Guess it was (semi) daily and not weekly. so, postings whenever I get them.
July 31, 2008
As Olympics Near, Beijing Still Can't Beat Pollution
from the Los Angeles Times (Registration Required)
BEIJING -- Despite removing 1.5 million cars from the roads, shutting down hundreds of factories and construction sites and bringing much of the city's economic life to a standstill, Beijing remains stubbornly shrouded in a persistent, gray haze on the eve of the Summer Olympics.
The poor air quality just 11 days before the opening ceremonies has left Chinese government officials scrambling for explanations that include statistical anomalies and the 90-plus-degree heat.
The state-run China Daily reported Monday that the Chinese government may be forced to implement an "emergency plan" if air quality hasn't improved 48 hours before the Games begin Aug. 8. One possible measure would expand the recently implemented system that allows cars on the road only on odd or even days, depending on license plate numbers, to a ban of up to 90 percent of private traffic.http://snipurl.com/37ot1
Eclipses in Ancient China Spurred Science, Beheadings?
from National Geographic News
The Olympics aren't the only epic event occurring in China next month. A total solar eclipse, the first since 2006, will turn day to night on Friday, the first of August.
The eclipse will also be visible in parts of northern Canada, Greenland (Denmark), Siberia (Russia), and Mongolia. Many Chinese will celebrate the celestial event with parties and viewing festivities—but it wasn't always so.
The Chinese have a long, sophisticated history of charting the skies and have recorded eclipses for thousands of years. The events were once considered ill omens and, if the ancient records are to be believed, dramatic eclipses may have caused more than one unfortunate astrologer to lose his head.http://snipurl.com/37tm1
Thin Films: Ready for Their Close-Up?
from Nature News
From the 1950s onwards, big chunks of crystalline silicon have dominated the world of solar cells. But the dominance of these traditional cells—which make up 90 percent of today's 10-gigawatt-a-year installation market—is now being challenged by 'thin-film' solar cells that are micrometres or mere nanometres thick, and frequently made of materials other than silicon.
Some argue that such a change in technology is the only way that solar-cell technology can hope to maintain the 50 percent annual growth it has enjoyed during the past five years.
... Most thin-film cells sold today still use silicon, but in its amorphous, rather than crystalline, form. This makes the cells thin and cheap but costs them half or more of their efficiency compared with traditional designs. The hope, and to some extent the hype, is focused on new technologies.http://snipurl.com/37tom
Nature's Chronic Boozers
from Science News
Out boozing for several hours every night—that would be drinking like a tree shrew. Except the tree shrews can scurry a straight line afterward.
The pentailed tree shrews (Ptilocercus lowii) of Malaysia average more than two hours each night sipping palm nectar that has naturally fermented, report Frank Wiens of the University of Bayreuth in Germany and his colleagues in the July 29 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This is the first recorded case of chronic alcohol consumption by a wild mammal," Wiens says. ... But tree shrews may not have the same metabolism as humans when it comes to detoxifying alcohol.http://snipurl.com/37tr1
After the Tragedy: Vent? Not Necessarily
from the Los Angeles Times (Registration Required)
"The more [Virginia Tech students] can talk about what they've lived through, the more that they can be encouraged to emote ... that gives them some security and insulation against burying those feelings and then having them surprise them later in life."
In the aftermath of the April 16, 2007, fatal shootings of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech, [Keith] Ablow was simply voicing post-Freudian conventional wisdom: When something horrible happens, vent.
... But hold on a minute. That has simply not been proved true for all people in all circumstances, [Mark] Seery says. His most recent research, in the June issue of Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, shows that after a large-scale traumatic event, such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, quickly talking about one's emotions isn't necessarily for the best.http://snipurl.com/37ouv
Termite Bellies and Biofuels
from Smithsonian Magazine
Falk Warnecke peered down through a mounted magnifying glass and poked gently at a small pile of bugs. ... With a pair of fine-tipped forceps, he grabbed one of the insects at the base of its thorax and lifted it off the block. It was brown, and hardly bigger than an eyelash. With a second forceps, he pinched the end of its abdomen. He tugged gently, and pulled it in two. A shiny, reddish string slid smoothly out of the exoskeleton.
... The gut has bulbous chambers that are swollen with vast quantities of microbes that the termites employ to break down cellulose from the wood or grass the insects consume. When he's not calling termites "cute little animals," he refers to them as "walking bioreactors," and considers their juicy interiors a kind of liquid gold.
For now, he's interested only in the biggest bulb on the string, what's known as the third proctodeal segment, or, in the vernacular of microbial ecology, the "hindgut paunch." This microliter-sized compartment ... is home to a distinct community of microbes that some people think may help solve the energy crisis.http://snipurl.com/37tt5
Scientists Confirm Liquid Lake, Beach on Saturn's Moon Titan
from Scientific American
Just in time for a summer holiday, scientists have discovered the solar system's newest beach destination. Too bad there's no way to get there—at least not easily. Researchers report in Nature today that they identified a dark liquid lake, surrounded by a lighter shoreline and a "beach," on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan.
The foot-shaped lake is the first verified extraterrestrial body of liquid, and is likely filled with hydrocarbons, simple compounds also common on Earth.
"This is the first definitive evidence for both liquid and liquid hydrocarbons on Titan," says lead study author Robert Brown, a professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) in Tucson.http://snipurl.com/37tw2
Gene Mutations Reveal Schizophrenia's Complexity
from New Scientist
The three largest genetic schizophrenia studies to date have uncovered several ways in which changes to the genome may increase the risk of developing the mental disorder.
The studies bring to light several common variations that increase the risk slightly, and rarer ones that raise it significantly, researchers say.
While previous studies have suggested several genes with roles in schizophrenia, small sample sizes gave these findings limited statistical significance. Most recently, differences in copy number variations (CNVs) ... were identified between healthy and schizophrenic people. But the study was too small to implicate specific CNVs in causing the disease.http://snipurl.com/37txk
Ancient Greek 'Computer' Displayed Olympics Calendar
from the Guardian (UK)
An ancient Greek "computer" used to calculate the movements of the sun, moon and planets has been linked to Archimedes after scientists deciphered previously hidden inscriptions on the device.
X-ray images of the bronze mechanism, which was recovered from a shipwreck more than a century ago, also revealed a sporting calendar that displays the cycle of the prestigious "crown" games, including the Olympics, which were held every four years.
Corroded remains of the device were found in 1901 by spongedivers, who happened upon the shipwreck of a Roman merchant vessel while sheltering from a storm near the tiny Greek island of Antikythera. The ship, which was laden with treasures from the Greek world including bronze statues, pottery and glassware, is believed to have met its fate in the notoriously dangerous stretch of water en route to Italy.http://snipurl.com/37u1a
Not Quite Rocketeer, but Jet Pack's a Start
from the Seattle Times
OSHKOSH, Wis. — This isn't how a jet pack is supposed to look, is it?
Hollywood has envisioned jet packs as upside-down fire extinguishers strapped to people's backs. But Glenn Martin's invention is more unwieldy: a 250-pound piano-size contraption that people settle into rather than strap on.
As thousands watched Tuesday, the New Zealand inventor's 16-year-old son donned a helmet, fastened himself to a prototype Martin jet pack and revved the engine, which sounded like a motorcycle. Harrison Martin eased about 3 feet off the ground, the engine roaring with a whine so loud that some kids covered their ears.http://snipurl.com/37u47