Science & Technology


Debate Reignited Over Claim of Arsenic-Based Life

arsenic-eating bacterium GFAJ-1
© Science/AAAS
This scanning electron micrograph shows a strain of the arsenic-eating bacterium called GFAJ-1.
One of the more heated scientific debates of recent years has been stirred up again with the publication of new criticisms of the reported finding of "arsenic life."

The prestigious journal Science published the criticisms today (May 27) along with a defense of the study, which Science had posted online this past December.

A team of researchers led by Felisa Wolfe-Simon of NASA's Astrobiology Institute had studied bacteria collected from California's Mono Lake and reported finding evidence that these microorganisms were substituting the poisonous molecule arsenic for the phosphorous usually used to build DNA.

The discovery stood to overthrow scientists' understanding of the basic requirements for life.

Igniting a firestorm

The December report in Science was immediately met with skepticism from other scientists, as the journal noted today.

"Science received a wide range of correspondence that raised specific concerns about the Research Article's methods and interpretations," editor-in-chief Bruce Alberts wrote.

Others put it more bluntly: "The paper was harshly criticized for its lack of controls and unjustified conclusions," zoologist Rosemary Redfield of Canada's University of British Columbia wrote on her blog today.

Tests Show Arctic Reindeer "See in UV"

Raindeer Ultraviolet
© Press Association
Wild reindeer foraging for food on the Arctic islands of Svalbard
Arctic reindeer can see beyond the "visible" light spectrum into the ultra-violet region, according to new research by an international team.

They say tests on reindeer showed that the animal does respond to UV stimuli, unlike humans.

The ability might enable them to pick out food and predators in the "UV-rich" Arctic atmosphere, and to retain visibility in low light.

Details are published in the The Journal of Experimental Biology.

Skype Users Worldwide Victim to Mysterious Crash

After Microsoft buy - servers now down

Skype appears to have suffered a significant and bizarre crash, with users worldwide reporting problems on Twitter.

Not long after the company has announced a major deal with Microsoft it has become victim to unspecified problems, with some reports of the programme shutting down with a Windows error message.

Twitter is now seeing floods of angry messages by users who have been booted of the system and are now unable to login or even start up the Skype programme itself.

An error message appears on Skype and users are not able to even get to the next log-in screen.

Much of the vitriol is aimed at Microsoft, with one user tweeting: "Major worldwide Skype crash, thanks Microsoft!".

We have no idea what the problem is. But Skype has suffered from unexplained outages before. Our C. Shanti reports from December last year.

Skype is also leaving behind Asterisk, with a letter circulated that the contract with Digium, the firm behind Asterisk, has now been terminated.

Aussie student finds universe's 'missing mass'

dwarf starburst galaxy
This NASA illustration photo shows stars that are forming in a dwarf starburst galaxy located about 30 million light years from Earth. A 22-year-old Australian university student has solved a problem which has puzzled astrophysicists for decades, discovering part of the so-called "missing mass" of the universe during her summer break.
A 22-year-old Australian university student has solved a problem which has puzzled astrophysicists for decades, discovering part of the so-called "missing mass" of the universe during her summer break.

Undergraduate Amelia Fraser-McKelvie made the breakthrough during a holiday internship with a team at Monash University's School of Physics, locating the mystery material within vast structures called "filaments of galaxies".

Monash astrophysicist Dr Kevin Pimbblet explained that scientists had previously detected matter that was present in the early history of the universe but that could not now be located.

"There is missing mass, ordinary mass not dark mass ... It's missing to the present day," Pimbblet told AFP.

"We don't know where it went. Now we do know where it went because that's what Amelia found."

Fraser-McKelvie, an aerospace engineering and science student, was able to confirm after a targeted X-ray search for the mystery mass that it had moved to the "filaments of galaxies", which stretch across enormous expanses of space.

Black Holes are the Engines that Create New Universes

© The Daily Galaxy

"Our own Universe may be the interior of a black hole existing in another universe." In a remarkable paper about the nature of space and the origin of time, Nikodem Poplawski, a physicist at Indiana University, suggests that a small change to the theory of gravity implies that our Universe inherited its arrow of time from the black hole in which it was born.

Poplawski says that the idea that black holes are the cosmic mothers of new universes is a natural consequence of a simple new assumption about the nature of spacetime. Poplawski points out that the standard derivation of general relativity takes no account of the intrinsic momentum of spin half particles. However there is another version of the theory, called the Einstein-Cartan-Kibble-Sciama theory of gravity, which does.

This theory predicts that particles with half integer spin should interact, generating a tiny repulsive force called torsion. In ordinary circumstances, torsion is too small to have any effect. But when densities become much higher than those in nuclear matter, it becomes significant. In particular, says Poplawski, torsion prevents the formation of singularities inside a black hole.

A Fish with Arms... and a 'T-Rex' Leech Found up a Girl's Nose: Scientists Reveal Amazing Top 10 'New Species' List

pancake batfish

Strolling along: The hopping pancake batfish, discovered in the Gulf of Mexico, moves like a walking bat on its arm-like fins
It looks like a pancake, crossed with a fish, and a bat... with arms. And it hops. So it's no surprise scientists have labelled one of their new discoveries the hopping pancake batfish.

The creature is one of ten 'new species' to have made it onto a list of weird and wonderful creatures published today.


How Babies as Young as 12 Months Old Have 'Sophisticated' Common Sense

Mother and baby
© Alamy
Smarter than you think: Even young babies can demonstrate logic and common sense, according to the new research
New parents might be forgiven for thinking their bundles of joy have little understanding of the world around them.

But research suggests that babies as young as a year old are capable of using sophisticated analytical processes to correctly predict how certain scenarios will play out - even if they have no experience of the situation.

Many species are able to react to a chain of events only after they have seen a similar event occur before.

But humans use 'pure reason' to correctly guess the future, even when they are seeing something for the first time.
Card - VISA

'That Was Our Idea!' eBay and PayPal Sue Google for 'Stealing Mobile Payment Trade Secrets'

Google Wallet

Google Wallet: Revealed today in New York, the app will allow a mobile phone to be swiped like a credit card. This signals the start of the age of 'MoLo'
Google is being sued by internet payment firm PayPal over claims the web giant stole technology allowing smartphones to buy things in shops.

PayPal allege that former executives Osama Bedier and Stephanie Tilenius defected and used trade secrets to help their new company create Google Wallet.

The lawsuit was filed just hours after Mr Bedier, who was hired just five months ago, launched the product in New York, where it will be tested this summer.
2 + 2 = 4

Tornado - A Natural Charged Sheath Vortex

Comment: Please note that due to the age of the article many of the videos originally linked to are now missing from the web.

tornado 12
© Unknown

There are many conventional theories that seek to explain the development of a tornado. Without exception they cannot explain the complex internal structure and energy flows in a simple and logical manner.

Tornados show a remarkably complex coherent structure, and the existence of rope like tornadoes, tornadoes that kink and reform, and the nature of the ejection zone at the tornado base all require, and can be simply explained if air with or without particles can be shown to exist in a form that has both shear and tensile strength.

The charged sheath vortex theory can explain the formation of the tornado in a very simple and elegant way. It predicts the complex physical structure and electrical properties of the tornado. It explains the simple basis for many tornado 'anomalies' and also makes predictions about the structure of the tornado that may not yet have been observed.

A vortex is produced by a spinning mass of air (or other gas or dust cloud), but there are two different types of vortex in the air circulation that we call a tornado with very distinct properties.

How detectives investigating serial killers use the same tricks as scientists tracking an epidemic

Savage diseases and serial killers may appear to strike randomly. But the twin terrors could have much more in common than first thought - as both have been found to hunt and kill their victims in a predictable pattern.

It means the tricks used by detectives in tracking down serial killers, like Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright, can now also be used by scientists to pinpoint the location where an epidemic started. When tracking serial killers, such as the Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright who killed five prostitutes in the Ipswich area in 2006, police create a 'geographic profile' showing where their victims were found.
© PA
Fred West

© PA
Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright

Most serial killers prey on people close to home because it is too expensive and difficult to travel far away from where they live. But they rarely target their close neighbours.

By processing these three key pieces of information, detectives can hone in on where the killer lives. The exception to this was Fred West who, alongside wife Rosemary, between 1967 and 1987, raped and murdered at least 12 young women and girls. Many of the crimes took place at their homes, in Gloucester.