Science & Technology
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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.
Telescope

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.
Laptop

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.
Display

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.
Telescope

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.
Cow

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.

Magpies
©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.
Robot

Wizkid Robot Hones In On Human Faces And Encourages Interaction

There's a kid waiting to meet you at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Like any kid, it will amuse you, it will ask you lots of questions, and it might even bother you a little bit. But unlike most kids, it doesn't walk or talk, and it pays perfect attention. Meet Wizkid: part computer, part robot, a Swiss kid who's changing our concept of how people interact with machines.

Wizkid
©Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Meet Wizkid: part computer, part robot, a Swiss kid who's changing our concept of how people interact with machines. You can select interactive elements with a wave of your hands.
Rocket

Military sources: Dying spy satellite hit by missile

An inoperable U.S. spy satellite orbiting 150 miles above Earth was struck Wednesday by a missile fired from a U.S. Navy cruiser, military sources told CNN.
Info

Human Culture Subject To Natural Selection

The process of natural selection can act on human culture as well as on genes, a new study finds. Scientists at Stanford University have shown for the first time that cultural traits affecting survival and reproduction evolve at a different rate than other cultural attributes. Speeded or slowed rates of evolution typically indicate the action of natural selection in analyses of the human genome.

This study of cultural evolution compares the rates of change for structural and decorative Polynesian canoe-design traits.

Polynesian outrigger canoe
©iStockphoto/Flemming Mahler
Polynesian outrigger canoe. The Stanford team studied reports of canoe designs from 11 Oceanic island cultures. They evaluated features that could contribute to the seaworthiness of the canoes and thus have a bearing on fishing success or survival during migration or warfare.
Telescope

Mars study shows oceans of water bubbled up from below

Fan-shaped deltas at the edge of huge basins scattered across Mars were probably formed by a titanic influx of water, gushing from the bowels of the Red Planet, according to a study released Wednesday.

The origin and morphology of the deltas, studded with curious step-like terraces, have perplexed scientists since they were first observed three years ago.

Today the surface of Mars is bone dry, but a growing body of evidence suggests as much as a third of its surface was at one time covered with oceans.
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