Science

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Video: Take a Look at New Dazzling View of Earth at Night

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 9:24 AM

Proving that, yes, there are a lot of night owls, NASA has released new photos and videos taken with high-resolution visible and infrared imager cameras aboard a NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite, capturing the Earth at night in stunning detail.

According to NASA, "the new sensor, the day-night band of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite is sensitive enough to detect the nocturnal glow produced by Earth's atmosphere and the light from a single ship in the sea."

Steve Miller, a researcher at NOAA's Colorado State University Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, added, "For all the reasons that we need to see Earth during the day, we also need to see Earth at night. Unlike humans, the Earth never sleeps."

The National Weather Service plans to use the enhanced image technology to help forecast fog in coastal regions.

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Video: Meet SPAUN, The Virtual Human Brain

Posted By on Sat, Dec 1, 2012 at 10:04 AM

spaun.jpg

Scientists at Canada's University of Waterloo have unveiled something they call SPAUN, which stands for Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network. Simply put, it's a computer simulation of a functioning human brain that is able to recognize numbers and write them down, calculate basic math equations, and even pass some IQ tests.

SPAUN contains 2.5 million virtual neurons—the human brain has 86 billion. SPAUN also has a simulated eye and a virtual arm that can draw figures.

The Vancouver Sun reports that the human-like behavior of SPAUN sets it apart from other large-scale brain models in development at labs around the world.

“Until now, the race was who could get a human-sized brain simulation running,” Eugene Izhikevich, chairman of the Brain Corporation in San Diego, Calif., told the journal Nature. “From now on, the race is more about who can get the most biological functions and animal-like behaviors. So far, SPAUN is the winner.”

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Study Says Children Now Enter Puberty Younger

Posted By on Sun, Oct 21, 2012 at 10:48 AM

Boys are now entering puberty at a younger age, according to a study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics at its national conference on Saturday.

A study of records from about 200 pediatricians across 41 states, containing information on 4,131 boys ages 6 to 16, estimates that boys show signs of puberty six months to two years earlier than reported in previous research. Additionally, girls now show breast development earlier than in the past.

Historically, pediatricians were taught that boys generally begin puberty at 11-1/2 years old, but the study suggests that a new trend has boys developing sooner. However, its unclear why.

The study did mention that changes in diet, less physical activity and environmental factors could be possibilities.

“This should perhaps set a standard going forward for being very attentive to puberty in boys and being mindful that they’re developing earlier,” Dolores J. Lamb, a molecular endocrinologist at Baylor College of Medicine and president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine told the New York Times.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Space Shuttle Endeavor's Time-Lapse Journey Through LA

Posted By on Sat, Oct 20, 2012 at 10:12 AM

After flying 25 missions for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Space Shuttle Endeavor made its final trip earlier this month.

Mission 26 brought the former NASA spacecraft to Los Angeles on a Boeing 747 on Sept. 20, before crews prepped the ship for a 12-mile trip through the city's streets.

The video below shows the route navigated by the 85-ton shuttle, including a few close calls in busy neighborhoods.



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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Video: Science Debunks 5-Second Rule

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 1:11 PM

The so-called five-second rule is the belief that food can hit the floor for up to five full seconds (sometimes more, depending on who you are talking to) without becoming contaminated.

But now, a group of San Diego State researchers and Clorox want to ruin the five seconds of fun with their facts and statistics. For example: Dried fruit can pick up dangerous bacteria in less than five seconds, while pasta can pick up dangerous bacteria in just three.

To come to their conclusion that the five-second rule is mere myth, the group dropped baby carrots on different surfaces, including a countertop, a kitchen sink, a table, a high chair tray and both carpeted and tiled floors. The group found the countertop to be the dirtiest surface, followed closely by the carpet and tile floor.

"We wanted to know if there was any truth to the theory that bacteria need time to attach to surfaces of fallen food or commonly dropped items like sippy cups," said Dr. Scott Kelley, associate professor of biology at San Diego State University. "Unfortunately, for those of us who lived by that rule, it looks like a total myth—five seconds is all it takes."

If you live the five-second lifestyle, you are not alone. According to a study of 500 moms and dads across the country, 65 percent of parents admitted to following the five-second rule in their home.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Study: Chocolate and Opium Trigger Similar Brain Effects

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 8:22 AM

In a study that brings us closer to understanding what drives addiction, it turns out that chocolate's effect on the brain is similar to that of opium.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that a natural brain chemical called enkephalin surged while rats snacked on M&M chocolate candies. Enkephalin is an endorphin with similar characterisitics to heroin. Scientists believe that the chemical may be responsible for binge-eating in people, as well as drug addiction.

In the study with rats, a brain area known to release enkephalin was stimulated during feeding times. NBC reported that with the release of enkephalin, the animals ate double their normal share of food.

"‘This (study) means that the brain has more extensive systems to make individuals over-consume rewards than previously thought," said study author Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, of the University of Michigan. "The same brain area tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes."

The study was published in the journal Current Biology.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

So Long Summer

Posted By on Fri, Sep 21, 2012 at 3:12 PM

Say goodbye to summer as the autumnal equinox—the beginning of fall—begins Saturday.

The equinox occurs when the sun travels directly over the Earth's equator, making day and night equal in length. Equinox means "equal light" in Latin.

Space.com points out that this observation is not quite correct, however, as daylight is still a little longer, given that "night" is measured by the moment the sun dips below the horizon. In fact, even before it seems to have gone down, it is simply an optical illusion that keeps it hovering and twilight carrying on.

The autumnal equinox is the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere only. In the southern half of the world, spring has sprung once again. The autumnal equinox doesn't always fall on the same day. It sometimes falls on the 23rd or 24th due to Earth's irregular orbit.

LiveScience reports that humans can react very oddly to seasonal changes.This includes high sexual drive during the early summer and seasonal affective disorder during winter.

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Blue Moon Makes a Rare Visit

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 8:50 AM

Today will be one of those days that is "once in a blue moon." To be more accurate, a so-called "blue moon" occurs when a month includes two full moons.



Skywatchers say this could be one of the last chances to see a blue moon for nearly three years. The moon reaches its full phase today, marking the second full moon of August. Stargazers won't be able to see two full moons in a single month again until July 2015.

The phrase "once in a blue moon" dates back to 1824.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Video: Star Eats Planet

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Artists conception of a red giant star engulfing one of its planets.
  • NASA
  • Artist's conception of a red giant star engulfing one of its planets.


Astronomers say they have witnessed the death of a planet for the first time.

The planet was devoured by one of its own stars, an aging red giant named BD+48 740. Such events aren't uncommon in the universe, but they happen relatively quickly, and the Los Angeles Times reports that it's unlikely for one to be observed directly.

A team of astronomers at Penn State University made the discovery while studying the star using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of Texas.

They published their findings in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.


Red giant stars grow rapidly as hydrogen becomes less efficient in its core and is transferred to its outer shell. That caused this star to burn much brighter and grow to a size 11 times larger than the sun, engulfing planets as it continues to expand.

"A similar fate may await the inner planets in our solar system, when the sun becomes a red giant and expands all the way out to Earth's orbit some 5 billion years from now," team member Alex Wolszczan told redorbit.com.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Massive Galaxy, Possibly Largest Ever, Discovered

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Artists impression of galaxy at center of Phoenix Cluster.
  • Chandra X-ray Observatory
  • Artist's impression of the newly discovered galaxy at the center of the Phoenix Cluster.


A newly identified galaxy may be the largest ever on record.

Beyond being possibly the largest galaxy ever found by humans, it is also the brightest. According to Space.com, "The colossal galaxy cluster is also the brightest in X-ray light, and the galaxy at its heart apparently gives birth to more than 700 stars per year—hundreds of times as fast as our Milky Way forms stars."

The galaxy cluster is about 7 billion light-years away from Earth and is formally known by the alphabet-soup name of SPT-CLJ2344-4243, but scientists have given it the nickname "the Phoenix Cluster."

According to MIT News, Michael McDonald, a Hubble Fellow in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, said that the Phoenix Cluster is also very much alive.

“Central galaxies have typically been referred to as ‘red and dead’—just a bunch of old stars orbiting a massive black hole, and there’s nothing new happening. But the central galaxy in this cluster has somehow come to life, and is giving birth to prodigious numbers of new stars," McDonald said.

McDonald said the galaxy may be able to produce so many stars due to rapid cooling. According to Space.com, the galaxy's luminous look is because of all the X-rays it sheds. This suggests that the Phoenix Cluster is also the fastest-cooling cluster yet known.

According to the Epoch Times, McDonald is looking to continue his research of the Phoenix Cluster using the Hubble Space Telescope.

“You’d see these fantastic blue filaments where stars are forming out of cooling streams," he said. "It should look quite remarkable, instead of our ground-based images, which show a blob of blue light.”

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