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Showing posts from January 19, 2010

Are Black Holes the Architects of the Universe?

Are Black Holes the Architects of the Universe?Long known for their obliterating power, black holes may also have been a creative force: New evidence suggests that they gave order to the chaotic mess produced by the Big Bang.

Black holes are finally winning some respect. After long regarding them as agents of destruction or dismissing them as mere by-products of galaxies and stars, scientists are recalibrating their thinking. Now it seems that black holes debuted in a constructive role and appeared unexpectedly soon after the Big Bang. “Several years ago, nobody imagined that there were such monsters in the early universe,” says Penn State astrophysicist Yuexing Li. “Now we see that black holes were essential in creating the universe’s modern structure.”

Black holes, tortured regions of space where the pull of gravity is so intense that not even light can escape, did not always have such a high profile. They were once thought to be very rare; in fact, Albert Einstein did not believe the…

20 Things You Didn't Know About... Eclipses

20 Things You Didn't Know About... Eclipses
1 The longest total solar eclipse of the century occurred on July 22 over India, Nepal, Bhutan, and China. It peaked over the Pacific Ocean, but even there the darkness lasted a mere 6 minutes and 29 seconds.

2 Fast and furious: The moon’s shadow zooms across Earth’s surface at up to 5,000 miles per hour.

3 Canadian astronomer and renowned eclipse chaser J. W. Campbell traveled the world for 50 years trying to see 12 different eclipses. He ran into overcast skies every time.

4 Don’t repeat J. W.’s mistakes: Monsoon season throughout south Asia means that there is a good chance the eclipse this July will be clouded out too.

5 Just before full eclipse, dazzling “Baily’s beads” appear where sunlight shines through valleys on the moon. The last bead creates the impression of a diamond ring in the sky.

6 On eclipse-viewing expeditions, this phenomenon is frequently accompanied by a marriage proposal.

7 The beautiful symmetry of a total solar ecli…

Nanotube transistors shrink smaller than silicon size

Nanotube transistors shrink smaller than silicon sizeIS THERE anything carbon nanotubes can't do? Using them to make transistors about half the size of the silicon ones available today suggests they might help maintain the continual growth of computing power that we have come to rely on.

There are fears that this growth is threatened as engineers run out of ways to shrink silicon transistors and cram more power into chips. Finding new ways to make smaller transistors has become a priority (New Scientist, 6 December 2008, p 35).

But while carbon nanotubes had been considered a potential saviour, making transistors with them has proved to be difficult.

Performance in such transistors is limited by an effect that creates an electrical barrier at each point a nanotube joins any metal, impeding current flow. This seemed a deal-breaker because a nanotube in a transistor must connect to two metal electrodes, with a third "gate" electrode placed nearby. Using fatter nanotubes reduc…

Tiny Robots Prepare for Surgery

Tiny Robots Prepare for SurgeryNobody is yet plotting to shrink Raquel Welch and inject her into your veins, but engineers are making notable progress toward the Fantastic Voyage vision: creating miniature probes that could dart around in your blood and treat disease from the inside.

This past year, mechanical engineer James Friend of Monash University in Australia crafted a robot motor just a quarter of a millimeter in diameter and 2 millimeters long, smaller than the head of a pin. It is built out of piezoelectric materials that vibrate when exposed to an electric field. Those vibrations can be converted into rotary motion to propel a miniature swimming robot. Inserted into a patient, such a device could transport catheters and guide wires, carry a camera, or deliver drugs to the site of an injury. “It will increase the ability of the doctor to see and control what is happening during surgery,” Friend says. His group is testing the mini-motor in silicone models of human arteries and …

Mini drone and iPhone take video games to real world

Mini drone and iPhone take video games to real world
PARIS – Drones have become synonymous with US military strikes in hotspots like Afghanistan. But now a French firm has built a mini version piloted by an iPhone that brings video games to the streets.

The flying saucer-like AR.Drone -- AR stands for augmented reality -- caused a sensation when it was revealed to an unsuspecting world at a trend-setting consumer electronics show in Las Vegas last week.

This week its creators gave AFP a demonstration near their company's offices on the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris, where the "quadricopter" perplexed and impressed passers-by on a cold winter afternoon.

One of the 10 engineers who spent four years developing the drone tapped a button on his iPhone to lift it off the ground and make it hover near the dark waters of the canal.

Then he tilted the phone forward or sideways to make it manoeuvre around nearby trees and park benches.

The machine's four propellers whirred quietly as …

Story of Newton's encounter with apple goes online

Story of Newton's encounter with apple goes onlineLONDON – An 18th-century account of how a falling piece of fruit helped Isaac Newton develop the theory of gravity is being posted to the Web, making scans of the fragile paper manuscript widely available to the public for the first time.

Newton's encounter with an apple ranks among science's most celebrated anecdotes, and Britain's Royal Society said it was making the documents available online Monday.

Royal Society librarian Keith Moore said the apple story has managed to keep its polish in part because it packs in so much — an illustration of how modern science works, an implicit reference to the solar system and even an allusion to the Bible.

When Newton describes the process of observing a falling apple and guessing at the principle behind it "he's talking about the scientific method," Moore said.

"Also the shape of the apple recalls the planet — it's round — and of course the apple falling from …

World leaders make new call for clean energy commitments

World leaders make new call for clean energy commitments
ABU DHABI – World leaders raised a fresh alarm on global warming Monday, urging international action to increase use of clean energy at a four-day forum that opened in the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi.

"If we don?t act now, our coral reefs and rainforests will die, desert countries will become unbearably hot and low lying countries like the Maldives, will slip beneath the rising seas," said the president of the Maldives, Mohammed Nasheed.

"Tackling climate change is not like dealing with other global issues, such as trade or disarmament. We do not have the luxury of time to meet, year after year, in endless negotiations," the leader of the low-lying Indian Ocean nation told participants at the World Future Energy Summit.

Nasheed was referring to the Copenhagen climate talks last month, which ended with a non-binding agreement to reduce rises in global temperatures, seen as a lukewarm commitment to save the plane…

Fox News "Confirms" Apple Tablet, iLife 2010 & Next iPhone OS

Fox News "Confirms" Apple Tablet, iLife 2010 & Next iPhone OS
Fox News posted an article Monday claiming that not only will next week's now-confirmed Apple event play host to the long-rumored tablet unveiling, but it will also see the next iteration of Apple's iLife software on show. Fox's report also claims that Apple will discuss the next iPhone OS update.

The article by Fox News' Clayton Morris is boldly titled "Apple Tablet, iPhone 4 Launch Confirmed for January 27th" (never mind the fact that it's always iffy to "confirm" any new Apple product until Steve Jobs stands onstage with it), and goes on to detail a conversation Morris allegedly had with an Apple source early Monday morning.

According to his conversation with the unnamed individual, next week's San Francisco event will concentrate on three specific projects: Apple's long-rumored tablet, the next iteration of iLife, and an updated iPhone OS. However, iPhone owners…

China online earnings reach 11 billion dollars in 2009

China online earnings reach 11 billion dollars in 2009
BEIJING – Chinese firms earned nearly 11 billion dollars from their Internet operations last year, a research group said Monday, as the nation with the world's biggest online population becomes more web-savvy.

Online revenue generated by advertising, games, shopping and other activities rose more than 30 percent on-year to 74.3 billion yuan, Cao Junbo, a senior researcher at Internet consulting group iResearch, told AFP.

The research group expects online revenue to reach 112.3 billion yuan this year and 273.4 billion yuan in 2013, Cao said.

China has at least 384 million Internet users, more than any other country in the world, according to a new tally released last week by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC), a government-linked industry body.

By the end of June 2009, the number of online shoppers in China had reached 87.88 million, meaning roughly one in four Internet users shopped online, according to a report …