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Tue, 22 May 2018
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Science & Technology


Cassini Returns Never-before-seen Views Of The Ringed Planet

Here, Cassini looks upward at, and through, the sunlit side of the rings from about 19 degrees below the ring plane. The small moon Janus (181 kilometers, or 113 miles across) can be spotted off the planet's western limb (edge) near the image bottom.

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane trackers catch storm's 'second eye'

Scientists have documented for the first time how the eye of a hurricane dies, and is replaced by a new one. The observations, made by radar-equipped aircraft during the hurricane season of 2005, could be used to improve forecasts of hurricane intensity.

It's well known that there's calm in the eye of a storm. But the eye is in fact a highly dynamical zone that constantly interacts with the rotating bands of rain clouds surrounding it.

Eyes have been seen dying and re-forming several times during the lifetime of cyclones, abruptly altering their strength. 'Eye replacement' temporarily reduces the spin of a hurricane. But as a new eye forms and contracts, the cyclone gathers spin again, like a swirling figure skater who folds his arms, and wind speed increases once more.


Google Maps adds real-time traffic data

Google has added real-time traffic data for several major cities to its mapping service, the company said Wednesday.

The traffic information is integrated with Google Maps and is available in more than 30 American cities, including San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago and New York.

The data is provided for major highways and is color-coded to signify traffic conditions: green means no congestion; yellow is for minor holdups; and red means significant slowdowns.

According to Google product manager Carl Sjogreen, the data is aggregated from several sources, including road sensors, as well as car and taxi fleets.


Ancient towers in Peru were a 'solar calendar'

Scientists have discovered the oldest solar observatory in the Americas and, in the process, may have solved a centuries-old puzzle about the purpose of an ancient stone fort on a remote hilltop in Peru.

The researchers have shown that an enigmatic wall of 13 stone towers within the Chankillo complex, a 2,300-year-old ruin nearly 250 miles north of Lima, worked as a solar calendar to monitor the winter and summer solstices.

They believe that the solar observatory proves the existence of a sophisticated Sun cult in the region more than 1,000 years before the Inca civilisation built its famous Sun temple in the Peruvian mountain city of Cusco, prior to the Spanish conquest.


Germany preparing for moon mission

The German space agency is reportedly preparing for a mission to the moon.

The head of the German Space Programme (DLR), Walter Doellinger, told the Financial Times Deutschland that it would be ready by 2013 to send an unmanned space shuttle to orbit the earth's only natural satellite.

"We want to show that Germany has the know-how," he said, after the DLR presented its plans for the mission to the German parliament.


Link Found Between Genetics And IQ

U.S. psychiatric geneticists say they have confirmed an association between genetics and intelligence.

Washington University School of Medicine researchers in St. Louis gathered the most extensive evidence to date showing a gene that activates signaling pathways in the brain influences one kind of intelligence.


French researcher says Vista's user interface suffers from more 'friction' than Microsoft XP

Vista's user interface suffers from more "friction" than its predecessor XP, a French analyst said Monday, and is actually a step back for Microsoft Corp. in its pursuit of Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X.

In a reprise of research published last year, French analyst Andreas Pfeiffer oversaw testing of what he calls "User Interface Friction," the fluidity and/or reactivity of an operating system to commands. He likens UIF to the reaction -- fast or not -- when stepping on a car's accelerator.


Windows Vista: I'm Breaking up with You

No, seriously. When I have the time, I'm "upgrading" from Windows Vista to Windows XP. My keyboard is completely ambiguous.


Physics legends II

In my column in November 2006 (see Physics Legends), I discussed stories from the history of science that we repeat even when we suspect that they are wrong. I then asked for your favourites and for ideas why such legends persist. Dozens of readers replied, mentioning legends involving oversimplifications or falsifications of science, of history or of the world. Some of you even protested that stories that I had claimed were true are in fact false, and vice versa.

The apple, the sink and the pendulum

Robert Matthews - a science writer and visiting reader in science at Aston University in the UK - found me too credulous regarding Newton's apple. Yes, he granted, historians have traced the tale back to Newton himself, but that does not make it true. Why, he asked sensibly, was Newton - a notoriously secretive and paranoid person - suddenly so chatty about how he got an idea, unless to cement priority over his rival Hooke?


Physics Legends

Richard Feynman starts his book QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter with a remarkable confession. He tells a brief story about the origins of his subject - quantum electrodynamics - and then says that the "physicist's history of physics" that he has just related is probably wrong. "What I am telling you", Feynman says, "is a sort of conventionalized myth-story that the physicists tell to their students and those students tell to their students, and is not necessarily related to the actual historical development, which I do not really know!"

Like Feynman, many teachers and textbooks are unashamed to retell "damn good stories": colourful versions of people and events that are oversimplified and often inaccurate. All of the scholarly fields are afflicted. Ivan Morris, a British-born scholar who taught Japanese studies at Harvard University, once expressed an intention to write a book about myths embraced by his academic colleagues, tentatively entitled The Bull Must Die. Unfortunately, Morris died before he could finish the work and the bull continues to flow unchecked.