Science & Technology


DHS chief goes nuclear on cyber security

The US government is to shut thousands of points from which outsiders can access federal computer networks to about 50, Homeland security chief Michael Chertoff revealed today (Tuesday).

In a keynote at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, Chertoff outlined the government's plans to protect itself from cyber attack. he even compared this to a digital "Manhattan Project" in terms of impact and importance. So no lack of ambition there.

Five years after the birth of President Bush's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, the time's is ripe for a "quantum leap forward", according to Chertoff.


Rare Seahorses Found in River Thames

Rare Seahorses
©Dan Sprawson/ZSL

There's something fishy in London, and it's not the city's trademark fish and chips.

Short-snouted seahorses have set up residence in the recovering River Thames, conservationists announced today.

The fish - pictured above in the London Zoo aquarium - were found in recent surveys that assessed the health of the once heavily polluted river.


World's Largest Catfish Species Threatened by Dam

Largest catfish species
©Suthep Kritsanavarin
Children pose with a Mekong giant catfish caught at Khone Falls in Laos, near the border with Cambodia, in August 2007. A dam planned on the Mekong River in Laos will threaten the migration of the critically endangered fish, according to Zeb Hogan, who heads the National Geographic Society's Megafishes Project.

In the swift currents of the Mekong River in northern Cambodia, fishers expertly navigate their longboats past rock outcroppings and fallen logs.

But soon these wild waters may be tamed. Plans for the construction of a large hydroelectric dam just across the border, at Khone Falls in Laos, would permanently alter one of the most pristine areas in Southeast Asia.

Light Sabers

Plan brokered by UCLA, USC archaeologists would remove roadblock to Mideast peace

Negotiations lead to first agreement on region's archaeological riches

Israelis and Palestinians may not be able to agree right now on their present or future, but, if a pair of Los Angeles archaeologists have their way, they soon will see eye to eye on their past.

Working tirelessly for the past five years, Ran Boytner, a University of California, Los Angeles archaeologist and Lynn Swartz Dodd, an archaeologist at the University of Southern California, have guided a team of prominent Israeli and Palestinian archaeologists to arrive at the first-ever agreement on the disposition of the region's archaeological treasures following the establishment of a future Palestinian state.

"Israelis and Palestinians never previously had sat down to achieve a structured, balanced agreement to govern the region's archaeological heritage," said Dodd, a lecturer in religion and curator of USC's Archaeological Research Collection. "Our group got together with the vision of a future when people wouldn't be at each other's throats and archaeology would need to be protected, irrespective of which side of the border it falls on."


IU Asteroid Program Records Final Chapter

The Indiana Asteroid Program began with a borrowed lens and a bet over a chocolate ice cream cone. Almost 60 years later, its final chapter was written with the naming of a heavenly body after one of the most dedicated staff members Indiana University Bloomington's Department of Astronomy has ever seen.


Huge Viking Hoard Discovered in Sweden

Viking Hoard
©Bengt A Lundberg
A photo shows many of the 472 recently found silver coins that make up Sweden's earliest known Viking hoard. The cache of Middle Eastern coins suggests Vikings were trading extensively overseas earlier than previously believed.

Hundreds of ancient coins unearthed last week close to Sweden's main international airport suggests the Vikings were bringing home foreign currency earlier than previously thought, archaeologists say.

Buried some 1,150 years ago, the treasure trove is made up mainly of Arabic coins and represents the largest early Viking hoard ever discovered in Sweden.

Eye 2

Negligent, attentive mouse mothers show biological differences

In mice, child neglect is a product of both nature and nurture, according to a new study.

Writing in the journal PLoS ONE on April 9, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison describe a strain of mice that exhibit unusually high rates of maternal neglect, with approximately one out of every five females failing to care for her offspring. By comparing the good mothers to their less attentive relatives, the group has found that negligent parenting seems to have both genetic and non-genetic influences, and may be linked to dysregulation of the brain signaling chemical dopamine.


Do Humans Deserve to Find Life on Other Planets?

An explosion in our ability to detect planets in other solar systems has made astronomers increasingly confident that it's only a matter of time until we discover life on other planets. Astronomers just discovered methane on a planet 63 light years from Earth -- a sign that life just may exist. Here's what Carl B. Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute said following the discovery in this fascinating Washington Post article by Marc Kaufman.
There are a hundred billion stars in our galaxy and probably a hundred billion other galaxies with as many stars as ours, so it seems highly unlikely that there are not Earth-like planets orbiting some of them out there, waiting to be discovered.


Exploring the mysterious Pompeii

Under the fertile slopes of mount Vesuvius lie the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

Here every summer scores of students come to experience what life is like working in one of the world's most famous archaeological sites.

The city of Pompeii was buried in a volcanic eruption in A.D. 79, killing thousands of people.

However, a 20-foot-deep (approx. seven metres) cocoon of volcanic ash kept the city virtually intact, providing precious information on domestic life in the ancient world.



New Laser Technology Could Find First Earth-like Planets

The leading method of finding planets orbiting distant stars spots mostly Jupiter-sized worlds. Technology limitations make it difficult to detect smaller planets. But that is about to change. A revolutionary laser technology being developed by scientists and engineers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), with colleagues at MIT, will enable scientists to spot Earth-sized worlds in Earth-like orbits.

"We are at the cusp of a new era in planet searches," said CfA astrophysicist Chih-Hao Li. "With this technology we are developing, astronomers will finally be able to find the first truly Earth-like worlds in terms of size and orbit."