Feb 29, 2008

Maya Blue mystery solved

The anthropologists from Wheaton College (Illinois) and The Field Museum have discovered how the ancient Maya produced an unusual blue pigment that was used in offerings, pottery, murals and other contexts across Mesoamerica from about A.D. 300 to 1500.

Known as Maya Blue, this blue pigment was first identified in 1931. Maya Blue has puzzled archaeologists, chemists and material scientists for years because of its unusual chemical stability, composition and persistent color in one of the world's harshest climates.

Maya Blue is resistant to age, acid, weathering, biodegradation and even modern chemical solvents. It has been called "one of the great technological and artistic achievements of Mesoamerica."

During the Postclassic Period, from around 900 A.D. to 1500 A.D., the Maya would sacrifice people and objects by throwing them into the well, a wide, naturally-formed sinkhole called the Sacred Cenote. The scientists studied pottery found at the bottom of such well at an important Pre-Columbian Maya site called Chichén Itzá in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.

The researchers analyzed a bowl from the cenote that was used to burn incense. The pottery contained traces of Maya Blue. Scientists knew that it contained two substances — extract from the leaves of the indigo plant and a clay mineral called palygorskite. By examining these pigment samples under an electron microscope, the researchers now says that heat and perhaps copal resin were the keys to fusing the indigo extract and the clay mineral. The scientists think making Maya Blue was part of the sacrifice ritual. Link

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Fake Ferrari ring busted in Italy

In Italy, police broke up a ring selling fake Ferrari cars for a fraction of the real Ferrari price. So, after fake Gucci bags or Rolex watches, this is the time for fake Ferrari cars! Police accused 15 people of building fake Ferrari sports cars and selling them to car fanatics on a budget price.

These fake car body workers cobbled together mostly fake parts and a few original components of Ferrari. They used body parts from other makes of automobiles, such as chassis, roofs, hoods, trunks and doors. All the body parts were modified to look like Ferrari classics such as the 328 Gtb, which went out of production in the late 1980s.

Police confiscated 21 cars, 14 of which had already been sold, and seven in production in Sicilian garages. Some of these fake Ferrari cars were sold for about 20,000 euros, about a tenth of the going price for some versions. Link

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World's Fastest Road Vehicle

A Swiss company has created the world's fastest ever road vehicle with a speed of 340mph. The Acabion GTBO is a bullet-shaped cross between a motorbike and a car. it looks like a jet fighter cockpit on wheels - with stabilisers - and has the power-to-weight ratio of a Formula One car. Take a look at the image.

Makers of the Acabion GTBO claim it could reach 300mph in 30 seconds - much quicker than the Bugatti Veyron which takes 55 seconds to reach its top speed of 250mph. An electric version with a top speed of around 300mph is also planned and its designer, former Porsche engineer Peter Maskus, sees it as the future of high-speed, low-emission transport.

This high-performance vehicle falls in a newly invented category of vehicle called a 'Road Streamliner'. Manufacturers expect the Acabion GTBO to be in production and on the road within three years with a price tag of £1.5million.

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Picture of Columbus Laboratory

The International Space Station (ISS) has been equipped with a powerful new scientific laboratory. This month, the Space Shuttle Atlantis delivered the Columbus Laboratory to the ISS and installed the seven meter long module over the past week. Columbus has ten racks for experiments that can be controlled from the station or the Columbus Control Center in Germany.

The first set of experiments includes the Fluid Science Laboratory that will explore fluid properties in the microgravity of low Earth orbit, and Biolab which supports experiments on microorganisms. Future Columbus experiments include an atomic clock that will test minuscule timing effects including those expected by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Above picture shows, mission specialist Hans Schlegel working on the outside of Columbus. Scientists from all over the world may propose and carry out experiments to be done on the laboratory during its ten year mission. NASA

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Feb 27, 2008

Protesters on the roof of UK Parliament

Anti-Heathrow expansion protesters have climbed on to the roof of the Houses of Parliament, UK. The protesters, part of the campaign group Plane Stupid, were protesting the plans to build a third runway at London's Heathrow Airport.

They gained access to the rooftop of the Houses of Parliament breaching the tight security. Six campaigners who unfurled banners from Parliament were led away by police, at about 1220 GMT. It is thought the group gained access to the roof via a fire escape.

Richard George, one of the demonstrators, said the protesters wanted to highlight what they called weak leadership from Prime Minister Gordon Brown over the impact of aviation on climate change. Link

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Amazing Triangulum Galaxy

This beautiful image of "Triangulum Galaxy" is the most detailed ultraviolet image of an entire galaxy ever taken. NASA's Swift satellite took 39 individual frames during 11 hours of exposure time that were then combined into this beautiful image.

The Triangulum Galaxy, designated as M33, is located about 2.9 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Triangulum. Although similar in shape to the Milky Way's spiral, M33 possesses only about one-tenth the mass. M33's visible disk measures about 50,000 light-years across, half the diameter of our galaxy. Credit: NASA

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Anemia drugs may increase Death risk

A new study by a group of US researchers reveals that anti-anemia drugs can increase the risk of blood clots and death. The study, which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said the drugs, including Amgen Inc's Aranesp and Johnson & Johnson's Procrit, raised the risk of death by 10 percent in patients who took them.

"Our findings, in conjunction with basic science studies, raise the concern that the drug may be stimulating cancer and shortening cancer patients' survival," Dr. Charles Bennett of Northwestern University in Chicago said in a statement. He said the drugs, erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs), also increased the risk of blood clots in the lungs and legs by 57 percent in cancer patients.

Now, an advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is due to discuss the safety concerns about these drugs on March 13. Link

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Feb 26, 2008

Mysterious Acid Haze on Venus

Clouds or haze on planet Venus! Take a look at the image. These unusual clouds/haze were discovered last July by ESA's robotic Venus Express spacecraft currently orbiting Venus. The bright and smooth haze was found by Venus Express to be rich in sulfuric acid, created when an unknown process lifted water vapor and sulphur dioxide from lower levels into Venus' upper atmosphere.

Last July, these smooth acidic clouds spread from the South Pole of Venus across half the planet. The cause of the dark streaks in the clouds is also not yet understood and is being researched.

The above false-color picture of Venus was taken last July 23rd in ultraviolet light. It shows the unusual haze as relatively smooth regions across the image bottom. NASA
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YouTube outage due to Pakistan's ban

Most of the world's Internet users lost access to popular video sharing site - YouTube for several hours on Sunday, after an attempt by Pakistan's government to block access domestically affected other countries.

On Friday, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had ordered 70 Internet service providers to block access to YouTube.com because of anti-Islamic movies on the video-sharing site. The block was intended to cover only Pakistan, but it extended to about two-thirds of the global Internet population, starting at 1:47 p.m. EST Sunday.

This outage highlighted yet another of the Internet's vulnerabilities, coming less than a month after broken fiber-optic cables in the Mediterranean took Egypt off line and caused communications problems from the Middle East to India. An Internet expert said Sunday's problems came after a Pakistani telecommunications company complied with the block by directing requests for YouTube videos to a "black hole." Link

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Chocolate Ferrari Formula 1 car

Confectioners in Italy has unveiled a life-size chocolate model of a Ferrari Formula 1 car. Take a look at the image. Confectioners spent more than a year making the car out of 4,405lbs of Belgian chocolate. Yummy?

The £12,000 chocolate Ferrari is based on an F2008, and has a red, edible coating. They started melting the chocolate in 2007, at first copying a small-scale model of the Ferrari F2008, then getting the full scale model done using chocolate imported especially from Belgium. It has been delivered to Sorrento, near Naples, for a Ferrari owners club party. Link
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Mouse grounded Passenger Plane!

A pet mouse forced to ground a aeroplane in China, after it escaped from a passenger's pocket. The mouse was taken on board by a female passenger, Liu Yulian, who hid it in her coat pocket and smuggled it past airport security. The crew kept the information secret to avoid alarming other passengers but landed at Xiaoshan International Airport.

"I went to sleep, and after I woke up, I found the mouse had gone missing. So I contacted the crew to see if they could help," says Liu.

Upon landing, crew quarantined the airplane, and searched it intensively five times. But they failed to find the mouse. After two and a half hours, the airport lifted the quarantine and allowed the plane to fly on to its final destination, Shenzhen.
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Feb 25, 2008

Virgin Atlantic's Biofuel Demonstration Flight

Virgin Atlantic set an aviation milestone on Sunday, by flying the first commercial aircraft powered by biofuel. The Boeing 747 of Virgin Atlantic made the 90-minute journey from London to Amsterdam with one of its four main fuel tanks filled with a blend of coconut and babassu oil.

Biofuels, which are mostly derived from crops such as grain, sugar and vegetable oils, are seen by proponents as a good way to cut carbon emissions while also reducing dependence on fossil fuels. This flight of Virgin Atlantic proves that Biofuels is feasible in aeroplanes and can produce less carbon dioxide than normal jet fuels. link

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Feb 23, 2008

Stereo view of International Space Station

Take a look at the image above. This cool stereo view of International Space Station(ISS) was constructed from parts of two separate images (S122-E-009880, S122-E-009893) and an additional background recorded as the shuttle orbiter Atlantis undocked from the ISS on February 18. Atlantis and the ISS were traveling over 7,500 meters per second at an altitude of about 350 kilometers.

The shiny, 7 meter long module extending from the station at the lower right side is ESA's Columbus Laboratory, delivered by Atlantis. After a successful 13 day mission to the ISS, Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday. NASA

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Ulysses probe near to an End

Ulysses, a US-European space probe that has been orbiting the Sun for last 17 years, is on the brink of death. Within one or two month, it will run out of fuel. The European Space Agency (ESA) revealed this news on Friday.

In a joint mission between ESA and NASA, Ulysses was launched by space shuttle in 1990 in the first mission to study the environment of space above and below the poles of the Sun. Ulysses is on a huge, six-year orbit of the Sun that takes it out as far as the orbit of Jupiter.

A radioactive isotope provides Ulysses with power for communications and scientific equipment and for onboard heaters to warm its hydrazine fuel, which freezes when the temperature falls below minus two degrees Celsius (28.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

But the isotope source is now running low, and the Ulysses can no longer send back large quantities of data, nor can it ward off the deep chilling temperature of space. As a result, the fuel lines will freeze up in the next month or two, leaving Ulysses unmanoeuverable and dead. Link

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Horse-riding Lions of China

Take a look at the picture. A lion riding a horse! Can you believe this? In one of the China's most notorious zoos, applauding spectators are treated to a bizarre display as a 30-stone lion leaps on to the horse's back.

These are real pictures and are from the animal park at Xiamen in Fujian, south-east China. This is a good example of animal cruelty for the entertainment of human. Link

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Feb 22, 2008

First Youth Olympics in Singapore

Singapore has been announced as the host of the inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that the Asian city won the right to stage the first Summer Youth Olympic Games in 2010 games in a straight contest up against Moscow.

The result was unveiled by the IOC President, Jacques Rogge, at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. Singapore beat Moscow in the final by 53 votes to 44.

Primarily aimed at encouraging youngsters to get involved in sport and spend less time in front of computer and television screens, the Youth Olympic Games will see 3,500 athletes aged between 14 and 18 competing in 26 sports. The sports programme will encompass all the sports on the programme of the 2012 Summer Games, but with a limited number of disciplines and events.

Singapore is proposing 24 venues, with four being built as temporary facilities, including one large cluster of 13 in its Marina-Kallang area. The Youth Olympic Village would be located at a new $460 million student residential complex at the National University of Singapore, slated for completion months before the event.

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Gun-shaped Egg Fryers

Urban Trend, a Hong Kong design company has designed the ultimate breakfast for wannabe gangsters - gun-shaped eggs! They have designed a range of gun-shaped egg fryers that can be used to prepare a gun shaped breakfast!

They have designed egg fryers of different shapes. Customers will be able to serve up their eggs in a variety of weapon shapes, including a Magnum .45 and a Uzi.

The company says that gun-shaped egg fryers will be shooting into stores later this year. Made from stainless steel, the wacky kitchenware will be distributed to 40 countries worldwide and will sell for £3 for a pack of four.

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Feb 21, 2008

Elliptical Galaxy NGC 1132

NGC 1132 is an elliptical galaxy. As an elliptical galaxy, NGC 1132 has little dust and gas, and few stars have formed in it recently. Although many elliptical galaxies are in clusters of galaxies, NGC 1132 appears as a large, isolated galaxy toward the constellation of the River (Eridanus). NGC 1132 is over 300 million light years away, so the light we see from it today left before dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

To probe the history of this intriguing trillion-star ball, astronomers imaged NGC 1132 in both visible light with the Hubble Space Telescope and X-ray light with the Chandra X-ray Observatory. In this composite false-color image above, visible light is white, while the X-ray light is blue and indicates the unusual presence of very hot gas. The X-ray light also likely traces out the location of dark matter. One progenitor hypothesis is that NGC 1132 is the result of a series of galaxy mergers in what once was a small group of galaxies. NASA

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Human Stem Cells in Diabetes treatment

According to a new study, that appeared in the journal Nature Biotechnology, human stem cells may be the key to treating and curing diabetes. The study has revealed that human stem cells were very effective in helping treat diabetes in mice.

Researchers took human stem cells and transformed them into cells which produced a normal level of insulin. These cells were taken and implanted into mice, and then observed.

Researchers found that the cells helped control blood glucose levels in mice. The results were seen just one month after treatment in some cases, but up to three months in others.

Chief scientific officer at California-based Novocell Inc., Emmanuel Baetge stated “Our data provides the first compelling evidence that human embryonic stem cells can serve as a renewable source of functional insulin-producing cells for diabetes cell replacement therapies.” Link

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Record Beef Recall in US

A California meatpacker caught torturing cattle and processing the unfit animals for human consumption has provoked the record beef recall in US. The Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co announced on Sunday it wanted back nearly 143 million pounds (65 million kilograms) of meat. This amount is enough to feed more than 2.2 million Americans for a year!

The Humane Society of the United States captured employees in a gruesome, undercover videotape that was made after an apparent random decision to investigate the plant located in Chino, California.

While the recall was a record and dwarfs all previous orders by the department, the USDA said most of the meat has probably been consumed and that the risk to the public was minimal. USDA has estimated at least 37 million lbs of the meat were bought for school lunches and other federal nutrition programs. Link

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US Missile Strikes Spy Satellite

A missile interceptor launched from a US Navy warship has struck a dying American spy satellite orbiting 130 miles over the Pacific Ocean. The Pentagon announced this news on late Wednesday. Though early information indicates that the interceptor hit the satellite, it would take 24 hours to determine whether the fuel tank with 1,000 pounds of toxic hydrazine had been destroyed as planned.

The Lake Erie, an Aegis-class cruiser, fired a single missile just before 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, and the missile hit the satellite as it traveled at more than 17,000 miles per hour, the Pentagon said in its official announcement. This is for the first time, an interceptor designed for missile defense was used to attack a satellite.

Although the satellite circles the earth every 90 minutes, analysts pinpointed a single overhead pass each day that would offer the best chance of striking the satellite and then having half of the debris fall into the atmosphere in the next three orbits over water or less-populated areas of the Earth. Link
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Atlantis landed successfully

US space shuttle Atlantis landed at its Florida home port on Wednesday after a successful mission to deliver Europe's Columbus space lab to International Space Station. Now, returnging of Atlantis has cleared the way for the U.S. military to shoot down a dead spy satellite.

Atlantis touched down at 9:07 a.m. EST at the Kennedy Space Center, where NASA already has its next spaceship at the launch pad for a March 11 flight to continue assembling the International Space Station.

Flying through crisp and clear skies, Atlantis commander Stephen Frick circled high over the spaceport to burn off speed, then nosed the 100-ton spaceplane onto a three-mile (4.8 km)-long, canal-lined runway just a few miles (km) west of where the shuttle blasted off 13 days ago.

"Thanks for keeping us safe when we're airborne and bringing us safely home," Frick told ground controllers after the shuttle touched down.

Atlantis' return frees the U.S. Navy to fire a missile as early as Wednesday night at the falling spy satellite, which is loaded with toxic rocket propellant. The toxic fuel could pose a hazard to populated areas and destroying the satellite just before it re-enters Earth's atmosphere will increase the chance that debris will fall harmlessly into the ocean. The satellite was launched in December 2006 and failed shortly after reaching orbit. link

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Lottery for a Burial Plot

Lottery for a burial plot! Officials in a small Italian town are selling lottery tickets - for burial spot in the local cemetery. Marano, near Naples, has run out of room at the local cemetery. So the authorities have created a new emergency graveyard containing 48 plots.

But authorities fears that local people would try to bribe the officials to get burial plots. So they have decided to stage a public lottery. This weird public lottery means families winning places will be guaranteed a grave plot.

Work on a new cemetery with more than 1,000 grave plots in the Marano town is just starting. Cemetery caretaker Mario Granata said: "We had no choice but to take emergency measures. The situation was getting out of control." Link

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Feb 19, 2008

Space Shuttle Atlantis Heads Home

The US space shuttle Atlantis left the International Space Station on Monday and headed home for a planned Wednesday landing. This returning of Atlantis cleared the way for a US Defense Department effort to shoot down a failed spy satellite.

The shuttle and its seven-member crew left the station after almost nine days of joint operations, during which they installed the $2 billion Columbus science laboratory of the European Space Agency.

The space shuttle, flown by Cmdr. Alan G. Poindexter of the Navy, made a full circle around the station as its crew photographed every detail, including the new 28,200-pound Columbus module. It then pulled farther from the station and conducted a four-hour laser inspection of the shuttle’s wing leading edges and nose cone to make sure the craft’s heat shield was undamaged before it lands.

LeRoy Cain, head of the mission management team, said later Monday that the shuttle was in good shape and that there were no technical issues standing in the way of a safe landing. The weather looks favorable at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Edwards Air Force Base, the backup landing site in California, he said. Link

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World's Oldest Person is 120 years old!

The age of World's Oldest Person is 120 years! A Palestinian woman claims she is 120 years old and she is the oldest person in the world. Mariam Amash, who lives in the predominantly Arab town of Jisr az-Zarqa in Israel claims that she is the oldest person in this world. In the picture above she holds her identity card with a birth date from 1888.

The discovery that she may be the oldest person in the world came by chance when she applied for a new Israeli identity card. The Israeli authorities issued the identity card based on a birth document issued by the Turkish authorities who ruled the region at the time.

"Yes, I am the oldest person in the world," she says. "I eat, I drink, and I take showers. I hope to keep going for another 10 years."

Mrs Amash says that the secret to her longevity is a healthy diet with lots of vegetables. According to relatives, Mrs Amash has 10 children, 120 grandchildren, 250 great-grandchildren, and 30 great-great-grandchildren.

Presently, the Guinness Book of Records lists 114-year-old Edna Parker of Shelbyville, Indiana, as the oldest person in the world. A spokesman for the Guinness Book of Records says they will consider Amash's claim if she can provide good evidence of her age.

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Feb 18, 2008

Explosion of the Crab Nebula

Take a look at the image. This is the mess that is left when a star explodes in the space. The Crab Nebula, Messier 1 (M1, NGC 1952), the result of a supernova seen in 1054 AD, is filled with mysterious filaments. The filaments are not only tremendously complex, but appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and a higher speed than expected from a free explosion.

The above image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, is presented in three colors. The Crab Nebula spans about 10 light-years. In the nebula's very center lies a pulsar: a neutron star as massive as the Sun but with only the size of a small town! The Crab Pulsar rotates about 30 times each second. Credit: NASA

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World's First Underwater Car

A Swiss company has invented the world's first underwater car. The Rinspeed sQuba concept car is a road-worthy vehicle that, at the touch of a button, can transform into an amphibious vehicle capable of diving to a depth of about 33 feet. Take a look at the picture above.

The lightweight body of sQuba is made of futuristic "carbon nano tubes". In this concept car, a self-contained on-board system supplies air to the driver. Propulsion on the water is supported by two propellers in the stern while two powerful jet drives in the bow propel.

It costs around £750,000 to build a sQuba. Well, it is not for sale! The sQuba will appear for the first time at next month's motor show in Geneva.

According to Rinspeed boss Frank M. Rinderknecht, sQuba is inspired by Lotus Esprit of James Bond's 'The Spy Who Loved Me'. He said, "And exactly thirty years later this becomes reality in today's world", he says, describing the sQuba as "the worlds first real diving car with zero emission power". Link

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Feb 14, 2008

Astronauts worked on Columbus

NASA has extended Atlantis' mission by a day on Wednesday to give the crew more time to work on the Columbus lab. On Thursday astronauts worked hard to get the brand new Columbus lab from the European Space Agency running and fully functional for use.

Astronaut Stanley Love and Hans Schlegel took part in the second spacewalk of the mission. Then, Stanley Love and Rex Walheim are scheduled to participate in the mission's third outing on Friday to attach two science tools to the outside of Columbus.

Space shuttle Atlantis will remain at the International Space Station until Monday. The shuttle's thermal shielding has been completely cleared for re-entry. That makes for a 13-day flight, with touchdown now set for Feb. 20. AP

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Disappeared man spotted in Movie

An Italian man who disappeared with £37,000 was found after he was spotted in a movie scene! Can you believe this? Martino Garibaldi, 45, a shop owner, took the money from a family bank account when he left Montecalvo.

Despite employing detectives to track him down, his wife had found no trace of him, untill a friend spotted him in a scene of popular movie. The movie, "Natale in Crociera" (Christmas on a Cruise), was shot in the Dominican Republic.

Garibaldi's wife has now launched legal proceedings again him, demanding return of the money. So, if you are looking for a missing man, don't forget to watch movies!

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Feb 12, 2008

Columbus Lab docked with ISS

Europe's much awaited space laboratory, Columbus, has been unloaded from the US space shuttle Atlantis and docked successfully with the International Space Station (ISS). On Monday, during a risky spacewalk of nearly eight hours, astronauts installed the Columbus lab. This is a great relief for European Space Agency (ESA).

The spacewalk was earlier scheduled to take place on Sunday, but was delayed when astronaut Hans Schlegel fell ill. Schlegel is expected to take part in the second spacewalk of the mission on Wednesday.

The 12.8-tonne Columbus lab cost about $2bn (£1bn) and has room for three researchers in fields ranging from crop breeding to the development of advanced alloys. The 7m-long (24ft), 4.5m-wide, 12.8-tonne laboratory will be manoeuvred into position by the shuttle's robotic arm, and docked to the station's Harmony Node 2 connector.

ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts will be staying on the International Space Station to commission Columbus, a process that should take a few weeks to complete. Once the lab is installed properly, it will help researchers in doing some very important experiments. Link

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Feb 11, 2008

Threatening with a TV remote!

Blowing up a city with a TV remote! Australian police declared a state of emergency in the Fairways Golf and Lifestyle Retreat, a luxury Golf resort in Brisbane, after a drunken man threatened to blow up half a city with his TV remote control.

Geoffrey Fryatt, 57, who lived in Brisbane, was arrested by paramilitary police after terrifying neighbours by threatening to detonate a store of chemicals with the TV remote.

"One push of the button will blow up half of Brisbane," Fryatt shouted in the standoff last May before police in the Queensland state capital opened fire with rubber bullets.

According to Fryatt's lawyer, his client lost control after losing much of his life savings in a fraud. The Brisbane District Court sentenced him a year of probation. Fryatt accepted probation, but said he was concerned it could interrupt plans to travel overseas to do humanitarian aid work. Link
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Feb 10, 2008

NASA delayed Spacewalk till Monday

Atlantis is successfully docked with International Space Station. Now NASA engineers are assessing two small areas on the space shuttle Atlantis that may have received some damage during Thursday's launch. But, an important spacewalk scheduled for Sunday has been postponed until Monday, due to the illness of a German astronaut.

The spacewalk that had been set for Sunday to attach the European-made Columbus laboratory to the orbiting International Space Station was an important part of the mission. German astronaut Hans Schlagel, one of the Atlantis' crew of seven, will be replaced by US astronaut Stanley Love on the spacewalk, that will performed on Monday.

The switch was being made because of a "medical issue," said John Shannon, deputy shuttle program manager, at a briefing Saturday night. "It's a private medical matter," Shannon added. "I won't say more ... It's not life threatening."

The Atlantis' third spacewalk by Walheim and Love has also been rescheduled. Now the 11-day mission of the space shuttle Atlantis would also be extended by one day, with return to Earth set for February 19. Link

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Feb 9, 2008

Bhutto was killed by Suicide Bomb : Scotland Yard

The Scotland Yard team, investigating the killing of Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, backed the Pakistani Government’s claim that Benazir Bhutto was not shot, but died after a suicide bomb blast smashed her head against the roof of her armoured vehicle.

The team from the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command also concluded that the former Prime Minister and opposition leader was killed by a lone assassin, instead of two, as many Pakistanis believe.

It did not say who was behind her assassination, and its findings were disputed immediately by Ms Bhutto’s aides, who blame the Pakistani Government for her death and want the United Nations to start an investigation.

The findings were released in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. “In essence, all the evidence indicates that one suspect has fired the shots before detonating an improvised explosive device,” Detective Superintendent John MacBrayne, who led the team, wrote in a summary of the report. Link

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Feb 8, 2008

Biofuels increases Global Warming!

According to a new study, growing crops to make biofuels may accelerate global warming, not slow down its effects. How? When farmers clear native ecosystems such as forests or grasslands to grow crops, this gives off substantial amounts of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas that fuels climate change.

Biofuels such as ethanol from corn and biodiesel from palm oil typically start out with a "carbon debt." Before these biofuels could reduce individual carbon dioxide emissions, they would first have to pay off this debt, which would take decades or centuries.

"I was surprised that with so many of the crops, it takes so long before you break even [on carbon emissions]," said study co-author David Tilman of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. The university and the nonprofit group the Nature Conservancy conducted the study. Link

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Atlantis Blasts Off with Columbus

After two months of delay, US space shuttle Atlantis blasted into orbit on Thursday. Atlantis is taking Europe's Columbus lab with it, to the International Space Station. Columbus is a $2 billion science lab of European Space Agency, that spent years waiting to set sail. Columbus will join the U.S. lab, Destiny, which was launched aboard Atlantis exactly seven years ago.

Atlantis and its seven-man crew safely roared away from their seaside launch pad at 2:45 p.m., overcoming fuel gauge problems that thwarted back-to-back launch attempts in December.

NASA was anxious to get Atlantis flying as soon as possible to keep alive its hopes of achieving six launches this year. The space agency faces a 2010 deadline for finishing the station and retiring the shuttles. Link

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Sculpture or Rubbish?

Sculpture or Rubbish? A contemporary sculpture by sculptor Graham Hudson, depicting Saddam Hussein's wife is causing confusion in Holland Park, London. Passers-by have mistaken the sculpture of an oil drum, cable wheels, cardboard boxes, paint and adhesive tape for rubbish.

A visitor said: "It looks like someone has tried to wrap up a package very poorly and stuck it in the middle of the garden. It's not my idea of art."

But sculptor Hudson thinks that it is a beautiful spot named after the most successful fascist dictator in history. The sculpture depicts Sajida Talfah, the first wife of Saddam Hussein. In 2006 she was placed on Iraq's most wanted list and has not been seen since. Link

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Feb 7, 2008

Head Lice came from Africa!

Head lice came from Africa! Researchers discovered this fact after testing head lice, taken from 1,000-year-old mummies, found in the southern Peruvian coastal desert. Genetic tests showed the lice are nearly identical to strains found around the world that have been dated to when humans first began to colonize the rest of the world.

"It tells us that this genetic type got around the globe right as humans spread and migrated around the globe," said David Reed of the University of Florida, who worked on the interesting study.

Writing in Journal of Infectious Diseases, Reed and colleagues noted that there are three known strains, or clades, of head lice - A, B and C. The clade A is found everywhere, clade B is common in both North America and Europe, and clade C is rare. There had been a theory that clade B evolved separately in the Americas and that European explorers carried A to the Americas and brought B back to Europe with them.

The mummies from where the lices wwre collected, belonged to the post-Tiwanaku Chiribaya culture and they were dated to around 1000 AD. Interestingly, researchers collected more than 400 head lice from one and 500 from the other.

Sequencing of the intact DNA of the lice showed they were all clade A. This means that, the lice strain was distributed across the Americas hundreds of years before the first Europeans arrived. Link

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Feb 6, 2008

Atlantis is ready for Thursday lift-off

US space shuttle Atlantis is ready to start it's journey! The lift-off, which was originally scheduled for December, now is set for Thursday after a two-month delay. Atlantis will deliver Europe's $1.6 billion Columbus laboratory to the orbiting International Space Station.

"Atlantis is ready to go fly," Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, assistant NASA test director, told reporters Monday

The European laboratory Columbus is the latest addition to the International Space Station, which will play key role in future planetary explorations. The Atlantis crew includes commander Stephen Frick, mission specialist Leland Melvin, pilot Alan Poindexter, mission specialist Rex Walheim, European Space Agency astronaut Hans Schlegel of Germany, mission specialist Stanley Love and European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts of France. Three spacewalks have also been scheduled during the mission.

Atlantis' first take-off attempt is set for a ten-minute window on Thursday beginning at 2:45 pm (1945 GMT) in Cape Canaveral. Link

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Embryo created from Three Parents

A group of British scientists claims that they have created human embryos containing DNA from two women and a man. They created the embryos following a special procedure, that aims to create healthy embryos for couples to avoid passing on genes carrying diseases. So, they hopes that this procedure may help in future reasearch to produce embryos free of deadly inherited diseases.

"We are not trying to alter genes, we're just trying to swap a small proportion of the bad ones for some good ones," said Patrick Chinnery, a professor of neurogenetics at Newcastle University involved in the research.

In their research, Chinnery and colleagues used normal embryos created from one man and one woman that had defective mitochondria in the woman's egg. They then transplanted that embryo into an emptied egg donated from a second woman who had healthy mitochondria.

"If successful, this research could give families who might otherwise have a bleak future a chance to avoid some very grave diseases," said Francoise Shenfield, a fertility expert with the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

So, what is the future? It is too early to go forward. More tests are to be conducted to confirm the safety and efficacy of the process. Link

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Deadly Tornadoes sweep South US

Tornadoes and thunderstorms ravaged several states in the South of US, killing at least 31 people, injuring dozens and causing widespread damage. The Tornadoes raged across the nation's midsection at the end of the Super Tuesday primaries in several states. As the extent of the damage quickly became clear, candidates including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee paused in their victory speeches to remember the victims.

The storms caused widespread damage across Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama. The dead included 13 people in Tennessee, 11 in Arkansas, and seven in Kentucky. Authorities went door-to-door early Wednesday searching for more victims of deadly tornadoes. via Reuters and AP

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Feb 5, 2008

Chemicals in Baby Cosmetics may be harmful

According to a new scientific study of babies born in Los Angeles and two other U.S. cities, many baby care products contain a variety of phthalates, a chemical used in fragrances. Phthalates may have hormone-altering properties. Infants and toddlers exposed to baby lotions, shampoos and powders etc. carry high concentrations of phthalates in their bodies. According to the study these chemicals might have reproductive effects.

The lead scientist in the study, Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana of the University of Washington's Department of Pediatrics, said the findings suggested that many baby care products contain a variety of phthalates that enter children's bodies through their skin. Manufacturers do not list phthalates as ingredients on labels, so it is unknown which products contain them.

In the study, doctors tested the urine of 163 children between the ages of 2 months and 28 months born in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Columbia, Mo., between 2000 and 2005. All had detectable amounts of at least one type of phthalate, and more than 80% had seven or more types. Link

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Ban on serving Obese customers!

No food for obese people! A new bill in Mississippi would make it illegal for restaurants to serve obese customers. According to a news report, health inspectors will revoke the licence of any restaurant that repeatedly feeds extremely overweight people!

Interestingly, federal figures shows that two-thirds of adult Mississippians are overweight and 30% obese. Obesity costs the state's free medical care system an estimated $220 million each year. So this bill is likely to show concern about this big issue!

Ted Mayhall, one of the politicians who proposed the bill, said he was hoping to "call attention to the problem".

But many people thinks that this is a crazy bill. J Justin Wilson, an analyst for the Centre for Consumer Freedom, said: "I've seen a lot of crazy laws but this one takes the cake. Literally."

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High Heels Improves Women's Sex Life

Wearing higher heels may improve women's sex life, according to an Italian doctor. According to a BBC report, Dr Maria Cerruto, a urologist says 2ins high heels can help improve pelvic floor muscles. Dr Cerruto, is a lover of high heels and now wants to prove that they were not as bad for women's health as some doctors suggest.

Her study of 66 women under 50 found those who held their foot at a 15 degree angle to the ground - the equivalent of a two inch heel - had as good posture as those who wore flat shoes.

And, crucially, they showed less electrical activity in their pelvic muscles suggesting they were at an optimum position, which could improve their strength and ability to contract. Pelvic floor muscles assist sexual performance and satisfaction, and also provide vital support to the pelvic organs, which include the bladder, bowels and uterus.

Dr Cerruto said: "Women often have difficulty in carrying out the right exercises for the pelvic zone and wearing heels could be the solution." BBC

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Feb 4, 2008

Landing at the St. Barth's airstrip

Take a look at the picture. Plane landing at a road? It shows a plane swoops in to land at one of the world's most dramatic airstrips. The motorists on the road misses the plane just by inches!

This airstrip is situated on the island of Saint-Barthélemy, or St Barts, in the French West Indies. At 2,133ft, its runway is one of the shortest in the world and equivalent in length to five football pitches. Pilots needs a special licence to land on this small airstrip.

The landing, especially on a windy day, is an adventure in itself. But, despite the apparent dangers, there have been only two fatal accidents at the airport over the years. via DailyMail

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