Science & Technology

Evil Rays

Can companies beam advertisements into your brain?

If you have an account with online vendor, when you open up the site's home page a short bit of text at the top greets you. It might say, for example, "Hello, Tim. We have recommendations for you." One click will lead you to another page with a list of products related to your past purchases. Although this feature isn't particularly intrusive and only exists on a Web page, are there any examples like this in brick-and-mortar stores?

An Audio Spotlight system by Holosonics

While we aren't aware of any advertising technologies out there that transmit holographic images into your brain to personally greet you and offer new products, one emerging technique works with sound to capture customers' attention. This technology, developed by Holosonics, has introduced a directional speaker unit that many retail chains are currently testing for use in their stores. Instead of blasting music and announcements from an omnidirectional public-address system, directional loudspeakers -- or Audio Spotlight systems, as Holosonics calls them -- make sound audible only in certain designated locations.


Cassini Pinpoints Source Of Jets On Saturn's Moon Enceladus

In a feat of interplanetary sharpshooting, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has pinpointed precisely where the icy jets erupt from the surface of Saturn's geologically active moon Enceladus.

©NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
This sweeping mosaic of Saturn's moon Enceladus provides broad regional context for the ultra-sharp, close-up views NASA's Cassini spacecraft acquired minutes earlier, during its flyby on Aug. 11, 2008.

New carefully targeted pictures reveal exquisite details in the prominent south polar "tiger stripe" fractures from which the jets emanate. The images show the fractures are about 300 meters (980 feet) deep, with V-shaped inner walls. The outer flanks of some of the fractures show extensive deposits of fine material. Finely fractured terrain littered with blocks of ice tens of meters in size and larger (the size of small houses) surround the fractures.

"This is the mother lode for us," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "A place that may ultimately reveal just exactly what kind of environment -- habitable or not -- we have within this tortured little moon."

Magic Wand

Star Trek warp drive is a possibility, say scientists

Two physicists have boldly gone where no reputable scientists should go and devised a new scheme to travel faster than the speed of light.

# Star Trek technology: The reality
# A brief history of warp drives
# Warp Drive - A New Approach [the paper]

The advance could mean that Star Trek fantasies of interstellar civilisations and voyages powered by warp drive are now no longer the exclusive domain of science fiction writers.


Google: Virus Attacks Skyrocketed In July

Google's Postini operation keeps a watchful eye on all the malevolent code and viruses that transit the Internet. Last month, it saw e-mail virus attacks surge, with 10 million nasty e-mails sent on July 24th alone.

I am not surprised to see these statistics from Google. I noticed a dramatic increase in the number of spam messages in my in-box beginning last month. According to Google, July and August typically see a boost in the amount of virus attacks. It said the most common attack last month was a "spoofed UPS package-tracking link". In the e-mail, users are tempted to download some sort of malware.


Australia: Clyde primary school finds ancient meteorite

Clyde Primary School has been rocked by news it is the custodian of a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite.

Principal Maurie Richardson said the school had received word from Museum Victoria that an 85kg rock on display at the school is a fragment of Cranbourne's world-famous meteorite shower, the Cranbourne Leader reports.

Mr Richardson said when he announced the news over the PA system a huge cheer rang out across the school.


MIT solves puzzle of meteorite-asteroid link

For the last few years, astronomers have faced a puzzle: The vast majority of asteroids that come near the Earth are of a type that matches only a tiny fraction of the meteorites that most frequently hit our planet.

Since meteorites are mostly pieces of asteroids, this discrepancy was hard to explain, but a team from MIT and other institutions has now found what it believes is the answer to the puzzle. The smaller rocks that most often fall to Earth, it seems, come straight in from the main asteroid belt out between Mars and Jupiter, rather than from the near-Earth asteroid (NEA) population.


Cataloguing invisible life: Microbe genome emerges from lake sediment

©Photo: Dennis Kunkel - Color: Ekaterina Latypova
hi-res image
Microorganisms from a mud sample collected in Lake Washington. The purple and orange organisms are relatives of Methylotenera mobilis, whose complete DNA sequence is now published.

When entrepreneurial geneticist Craig Venter sailed around the world on his yacht sequencing samples of seawater, it was an ambitious project to use genetics to understand invisible ecological communities. But his scientific legacy was disappointing - a jumble of mystery DNA fragments belonging to thousands of unknown organisms.


Colossal Head of Roman Empress Unearthed

Sagalassos, Turkey - Tuesday morning, archaeologists of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven team (Belgium) directed by Marc Waelkens uncovered the colossal portrait head of the Roman empress Faustina, wife of the emperor Antoninus Pius, who ruled from A.D. 138 to 161. According to Waelkens, the excavation team was ecstatic at the discovery.

©Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project
Excavators prop up the newly found head of the empress Faustina the Elder


Rat-brain robot aids memory study

A robot controlled by a blob of rat brain cells could provide insights into diseases such as Alzheimer's, University of Reading scientists say.

rat brain robot
The robot and rat brain cells work together

Comment: Enter link to view video


Leg bone yields DNA secrets of man's Neanderthal 'Eve'


Some confusion has arisen over our account of Neanderthals, which said at one point that they are thought to have died out 30,000 years ago, but at another that this happened 40,000 years ago. Our correspondent's best judgment now is that they disappeared somewhere between these two dates. As to their height, which has also been disputed, that seems usually to have been between 5ft 4in and 5ft 7in.

Strands of DNA recovered from the fossilized leg bone of a Neanderthal have shed light on the fragility of the ancient population and pinpointed when they first split from what were to become modern humans.