site map Energy - beyond fossil fuelsLoud music and hearing damageWhat is memory, and intelligence? Incautious claims of IQ genes economics and money zone at - government swindles and how to transfer money on the net   technology zone at how to survive and thrive on the web France zone at - another France visit abelard's gallery
link to news zone link to document abstracts link to short briefings documents        news resources at interesting site links at abelard's news and comment zone orientation at abelard's news and comment zone

back to abelard's front page
site map

news archives

science 1

New translation, the Magna Carta
article archives at abelard's news and comment zonescience archives
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
III-2004: 02 02-2 03 09 18 22 28

science and technology 1

target moon

“Astronomers have discovered the only known lunar crater to have been formed in [recent] recorded history.”

the web address for this article is

the France Zone at
Economics and money zone at







genes and human/chimp brain differences

“After sequencing 3 million letters of the chimp genome and comparing them with the human draft, his group reasoned that DNA sequence can't be it: only 1.3% of letters are different.”

“The brain showed a different picture: chimp and human transcription patterns are poles apart. "The [human] brain has accelerated usage of genes.”

“If their genes are alike, it's probably changes in when, where and how active they are that drives the differences between species.”

And a sloppy report:

“Around 95% of all genetic variation exists within (human) populations. Just 3 to 5% of variation occurs between different ones.”

Read carefully! Not “the genes vary by x%”, but “x% variation among the genes that do vary”.

how to bluff your way in genetics after 5 minutes flat
“Human Genetics Principles in a Nutshell”

Maybe you’ll need a good memory too; though most won’t notice even if you get the facts wrong, as long as you say it in a loud clear voice, and don’t blink.
For a more substantial primer, see Genome: The autobiography of a species in 23 chapters

the web address for this article is


science—the new renaissance

Watching the brain grow, and treating organs outside the body.

the web address for this article is


genetic marker for learned fear claimed

“This paper represents an attempt to develop a molecular genetic approach to learned fear, a form of anxiety,”

“Compared to normal mice, mice that lacked GRPR were more likely to respond to cues of past pain. These mice had “an enhanced memory of learned fear,” according to the report. But the absence of GRPR did not affect normal memory that was not related to fear. Similarly, the altered mice were not different from normal mice in terms of innate fear, the type of fear that is hard-wired in the brain from birth and is not learned.”

Read a more technical report here.

the web address for this article is


music and the brain—to whom it may concern :-)

As a non-musician I don’t understand this item, or how (or whether!) it relates to the header claims in the article.

But it looks like the sort of thing that may interest people working in the music/brain/‘emotion’ crossovers.

the web address for this article is


tracking methods two GoldenYak (tm) award

“... ecological forecasting is possible if we have sufficient information and resources [...]. Efforts are under way to mount a project to identify all living species on Earth to help in such battles against disease. This so-called ‘Tree of Life’ project will include all the animals, birds, fish, insects, plants, fungi, bacteria, viruses - everything that lives.”

the web address for this article is


is microsoft running scared?

“A market researcher has predicted that Microsoft will offer Web services and server software based on Linux within the next few years.”

Producing an ‘awkward’Llinux package could tie in customers to dependence, with a company in Microsoft’s near monopoly market position.

“Microsoft-sponsored study by researcher IDC concluded that servers based on Microsoft's Windows 2000 were cheaper to own and operate when used for networking,”

That was convenient.

“Sun, a hardware and software maker, is now selling computers running Linux, a strategy that was also embraced by IBM.”

IBM is still far more powerful than any early reports of its demise may suggest. The pressure on Microsoft continues to grow. It’s neat to see a ‘free’ system steadily eroding the MSs pseudo-monopoly, after watching MS offer a ‘free' browser to undermine Netscape.

It could hardly happen to a more deserving outfit.

the web address for this article is



life everywhere....more strange bugs one GoldenYak (tm) award

“There are tiny creatures living off radiation in ancient pockets of water several kilometres beneath the Earth’s surface.”

This is interesting.
A use for radio-active ‘waste’?
A means of generating hydrogen?

the web address for this article is



and now for the geminids

make a date in your diary for another late night free show: pre-dawn 14 December GMT.

For the USA, peak activity is projected to fortuitously occur at or near 4 a.m. ET (1 a.m. PT) Dec. 14.

Here is another time-zone indicator.

Related material
return of the leonids—wish upon a falling star

the web address for this article is


related material
return of the leonids—wish upon a falling star

preserving nuclear wastes

Nuclear waste is currently encased in glass, then canned in metal, and then it is buried. But how will this, or any other, storage system behave over millennia?

Some of the types of glass being studied for nuclear waste storage have similar ingredients to those made in ancient times. So archaeologists are providing data on how different ancient artefacts resist the physical effects of time.

“Small differences in the composition of the glass or its environment - how wet, how warm, how acid - can make big differences to the extent of the corrosion. ”

Related material
hyping nuclear energy

the web address for this article is



related material
hyping nuclear energy

hyping nuclear energy
[This Flash-created web-page takes 10 or 20 minutes to download on a slow link.]

A seriously fancy piece of web promotion for the nuclear industry.
It is also interesting just as a web presentation.

Despite endless hysteria from some of the supposedly ‘green’ lobby, I have never yet seen any serious rebuttal of the case for nuclear energy.

Any readers out there capable of pointing out any fundamental flaw in this presentation? [ab]

This site’s root page two GoldenYak (tm) awardhas links to much interesting ‘stuff ’.

the web address for this article is


Drought and salt resistant crops in the making

Workers at Cornwell University claim to have “fused two genes from the E. coli bacterium and then inserted them into a common variety of rice to make the tough new strain.

“The genes added a sugar, called trehalose, to the rice plant and made it more hardy.”

“Experiments also showed the transgenic rice plant is about twice as resistant to salt water and will withstand temperatures about 10 degrees lower than other rice plants.”

This will mean easier food production in difficult, irrigation-damaged or food-scarce regions, especially since the scientists “want to put this into the public domain so people everywhere can use it”.

But will more easily available food in poverty-stricken areas of the globe lead to yet more mouths to feed (see Feedback and crowding)?
Probably, if distribution of this new crop-enhancing technology is not accompanied by strong educational projects, including those in such domains as family planning and better agricultural practice.

the web address for this article is


fusion energy

“Scientists met Monday at the Bush administrationís request to advise whether itís feasible within the next 35 years to create, contain and then commercialize.....fusion energy.”

After 50 years, it is still 35 years lead time. But progress is being made. Will money solve it? [ab]

the web address for this article is


an incredible piece of kit
Printer + scanner + copier + fax + ....

This machine will act as a stand-alone copier, and replaces both scanner and printer.
I have yet to find a wholly satisfactory scanner. As Epson printers are so good, perhaps this may be the answer.

The drawbacks are not mentioned, of course:

  • the very high cost of ink cartridges—hence, the very low price (quoted as US $150 at one place)
  • the Epson printers I’ve used tend to put thin streaks across colour prints, which require time wasting and expense to clean the heads, sometimes several times. Unless, of course, you can keep the machine under constant ‘ideal’ temperature and humidity conditions.

the web address for this article is


computer surgery control moves another step forward

“In the operating room, a patient waits for open heart surgery: four pencil-sized incisions are made in the patientís chest and a space-age robot is poised to begin the procedure all under the careful guidance of the human surgeon at a computer console several feet away.
“Two robot arms with fully articulated hands hold miniature surgical instruments that enter the chest through two of the tiny incisions.
“A third robot arm, this one equipped with a special camera that feeds real-time 3-D images to the computer screen, snakes its way toward the heart through the third incision.
“The fourth incision is used by an assistant surgeon, this one human, to pass suture materials and other surgical equipment.

“Using traditional surgical approaches, ‘patients usually are hospitalized for seven days for this procedure. These patients [who were treated with the robot] went home three days after surgery and were able to return to normal activity in six to 10 days’. ”

What is not made clear is that, with the old procedure, the return to normal can take two or three months. [ab]

the web address for this article is


genitalium oilum two and a half GoldenYak (tm) award

" In the meantime, for satirists, the notion of man solving his thirst for oil and coal using a microorganism living inside his genitals has dizzying possibilities." another step into the new universe of life manipulation.....

Related material
another important step forward
our tiny friends

the web address for this article is



Related material
another important step forward

our tiny friends

the leonids, i was there
by our yak on the spot

Before last night, I had seen the occasional shooting star, and sometimes a satellite cruising across the night sky. I had seen firework displays of epic proportions which made the crowds gasp and clap. I’ve seen firework competitions with the broadcast music punctuated by the booms of firework mortars.

But I have never seen shooting stars in pairs, in threes, silently leaving white and orange streaks behind them across the sky.

I have seen the pin-head of a moving star, I have seen the faint glow of a glow-worm, but never before have I seen such bright, such big, spheres of light burning through the sky.

It was awesome, it was awe-inspiring, it was breathtaking. Thank you, good fairy.

Related material
return of the leonids—wish upon a falling star...

the web address for this article is



related material
return of the leonids—wish upon a falling star...

return of the leonids—wish upon a falling star....

The earth will pass through two comet swarms of debris left by Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The first meteor shower will peak at about 04.00 GMT (UT) 19 November, the second about 6 hours later, at about 10.00 GMT (UT). This predicted as the best show for the next thirty years.

“Astronomers suggest that meteor hunters bundle up, find a spot as far from artificial light pollution as possible, and look to the northwest or southwest away from the glare of the moon.”

High-altitude sites with clean dry air experience the least lunar glare.

And go here for technical details and a nice diagram.

Universal time (UT)
“The times of various events, particularly astronomical and weather phenomena, are often given in Universal Time.”
“Greenwich Mean Time is a widely used historical term, but one that has been used in several ways. Because of the ambiguity, its use is no longer recommended in technical contexts.”

And here is a table of the standard time zones throughout the world, to aid conversion from UT to your local time.
Here is another time-zone indicator.

The web address for this article is


another important step forward
“The first complete sequencing of protein from a fossil bone suggests that proteins can survive for millions of years – long enough to probe the evolution of many extinct species, including the ancestors of modern humans.”

In due course, it should be possible to recreate lost species.

The web address for this article is


and now sommat more speculative
Fanning yourself around the sky—another way of making aircraft.
Unfortunately the writing is clumsy and there is no picture.

The web address for this article is


don’t drink the water and don’t breathe the air — in the countryside
Researchers still do not know why semen quality varies geographically, but are testing their hypothesis that exposure to agricultural chemicals through contaminated air or water plays a role.

The web address for this article is


the romance of the monorail
Is the monorail coming of age?

And here are some pictures of the new Las Vegas line under construction (there is much more on this monorail fan site).

the web address for this article is



brain-peripheral experiment
A new study suggests that our brains learn smells, not just our noses.

how lobsters smell their environment
“They placed the mechanical lobster downstream of an ‘odour’ source in a large water flow tank ... Since odors are invisible, instead of the aroma of a tasty item, such as a rotting fish, the researchers substituted a fluorescent dye.”

why giraffes stink
“For years, zookeepers and hunters have noted that giraffes have this overpowering aroma ... Some people claim you can smell the animals up to 250 metres away.”
[Nature, 21.10.02]

the web address for this article is


traffic snoop fuddler?
“If you do get a speeding ticket within the first year while using your Phazer, they will pay your fine!”

the web address for this article is


ecological science

“Engineered organisms could make toxic clean-ups safer and speedier.”

the web address for this article is

related material
our tiny friends


autumn glory and primate colour vision

young red leaves....old red leaves......
yellow leaves....magenta leaves......

old red leaves
“Most of those people went foliage touring. In Wisconsin, a bigger state, spending by foliage tourists is more than $1 billion. If reliable colour forecasts could be made, even more visitors might be attracted.”
[Economist, 10.10.02]

why can humans and other monkeys see red?
Red vision is not known in other mammals, but dicky birds can see 4 colours including ultraviolet. Humans and other monkeys have three colour vision.
[Nature, 08.03.01]
A more detailed version complete with pictures is here.

But why are the young leaves red in the first place? More recent work by Dominy is reported in the Economist. (Not availably on-line without subscription.)
“Why autumn leaves are red is controversial (see article). But the reason for youthful blushing which, like the ruddiness of old age, is due to the presence of anthocyanin pigments, need not be the same. There are three front-runners: that the pigments are protecting developing leaves from infection by fungi; from damage by ultraviolet light; or from being eaten by insects.”
[Economist, ]

Dominy finds that young leaves are red at all levels in the forest. Therefore, redness is unlikely to be protection from UV, as that would not be required at the lower levels; and it is not likely to be for protection from fungal attack because fungal attack would not occur in the canopy. Thus, insect attack is left as the most likely reason (as insects cannot easily distinguish the young juicy leaves).

for more on colour vision see Orange is tertairy, the theory of colour

the web address for this article is


power on the moon, power to the earth

University of Houston physicists “think that a robotic rover could melt surface lunar material into a glass sheet, then place thin solar cells on the glass surface. An extensive panel of such arrays could generate electricity from incoming solar rays.
“moon-based solar power could generate enough juice to beam back home for use in electrical grids.
“ If a lunar power station or stations harnessed just 1 percent of the solar energy that strikes the moon, it could satisfy the planet's future appetite.”

the web address for this article is


new design miniature field microscope

I haven't seen, let alone tried, the real thing so I don’t know how effective it is, but it looks interesting.

For pictures of the microscope attached to cameras, both digital and SLR, go to
and here is a good impression of using the microscope by eye.
This last is from the manufacturing company site. Glory, so many sites are unimaginative.This very poorly designed site is no great ad for the product! It’s the devil to find anything, pages take an age to download, and the site keeps making intrusive random noises.

The microscope is listed at £85 + VAT

the web address for this article is


growing affordability of improving flat screen displays.... 1
growing affordability of improving flat screen displays.... 2

the web address for this article is

interesting direction in anti bacteriology.... 09.04.2002
asteroid hits... 09.04.2002
dancing planets....a heavenly display.... 08.04.2002
what is evidence?
fingerprinting under attack.....

email abelard email email_abelard [at]

© abelard, 2002, 3 november

all rights reserved

the address for this document is

variable words
prints as variable A4 pages (on my printer and set-up)

navigation bar ( eight equal segments) on 'science archives 1 - news and comment on' page, linking
to abstracts, the rise and fall of the Church of Rome,children and tv violence,"logic has made me hated among men",the confusions of Godel (metalogicA), orientation, multiple uses for this glittering
  entity, e-mail abelard short descriptions of documents on the rise and fall of the Church of Rome - abelard welcome to outer mongolia - how to get around this ger multiple uses for this glittering entity e-mail abelard at "logic has made me hated among men" - abelard the confusions of Gödel (in four parts) - abelard children and tv violence - abelard