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some news items are of interest, but not rated by abelard as convincing or significant enough for placement in abelard’s main news archives. Such items may be found here.

New translation, the Magna Carta

K 'Y


article archives at abelard's news and comment zonetopic archives: news-lite
previous news-lite items may be accessed from the news archives (click button on left)
XI-2004: 5 09 10 22 | XII-1004: 22 25 28 31 | I-1005: 4 12 16 21 25 26 27-1 27-2 30 |
II-1005: 01 11 13 18 19 24 26 27 | II-1005: 01 | III-1005: 07 15 27 |
IV-2005: 17 | V-2005: 02 05

yet another version of the badly flawed ‘political’ quiz

Political opinion table. Image credit:

Better done than usual. Useful for analysis of the weaknesses in the questions.

related material
a suggested clarification in authoritarianism and liberty briefing document.

the web address for the article above is




increased global carbon may lead to lower crop yields

This result is against some expectations.

“[...] Long added a new variable not factored into previous studies. He puffed doses of ozone into the fields to simulate the expected rise in ozone smogs due to higher temperatures - and yields crashed. A 20% increase in ozone levels cut yields by 20%, he said.

“Increases in ozone levels of this level are predicted for Europe, the US, China, India and much of the middle east by 2050. If Long's findings prove correct, even CO2 fertilisation will not prevent the world's crop yields from declining by 10% to 15%.”

the web address for the article above is

electric developments

  • 3d display screen
    “Toshiba's new displays employ an integral imaging system that reproduces light beams similar of those produced by a real object, not its visual representation.”
    [Illustrations and diagrams on this page. Predicted commercialisation: “within two years”.]
  • 1 minute to recharge battery
    “The company's new battery can recharge 80% of a battery's energy capacity in only one minute, approximately 60 times faster than the typical lithium-ion batteries in wide use today, and combines this fast recharge time with performance-boosting improvements in energy density.

    “The new battery fuses Toshiba's latest advances in nano-material technology for the electric devices sector with cumulative know-how in manufacturing lithium-ion battery cells. A breakthrough technology applied to the negative electrode uses new nano-particles to prevent organic liquid electrolytes from reducing during battery recharging. The nano-particles quickly absorb and store vast amount of lithium ions, without causing any deterioration in the electrode.”
    [Diagrams at bottom of linked page. Predicted commercialisation: 2006]

the web address for the article above is

difficulty recognising faces: genetic variation possible

“[...] Children with the condition could then be identified early, saving them from being wrongly diagnosed with other conditions such as autism. It would also help prosopagnosiacs to understand why they are different - some become shy and reclusive because of their difficulties in social situations.”

People with such difficulties may be taught to look more carefully and note details consciously, for instance by portrait drawing training. They may also be taught to, or learn to, listen to voices more attentively.

Key word: prosopagnosia.

the web address for the article above is

suggestion that autism is partially caused by selective breeding

“Baron-Cohen, probably our foremost expert, has said, ‘I believe that the cause of autism will turn out to be assortative mating of two hyper-systemisers’; in other words, the confluence of two extreme Type-S brains. In Baron-Cohen’s latest paper, to be published this year, he grades people according to their ability to systematise, which he calls the SM mechanism, from level one (an inability to adequately systematise) through to level four (a marked propensity to do so). It is in this last quadrant that you find an increase in traits associated with autism.”

the web address for the article above is

plasma claimed in collapsing bubble experiments [science]

“Nobody has been able to measure the temperature inside a single collapsing bubble before," says Suslick. The bubbles reached more than 15,000°C he says, which is four times hotter than the surface of the Sun.”

“ But Suslick, along with almost every other researcher in the field, says that 'bubble fusion' has yet to be proved.

“ "Our results can neither confirm or deny Taleyarkhan's claims to fusion," he says. But he adds that any confined fusion reaction requires a plasma. "Our paper shows for the first time, and definitively, that there can be a plasma formed during this process." ”

the web address for the article above is

an interesting batch

The Hubble telescope can run on only two gyroscopes, so extending potential life.


Hydro-electric dams produce substantial CO2 and methane


A bacterium that sat dormant in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years has been revived by NASA scientists.”


And now for some serious yukness!

Tissue engineers create a technique enabling lovers to exchange rings grown from each other's bone cells”

the web address for the article above is

be a tall babee and earn more money

“One of the best predictors of a man's income at age 50 is his height - at the age of 1.”

“A number of studies have also shown tall men to have all manner of advantages. They marry sooner, are promoted more quickly, have higher incomes, and find more success in politics. For example, only three U.S. presidents have been below-average height. And a U.S. study showed that, during a 30-year career, a 5-foot-5 worker earns $160,000 less than his six-foot counterpart, which translates into about $800 an inch more annually for the taller worker.”

the web address for the article above is

'invisible' galaxy found

“A dark galaxy is an area in the universe containing a large amount of mass that rotates like a galaxy, but contains no stars. Without any stars to give light, it could only be found using radio telescopes.

“It was first seen with the University of Manchester's Lovell Telescope in Cheshire, and the sighting was confirmed with the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico. The unknown material that is thought to hold these galaxies together is known as 'dark matter', but scientists still know very little about what that is.”

“The presence of dark matter in the Universe can be inferred by looking at the rotation of galaxies and measuring how fast their visible components are moving. The amount of matter in a galaxy dictates the gravitational force needed to hold it together. Astronomers have seen galaxies where the material is moving so fast that they should fly apart - as they don't, there must be a stronger gravitational force acting than can be accounted for using visible matter. This has led astronomers to believe that there is more matter unseen - the mass of this 'dark matter' can be calculated from the gravitational force that must be acting to hold the galaxy together.

“Dark galaxies are thought to form when the density of matter in a galaxy is too low to create the conditions for star formation. The observations of VIRGOHI21 may have other explanations, but they are consistent with the hydrogen being in a flat disc of rotating material - which is what is seen in ordinary spiral galaxies.”[Quoted from]

marker at

But there are doubts:

Merrifield says that the shortfall in the observed amount of hydrogen may mean that what Minchin and his team have seen is not a dark galaxy after all. "Their story doesn't quite hang together, and I would speculate that they have been fooled by two passing hydrogen clouds." The difference in speed as one passes the other would give the illusion of rotation, he says.

But Minchin is sticking to his guns. "There are so few known hydrogen clouds that to find two together would be extremely unlikely." He thinks they may have underestimated the mass of hydrogen in the dark galaxy. If ultraviolet light from distant quasars were ionising a large proportion of the hydrogen atoms, the gas would be rendered invisible to radio telescopes.” [Quoted from]

the web address for the article above is

rational retirement age and dependency pension payments

Simple, straight-forward read. Recommended.

“[...] Calculating backward, Manton deduced that at age 65, active-life expectancy - the average number of years a person could expect to live free of chronic functional impairment - was 8.8 years in 1935, 11.8 years in 1982, and 13.9 years in 1999. Based on the trend line, he projects that by 2015, active life expectancy will be 17 years. In short, if you were designing a system in 1999 for people who could expect as many active years as a 65-year-old person could expect in 1935, you'd set the retirement age at 70. And by 2015, you'd raise it to 73.”

the web address for the article above is

jeb bush: 2008 candidate? [politics]

Free-running gossip round the cooler....

“2008: Rice Leads, Giuliani & Jeb in Top Tier
Over the last two days, nearly 400 of you have responded to the poll on your early favorites for the 2008 GOP nomination. The majority of the responses came from regular visitors to, with GOP Bloggers, Blogs for Bush, and Wes Roth providing the most significant referrals. None of these major referrers recommended a candidate, although the GOP Bloggers link was followed by a surge in Rice votes, while the Blogs for Bush link was followed by a surge in Giuliani votes. Night-time voters were more likely than daytime voters to pick Rice. This survey, though unscientific, can be taken to roughly represent the views of Republican Party-oriented activists in the blogosphere.

“The results (as of 3 p.m. EST, February 12): Secretary of State Condi Rice dominates the field with 42% of the vote. Her closest competitor is America's Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, with 14% (the Rice-Giuliani gap was as close as 10% in early voting, before any major outside links). Coming in third is Florida Governor Jeb Bush with 10% of the vote.”

the web address for the article above is

short article on early lincoln [politics]

Abraham Lincoln

“Here, too, though, Lincoln seems to have learned an important lesson. In 1842, in the midst of his prenuptial problems with Mary, Lincoln wrote a pseudonymous letter in a local paper mocking the Democratic state auditor, James Shields, for being, among other things, "a fool as well as a liar." Outraged, Shields managed to identify his slanderer and challenged Lincoln to a duel.

“Broadswords in hand, Shields and Lincoln crossed into Missouri together (dueling was illegal in Illinois), but, fortunately for both men, the duel never came to a head. Lincoln agreed to withdraw his claim, and their seconds persuaded them to call it off. The young politician was clearly shaken by the episode, and historians think it had a deep impact: "Lincoln may, for the first time, have understood 'honor' and honorable behavior as all-important, as necessary, as a matter of life and death," writes Wilson. And though he would occasionally dabble in political mudslinging again in his life, he refused to dive into this sort of politics in any serious way again. As he told an Army officer who asked him about the affair when he was president, "I do not deny it, but if you desire my friendship, you will never mention it again." ”

the web address for the article above is

buried ancient library

“Scientists have discovered new ways to read 1,800 charred manuscript scrolls already found in the ruins of the so-called Villa of Papyri at Herculaneum, a city that, like neighbouring Pompeii, was buried in volcanic matter when Vesuvius erupted in AD79.

“Scholars are convinced that many more scrolls lie awaiting discovery there, among which are probably lost books by great authors such as Aristotle and Livy.”

“The huge Villa of the Papyri, which belonged to Julius Caesar's father-in-law, extended for 250 yards along the shore. "It must be possible that a family capable of owning such a villa also possessed a copy of Livy's History of Rome, of which more than 100 of the original 142 books are missing," [...] ”

“ "There may be lost plays by Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus, or even the lost dialogues of Aristotle." ”

the web address for the article above is

global warming : another light item

“Presciently, some industries are already incorporating future global warming into their business plans. Perhaps most revealing are the concerns of the reinsurance industry -- those who insure the insurers -- which has been paying out an escalating number of claims in recent years as a result of vastly increased storm-related property damage. Between 1989 and 1994, insurers paid out more than $67 billion in storm damage claims -- $20 billion more than was paid out during the previous five years. Natural disaster claims in 2003 were up 36 percent from 2002, and claims from the August hurricanes of 2004 exceeded $20 billion in Florida alone. Facing potentially crippling future claims, the industry has been lobbying on Capitol Hill to jump-start discussions on climate-change mitigation. In a richly significant statement, H. R. Kaufmann, general manager of Swiss Re, the world's second-largest reinsurer, dryly announced, "In light of the magnitude of these losses, it would be prudent for the property/casualty industry to act as if that theory [global warming] is correct. Failure to act would leave the industry and its policyholders vulnerable to truly disastrous consequences." ”

the web address for the article above is

ecological change: phytoplanton

“Already, the decrease in annual phytoplankton blooms resulting from the lack of nutrients at the oceans' surface is significant enough to be seen from space. By recalibrating old satellite imagery to search for the green of phytoplankton's chlorophyll, Margarita Conkright from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Watson Gregg of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center found that phytoplankton has declined 6 percent since the early 1980s. And while the satellite photos can't show it, Conkright and Gregg know that fewer of these microscopic plants also mean fewer whales, cod, penguins, seals, salmon, and seabirds, as well as diminished catches for global fisheries.”

“ Global warming isn't the only way in which humanity's fossil-fuel use is changing the world's oceans. Emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks are also altering basic ocean chemistry by dramatically increasing the amounts of carbon dioxide in seawater. A new international study led by NOAA scientists sampled ocean water in thousands of places around the world and discovered that the seas have absorbed almost half of the 244 billion metric tons of CO2 that humans have released in the last two centuries. These heightened CO2 levels are making the oceans more acidic than they've likely been in several million years. Oceanographers are especially worried about what will happen if the level of atmospheric CO2 doubles from the 280 parts per million level at the beginning of the industrial revolution to 560 parts per million, a threshold that could be reached as early as 2050. Such a significant boost would translate to an increased CO2 load absorbed by the oceans, and further acidification.

“In this acidified water, shellfish, ranging from oysters to sea urchins, have an increasingly hard time growing their calcium carbonate shells. The sea creatures most likely to be affected by future acidity will be small, thin-shelled organisms, such as the coral polyps that create reefs and the significant portion of plankton species that have shells. (When biology professor Vicky Fabry of California State University at San Marcos put a pteropod -- a species of plankton with a shell -- into a container of water surrounded by air containing 700 parts per million CO2, the shell began to visibly dissolve within 48 hours.) This is bad news on two counts. Coral reefs -- one of the planet's richest ecosystems -- have already been badly damaged by global warming, and with ocean acidification they might suffer a one-two knockout. The impact of a reduction in soft-shelled plankton species, meanwhile, would likely ripple up through the food chain, harming many larger creatures.”

the web address for the article above is

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