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Posts Tagged ‘science

[LINK] “Radiation Blast Delays NASA Spacecraft’s Arrival At Dwarf Planet Ceres”

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Universe Today’s Elizabeth Howell notes that NASA space probe Dawn will be delayed in arriving at dwarf planet Ceres by a month. All seems well otherwise, thankfully.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft experienced technical problems in the past week that will force it to arrive at dwarf planet Ceres one month later than planned, the agency said in a statement yesterday (Sept. 16).

Controllers discovered Dawn was in safe mode Sept. 11 after radiation disabled its ion engine, which uses electrical fields to “push” the spacecraft along. The radiation stopped all engine thrusting activities. The thrusting resumed Monday (Sept. 15) after controllers identified and fixed the problem, but then they found another anomaly troubling the spacecraft.

Dawn’s main antenna was also disabled, forcing the spacecraft to send signals to Earth (a 53-minute roundtrip by light speed) through a weaker secondary antenna and slowing communications. The cause of this problem hasn’t been figured out yet, but controllers suspect radiation affected the computer’s software. A computer reset has solved the issue, NASA added. The spacecraft is now functioning normally.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 18, 2014 at 1:57 am

Posted in Science

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[NEWS] Some Tuesday links

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  • Al Jazeera notes the breakdown of the Libyan state.
  • Bloomberg mentions Finland’s new interest in NATO, notes European Union plans to strengthen sanctions against Russia, takes note of China’s vetoing of democracy in Hong Kong and looks at China’s strengthening of its South China Sea holdings, and in West Africa notes the unburied bodies in the street in countries hit by Ebola and observes the apparent spread of the epidemic to Senegal.
  • Bloomberg View observes how the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong is alienating Taiwan, notes that Scotland may secure its future in the European Union by leaving a United Kingdom hoping to leave, looks at the frightening military theories of Russia, considers whether taxation may spur corporate consumption in Korea, wonders if France’s Hollande can pull off Mitterand’s turn to the right, examines secular stagnation, considers the issues of Macau, and warns Israel about economic issues ahead.
  • CBC looks at how walking bichir fish may explain how vertebrates moved onto the land, notes that Canadian federal government roundtables on the sex trade aren’t inviting sex workers, and notes that convicted serial killer Russell Williams has settled lawsuits made by some victims and their families.
  • Defense One notes that the Islamic State controls mainly areas around roads (but then, the roads are usually the areas that are controlled).
  • The Inter Press Service examines the settlement of Somalian refugees in Istanbul, considers the future of Ukrainian agriculture, looks at the spread of jihadi sentiments in Tajikistan, points out that the United States and Brazil will soon improve genetically engineered trees, examines anti-gay persecution in Lebanon, and looks at the legacies of the balsero migration from Cuba 20 years later.
  • National Geographic examines the positions of Yazidis in northern Iraq versus the Islamic State, notes the mobilizatin of Assyrian Christian refugees in the same region, and notes that more trees in the mountains of California means less run-off.
  • Open Democracy notes the precedents for Russian policy in Ukraine two decades earlier in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and provides a critical tourist’s perspective on Belarus.
  • Universe Today notes an ancient star that preserves legacies of the first generation of stars to form, and observes the preparation for the landing of the Philae probe on the surface of its comet.
  • Wired examines sriracha and maps where future roads should be placed.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait notes that claims Arctic ice cover is recovering are ill-founded.
  • blogTO shares some of the most notable catastrophes from Rob Ford’s days coaching high school football.
  • Centauri Dreams shares a new map of Triton, Neptune’s moon.
  • The Cranky Sociologists map the distribution of different religions and the unaffiliated around the world.
  • Crooked Timber has at the old canard about Silent Spring‘s DDT ban killing millions with malaria.
  • Discover‘s Crux notes how GPS location services owe their existence to relativity.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining how rocky asteroids can be detected around white dwarfs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales note that tuberculosis was in the Americas before Columbus.
  • Eastern Approaches notes an appeal by Polish intellectuals to support Ukraine.
  • The Frailest Thing’s Michael Sacasas wonders what if, instead of imagining worst-case scenarios for new technologies, we imagine positive things.
  • Language Hat comments on a new book on Russia in the Napoleonic Wars that mentions how Latvian was used as a code.
  • Language Log notes that technology is not dehumanizing us.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that the biggest split in Ukraine is between supporters of European and Eurasian integration, and notes that Putin’s Russia has kickstarted a new era of global politics.
  • James Nicoll reviews Heinlein’s juveniles.
  • Otto Pohl notes that modern Kazakhstan can trace its history directly only to the Soviet era, not to earlier states.
  • Registan looks at the Chinese geopolitical concept of continentalism.
  • Towleroad looks at a controversial gay club poster featuring two notable male writers kissing.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy reminds readers of the Crimean annexation and doesn’t think eastern Ukraine has a compelling moral case at all for secession.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the economic costs to Tatarstan of remaining Russian, reports that Russian neo-Nazis are fighting in Ukraine, looks at how past actions are being seen in a more biased light, and quotes Vladimir Lukin to the effect that Russia wants Donbas to stay in Ukraine so as to prevent the country from looking to NATO.

[LINK] “Grizzly bears can use tools, study shows”

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CBC shares an article by the Associated Press’ Shannon Quinn about the latest animal species that, on closer examination, turns out to have high intelligence: bears. It does make sense, in that bears like humans are fairly flexible omnivores. Surely both species would need a similar kind of intelligence.

It may no longer be good enough to hang your food in a tree to keep it away from bears when you go camping, according to a first-of-its-kind study at the Washington State University Bear Research Education and Conservation Center.

Some — but not all — grizzlies can use primitive tools to thwart your efforts, veterinary student Alex Waroff found this summer in an experiment assisted by Charlie Robbins, WSU bear centre director, and O. Lynne Nelson, assistant director and professor of cardiology at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Nelson said the idea for the study came from a report in a peer-reviewed journal of “first tool use” by a brown bear in Alaska.

“The bear was observed to pick up a rock or shell and use it to scratch his face,” Nelson said. “Those of us who work with bears read the report and essentially said, ‘Really? Is that the best you have?’ “Nelson said the idea for the study came from a report in a peer-reviewed journal of “first tool use” by a brown bear in Alaska.

Nelson said she, and others who work with bears, see evidence of bears manipulating objects for a specific goal all the time — the definition of tool use.

“Of course, all of these observations are anecdote,” she said. “So we decided to put this problem-solving skill to standardized research protocol.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 25, 2014 at 7:23 pm

[LINK] “Atlantic Ocean slows global warming, but scientists believe hiatus will end around 2030″

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The CBC/Reuters account is very worrisome.

The Atlantic Ocean has masked global warming this century by soaking up vast amounts of heat from the atmosphere in a shift likely to reverse from around 2030 and spur fast temperature rises, scientists said.

The theory is the latest explanation for a slowdown in the pace of warming at the Earth’s surface since about 1998 that has puzzled experts because it conflicts with rising greenhouse gas emissions, especially from emerging economies led by China.

“We’re pointing to the Atlantic as the driver of the hiatus,” Ka-Kit Tung, of the University of Washington in Seattle and a co-author of Thursday’s study in the journal Science, told Reuters.

The study said an Atlantic current carrying water north from the tropics sped up this century and sucked more warm surface waters down to 1,500 metres (5,000 feet), part of a natural shift for the ocean that typically lasts about three decades.

It said a return to a warmer period, releasing more heat stored in the ocean, was likely to start around 2030. When it does, “another episode of accelerated global warming should ensue”, the authors wrote.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 22, 2014 at 8:17 pm

[LINK] “Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds”

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Alison Flood’s article in The Guardian about the apparent issues associated with reading ereaders resonated with me, as it did with people around the world. I generally prefer reading from books to reading online, having noticed the same comprehension and retention issues in my own reading.

I wonder what the consequences will be in the future, when so much more reading material is only going to be online. Will ereaders technology advance enough?

The study, presented in Italy at a conference last month and set to be published as a paper, gave 50 readers the same short story by Elizabeth George to read. Half read the 28-page story on a Kindle, and half in a paperback, with readers then tested on aspects of the story including objects, characters and settings.

Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University, a lead researcher on the study, thought academics might “find differences in the immersion facilitated by the device, in emotional responses” to the story. Her predictions were based on an earlier study comparing reading an upsetting short story on paper and on iPad. “In this study, we found that paper readers did report higher on measures having to do with empathy and transportation and immersion, and narrative coherence, than iPad readers,” said Mangen.

But instead, the performance was largely similar, except when it came to the timing of events in the story. “The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, ie, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order.”

The researchers suggest that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does”.

“When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right,” said Mangen. “You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual … [The differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading. Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 22, 2014 at 8:14 pm

[LINK] “Ebola outbreak: Africans understandably wary about promised cures”

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CBC’s Daniel Schwartz examines how, in the context of the expanding Ebola epidemic, African skepticism about foreign medical systems is often grounded in recent bad experience with said.

For example, in Nigeria in 1996, when a meningitis epidemic was underway, the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer arrived in the hot zone in Kano. Its representatives immediately set up their clinic next to the makeshift tents of a hospital then staffed mostly by Doctors Without Borders.

Meningitis, an inflammation in a membrane surrounding the brain or spinal cord, affects mostly children, and without treatment, about half of those infected will die.

Pfizer had a new treatment that it wanted to test, so its doctors gave Trovan (floxacin) to about half the 200 children they treated, while the other half received an approved drug for meningitis.

About five per cent of the patients taking the experimental Trovan died, while some others were left blind, deaf and/or paralyzed.

In the aftermath, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration refused to approve Trovan, hundreds of Nigerian parents sued Pfizer and the company eventually settled in 2009. (Its position was that it was the disease that had caused the deaths and other conditions.)

Pfizer claimed to have permission from the local hospital to conduct its experiment, but the approval letter was said to be a forgery. Pfizer claimed it had informed consent from the patients’ families but could not provide written proof.

Harriet Washington, who wrote about the Trovan case in her 2011 book Deadly Monopolies, told CBC News that in the absence of that consent, people in Kano “had no way of distinguishing the doctors who are giving approved drugs meant to work, from doctors right next to them who are giving them something experimental.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 20, 2014 at 7:53 pm

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