Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for February 24th, 2011

Anti-gravity superfluid superconductor core uncovered inside neutron star

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011

Brian Murphy – A University of Alberta astronomer has glimpsed the inner working of a neutron star and found a unique world where the physics can be described as “weird.” Craig Heinke’s team found the neutron star’s core contained a superfluid, a friction-less liquid that could seemingly defy the laws of gravity.

“If you could put some of this superfluid in a jar it would flow up the walls of the container and over the edge,” said Heinke.

Heinke says the core of the neutron star also contains a superconductor, a perfect electrical conductor. “An electric current in a superconductor never loses energy—it could keep circulating forever.”

These discoveries came about when the researchers used NASA’s Chanda space satellite telescope to investigate a sudden temperature drop on one particular neutron star 11,000 light years from Earth. A neutron star is the extremely dense core left behind from an exploding star, or supernova.

Heinke says this neutron star, known as the Cassiopeia A offered the researchers a great opportunity.

“It’s only 330 years old,” said Heinke. “We’ve got ringside seats to studying the life cycle of a neutron star from its collapse to its present, cooling off state.”

The researchers determined that the neutron star’s surface temperature is dropping because its core recently transformed into a superfluid state and is venting off heat in the form of neutrinos, sub atomic particles that flood the universe. Here on Earth our bodies are constantly bombarded by neutrinos, with 100 billion neutrinos passing harmlessly though our eyes every second.

They also found that the neutron star contains a superconductor, the highest temperature (millions of degrees) superconductor known.

This research helps us to better understand the life cycles of stars, as well as the behavior of matter at incredibly high densities.

via ‘Weird science’ uncovered inside neutron star.

Posted in Physics | 3 Comments »

Migrating sea turtles have magnetic sense for longitude

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011

Elisabeth Lyons – From the very first moments of life, hatchling loggerhead sea turtles have an arduous task. They must embark on a transoceanic migration, swimming from the Florida coast eastward to the North Atlantic and then gradually migrating over the course of several years before returning again to North American shores. Now, researchers reporting online on February 24 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, have figured out how the young turtles find their way.

“One of the great mysteries of animal behavior is how migratory animals can navigate in the open ocean, where there are no visual landmarks,” said Kenneth Lohmann of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“The most difficult part of open-sea navigation is determining longitude or east-west position. It took human navigators centuries to figure out how to determine longitude on their long-distance voyages,” added Nathan Putman, a graduate student in Lohmann’s lab and lead author of the study. “This study shows, for the first time, how an animal does this.”

It appears that the turtles pick up on magnetic signatures that vary across the Earth’s surface in order to determine their position in space—both east-west and north-south—and steer themselves in the right direction. Although several species, including sea turtles, were known to rely on magnetic cues as a surrogate for latitude, the findings come as a surprise because those signals had been considered unpromising for determining east-west position.

The loggerheads’ secret is that they rely not on a single feature of the magnetic field, but on a combination of two: the angle at which the magnetic field lines intersect the Earth (a parameter known as inclination) and the strength of the magnetic field.

Near the Equator, the field lines are approximately parallel to the Earth’s surface, Putman and Lohmann explained. As one travels north from the Equator, the field lines grow progressively steeper until they reach the poles, where they are directed straight down into the Earth. The magnetic field also varies in intensity, being generally strongest near the poles and weakest near the equator. Both parameters appear to vary more reliably from north to south than east to west, which had led many researchers to conclude that the magnetic field is useful only for latitudinal information.

“Although it is true that an animal capable of detecting only inclination or only intensity would have a hard time determining longitude, loggerhead sea turtles detect both magnetic parameters,” Putman said. “This means that they can extract more information from the Earth’s field than is initially apparent.”

What had been overlooked before is that inclination and intensity vary in slightly different directions across the Earth’s surface, Putman added. As a result of that difference, particular oceanic regions have distinct magnetic signatures consisting of a unique combination of inclination and intensity.  …

via Migrating sea turtles have magnetic sense for longitude.

This is from 2001, and makes me wonder if mole rats have the same trick as the turtles.

Do you ever wonder why migrating animals such as birds, salmon, and whales, to name a few, never seem to meander off course and get lost? The answer, according to a couple of new studies, may be that those migration routes and navigation skills are hard-wired into the animals’ brains. Studies of loggerhead turtles revealed that hatchlings have the ability to sense the direction and strength of Earth’s magnetic field, which they use for navigating along the turtles’ regular migration route. … In a second report published in Science, scientists have discovered a collection of nerve cells in the brains of subterranean Zambian mole rats that enable the animal to process magnetic information used in navigation. The mole rats dig tunnels up to 200 meters (220 yards) long and build their nests in the southernmost tip of their burrows. As the direction of the magnetic field changes, so does the location of the moles’ nests. As in the loggerhead turtle study, the German and Czech researchers who conducted the mole rat study have not yet determined how the mole rats detect the magnetic fields. – natgeo

Since the earth’s magnetic field is changing, is this confusing animal migrations?

The Earth’s Magnetic Pole Shifting: Flux Forces Airport Shutdown In Tampa

The planet’s northern magnetic pole is drifting slowly but steadily towards Russia — and it’s throwing off planes in Florida. Tampa International Airport was forced to readjust its runways Thursday to account for the movement of the Earth’s magnetic fields, information that pilots rely upon to navigate planes. Thanks to the fluctuations in the force, the airport has closed its primary runway until Jan. 13 to change taxiway signs to account for the shift, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The poles are generated by movements within the Earth’s inner and outer cores, though the exact process isn’t exactly understood. They’re also constantly in flux, moving a few degrees every year, but the changes are almost never of such a magnitude that runways require adjusting, said Paul Takemoto, a spokesman for the FAA. The magnetic fields vary from place to place. Adjustments are needed now at airports in Tampa, but they aren’t immediately required at all airports across the country. – conrefoc

Earth’s magnetic field linked to changing orbit

Long-term fluctuations in the intensity and inclination of the Earth’s magnetic field could arise from variations in the eccentricity of our planet’s orbit, according to Japanese geophysicists. Toshitsugu Yamazaki and Hirokuni Oda of the Geological Survey of Japan examined the magnetic properties of a sample of marine sediment deposited over a period of 2.25 million years to establish that the Earth’s magnetic field varies over a 100 000-year cycle. Such studies could shed new light on the energy sources that drive the Earth’s dynamo (T Yamazaki and H Oda 2002 Science 295 2435). … Astronomers know that the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit varies between 0 and 0.06 every 100 000 years. This causes the Earth to pass slightly closer to the Sun during certain epochs. Yamazaki and Oda believe that this could induce slight changes in the Earth’s iron core that affect the generation of the magnetic field, and therefore the way that sediment is deposited in the ocean.

Based upon the study of lava flows of basalt throughout the world, it has been proposed that the Earth’s magnetic field reverses at intervals, ranging from tens of thousands to many millions of years, with an average interval of approximately 300,000 years.[15] However, the last such event, called the Brunhes–Matuyama reversal, is observed to have occurred some 780,000 years ago.  – physicsworld

Earth’s Magnetic field reversals

There is no clear theory as to how the geomagnetic reversals might have occurred . Some scientists have produced models for the core of the Earth wherein the magnetic field is only quasi-stable and the poles can spontaneously migrate from one orientation to the other over the course of a few hundred to a few thousand years. Other scientists propose that the geodynamo first turns itself off, either spontaneously or through some external action like a comet impact, and then restarts itself with the magnetic “North” pole pointing either North or South. External events are not likely to be routine causes of magnetic field reversals due to the lack of a correlation between the age of impact craters and the timing of reversals. Regardless of the cause, when the magnetic pole flips from one hemisphere to the other this is known as a reversal … – wiki

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

Meditation beats dance for harmonizing body and mind

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011

The body is a dancer’s instrument, but is it attuned to the mind? A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that professional ballet and modern dancers are not as emotionally in sync with their bodies as are people who regularly practice meditation.

UC Berkeley researchers tracked how closely the emotions of seasoned meditators and professional dancers followed bodily changes such as breathing and heart rates.

They found that dancers who devote enormous time and effort to developing awareness of and precise control over their muscles – a theme coincidentally raised in the new ballet movie “Black Swan” – do not have a stronger mind-body connection than do most other people.

By contrast, veteran practitioners of Vipassana or mindfulness meditation – a technique focused on observing breathing, heartbeat, thoughts and feelings without judgment – showed the closest mind-body bond, according to the study recently published in the journal Emotion.

“We all talk about our emotions as if they are intimately connected to our bodies – such as the ‘heartache of sadness’ and ‘bursting a blood vessel’ in anger,” said Robert Levenson, a UC Berkeley psychology professor and senior author of the study. “We sought to precisely measure how close that connection was, and found it was stronger for meditators.” …

via Meditation beats dance for harmonizing body and mind.


Posted in Health, Mind | 1 Comment »

Ancient Remains Suggest a Fox Was Man’s First Best Friend

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011

Joerg Carstensen/AFP/Getty ImagesIn a 16,500 year-old graveyard in Jordan, archaeologists have found evidence of man’s first furry friend: a fox.

Archaeologists from the University of Toronto in Ontario and Cambridge University in England uncovered remains of the fox, alongside other animals, at a burial site containing 11 sets of human remains. The fox’s remains are seen to be more significant than those of the other animals, as they showed signs of decoration and were moved, along with with a human’s body, when the site was reopened some years after the initial burial.

A researcher from the University of Cambridge, Lisa Maher, said the team were surprised when they made their discovery: “When we were first excavating the site, we thought it might have been a dog,” she said, but upon further analysis the remains were shown to belong to a red fox.

It’s not certain whether the fox was a “pet” in the modern sense of the word. Many hunter-gatherer tribes formed close spiritual bonds with the animals they hunted, often involving them in death rituals. But those working on the site were keen to stress the similarities of this site to burial sites from 4,000 years later. These similarities suggest, according to Maher, that “it probably was a more emotional relationship of one particular fox to one particular person.”

Archaeologists are finding earlier and earlier evidence of the close bonds between animals and humans, with these fox remains the first of their kind. Although naturally timid, the red fox is tameable, but was probably ousted as “top dog” when humans discovered that dogs took to being pets much more readily.

via Was a Fox Man’s First Ever Best Friend? Ancient Remains Suggest So – TIME NewsFeed.

Another win for the FireFox web browser.  An Explorer was not Man’s first best friend. Neither was a Safari. It was a fox. Ha!

Posted in Archaeology, Biology | Leave a Comment »

South African doctor invents female condoms with ‘teeth’ to fight rape

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011

Dr. Sonnet Ehlers shows a spiked female condom, whose hooks she says stick on a man during rape.South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers was on call one night four decades ago when a devastated rape victim walked in. Her eyes were lifeless; she was like a breathing corpse.

“She looked at me and said, ‘If only I had teeth down there,'” recalled Ehlers, who was a 20-year-old medical researcher at the time. “I promised her I’d do something to help people like her one day.”

Forty years later, Rape-aXe was born.

Ehlers is distributing the female condoms in the various South African cities where the World Cup soccer games are taking place.

The woman inserts the latex condom like a tampon. Jagged rows of teeth-like hooks line its inside and attach on a man’s penis during penetration, Ehlers said.

Once it lodges, only a doctor can remove it — a procedure Ehlers hopes will be done with authorities on standby to make an arrest.

“It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it’s on,” she said. “If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter… however, it doesn’t break the skin, and there’s no danger of fluid exposure.”

Ehlers said she sold her house and car to launch the project, and she planned to distribute 30,000 free devices under supervision during the World Cup period.

“I consulted engineers, gynecologists and psychologists to help in the design and make sure it was safe,” she said.

After the trial period, they’ll be available for about $2 a piece. She hopes the women will report back to her.

“The ideal situation would be for a woman to wear this when she’s going out on some kind of blind date … or to an area she’s not comfortable with,” she said. …

via South African doctor invents female condoms with ‘teeth’ to fight rape – CNN.com.


Posted in Strange, Technology | 1 Comment »

Swedish scientists create three arm illusion

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011

Swedish scientists create three arm illusionScientists working at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have demonstrated how to fool the brain into thinking that the body has three arms.The scientists were able to make healthy volunteers believe that they had an extra appendage by stroking the subject’s right hand and a prosthetic rubber hand with two small brushes, synchronizing the strokes as perfectly as possible.

“What happens then is that a conflict arises in the brain concerning which of the right hands belongs to the participant’s body,” said Arvid Guterstam, one of the scientists behind the study in a statement.

Guterstam argued that the expectation was that that the brain would select only one of the hands as the body’s own, presumably the real arm.

“But what we found, surprisingly, is that the brain solves this conflict by accepting both right hands as part of the body image, and the subjects experience having an extra third arm.”

The team designed the experiment to test the classical question in psychology and neuroscience of how we experience our own bodies and their findings have been published in online scientific journal PLoS ONE.

In order to prove that the prosthetic arm was truly experienced as a third arm, the scientist ‘threatened’ either the prosthetic hand or the real hand with a kitchen knife, and measured the degree of sweating of the palm as a physiological response to this provocation.

The results demonstrated that the subjects had the same stress response when the prosthetic hand was threatened as when the real hand was, but only during the periods when they experienced the third arm illusion and not, for example when the prosthetic right arm was replaced with a left arm or a prosthetic foot.

The study involved 154 healthy volunteers and it is hoped the results may help to create new applications in prosthetics research. …

via Swedish scientists create three arm illusion – The Local.

Posted in Biology, Mind, Strange | 1 Comment »

UT researchers crack code to harmful brown tides

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011

Whitney Holmes – A team involving University of Tennessee, Knoxville, researchers has conducted the first-ever genetic sequencing of a harmful algal bloom (HAB) species, cracking the genome of the micro-organism responsible for the Eastern Seaboard’s notorious brown tides.

Brown tides decimated the scallop industries of New York and New Jersey in the 1980s and 1990s and continue to plague the waters off North America and South Africa. The tides are not poisonous to humans, but the chronic blooms are toxic to marine life and block sunlight from reaching undersea vegetation, reducing the food available to fish and shellfish. Indeed, they have decimated sea grass beds and shellfisheries leading to billions of dollars in economic losses.

Steven Wilhelm, microbiology professor; Gary LeCleir, research associate in microbiology; Nathan VerBerkmoes, adjunct assistant professor of microbiology at UT Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Manesh Shah, senior research associate at the School of Genome Science and Technology, in collaboration with other researchers were able to solve the mystery as to why HABs continue to bloom when there are so many other competing species in the water with them.

Their findings are published in the current online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers discovered that the algae’s unique genetic structure allows them to thrive in polluted ecosystems, providing clues to why certain species have experienced explosive growth in water around the globe in recent decades.

They found there are certain functions HABs can perform that other algae cannot. For instance, they are able to survive for long periods in no light. They are able to metabolize in organic matter and handle what would normally be toxic amounts of metals like copper. The HABs also have a larger number of selenoproteins, which use the trace element selenium to perform essential cell functions illustrating a concordance between the genome and the ecosystem where it’s blooming. The takeaway is that the organism thrives in human-impacted conditions.

“We now know that this organism is genetically predisposed to exploit certain characteristics of coastal ecosystems,” said the authors. “But we also know the characteristics are there because of activities of man. If we continue to increase, for example, organic matter in coastal waters, then it’s going to continue to favor brown tides since it’s genetically predisposed to thrive in these conditions.”

via UT researchers crack code to harmful brown tides.

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

Man Stops Car in Road, Tells Police He’s From 33 A.D.

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011

Police in Solon, Ohio, responded to calls early Monday of a car stopped in the middle of Richmond Road.

Why did the driver, a 32-year-old man from Poland, Ohio, tell police he stopped in the middle of the road? Because “his heavenly father” told him to.

The man said “he was busy talking to God” and that God told him to go to a dance club in the area.

When asked if he knew where he was, the man told police he was in Columbus.

He then said he was having a tough time adjusting because he was actually from the year 33 A.D.

The man agreed to seek treatment at St. Vincent Medical Center.

via Man Stops Car in Road, Tells Police He’s From 33 A.D..


Perhaps he was from the vampire book 33 A.D.

“Jerusalem, 33 A.D. The vampires of the era have long sought to gain a foothold into Israel, but the faith of the local Jewish population has held them in check for centuries.  When one of their own betrays them to follow a young rabbi from Galilee, the elders of the vampire race send Theron, a nine hundred year old assassin, to kill them both.”

Posted in History, Strange | 1 Comment »

“Staying Alive” ringtone plays at funeral

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011

Rottingdean rev's warning after "Staying Alive" funeral blunderA mourner must have felt his cheeks burning after his phone went off during a funeral.

But when the ringtone that echoed round the church was Staying Alive by the Bee Gees, it is fair to say he wished the earth could have swallowed him up.

Now Reverend Martin Morgan from St Margaret’s Church in Rottingdean has urged parishioners to make sure earthly communications are switched off while their thoughts turn to heavenly matters.

He said: “I don’t want to be one of those people who says ‘no phones’ ‘no cameras’, ‘no confetti’ but it could have been very awkward when that phone went off.

“It took a while before people realised what the song was and then fortunately most people found it quite funny. The culprit looked very embarrassed. I think they probably looked in the other direction and tried to pretend it wasn’t them. That’s what people usually do.”

via Rottingdean rev’s warning after “Staying Alive” funeral blunder (From The Argus).


Should have answered. It could have been a call from beyond the grave.

Posted in Strange | 1 Comment »

You’ll be sorry if you force a smile while you’re at work

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011

Can you spot the difference? A genuine smile (left) and 'fake' smile (right) make people feel differently about their livesLeft: Real smile, Right: Fake smile.

Putting on a bright face at work could leave you feeling miserable.

Workers who fake a smile to keep their customers and colleagues happy could be making themselves depressed.

A new study says that fake smiling on the job actually worsens a person’s mood and could even cut work productivity.

However, workers who are genuinely happy and smile as a result of positive thoughts like a upcoming holiday or a memorable family occasion improve their mood, withdraw less and are more efficient at work.

The research contradicts the policies of many firms whose customer-facing staff are instructed to appear cheery at all times.

They include employees of public transport firms, shops, banks, call centre workers and others who have face-to-face contact with members of the public as part of their job.

Lead researcher Brent Scott, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State University in the U.S. said: ‘Employers may think that simply getting their employees to smile is good for the organisation, but that’s not necessarily the case.

‘Smiling for the sake of smiling can lead to emotional exhaustion and withdrawal and that’s bad for the organisation.’

For the study, which appears in the current issue of the Academy of Management Journal, Prof Scott and colleague Christopher Barnes studied a group of bus drivers over two weeks.

They examined the effects of surface acting, or fake smiling, and deep acting, or cultivating positive emotions by recalling pleasant memories or thinking about their current situation in a more favourable way.

The study is one of the first of its kind to examine emotional displays over a period of time while also delving into gender differences.

The results were more defined for women bus drivers, the study found.
Prof Scott said: ‘Women were harmed more by surface acting, meaning their mood worsened even more than the men and they withdrew more from work.

Read more: dailymail

This contradicts something I heard long ago, that your emotions will follow your body if you smile.

Posted in Mind | 3 Comments »


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