Science & Technology


The jet fuel; how hot did it heat the World Trade Center?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report into collapse of the WTC towers, estimates that about 3,500 gallons of jet fuel burnt within each of the towers. Imagine that this entire quantity of jet fuel was injected into just one floor of the World Trade Center, that the jet fuel burnt with perfect efficency, that no hot gases left this floor, that no heat escaped this floor by conduction and that the steel and concrete had an unlimited amount of time to absorb all the heat. With these ideal assumptions we calculate the maximum temperature that this one floor could have reached.

Evil Rays

What Your Cell Phone Knows About You

Can your cell phone tell if you're happy or overworked?

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology think it can do that and more--separate the rich from the poor, the sick from the healthy, even the outgoing from the introverted. Sandy Pentland, director of MIT's Human Dynamics Research program, has focused his work on that unlikely task: using gadgets as simple as a cell phone to better understand the quirks and patterns of human behavior.


Is Indy Chasing A Fake?

As Indiana Jones races against time to find an ancient crystal skull in his new movie adventure, he should perhaps take a moment to check its authenticity.

New research suggests that two well-known crystal skulls, in the British Museum and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, did not, after all, come from ancient Mexico. Academics now believe the British skull was made in 19th century Europe and the American one even more recently.

crystal skulls
©British Museum
Two well-known crystal skulls, in the British Museum and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, did not, after all, come from ancient Mexico.


New Family Of Gecko Discovered

Researchers at the University of Minnesota's Bell Museum of Natural History and Pennsylvania's Villanova University have discovered a new family of gecko, the charismatic large-eyed lizard popularized by car insurance commercials.

tropical gecko
The new family of gecko consists of 103 species found in semiarid and tropical regions of North Africa, the Middle East, North and South America and the Caribbean. Shown above: a tropical gecko and member of the genus Tarentola -- one of eight genera that make up the new family.


US probe to make perilous landing on Martian arctic

The historically less-than-50 percent odds of success loomed heavily as NASA scientists readied Saturday for the landing of the 420-million-dollar Phoenix spacecraft near Mar's frigid north pole.

"I'm a little nervous on the inside. ... This is not an easy thing to do," said Phoenix scientist Peter Smith of the landing planned for late Sunday.

"There's a lot of uncertainties left. ... Mars is always there to throw those uncertainties at us," added Doug McCuistion, Mars Exploration Program Director, of what NASA calls "the scariest seven minutes of the mission" -- the period of hyper-deceleration and descent onto the Red Planet.


Canyons on Mars formed by 'megafloods'

Martian canyons may have been sculpted by "megafloods" that took place on the red planet more than three billion years ago, writes Roger Highfield.

There is abundant evidence for Mars being warm and wet in the past but today it appears relatively dry, with water ice confined to the planet's polar caps.

Now new evidence of Martian floods in the distant past has come from a study of a canyon in Idaho, America, that from space looks like a blue snake.

Idaho's Box Canyon is similar to canyons on Mars and may shake up our view of how water shaped the landscape on the Red Planet, reports a study in the journal Science.

High-resolution topographic map of Box Canyon, Idaho. Image courtesy of Michael P. Lamb


Orkney Islanders have Siberian relatives

Orkney Islanders are more closely related to people in Siberia and in Pakistan than those in Africa and the near East, according to a novel method to chart human migrations.


Oil Palm Genome Mapped for Modification

Researchers have completed a first draft map of the genome for the oil palm, a breakthrough they say could lead to improvements in crop yield of the plant which has recently come into high demand as a source of oil for food products and biodiesel.


New statistical method reveals surprises about our ancestry

A statistical approach to studying genetic variation promises to shed new light on the history of human migration.


Scientists discover deepest microbial life ever to be found beneath the sea floor

London -- Scientists have found microbes in a 111-million-year-old rock buried 1.6 kilometres below the sea floor, a discovery that marks the deepest living cells ever to be found beneath the sea floor.

According to a report in Nature News, this finding beats the old record of the presence of microbial life - 842 metres below the sea floor.