Science & Technology

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Have We Met? Tracing Face Blindness to Its Roots

© Almudena Toral
Indistinguishable Dori Frame explained her face blindness to a neighbor while walking her dog in Brooklyn.
Close your eyes. Picture your closest friend. Maybe you see her blue eyes, long nose, brown hair. Perhaps even her smile.

If you saw her walking down the street it would match your imagined vision. But what if you saw nothing at all?

James Cooke, 66, of Islip, N.Y., can't recognize other people. When he meets someone on the street, he offers a generic "hello" because he can't be sure if he's ever met that person before. "I see eyes, nose, cheekbones, but no face," he said. "I've even passed by my son and daughter without recognizing them."

Eye 1

Big Brother Touts Surveillance System that Tags, Tracks, and Follows Brits

Software developed for closed-circuit television systems can identify individuals and track them across entire networks of cameras.


Case Closed? Columbus Introduced Syphilis to Europe

© Ufo13 |
Find out why we celebrate Columbus as the man who discovered the Americas. (Shown above, a statue of Columbus in Lavagna, Genova, Italy.)

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but when he returned from 'cross the seas, did he bring with him a new disease?

New skeletal evidence suggests Columbus and his crew not only introduced the Old World to the New World, but brought back syphilis as well, researchers say.

Syphilis is caused by Treponema pallidum bacteria, and is usually curable nowadays with antibiotics. Untreated, it can damage the heart, brain, eyes and bones; it can also be fatal.

The first known epidemic of syphilis occurred during the Renaissance in 1495. Initially its plague broke out among the army of Charles the VIII after the French king invaded Naples. It then proceeded to devastate Europe, said researcher George Armelagos, a skeletal biologist at Emory University in Atlanta.

"Syphilis has been around for 500 years," said researcher Molly Zuckerman at Mississippi State University. "People started debating where it came from shortly afterward, and they haven't stopped since. It was one of the first global diseases, and understanding where it came from and how it spread may help us combat diseases today."


December 27, 2004: The Day Earth Survived Its Greatest Space-Ray Attack -- Ever

An artist's conception of a gamma-ray burst. The GRB is visible from Earth if the jets (yellow) are oriented so that one points toward us.

It came suddenly from the distant reaches of the Constellation Sagittarius, some 50,000 light years away. For a brief instant, a couple of tenths of a second, on December 27, 2004 an invisible burst of energy the equivalent of half a million years of sunlight shone on Earth. Many orbiting satellites electronics were zapped and the Earth's upper atmosphere was amazingly ionized from a massive hit of gamma ray energy.

The source of the invisible attack was a rare magnetar SGR 1806-20 on the other side of the Milky Way. These soft gamma ray repeaters, SGRs, occur when twisted magnetic fields attempt to re-align themselves and crack the magnetar's crust releasing the awesome burst or pulse of energy with a death-zone of a few light years. Magnetars have magnetic fields 1000 times those of ordinary pulsars -so powerful as to be lethal at a distance of 1000 kilometers.

Astronomers have cataloged well over 1000 pulsars, and estimate the number of quiet neutron stars to be vastly more at some 100 million given the 10-billion-year life of the Milky Way's disk. The odds are that one is nearby, gliding silently past Earth, of no danger. The tonest fraction of neutron stars have morphed into magnetars, believed to be the offspring of the most massive stars, hypergiants that don't have enough mass to evolve into black holes.

Fortunately for Earth, the nearest GRB candidate seems to be thousands of light-years away. Maybe... Data from satellites and observatories around the globe showed a jet from a powerful stellar explosion witnessed on March 19, 2008 aimed almost directly at Earth.

NASA's Swift satellite detected the explosion - formally named GRB 080319B - at 2:13 a.m. EDT that morning and pinpointed its position in the constellation Bootes. The gamma-ray burst became bright enough for human eyes to see. Observations of the event are giving astronomers the most detailed portrait of a burst ever recorded.

Comment: One wonders if it was possible trigger of the 2004, Boxing Day tsunami?


Fossilized Cells Found in China May Challenge Theory of Evolution

© Associated Press
A team of scientists announced Wednesday they have discovered a rare 600-million-year old microscopic fossil, raising the possibility that the theory of cell evolution may face a major overhaul.

The fossil, which researchers are saying could force scientists to rethink the evolutionary process, is a remarkable new fossil discovery of an amoeba-like micro-organisms that lived 570 million years ago.

The team of scientists announced the discovery on Wednesday, saying the recent dig was surprising as it was rare.

"We were very surprised by our results - we've been convinced for so long that these fossils represented the embryos of the earliest animals - much of what has been written about the fossils for the last ten years is flat wrong. Our colleagues are not going to like the result," said Dr. Phillip Donoghue, professor at University of Bristol, and a lead author of the article.


Why are US aircraft dropping spy devices in Syria?

© Unknown
Last week Iranian engineer claim to hijack U.S. drone by hacking GPS system using GPS spoofing. On December 14, residents of a small town in northern Syria reported seeing unidentified aircraft circling overhead, and dropping several small items attached to mini-parachutes , which entered Syrian airspace through the Turkish border. The gadgets, pictured here, look suspiciously like surreptitious listening devices. Residents say the question is : who dropped them, and why?

The sources explained that the aircrafts that dropped the devices were American, not Turkish. They added that the aircrafts took off from Incirlik air base, southeast of Adana, which is 130 km away from the city of Afrin, mainly to belong to the Kurdish nationalists.


Electric Universe: Scientists Find Solar Winds Can Degrade or Short-Circuit Planetary Magnetic Fields

© n/a
Planetary magnetic fields are generated by flows in the hot, liquid iron cores of the planets. Measurements made by Mariner 10 in 1974/75 showed that Mercury also has a magnetic field. According to the standard models, the dynamo effect in its metal core should generate similar field strengths to those on Earth.

Mercury's magnetic field is 150 times weaker than that of our planet, however. This has recently been confirmed by the NASA space probe Messenger. How can the large discrepancy in the field strength be explained?

This question has now been answered by a group headed by Karl-Heinz Glassmeier at the Technische Universität Braunschweig. Scientists have now presented a new explanation: the solar wind counteracts Mercury's internal dynamo and thus weakens its magnetic field.

The solar wind - a constant stream of charged particles - plays a significant role. At an average distance from the Sun of only 58 million kilometers - around one third of the distance of the Earth - Mercury is much more exposed to these particles.


Ancient Galaxy "From Dawn of Time" Creating Stars at Shocking Rate, Astronomers Say

A composite photograph of the galaxy GN-108036 from the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes.
Scientists photographing an ancient galaxy formed just after the birth of the universe say it is churning out stars at a "shocking rate," creating the equivalent of about 100 Suns a year.

Scientists photographing an ancient galaxy formed just after the birth of the universe say it is churning out stars at a "shocking rate," creating the equivalent of about 100 Suns a year.

Astronomers, who used NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes to photograph the galaxy, called GN-108036, said it was one of the most distant from Earth - about 12.9 billion light-years away.

Given it has taken 12.9 billion years for the images to reach us, the galaxy appears as it existed just 750 million years after the universe began, UPI reported. "The universe, for comparison, is about 13.7 billion years old."

NASA officials described the galaxy, whose discovery was announced Dec. 21, as shining from the "dawn of time," reported.


Space Ball Drops on Namibia: NASA, ESA to Investigate Crash

© AFP, Getty Images
NASA and the ESA will investigate the mysterious "space ball" from Namibia, which crashed into one of the country African villages in November. The ball is likely a NASA-made COPV sphere.
In mid-November, a hollow space ball fell from the sky and crashed into the earth in Namibia, the African nation situated above South Africa and west of Botswana and Zimbabwe. Authorities recovered the extraterrestrial sphere in a grassy village north of Windhoek, the country's capital.

The hollow ball, which appears to be made of "two halves welded together," has a rough surface, a 14-inch diameter and measures 43 inches around. The strange globe created a crater 13 inches deep and almost 12.5 feet wide, but was found almost 60 feet from the landing spot. Paul Ludik, the police forensics director investigating the case, says the dense ball weighs 13 pounds and is made of a "metal alloy known to man."

"It is not an explosive device, but rather hollow," said police deputy inspector general Vilho Hifindaka. "We had to investigate all this first."

Hifindaka are still stumped as to what the object is and where it came from. NASA and the European Space Agency will reportedly help investigate the strange occurrence.

Local eyewitnesses said they heard a series of booming explosions a few days before the ball was discovered. Authorities say that this phenomenon, while mysterious, is nothing new. Space balls of this nature have been found over the last few decades in countries in Central America and in Australia.


Russian Satellite crashes into Siberia minutes after launch

© AFP/File, Str
The rocket's fragments crashed into the Novosibirsk region of central Siberia
A Russian satellite has crashed into Siberia minutes after its launch, the defence ministry says, in the latest humiliating setback for Russia's embattled space program.

The Meridian communications satellite failed to reach orbit after it was launched due to a failure with its Soyuz rocket, raising new concerns over the Russian space program which has now lost over half a dozen satellites in the last year.

Its fragments crashed into the Novosibirsk region of central Siberia and were found in the Ordynsk district around 100 kilometres south of the regional capital Novosibirsk.

"A sphere was found, around 50 centimetres in diameter, which crashed into the roof of a house in the village of Vagaitsevo," a local security official told the Interfax news agency.

In an extraordinary irony, the official said that the house was located on Cosmonaut Street, named after the heroic spacemen of the Soviet and Russian space program.