Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for June 22nd, 2010

Breaking News: from the Onion.

Posted by Anonymous on June 22, 2010


This keeps cracking me up every time I watch it.

Posted in Humor | 1 Comment »

At least 40 Shot in Chicago Violence over the Weekend

Posted by Anonymous on June 22, 2010

buckingham-fountain-chicagoAt least 40 people were shot in a spate of violence across Chicago over the weekend, police said on Monday.

An one-year-old girl was among the victims. She was standing outside with her father and four other men shortly after Midnight when a lone male sprayed gunfire in their direction.

The girl was taken to the University of Illinois Medical Center, where she was treated for a graze wound to the ear and released.

In one of the latest-reported shootings, a 28-year-old man was found slumped on a sidewalk with multiple gunshot wounds to the back. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. No arrests have been made.

Police Superintendent Jody Weis told reporters that the shootings were tied to gang violence.

It was the second time in recent months that he linked scores of shootings to gangs. In May, he said at least half of 22 shootings were gang-related.

At the time, Weis said the Chicago police department had launched several initiatives to tackle the problem, including shortening the intelligence gathering cycle to 24 hours, and strategically deploying officers to key gang locations.

But action has been slow to take root and several lawmakers and community leaders have called on elected officials to ask the National Guard to Patrol the streets to stem the violence.

But Governor Pat Quinn, Weis and other officials have shunned the idea.

Now, given this weekend’s bloodshed, there may be a new call for action and the National Guard.

via At least 40 Shot in Chicago Violences over the Weekend.

Posted in Crime | Leave a Comment »

Chemical element 114: A first at GSI

Posted by Anonymous on June 22, 2010

Picture of  UnunquadiumAt GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung, an international team of scientists succeeded in the observation of the chemical element 114, one of the heaviest elements created until now. The production of element 114 is very difficult and requires dedicated particle accelerators. So far, this feat was achieved at only two other research centers, in the USA and Russia. In the experiment at GSI, scientists employed the innovative new setup TASCA (TransActinide Separator and Chemistry Apparatus), which was developed in the past few years. The aim of future experiments with this new setup is to advance to yet heavier elements and possibly to discover new elements beyond element 118.

Ground State Electron Configuration of  UnunquadiumWith the new TASCA setup, the research team led by Christoph Düllman observed 13 atoms of element 114 during the course of their four week long experiment. Despite being a small number of atoms, it corresponds to the highest ever measured production rate for element 114. This paves the way for future in-depth chemical, atomic, and nuclear physics studies. Based on the radiation emitted during the element’s decay, the scientists were able to identify two different isotopes of element 114 with the mass numbers 288 and 289. The measured half-lives are of the order of one second.

“TASCA is currently the world’s most efficient system for detecting superheavy elements produced with particle accelerators. This high efficiency is the key to future experiments, where we will also conduct chemical analyses of superheavy elements in the vicinity of element 114, to determine their correct position in the periodic table of the elements”, says Christoph Düllmann from GSI, head of the collaboration. Düllmann also works at the newly founded Helmholtz Institute Mainz, based at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

Using the 120-meter long GSI particle accelerator, the scientists fired charged calcium atoms (called calcium ions) onto a plutonium-coated foil. In the course of the experiments, a calcium and a plutonium nucleus undergo fusion to form a nucleus of the new element. The element’s atomic number (the number of protons in the atomic nucleus) is 114, hence its preliminary name “element 114″. Its atomic number corresponds to the sum of those of the reacting elements: calcium with 20 and plutonium with 94 protons.

The gas-filled separator TASCA separated the atoms produced by the accelerator with high selectivity from other reaction products. The atoms of element 114 then implanted into a special semiconductor detector, where they were subsequently identified based on the radiation emitted during their decay.

Initial reports on the observation of element 114 were published about 10 years ago from the research center in Dubna, Russia. However, the commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) in charge has not yet officially recognized the discovery claim. Almost simultaneously to the GSI experiment, two atoms of element 114 were observed at a research center in Berkeley, USA. The results from GSI, Darmstadt, and Berkeley, USA now essentially confirm the results from Dubna.

Recently, IUPAC officially recognized element 112, discovered at GSI, as the heaviest element thus far. Russian reports on the creation of elements up to atomic number 118 are yet unconfirmed.

via Chemical element 114: A first at GSI.

Posted in Physics | Leave a Comment »

Hubble captures bubbles and baby stars

Posted by Anonymous on June 22, 2010

A spectacular new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image — one of the largest ever released of a star-forming region — highlights N11, part of a complex network of gas clouds and star clusters within our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. This region of energetic star formation is one of the most active in the nearby Universe.

The Large Magellanic Cloud contains many bright bubbles of glowing gas. One of the largest and most spectacular has the name LHA 120-N 11, from its listing in a catalogue compiled by the American astronomer and astronaut Karl Henize in 1956, and is informally known as N11. Close up, the billowing pink clouds of glowing gas make N11 resemble a puffy swirl of fairground candy floss. From further away, its distinctive overall shape led some observers to nickname it the Bean Nebula. The dramatic and colourful features visible in the nebula are the telltale signs of star formation. N11 is a well-studied region that extends over 1000 light-years. It is the second largest star-forming region within the Large Magellanic Cloud and has produced some of the most massive stars known.

It is the process of star formation that gives N11 its distinctive look. Three successive generations of stars, each of which formed further away from the centre of the nebula than the last, have created shells of gas and dust. These shells were blown away from the newborn stars in the turmoil of their energetic birth and early life, creating the ring shapes so prominent in this image.

Beans are not the only terrestrial shapes to be found in this spectacular high resolution image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. In the upper left is the red bloom of nebula LHA 120-N 11A. Its rose-like petals of gas and dust are illuminated from within, thanks to the radiation from the massive hot stars at its centre. N11A is relatively compact and dense and is the site of the most recent burst of star development in the region.

via Hubble captures bubbles and baby stars | Press Releases | spacetelescope.org.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

New design for motorcycle engines powered by compressed air

Posted by Anonymous on June 22, 2010

green speed_5Most motorcycles in the world today use engines that burn gasoline, contributing to greenhouse gasses and adding air pollution to the surrounding area. Now two scientists in India have conceptually designed a new, cleaner motorcycle engine that uses compressed air to turn a small air turbine, generating enough power to run a motorcycle for up to 40 minutes.

Their design, described in a recent issue of the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, could be combined with a compressed air cylinder as a replacement for traditional internal combustion engines. In areas where motorcycles are a major source of public transportation, such a technology could cut emissions substantially if widely implemented.

According to Bharat Raj Singh, one of the two authors on the paper and a researcher at the SMS Institute of Technology in Lucknow, India, some 50 to 60 percent of present emissions in some areas could be reduced with the new technology, though a number of technical challenges remain. Designing a compact but high-capacity air tank to store sufficient “fuel” for long rides is a major hurdle. Existing tanks would require someone to stop about every 30 km (19 mi) to swap tanks.

The article, “Study of the influence of vane angle on shaft output of a multivane air turbine” by Bharat Raj Singh and Onkar Singh was published May 6, 2010 in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy. See: http://jrse.aip.org/jrsebh/v2/i3/p033101_s1

… Faster consumption of hydrocarbon fuel in the transport sector is posing global threat of depletion of fossil fuel reserves. Studies are being extensively done to search for an alternative energy source and/or to find out appropriate energy conversion system. Among various alternatives, the use of compressed atmospheric air in air turbine is an attractive option provided the atmospheric air is compressed by natural sources such as sun energy, wind energy, etc. It has the capability to produce shaft work with almost zero pollution in the environment. This paper details the mathematical modeling of a small capacity compressed air driven multivane air turbine. The effect of having different vane angles and inlet pressure on shaft work output has been studied and analyzed here. The study shows that the flow work has significant contribution in total work output and varies from 1.5% to 16.3% at different pressures, 2–6 bars, and injection angles, 30°–60°. The total shaft work is found to be maximum at vane angle θ = 36° (ten vanes) when injection angle is kept at 60°, and it reduces at vane angle θ = 45° (eight vanes) when injection angle is kept at 45° and further goes down at vane angle θ = 60° (six vanes) when injection angle is 30°, if injection pressure is maintained at 6 bars and speed of rotation at 2500 rpm. …

via New design for motorcycle engines powered by compressed air.

Industrial designer Edwin Yi Yuan is hinting toward a future where compressed air would be used as a primary fuel in vehicles such as motorcycles and bikes. The air-powered engine has been lurking around for years with Zero Pollution Motors working to launch air-powered cars soon. The idea does seem fantastic, as air-powered vehicles don’t harm the environment with greenhouse gas emissions and above all, air is cheap and readily available. However, most air-powered engines fail in two ways – either the operating range is no long enough or the speed of the vehicle is too low. Edwin, accompanied by a team of student designers and their lecturer, has designed a concept air-fueled bike that possibly removes all obstacles associated with air-fueled vehicles. The motorcycle, known as Green Speed Air Powered Motorcycle, is based on an old Suzuki GP100 from the 1970s. The designers removed pretty much everything on the original bike, the petrol tank, the engine, gear box, etc., and just used the frame of the bike, its wheels and brakes.

The engine that used is a rotary air engine. It is the invention of the Melbourne engineer Angelo Di Pietro. The engine is compact, lightweight and powerful and runs on compressed air from two compressed air tanks on the bike. It revs up to 10,000 RPM, and because of this the inventors didn’t need any gear box on the bike. There is only one gear, which is just a sprocket bolted directly to the axis of the engine and chained to the rear wheel.

Compressed air is stored in the bike’s on-board carbon fiber tanks. Once mass produced, the bike will have solar panels that will generate enough energy to compress air and store it in the bike’s tanks, which will increase its range indefinitely. …

via Eco Bikes

Posted in Alt Energy, Travel | 6 Comments »

Scientists discover music in Sun!

Posted by Anonymous on June 22, 2010

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_YuR6V_Yr7Bk/TB85E8_fWvI/AAAAAAAAFaM/ApLkJPimh_4/s1600/sun.jpgFor the first time, astronomers have found that the magnetic field in the outer atmosphere of the Sun produces eerie musical harmonies — a discovery that could provide new ways of understanding and predicting solar flares before they happen.

Scientists at the University of Sheffield found that huge magnetic loops that have been observed coiling away from the outer layer of the Sun’s atmosphere — known as coronal loops — vibrate like strings on a musical instrument.

In other cases they behave more like sound waves as they travel through a wind instrument.

Using satellite images of these loops, which can be over 60,000 miles long, the scientists were able to recreate the sound by turning the visible vibrations into noises and speeding up the frequency so it is audible to the human ear, the Telegraph reported.

“It was strangely beautiful and exciting to hear these noises for the first time from such a large and powerful source,” said Prof Robertus von Fay-Siebenbrgen, head of the solar physics research group at Sheffield University. “It is a sort of music as it has harmonics.

“It is providing us with a new way of learning about the sun and giving us a new insight into the physics that goes on at in the sun’s outer layers where temperatures reach millions of degrees,” Fay-Siebenbrgen said.

According to scientists, the coronal loops are thought to be involved in the production of solar flares that fling highly charged particles out into space, creating a phenomenon known as space weather.

When the sun’s activity, and thus solar flare production, increases, the resulting “space storm” can have catastrophic results here on earth, destroying electronic equipment, overheating power grids and damaging satellites, they said.

Last week, NASA warned that the sun’s activity is starting to increase following an extended period of low activity and is on course to throw out unprecedented levels of magnetic energy into the solar system by 2013.

Prof Fay-Siebenbrgen said that studying the “music of the sun” would provide new ways of understanding and predicting solar flares before they happen.

The coronal loops vibrate from side to side because they are “plucked” rather like guitar strings by the blast waves from explosions on the surface of the sun.

The scientists also found the loops vibrate backwards and forwards in a way that mimics the acoustic waves in a wind instrument.

“These loops are oscillating like the strings on a guitar or the air in a wind instrument. Over time the waves die away and that is telling us new things about the physics in the sun’s atmosphere.”

Prof Fay-Siebenbrgen’s research has been made public as the University of Sheffield launches a new project, called Project Sunshine, aimed at finding new ways to harness and understand the power of the sun.

via Scientists discover music in Sun!.

Posted in Music, Space | Leave a Comment »

French prisoner ‘killed cellmate and ate his lung’

Posted by Anonymous on June 22, 2010

French prisoner 'killed cellmate and ate his lung' A French prisoner killed his cellmate then sliced open his chest to remove and eat his heart, a court has heard.

However, the man removed the wrong organ, and ate his lung by mistake.

Nicolas Cocaign, 39, appeared in court in the northern city of Rouen for allegedly killing Thierry Baudry in January 2007 by punching and kicking him, stabbing him with a pair of scissors and suffocating him with a rubbish bag.

Mr Cocaign then allegedly sliced open Baudry’s chest with a razor blade, removed a rib and pulled out an organ which he believed was the man’s heart, but which in fact was a lung.

He is accused of eating part of the lung raw and then frying the rest of it with some onions on a makeshift cooker in the cell in the Rouen prison.

“I wanted to take his soul,” Mr Cocaign, who at the time of the crime was in custody awaiting trial for attempted armed robbery, allegedly told an investigating judge probing the case.

A verdict in the trial is expected on Thursday.

via French prisoner ‘killed cellmate and ate his lung’ – Telegraph.

Posted in Strange | Leave a Comment »

Bye bye bifocals, hello electronic spectacles

Posted by Anonymous on June 22, 2010

PixelOptics spectacles, glassesTraditional bifocals could become a thing of the past with the invention of electronic glasses that automatically adjust to let their wearer view objects at different distances.

The spectacles, which are due to be launched in the US this year and the UK next year, use lenses that change their strength when a small electrical current passes through them.

A layer of liquid crystal sandwiched inside each lens alters its refractive properties according to the current applied, adapting the focal length according to where the wearer is looking.

Traditional bifocals, which use two lenses of different strengths in front of each eye, have been used by people who are struggle to focus on both near and far objects ever since they were believed to have been invented by Benjamin Franklin, the American statesman, in the 1780s.

But some users complain of headaches and dizziness while the small field of view forces them to move their heads while reading.

The electronic glasses, which have been developed by US firm PixelOptics, can be adjusted manually to view objects at different distances by pressing a button on the side of the frames.

Unlike traditional bifocals, which only allow the wearer to focus “near” or “far”, the electronic lenses have a range of in-between settings.

The focal length can also change automatically when motion sensors embedded in the frames detect that the wearer is looking down – to read a book, for example.

Trials are under way in the US and the developer hopes to launch the glasses by the end of 2010 before bringing them to the UK by the middle of next year.

Peter Zieman, director of European sales for PixelOptics, said: “We have been developing these glasses for the past 10 years.

“Liquid crystals can change their refractive index when an electrical charge is put through them, so wearers can switch between distance and reading in the time it takes to blink.

“Putting in the kind of motion sensors that are used in the iPhone also allows the glasses to sense when someone is reading a book or a newspaper and so change the focal distance of the lenses automatically.

“In essence, glasses haven’t changed all that much since they were first invented. The most recent development was transition lenses that tint in sunlight, but even that was 15 years ago.

“Our glasses bring modern technology to an old solution.”

via Bye bye bifocals, hello electronic spectacles – Telegraph.

Posted in Technology | 1 Comment »

For Life Thriving on Gulf of Mexico’s Seabed, Many Unknowns

Posted by Anonymous on June 22, 2010

The deep seabed was once considered a biological desert. Life, the logic went, was synonymous with light and photosynthesis. The sun powered the planet’s food chains, and only a few scavengers could ply the preternaturally dark abyss.

Then, in 1977, oceanographers working in the deep Pacific stumbled on bizarre ecosystems lush with clams, mussels and big tube worms — a cornucopia of abyssal life built on microbes that thrived in hot, mineral-rich waters welling up from volcanic cracks, feeding on the chemicals that leached into the seawater and serving as the basis for whole chains of life that got along just fine without sunlight.

In 1984, scientists found that the heat was not necessary. In exploring the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, they discovered sunless habitats powered by a new form of nourishment. The microbes that founded the food chain lived not on hot minerals but on cold petrochemicals seeping up from the icy seabed.

Today, scientists have identified roughly one hundred sites in the gulf where cold-seep communities of clams, mussels and tube worms flourish in the sunless depths. And they have accumulated evidence of many more — hundreds by some estimates, thousands by others — most especially in the gulf’s deep, unexplored waters.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there were 2,000 communities, from suburbs to cities,” said Ian R. MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University who studies the dark ecosystems. …

via For Life Thriving on Gulf of Mexico’s Seabed, Many Unknowns – NYTimes.com.

Posted in Biology, Earth | Leave a Comment »

Are We Overlooking Alien Beacons?

Posted by Anonymous on June 22, 2010

Blazar1Pulsar setiLast week Hubble Space Telescope images definitively showed that the bright flash of light seen on Jupiter was simply a meteor. Albeit, a blinding bright meteor to be seen across 400 million miles of interplanetary space. As reported by Ian O’Neill Hubble failed to find any telltale debris as seen in Jupiter comet and asteroid impacts.

Now Hubble astronomers tell us that Jupiter super-meteors might be detectable as frequently every few days. Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley just got lucky because he was viewing a video transmission of Jupiter when the brilliant flash appeared.

This event was sobering to me because my mind invariably wandered to wondering if a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization might be just as transient.

Despite our best search strategies, are signals from E.T. manifested in anomalous flashes of radio energy from our galaxy that are missed, or dismissed as natural phenomena? Maybe alien transmissions are popping off all around us but we just aren’t looking at the right place or right time to see them.

In a recently published paper by James Benford and Dominic Benford of Microwave Sciences in Lafayette, California, the authors imagine that SETI beacons might be much like a lighthouse, sweeping the galactic plane in a raster pattern. Depending on beam size and scan rate, many days could pass between the brief Twitter-like bursts of “here we are” flashes from alien civilizations.

“We should learn how to identify any such beacons,” the authors say. For starters they expect the beam would pulsate to conserve energy and also have amplitude or frequency modulation of the carrier to draw attention to itself.

The problem is that pulsars (powerful bursts of radiation from rotating neutron star magnetospheres) look just what an alien transmission might look like according to this SETI “lighthouse” model. In fact when pulsars were first discovered in the mid 1960’s they were nicknamed “LGMs” for “Little Green Men.”

There are certain unusual transient phenomena that are likely due to pulsars behaving, well, unusually. These occasionally repeat, but others do not. The authors say that we should consider SETI beacons as a candidate explanation when perplexing non-repeating signals that are seen in the radio sky.

One example they cite is PSR J1928+15 that was a transient burst of radio pulses that was observed only for two minutes in 2005 near the galactic plane — and never repeated in several dozen subsequent searches. Three pulses came in succession. The first and third pulse was down a factor of ten from the powerful central pulse. The source is estimated to be 26,000 light years away, the distance to the heart of our galaxy.

The SETI-lighthouse hypothesis would explain PSR J1928+15 as an E.T. scanning beacon. As it swept past Earth, the giant Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico caught the central pulse of the true beam. The first and third pulses were at the edges of the beam width according to this interpretation.

A far simpler explanation is that the transient was caused by an asteroid falling into the neutron star from a circumpulsar disk. This perturbed the pulsar’s intense magnetic field.

If we diligently apply Occam’s Razor (going with the simplest explanation) the crashing asteroid solution wins over E.T. saying “Hi.”

Also, the central beam pulse was 190,000 terawatts — 10,000 times the total power output of our civilization! I wouldn’t want to pay that electric bill.

Still, this kind of mega-engineering would be cheaper than the ticket price high-speed interstellar travel. The authors say there might be a scaling effect where super-civilizations build extraordinarily powerful transmitters. These aliens might have limitless armies of self-replicating machines that tirelessly construct vast antenna arrays orbiting a star and sucking up solar energy. …

via Are We Overlooking Alien Beacons? : Discovery News.

Posted in Aliens, Space | Leave a Comment »


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