Thursday, December 11, 2008

2,000-Year-Old Astronomy Computer's Secrets Revealed by X-Rays

Have you heard about the Antikythera Device? It was found encrusted with deposits with the remains of an ancient Roman merchant shipwreck discovered in the Mediterranean more than a hundred years ago in 1900. The discovery in it's original form showed what appeared to be clock gears. Further studies revealed it to be a complex computer that measured the movements of celestial objects.

In 2005, X-Tek systems x-rayed the object and found the words for months of the year etched on it. It was easy from then on to determine where it came from since every city in the ancient Greek world had different names for the months. They were identified by ancient astronomy scientist Alexander Jones to be Corinthian. Corinth was ransacked by the Romans in 146 B.C.

Researchers of the Antikythera Mechanism Research project are still amazed at how such an intricate mechanical device with fine gears, tiny screws, and other details could have been made at such an early time in the history of human beings.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reconstruction of the Skull of Nicolas Copernicus Reveals Face of 16h-Century Astronomer

A skull discovered buried in the cathedral of Frombork in Poland has proved to be that of the astronomer Niclolas Copernicus, who put forth the heliocentric theory of the Sun being the center of the universe. The actual burial site of the famed priest-astronomer was unknown until now. Genetic material from the skull was matched with hair found in one of Copernicus's books.

Using modern reconstructive forensics graphics, Polish archaeologist Jerzy Gassowski and his team recreated the 16th-century astronomer's face. The result shows a resemblance to how he was depicted in many old illustrations and paintings, although in some, his jaw is pointed (left) and not square as his "younger" portraits show. SInce his jaw is not among the remains found, we can only speculate on whether he was square- or pointy-jawed. At least the nose is consistent in all of the pictures. Notice how they've even got the vest right?

Alas, poor Copernicus for he was ridiculed for saying the Sun was the center of the universe - but at least we now now him well.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

First Pictures of a Planet in the Fomalhaut System

Extrasolar planets are being discovered by astronomers routinely these days. It's now a fact that out galaxy is rich with planets of different sizes and distances from their parent stars. It's just like what science fiction writers have envisioned all this time. But while we used to only read about such discoveries and pictures of the new planets are always unavailable.

Now, for the first time, astronomers have shown pictures of a planet (Fomalhaut b) of the Fomalhaut (Arabic for "mouth of fish") system. The picture of the star, which is surrounded by a ring of gas that looks like the Eye of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings movies, was taken way back in 2006, but the discovery of Fomalhaut b was released only on November 13, 2008.

It is one of the first visible-light images of a planet that's 25 light years from our Sun. The camera used to capture it is mounted on the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronomer Paul Kalas and his team at the University of California in Berkeley, were responsible for the images.

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Cave People Had Bad Hair Days Too

We're not strangers to bad hair days. Everyone of us has had them time and again. But we always wonder why there are times when our hair goes bad. Now, scientists appear to have the answer, and it goes way back 300 million years ago with the conclusions taking their cues from the genetic research on a chicken and a lizard. Yes, it's true, we have learned much about the evolution of our hair from creatures with feathers and leathery scales.

What researcher Leopold Eckhart of the Medical University of Vienna in Austria found out and reported to LiveScience was that keratin, the building blocks of hair, had it's origins in claws. According to Eckhart, the common ancestor of reptiles and mammals (including birds), developed claws and that it was when mammals came to be 210 million years ago that they evolved into hair.

Eckhart and colleagues found a single humanlike gene of keratin in the chicken and six in the lizard. It must mean people are more related to the lizard than to the chicken - which must be why we prefer to eat chicken instead of lizards. Our cavemen ancestors probably felt a kinship to lizards, who knows. Anyway, they probably had their bad hair days as well, especially before the invention of the comb.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Italian Iceman Otzi Has No Relatives to Claim His Body After Analysis of Rectum DNA

Otzi, the 5,300 year old Italian iceman's DNA (the arrow-wounded mummy was found in melting ice in the Alps by tourists in 1991) has been extracted to determine if he still has relatives in Europe. Researcher Franco Rollo took the DNA from Otzi's rectum and analyzed mitochondrial matter.

The findings show that Otzi is related to a specific group of individuals in Europe who all share a common ancestral DNA sequence. They belong to one of three sub-lineages, but Otzi's DNA came from a lineage that does not appear to exist today. This could mean that he has no living relatives, or that they haven't been found yet. So no one's claiming him yet.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Evidence of Lost Tribe in Philippines Seen in Confiscated Anthropomorphic Burial Jars

Little is known about the prehistory of the early inhabitants of the Philippines. But Dr. Eusebio Dizon of the National Museum (below left) had uncovered anthropomorphic (human-form) burial jars in the early nineties in Pinol and Maitum caves in Saranggani province in Mindanao that were established to have been made in 5BC. He had to go through rebel-controlled areas just to get to the cave were they were found.

Now, there appears to be a new but much older burial site, perhaps as much as 2,000 years old, and this is reputedly in the nearby town of Palembang in the province of Sulatan Kudarat. This was according to what was told to the Governor Rene Miguel Dominguez of Saranggani. Evidence of this surfaced when police confiscated sacks of snuggled broken pottery. Little did they know that they may have discovered evidence of one of the earliest tribes in the Philippines.

The pot sherds were cruder than those found in Saranggani but also had anthropomorphic depictions and were painted. Faces and arms were obviously a big part of the design. Dizon says the people who made the pottery were not associated with any of the current tribes because these do not depict human forms in their pottery. He said further research needs to be done but the exact location of the plundered site needs to be established. The task is not an easy one because of the presence of rebels.

Evidence of prehistoric tigers found in Palawan in the Philippines

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Altruism May Be the Key to True Love

What makes a man attractive to women? Good looks? A new study led by Tim Phillips, of the Behavior and Ecology Research Group at the University of Nottingham in England and published by Live Science, shows that altruism is also a major factor for women choosing a mate. While it's lesser for men it also ranks high.

So, the question now is "Why would women want men to be altruistic?" In the study, it was discovered that long-time partners rated altruistic behavior highly for one another. According to the researchers, this connection between partners may mean altruism may be a key factor in mate selection. Past studies also suggest that helping for the benefit of another makes a person feel good and is linked with happy unions.

Phillips thinks that "the expansion of the human brain would have greatly increased the cost of raising children so it would have been important for our ancestors to choose mates both willing and able to be good, long-term parents."

So, the next time you wish to impress a girl, tell her you care for her... and also for the homeless... for the hungry cat in the trash bin... for the refugees... for the country... for planet Earth...

How are men like birds when it comes to dating?

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Gamma Radiation Pulsar Found in Supernova Remnant Three Full Moons in Diameter

Ten thousand years ago, when saber-toothed cats and woolly mammoths still roamed the earth, a star exploded in the constellation Cepheus, 4,600 light-years away. Whoever saw it then must have marveled at it's brightness, which must have been visible also during the say.

Today, that cataclysmic explosion has left a circular remnant that's about three full moons in diameter. Scientists have known for a long time that there was something strange about it. They had detected some form of radiation in the vicinity. "Nobody knew where it was coming from," said Alice Harding of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Only lately, when astronomers were testing NASA's Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope, that they discovered it to be a pulsar - a neutron star releasing pulses of radiation. What's new about this pulsar is that it was streaming gamma radiation, which was unheard of until then. Pulsars, like the Vela Pulsar (left), have been known to emit radiation in the radio and x-ray wavelengths. Now that astronomers know gamma pulsars exist, they expect to find more.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tomb Bacteria Discovered

Tombs are the domain of archaeologists, not biologists. So it was strange to hear of two new bacteria discovered in the ancient, 2nd century Roman Catacombs of Saint Callistus.

Bacteria are known to grow inside of tombs, and these two new ones were found thriving in the wall patinas or coatings of the interior of the catacombs.

The new bacteria belong to the genus Kribella which was discovered only in 1999. They are named Kribella catacumbae and Kribella sancticallisti.

Researcher Clara Urzi of the University of Messina in Italy says the conditions in the catacombs have allowed the bacteria to change, and that even tiny changes in the environment can make them evolve distinctly.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lost City of the Khazars May Have Been Found

Russian archaeologist Dmitry Vasilyev claims he has found, or may have found, the lost city of the ancient Khazars, a strong nation that thrived a thousand years ago near the Caspian Sea and then disappeared.

Vasilyev has been excavating the site for nine years where he has uncovered structures made of fired bricks. He believes it is Itil, the Khazar capital. By tradition and law, the Khazars, a Turkic tribe, could only use fired bricks only in the capital, which is already a big clue as to the origins of the ruins.

Between the 7th and 10th centuries, the Khazars conquered most of Southern Russia, the Caucasus regions, and Central Asia. Vasilyev found ceramics which could tell more of the culture of the people who lived there. He has yet to find inscriptions that relate to Judaism, which the Khazars adopted as a religion in the 8th or 9th centuries.

The Khazars acquired riches due to their access fo the fabled Silk Road between Europe and China.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

3-D Movie Glasses that Double for Daily Wear Proposed

3-D movie glasses are cool, as long as you wear them inside the moviehouse. Outside, you'd simply look stupid and childish. Why would you wear them in the street anyway? To use as shades?

Well, it may seem a bit farfetched, but 3-D movie glasses may soon be ordinary fare for hipsters and other fashionistas even while not watching 3-D movies. The reason is because brands like Oakley may soon be making them. According to DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, soon, all movies will be made in 3-D.

Katzenberg made this prediction in the first ever live transatlantic telecast in high-definition digital 3-D. He spoke to about a thousand delegates all wearing 3-D glasses. He says that hat DreamWorks Animation has been collaborating with eyeglass firms Luxottica and Oakley to make daily wear glasses (shades) that also function in-theater as 3-D glasses.

Katzenberg says they are about to introduce a transition lens that people can use outside as sunglasses, and as 3-D glasses when inside the movie theater. "People are going to own their own glasses. I think from a fashion standpoint and a coolness standpoint people will want to have their own glasses. I think that will be among the many changes that will come along."

Oh, these new shades won't be those with the red and blue glasses. These would be real cool ones like those worn by Tom Cruise (top). See more articles on movies in Hots Up Movies.

What are pinhole glasses and how do they fix acquired myopia in children?

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Intriguing Anti Gravity Experiment

Type "antigravity invention" in Google and you'll likely end up with this site called antigravitycup.com which shows a piece of styrofoam floating inside a plastic cup - apparently defying gravity.

While it's most likely a trick of static, it's still fun to watch and anyone can challenge themselves to replicate the trick. It is quite possible to do yourself if you know what to do. But we'll not spoil the fun for you.

For more science experiments and science fair ideas, go to Science Fair Projects and Ideas.



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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Breakthrough in Invisibility Cloak Technology

Horror stories almost always have this angle about the unseen. Remember Predator and Hollow Man? Well, science now seems to mirror fiction as scientists have revealed that they are closing in on nano technology materials construction which would allow Harry Potter's invisibility cloak or the Predator's cloaking device to be a reality.

One method being studied is stacking nano-scale stacks of silver and magnesium fluoride in a mesh. Another used nanometer-sized silver wires. Either way, the methods are supposed to make the material neither absorb or reflect light. Light will simply be bent around the object like water moving around a rock in a stream. That would make it appear that the background of the object passes through it.

Professor Ortwin Hess of the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey says, "It's a careful choice of the right materials and the right structuring to get this effect for the first time at these wavelengths."

Apart from a Harry Potter style invisibility cloak, the new material can also have practical uses for microscopy and cloaking devices. These things are likely to be a reality soon, but chances are, we won't see them come to light - they'd be invisible.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dog that Looks Strangely Like a Panda

As babies, pandas may look like dogs. But have you ever seen a dog that looks like a panda? Here's a picture from Alternative Nation of a dog that mimics a panda. You can compare the dog to the picture of a real panda on the left.

If you've ever wanted to have a panda as a pet, it's the next best thing!

Watch a video of tiny, hairless panda babies here.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cave Water and Faunal Bones Found in Atacama Desert

NASA scientists have discovered water in a cave in the driest place in the world---the Atacama desert. The cave Cueva Chulacao, where the water was found, is the largest known cave in the Cordillera de la Sal. There were hardly any indication of recent visits to the place and was in pristine condition.

J. Judson Wynne, a cave expert who is with the SETI Institute and Northern Arizona University, was planting a sensor on the wall of the cave when his feet sank into mud. It was not apparent where the water came from, and it was quite a surprise.

Another surprise came from another cave, which they renamed Cuevita de Huesos which means Small Cave of the Bones, because in it, they discovered hundreds---maybe even thousands of animal bones stuck in the wall, as if encased by time itself. Like the water in the other cave, how the animals came to be deposited there in those numbers is a big mystery.

The scientists were on a sensor-planting mission which would help in research for identifying thermal signatures of caves which may harbor water in a dry environment.

Results of the study would help determine which caves on Mars could potentially have water. Some of these caves, which have already been photographed from space, could potentially harbor life. Otherwise, they can be used by astronauts as shelter from the harsh Martian environment.

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NASA: We Have Water on Mars!

Lowell was right! At least least about the Martian poles being a source of water. The Phoenix lander on Mars has finally analyzed some of the ice it has scooped up and heated and the results show that indeed, there is water on Mars.

Analysis of the Martian soil showed that is was more alkaline than anticipated and contained magnesium, sodium, potassium, and other elements. Because of the discovery, the mission of the lander had been extended to September. The next step for it is to discover if the area had been habitable in the past or suitable for habitation. It would not be looking for evidence of life though. That would be for another mission.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hybrid Cars Pose Danger to Blind People

People cross the street using their eyes to determine if it's safe. The blind on the other hand, use their ears to determine if cars are coming or going. But car technology is changing fast, and where there used to be noisy combustion cars, there are now quieter hybrids that are semi electric or hydrogen-powered and these are the ones that pose risk to the blind.

According to the American Council for the Blind, government officials should push for ways to make the streets safer for blind and visually-impaired people who rely on hearing while on the street. Council Executive Director Melanie Brunson says "Without those sound cues, a blind or visually impaired person is at serious risk."

Dr. Karen Gourgey, a member of the council's environmental access committee, says even people with non-impaired vision use sounds to determine safety while on the streets. In response to the problem, the U.S. Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration held its first public meeting on the matter.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Evidence of Ancient Tigers In Palawan, Philippines Unearthed

Archaeologists first discovered that tigers once thrived in Palawan in the Philippines 12,000 years ago when paw bones were unearthed in the Westmouth excavation of the Ille Cave and Rockshelter in 2004. Recently, a new tiger bone, specifically that of the basal phalanx (toe bone) were found by scientists of The Palawan Island Paleohistoric Project led by Dr. Helen Lewis and Dr. Victor Paz in excavations in the Dewil Valley.

The findings, participated in by the Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) of the University of the Philippines, shed new light on life in prehistoric Philippines more than 10,000 years ago. Dr. Philip Piper, a member of the ASP, says tigers probably entered Palawan from Borneo 620,000 or 420,000 years ago by traveling across the Balabac strait when the gap between the islands was but a few kilometers. He says environmental conditions or the intervention of humans could have made the move possible. The tigers could have been hunted down to extinction by the early inhabitants of Palawan.

Interestingly, a model of the Earth during the last ice age 18 thousand years ago (below) - when ocean levels were considerably lower - appears to show Palawan connected to Borneo (as well as the Sulu group of islands) - although a sliver of ocean still stood between Palawan and Mindoro. During that time, it would have been possible to travel from Luzon, down to Tawi-Tawi, into Malaysia onwards to the tip of South America, passing through Central Asia, into Europe, then to Alaska, and down to Central and ultimately to Tierra del Fuego in South America!

Other areas in the Philippines currently of interest to archaeologists are Cagayan de Oro, Batangas, and Cagayan Valley, where pygmy elephants or stegodons used to roam and where stone tools were found that could indicate habitation of pre modern humans - although there are no remains found to support this notion. The earliest modern human habitation known in the Philippines with bones as evidence is in Tabon cave, also in Palawan, and dates to over 30,000 years ago.

Confiscated anthropomorphic burial jars seen as evidence of ancient lost tribe in the Philippines

What is the strange landscape ring in Pangasinan in the Philippines that is visible from space?

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Baby Red Spot Eaten by Great Red on Jupiter

In a great big event for Jupiter, one of the smaller significant spots of Jupiter has been swallowed by the Great Red Spot. It would now seem that spots come and go on Jupiter. If so, there's a good chance you can discover a new one in the future, just like what Filipino Christopher Go did by just taking pictures of Jupiter.

The above picture shows the baby red spot nearing the Great Red one. The picture on the left shows how it was "eaten up" by big brother. You can study the process in the picture sequence.

Experience outer space virtually rendered Hollywood style

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Surtsey Volcano Island Resembles Face in Photograph

The island of Surtsey was formed by volcanic action off the coast of Iceland in the 1960s. Now, it has been named as one of eight new natural wonders of the world and included in the World Heritage Sites list of the United Nations. Curiously, the island resembles a face in this photograph. If Surtsey has a face, that must be it!

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Earth's Magnetic Field Fluctuating Wildly

Scientists have discovered that the Earth's magnetic field is weakening in some parts and changes are happening pretty quickly. The fluctuations are thought to be closely connected with current movements of our planet's outer liquid center core, 3,000 kilometers down.

In 2003, the changes were prominent in the Australasian region. This shifted to Southern Africa in 2004. The findings are the result of nine years of accumulated satellite data. Mioara Mandea, scientist of the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam says the changes may mean an upcoming reversal of the geomagnetic field.

The Earth's polarity regularly switches and evidence of this has been found by scientists geologically. Every time a decline in the Earth's magnetic field happens, the surface becomes exposed to more radiation from the Sun, and outer space in general, to altitudes below a hundred kilometers. Currently, the geomagnetic field is weak in the South-Atlantic region.

Some associate the phenomenon to Mayan prophecies and the belief about 2012, the researchers say the thinning of the magnetic field does not even affect temperature and only disrupt radio signals. The small photo (top left) shows how solar particles interact with the magnetic field to produce spectacular aurora displays like the one shown in Manitoba. The chart on the left marks polar reversals in the Earth's geological history. The scientists are continuing to monitor the developments.

Journey to the Center of the Earth remade in 3D