Sunday, December 23, 2012


This year, a study published in the journal PLoS found that looking at cute animal photos helps people to improve their concentration. With that in mind, we present some of the cutest baby animal photographs of 2012.

Taking a break to look at such photos may provide a beneficial boost. "For future applications, cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work," wrote Hiroshi Nittono of Hiroshima University and his colleagues.

Some of our favorite cute critter photographs this year came from the Chengdu Panda Base, which experienced a giant panda baby boom in 2012. Alejandro Grau, a spokesperson for the reserve, told Discovery News in November that "all the cubs are in good health and were photographed together for the first time."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Hibernating bats and HIV-AIDS patients face a similar risk.

A hyperactive immune system may cause dangerous tissue damage in both humans dealing with HIV-AIDS and bats suffering from white-nose syndrome (WNS). The immune system over-reaction, known as immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), occurs when the immune system becomes active after being dormant.
"We see strong similarities between human IRIS and the pathology associated with WNS , with potentially fatal outcome in bats," said Carol Meteyer of the U.S.
"We hope that these findings will stimulate more experimental studies that yield insight into the role of the immune response during IRIS in humans as well as hibernating bats."
In HIV-AIDS patients, IRIS can occur after treatment with antiretroviral drugs allow their immune systems to recover. HIV-AIDS patients sometimes develop infections while their immune system was weakened. Once the drug treatments allow the white blood cells of the immune system to recover, the cells can go into overdrive attacking the infection. The inflammation that follows can cause damage to healthy tissue.
In bats, IRIS may happen after the bats wake up from hibernation. To conserve energy, most of the bats biological functions, including the immune system, go dormant during hibernation. White-nose syndrome attacks the bats while their immune systems can't fight back. The fungus Geomyces destructans takes advantage of this and begins devouring the bats alive, coving them with a white fuzz that gives white-nose syndrome its name.
ANALYSIS: Billion Dollar Bats in Danger
The fungal infection alone can be enough to kill the bats. However, if they survive the winter, when their immune system comes back from its hibernation dormancy it can over-react to the white nose infection. The inflammation can damage tissues, just as in HIV-AIDS patients, and can prove especially deadly if it affects the wings.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Philippines Earthquake Tsunami Alert Explained

The large earthquake that struck off the eastern coast of the Philippines today (Aug. 31) at 8:47 p.m. local time sparked tsunami warnings across a large swath of the neighboring Pacific region, yet those warnings were canceled not long after.

The magnitude-7.6 earthquake hit about 58 miles (63 kilometers) from shore along a tectonic boundary known as a subduction zone, where an oceanic plate is diving beneath a continental plate.

Earlier reports put the quake's magnitude at 7.9, but after more data from global networks of seismometers arrived, officials at the U.S. Geological Survey downgraded the magnitude to 7.6.

"There's a significant difference, but they're both really big earthquakes that can generate tsunamis, and if they occur on land they can kill lots of people," said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo.

In this case, the oceanic Philippine plate shoved deeper below the Sunda plate, a continental plate home to the Philippines, and portions of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The quake ruptured at a depth of about 22 miles (35 km). That's fairly shallow, Caruso said, and shallower earthquakes are more likely to cause tsunamis.

When you get a really deep quake, a lot of the energy is absorbed before it reaches the seafloor, and what causes a tsunami is the seafloor being pushed up," he told OurAmazingPlanet.

However, tsunami warnings that were in effect for the Philippines, Indonesia and Belau were cancelled by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii at around 11 a.m. ET.

So-called subduction quakes — those that occur when an oceanic plate suddenly jolts deeper beneath a continental plate — are the most powerful type of earthquakes that occur on our planet.

They're also very good at shoving the seafloor, and the sheer area of the seafloor that is thrust upward — the length of the rupture, and its horizontal and vertical displacement — determines the size of the tsunami that follows.

HSW: 10 Most Destructive Storms

Data from sensors in the ocean near the site of the quake indicate a tsunami was generated, and waves are coming between 10 and 14 minutes apart, but it appears the waves aren't packing so much energy that they'll take a significant toll once they reach land.

In deep water, tsunami waves appear small, and only reach a massive size once they make it into shallower waters close to shore.

So, although today's quake was a significant one, it appears it didn't move the seafloor enough to cause a large tsunami.

However, Caruso warned that earthquakes can also trigger undersea landslides, which can, in turn, cause tsunamis.

It appears the earthquake has caused at least one death after a house collapsed, and Philippine authorities are warning residents to remain vigilant, in case any further earthquakes occur, the AP reported.

The tectonic region that ruptured today has a long history of shallow, strong earthquakes.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dozens Killed, Hundreds Injured in Iran Quakes

The quakes, which struck Saturday within 11 minutes of each other, measured 6.2 and 6.0.
Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes, some of which have been devastating.

Rescue teams in northwest Iran strived Sunday to dig survivors out of the rubble of villages leveled by twin earthquakes that killed at least 180 people and injured more than 1,300, according to officials.

With telephone communications disrupted in the disaster zone, northeast of the city of Tabriz, emergency teams were relying on radios and traveling in person to hard-hit villages to rescue and assess the destruction.

The quakes, which struck Saturday within 11 minutes of each other, measured 6.2 and 6.0, according to Tehran University's Seismological Center.

ANALYSIS: Why You Should Get Online In An Earthquake

The US Geological Survey, which monitors seismic activity worldwide, ranked them as more powerful, at 6.4 and 6.3 on the moment magnitude scale, respectively.

"Unfortunately, the toll is mounting and we are now at 180 dead," Khalil Saie, the head of the regional natural disasters center, told state television. He put the number of injured at 1,350.

"Up to now, there are no deaths reported in the cities and all the victims come from rural areas," he said.

Earlier he urged residents in the zone not to panic, reassuring them that "help is arriving and rescuers are already at the scene."

Iran's Red Crescent took over a sports stadium to shelter the 16,000 people left homeless or too afraid to return indoors, the Fars news agency reported.

It also provided 3,000 tents, blankets and tonnes of food -- all a sign of years of preparedness in a nation prone to sometimes catastrophic seismic activity.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office posted a statement on its website expressing condolences to those in the disaster zone and calling on authorities to "mobilize all efforts to help the affected populations."

ANALYSIS: Seismic Wallpaper Stabilizes Walls in an Earthquake

According to the official IRNA news agency, 66 rescue teams were at work, using 40 devices and seven dog squads to detect buried survivors. Some 185 ambulances were sent to the area.

Those hurt were taken to hospitals in Tabriz and Ardebil, the two biggest nearby cities, both of which escaped relatively unscathed from the quakes.

In contrast, villages outlying the towns of Ahar and Varzaqan, 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Tabriz, were decimated, being closest to the epicenters of the two quakes. Dwellings close to Heris, another town close by, were also badly shaken.

Residents in the region were terrified as their homes shook around them when the quakes hit, and they fled into the streets for safety, according to reports.

Tehran University's Seismological Center said the first earthquake occurred at 4:53 pm (1223 GMT) at a depth of 10 kilometers.

HOWSTUFFWORKS: How Earthquakes Work

The second actually a big aftershock rumbled through from nearly the same spot. A series of more than 17 smaller aftershocks rating 4.7 or less rapidly followed.

The disaster zone was located around 90 kilometers from the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan, and around 190 kilometers from the border with Turkey.

Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes, some of which have been devastating.

The deadliest was a 6.6-magnitude quake which struck the southern city of Bam in December 2003, killing 31,000 people about a quarter of the population and destroying the city's ancient mud-built citadel.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

China's Three Gorges Dam Opens

The Three Gorges opened its sluices for water discharge in Yichang, central China's Hubei Province on July 5, 2012. The water influx into the Three Gorges Reservoir reached 55,000 cubic meters per second on Thursday morning due to floodwater from the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, exceeding the expected peak amount.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Colorado High Tornado Breaks Record

The non-supercell tornado, also known as a "land spout," formed due to a large mass of warm, moist air encountering colder air higher up.
The twister touched down at 11,900 feet (3,627 meters), making it the second-highest tornado ever recorded in American history.

Most of the time, Chris Kirby chases storms, but sometimes they come to him. During a drive through the mountains this Saturday afternoon (July 28) near his home in Aurora, Colo., to photograph mountain goats and test radio equipment, he got quite a surprise: a rare, high-elevation tornado.

Kirby, who's a registered storm-spotter with the National Weather Service (NWS), took a photo of the thin twister as it briefly touched down on the side of Mount Evans, he told OurAmazingPlanet. He sent his picture to weather service staff, who used maps and line-of-sight analysis to determine that the twister touched down at 11,900 feet (3,627 meters), making it the second-highest tornado ever recorded in American history, said David Barjenbruch, a meteorologist with the NWS in Boulder.

"The funnel briefly touched down on a ridge, just enough to be deemed a tornado," Kirby said. "I'm blessed to have seen such an extremely rare phenomenon."

The highest twister ever recorded was photographed by a hiker at 12,000 feet (3,658 m) in California's Sequoia National Park on July 7, 2004, Barjenbruch told OurAmazingPlanet.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Apple Doesn't Go Brown

Genetically Modified Apple Doesn't Go Brown: Once an apple is exposed to the air it instantly begins browning. This applies whether the fruit is sliced, bitten or simply bruised. Now, a new genetically modified apple doesn't turn brown.

Not surprisingly, food growers are up-in-arms over this new genetically modified apple. According to the New York Times American's have been eating genetically modified foods in the 1990s, but the growers don't believe this apple will be beneficial to their market. Though the company producing the apple is positive on their product, the growers are rather sour

That Fresh Look, Genetically Buffed
A small company is trying to bring to market a genetically engineered apple that does not turn brown when sliced or bruised. But it has much of the rest of the apple industry seeing red.

The company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, says the nonbrowning apple will prove popular with consumers and food service companies and help increase sales of apples, in part by making sliced apples more attractive to serve or sell.

While Americans have been eating genetically engineered foods since the 1990s, those have been mainly processed foods. The Arctic Apple, as it is being called, could become one of the first genetically engineered versions of a fruit that people directly bite into.

But the U.S. Apple Association, which represents the American apple industry, opposes introduction of the product, as do some other industry organizations. They say that, while they do not believe that the genetic engineering is dangerous, it could undermine the fruit’s image as a healthy and natural food, the one that keeps the doctor away and is as American as, well, apple pie.

“We don’t think it’s in the best interest of the apple industry of the United States to have that product in the marketplace at this time,” said Christian Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, which represents the tree-fruit industry in and around Washington State, which produces about 60 percent of the nation’s apples.

The Agriculture Department is expected on Friday to open a 60-day public comment period on Okanagan’s application for regulatory approval of the genetically modified apple trees. A public comment period just ended in Canada, where the company is also seeking approval.

Neal Carter, the founder and president of the company, which is based in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, said the nonbrowning apples could improve industry sales, much as baby carrots did for carrot sales.

A whole apple is “for many people too big a commitment,” he said. “If you had a bowl of apples at a meeting, people wouldn’t take an apple out of the bowl. But if you had a plate of apple slices, everyone would take a slice.”

Consumption of fresh apples in the United States has fallen from about 20 pounds a year for each person in the late 1980s to about 16 pounds now, according to the Agriculture Department.

Apple slices are already becoming more popular as a healthful snack, sold in bags in supermarkets and included by McDonald’s in its Happy Meals for children. The slices are often coated with vitamin C and calcium to prevent browning and preserve crispness. But that can affect the taste, Mr. Carter said.

He also said that growers would have fewer apples rejected by supermarkets because of the minor bruising that is common from handling of the fruit.

Arctic Apples, which would first be available in the Golden Delicious and Granny Smith varieties, contain a synthetic gene that sharply reduces production of polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme responsible for the browning.

The gene does not come from another species. Rather, it contains DNA sequences from four of the apple’s own genes that govern production of polyphenol oxidase. Putting an extra copy of a gene into a plant can activate a self-defense mechanism known as RNA interference that shuts down both the extra copy and the endogenous gene.

Some critics say the lack of browning could conceal problems with an apple that consumers may want to know about.

“Is it a rotten apple that looks fresh?” said Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a coalition of groups critical of genetically engineered crops. Ms. Sharratt also said the genetic engineering was “designed to turn the apple into an industrialized product” that could be sold in plastic bags instead of as whole fresh fruit.

Mr. Carter said the injury from bruising or slicing was not harmful to consumers. If the apple were truly rotten from a bacterial or fungal infection, it would still change colors.

“The stuff that is really bad and people won’t want to eat will still be bad,” he said.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Science news of Cancer

Preclinical Studies Use Specialized Ultrasound to Detect Presence of Cancer
From the air, the twists and turns of rivers can easily be seen. In the body, however, tracing the twists and turns of blood vessels is difficult, but important. Vessel "bendiness" can indicate the presence and progression of cancer.

This principle led UNC scientists to a new method of using a high-resolution ultrasound to identify early tumors in preclinical studies. The method, based on vessel bendiness or "tortuosity," potentially offers an inexpensive, non-invasive and fast method to detect cancer that could someday help doctors identify cancers when tumors are less than a centimeter in size.

Paul Dayton, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering explains, "The correlation between vessel tortuosity and cancer is well-established. What's new about our finding is that we can visualize these vessels in minutes with a very quick scan, using very inexpensive imaging methods." Dr. Dayton is a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The UNC team used a new high-resolution ultrasound method, called "acoustic angiography," with an intravascular contrast agent that allowed them to acquire images of only the blood vessels. "Unlike current clinical 'grayscale' ultrasound, this method filters out all tissue signals, so we can see small blood vessels clearly." says Dayton.

"Our results showed a definitive difference between vessels within and surrounding tumors versus those associated with normal healthy vasculature. The limitation that we must now address is that our method works only for tumors at a shallow depth into tissue, such as melanomas or thyroid cancer. Our next studies will focus on this imaging-depth issue as well as evaluating the ability of this technology to determine a tumor's response to therapy.

"We know from several clinical and preclinical MRI studies at UNC by Elizabeth Bullitt, MD, and others, and at other institutions that vessels can unbend, or "normalize," in response to effective therapy. We need to see if our inexpensive ultrasound-based method of blood vessel visualization and tortuosity analysis can detect this normalization prior to conventional assessments of tumor response to therapy, such as measurements of tumor size.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Space Worms Live Long and Prosper

A microscopic worm used in experiments on the space station not only seems to enjoy living in a microgravity environment, it also appears to get a lifespan boost.

This intriguing discovery was made by University of Nottingham scientists who have flown experiments carrying thousands of tiny Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) to low-Earth orbit over the years. But why are these little worms so special?

NEWS: Pets in Space? It's Possible

C. elegans may be microscopic, but they were the first multi-cellular organism to have their genetic structure completely mapped. These little guys possess 20,000 genes that perform similar functions as equivalent genes in humans. Of particular interest are the 2,000 genes that have a role in promoting muscle function. As any long-duration astronaut can attest, one of the biggest challenges facing mankind's future in space is muscle atrophy.

Understanding how C. elegans function in space is therefore of huge scientific value not only for tiny worm enthusiasts, but for the manned exploration -- and colonization -- of space.

In 2011, Discovery News reported on some results to come from the C. elegans experiments. Nathaniel Szewczyk, of the Division of Clinical Physiology at the University of Nottingham, discussed the worms' microgravity reproduction habits and, as it turns out, C. elegans prospered just fine. Over three months, Szewczyk's team were able to observe the space worms flourish over twelve generations.

ANALYSIS: Legacy Space Worms Flying on Shuttle

And now, in results published on July 5 in the online journal Scientific Reports, it appears that C. elegans not only adapted to microgravity conditions, their lifespans also received a boost when compared with their terrestrial counterparts.

"We identified seven genes, which were down-regulated in space and whose inactivation extended lifespan under laboratory conditions," Szewczyk said in a press release. This basically means that seven C. elegans genes usually associated with muscle aging were suppressed when the worms were exposed to a microgravity environment. Also, it appears spaceflight suppresses the accumulation of toxic proteins that normally gets stored inside aging muscle.

But the biological mechanisms behind this anti-aging effect are a bit of a mystery.

"It would appear that these genes are involved in how the worm senses the environment and signals changes in metabolism in order to adapt to the environment," added Szewczyk. "For example, one of the genes we have identified encodes insulin which, because of diabetes, is well known to be associated with metabolic control. In worms, flies, and mice insulin is also associated with modulation of lifespan."

Monday, July 09, 2012

Animals Navigate With Magnetic Cells

1) Specialized cells may explain the mysterious magnetic sense that some animals use to navigate long distances.
2) People might also harbor magnetic cells in our bodies.
3) Understanding how animals sense magnetic fields could lead to new gadgets and health treatments.

Salmon, turtles and many birds migrate up to thousands of miles at a time, presumably by sensing the Earth's magnetic field. Now, scientists have identified cells in the nose of trout that respond to magnetism, offering a biological explanation for how animals orient themselves and find their way, even when it's dark or foggy.

The discovery -- and particularly the new method that enabled it -- opens up avenues for all sorts of futuristic applications, including miniaturized GPS systems or gene therapies that would restore sight, hearing or smell to people who have lost those senses.

The ability to detect magnetic-sensitive cells in the lab could also help answer questions about whether people are at risk from magnetic fields produced by power lines and other equipment.

NEWS: Pigeons Create GPS from Earth's Magnetic Field

"The key point is really the method we established. Some people call it a game-changer," said Michael Winklhofer, a biogeophysicist at the University of Munich. "Previously, we didn't have a tool to collect these cells. Now, we can do some serious cell biology on them."

"There's no doubt that many animals have a magnetic sense, particularly migratory birds and fish," he added. "But the problem is, we still don't know how that works."

Winklhofer and colleagues chose to study the olfactory tissues of trout based on decade-old research, which showed that magnetic fields affected the electrical activity of nerves that carried information from the fishes' noses. Instead of grinding up the tissues for analysis, as older methods tended to do, the researchers gently isolated whole cells from the tissues and put them into petri dishes.

When the team applied rotating magnetic fields to those dishes, about one out of every 10,000 cells spun with the same frequency as the fields, the researchers report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Illuminated by the light of the microscope, structures inside of these cells also shone brilliantly, making them easy to detect.

A closer look revealed crystals attached to inside the cell membranes that contained what appeared to be magnetite, an iron-rich magnetic material. Scientists don't yet know how these structures work, but Winklhofer suspects that they excite membranes inside neurons and trigger nerve impulses that send direction-related information to the brain.

Based on the abundance of magnetic cells in the samples, Winklhofer estimated that each fish had a total of between 10 and 100 of these cells in its nose. As expected, there were no magnetic cells in the animals' muscle tissue. But in work yet to be published, his group detected even more magnetic cells in the trout's lateral line, a sensory organ in fish that detects vibrations.

Because magnetic fields penetrate the entire body, magnetic-sensing cells could be sporadically spread throughout in other body parts, too, which would make sense. If the cells were too close together, they would begin to sense each other's magnetic fields instead of the larger fields around the planet. Like needles in a haystack, though, magnetic cells can be difficult to find, which is what makes the new method so valuable.

NEWS: Man Implants Magnets in Arm to Hold iPod

The new technique also makes it possible to look for magnetic cells in animals that don't necessarily use a sense of magnetism but may have retained the cells even as evolution made them obsolete. In a 2008 study, for example, German researchers analyzed Google Earth images and saw that cows and deer tended to stand facing magnetic north or south.

Some recent research suggests that even people might harbor magnetic cells that linger from our ancestral hunter-gatherer days. If so, magnetic fields from power lines could be causing stress inside of our cells, leading to unknown health effects.

Researchers also hope to identify the genes and proteins responsible for producing magnetic-sensing cells, which would go a long way toward explaining how migrating animals accomplish such amazing feats. These discoveries would also pave the way for applications, such as tiny GPS systems or even novel strategies for healing blindness and other sensory problems in people.

"This may sound far out here," said J. David Dickman, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "But we're contemplating taking cells that are not normally magnetically sensitive and creating cells that are magnetically sensitive. You could put them in the brain or body and turn them on or off with magnetic fields of certain wavelengths or frequencies to give balance or hearing back to the ear or smells back to the nose."

"Nature has a lot more yet to teach us," he added. "This study shows us that."

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Delhi Mango Festival: Going bananas over mangoes

If there is one thing which is awaited eagerly other than the advent of the monsoon in India, then, undoubtedly, it is the advent of the mango season. The mounds and mounds of fleshy mangoes that inundate the markets each year are the only silver lining to the hot months of summer.

Mangoes have been celebrated in songs and literature and even the mango tree, its branches and leaves form a part of daily life in India. India’s love for the mangoes is hardly surprising as the country is the largest producer of mangoes.

Some interesting facts about mangoes:

Did you know mangoes account for approximately half of all tropical fruits produced worldwide?
Did you know that Tommy Atkins, the slang for British soldeir, is also the name of the variety of mangoes which dominates the market in US?
Did you know that besides Bollywood and cricket, India and Pakistan share their love for mangoes? It is the national fruit of India and Pakistan.
Did you know that India is the largest producer of mangoes; however, it accounts for less than one per cent of international mango trade? Can you guess the reason? Simple, India consumes most of its own production.
Like, other parts of India, Delhi eagerly awaits, its date with the king of fruits each year. The relish with which Dilliwallahs savour mangoes is a sight to behold. What more proof would you need than the fact that Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, famous Urdu poet and prominent Delhi resident, has even written poems about the king of fruits.

Situated next to some of the largest mango producing regions in India, Delhi has had the luxury of biting into the choicest varieties of mangoes. The Dilliwalahs’ love for the fruit has ensured that the fruit from nearby states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and also from Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh flood its market every year.

So much is the love for the fruit that Delhi has been celebrating the mango season with a festival dedicated to the king of fruits. In its 24th year, the Mango Festival would be held at the Dilli Haat in Pitampura from July 6-8. Mango aficionados will be treated to over 500 varieties of mangoes. So huge has been the response to the festival over the years that it has become a calendar event.

The festival is organised with the purpose of bringing together mango cultivators, farmers and tourists on a single platform, according to Sudheer Sobti, Chief Manager (PR&Pub.) Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation.

While the visitors can go bananas over mangoes, the festival has the onerous task of providing exposure to domestic mango industry and also an opportunity to agro and food processing industries, not to speak of promoting tourism. The numbers speak for themselves about the festival’s success. In 2010, about 54,000 people visited the festival while in 2011, it was 56,000.

The festival will have mangoes mainly from Uttranchal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Haryana and Punjab. The festival promises to be a sensory treat as you make your way through the venue. In your hurry, do not forget to taste the platters of cut fruit offered by vendors.

To add to the mango experience, there would be mango eating competition and slogan writing competition. If you are the types who keep a lookout for new recipes, then learn how to prepare aam panna.

So if you want to prove yourself a mango aficionado, the 24th Mango Festival is where you should be.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Fetal Solar System Aborted

Astronomers believe the star, mysteriously stripped of its planet-forming dust disk, still has the right stuff for making planets.
1) A star's planet-forming dust disk vanished in less than two years.
2) The dust grains probably were remnants of two rocky proto-planets that crashed.
3) The finding adds a new twist into the story of how planets like Earth may form.

An artist's rendering of TYC 8241 2652 1 as it appeared several years ago when it was emitting large amounts of excess infrared radiation.

For a long while, it looked like the young star known as TYC 8241 2652 1 was getting ready to make some planets.

The sun-like star, located about 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus was encircled by a disk of warm, brightly glowing dust located about as far away from the star as Mercury orbits the sun.

But something strange happened between 2008, when the star was observed by a powerful ground-based infrared telescope in Chile, and 2010 when NASA's WISE infrared space telescope took a look: The dust was gone.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Success! China's Astronaut Trio Return to Earth

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft touched down safely after a successful 13-day mission to test orbital docking technologies.


1) Three Chinese astronauts, including the nations first female astronaut, have returned to Earth after 13 days in space.
2) The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft docked with the Tiangong-1 module during the mission.
3) Orbital docking had previously only been accomplished by two nations, the U.S. and Russia -- China is now the third.

Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Friday after achieving China's most complex and longest operations in orbit, major steps forward in the country's effort to build a space station by 2020.

The return of the trio, including the country's first female astronaut, to a landing zone in a remote and sandy area of Inner Mongolia was broadcast to a national audience on state television network CCTV.

The return capsule of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which lifted off on June 16, touched down at about 10:00 a.m. local time (10 p.m. EST), after an approach slowed by parachute.

BIG PIC: Meet China's First Female Astronaut:

Rescue workers quickly surrounded and opened the capsule, which had turned on its side and looked charred on the outside.

All three astronauts were in good physical condition, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported, as CCTV showed them being carried out of the capsule on chairs, smiling and waving to the cameras.

The crew had successfully carried out China's first manual space docking with the orbiting Tiangong-1 module, a difficult move that is essential in the process of building a space station -- which Beijing aims to do by 2020.

NEWS: China Starts Work on Its Own Space Hangout:

The maneuver -- completed by the Americans and Russians in the 1960s -- requires two vessels orbiting Earth at thousands of kilometers (miles) per hour to come together very gently to avoid damage.

It was the main goal of the mission, China's fourth manned trip to space.
Morris Jones, an Australia-based independent expert on the Chinese space program, said the length of the space flight -- the crew spent most of the 13 days in the Tiangong-1 -- was more significant than the manual space docking.

"This is China's longest and most complex space flight to date," Jones said.

"The most important thing about the mission is something they haven't said openly and it's the fact that this Tiangong laboratory is more than just a laboratory. It is a proper space station, albeit a very small one."

HOW STUFF WORKS: Is China winning the new space race?

China sees its space program as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

Jones and other experts agreed that the success of Shenzhou-9, which means Divine Vessel in Chinese, had helped cement China's status in these areas.

"By demonstrating that they master (these procedures), China fully enters the club of big powers in human occupation (of space)", said Isabelle Sourbes-Verger, a space expert at France's National Center for Scientific Research.

"The political objectives for the space program -- to be able to demonstrate indisputable technological and scientific competence -- have been reached."
The Shenzhou-9 crew was headed by Jing Haipeng, a veteran astronaut on his third space mission.

Liu Wang carried out the manual docking and the third crew member was Liu Yang, the first woman China has sent into space. The 33-year-old air force pilot has been hailed as a national heroine.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Indian five-year-old limbos her way to skating record - video

A flexible five-year-old from Maharastra in Indian has whizzed her way into the record books after setting a new benchmark for the farthest distance limbo skating under cars.

Kindergarten student Shreeya Rakesh Deshpande skated under 27 cars, covering a whopping distance of 48.2 metres (158ft 2in) during a successful world record attempt last week in Kolhapur.

GWR representative Nikhil Shukla was on hand to confirm that a new record had been set and presented Shreeya with her well-earned certificate as local press and her proud parents looked on.

An event celebrating Shreeya's achievement was organised later the same day in her hometown, with well-wishers once again treated to a demonstration of her amazing talent for limbo skating.

Shreeya's feat beats the previous record of 38.68 metres (126 ft 11 in) set by Rohan Ajit Kokane in February in Mumbai last year during filming for the TV show Guinness World Records - Ab India Todega.

Watch footage of Shreeya's moment of glory below.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Galleries / Flying in the Year 2052: Fast, Cushy, and Efficient


In its early days, air travel was glamorous. Decades of progress since then have made it safer and cheaper--but also grimmer and far more frustrating. These days the flight experience generally means hunching in a narrow seat, nibbling on a bag of pretzels, and straining to glimpse the sky through a tiny porthole.

What technology has taken away, another round of advancements could restore. By 2052,40 years from now, a new generation of aircraft could immerse passengers in panoramic views of the clouds. In their imagining of future flight, designers have envisioned fitness centers, theaters, even swimming pools aboard planes. Airbus suggests that by 2050, the biggest planes might resemble cruise ships, with swimming pools, virtual golf, and casinos. For working passengers, the plane will incorporate video and data links to the outside world.


This future vision of air travel may feel like mere fantasy. But with today's 3 billion passengers a year expected to quintuple by 2052, the only option is rethinking air travel from the ground up. One visionary is Ruben Del Rosario, manager of the NASA Subsonic Fixed Wing Project. His team is exploring aircraft that blend wings and body into a single, unbroken structure that reduces aerodynamic drag, cutting fuel costs and emissions. Crucially, the expanded body would allow the cabin to be less like a tube and more like an amphitheater, Del Rosario says. Boeing's unmanned three-engine X-48B resembles a manta ray with a 20-foot wingspan. The first phase of testing was completed in 2010.

To meet Defense Department goals for decreasing drag, Airbus suggests partially embedded engines into the main vehicle body. The engines would be built into the the top of the plane near the rear to shield people on the ground from noise.

Computerized planes would largely fly themselves; pilots could oversee matters using spoken commands and touch screens, enabling them to absorb and respond to information more rapidly than if they had to flip switches or hit keys.


As the plane moves toward new, more efficient shapes, the surface of the craft itself could become more aerodynamic. A material comparable to sharkskin--an outer casing made of plastic, shaped with microscopic grooves--could repel dirt and reducing air friction up to 5 percent. (Strange but true: Bug carcasses appreciably add to aerodynamic drag.) Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer, suggests that by midcentury aircraft skin could alternate between transparent and opaque, somewhat like today's light-sensitive eyeglasses, giving passengers a wide-angle view of the clouds.

The surfaces of planes may achieve further efficiency gains by dynamically adapting to each situation. "You might have a morphing wing," says David Hills, an aerodynamicist at Airbus. "When a bird hovers, it makes microchanges to capture every last degree of performance from the conditions it's experiencing. That's where we need to go." Instead of slats and flaps, wings could be covered with sensors and small moving plates, allowing them to change shape during flight and counteract turbulence. Airbus may embed small, instantly responsive air jets to improve aerodynamics. Doing so would let airlines fly more people while burning less fuel.


Today's challenges extend beyond the plane itself. Inconvenient airports, security lines, and delayed takeoffs obliterate the speed advantages of flying. No surprise, then, that for trips under 250 miles, air travel has declined some 45 percent since 2000. Customers have been reduced to clamoring for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights that mandates potable water, ventilation, and working toilets during grounded flights. But engineers and planners are conceiving more dramatic fixes. Airports of 2052 could emphasize relaxation and play, with minimal waiting and few checkpoints.

As the global movement of people and products grows, the airport of 2052 would take on the role of self-contained urban center. Pointing the way is South Korea's sprawling new Inchon Airport, which has its own casino, spa, and 72-hole golf course. The designer of Inchon's main terminal, Curtis Fentress, notes that for years airport design was mostly just "decorating the hangar." He foresees a time when quieter planes, possibly designed to take off and land vertically, will allow airports to sprout in traditional downtowns; this whimsical image shows some of the features suggested by Stanford University engineers and Fentress Architects. "What was grand about historical train stations is that they symbolically said, 'Welcome!'?" Fentress notes. An airport should do the same.

Improvements to airports won't just make airports more pleasant but also more efficient. Terminal gates may be closer together, like train station platforms, eliminating long hikes for passengers. To make this possible, Boeing has looked to the design of aircraft carrier jets in hopes of building planes with fold-up wings. And Siemens is testing high-speed luggage conveyors that zip from floor to floor, shortening connection times and bringing bags to passengers upon arrival. GPS-enabled ID tags will let people track their luggage.

Once air traffic control finally dumps radar for GPS (a long-overdue change), planes in flight would no longer have to stay miles apart. Precise positioning would let pilots customize flight routes according to conditions, instead of joining airborne queues or circling ad nauseam.


To ease the tedious check-in process on the ground, Siemens AG, the German technology giant, has begun testing face-recognition software so passengers do not have to show photo IDs in long lines. By 2020, scanners, sensors, and sniffers in stroll-through security corridors will check your bona fides quickly and nearly invisibly while you pass, predicts Kenneth Dunlap, director of global security for the International Air Transport Association.

You could saunter out of a karaoke bar (or whatever they have in 2052) and straight onto your plane.


For the wealthiest passengers--the ones who pioneered air travel in the first place--the aviation industry is researching high-speed civilian aircraft, which could be flying by 2030. These would cater to the free-spending uber-CEO as well as the adventure seeker, who might spend six figures for a ride.

The SpaceLiner, a hydrogen-powered rocket plane conceived by the German Space Agency, could someday carry up to 50 passengers through the upper atmosphere. Brussels to Sydney? A 90-minute hop. Virgin Galactic and others are proposing similar suborbital flights. Only the 10-minute launch would be powered. "The other 80 minutes is gliding, atmospheric flight," says Martin Sippel, the SpaceLiner's chief investigator. Top speed: Mach 20, nearly 24 times the cruising speed of a Boeing 787.


Passengers on the same connecting flight could be seated together in wheeled, ergonomically designed "pods" at the departure gate. Pods scheduled for the same destination would automatically travel in groups to connecting flights.

Our Wounderful Age Of Abundance

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Iguazu Falls, Halong Bay On Natural Wonders List

Iguazu Falls, Halong Bay On Natural Wonders List
  • The Amazon rainforest, Vietnam's Halong Bay and Argentina's Iguazu Falls were named among the world's new seven wonders of nature, according to organizers of a global poll.

  • The other four crowned the world's natural wonders are South Korea's Jeju Island, Indonesia's Komodo, the Philippines' Puerto Princesa Underground River and South Africa's Table Mountain, said the New7Wonders foundation, citing provisional results.
  • Discovery Of Real Mermaids

    Discovery Of Real Mermaids

  • The new discovery of real mermaids was found near the sea shore. A strange mermaid-like creature found washed ashore. This variant claims that the mermaid was found on a sea shore may be washed by tsunami.

  • The snap shots show the 'mermaid' lying dead on the shores of the island. Still the mermaid creature remains to be an Unexplained Mystery.
  • Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    Discovery of Real Mermaids

    The new discovery of real mermaids was found near the sea shore. A strange mermaid-like creature found washed ashore. This variant claims that the mermaid was found on a sea shore may be washed by tsunami. 

    The snap shots show the 'mermaid' lying dead on the shores of the island. Still the mermaid creature remains to be an Unexplained Mystery.

    Friday, May 11, 2012

    New Discoveries of Our Ancestor face

    An ancestor or forebear is the parent of an ancestor (i.e., a grandparent, great-grandparent, great-great-grandparent, and so forth).

    Two individuals have a genetic relationship if one is the ancestor of the other, or if they share a common ancestor. In evolutionary theory, species which share an evolutionary ancestor are said to be of common descent

    Thursday, May 03, 2012

    Humanity’s Greatest Threat | Human/Animal Hybrids

    The discoveries of new species by cloning human with animal hybrids are humanity’s greatest threat. British scientists have secretly generated more than 150 human-animal hybrid embryos.

     The Daily Mail gleaned an exclusive look at the figures which show 155 "admixed" embryos with human and animal genes have been concocted since the 2008 Human Fertilization Embryology Act. 

    This legalized the creation of a variety of hybrids, including an animal egg fertilized by a human sperm; ‘hybrids’, in which a human nucleus is implanted into an animal cell; and ‘chimeras’, in which human cells are mixed with animal embryos. 

    Conducted at King's College London, Newcastle University, and Warwick University, scientists say the experiments can be used to produce embryonic stem cells that treat a host of illnesses. 

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    The space group wants help discovering new asteroids

    Calling all amateur astronomers. NASA  in need of all amateur astronomers! The space agency wants your help discovering new asteroids and studying their characteristics.

    Wednesday, NASA launched a new project called Target Asteroids. The goal is to get more details about asteroids called near-Earth objects or N-E-Os. Scientists want to know more about N-E-Os' positions, motion, rotation and light emissions. 

    The project will support NASA's Regolith Explorer mission, scheduled for launch in 2016, that will study material from an asteroid.

    Thursday, April 05, 2012

    The discovery of the new species - Yutyrannus

    It has been reported that the Palaeontologists of China has recently found remaining of largest feathered dinosaur. The new species thus found has been identified as Yutyrannus. The discovery of the new species has thrilled the Palaeontologists.

    It has been informed that Yutyrannus existed on the Earth 125 years ago. It is estimated that an adult Yutyrannus might have weighed 1,400 kg. Besides, they used to rely over flesh for their existence. It has been informed that the dinosaurs were wiped off from the Earth by huge asteroids. Full Story

    Tuesday, March 27, 2012

    World’s Smallest Women in Election

    The world's smallest woman has disclosed her very big ambitions - after turning her hand to politics to become the world's smallest election campaigner.

    Jyoti Amge, who stands just 62.8cm (2ft 6ins) tall, was seen supporting candidates of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) party, ahead of the forthcoming civic election in Mumbai, India.

    The 18-year-old was officially recognized as the world's smallest woman on her last birthday in December by Guinness World Records officials. Jyoti weighs just 12lbs (5.5kg) - only 9lbs more than she did at birth - and has a form of dwarfism call achondroplasia, which stopped her growing after her first birthday.

    This was not Amge's first Guinness record. Until her 18th birthday she was considered the world's shortest teenager, but in turning 18 qualified for the new title.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Discovered New Species of Frog in US

    A new species of frog has been discovered in the bustling city of amid the skyscrapers and subways, which scientists say is "nothing short of amazing."

    "The species is completely distinct," said Leslie Rissler, programme director with the National Science Foundation.

    The newly-identified animal is among more than a dozen distinct leopard frog species.

    While it is fairly common to find new species of animals in the remote wildness or in rain forests, to discover one in marshes and ponds within an urban area such as New York is nothing short of amazing, Rissler, who is part of the team of scientists that found the species, was quoted as saying by CNN.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Amazing Interspecific Hybrids – Two in One

    Interspecific hybrids are bred by mating two species, usually from within the same genus. The offspring display behavior and characteristics of both parents. The offspring of an interspecific cross are very often sterile; thus, hybrid sterility prevents the movement of genes from one species to the other, keeping both species distinct. Sterility is often attributed to the different number of chromosomes the two species have.

    Hybrids are often named by the portmanteau method, combining the names of the two parent species. For example, a zeedonk is a cross between a zebra and a donkey. Since the traits of hybrid offspring often vary depending on which species was mother and which was father, it is traditional to use the father's species as the first half of the portmanteau. For example, a liger is a cross between a male lion and a female tiger, while a tiglon is a cross between a male tiger and a female lion.

    There are some Amazing Interspecific Hybrids :

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    Valentine’s Day special for plus size costumes, our top picks

    Valentines Day is fast approaching, and whether you’re loved up or planning some fun with your friends, a collection of plus size costumes will always bring the surprise and giggles.

    Halloweenfantasy have a amazing selection of plus size costumes whether you’re looking for something sexy or silly and we’ve picked out a few of our favorites to give you some inspiration.

    We have every comic book lover’s fantasy, this super fun costume comes complete with leotard, cape, wrist guards and boot tops, belt, headband, this outfit will transform you into seductive super-heroine extraordinaire.

    For those of you who are looking more for cute accessories rather than complete costumes, Halloweenfantasy also have a series of Valentines related items.