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news lite —

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

article archives at abelard's news and comment zonenews-lite archives
1 III-2004: 02 04 07 11 17 26

news lite


empiric random packing of deformed spheres

"This surprising result could help scientists better understand the
behavior of disordered materials ranging from powders to glassy solids,
says Princeton University chemist Salvatore Torquato. The finding could
also lead to denser ceramic materials that might make for improved heat
shields for furnaces and reduced-porosity glass with exceptional
"Why is random packing denser for ellipsoids than for spheres? The team
proposes that the asymmetric ellipsoids can tip and rotate in ways that
spheres can't, so an ellipsoid nestles close to more neighbors than a
sphere does. Indeed, the team finds that as many as 11 neighbors touch an
ellipsoid, whereas each tight-packed sphere typically has only 6 adjacent

the web address for this article is


improved efficiency use of ethanol by generated hydrogen claimed

“The first reactor capable of producing hydrogen from a renewable fuel source - ethanol - efficiently enough to hold economic potential has been invented by University of Minnesota engineers. When coupled with a hydrogen fuel cell, the unit - small enough to hold in your hand - could generate one kilowatt of power, almost enough to supply an average home, the researchers said. The technology is poised to remove the major stumbling block to the "hydrogen economy": no free hydrogen exists, except what is made at high cost from fossil fuels.”

“ "We can potentially capture 50 percent of the energy stored in sugar [in corn], whereas converting the sugar to ethanol and burning the ethanol in a car would harvest only 20 percent of the energy in sugar," said Schmidt. "Ethanol in car engines is burned with 20 percent efficiency, but if you used ethanol to make hydrogen for a fuel cell, you would get 60 percent efficiency." ”

the web address for this article is


“mathematical modelling predicts marraige breakdown with 90% reliability”

“The researchers scored their conversations between - 4 and + 4, according to an accepted psychological system. Angry or contemptuous actions (such as eye-rolling) lost points, while happiness and humour won points.”
— .
“ If the marriage is in good shape and stable, the ratio of positive to negative interactions is five-to-one or stronger. That means, for every negative thing, there were five times as many positive ones. Less than that, the marriage is shaky. By the time they get down to one-to-one, then their marriage has real problems.”

the web address for this article is


diesel and pollution and dust

“Diesel use caused a decrease in smog in only a few areas - mostly where there aren't any trees. Ironically, this includes Los Angeles, currently one of the smoggiest cities in the United States.

“Diesel engines also produce more particulate matter than petrol-fuelled cars. These particles of soot can exacerbate health problems such as asthma and can contribute to global warming.”

And particulates/dust in the home.

the web address for this article is


virus that eats cancer; and maybe bespoke nano-particle drugs

“ mosquito-borne virus automatically targets and kills tumor cells in mice. Most importantly, it does so while leaving healthy cells alone, a feature that may make it a promising treatment for some forms of cancer.”

“ Viruses aren't usually thought of as beneficial, but in recent years scientists have started to take advantage of the ability of viruses to infiltrate human cells, enlisting these infectious agents to treat disease. Most of these viruses have been genetically engineered so that they will not cause disease, but will infect rapidly dividing cancer cells. At least 10 different oncolytic, or cancer-killing, viruses are in early clinical trials.”

and another approach with nano-particles:

“Loebenberg explained that the drug sits in powder form in the inhaler, which is similar to the device that asthmatics use......

“Each grain of drug powder contains "a few thousand nanoparticles," Finlay explained. "Once the nanoparticles are active in the lung they have a tremendous advantage over regular drugs, because they are better able to do exactly what we want them to."

“The idea is that the nanoparticles can be programmed to escape immune system surveillance like a Trojan Horse, and carry designer drugs that target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone.”

the web address for this article is


another human screw-up—vultures killed by cow medicine

“The catastrophic decline of griffon vultures in south Asia is being caused not by a mysterious disease, as had been thought, but a common painkiller given to sick cattle.

“If the treated animal dies and is eaten by vultures, a single meal can be enough to kill the bird. The scientists who made the discovery now want the drug banned from veterinary use and are holding a meeting next week with officials from Nepal, India and Pakistan.”

“ As a result, animal carcasses rot outside villages, attracting rabies-ridden packs of dogs. The Parsee religious community in India is also in crisis, as it disposes of its dead by feeding them to vultures.”

the web address for this article is


yet another small step forward in materials science

“A long-sought new form of matter has been created for the first time. The matter, called a fermionic condensate, consists of atoms that are ordinarily forbidden to exist in the same quantum state but have been tricked into it by linking into pairs.”

“ But the ultimate goal is to create room-temperature superconductors, which would revolutionise the supply of electric power. Currently, the highest temperature at which superconductors work is a chilly -135°C.”

“ Substantial physics and materials science research will be needed to translate the results in this gas of paired atoms to a solid with paired electrons....”

the web address for this article is


not so nice pussy—humans for dinner

“But the lions are learning fast, and not just in Colorado. In 2002, Baron reports, a lion was spotted in a suburban Minneapolis park, and there's evidence that lions are venturing toward the urbanized East. Other predators -- coyotes in particular, but bears and wolves as well -- are clearly learning to take advantage of human habits.”

A light hearted read, but not for the tender minded.

the web address for this article is


butterfly black

“....In 2002 he unveiled 'Super Black', a pitted nickel-phosphorus alloy coating that achieves a similar effect to the scales of P. ulysses.

“Super Black will be most useful in the construction of optical instruments, Brown predicts. "But we've also had interest from artists who are not satisfied with the blackness of their paints," he adds.”

the web address for this article is


don’t tread on the red flowers—they will mark landmines

“A Danish biotech company has developed a genetically modified flower that could help detect land mines and it hopes to have a prototype ready for use within a few years.

“The genetically modified weed has been coded to change color when its roots come in contact with nitrogen-dioxide (NO2) evaporating from explosives buried in soil.”

“Aresa's invention, based on research at the Institute of Molecular Biology at Copenhagen University, uses a plant's normal reaction to turn red or brown when subjected to stressful conditions such as cold or drought, but has genetically coded it to react only to nitrogen-dioxide.

“[Aresa] hopes to launch restricted tests this year and to apply for field tests in Denmark and abroad after that.”

“According to data compiled by Aresa[danish co.], more than 100 million land mines have been spread out in 45 countries, hidden killers that often remain for years after a conflict is over.”

“Oestergaard said the modified weed was infertile and unable to spread its seeds, meaning the risk was minimal that the plant would spread into unwanted areas.

the web address for this article is


what can be heard in the womb

“In part, that was unexpected because much of the noise that reaches a fetus comes from its mother’s own voice, movement, breathing and digestive processes. Even in a quiet room, the womb can be noisy place, he said. Also, fetuses don’t "hear" as much with their ears as children or adults do because their ears are filled with fluid, he said. Rather, much noise is transmitted to their inner ears through vibrations in their skulls. As a result, the mother’s voice tends to be the most dominant and recurring sound in the womb.

“The listeners understood all of the sentences recorded in the open air, about 70 percent of the sentences recorded in the womb and about 30 percent of the sentences recorded in the fetal sheep’s inner ear.

“The recordings revealed the reason the inner ear-recorded sentences proved so much less intelligible was that the higher-frequency consonants in words tended to be absent or confused. In other words, "ship" could easily be heard as "slit" or "sit". Lower-frequency vowels, by contrast, tended to penetrate the inner ear to a much greater extent.”

the web address for this article is


‘disgust’ linked to infection avoidance

And now we have a piece of research that could have been done by a moderately introspective pigeon:

“Disgust is a form of evasive action to protect us against signs of threat, such as disease," says Val Curtis, who led the research. "Women need to have a higher level of sensitivity to infection or disease, because they are the main carers of infants. And, as reproductive ability declines with age, so does disgust.”

the web address for this article is


nuclear fusion politics continues—

The politics between Europe and Japan for the new ITER [1] plant continues. Europe suggests going it alone, maybe there is advantage in building two units.

“Generating energy economically by fusing atomic nuclei together would revolutionise energy production. But decades of research have failed to achieve this. Parker says ITER is "the only hope in my lifetime" of making significant progress.

“The project would heat atoms derived from seawater to millions of degrees, creating a plasma of charged particles. Magnetic fields would contain the plasma and spur the atomic nuclei to fuse. This would generate heat that, if the project worked, would sustain the reaction for about half an hour and release five times the amount of energy that was initially put in.”

related material
nuclear fusion a priority for us department of energy

International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor

the web address for this article is


related material
nuclear fusion a priority for us department of energy

supersolid? possibly a new state of matter

“'Super' states of matter are extraordinarily slippery. Superfluids and supervapours are examples that researchers have already made.

“While supersolids are rigid like an ordinary solid, they have some properties of a superfluid. In particular, they flow without producing friction.”

the web address for this article is


bam—before the earthquake
with link to basic map of Iran.

“Bam was founded some 1,800 years ago during Iran’s Sassanid Empire. The city was at its peak from about A.D. 1500 to 1700, under the Safavid dynasty.

“Bam maintained its rugged grandeur despite being intermittently controlled or raided throughout the centuries by Arabs, Turks, and Afghans. Iranians finally gained control of it once and for all in the late 18th century.”

“News reports eventually trickled out that everyone who lived or worked in the vicinity of the Old City—including curators and guides to the citadel—had been buried under the rubble.

“It is tough to picture the charming little town now obliterated, nearly half of its inhabitants wiped out.”

“While the human catastrophe can never be remedied, renowned archaeologists and curators have vowed to help restore the crumbled citadel to its former glory.”

image credit: Project[FREE IRAN]

Another site about Age-bam, with useful text (on pages 2 and 3, as jpgs) and simple maps, including of the citadel site.
Recommended site: Four GoldenYak (tm) award

the web address for this article is


ambulance chasing—i wanna defend madsam

“More than 600 lawyers have signed up to defend Saddam, head of Jordan's Bar Association told the Jordan Times newspaper Sunday, Agence France-Presse reported from Amman.”

the web address for this article is


diamond cutting by computer simulation

“A computer simulation of the complex way in which diamonds scatter light could change the way they are cut. The simulation shows how unconventional designs will look without having to experiment on real stones and risk ruining them.

“Diamond cutters usually stick to a narrow range of shapes known to produce specific optical effects, which are specified by the American Gem Society in Las Vegas. This conservative approach places limits on the way an irregularly shaped rock can be cut into smaller pieces without waste.”

the web address for this article is


playing on stupidity and greed—the nigeria scam

“...It claims the 419 "industry" earns Nigeria 5 billion dollars a year, making it one of the country's most successful export earners. (You're advised to handle these figures with care!)”

“[The] so-called 419 fraud [...] lure[s] the gullible through emails promising millions of dollars to victims who pay an up-front fee.”

the web address for this article is


leukemia link to tungsten suggested

“Three different clusters of childhood leukaemia in the western United States may be linked to high levels of tungsten in the environment, a new study hints.

“In the past five years, 17 children have developed leukaemia in the small mountain town of Fallon, Nevada, home to just 2,383 kids under 18. "This is much higher than the expected rate of 4.2 cases of leukaemia for every 100,000 kids over a five-year period," says Paul Sheppard of the University of Arizona in Tucson.”

the web address for this article is


puffer fish new type painkiller under test

“Puffer fish toxin, a substance more toxic than cyanide, is being tested to see if it can act as a painkiller.”

the web address for this article is


russia converts nuclear missiles for satellite launches

“A Strela (Arrow) modification of a Soviet RS-18 Stiletto missile roared into space from an underground silo at Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, said spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Igor Zatula.”

the web address for this article is


spam propogators suspected of spamming anti-spam sites with viruses

“The virus [Minmail L] then uses its host to send a torrent of meaningless web traffic to computer servers operated by anti-spam groups including Spamhaus, SPEWS and Spamcop.”

“Experts believe spammers are increasingly turning to viruses as a means of both sending spam and targeting anti-spam groups.”

the web address for this article is

  sommat useful—a fruit label that changes colour as the fruit ripens

“A label that changes colour as fruit ripens is allowing shoppers to see whether pears are ready to eat without have to squeeze them.”

the web address for this article is


reduced aircraft noise by gliding descent

“Noise nuisance from aircraft can be reduced significantly by changing the way the planes come in to land. Lining up with the runway as far as 70 kilometres away and making a steady descent can more than halve the acoustic energy that reaches the ground, an international research consortium has found.”

the web address for this article is


growing evidence suggest asteroids are probable cause of major bio-extinctions

A fairly scrappy article, as usual, from Nat. Geo., but interesting.

This was my favourite:

“The researchers also found bits of nearly pure metallic iron in the Antarctic rock that they say is of neither terrestrial nor extraterrestrial origin.”

marker at abelards news zone

“Catastrophic asteroid impacts are gaining a credible edge over violent volcanic eruptions as the greatest killers Earth has ever seen...”

“ The first cataclysm in question occurred about 250 million years ago, when according to the fossil record more than 90 percent of Earth's marine species and 70 percent of life on land perished. The event is known as the Permian-Triassic (P-T for short) mass extinction, named because it falls on the boundary between the two geological eras.

“The second event, known as the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) mass extinction, occurred about 65 million years ago....”

NEW A more clear and detailed item is available here.

the web address for this article is


a unicorn in the particle zoo

“A mysterious sub-atomic particle has been revealed that does not to fit any of the models currently used by physicists.

“The discovery either suggests that a new family of molecule-like sub-atomic particles exists, or that theorists must substantially re-think their theory of the masses of sub-atomic particles.”

the web address for this article is


possible links between trust reactions and the hormone oxytocin

“Oxytocin prompts new mothers to release breast milk, strengthening the bond between mother and child. Touching boosts oxytocin levels in rats. The chemical also suppresses stress hormones.”

the web address for this article is


iris id at a distance—a vision for the future

“The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is developing technology that will be able to identify people from their iris - even while they are moving at a distance.”

the web address for this article is


brain mapping to perception, not position

“When the monkeys were touched on one digit alone, the researchers observed a response in Area 3b of the somatosensory cortex, the area previously determined to process information from that digit. When an adjacent digit was stimulated on its own, a response was seen in the cortical map for that digit. However, when the monkey was touched simultaneously on both digits, a single cortical location between the maps of the two individual digits responded, explaining the perceived location of the illusion. In addition, the perceived intensity of this illusion is caused by the integration of activity across all three locations (two actual, one illusory).”

the web address for this article is


a step forward on mad cow disease—claim

“Clumps of rogue proteins are not the cause of fatal conditions such as mad cow disease, but merely a symptom, hints new research. The insight could ultimately help to treat the degenerative brain diseases - the hunt is now on for the real culprit.

the web address for this article is


fish farming in deep ocean by remote control
from a general article on fish farming:

“But when conditions get too dicey to make the trip, the fish "shepherds" at UNH tend their flock remotely. Thanks to funding from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, which backs the UNH project, Langan's team of five engineers has rigged up a wireless, ethernet communications system that facilitates observation and feeding in any weather.

“Specifically, for feeding, they can preprogram a solar- and wind-powered electric pump that will direct feed into a hopper. The food is then pushed down through tubes into the fish cage. Feeding occurs every other day during the winter, which is sufficient, as the fish are less hungry in cold months than during warmer ones, when they are fed daily.”

the web address for this article is


evolution simulation programme on butterfly wings— Three GoldenYak (tm) Award
you can try it out! so a three goldenyak recommendation

Ancient Wings, as the program is called, could help researchers and teachers to explore evolution, says its creator, Antónia Monteiro of the State University of New York in Buffalo. "You can never turn back the clock, but you can see what was likely to have happened," she says.”

Go here for more background info.
The programme may be initiated and run from here.

the web address for this article is


new solar storm magnitude

“It has just been announced that the massive solar X-ray flare which occurred on 4 November was, at best estimate, an X28. There is still a small chance this will be revised by a small amount, but it is now official: We have a new number 1 X-ray flare for the record books, the most powerful in recorded observational history.”

new And a better link on the flare, with an animated picture.

second solar storm predicted

“Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) scientists report a major solar flare hit their satellites late Wednesday afternoon, signifying the new storm's likely arrival today.

“We're getting our share of storms. The fact that we have two large ones coming right at us so close together is really unusual," says CfA solar astrophysicist John Kohl.”

Further link to the solar flares here, with other interesting links.

Aurora pics site. This looks good at first sight.

solar storms with two neat images.

“In early September in 1859, telegraph wires suddenly shorted out in the United States and Europe, igniting widespread fires. Colorful aurora, normally visible only in polar regions, were seen as far south as Rome and Hawaii.”

“ The charged particles can also zap satellites, as has occurred with handful of storms in recent years -- events with far fewer charged particles than in 1859. A space storm also heats the upper level of Earth's atmosphere, causing it to expand. That's no good for satellites that can get caught up in air that didn't used to be there.”

the web address for this article is


bermuda triangle bubbles to sink ships!

“Their modelling suggests that giant bubbles are much more likely to sink ships than previously thought, adding new weight to warnings about ships travelling in areas where bubbles are likely to be.”

the web address for this article is


difficulties with inheritance (with some quotes)

“Also, many studies have shown that estate taxes drain capital from small businesses, force them to pay heavily out of current earnings for life insurance to cover the tax, encourage the sale of family businesses to larger competitors, and force other actions that may not be justified economically. That is why economists have long held that the estate tax is especially pernicious.”

the web address for this article is


seeing over the hill

“"The 2-pound, 6-inch-long reconnaissance device, made from off-the-shelf parts such as digital camera components, would be used in weapons like mortars that launch shells high in the air. Far above the battlefield, a separation charge opens a parachute, and the surveillance device floats down, transmitting digital images as it descends.

“It can detect a human being from 1,800 feet in the air," Stancil said.”

the web address for this article is


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