necessarily convenient to the recipient, it is "often socially acceptable" to ignore an incoming message or respond with a terse reply stating that the recipient is too busy at the moment to properly respond." Also another study recently found that water is wet, and a third study found that most studies waste money.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

(This was a longer but interesting article) Is a green lifestyle just the new survivalism?

In pre-industrial times, everybody was a survivalist. The supply chain for your food was from your front door to your field, and if your house fell down in a hurricane, there was nobody to drive you to a gymnasium and stuff your backpack with t-shirts and fish sticks. If you got sick, you died or you didn't.

However, as we've come to rely more and more on the intricate machinery of a mechanized world to keep ourselves alive, there have been those who worried about what would happen if the whole thing fell apart.

In the 1950's, with nuclear Armageddon looming, some wondered if ducking and covering would really be adequate protection against several mega-tonnes of high-powered Russian technology. Sales of easy-to-install home fallout shelters boomed, along with freeze dried foods and other accoutrements of civilized living necessary for a couple of years spent keeping the mutant hordes at bay from behind 5 feet of steel and concrete.

As cold war tensions eased, people thought less about nuclear war, but the disintegration of industrial society remained a concern for some. The 70's saw the first use of the term "survivalist", often in reference to well-armed eccentrics with unconventional views on race relations holed up in the countryside somewhere.

While the survivalist trend waxed and waned with energy crises and predicted ice ages, and made a limited comeback during the Y2K scare, it never recovered the mainstream appeal it had achieved in the first couple of post-war decades.

But that may be changing.

The current movement to save the planet, or more accurately to save ourselves, has a couple of different components. High-glam, high tech is one part. These are big budget, big picture projects - giant wind farms, networks of hydrogen fueling stations, massive new buildings that generate their own power . Most of these are in concept or planning stages and a few have actually been built, but the common denominator is they cost a lot of money and a lot of fossil-fuel energy to build, both of which are in increasingly short supply.

Trotting alongside the mega-projects are our individual efforts like recycling garbage, turning down the a/c, driving slower etc; simple things that we can each do to lessen our impact on the environment. We can call this "feel-good" stuff, because while it doesn't hurt, incremental actions like riding a bike once a week won't pull us out of the global warming frying pan. Besides, half the planet's population is living a low-carbon lifestyle already, and for the most part desperately trying to escape it.

But there's a more disquieting element to the personal green battle. That's the piece that speaks to the voice whispering in the back of every eco-enthusiast's head :"What if we don't get it together? What if things do come apart?"

And there are plenty of people ready to answer those questions.

Green websites are chock-a-block with useful advice on how to grow your own food, collect rainwater, and install enough mini-solar and wind power to keep the homestead running in the event of blackouts. What farm animals can I raise in my yard? Can I grow tomatoes in a window box? What's the best kind of composting toilet?

It's not called survivalism any more, because that terminology has unpleasant associations, but it amounts to the same thing. How do I take care of me and mine, once government and society have collapsed from the twin threats of climate change and resource depletion?

The ongoing shift from "how do we save the planet" to "how do I save myself" is subtle, because no one wants to be the the first one in the neighbourhood to go all Chicken Little. Still, as the media drumbeat of impending cataclysm sounds louder, it's not surprising that more people are looking for a personal backup plan. Not that we're survivalists, you understand, that's so...crazy. But no harm in keeping a little garden in the yard, and maybe throwing some solar panels on the barn up at Uncle Harry's farm.

There's nothing wrong with all this, practically speaking - anything we do to make our footprint lighter helps. But it's important that we not lose sight of the bigger picture, which is that if we abandon the effort to act collectively and yes, politically, we doom ourselves. 7 billion people simply can't go back to the land - we've domesticated ourselves to the point where without some form of the complex infrastructure we've built, most of us will disappear.

Luckily there are solutions. In the UK and increasingly elsewhere, citizens are planning "transition towns", communities which would be largely self-sufficient but don't subscribe to the "every person for themself" ethos of the survivalist. Urban farming collectives are popping up in cities around the world. People are helping each other. And at a national and international level, leaders who don't see the importance of a shift to sustainability are being marginalized.

So haul your ass out of that bunker, buddy. We've got work to do.

Relics of Science History For Sale At Christie's

Posted by timothy on Tuesday June 10, @01:32PM
from the shroud-of-einstein-doesn't-have-the-same-ring dept.
circletimessquare writes "Dennis Overbye at the New York Times has some ruminations on some of the historical totems of science going up for auction at Christie's next week. There is the 1543 copy of 'De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium' by Copernicus, which you can have for $900,000 to $1.2 million. If you have some cash left over, maybe you can pick up an original work by Galileo, Darwin, Descartes, Newton, Freud, Kepler, Tycho Brahe, or Malthus. And then there is the 1878 copy of the world's first phone book: 'a shock of recognition — that people were already talking on the phone a year before Einstein was born. In fact, just two years later Einstein's father went into the nascent business himself. Einstein grew up among the rudiments of phones and other electrical devices like magnets and coils, from which he drew part of the inspiration for relativity. It would not be until 1897, after people had already made fortunes exploiting electricity, that the English scientist J. J. Thomson discovered what it actually was ...'"

Efficiency? Think Racing Cars, Not Hybrids

Posted by timothy on Tuesday June 10, @11:17AM
from the more-fun-that-way-too dept.
Gordonjcp writes "A renowned racing car designer has said that car manufacturers should be looking at making cars lighter to improve efficiency, rather than adding complex drive trains. In this article on the BBC News website, Professor Gordon Murray explains that a weight saving of 10% in a normal car would make more difference than switching to a hybrid engine and motor combination. Could this be the next nail in the SUV's coffin?"

Having Heart Surgery? Watch Your Blood Sugar, Especially If You're Overweight Or Older

ScienceDaily (Jun. 7, 2008) — Nearly half of all heart surgery patients may experience blood sugar levels high enough to require temporary insulin treatment after their operation, even though they've never had diabetes, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Health System.

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Morningness Is A Predictor Of Better Grades In College

ScienceDaily (Jun. 10, 2008) — Morningness is a predictor of better grades in college, according to a research abstract that will be presented on June 9 at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

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Lutz gets behind the wheel of a Volt test vehicle

For those of you who like to keep up to date on when you can finally get your hands on GM's first commercially available EV, vice chairman (and climate change denier) Bob Lutz says that progress on the Volt is moving along at a better than expected pace. After taking a Volt test "mule" (a Malibu fitted with a Volt drivetrain) for a joyride at GM's Milford proving grounds, Lutz called the ride "electrifying." Punny.

The Volt is slated to hit the lots by November 2010, and according to Lutz, development is going surprisingly smoothly. Apparently, battery performance is exceeding expectations and GM is getting closer to deciding which battery maker will get the Volt contract.

On his cruise, the fully charged Volt ran at speed of up to 75-80 mph for 20 miles without the gas engine ever turning on to recharge the Li-ion battery. Lutz also mentioned that piloting the Volt had a eerily quality, saying "our electric motors and drive system are deathly silent, there's no whine or whirring noise from the electric motor."

[via AutoBlogGreen]
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Want to know how much your next road trip will drain from your wallet?

This is a site from AAA that takes major cities and most common vehicles and tells you what you should expect to spend on gas to get there and back. Kind of handy to have if you are leaving and going to a major destination but also sobering.

Paper Stronger Than Cast Iron

Posted by kdawson on Monday June 09, @11:20PM
from the write-on dept.
TaeKwonDood writes "All paper is made of cellulose, which at the nanoscale level is quite strong, but paper processing makes large, fragile fibers that break easily. Researchers in Sweden have have come up with a manufacturing process that keeps the fibers small, resulting in 'nanopaper' with over 1.6 times the tensile strength of cast iron (214 megapascals vs. 130 mPa). And since cellulose is the most abundant organic compound on the planet, it's cheap to use compared to other exotic, expensive-to-produce options — such as carbon nanotubes."

The SUV Is Dethroned

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday June 10, @01:37AM
from the four-dollar-stake-through-the-engine dept.
Wired's Autopia blog documents what we all knew was coming: rising gas prices have killed off the SUV. Auto industry watchers had predicted that the gas guzzlers in the "light truck" category would lose the ascendancy by 2010; no one expected their reign to end in a month, in the spring of 2008. Toyota, GM, Ford, and now Nissan have announced they will scale back truck and SUV production and ramp up that of smaller passenger cars. Of course there will always be a market for this class of vehicle, but its days on the top of the sales charts are done. "'All of our previous assumptions on the full-size pickup truck segment are off the table,' Bob Carter, Toyota division sales chief said last week during a conference call with reporters. Translation — we have no idea how low they'll go."

Study Hints At Time Before Big Bang

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday June 10, @03:50AM
from the other-side-of-the-looking-glass dept.
canadian_right informs us that scientists from Caltech have found hints of a time before the Big Bang while studying the cosmic microwave background. Not only does the study hint at something pre-existing our universe, the researchers also postulate that everything we see was created as a bubble pinched off from a previously existing universe. This conjecture turns out to shed light on the mystery of the arrow of time. Quoting the BBC's account: "Their model suggests that new universes could be created spontaneously from apparently empty space. From inside the parent universe, the event would be surprisingly unspectacular. Describing the team's work at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in St Louis, Missouri, co-author Professor Sean Carroll explained that 'a universe could form inside this room and we'd never know.'"

Monday, June 9, 2008

Antibiotics Can Prevent Wound Complications Of Childbirth, Study Shows

ScienceDaily (Jun. 9, 2008) — A single dose of antibiotics can significantly aid healing of the severe tearing that occurs in vaginal tissues during many births, according to researchers at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, the Stanford University School of Medicine and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. The study is the first to show that the simple treatment can prevent many of the short- and long-term repercussions of this relatively common complication of childbirth.

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Giant Telescope Mirrors For The Moon Could Be Made With Carbon, Epoxy And Lunar Dust

ScienceDaily (Jun. 9, 2008) — Scientists working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have concocted an innovative recipe for giant telescope mirrors on the Moon. To make a mirror that dwarfs anything on Earth, just take a little bit of carbon, throw in some epoxy, and add lots of lunar dust.

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Scientists Surprised to Find Earth's Biosphere Booming

Posted by timothy on Monday June 09, @04:03AM
from the but-there's-also-the-slow-hiss-in-the-background dept.
radioweather writes "An article from the Financial Post says that recent studies of biosphere imaging from the NASA SEAWIFS satellite indicate that the Earth's biomass is booming: 'The results surprised Steven Running of the University of Montana and Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA, scientists involved in analyzing the NASA satellite data. They found that over a period of almost two decades, the Earth as a whole became more bountiful by a whopping 6.2%. About 25% of the Earth's vegetated landmass — almost 110 million square kilometers — enjoyed significant increases and only 7% showed significant declines. When the satellite data zooms in, it finds that each square meter of land, on average, now produces almost 500 grams of greenery per year.' Their 2004 study, and other more recent ones, point to the warming of the planet and the presence of CO2, fertilizing the biota and resulting in the increased green side effect."

Lower Crop Yields Due To Ozone A Factor In World Food Crisis

ScienceDaily (Jun. 9, 2008) — Heat waves, droughts and fuel prices are just a few reasons for the current global food crisis that is making headlines around the world. Research by William Manning of the University of Massachusetts Amherst indicates that rising background levels of ozone in the atmosphere are a likely contributor to the problem, lowering the yield of important food crops, such as wheat and soybeans.

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Sheep's Sex Determined By Diet Prior To Pregnancy

ScienceDaily (Jun. 9, 2008) — Maternal diet influences the chances of having male or female offspring. Research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology has demonstrated that ewes fed a diet enriched with polyunsaturated fats for one month prior to conception have a significantly higher chance of giving birth to male offspring.

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High oil prices soon to hit consumer wallets harder

The New York Times reports that record high prices for oil, which thus far haven't had much of an inflationary impact, will soon be hitting consumers where it hurts.

With the obvious exception of gasoline, Joe and Jane Sixpack been relatively shielded from the massive run-up in oil prices, as manufacturers and distributors absorb the increases by cutting profit margins. However, with profits of American businesses already dropping 6% in the last year, Friday's record high oil price of $138.54 may be the straw that breaks the camel's back in terms of forcing business to hike prices if they want to stay in the black.

In addition to transportation costs, businesses are facing rising prices for products derived from oil and petrochemicals, meaning everything from plastics and synthetic rubber to fertilizers used in agriculture. For example, Dow Chemical, which turns oil and gas into the materials to make plastic, last month raised prices by an unprecedented 20% across the board. That jump will be passed along to thousands of downstream businesses and ultimately to end users.

In the greater scheme of things, higher oil and petrochemical costs can be expected to have all kinds of environmental and societal benefits. Companies will use less packaging in their products, recycling will become cheaper than buying new, and cutting waste will become mission number one in industries of all types. in the short term however, with jobs disappearing, home foreclosures skyrocketing, and driving becoming an expensive luxury, inflation on everything from soap to soup to sandals is likely make things tough for a lot of people.

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