|Herding Atoms! |
Pot Not Gateway, Nike+iPod Spy Bug!
Python Oldest God! Ray Charles!
Antikythera Mechanism Unlocked!
December 4, 2006 - It has long been known that it is possible to confine electrons or atoms in atomic structures in the same way as sheep can be shut in a pen. Physicists at the Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics in Halle have now discovered a strange thing: if the atomic fences have the right shape and the substrate, temperature and other parameters are adjusted appropriately, then randomly vapour-deposited atoms arrange themselves in regular structures within the circular fencing - as if they were sheep arranging themselves neatly in a pen (Physical Review Letters, 2nd November 2006).
For some years, numerous groups of researchers all over the world have been concentrating on forcing conduction electrons (the electrons used for the conduction of electronic current) on the surface of certain materials into patterns using deliberately planted atoms. Their intention is to influence the growth of thin films of material. When new atoms, called adatoms, are vapour-deposited on these electron structures, electrical attraction and repulsion makes them more likely to settle in some areas rather than others, depending on the density of electrons on the material. Physicists hope that they will be able to create thin films of material with predetermined characteristics by tailoring the density of electrons.
The researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics together with physicists from the University of Halle and the University of Santiago de Compostella in Spain have investigated a special form of electronic structure. They observed electrons in a dense, closed ellipsis of cobalt atoms on a copper substrate.
The conduction electrons can be imagined like a gas or a liquid; they form standing waves in circular atomic "pens" similar to waves in a small pond.
The physicists then simulated the effects of vapour-depositing cobalt adatoms. The new atoms interact with the cobalt atoms in the pen and with the enclosed electrons. There are tiny fluctuations in the energy levels which only have an effect at low temperatures of around 10 to 20 kelvins.
These fluctuations cause the adatoms to prefer to move to positions with higher densities of electrons, provided the number of vapour-deposited adatoms is correct, the temperature is low enough and the pen sufficiently secure.
With adatoms, which can move more easily at lower temperatures, for example atoms of the element cerium and a circular enclosure, the researchers created regular structures on the circles themselves; this was similar to allowing sheep to run randomly into a pen where they obediently line up, spaced at regular intervals and in concentric circles.
Max-Planck-Institute of Microstructure Physics - http://www.mpg.de/english
|Pot Not Gateway To Hard Drugs|
PITTSBURGH December 4, 2006 - Marijuana is not a “gateway” drug that predicts or eventually leads to substance abuse, suggests a 12-year University of Pittsburgh study. Moreover, the study’s findings call into question the long-held belief that has shaped prevention efforts and governmental policy for six decades and caused many a parent to panic upon discovering a bag of pot in their child’s bedroom.
The Pitt researchers tracked 214 boys beginning at ages 10-12, all of whom eventually used either legal or illegal drugs.
When the boys reached age 22, they were categorized into three groups: those who used only alcohol or tobacco, those who started with alcohol and tobacco and then used marijuana (gateway sequence) and those who used marijuana prior to alcohol or tobacco (reverse sequence).
Out of the 35 variables they examined, only three emerged to be differentiating factors: Reverse pattern users were more likely to have lived in poor physical neighborhood environments, had more exposure to drugs in their neighborhoods and had less parental involvement as young children.
Most importantly, a general inclination for deviance from sanctioned behaviors, which can become evident early in childhood, was strongly associated with all illicit drug use, whether it came in the gateway sequence, or the reverse.
This evidence supports what’s known as the common liability model, an emerging theory that states the likelihood that someone will transition to the use of illegal drugs is determined not by the preceding use of a particular drug but instead by the user’s individual tendencies and environmental circumstances.
“To become more effective in our efforts to fight drug abuse, we should devote more attention to interventions that address these issues, particularly to parenting skills that shape the child’s behavior as well as peer and neighborhood environments.”
For example, providing guidance to parents – particularly those in high-risk neighborhoods – on how to boost their caregiving skills and foster bonding with their children, could have a measurable effect on a child’s likelihood to smoke marijuana.
Also, early identification of children who exhibit antisocial tendencies could allow for interventions before drug use even begins.
First, as only male behaviors were studied, further investigation should explore if the results apply to women as well. Also, the examination of behaviors in phases beyond alcohol and marijuana consumption in the gateway series will be necessary.
|Nike+iPod Spy Bug!|
November 29, 2006 - This holiday season, gift-givers may unwittingly give their favorite athlete a workout accessory that can double as a tracking device. Researchers in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington say there are serious privacy breaches posed by the gadget, which is marketed to runners but may be equally attractive to stalkers and thieves.
"It is easy for someone to use the Nike+iPod as a tracking device," says Scott Saponas, a doctoral student in computer science and lead author of a technical report and video posted online on Nov. 30. "It's an example of how new gadgetry can erode our personal privacy."
The researchers suggest that people who own a Nike+iPod Sport Kit turn it off when they're not exercising so that it stops emitting signals.
Saponas is an avid runner and had originally bought the device to use in his workouts, before he started wondering about potential security risks. Now, he and his colleagues have built a range of low-cost devices that use information from his Nike+iPod to monitor his whereabouts. Other researchers on the report are UW graduate students Jonathan Lester and Carl Hartung, and Yoshi Kohno, assistant professor of computer science and engineering.
Since its August release, retailers have sold more than 450,000 Nike+iPod Sport Kits, according to industry publication AppleInsider. The $29 item consists of two parts. One piece is a chip the size of a dinner mint that acts as a pedometer, which runners slip into their shoe.
The other piece is a receiver that fits into an iPod Nano and stores information beamed from the person's foot. After their workouts, high-tech runners can upload the data and use a Nike software program to track their distance, speed and calories burned.
The simplest connects a receiver from the Nike+iPod kit to a laptop's serial port, and the screen displays each device in range. A more sophisticated system uses a matchbox-sized computer with wireless Internet access to record multiple users' whereabouts, send the information to a central server, plot people's locations using GoogleMaps and alert the person doing the tracking with an e-mail or text message. All use the receiver sold with the kit, and each was built for less than $300.
Researchers report that it took them about 10 minutes to figure out how to decode a receiver's unique tag and a few hours to write the code that interprets the sensor data. They estimate that an electronics hobbyist could build a system in a few hours, or at most a weekend. And if somebody posted sensor-scanning code on the Internet, it would be easy for others to build copycat devices.
Click here for a video explanation of the research.
University of Washington - http://www.uwnews.org
|Python Oldest God!|
November 30, 2006 - A startling archaeological discovery this summer changes our understanding of human history. While, up until now, scholars have largely held that man’s first rituals were carried out over 40, 000 years ago in Europe, it now appears that they were wrong about both the time and place.
Associate Professor Sheila Coulson, from the University of Oslo, can now show that modern humans, Homo sapiens, have performed advanced rituals in Africa for 70,000 years. She has, in other words, discovered mankind’s oldest known ritual.
The archaeologist made the surprising discovery while she was studying the origin of the Sanpeople. A group of the San live in the sparsely inhabited area of north-western Botswana known as Ngamiland.
Coulson made the discovery while searching for artifacts from the Middle Stone Age in the only hills present for hundreds of kilometers in any direction. This group of small peaks within the Kalahari Desert is known as the Tsodilo Hills and is famous for having the largest concentration of rock paintings in the world.
The Tsodilo Hills are still a sacred place for the San, who call them the “Mountains of the Gods” and the “Rock that Whispers”.
The python is one of the San’s most important animals. According to their creation myth, mankind descended from the python and the ancient, arid streambeds around the hills are said to have been created by the python as it circled the hills in its ceaseless search for water.
Sheila Coulson’s find shows that people from the area had a specific ritual location associated with the python. The ritual was held in a little cave on the northern side of the Tsodilo Hills. The cave itself is so secluded and access to it is so difficult that it was not even discovered by archaeologists until the 1990s.
"You could see the mouth and eyes of the snake. It looked like a real python. The play of sunlight over the indentations gave them the appearance of snake skin. At night, the firelight gave one the feeling that the snake was actually moving".
They found nothing else.
While large cave and wall paintings are numerous throughout the Tsodilo Hills, there are only two small paintings in this cave: an elephant and a giraffe. These images were rendered, surprisingly, exactly where water runs down the wall.
|Carbon Dioxide Emissions Accelerating|
|Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation News Release |
November 27, 2006 - According to the co-Chair of the Global Carbon Project, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research scientist Dr Mike Raupach, 7.9 billion tonnes of carbon were emitted into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide in 2005 and the rate of increase is accelerating.
“From 2000 to 2005, the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions was more than 2.5 per cent per year, whereas in the 1990s it was less than one per cent per year,” Dr Raupach says.
He says this indicates that recent efforts globally to reduce emissions have had little impact on emissions growth. “Recent emissions seem to be near the high end of the fossil fuel use scenarios used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). On our current path, it will be difficult to rein-in carbon emissions enough to stabilise the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at 450 ppm.”
However, he says that on average, nearly half of all emissions from fossil fuel use and land-use changes remain in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed by the land and oceans.
“When natural variability is smoothed out, 45 per cent of emissions have remained in the atmosphere each year over the past 50 years,” he says.
|Ray Charles Got Swing|
|American Institute of Physics |
December 4, 2006 - Ray Charles was really good at snapping, said musical acoustician Kenneth Lindsay of Southern Oregon University in Ashland. Charles's snaps that open "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" are timed so well that he is never more than 5 milliseconds off the tight beat.
Swing is found in American jazz, Caribbean beats, Brazilian swingee, reggae, samba and many other musical styles around the world.
Washington DC December 1, 2006 - An international team of scientists is calling for a targeted global conservation effort to preserve seagrasses and their ecological services for the world’s coastal ecosystems, according to an article published in the December issue of Bioscience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).
The article "A Global Crisis for Seagrass Ecosystems" cites the critical role seagrasses play in coastal systems and how costal development, population growth and the resulting increase of nutrient and sediment pollution have contributed to large-scale losses worldwide.
"Seagrasses are the coal mine canaries of coastal ecosystems," said co-author Dr. William Dennison of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
"The fate of seagrasses can provide resource managers advance signs of deteriorating ecological conditions caused by poor water quality and pollution."
While recent studies rank seagrass as one of the most valuable habitat in coastal systems, media coverage of other habitats – including salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs – receive 3 to 100-fold more media attention than seagrass systems.
"Seagrasses are just one of the many keys to maintaining healthy coastal ecosystems and their biodiversity."
|Antikythera Mechanism Unlocked!|
November 29, 2006 - An international team has unraveled the secrets of a 2,000-year-old computer which could transform the way we think about the ancient world.
Professor Mike Edmunds and Dr Tony Freeth, of Cardiff University led the team who believe they have finally cracked the workings of the Antikythera Mechanism, a clock-like astronomical calculator dating from the second century BC.
Remnants of a broken wooden and bronze case containing more than 30 gears was found by divers exploring a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera at the turn of the 20th century. Scientists have been trying to reconstruct it ever since. The new research suggests it is more sophisticated than anyone previously thought.
Detailed work on the gears in the mechanism show that it was able to track astronomical movements with remarkable precision. The calculator was able to follow the movements of the moon and the sun through the Zodiac, predict eclipses and even recreate the irregular orbit of the moon. The team believe it may also have predicted the positions of some or all of the planets.
The findings suggest that Greek technology was far more advanced than previously thought. No other civilisation is known to have created anything as complicated for another thousand years.
Professor Edmunds said: "This device is just extraordinary, the only thing of its kind. The design is beautiful, the astronomy is exactly right. The way the mechanics are designed just makes your jaw drop. Whoever has done this has done it extremely well."
Computer giant Hewlett-Packard provided imaging technology to enhance the surface details of the machine.
The researchers are now hoping to create a computer model of how the machine worked, and, in time, a full working replica.
It is still uncertain what the ancient Greeks used the mechanism for, or how widespread this technology was.