Saturday, September 19, 2009
by William Harwood
* Font size
* Post a comment
* Yahoo! Buzz
After two months of checkout and calibration, NASA's $504 million Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was maneuvered into a circular 31-mile-high mapping orbit Tuesday, and scientists said Thursday the spacecraft's instruments are delivering intriguing clues about the possible presence of water ice.
"The moon is starting to reveal her secrets, but some of those secrets are tantalizingly complex," said Michael Wargo, NASA's chief lunar scientist.
Scientists expected the spacecraft to find signs of hydrogen--an indicator of possible water ice deposits--in permanently shadowed craters near the moon's south pole. Ice could be expected from cometary impacts over the past few billion years.
In a surprise, high-resolution data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, right, shows indications of hydrogen both inside and outside of permanently shadowed craters.
Indeed, one of LRO's instruments shows the temperature in such craters never rises above about 33 kelvin, or minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit. But in a surprise, the spacecraft is detecting signs of hydrogen both inside and outside of such craters.
The observations confirm "there is hydrogen near the lunar south polar region," said Project Scientist Richard Vondrak. "What it also seems to indicate is that the hydrogen is not confined to permanently shadowed craters. Some of the permanently shadowed craters do indeed contain hydrogen. Others, on the other hand, do not appear to have hydrogen. And in addition, there appear to be concentrations of hydrogen that are not confined to the permanently shadowed regions."
Water ice cannot exist in direct sunlight on the surface of the moon.
"However, it can exist below the surface even if the surface is warm," Vondrak said. "So you may have had water deposited, or some other hydrogen-bearing compound like methane or ammonia, that was deposited from a comet or some other event and then was promptly buried.
"And so you could have this buried hydrogen that then would be lasting for long, long periods of time. It would be very durable there. What we don't know is the abundance and how deep it is buried."
The issue is of critical importance to scientists and engineers who envision someday building permanent research stations on the moon, using solar power to break down mined water ice to provide oxygen, water, and hydrogen rocket fuel. Scientists do not yet know if water ice is, in fact, mixed in with the moon's upper soil, only that hydrogen-bearing material of some sort seems to be present.
Equipped with seven state-of-the-art cameras and other instruments, LRO was built to look for suitable landing sites for future manned missions while creating the most detailed lunar atlas ever assembled.
The 4,200-pound solar-powered spacecraft also will measure the solar and cosmic radiation that future lunar explorers will face and map out the surface topology, mineralogy, and chemical composition of Earth's nearest neighbor. One year will be spent scouting future landing sites followed by three years of purely scientific observations.
LRO was launched by an Atlas 5 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 18 along with a companion spacecraft, the $79 million Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS. The two spacecraft separated shortly after launch.
LCROSS is designed to guide the Atlas 5's spent Centaur second stage to an impact in a permanently shadowed crater near the moon's south pole on October 9. Instruments aboard LCROSS, LRO, the Hubble Space Telescope, and at observatories on Earth will study the debris thrown up by the crash to look for evidence of ice.
"It could be water, it could be methane, it could by hydrocarbons or organics," said LCROSS Project Manager Dan Andrews. "And so actually from a scientific standpoint, this is incredibly important. Whatever the moon has collected over the last three-and-a-half billion years in terms of water, organics, materials from comets, asteroids, the sun, could be trapped in these pockets on the moon.
"It's a time capsule, it's a window into the past of the entire inner solar system, of Earth," he said. "I see LCROSS and LRO combined as a gateway, a pathfinder to truly understanding even the origins of volatiles, of water, in the inner solar system. The moon is right there, it's right next to us, we can go there much more easily than a lot of other places and make these studies."
LRO Project Manager Craig Tooley said the lunar orbiter is operating in near flawless fashion, with all seven of its instruments now activated and trained on the moon. The craft was maneuvered from its initially elliptical commissioning orbit into a 31-mile-high circular orbit last Tuesday with a three-minute rocket firing over the south pole.
"Commissioning is now complete and all of our seven instruments as well as our spacecraft (are) essentially performing flawlessly," he said Thursday. "So we are certainly ready to proceed on into the mission."
Genetic scientists have discovered a cure for color blindness, offering hope to millions of sufferers.
Scientists at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and the University of Florida restored normal vision to two color-blind monkeys. The technique could prove to be a safe and effective cure for color blindness and other visual disorders related to the cones in the retina.
“Although color blindness is only moderately life-altering, we have shown we can cure a cone disease in a primate and that it can be done very safely,” said Professor William Hauswirth, an ophthalmic molecular geneticist at the University of Florida. “That is extremely encouraging for the development of therapies for human cone diseases that really are blinding.”
Those suffering from red-green color blindness cannot distinguish between colors in the green-red-yellow part of the spectrum. This can make reading maps, using the internet and selecting a matching shirt and tie impossible. The disorder affects about 8 percent of Caucasian males, but less than 0.5 percent of females.
Scientists discover genetic cure for red-green colour blindness
Thursday, September 17, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Injecting the same dye used to make M&Ms and Gatorade blue into injured people to repair spinal injuries sounds more like something from a tale of science fiction than an idea coming straight out of a scientific journal. Yet this and other seemingly unlikely ideas from scientific journals are source material for the writers of FOX's TV show FRINGE, in its second season starting Thursday.
"Everyone on staff finds articles that provide kernels [of information] for episodes," says Robert Chiappetta, staff writer and one of the "science guys" behind the show. "All the writers find new crazy stuff to work with. Sometimes it helps just being familiar with a topic and having a pool of material to draw from."
The show is part adrenalin adventure, part cerebral crime show, and part science fiction fantasy. So the more the science guys learn about science, the more interesting the story lines get.
"As science evolves, so do our story lines," says Glen Whitman, staff writer and the other science guy on the show. "Many of our ideas are ripped from the science headlines while other television dramas like Law & Order and CSI rip their ideas from crime headlines."
The second season of FRINGE will explore some familiar and some foreign realms.
"Memory will play a big role this season, but it’s won’t just be Agent Olivia Dunham’s [played by Anna Torv] memories that are tapped into," says Chiappetta. "As we learn more about how the brain works as a computer and as a storage device, we are able to play with new directions in this field."
New directions that reveal there are two sides to every story. "Science is neutral, with positive benefits and negative outcomes, and you’ll see the same technological advances used for good and for evil." says Chiappetta.
"We are also delving more into the science of parallel universes, seeing how the alternate reality is different and how it is the same; some things are better and some are worse," adds Whitman.
"We hope the show really promotes discovery and an interest in the real world of science and technology," says Chiappetta.
On September 17, FRINGE’s season two begins with Olivia Dunham, Walter Bishop (John Noble) and Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) continuing to push the boundaries of science as entertainment, while paying close attention to real scientists who are pushing the boundaries of research that sometimes can seem stranger than fiction.
Inside Science News Service is supported by the American Institute of Physics.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Improvements in this version
- Document inconsistencies fixed.
- Grammar check and update.
- Updated guide on improving external hard drive performance.
- Guides ready for translation.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
By TIM HUBER (AP) – 1 day ago
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Obama administration on Friday stepped up its efforts to curb environmental damage from surface coal mining, announcing plans to give 79 permit applications in four states additional scrutiny.
The Environmental Protection Agency said it wants to make certain the proposed mines won't cause water pollution and violate the Clean Water Act. An initial review concluded all 79 probably would affect water quality and require additional study, the EPA said.
Forty-nine of the permits are for mines in Kentucky, the nation's No. 3 coal-producing state. The list also includes 23 mines in West Virginia, the nation's No. 2 producer behind Wyoming, six in Ohio and one in Tennessee.
The action targets a practice known as mountaintop removal mining. The highly efficient mining method involves blasting away mountaintops to expose multiple coal seams and, in most cases, filling nearby valleys with rock placed atop intermittent streams.
"Release of this preliminary list is the first step in a process to assure that the environmental concerns raised by the 79 permit applications are addressed," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement.
The coal industry said the decision could mean lost jobs.
But environmental groups cheered the administration, which they've been criticizing for not banning mountaintop mining altogether.
"We applaud this action by the Obama Administration to return the rule of law to the Appalachian coalfields," Sierra Club spokeswoman Mary Anne Hitt said in a statement. "The next step in the administration's review process should confirm that these permits cannot be issued."
The San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network called the news a "moment of truth" for the administration.
"EPA has taken an important stand in support of the people and ecosystems of Appalachia," Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. "The agency seems to recognize that there is no environmentally safe way to demolish mountains."
U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., who is sponsoring legislation that would ban mountaintop mining, praised the action, but said it is not enough.
"The general practice of mountaintop removal mining and the associated valley fills continues to be a major problem and must end," Cardin said in a statement.
The coal industry blasted the decision, saying it jeopardizes tens of thousands of high-paying jobs.
"By deciding to hold up for still further review coal mining permits pending in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, the agency damages a weak economy struggling to recover in the worst recession in postwar history," National Mining Association President Hal Quinn said in a statement.
Mountaintop mines in the states where the practice is most common — West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee — produce about 130 million tons of coal each year, or about 14 percent of the coal used to produce electricity in the U.S., and employ about 14,000 people.
The EPA said it's going to review the permits in tandem with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under an agreement worked out in June. The corps actually issues the so-called valley fill permits, though the EPA has a say in the process and under Obama has been doing so more frequently.
Last week, EPA asked the corps to suspend, revoke or modify a permit issued for a West Virginia mine two years ago. U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has asked the EPA to retract the request. Rockefeller said EPA's action creates uncertainty in the coalfields, among other things.
EPA spokeswoman Adora Andy said the agency is sticking by its request.
"We take the senator's concerns seriously but believe that this mine raises unique and serious issues that deserve further consideration by the Army Corps of Engineers," she said in an e-mail.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
[some reserved rights - 1 - freedom of the press]
Rep. Wilson Outburst Leads Senate Dems to Close Loophole in Health Reform Bill
In the Senate, Democrats in the so called "Gang of Six," began moving quickly to close the loophole Rep. Joe Wilson helped bring to light with his outburst during President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The apologies are out of the way and the offense forgiven. But the underlying policy argument remains, after a Congressman drew fire from both sides of the aisle for his outburst during President Obama's speech Wednesday.
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., was criticized for interrupting Obama's address to a joint session of Congress to accuse the president of lying about his health care reform plan prohibiting coverage for illegal immigrants. Wilson quickly apologized, and the White House accepted the apology.
Wilson apologized again Thursday morning, though he also says a massive loophole could wind up in the health care bill: no requirement to prove citizenship for health care coverage.
Among three House committees to pass bills for health reform, only one expressly bans federal funding for proving health coverage to illegal immigrants.
"The Congressional Research Service has indicated that indeed the bills that are before Congress would include illegal aliens," Wilson said. "And I think this is wrong."
Indeed, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service study found that the House health care bill does not restrict illegal immigrants from receiving health care coverage.
House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner amplified the complaint that without proof of citizenship, illegal immigrants could be insured.
"There were two opportunities for House Democrats to make clear that illegal immigrants wouldn't be covered by putting in requirements to show citizenships," he said. "Both of those amendments were, in fact, rejected."
In the Senate, Democrats in the so called "Gang of Six," a group of bipartisan senators on the Senate Finance Committee which is the last panel yet to release its bill, began moving quickly to close the loophole that Wilson helped bring greater attention to.
"We absolutely assure that those who are here illegally would not get the benefit of any of these initiatives," Sen. Kent Conrad said.
House Democrats have left open the option to sanction Wilson for violating a House rule that expressly prohibits members from accusing presidents of lying. But they signaled a preference to move ahead without further distraction.
"Let's not spend time on that," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. "Yes, there is a procedure that could have been implemented. I think that the president did the right thing: just continued on from it and didn't give it any more attention than it deserved."
FOX News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.
Posted By: Logan Kugler In: Information Technology
Are you in demand?
The key to getting hired is dominating one of the handful of skills that are in high demand. We talked with more than a dozen technical recruiters, CIOs, and other industry professionals and asked them what they predict are going to be the seven hottest IT skills are for 2008. Here's what they had to say.
"Cheap bandwidth, expensive power, and better technology together add up to a huge drive to consolidate systems, and businesses with multiple locations are realizing the benefits of consolidating systems to a single data center," says Matt Hyatt, owner of Rocket IT based in Atlanta. "Other organizations are discovering, through the magic of virtualization, that multiple applications can often share a single server. Businesses love consolidation because it saves money and usually makes things simpler. That's why technology workers skilled at merging and simplifying complex systems will be gobbled up this year like cashiers at Christmas-time."
2. Web 2.0 Development
As companies continue to increase their investments in web initiatives, demand is red-hot for individuals skilled in AJAX, PHP, and Microsoft's .Net Framework, says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director at Robert Half Technology in Menlo Park, California.
Programmers skilled in .Net can command a 10 percent premium over those who lack it. Expertise in .Net is valued in such positions as web developer or designer and software developer or engineer. Flash is another powerful skill for your portfolio. "The biggest increase in demand I've ever seen for a particular skill in my ten years of recruiting is Flash programmers," says Tyler Townes, senior technical recruiter at MySpace and Fox Interactive Media (News Corporation). "Flash programmers are going to be in very, very high demand," he says. Job hunters with solid OOP skills in Java, C#, and C++, along with DBA skills in Oracle, DB2, and SQL Server are assured of employment, now and in 2013, says Arne Vajhoej, architect at GTECH.
3. Unified Messaging
In 2008, there are more ways than ever to send and receive messages. Office voicemail, wireless voicemail, email, instant messages, and faxes all compete for our time and, until recently, required a separate device or application to use. Modern workers demand flexibility and speed—they want the ability to quickly send and receive messages from whatever device they happen to have handy. "A huge opportunity exists for IT experts that can build and support device-neutral systems that make it easy to access message content," says Hyatt.
IT security may be as old as computing itself, but it's a skill that will never go out of style. And, right now, the demand for security talent is outweighing the supply. "The T.J. Maxx security breach last year and the Harvard breach just last month drove home the point that massive amounts of sensitive information are still obscenely vulnerable to theft," explains Mike Gavette of All Staffing, Inc. "These virtual break-ins are leading to stricter enforcement of information protection and IT professionals with a solid understanding of the vulnerabilities and proactive knowledge of countermeasures will have highly valued skills in 2008," says Gavette.
5. Collaboration Technology
MOSS 2007, short for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007, topped the list of most in demand skills of almost all the recruiters we talked to. "With new functionality beyond that of former versions of SharePoint, and all the hype surrounding said enhancements, consultants with as little as 6 months of experience with MOSS are garnering astronomical rates," says Carol Dorethy, recruiter at TEKsystems based in Houston. IT professional search recruiter, Joseph Wohrer agrees that MOSS 2007 is hot. But he feels those who have experience with previous releases are also in demand. "Companies are looking for high-end professionals, 10-15 years with overall MS experience, including the in-depth MOSS," explains Wohrer.
6. Business Acumen
Technology has become more complicated than ever. That's why it's no longer enough just to be a computer whiz. Successful IT professionals must be able to understand the business problems that drive change and deliver solutions that solve those problems quickly, and economically. "More and more companies want there professionals to be able to talk to both non-technical and technical resources, translate the requirements, and take them back to their associated projects," says Wohrer. Scott Whitten, service improvement manager at Dimension Data explains it by saying, "In most IT organizations, there is no more room for the people who are technical geniuses but cannot communicate with people. But if they have a broad set of skills and a teachable spirit, I will take a quality individual and teach them what they need to know to be successful." Hyatt completes the picture by revealing, "Find a computer whiz that truly understands business, and you've got somebody that will always have work."
7. Troubleshooting/Technical Support
Troubleshooting may not sound new or fancy. That's because it isn't. But people who can fix problems are always in demand. "Workers rely on a dizzying array of applications, devices, and services that often depend on one another so a small problem has real potential to wreck somebody's day," says Hyatt. "As long as the term 'downtime' exists, people that can troubleshoot and solve problems will continue to be hired in droves," declares Hyatt.
[ csl editor is majored in (#)s - 1, 3-7.]