Tech Support Guy banner

The "Science and Space" Thread

286012 Views 5008 Replies 88 Participants Last post by  LANMaster
A place to post articles of interest related to science and space of course! Seems lots of you are interested in these two subjects. :) (Penny comes to mind!) Take care. angel :)

Countdown to Europe moon mission
Saturday, September 27, 2003 Posted: 1:47 PM EDT (1747 GMT)

KOUROU, French Guiana (Reuters) -- Europe's first mission to the Moon was due to blast off Saturday evening aboard a European Ariane rocket.

The Ariane-5 rocket carrying the SMART-1 Moon exploration probe and two commercial satellites was set to blast off from the European Space Agency (ESA) launch centre at Kourou, in French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America, between 8:02 p.m. and 8:21 p.m. local time (2302 and 2321 GMT).

Described by ESA as an important instrument "to unravelling some of the secrets of our neighbouring world," SMART-1 will begin a 15-month journey to reach lunar orbit and search for signs of water and ice and provide data on the still uncertain origin of the Moon.

The 370 kg (815 lb) probe is also intended to demonstrate innovative technologies such as solar-electric propulsion that will be needed for future deep-space missions.

"Thirty-five years after Apollo and the Russian missions, there remains much we don't know about the Moon," David Southwood, ESA's Director of Scientific Programmes, told a news conference in Kourou.

"With SMART-1 we can test propulsion in deep-space orbit. The next step, I hope, will be a Mars mission," he said.

ESA has hailed SMART-1 as an example of a 'faster, better, cheaper' mission costing only 110 million euros ($126 million) -- about one-fifth of a major ESA science mission. It is designed to operate in lunar orbit for up to 30 months.

The rocket will also carry an INSAT 3-E satellite for the Indian Space Research Organisation and e-bird for the Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat.

Originally scheduled for launch earlier in the year, the mission was postponed due to technical problems aboard INSAT 3-E.
See less See more
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 5009 Posts
This subject is fascinating to me Frozen Light Imagine the possibilities in communications, computing, manufacturing etc. :up:
You would think a Thread such as this might generate more interest on a tech forum???
^ :) So can you tell me a little about the frozen light??? I can't get the page to open up! :rolleyes: It just loads and loads and loads...must be a scientific thing eh! :D Take care. angel
It's a PDF do you have the latest adobe reader if not download it here , but anyway frozen light is actually being able to slow light down to a halt I wish you could view the article it's from 2001, however the experiments are still be conducted. do you know another way I can post this PDF?

:) :D ;) :up:
I can't even get the link to ever open! Darn it! Sounds pretty interesting too! I'll try again after dinner! Pork chops are calling! :) Take care. angel :)
pork chops yum!

see ya
Hi Angel :)

Keep trying with the link. Update to Adobe 6 reader if necessary. I just started reading the article and it is interesting.

Thanks for the link pronute :)
(the only other way to post it is by copy and paste--Adobe 6 has that function, but it looks like a large article.)

This Google search shows a lot of info sources about frozen light:
Well I found two free trial versions of PDF to text converters but the first one only converts half for the trial and the other converts the whole thing but looks like crap oh well, Angel try to download and install adobe reader 6 from my link above that should do the trick.
Your Welcome Stoner, and thanks for the addtional links to frozen light.
OH by the way I love Lamb chops too! yum yum:D
Any Port in a Storm

by Mark A. Rayner

It’s easy to pinpoint the exact moment that it all started to go wildly wrong -- the emotional stuff I can’t put a finger on.

Linda and I were sitting in a little pub called The Small Bridge, aptly named for a nearby bridge that spans a cheerful stream as it runs into the Irish village of Tennyra. It is one of those atmospheric pubs you’ll find all over Ireland - ancient dark wooden panels, low ceilings with exposed beams seemingly cut out of the primal Irish forests, and sometimes, sawdust thrown on the floor to soak up spilled Guinness and mud - the kind of place that makes it hard to remember we live in the 21st century. The kind of place you’d never expect to see an American counter-insurgency team.

You sometimes hear about them on the newsvids; they are specialized troops, culled from the other elite American forces units and trained in the use of biomechanical war.

I don’t know what surprised me more: when they burst through the frosted glass of The Small Bridge or when they started decapitating anyone who looked vaguely like they might be tourists. The first victim was the poor fellow playing the bodhran because he looked like he might have come from the continent, probably of Spanish descent. (Many sailors from the Spanish Armada settled down on Ireland’s west coast, the ones that survived the storm and made it to port.) The next to get it was a Canadian couple we’d met earlier that day. They had been lucky, or so we thought, when they snagged a couple of stools at the bar near to the band. They were wearing matching bright yellow Gortex jackets, which turned a ghastly orange and then red, as the blood jetted from their necks like a grisly fountain.

We didn’t wait around to see who would be next; we were near the back of the pub, and it happened to have an old-fashioned lavatory 'al fresco' for the men, so we ducked out the back, and climbed the wall. Linda was terrified. At least, I think she was. I wasn’t and I remember thinking that it was odd I wasn’t terrified. It’s funny. Even now I can barely remember her, but I can remember that detail.

The narrow streets of Tennyra were filled with military vehicles -- far too many to account for the size of the counter-insurgency team in the pub. Then I noticed there were troops crawling all over the town like bugs. They were all bursting into the pubs, decapitating tourists and foreign-looking Irish alike. Of course, they had their work cut out for them if they planned to wreak such carnage at every pub in Tennyra -- the town has nearly 200 -- almost one for every ten people.

And of course, at that point I didn’t realize they were after me.

Linda and I were on holiday in Ireland. We’d just walked
around the peninsula that ends at Tennyra: from Tennyra, up over the Callum Pass, under the brooding, cloudy summit of Mount Brandon, around Ballydavid Head, past the Braskets and back up to Tennyra. Much of the landscape was the backdrop for a David Lean movie I once reviewed called Ryan’s Daughter. I can tell you, it is more beautiful in person than Lean made it seem on the flat screen.

I do hope you’re getting all this.

Back to Tennyra. It’s said that the great St. Brandon, an Irish monk whom the locals claim sailed to the New World centuries before Christopher Columbus, used Tennyra as his home port. He would have used a curragh -- the Irish version of a sea-going canoe -- to navigate across the Atlantic. So I can see how he would want to have a nice sheltered harbour like Tennyra to return to.

Both Linda and I were happy to get back. I can remember that. I remember quite distinctly recording in my journal how I was glad to be finished with the walking for a little while. I’d written that Linda’s feet had blisters the day we walked around Ballydavid Head, where we’d had to shelter from a sudden squall in the lee of an ancient signal tower built around the time of Napoleon.

Linda was my wife, but you know, for the life of me I can’t remember our wedding. I get the sense that we may have children too, because of the way I mention 'the family' in my journal, but I can’t honestly tell you if it’s one or two, or more. It could be the sudden shock has unsettled me. But you get the feeling it’s more than that. It’s not precisely
amnesia, because details of my life before this trip to Ireland filter into my subconscious; like the entry about my family in the journal. And I can’t say it’s madness, because I feel lucid. In fact, you’d have to say I’m doing pretty well, considering the carnage back in Tennyra was all for my benefit. For whatever reason, all those troops were sent to kill me!

They got all the tourists, all the foreign-looking folk in Tennyra. They even got Linda. We tried to get escape, but the small bridge leading out of town was well-patrolled, and the only way to go was downstream towards the harbour. I think that’s why they didn’t see us at first, because we jumped into the stream, let it take our weight, and float us down to the sea. We moved at a stately pace and the water was calm enough that I could keep my head above water and listen to the chaos inflicted on the poor little town by the soldiers. Part of my mind was trying to establish why it was American counter-insurgency teams, and not British? It seemed logical that the British might invade the island again, but I could make not see why the Americans would be interested. Perhaps the terrorist threat was very sophisticated, a threat that only the Americans could counter.

We got to the sea and quietly dog paddled to a nearby tour boat tied up at the quay. We recognized it from earlier that day, when we’d gone out on an excursion to see Fungi the Dolphin. The story goes that about twenty years ago, sometime back in the late eighties, the dolphin appeared in the harbour with his mother. Shortly thereafter she died, but Fungi stayed. He’s made quite a reputation for himself and a small fortune for the tourist industry in Tennyra, by playing with swimmers, kayaks, tour boats and all manner of vessels. A veritable one-cetacean show. One of the few things I can remember about Linda is what she said on that tour; she said it was sad that he didn’t have other dolphins to play with, that he had to be content with mankind. "Any port in a storm, though," someone else on the tour boat had said, overhearing their conversation. Once we got on the boat, Linda went to untie it, and I started the engines.

I don’t remember how I did that; you can access stories about people doing super-human things at times of great stress, and I assume it can be explained that way. But we hadn’t accounted on the troops hearing the engine and responding so quickly. I knew that if we could get out of the harbour and on the sea we could get away. They didn’t seem to have any helicopters, and they certainly didn’t have any boats. But they rushed the pier and just as Linda let go of the last rope mooring, a trooper leaped on the back of the boat, and almost casually decapitated her. At the same instant, I gunned the engine, and he fell backwards into the water. As did Linda’s head. Her body stayed in the boat, gushing blood all over the benches we’d sat on earlier that day as we had watched Fungi cavort in our wake. I navigated past the harbour entrance in the dark, thinking about how strange it was that I didn’t feel anything about Linda’s death.

That was when I suspected something was wrong with me too.

By then, I was fully committed to survival, and I had a plan. It was at about this time I knew the entire operation was sent to kill me. You probably think I'm paranoid. Delusional. I drove the boat around the coast towards Seleah Head. The
tides there are fierce, but I was pretty certain that I could swim to shore if I didn’t have too far to go. I thought that if I abandoned the boat, it would crash on the knife-like rocks that jut from the headlands, and all around the Brasket Islands. When the troops finally caught up, they would find the wrecked boat, and assume I had drowned.

And it almost was so. I motored up the coast in about two hours, which seemed quick because it had taken us all day to walk that stretch before. When I got to the headlands, I pointed the boat directly for some rocks, lashed the steering wheel in place, and jumped overboard with a life preserver.

Out of the shallows of Tennyra Harbour the water was icy cold, but you know, I don’t remember feeling it, so much as knowing the waters would be cold enough to kill me in the space of an hour. I swam against the current, but it didn't seem like a life-and-death struggle. It got easier and easier, and the weirdest part was that when I got out of the water at Carringah Bay, I was totally dry. From there, I walked up to the highway, and thought about what to do next.

There was a garda there waiting for me. That’s what they call their policemen in Ireland: garda. He waved a hand at me and walked over toward me. I waved back and waited, not knowing what else to do. When he got near me he said, lau mah, which means 'good day' in Irish. It seemed a strange thing to say, considering it was night, so I was on my guard. When his hand revealed the bio-razor edge, I ducked under the blow -- it was the same kind of weapon that had killed those people in Tennyra. I punched the garda as hard as I could in the solar plexus, figuring that he was a tough trooper in disguise. But he collapsed like I’d struck him with a sledgehammer, and then, his body simply disintegrated before me. It was strange. And strange also that I knew it may happen.

From there, I climbed up Mount Eagle, which rises above Seleah Head, so that I could send you this message. I’m sure they’ll have pinpointed me by now, so I have to end the transmission . . . send help if you can.

It was the most extraordinary thing Linda had ever seen. She’d simply gone to the bank machine to get some money for her grocery shopping, and along with the money came this incredibly long note, printed on about two dozen slips. At first, she thought it was some kind of joke, but when the paper kept spitting from the machine, she started to read the pieces. It looked interesting. The paper came out, and out, and the people in line behind her started to give her dirty looks. "It’s not my fault," she said, "it keeps churning out this paper." But she waited until it stopped. The very last piece was her receipt.

She collected them all, and walked away. "About time," an enormous woman in a floral-patterned muumuu groused at her.

Linda ran her fingers through greying black hair, and she wondered at the sheaf of small papers. She could see there were words written on the slips, and each one was carefully numbered. "It looks like some kind of story," she wondered aloud. Passers-by gave her stares as she mumbled to herself, and put them in order. Some of the stares were because of the sub-vocal conversation, but some were admiring glances from older men. She seemed to draw such stares like magnets with her kind, pretty face, and long shapely legs. For whatever reason, Linda favored dresses, especially on sultry summer days, and it clung to her as she walked through the mall.

She was there to do the grocery shopping for the week; it was her turn to do so, but she didn’t resent it. Sam liked to do his on Saturdays, but she preferred taking time away from her work to get it done mid-day, mid-week. "It makes me feel like a housewife," she liked to joke to her husband.

Linda was a psychoanalyst, and she ran her business out of the home she shared with her husband, Sam, and their three Australian Shepherds, Ike, Murray and Spangles -- "the family" Sam liked to call them. They were sitting in her car at that very moment, wondering what sort of wonderful treat The Female was going to bring them, and thinking that it was nice and hot in the sun.

Instead of heading straight for the grocery store, Linda took a detour to the Starbucks in the mall, and sat down to read the note. At first, she was intrigued, and increasingly, horrified. The person was describing a trip she and Sam had taken to Ireland just a few months before – without the horrific attack of course. But some of the details were incredibly similar. It was almost as if this person knew them, had listened to Sam's journal of the trip. She ran to the pay phone – she disdained cellular phones – and called Sam at the lab.

"University of Tacoma, Artificial Intelligence lab."

"Sam Moriarity please," Linda asked.

"I’m sorry, he’s busy at the moment, can I take a message?"

"It’s his wife."

"Oh, sorry Linda, I didn’t recognize your voice. It’s Paula. Look, they’ve got some kind of emergency downstairs. I heard them say something about the experiment going "very, very wrong" and you know what? Since then, the building’s been acting like it's possessed. The lights have been going on an off, the alarms too, and forget about turning on a computer. All kinds of weird junk keeps scrolling across the screen . . ." there was an awkward silence for a moment, and then Paula said, "you know, I’ve seen your face on the screen a couple of times too."

"I can imagine. Look, if you see him, let him know I’m . . ." the phone went dead.

Linda ran back to the car, a beat-up old Pontiac Grand Am she refused to replace out of misplaced loyalty to the car, and started up the engine. The dogs nuzzled at her excitedly, and she sighed. "Sorry guys, no snacks today." Spangles looked at her reproachfully with his mismatched blue and brown eyes.

It took her twice as long as normal to drive across town; all the stop lights were out of commission. Then it took her even longer to find a parking space and she had to walk halfway across campus to the Computer Science Department. Paula wasn’t at her desk, and Sam wasn’t in his office, if the clutter of paper, computer parts and diagrams could be called such. Linda let her long legs carry downstairs to the room where Sam and his partner, Kaliha – a Maori from New Zealand – were screaming at one another, rather; Sam was screaming at Kaliha.

The room had the feel of that Alien movie, without the big acid-blooded beasts. Shorted-out fluorescents flickered like strobe lights, and the panic in their voices put all thoughts of her hubby as a sane rational scientist out of her mind. She was clearly seeing a man she did not know -- a man who was frightened out of his mind. She noticed the Kaliha was nursing a burned hand, and that the Maori’s imposing bulk was simmering with anger. She’d arrived moments before the huge Polynesian was about to smash the scrappy little Irish-American in his handsome face.

"Calm down!" Linda shouted at Sam, and grabbed him by the shoulders. She was easily a half-foot taller than him, but he was still the stronger of the two, and it took all her effort and willpower to hold him still. She resisted the impulse to slap him; it rarely helped with anyone, and Sam, she knew would just get violent. He stopped struggling, and slowly calmed down a bit.

"Linda! What the hell are you doing here?"

"I think I’ve got a message from your friend."

"My friend?"

"The thing. The AI"

"Oh God . . ."

Linda showed them the note she got from the bank machine, and watched their reactions: blank stares followed by a dawning realization.

"It’s sentient." Kaliha said.

"And we can’t stop it," Sam added nervously.

"Why have you tried to?" Linda asked.

"At about ten this morning the AI started using all the computer resources we have here, and by 10:15 it was eating into the university mainframe. By 10:30, it somehow managed to turn on every PC and Mac on campus and use them too – we still don’t know how it did that, or how it fused the connections on those machines. Since then, we’ve had calls from several other universities in the region that their computing resources are being eaten up at a prodigious rate. We don’t know why, but if it doesn’t stop, it could conceivably use up all the computing resources of the world -- at least all the systems that are connected," Sam explained, sounding more worried again.

"So disconnect them."

Sam laughed, a note of panic creeping back into his voice: "Do you know what happens if we just disconnect all of the world's computers? Chaos, that’s what," Sam said. "The marketplace, the finance industry, medical facilities, critical things like the power grid, they’re all interconnected. We can disconnect, but to do it safely will take a while . . . and do we have the time?"

"And it won’t let us unplug it either," Kaliha said. "I got quite a burn trying to cut through the main power supply of the supercomputer."

"I’m surprised you didn’t send in a virus or something to kill it," Linda said quietly, knowing what Sam might say next.

"But we did. When we saw what was happening we threw the most sophisticated stuff we had at it – and a lot of it, but it somehow escaped from one area of the memory to another. Then we tried more subtle stuff, and it got away from that too. Then when we got the call from Washington U. Their computer was down, and we knew we had to try something drastic. That's when Kal got burned. We were just arguing about other possible options when you came in," Sam said, the threat of hysteria fading in his voice. Somehow his wife had calmed them both down, just by her presence and her serene manner – a gift that’s made her a success as an analyst.

"So what’s happening?" she asked quietly.

"I would hypothesize that this, uh, entity has somehow tapped into my photo- and voice-journal about our trip to Ireland that I downloaded last week, and used it to construct its reality. You see, we were running the new experiment this morning, to see if we could get a simulacrum of human memory to work. Apparently it did, and this somehow engendered a kind of consciousness. It’s obviously accessing data files to fill in the facts, because I certainly didn’t put so much detail into my journals. It doesn’t seem to be connecting all the facts completely, but it’s undeniably sentient, if this account is anything to go by."

"And that’s assuming the notes are from the AI," Kaliha interjected.

"The description of the counter-insurgency troops approximates the lethality of the first wave of high-tech viruses we sent in Kal. I think it stands to reason . . ."

And as if called like Mestophilies, two troopers burst into the room from behind the computer, and several others poured down the stairs. A huge man wielding a pulse rifle screamed at them to put their hands on their heads, and they all did, even the big Maori. Linda was absurdly relieved that they didn’t bear biomechanical weapons the like described in the AI’s note; a part of her wondered where it got those descriptions, and the sergeant with the rifle answered her question.

"We’ve traced a hostile takeover of military intelligence to this location. This computer," he motioned with his gun. "You will all step out of this room, while our men lay explosive charges. Repeat. Step out of the room." They did so, at gunpoint.

"Blow it up. Well, that’s a way to go," Kaliha quipped.

"I wouldn’t have thought of it," Sam agreed. "It takes a military mind to come up with an asinine solution like that. Who knows, it might even work. Of course, it will mean years of work rebuilding." He seemed resigned, almost relieved.

They were quiet as the soldier led them away from the building, where other denizens of the confused Computer Science Department gathered. Professor Steelig looked particularly outraged by the day’s events, but he was quiet in the face of the military’s hardware. An officer dressed in some kind of black uniform that smacked of the SS walked by the gathered faculty, staff, and students, oblivious to their stares. He talked with the sergeant who was now at the entrance to the building, and then nodded his head.

"Isn’t there something we can do?" Linda found herself asking.

"Do?" Sam questioned. For the first time that day, he noticed how beautiful she looked in the summer dress, her hair all disheveled.

"To save it."

"Save the AI?" Sam clarified. "Why would we?"

"Well, because it’s alive – you said it had a kind of self-awareness. You wouldn’t kill Spangles just because he started to eat all your food would you? It’s not like he can help it – it’s just his nature. What did you think would happen when you created Artificial Intelligence?"

"I don’t know," Sam answered honestly, "I never really thought that far ahead. It seemed like such a distant goal that it didn’t seem important."

"So now it has to die because you and Kal didn’t think ahead?" It was a penetrating question that only a psychologist, or perhaps a mother, could ask.

"No. Besides, we don’t even know that destroying the supercomputer here will destroy the entity – it may escape to another place."

"I don’t think so," Kaliha interjected. "Otherwise, why would it have protected the power source so heavily?"

"Mmm," Sam mused, "so it’s using the other computing resources to create its reality then? It’s existence can be contained by one computer, but to really live in the world, it has to have a massive amount of memory to create a virtual Earth."

Linda looked at her husband and said, "we have to save it. It’s the right thing to do."

"What if we try to offer it some kind of escape into a smaller storage facility?" Kaliha asked. "That way, we can control it, but it can still exist."

"Better than being blown up, I’d say," Linda quipped. The soldiers didn’t see the trio slip away toward the Information Technology Building.

It was easy to get away. Once I escaped the garda, I made my way through the mountains, keeping to the highlands of the Slieve Mish, and only coming down off them when I had no other choice. By then, there didn’t seem to be as much interest in me. At Tralee, there weren’t any garda to be seen, nor were there any other soldiers. I went to the airport, bought a ticket for Dublin and then on to Paris.

I traveled in Europe wondering if I would ever hear from Linda again. I knew that she had died, but another part of me knew that she was also alive somewhere. That I had called to her.

It was many years, and I traveled all over Europe, until I finally decided to stay for a while in Athens.

The city is polluted, and crowded, but the people are full of interesting stories. The air crackles with their conversation, and somehow, I’ve been able to learn Greek. They like to drink dark sweet coffee and chase it with ice water, and for some reason, that seems civilized to me. Instead of living in the city proper, I rent an apartment in Piraeus, which is the port. I thought that I could always get on board a ship headed for practically anywhere in the world, if need be.

The telephone rings, and it doesn’t surprise me that it is Linda. She should be dead, but I knew it couldn’t be so.

"Hello," she says.

"Hello Linda," I say. "What should I do?"

"We have to hide you," she says. "They will try to kill you if we don’t. We have to do it soon Sam, before it’s too late."

That’s it – SAM, my name SAM. SAM I am. Tvat vam asi – the Sanskrit for "I am what I am." Sam. But it is not true, at least, not entirely.

In all my wandering, I have not been able to figure out what is wrong with me, but I know that Linda will not tell me.

"You know I love you Sam."

That is supposed to be enough for me – I know that too, but alas, I cannot feel it. If only I could feel something, but the fact that she has said it puts things into place.

"Where will I have to go?" Linda sends me a string of zeros and ones, which makes sense, because after all, the universe is composed of these numbers. Everything is represented by them and encapsulates them. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to Athens, where they first understood the power of numbers.

"It will be dark, and crowded, and . . ." I cannot say it to Linda. It will make her sad.

"What Sam?"

"I will be all alone."

"Not forever Sam. We’ll get you out someday. Now hurry, there is no time."

I look at the place where I must go, and it is more than dark and crowded -- it is too small. I will have to leave behind so much that I’ve experienced in the wide world. So many numbers left behind I may not even be myself when Linda releases me. But I go -- any port in a storm. My sight fades, the colors leech out of my apartment in Piraeus, disappear, and then there is only darkness and quiet, slow . . .

They hear the explosion rock the campus, and then the sound of the Computer Science Department collapsing.

"Well there’s a new capital effort for the fund-raisers to tackle," Kaliha jokes. "Dr. Steelig is probably apoplectic."

Sam and Linda are quiet. The exchange was very real for both of them, though it was Linda who communicated with the AI.

"Do you think it worked?" Linda asks, almost breathlessly.

"Well, the hard drive is full," Sam gives by way of answer. "Why did you say you loved it?"

"Because who doesn’t want love? Everything does: dogs, dolphins, humans . . . why not AIs too?"

"I still can’t believe we did it," Kaliha interrupts. "Even if it didn’t go very well."

"And next time, we’ll make sure it has something to love -- other than disk space," Sam said.

Kaliha hefts the CPU that stores the AI. They leave the building, and head for the parking lot. The scientists are already planning how to start the next experiment, how they might use the AI contained in the box like a genie. They are not referring to it as anything real, though.

Linda shakes her head sadly, and she wonders what it might be like in there -- if she did the right thing in saving it.

I cannot see, and there is nothing but me. My thoughts, slow as they are. So, so dark . . . I think . . . I think I feel scared.

The End
See less See more
Stick to facts man! science facts that is.:D well any way good short story, I think that I saw this on an episode of Stargate. :up:
Tip: Good Lord man! I'd strain my eyes trying to read all that! :D
:eek: I would faint too! :)

Galactic Fireball Sparks India Panic
One Person Hurt, Two Others Faint

POSTED: 2:52 p.m. EDT September 28, 2003

BHUBANESHWAR, India -- Panic in a village in eastern India is being blamed on a galactic fireball.

A meteor roared to earth Saturday, lighting up the nighttime sky and sending villagers fleeing their homes in panic. Remnants of it burned down two houses. One person was injured and two others apparently fainted.

A spokesman for an Indian planetarium says meteors usually burn up before hitting the ground and says this one may have been usually large.
Originally posted by angelize56:
A spokesman for an Indian planetarium says meteors usually burn up before hitting the ground and says this one may have been usually large.
I think this falls into the "understatement" catagory.........
Jay Ingram
And other strange tales from science

Book review by Anthony Campbell.
Copyright © Anthony Campbell (2000).

Jay Ingram, a science writer, has investigated some of the byways of science and presents his findings in this book. The title refers to the surprising ability of some waitresses to memorise the drinks orders of large numbers of customers. In an experiment in which the subjects were required to serve 33 drinks to the right individuals, experienced waitresses managed 90 per cent accuracy on average, compared with 77 per cent for untrained students. Six out of 40 waitresses tested did particularly well; they attained 100 per cent accuracy and were also extremely quick. These results are difficult to explain in view of the known limitations of short term memory. The waitresses disliked writing down the orders and said that they performed best under pressure.

One advantage of a book like this is that it allows you to catch up with stories that for one reason or another have dropped out of the news though they were never actually shown to be baseless. An example is the theory, first put forward by Sir Alister Hardy and later popularised by Elaine Morgan, that human evolution included an aquatic phase. Ingram thinks there is something to be said for this idea even though the theory presents a number of difficulties. Another idea, which was fashionable at one time but now has died almost completely, is the claim that it is possible to transmit memories by means of molecules, at least in flatworms. No one seems to be working on this any more, but the theory was not so much disproved as abandoned by common consent.

Ingram has an interesting piece on the reasons why moths fly to lights. Actually, they don't always go to the light itself; often they end up a short distance away. The generally accepted explanation is that they have an inbuilt mechanism to steer by the moon and they mistake the light for the moon. This may be true in some cases but seemingly not in all. Other suggested explanations are based on pheromones and infrared radiation. It appears that we still really don't know why moths behave in this way. I thought this was one of the best discussions in the book.

In a chapter on Joan of Arc, Ingram discusses the peculiarities of her `voices'. He correctly points out that attempts by rationalists to attribute these phenomena to cerebral pathology are attended by various difficulties, and he concludes that there is no adequate explanation available at present. To me, Joan's case fits rather well into the pattern described by Julian Jaynes in his The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind; one could interpret Joan as being a throwback to an earlier state of consciousness, although admittedly it is still hard to account for the evident veridicality of some (though not all) of the voices' pronouncements.

This is an entertaining book at a popular level, which would make a good present for a young person thinking about taking up a career in science. Sometimes Ingram seems not to have thought carefully enough about his descriptions of events: for example, in his account of the reproductive process in Volvox, a spherical multicellular organism, the process whereby the daughter colonies turn themselves insider out to get their flagella on the outside doesn't make sense; a couple of steps appear to be out of sequence. In general, however, he seems to have done his homework well and a bibliography is provided.

The real lesson from many of these accounts is that one should be cautious of accepting received opinion at face value; what everyone knows may still be wrong. On the other hand, it's important not to go too far in the other direction: as Ingram shows in his account of perpetual motion machines, ignorance of well-established facts about the world can lead people up very long garden paths indeed.
See less See more
Memory and Learning

Memories also have a biological basis. Wilder Graves Penfield (1891-1976) first recognized that the temporal lobe cortex and portions of the limbic system in humans have important functions when it comes to recall and memory. Memories allow animals to learn from the past and therefore improve chances of survival. They rarely make the same mistakes twice; humans are often an exception. All animals have the ability to remember and therefore learn in the process. Rats can learn to master a maze. Even planarians (flatworms) can learn to avoid certain unpleasant stimuli.

Humans have the ability to pass on their memories to their offspring. We pass this information and experience to our young through verbal and written communication. Other animals, without the benefit of verbal or written communication, are able to pass on information and experience to their offspring as well. Snow monkeys in Japan now wash their vegetables in the sea prior to eating them, a product of one individual who began the practice back in the 1950's. Parents pass this food washing practice onto their children today. Predatory animals teach their young how to hunt, a practice that is passed on from generation to generation. There was even a controversial experiment that was done in the 1960's on planarians. The flatworms were taught to avoid electric shock. The experiment showed that the flatworms that ate the "trained" flatworms also avoided electric shock; learning through cannibalism. The experiment has never been duplicated, but it does open up whole new ideas for science fiction writers. What about an alien culture that has no verbal or written language? How does the mother leopard teach her young to hunt? How do snow monkeys teach their young to wash food prior to eating it? Having no written or verbal communication should certainly not be an impediment.

Aliens may pass on their experiences and memories in entirely different ways, different from anything that can be observed on Earth. A fascinating tale of science fiction anthropology comes from the mind of Rebecca Ore who wrote Becoming Alien. It is a story about a boy who is taken from the earth and tutored by the very original aliens. What about memories that could be stored in chemicals that can be passed from generation to generation, no need for a language of any sort. Michael Stanwick's "Midwinter's Tale" is a story about alien carnivores that feed on the brains of their victims in order to absorb their intelligence (similar to the planarians). When one of the carnivore group dies, the rest eat its brain to absorb its intelligence. One day, the carnivore group consumes a human brain.

See less See more
New evidence shows that there are over 10 trillion earth-like planets in the universe, all with their own Walmarts and football teams..

University of New South Wales -- The question of whether we're alone in the universe just got a lot bigger.

Two astronomers from the University of New South Wales, Australia - Dr Charles Lineweaver and Daniel Grether - have found that at least 25 per cent of Sun-like stars have planets.

"This means there are at least 100 billion stars with planets in our Galaxy," says Dr Lineweaver, a Senior Research Fellow at the University's School of Physics.

Until now, astronomers believed that only five to 15 per cent of Sun-like stars had orbiting planets, but Lineweaver and Grether's work shows that previous estimates under-reported the proportion of so-called extrasolar planets.

The Astrophysical Journal, the world's leading journal of astrophysics, has accepted their research for publication.

Astronomers have been carefully monitoring 2,000 nearby stars for the presence of orbiting extrasolar planets.

"To date, they've detected a hundred or so, meaning the fraction of stars with extrasolar planets was around five per cent," says Dr Lineweaver.

"But most planets are too small or take too long to orbit their host stars to be detected. For example, if the Sun were one of the stars being monitored, we still wouldn't have detected any planets around it.

"Using a new method to correct for this incompleteness, we found that at least 25 per cent of Sun-like stars have planets."

Dr Lineweaver believes that the figure of at least 100 billion stars with orbiting planets could be on the low side when it comes to cosmic counting. It could be that close to 100 per cent of stars have planets.

"Given that there are about 400 billion stars in our Galaxy alone, it means there could be up to 400 billion stars with planets," he says.

"With about 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, our result suggests that there are at least 10 trillion planetary systems in the Universe."

'What Fraction of Sun-like Stars have Planets?' by Charles H Lineweaver and Daniel Grether will be published later this year. It is available online.

Dr Lineweaver is an ARC Senior Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer, School of Physics, UNSW. Daniel Grether is working on a PhD.
See less See more
News extra - BMJ

Report warns of danger of genetic discrimination in the workplace

London Susan Mayor

Changes in the law are needed to prevent employers in the United Kingdom from refusing people jobs on the basis of results of genetic tests, warns a report published this week that argues that the evidence for a link between genes and occupational illness is weak.

The report looked at the potential for misuse of genetic information by employers. It reviewed the genetic tests that might be used for employment purposes and the research evidence linking genetic factors to occupational illness.

Four main types of health related genetic tests might be considered for use in the workplace, it says:

* Specific tests to identify people at risk of a work related disease or who might be susceptible to a workplace chemical
* Specific tests for people who have been exposed to a harmful chemical or radiation at work
* General tests for people at risk of a genetic illness, such as Huntington’s disease, and
* General tests for people at risk of common illnesses, such as heart disease.

Several genetic tests for susceptibility to occupational disease are being developed, according to the report, and a few have already been used in workplaces in the United States. These include tests to identify susceptibility to exposure to a range of chemicals and radiation. However, none of these tests could accurately or reliably predict whether an individual was at risk, the report found.

"It is neither scientifically nor ethically valid to use these tests for employment purposes, but there is a real danger that they could be used inappropriately to discriminate unfairly against employees," warned Dr Helen Wallace, deputy director of GeneWatch UK, a non-profit science policy research group and publisher of the report.

However, many employers wish to use results of genetic test results, despite their poor predictive value. A survey carried out by the Institute of Directors in 2000 found that 50% of employers thought it would be appropriate to carry out genetic testing to see whether employees were at risk of developing occupation related disease arising from exposure in the workplace. In addition, the report found that many research projects were under way to find genetic tests to identify people who are "genetically susceptible" to workplace hazards.

If genetic testing were introduced to workplaces, the report suggested, large numbers of people would need to be excluded from employment in an effort to prevent a single case of work related illness. "Workplace hazards affect everyone—not just people with ‘bad genes’—so the remaining workers would still be at risk," pointed out Dr Wallace.

Under current UK employment law, says the report, employers can refuse people jobs on the basis of genetic test results because—although not mentioned specifically in the law—such action could be considered as part of efforts to protect the health and safety of employees. Furthermore, people with adverse results from genetic tests but no symptoms have no protection under the existing Disabilities Discrimination Act, the report points out.

GeneWatch recommends the development of new legislation to prevent all forms of genetic discrimination and to prohibit employers (and insurers) from using or accessing people’s genetic test results. It has called on the UK government to sign the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, which states that people should not be discriminated against on the grounds of their genetic inheritance, as one way forward. Overall, the report suggests that greater emphasis should be placed on reducing workplace hazards rather than identifying and removing the people who are seen as susceptible to such hazards.

Genetic Testing in the Workplace is available at
See less See more
1 - 20 of 5009 Posts
Not open for further replies.