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August 2009
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October 2009

The Insanely Awesome Hunt for Dark Matter


“Even if we don’t know what dark matter is, we know how it must act,” said Eduardo Abancens, a physicist at Spain’s University of Zaragoza and designer of a prototype dark matter detector 

Dark matter is the modern fairy dust that makes everything (cosmologically) better.  Upon observing that the universe would need to have several hundred times more mass than we can see to be consistent with modern theories, many scientists apparently thought "Fair enough, there must be several universes worth of invisible magic stuff hiding throughout the entirety of existence".  Rather than the crazy heresy of "Maybe our theories need a little work".

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Is There a "Moore's Law" for Cities? World's Leading Experts Say "Yes"


Several thousand years ago the evolution of social organizations in the form of cities brought a new dynamic to the planet that seems to be uniquely human: People actually do walk on average faster in larger cities whereas heart rates decrease as animal size increases. With the city, it seems, mankind has created an "organism" operating beyond the bounds of biology.

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Has Evolution Etched Fear Into Our Behavior?


Evolution has hidden post-hypnotic suggestions in your behavior.  You may think you're the absolute master of your emotions, but that whole "consciousness" thing is just a thin scraping of self-awareness over a huge network of evolved drives and compulsions.  If you can honestly say you're not affected by your subconscious wiring then we're flattered, because we didn't think many Buddhas read this site.

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Ancient Genetic Defenses Against AIDS Virus Reactivated

AIDS Virus

The battle against AIDS is one of the holy grails of biomedical research, second only to curing cancer and undoing aging itself.  Now some scientists have reactivated ancient genetic defenses against retroviruses (combining the plots of at least three science fiction movies and two archeological-horror action flicks), rediscovering something even our sickened cells have forgotten.

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Image of the Day: "The Secret Galaxy" of Centaurus A


Deep inside Centaurus A, the closest active galaxy to Earth, about 1,000 light-years across,is the twisted cosmic dust cloud shaped like a parallelogram -likely the result of a smaller spiral galaxy falling into the giant Centaurus A. The Spitzer Space Telescope's penetrating infrared cameras recorded this startling vista in February 2004.

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The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (9/30)


Megafauna Extinctions Not Entirely Humans’ Fault

Studies that have mostly blamed the arrival of humans for die-offs among Australia’s large mammals 50,000 years ago missed the role played by a changing climate, new research suggests. Most assessments of Australian extinctions have used evidence gathered at sites that typically include fossils from only one narrow interval of time, Gilbert Price, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Queensland


Three Technologies That Are Helping to Save the Music Biz

t's no surprise that many of the most creative and innovative technological music experiments out there are being produced outside the traditional recording industry. Here are three examples worth knowing about...


In Praise of Great MacGuffins

A MacGuffin is the inanimate object that drives plot into motion. It could be Green Lantern's ring or the Death Star. Often reviled as a lazy genre convention, the MacGuffin is nevertheless crucial to great science fiction. Here's why.


Electric fish plug in to communicate

Just as people plug in to computers, smart phones and electric outlets to communicate, electric fish communicate by quickly plugging special channels into their cells to generate electrical impulses. The fish generate electric fields to navigate, fight and attract mates in murky streams and rivers throughout Central and South America. They do so at night, while trying to avoid predators such as catfish that sense the electric fields.


Could a Gravity Trick Speed Us to Mars?

Putting a human on Mars might be easier than anyone thought. A flight to the Red Planet currently takes at least six months, which is why we send robots—the trip is boring, fuel costs are astronomical, and cosmic radiation is nobody's friend. But NASA engineer Robert Adams has a solution: the two-burn maneuver, an all-but-forgotten secret of orbital mechanics that could cut travel time in half.


Celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week!

According to the Defenders of Wildlife, the 2009 spring population census revealed a slight decline in the California sea otter population, the first decline in nearly 10 years.   Mortality rates have jumped and some researchers believe the otters’ food may contain deadly pathogens.  Other threats to the otter population include oil spills, habitat degradation, disease, fishing gear entanglement and limited food supply.


Online Service Let Cities Zap the Mailbox

Last week, the city of San Francisco sent its first letter to residents using Zumbox, a secure e-mail service that allows senders to contact people online using their street address, which regular e-mail doesn't do. If the experiment catches on with even a fraction of the population, San Francisco could save a chunk of the $3 million it spent last fiscal year on postage and associated labor costs. Although the service typically costs 5 cents per e-mail, Zumbox is not charging the city.

The Urge for ET Communication


The search for extra-terrestrial life assumes two things: that there is some, and that it wants to talk, and while the first is obvious to anyone with even the remotest understanding of the size of the universe the second still poses a lot of questions. The fact is there's only one E.T. whose communications motives we ever understand, and all he wanted was to get off our crazy dirtball.  And we made him up.

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The Prehistoric HIV War - Remains of an Ancient HIV-like Virus Discovered

HIV virus cells

'The next great war will start inside us. 'In the next stage of evolution, mankind is history'.

Greg Bear, Darwin's Radio

The retroviruses which gave rise to HIV first evolved around 100 million years ago – about 85 million years earlier than previously thought, a team led by Oxford University scientists have discovered.

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Will Pulsar Networks Guide Future Space Missions Through the Milky Way?


"Pulsar Power," the Next Big Thing! The European Space Agency’s Ariadna initiative is studying a totally awesome navigation system that creams the one you'll find in your new Porche: they are examining the feasibility of navigation relying on millisecond pulsars, rotating neutron stars that spin faster than 40 revolutions per second.  The pulses of these dead stars can be used as exquisitely accurate timing mechanisms.

Pulsars have huge advantages over a traditional deep space satellite network to fix a ship's position  — it doesn’t scale and costs a fortune. Autonomous navigation is clearly preferable, tying the navigation system to natural objects like pulsars. 

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NASA Spacecraft Spots Ice on Mars Meteor Impact Craters


NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed frozen water hiding just below the surface of mid-latitude Mars. The spacecraft's observations were obtained from orbit after meteorites excavated fresh craters on the Red Planet. The finds indicate water-ice occurs beneath Mars' surface halfway between the north pole and the equator, a lower latitude than expected in the Martian climate.

"This ice is a relic of a more humid climate from perhaps just several thousand years ago," said Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona, Tucson, a member of the team operating the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE camera, which captured the unprecedented images.

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