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Science & Technology


Archeologists find rare Maya panels in Guatemala

© Reuters/Eduardo González SCSPR/Handout
Archeologist Richard Hansen explains the detail on one of two newly discovered Mayan panels in the northern Guatemalan Peten jungle March 7, 2009.
Archeologists have uncovered carved stucco panels depicting cosmic monsters, gods and serpents in Guatemala's northern jungle that are the oldest known depictions of a famous Mayan creation myth.

The newly discovered panels, both 26 feet long and stacked on top of each other, were created around 300 BC and show scenes from the core Mayan mythology, the Popol Vuh.

It took investigators three months to uncover the carvings while excavating El Mirador, the biggest ancient Mayan city in the world, the site's head researcher, Richard Hansen, said on Wednesday.


Is Google Making Us Stupid?

©Guy Billout

"Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?" So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial » brain. "Dave, my mind is going," HAL says, forlornly. "I can feel it. I can feel it."


Engineers find way to build a better battery

Chicago - U.S. engineers have found a way to make lithium batteries that are smaller, lighter, longer lasting and capable of recharging in seconds.

The researchers believe the quick-charging batteries could open up new applications, including better batteries for electric cars.

And because they use older materials in a new way, the batteries could be available for sale in two to three years, a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported on Wednesday in the journal Nature.


Debris Briefly Forces Astronauts From Space Station

A tiny piece of space junk smaller than a fingertip forced three astronauts to briefly evacuate the International Space Station on Thursday when the debris came too close for comfort.

The astronauts, Russian Yury Lonchakov and Americans Michael Fincke and Sandra Magnus, spent about nine minutes in the Soyuz escape ship before the space litter passed by.

NASA called the threat to the $100 billion space station "minimal" and said the astronauts were moved into the Soyuz capsule as a precaution.

Magic Wand

"Miracle" water a low-cost alternative cleaner to harsh chemicals

© Los Angeles Times
It's a kitchen degreaser. It's a window cleaner. It kills athlete's foot. Oh, and you can drink it.

Sounds like the old "Saturday Night Live" gag for Shimmer, the faux floor polish plugged by Gilda Radner. But the elixir is real. U.S. regulators have approved it. And it's starting to replace the toxic chemicals Americans use at home and on the job.

The stuff is a simple mixture of table salt and tap water whose ions have been scrambled with an electric current. Researchers have dubbed it electrolyzed water, not as catchy as Mr. Clean. But at the Sheraton Delfina in Santa Monica, Calif., some hotel workers are calling it "el liquido milagroso," the miracle liquid.


New technology for dating ancient rock paintings

A new dating method finally is allowing archaeologists to incorporate rock paintings - some of the most mysterious and personalized remnants of ancient cultures - into the tapestry of evidence used to study life in prehistoric times. That's the conclusion of a new report in ACS' Analytical Chemistry.

In the study, Marvin W. Rowe points out that rock paintings, or pictographs, are among the most difficult archaeological artifacts to date. They lack the high levels of organic material needed to assess a pictograph's age using radiocarbon dating, the standard archaeological technique for more than a half-century. Rowe describes a new, highly sensitive dating method, called accelerator mass spectrometry, that requires only 0.05 milligrams of carbon (the weight of 50 specks of dust). That's much less than the several grams of carbon needed with radiocarbon dating.


In Science and Technology, Efforts to Lure Women Back

It will come as no surprise that many career re-entry programs, designed to help at-home mothers return to the work force, are disappearing, victims of hard times among the Wall Street firms and banks that led the so-called on-ramping trend.

But a new bright spot is emerging. Small, innovative return-to-work programs are springing up in other sectors -- specifically in science, engineering and technology. Prospects for long-term job growth in these fields are relatively good, and many employers expect a talent shortage, partly because of high quit rates among experienced women.


Space shuttle Discovery launch postponed

© unknown
NASA has postponed the launch of space shuttle Discovery just hours before lift-off.
NASA postponed the launch of space shuttle Discovery just hours before it was to head to the international space station on Wednesday because of a hydrogen gas leak that could have been catastrophic at liftoff.

The leak was in the same system that has already caused a vexing one-month delay. Shuttle managers were shooting for another launch attempt on Thursday night provided they could fix the problem quickly.

The gaseous hydrogen began leaking just as the launch team was close to wrapping up the loading of Discovery's external fuel tank for a late-night liftoff. The seven astronauts had yet to board the spaceship.


'Peking Man' far older than thought

Barrel-chested "Peking Man," the collective name given to the treasure trove of homo erectus fossils found near the Chinese capital in the 1920s, is some 200,000 years older than previously thought, according to a new study.

Using a new dating technique, Chinese and US researchers led by Guanjun Shen of Nanjing Normal University determined that the tool-making "erect man" lived in and around the caves of Zhoukoudian - among the most highly-prized sites in the study of early humans - as far back as 780,000 years ago.

The findings, published in the London-based science journal Nature, are sure to stir controversy among scientists, who have long debated the timing and routes of hominin migrations.


Scottish Space Flight Potential Confirmed

Westminster SNP Leader Angus Robertson MP has said he is "delighted" following discussions about the potential for commercial space flight from RAF Lossiemouth in his Moray constituency. He was speaking after meeting with UK Science Minister Lord Drayson and Dr Ian Gibson of the British National Space Centre.

Mr Robertson had arranged the meeting to establish whether there were any legislative or regulatory impediments to space flights into near earth orbit. The leading developer of the ground-breaking technology Virgin Galactic has expressed an interest in operating from RAF Lossiemouth.

Flights would be able to carry both space tourists and launch satellites into orbit.