Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for November 22nd, 2011

Study: Physical activity impacts overall quality of sleep

Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2011

People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, a new study concludes.

A nationally representative sample of more than 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85, found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week, which is the national guideline, provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. People also said they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity.

The study, out in the December issue of the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, lends more evidence to mounting research showing the importance of exercise to a number of health factors. Among adults in the United States, about 35 to 40 percent of the population has problems with falling asleep or with daytime sleepiness.

“We were using the physical activity guidelines set forth for cardiovascular health, but it appears that those guidelines might have a spillover effect to other areas of health,” said Brad Cardinal, a professor of exercise science at Oregon State University and one of the study’s authors.

“Increasingly, the scientific evidence is encouraging as regular physical activity may serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to improve sleep.”

via Study: Physical activity impacts overall quality of sleep | News & Research Communications | Oregon State University.

Posted in Health | Leave a Comment »

Neanderthal Neuroscience

Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2011

Paabo and his colleagues … began to use new gene-sequencing technology to assemble a draft of the entire Neanderthal genome. They’ve gotten about 55% of the genome mapped, which is enough to address some of the big questions Paabo has in mind. One is the question of interbreeding. Paabo and his colleagues compared the Neanderthal genome to genomes of living people from Africa, Europe, Asia, and New Guinea. They discovered that people out of Africa share some mutations in common with Neanderthals that are not found in Africans. They concluded that humans and Neanderthals must have interbred after our species expanded from Africa, and that about 2.5% of the genomes of living non-Africans comes from Neanderthals. …

Paabo described how David Reich of Harvard and other scientists measured the size of the chunks of Neanderthal DNA in people’s genomes. They found that in some of the Europeans they studied, the Neanderthal chunks were quite long. Based on their size, the scientists estimated that the interbreeding happened between 37,000 and 86,000 years ago. (This research is still unpublished, but Reich discussed it at a meeting this summer.)

… Paabo described some of his latest work on a gene called FoxP2. Ten years ago, psychologists discovered that mutations to this gene can make it difficult for people to speak and understand language. … Paabo and his colleagues have found that FoxP2 underwent a dramatic evolutionary change in our lineage. Most mammals have a practically identical version of the protein, but ours has two different amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). The fact that humans are the only living animals capable of full-blown language, and the fact that this powerful language-linked gene evolved in the human lineage naturally fuels the imagination. Adding fuel to the fire, Paabo pointed out that both Neanderthals and Denisovans had the human version of FoxP2. If Neanderthals could talk, it would be intriguing that they apparently couldn’t paint or make sculptures or do other kinds of abstract expressions that humans did. And if Neanderthal’s couldn’t talk, it would be intriguing that they already had a human version of FoxP2. …

via Neanderthal Neuroscience | The Loom | Discover Magazine.

Posted in Archaeology | Leave a Comment »

Spectacular Photos of Monster Saturn Storm Snapped by NASA Spacecraft

Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2011

Cassini Saturn StormA NASA spacecraft has chronicled the birth, evolution and death of the biggest storm to hit Saturn in two decades.

The monster storm on Saturn emerged in the ringed planet’s northern hemisphere on Dec. 5, 2010. It started out as a tiny spot but grew rapidly, completely encircling the planet by late January 2011. It eventually extended about 9,000 miles (15,000 kilometers) from north to south before sputtering out in late June.

The storm’s 200-day active period makes it the longest-lived planet-encircling tempest ever observed on Saturn, researchers said. And NASA’s unmanned Cassini probe watched everything unfold, snapping pictures all the while.

via Spectacular Photos of Monster Saturn Storm Snapped by NASA Spacecraft | NASA & Cassini Mission | Saturn & Great White Spot | LiveScience.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

Netflix’s Profits Are Gone

Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2011

This has been the year of Reed Hastings’ fall, and it gets more dramatic by the month. The Netflix CEO just revealed his movie streaming company won’t post a quarterly profit in all of 2012. His gruesome horror epic continues, grab the popcorn!

After being named Fortune’s “Business Person of the Year” in December, Hastings hiked prices 60 percent on a popular plan in July, and saw cancellations outpace signups by September. He promptly announced a new name for Netflix’s DVD service,got a verbal beatdown from his board, and reversed the name change by October. Now, notes Henry Blodget at Business Insider, he’s hidden in an SEC filing the news that “as a result of the relatively flat consolidated revenues and previously announced increased investment in our International segment, we expect to incur consolidated net losses for the year ending December 31, 2012.”

The big picture problem is that people continue to cancel their Netflix accounts in droves, especially on plans involving DVDs, plans that were subject to the July price increases. These cancellations are “steadily declining,” supposedly, but in the meantime Netflix needs to raise $400 million to shore up its balance sheet. …

via Netflix’s Profits Are Gone.

Greed kills companies.

Posted in Money | 2 Comments »

Movie Snack Costs Texan 80 Years in Prison

Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2011

Among the anti-counterfeiting features of the new $20 bill is a slim strip that allows black light to shine through. Partly peach, blue and yellow -- as well as green -- the bill made its Bay Area debut Thursday at a San Francisco coffeehouse. Chronicle photo by Penni GladstoneAnd you thought your multiplex overcharged for snacks. Two hot dogs, two sodas, and a tub of popcorn has cost one Texas man 80 years in prison—because he tried to pay for them using a counterfeit $20 bill, reports the Dallas Morning News. The 48-year-old man, who has a history of theft and bank fraud, had an additional $120 in counterfeit bills on him when he was nabbed. Despite the heavy sentence, he’ll be eligible for parole in 15 years.

via Movie Snack Costs Texan 80 Years in Prison – Man tried to pay with counterfeit money.

Posted in Crime | Leave a Comment »

Botanists discover ‘remarkable’ night-flowering orchid

Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2011

A night-flowering orchid, the first of its kind known to science, has been described by a team of botanists.

Experts say the “remarkable” species is the only orchid known to consistently flower at night, but why it has adopted this behaviour remains a mystery.

The plant was discovered by a Dutch researcher during an expedition to New Britain, an island near Papua New Guinea.

The findings appear in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

“It was so unexpected because there are so many species of orchids and not one was known [to flower] at night only,” said co-author Andre Schuiteman, senior researcher and an orchid expert at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

“It was quite remarkable to find one, after so many years of orchid research, that is night-flowering,” he told BBC News.

The specimen was discovered by co-author Ed de Vogel during a field trip in a region of lowland rainforest on the Pacific island. …

via BBC News – Botanists discover ‘remarkable’ night-flowering orchid.


Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

New projection shows global food demand doubling by 2050

Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2011

Global food demand could double by 2050, according to a new projection by David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology in the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences, and colleagues, including Jason Hill, assistant professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

Producing that amount of food could significantly increase levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the environment and cause the extinction of numerous species. But this can be avoided, the paper shows, if the high-yielding technologies of rich nations are adapted to work in poor nations, and if all nations use nitrogen fertilizers more efficiently.

“Agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions could double by 2050 if current trends in global food production continue,” Tilman said. “Global agriculture already accounts for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions.” Much of these emissions come from land clearing, which also threatens species with extinction.

The article shows that if poor nations continue current practices, they will clear a land area larger than the United States (two and a half billion acres) by 2050. But if richer nations help poorer nations improve yields to achievable levels, that could be reduced to half a billion acres.

The research, published Nov. 21 online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that adopting nitrogen-efficient “intensive” farming can meet future global food demand with much lower environmental impacts than the “extensive” farming practiced by many poor nations, which clear land to produce more food. The potential benefits are great. In 2005, crop yields for the wealthiest nations were more than 300 percent higher than yields for the poorest nations.

“Strategically intensifying crop production in developing and least-developed nations would reduce the overall environmental harm caused by food production, as well as provide a more equitable food supply across the globe,” said Hill.

via New projection shows global food demand doubling by 2050 : UMNews : University of Minnesota.

Posted in Earth, Food, Survival | Leave a Comment »

Reliable nuclear device to heat, power Mars Science Lab

Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2011

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, which is scheduled to launch this week, has the potential to be the most productive Mars surface mission in history. That’s due in part to its nuclear heat and power source.

When the rover Curiosity heads to space as early as Saturday, it will carry the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars’ surface. Those instruments will get their lifeblood from a radioisotope power system assembled and tested at Idaho National Laboratory. The Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator is the latest “space battery” that can reliably power a deep space mission for many years.

The device provides a continuous source of heat and power for the rover’s instruments. NASA has used nuclear generators to safely and reliably power 26 missions over the past 50 years. New generators like the one destined for Mars are painstakingly assembled and extensively tested at INL before heading to space.

“This power system will enable Curiosity to complete its ambitious expedition in Mars’ extreme temperatures and seasons,” said Stephen Johnson, director of INL’s Space Nuclear Systems and Technology Division. “When the unit leaves here, we’ve verified every aspect of its performance and made sure it’s in good shape when it gets to Kennedy Space Center.”

The power system provides about 110 watts of electricity and can run continuously for many years. The nuclear fuel is protected by multiple layers of safety features that have each undergone rigorous testing under varied accident scenarios.

The INL team began assembling the mission’s power source in summer 2008. By December of that year, the power system was fully fueled, assembled and ready for testing. INL performs a series of tests to verify that such systems will perform as designed during their missions. These tests include:

Vibrational testing to simulate rocket launch conditions.

Magnetic testing to ensure the system’s electrical field won’t affect the rover’s sensitive scientific equipment.

Mass properties tests to determine the center of gravity, which impacts thruster calculations for moving the rover.

Thermal vacuum testing to verify operation on a planet’s surface or in the cold vacuum of space.

INL completed its tests in May 2009, but by then the planned September 2009 launch had been delayed until this month because of hurdles with other parts of the mission. So INL stored the power system until earlier this summer, when it was shipped to Kennedy Space Center and mated up with the rover to ensure everything fit and worked as designed.

The system will supply warmth and electricity to Curiosity and its scientific instruments using heat from nuclear decay. The generator is fueled with a ceramic form of plutonium dioxide encased in multiple layers of protective materials including iridium capsules and high-strength graphite blocks. As the plutonium naturally decays, it gives off heat, which is circulated through the rover by heat transfer fluid plumbed throughout the system. Electric voltage is produced by using thermocouples, which exploit the temperature difference between the heat source and the cold exterior. More details about the system are in a fact sheet here: http://www.inl.gov/marsrover/.

Curiosity is expected to land on Mars in August 2012 and carry out its mission over 23 months. It will investigate Mars’ Gale Crater for clues about whether environmental conditions there have favored the development of microbial life, and to preserve any evidence it finds.

NASA chose to use a nuclear power source because solar power alternatives did not meet the full range of the mission’s requirements. Only the radioisotope power system allows full-time communication with the rover during its atmospheric entry, descent and landing regardless of the landing site. And the nuclear powered rover can go farther, travel to more places, last longer, and power and heat a larger and more capable scientific payload compared to the solar power alternative NASA studied.

“You can operate with solar panels on Mars, you just can’t operate everywhere,” said Johnson. “This gives you an opportunity to go anywhere you want on the planet, not be limited to the areas that have sunlight and not have to put the rover to sleep at night.”

via Reliable nuclear device to heat, power Mars Science Lab.

Posted in Radiation, Space, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Snapper flips out over ‘dolphin’ starling flock

Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2011

Millions of starlings in the dusk skies above Gretna Green , morph into a distinctive shape of a dolphin being which is being chased across the sky by a whale with it mouth open. ” />Amateur photographer Paul McGreevy was amazed when he snapped thousands of starlings — in the shape of a whale chasing a dolphin.

The 55-year-old had gone to photograph the huge flocks of starlings — an annual attraction every autumn near Gretna Green, Scotland.

But it was only when he got home and checked his snaps that he realised he had caught the birds in these stunning shapes.

As well as the whale chasing the dolphin he also captured the birds looking like a squid, then an octopus and another whale.

Gardener Paul, of Carlisle, Cumbria, said: “It wasn’t until I got home and started putting the images on my computer that I saw all these shapes.

“I was really surprised to see the dolphin, then what looked like a killer whale chasing it. …

via Snapper flips out over ‘dolphin’ starling flock | The Sun |Features.

Posted in Strange | Leave a Comment »

Darth Vader claims land plot in Ukraine

Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2011

A local resident dressed as the Star Wars Darth Vader shows papers as he visits the mayor's office in Odessa November 14, 2011. An Odessite dressed as the Star Wars villain visited the mayor's office this week to claim a free land plot citing Ukrainian legislation which grants every citizen the right to own 1,000 square metres of land. Picture taken November 14, 2011.  REUTERS/StringerWelcoming the local authorities’ move to the dark side, Darth Vader has asked for a land plot in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa to park his space ship.

An Odessite dressed as the Star Wars villain visited the mayor’s office this week to claim a free land plot citing Ukrainian legislation which grants every citizen the right to own 1,000 square meters of land.

His visit followed a decision by city authorities to grant attractive land plots along the sea coast to a group of people for free, prompting public concerns about corruption, according to local media.

The mayor’s office has since said the move was a mistake but has not yet canceled it, according to local news website Dumskaya.net.

“I am Darth Vader, the right hand of Emperor Palpatine,” the man introduced himself to amused policemen, as seen in a video posted on YouTube (here) and accompanied by the Imperial March music.

“…Knowing that many (local legislature) deputies and the mayor have switched to the dark side… I have come for a land plot… for my space cruiser.”

Officials accepted the man’s application after he showed his passport and removed the black helmet equipped with a voice-distorting device.

“The application has been registered and will be considered,” a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office told Reuters.

“We are not on the dark side, we are light-side people,” she added. …

via Darth Vader claims land plot in Ukraine | Reuters.

Posted in Politics, Science Fiction | Leave a Comment »


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