The Man Who Dreamed He Was A Beetle

2:37:35 PM, Wednesday, April 06, 2011

"A sweet, sweet man died the other day and I'd like to think that beetles everywhere, big ones, little ones, speaking many different beetle languages, paused for a second and thought, "Oh, dear. That guy. He was our guy."

Tom Eisner loved bugs. He loved them as an infant, seeking them, "according to my parents, when I first stood on my feet." He was among the first scientists to notice that insects communicate not only by touching and dancing and by the markings on their bodies, they also send chemical signals. Bugs talk in chemicals. And Tom, with his Cornell colleague Jerrold Meinwald, helped invent a field called Ecological Chemistry that cracked the chemical codes that drive bugs to court each other, fight each other, and give each other gifts.

Bugs were his protectors. He was shy. Born Jewish in Germany, he and his family fled to Spain, then to France, then on to Uruguay. In Montevideo, where he grew up, bullies stalked him, but then he figured out he could safely put a particularly poisonous caterpillar on his hand because it had no poisons on its belly. He plopped two of them on his little fists and displayed them like boxing gloves. The tough kids (and in tropical Uruguay, boys know their toxic insects) were amazed. Suddenly, Tom remembered, "I was in command."

Years later, in Massachusetts, he was searching under a rock and heard beetles making strange hissing sounds. Tom, wondering what they were, but with hands full, popped one in his mouth and was startled when it suddenly hurled a hot wad of something against his inner cheek. Turns out he had met his first Bombardier beetle — the same one Darwin had popped in his mouth many years before. Tom, checking closely, discovered this beetle was manufacturing a kind of rocket fuel (a boiling combination of hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone at 212 degrees Fahrenheit) which it fired from a machine gun like rotating turret mounted on the tip of its abdomen..."



Sex After a Field Trip Yields Scientific First

12:31:38 PM, Wednesday, April 06, 2011

"A U.S. vector biologist appears to have accidentally written virological history simply by having sex with his wife after returning from a field trip to Senegal. A study just released in Emerging Infectious Diseases suggests that the researcher, Brian Foy of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, passed to his wife the Zika virus, an obscure pathogen that causes joint pains and extreme fatigue. If so, it would be the first documented case of sexual transmission of an insect-borne disease.

Foy is the first author of the paper, which describes three anonymous patients. But in an interview with Science, he confirmed that he is the anonymous "patient 1"; his Ph.D. student Kevin Kobylinski, who accompanied him on the trip to Senegal and also got sick, is "patient 2." Foy's wife, Joy Chilson Foy, a nurse at the Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, is "patient 3"; she is also a co-author of the paper.

Exactly what happened when Foy and Kobylinski returned from Senegal on 24 August 2008 has remained a mystery for years. As part of their research on malaria, the scientists had been collecting mosquitoes in a southeastern village called Bandafassi, where they were often bitten. About 5 days after their return, both researchers got sick. Both had a rash on their torso, extreme fatigue, headaches, and swollen and painful wrists, knees, and ankles. Foy also had symptoms of prostatitis, including painful urination, and he and his wife noticed what looked like blood in his semen, according to the paper.

On 3 September, Foy's wife's fell ill as well, with malaise, chills, extreme headache, hypersensitivity to light, and muscle pains. The couple's four children remained healthy. The symptoms started receding within about a week in all three patients, although the joint pains lingered.

The scientists suspected they were infected through one of their many mosquito bites but were stumped as to the pathogen. So were several laboratories, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose lab for insect-borne diseases is in Fort Collins. Antibody tests on serum samples from the two scientists tested positive for dengue, a viral disease that might have explained the symptoms, but samples from Chilson Foy came back negative. "Eventually, the CDC said, 'We think you had dengue, but we don't know what your wife had,' " says Foy, who decided to keep samples from all three in the freezer.

The mystery might never have been solved if Kobylinski hadn't gone out for a few beers with Andrew Haddow, a medical entomologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, during another trip to Senegal more than a year later. Haddow, who studies how pathogens survive in the jungle and emerge when humans encroach, had a great personal interest in Zika: His grandfather, Alexander Haddow, was one of three scientists who had isolated the virus from a rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest near Entebbe, Uganda, in 1947 and described it in a paper in 1952. "I read all of my grandfather's papers, so that stuff really interests me," Haddow says..."



Japanese Nuclear Engineers Plug Fukushima Leak

12:03:29 PM, Wednesday, April 06, 2011

"Workers stem flow of radioactive water into sea using mixture of sawdust, newspaper, concrete and a type of liquid glass.

Engineers battling to contain the crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant appeared to have turned an important corner last night after they stopped highly radioactive water from leaking into the ocean from one of the facility's crippled reactors.

Workers struggling to halt the leaks successfully used a mixture of sawdust, newspaper, concrete and a type of liquid glass to stem the flow of contaminated water near a seaside pit, said the plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco).

Earlier efforts involving cement, an absorbent polymer and rags were unsuccessful in plugging the leak, which was discovered on Saturday, while radiation of more than 7.5 million times the legal limit for seawater was found just off the earthquake-hit plant.

In a sign of Tepco's desperation, it breached its own regulations on Monday by beginning an intentional discharge of 11,500 tonnes of less contaminated water into the Pacific to make space for the highly radioactive liquid that was seeping out in an uncontrolled manner.

The company still needs to pump contaminated water into the sea because of a lack of storage space at the plant and will continue to release the 11,500 tonnes of low-level radioactive water until Friday. "The leaks were slowed yesterday after we injected a mixture of liquid glass and a hardening agent and it has now stopped," a Tepco spokesman told Reuters..."



Edward Maya feat. Vika Jigulina - Desert Rain

11:50:47 PM, Tuesday, April 05, 2011

-- So it's rather similar to Stereo Love and her accent doesn't do much for the song at all, but still catchy.



How A Big US Bank Laundered Billions From Mexico's Murderous Drug Gangs

11:41:20 PM, Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"As the violence spread, billions of dollars of cartel cash began to seep into the global financial system. But a special investigation by the Observer reveals how the increasingly frantic warnings of one London whistleblower were ignored.

On 10 April 2006, a DC-9 jet landed in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, on the Gulf of Mexico, as the sun was setting. Mexican soldiers, waiting to intercept it, found 128 cases packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100m. But something else – more important and far-reaching – was discovered in the paper trail behind the purchase of the plane by the Sinaloa narco-trafficking cartel.

During a 22-month investigation by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, it emerged that the cocaine smugglers had bought the plane with money they had laundered through one of the biggest banks in the United States: Wachovia, now part of the giant Wells Fargo.

The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller's cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts. Wachovia was put under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering programme. Of special significance was that the period concerned began in 2004, which coincided with the first escalation of violence along the US-Mexico border that ignited the current drugs war.

Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia, though not against any individual, but the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the US bank secrecy act, through the US district court in Miami. Now that the year's "deferred prosecution" has expired, the bank is in effect in the clear. It paid federal authorities $110m in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50m fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine.

More shocking, and more important, the bank was sanctioned for failing to apply the proper anti-laundering strictures to the transfer of $378.4bn – a sum equivalent to one-third of Mexico's gross national product – into dollar accounts from so-called casas de cambio (CDCs) in Mexico, currency exchange houses with which the bank did business..."



Plans For World's Most Powerful Rocket Unveiled

7:54:46 PM, Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"The private rocket company SpaceX says its next rocket will be the most powerful in the world.

The new rocket, called the Falcon Heavy, is designed to carry up to about twice as much weight as a NASA space shuttle can take to orbit. It's expected to be at the launchpad at the end of next year for its first flight, with the launch likely coming in 2013.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described his company's new rocket during a press conference in Washington, D.C. He says it will be able to take about 117,000 pounds to orbit.

"So that is really, really humongous," says Musk. "It's more payload capability than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V."

The Saturn V was NASA's moon rocket and was decommissioned after the Apollo program ended. Musk said the Falcon Heavy has about half the lifting capability of the Saturn V.

"So in principle, you could do another mission to the moon, just by doing two launches of a Falcon Heavy," says Musk. He also described possible missions to an asteroid, or an unmanned mission to collect samples of rocks from Mars and return them to Earth.

SpaceX is one of a number of companies that have been angling to carry cargo — and someday, astronauts — for NASA now that the space shuttle is being retired this year.

SpaceX has already had two successful flights of its smaller Falcon 9 rocket and successfully returned its Dragon space capsule from orbit. Musk says the Falcon Heavy has also been designed with NASA's standards for human spaceflight in mind. Each launch of the Falcon Heavy will cost $80 million to $125 million..."



Orphan Bear Cubs Play With Tiger Cub

3:43:18 PM, Tuesday, April 05, 2011

-- Two black bear cubs, abandoned by their mom, get a new home at China’s Qingdao Wildlife Park - and a new playmate: A tiger cub just their size.



Space Junk Threatening International Space Station, 3 Residents

1:50:37 PM, Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"A small piece of space junk drifted dangerously close to the International Space Station on Tuesday, prompting NASA to order the three astronauts to seek shelter in their attached capsule.

Mission Control gave the order after determining there was not enough time to steer the orbiting outpost away from the space junk.

The debris — about 6 inches — is from a Chinese satellite that was deliberately destroyed in 2007 as part of a weapons test. It was projected to pass within three miles of the space station, warranting a red threat level, NASA's highest.

Just last Friday, the space station had to move out of the way of an orbiting remnant from a two-satellite collision in 2009.

Debris is an increasingly serious problem in orbit, because of colliding and destroyed spacecraft. At 5 miles a second, damage can be severe, even from something several inches big. Decompression, in fact, is at the top of any spacefarers' danger list.

More than 12,500 pieces of debris are orbiting Earth — and those are the ones big enough to track.

Mission Control notified the crew of the latest threat Tuesday morning, a few hours after the risk was identified. The three crew members are Dmitry Kondratyev, the station's Russian commander, American Catherine Coleman and Italian Paolo Nespoli.

The orbit of the space junk is extremely erratic, and there's quite a bit of atmospheric drag on it, said NASA spokesman Josh Byerly. Experts monitored the debris into the early afternoon, to determine its exact path, and later told the crew that they might not have to close themselves off in the Soyuz spacecraft. The threat level, however, remained red..."



ScienceShot: Green Eggs and Salamanders

11:35:49 AM, Tuesday, April 05, 2011

-- "It might sound like something out of a Dr. Seuss story, but biologists have long told tales of the green eggs of the spotted salamander. Ambystoma maculatum lays its brood in ponds each spring up and down North America. These marble-sized gelatinous sacs quickly turn green (bottom left and top right images) as photosynthesizing algae grow around the developing embryo and feast on its waste. In turn, the embryo enjoys the oxygen produced by the algae. Now scientists have discovered that the algae gets a little closer than they thought. Using long-exposure imaging, the researchers detected algal fluorescence (main image) inside the developing salamander. This is the first case of an algae living symbiotically within a vertebrate, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. How the photosynthesizing algae gets there, and how it survives inside the tissues and cells of this predominantly nocturnal amphibian is still baffling to scientists. But one thing's for sure, the discovery means rewriting textbooks to add salamanders to a short list of organisms, including coral and bacteria, that form symbiotic relationships with plants."



The Lonely Island - We're Back!

9:36:37 AM, Tuesday, April 05, 2011


Paper, Plastic, or Steel?

9:13:26 AM, Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"The ancient Chinese art of paper folding is probably not in most people's minds when rushing to bag their groceries. But engineers have now built a foldable grocery bag from steel (go ahead, load it with soda bottles!) using an origami-inspired design that could help speed up factory packaging processes. The technique may eventually lead to buildings that can change shape at the push of button.

"Origami engineers" build a variety of objects by folding sheets of rigid material along set creases. In the past, they have used the technique to create foldable solar panels, for use in space, that can be quickly and easily packed into a small volume for transport in shuttles. Now, origami engineers Zhong You and Weina Wu of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom have tackled a more down-to-earth problem: whether a tall shopping bag built from a rigid material or an open-topped cardboard box could ever be folded flat like a traditional grocery bag without having to open its bottom.

The question is important in the packaging industry where, currently, cardboard boxes can only be flat packed if both their top and their base are left open, You explains. "If you have moved house, you know how much time is wasted constructing the base of the box before you can put anything in it, and it's even worse on a factory assembly line," he says. "Making cardboard boxes that can be folded flat, even with their base in place, will speed up automated packaging in factories."

In 2004, mathematician Erik Demaine of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and his colleagues proposed a theoretical pattern of origami creases that could be set into a tall bag made from something more rigid than paper and allow the bag to be folded flat. The bag could never be made in practice, however, because it required infinitely thin material. Now You and Wu have come up with an alternative crease pattern, which adds a number of extra creases to the traditional pattern used in conventional paper grocery bags. They successfully constructed a prototype of a bag made from a number of stainless steel plates, stuck on to a light, flexible plastic sheet. The edges where the plates meet serve as "creases," along which the bag can be bent. The steel bag can be collapsed down as flat as a standard paper grocery bag (see picture). "We used steel because if it works for that, it will work for less-rigid materials," You says. The pair are now discussing their design—published online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A—with carton manufacturers..."



Drunken Trailer Near Accident - Nu, Pogodi!

8:54:34 AM, Tuesday, April 05, 2011

-- Sound on is a must!!! Also though it's his fault in the first place, props to the driver for not hitting the brakes and keeping on the gas instead! He's lucky to have saved that one.



Dog Trained To Control His Bark Volume

9:05:09 PM, Monday, April 04, 2011


UN Uses Attack Helicopters in Ivory Coast

8:44:45 PM, Monday, April 04, 2011

"ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – The United Nations and French forces opened fire with attack helicopters Monday on the arsenal of this country's entrenched ruler, as columns of Ivorian fighters allied with his challenger finally pierced the city limit.

The fighters aiming to topple strongman Laurent Gbagbo after a decade in power had succeeded in taking nearly the entire countryside in just three days last week, but they faltered once they reached the country's largest city, where the presidential palace and residence are located.

Monday's offensive marked an unprecedented escalation in the international community's efforts to oust Gbagbo, who lost the presidential election in November yet has refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara even as the world's largest cocoa producer teetered on the brink of all-out civil war.

The postelection violence has left hundreds dead — most of them Ouattara supporters — and has forced up to 1 million people to flee. Ouattara has used his considerable international clout to financially and diplomatically suffocate Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces before launching a dramatic military assault last week.

On Monday, the U.N. fired on the Akouedo military base at around 5 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) to prevent Gbagbo's forces from using heavy weapons against civilians, said the spokesman for the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations Nick Birnback.

Explosions resonated from the city's downtown core a few blocks from the presidential palace and near the base of the republican guard, and those living nearby barricaded their windows with mattresses. Flames could be seen licking the sky above the home of the staunchly pro-Gbagbo republican guard.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement that he had authorized the 1,600-strong French Licorne force based here to help in the operation following an appeal from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said that the use of force was necessary to prevent further attacks on civilians..."



Genetically Modified Cows Produce 'Human' Milk

5:00:28 PM, Monday, April 04, 2011

"The scientists have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows to produce milk with the same properties as human breast milk.

Human milk contains high quantities of key nutrients that can help to boost the immune system of babies and reduce the risk of infections.

The scientists behind the research believe milk from herds of genetically modified cows could provide an alternative to human breast milk and formula milk for babies, which is often criticised as being an inferior substitute.

They hope genetically modified dairy products from herds of similar cows could be sold in supermarkets. The research has the backing of a major biotechnology company.

The work is likely to inflame opposition to GM foods. Critics of the technology and animal welfare groups reacted angrily to the research, questioning the safety of milk from genetically modified animals and its effect on the cattle's health.

But Professor Ning Li, the scientist who led the research and director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University insisted that the GM milk would be as safe to drink as milk from ordinary dairy cows.

He said: "The milk tastes stronger than normal milk.

“We aim to commercialize some research in this area in coming three years. For the “human-like milk”, 10 years or maybe more time will be required to finally pour this enhanced milk into the consumer’s cup.”

China is now leading the way in research on genetically modified food and the rules on the technology are more relaxed than those in place in Europe..."



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