Science & Technology


European cargo spacecraft blasts off for space station

A European carrier rocket took off from French Guiana early on Sunday on a mission to bring supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), a spokesman for Russia's mission control said.

The Ariane-5 rocket lifted off at 04:03 GMT from the Kourou space center to bring a 20-ton unmanned cargo module into orbit.

Study reveals sticking point in traffic jams

While accidents, "rubber-necking" and construction work can and do also cause long delays on the road, Japanese researchers have confirmed that dreaded traffic jams often result from the most obvious cause too many cars!

Their research, published in the New Journal of Physics this week, was based on model patterns normally used to understand the movement of many-particle systems.

Biologists Surprised To Find Parochial Bacterial Viruses

Biologists examining ecosystems similar to those that existed on Earth more than 3 billion years ago have made a surprising discovery: Viruses that infect bacteria are sometimes parochial and unrelated to their relatives in other parts of the globe.

pozas in Mexico
©Tommy LaVergne/Rice University
The spring-fed pools, or "pozas," in Mexico's remote Cuatro Ciénegas valley are home to at least 70 species found nowhere else on Earth.

Newborn Stars: Seeing Dark Filaments Inside A Molecular Cloud

Astronomers have measured the distribution of mass inside a dark filament in a molecular cloud with an amazing level of detail and to great depth. The measurement is based on a new method that looks at the scattered near-infrared light or 'cloudshine' and was made with ESO's New Technology Telescope. Associated with the forthcoming VISTA telescope, this new technique will allow astronomers to better understand the cradles of newborn stars.

Corona Australis molecular cloud
Part of a filament in the Corona Australis molecular cloud. The image is a composite of J-, H-, and K-band near-infrared observations that were made with the SOFI instrument on ESO's NTT telescope in August 2006. The observations were made to test, how easily the scattered light can be observed and how good it is as a tracer of cloud structure. The J-, H-, and K-band intensities are coded with blue, green, and red colours. The gradual saturation of the near-infrared bands is visible as a change of colour. In diffuse regions the shorter wavelength J-band is strong and the colour is bluish. When the J-band saturates the colour changes first to green and finally, in the centre of the filament, the red colour corresponding to the K-band becomes the strongest. In the most saturated regions the surface brightness data can only be used to derive a lower limit for the total amount of dust on the line of sight.

Astronomers Capture Rare Video Of Meteor Falling To Earth; Hunt For Meteorite

Astronomers from The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, have captured rare video of a meteor falling to Earth.

The Physics and Astronomy Department at Western has a network of all-sky cameras in Southern Ontario that scan the sky monitoring for meteors. Associate Professor Peter Brown, who specializes in the study of meteors and meteorites, says that Wednesday evening (March 5) at 10:59 p.m. EST these cameras captured video of a large fireball and the department has also received a number of calls and emails from people who actually saw the light.


Tunguska meteorite: a warning from outer space

Almost a century ago, on June 17 (30), 1908, a massive explosion occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, in what is now Russia's Krasnoyarsk Territory, Central Siberia.

The residents of the Vanavara trading post, 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of the blast site, later claimed that the ground trembled violently when attacked by a huge ball of fire, followed by a terrible storm that destroyed everything in its wake.


Cornell telescope lacks funding despite rare asteroid discovery

Scientists at Puerto Rico's Arecibo Telescope, run by Cornell University, found a rare asteroid last month with two moons only seven million miles from Earth - a breakthrough for a facility in the midst of serious budget woes.

Michael Nolan, research associate and head of radar astronomy at Arecibo, said the facility was the first in the world to find extrasolar planets and to develop a three dimensional map of how galaxies are distributed in the universe. Still, NASA completely cut off funding to the facility in 2004, and the National Science Foundation has refused to step up its funding in the meantime.

Language of a fly proves surprising: Insect's sensory data tells a new story about neural networks

A group of researchers has developed a novel way to view the world through the eyes of a common fly and partially decode the insect's reactions to changes in the world around it. The research fundamentally alters earlier beliefs about how neural networks function and could provide the basis for intelligent computers that mimic biological processes.

In an article published in the Public Library of Science Computational Biology Journal, Los Alamos physicist Ilya Nemenman joins Geoffrey Lewen, William Bialek and Rob de Ruyter van Steveninck of the Hun School of Princeton, Princeton University and Indiana University, respectively, in describing the research.

Special seismic studies of deep tremor - Cascadia Arrays for Earthscope (CAFE)

The University of Washington seismic group began studying deep tremor associated with Episodic Tremor and Slip (ETS) events in 2003 using both the regional PNSN and small aperture arrays. With NSF funding we installed Cascadia Arrays for Earthscope (CAFE) for both structural and tremor studies. The CAFE experiment is still installed as of winter, 2008; however the transportable array stations (TA) of earthscope are starting to be pulled out of western Oregon and many will be pulled out of western Washington in February ....... just before the next ETS. Too bad. Some of the more critical stations are being left longer as well as some stations that the PNSN is taking over by purchasing the equipment from IRIS using funds supplied by the Murdock Chairtable Foundation.
Cow Skull

Giant Fossil Bats Out Of Africa, 35 Million Years Old

When most of us think of Ancient Egypt, visions of pyramids and mummies fill our imaginations. For a team of paleontologists interested in fossil mammals, the Fayum district of Egypt summons an even older and equally impressive history that extends much further back in time than the Sphinx.

In a recent issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, scientists report on the discovery of six new bat species dating to around 35 million years ago, which sheds new light on the early evolution of bats.

It took over 25 years of fieldwork to collect the 33 specimens that form the basis of the new study. "That translates to a little over one specimen per year - a lot of effort for a single fossil," said Erik Seiffert, a paleontologist at Stony Brook University. "But it shows just how important patience and long term field programs are to science. Our long-term commitment to field work certainly paid off in this case." Among the new species is "a giant among bats; though weighing in at less than a half-pound, it is one of the largest fossil bats ever discovered," said Greg Gunnell, a paleontologist at the University of Michigan.

©Drawing by Bonnie Miljour
Reconstruction of Witwatia schlosseri, a new species of very large bat from the Fayum distric of Egypt.