Science & Technology


Geologists find buried volcano inside Panmure Basin

Geologists have found a buried volcano inside Panmure Basin, which is the mouth of a volcano that erupted about 28,000 years ago. It is extremely rare for two eruptions to have occurred at the same site in the Auckland Volcanic Field.

The discovery was made by a group of geologists from government-owned research and consultancy company GNS Science and The University of Auckland as they drilled into the basin from a barge this week to find out more about the volcanic history of volcanoes in the upper North Island.
Cow Skull

'Promising' tests on FBI software to put faces on skulls

The FBI has developed sophisticated new software for reconstructing a person's face from their skull. The software is designed to help police identify partially decomposed or burned bodies.

At present, reconstructing a face from a skull takes a specialist artist up to two weeks and can cost up to $2,000 (£1,020).

Meteorites from Mercury?

Meteorites from the Moon and Mars give earthbound scientists free rock samples from other worlds. Now Brett Gladman and Jaime Coffey (University of British Columbia, Vancouver) say we should expect a few meteorites from Mercury too.

Gladman and Coffey conducted computer simulations of what happens after asteroids and comets slam into the innermost planet and kick debris into space. Past studies assumed that rocks knocked off Mercury weren't getting away with much more than its escape velocity of 2.6 miles (4.2 km) per second. That's too slow to climb away from the Sun and make it out to Earth.

©NASA / JHU-APL / Carnegie Inst. of Washington
Taken by Messenger on January 14, 2008, from about 17,000 miles away, this view of a gibbous Mercury shows about half of the area not photographed by Mariner 10 in 1974 - 75. The heavily cratered landscape is reminiscent of other areas previously seen. The broad circular plain toward upper right, appearing brighter than its surroundings in this red-light view, marks the interior of Caloris basin, a huge impact scar more than 800 miles across.

Who's Orbiting the Moon?

The space around Earth is a busy place, as teeming with traffic as a roundabout. More than 500 active satellites are bustling about up there right now. Some are transmitting radio, television, and telephone signals; others are gathering information about Earth's atmosphere and weather; still others are helping people navigate down here; and the rest are conducting space research.
Bizarro Earth

Journey to the center of the Earth -- Imperial scientists explain tectonic plate motions

The first direct evidence of how and when tectonic plates move into the deepest reaches of the Earth is published in Nature today. Scientists hope their description of how plates collide with one sliding below the other into the rocky mantle could potentially improve their ability to assess earthquake risks.

The light and dark of Venus

Venus Express has revealed a planet of extraordinarily changeable and extremely large-scale weather. Bright hazes appear in a matter of days, reaching from the south pole to the low southern latitudes and disappearing just as quickly. Such 'global weather', unlike anything on Earth, has given scientists a new mystery to solve.

Attack on computer memory reveals vulnerability of widely-used security systems

A team of academic, industry and independent researchers has demonstrated a new class of computer attacks that compromise the contents of "secure" memory systems, particularly in laptops.

The attacks overcome a broad set of security measures called "disk encryption," which are meant to secure information stored in a computer's permanent memory. The researchers cracked several widely used technologies, including Microsoft's BitLocker, Apple's FileVault and Linux's dm-crypt, and described the attacks in a paper and video published on the Web Feb. 21.

One million trillion 'flops' per second targeted by new Institute for Advanced Architectures

Preparing groundwork for an exascale computer is the mission of the new Institute for Advanced Architectures, launched jointly at Sandia and Oak Ridge national laboratories.

An exaflop is a thousand times faster than a petaflop, itself a thousand times faster than a teraflop. Teraflop computers - the first was developed 10 years ago at Sandia - currently are the state of the art. They do trillions of calculations a second. Exaflop computers would perform a million trillion calculations per second.

Dozens Of Gravitationally Lensed Galaxies Discovered In Distant Universe

The lenses come from a recently completed, large set of observations as part of a huge project to survey a single 1.6 square degree field of sky (nine times the area of the full Moon) with several space-based and Earth-based observatories. The COSMOS project, led by Nick Scoville at the California Institute of Technology, USA, used observations from several observatories including the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as the Spitzer Space Telescope, the XMM-Newton spacecraft, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the Subaru Telescope and CFHT.

gravitational lenses
©NASA, ESA, C. Faure (Zentrum für Astronomie, University of Heidelberg) and J.P. Kneib (Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille
In this image, six examples of the rich diversity of 67 strong gravitational lenses found in the COSMOS survey. The lenses were discovered in a recently completed, large set of observations as part of a project to survey a single 1.6-square-degree field of sky (nine times the area of the full moon) with several space-based and Earth-based observatories. Gravitational lenses occur when light travelling towards us from a distant galaxy is magnified and distorted as it encounters a massive object between the galaxy and us. These gravitational lenses often allow astronomers to peer much further back into the early universe than they would normally be able to. The COSMOS project, led by Nick Scoville at the California Institute of Technology, used observations from several observatories including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the XMM-Newton spacecraft, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Very Large Telescope (VLT), and the Subaru Telescope. In total 67 gravitational lenses were found.

Do Animals Think Like Autistic Savants?

When Temple Grandin argued that animals and autistic savants share cognitive similarities in her best-selling book Animals in Translation (2005), the idea gained steam outside the community of cognitive neuroscientists. Grandin, a professor of animal science whose best-selling books have provided an unprecedented look at the autistic mind, says her autism gives her special insight into the inner workings of the animal mind. She based her proposal on the observation that animals, like autistic humans, sense and respond to stimuli that nonautistic humans usually overlook.

©G. Kaplan, Centre for Animal Behaviour and Neuroscience
Australian magpies have been recorded as mimicking a complex sequence of sounds from a kookaburra duet or even learning a whole song on a single exposure.