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November 27, 2009

BUTTERFLIES IN SPACE?

Filed under: NGC — Tags: , , — techobuzz @ 10:49 am

Space shuttle Atlantis launched carrying a few unexpected passengers.

Monarch butterflies, such as the one pictured above, are one of the two species of butterfly that will live in orbit aboard the International Space Station.

In addition to the hefty pumps, tanks and gyroscopes heading to the International Space Station, space shuttle Atlantis is also transporting something to delight the eyes and stoke the curiosity of children: butterflies.

NASA is flying the critters as part of a science outreach project. The butterflies, which are currently caterpillars, will be transferred to the station to live out their lives in orbit.

WATCH VIDEO: The 4th grade class from St. Joe Elementary School in the Ozark Mountain School District teaches Jorge Ribas all about Monarch butterflies.

Atlantis launched on Monday for an 11-day mission to resupply the space station. It is scheduled to reach the orbital outpost on Wednesday.

“Usually kids in school have ‘cookbook’ science where you already know the outcome before you begin,” Nancy Moreno, a biologist and science educator with the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told Discovery News.

“This is a case where we really don’t know that much about how these organisms will survive in microgravity,” she said. “That’s a unique opportunity for students.”

Pictures of the butterflies will be taken every 15 minutes and relayed to project organizers on the ground who will post the images on websites. Baylor developed teachers’ guide and curriculum to help budding scientists design their own butterfly habitats and experiments.

The butterflies, which typically have a lifespan of about a month, will remain aboard the space station until the next shuttle flight in February.

NASA attempted the experiment a year ago, but none of the critters developed past larvae, said John Uri, NASA’s deputy manager of space station payloads.

“The problem was that the food they flew was from a new vender, and it turned out it was poor quality, and that’s why the butterflies didn’t develop,” Uri told Discovery News. “They’re hoping that with brand new food that’s been totally tested that this group will do OK.”

Two species of butterflies are aboard the shuttle: painted lady and monarchs. Scientists and students will be comparing how the space butterflies grow and develop compared to butterflies on the ground.

The animals will be contained in special habitats aboard the space station.

“They’re not going to be flying around or anything,” Uri said.

More than 2,000 teachers have signed up to download the guide for the project’s website, Moreno said.

Organizations involved in the project include BioServe Space Technologies and the University of Colorado in Boulder.

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November 26, 2009

Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your Workspace

Filed under: Health Care — Tags: , — techobuzz @ 11:11 am

It’s easy to forget about your body’s needs when you’re deep into your work or the net—until your body offers a painful reminder. Save your physical shell some strain with these cheap, customizable ergonomic workspace upgrades.

10. Elevate your laptop to eye level

Your neck can’t text you to explain how annoying it is to have to keep looking down at your laptop. Over time it will let you know, though, in a nagging, painful way. If your laptop is your day-to-day work machine, elevate it to eye level using any one of a number of clever solutions. Perhaps one among our Top 10 laptop stands will do the trick, or a built-to-fit DIY pipe stand. Any of them are better than imagining yourself as a hunched old man or woman, constantly warning the neighborhood kids to sit up straight and look ahead.

9. Mix up your positions with a standing desk

It’s hard to slouch when you’re not in a seat. To help your body benefit from your upright instinct, and give your lower body a break from sitting, work a standing desk into your workspace. You can go for it in a big way, like with this handcrafted setup, stick with something as simple as a $20 model or a surface on a storage rack. If you want to go really fancy, you could try a treadputer or something like this adjustable desk. It doesn’t have to be your only desk, either—just a break room for your butt.

8. Get better sleep support

How your back, neck, and joints fare over eight hours of work can be influenced by how they spent eight hours in bed. Give your body a better night’s sleep by catching up on Lifehack.org’s pain and posture basics. According to the post, the standard, no-pain position to shoot for is “on your side, knees bent, pillow between the knees, and your head resting on a single pillow,” or on your back with one pillow under your knees and one under your head. You might need to leave out an element or two from that ideal if you’ve got a hard-set sleeping habit, but it’s worth considering a switch-up. Photo by james.thompson. (Original post).

7. Invest in a real mouse and keyboard

If you’ve stuck with your mouse and keyboard just because your desktop came with them, we feel for you. If you’ve been using a laptop at a desk without an external mouse or keyboard, we’re in tears. Invest in the tools your hands spend thousands of hours on every year by perusing the best mouse recommendations from Lifehacker readers and their ultimate keyboard picks. All of them are designed with a good hand feel and better functionality in mind. Consider your hand comfort worth five cents an hour? You’ll amortize these puppies in no time.

6. Align yourself properly with your computer

Adam’s had his problems with hand, wrist, and back pain from repetitive stress and other conditions at his workspace, and a few years ago, he decided to set up a healthy, usable workspace to get back in shape. His post is a front-to-back assessment of what healthy working spaces should include, but his basic sitting setup involves keeping your elbows bent near 90 degrees, keeping a mouse comfortably within reach of a keyboard, avoiding slouching, and keeping a monitor at eye level, between 18-28 inches from your face.

5. Build your own ergonomic desk from scratch

You don’t have to have Bob-Vila-level woodworking skills to craft your own workspace—after all, college students have been laying doors on cinder blocks for years. To make an actually ergonomic desk from medium-density fibreboard, you need two power tools (your neighbor has them if you don’t), time enough to sketch and plan your cuts, and measurements to know how high you should set up the legs, so your monitor is at eye level and you’ve got just enough room for everything you’re working with. When you’re done, you can paint or stain it whatever color you’d like, and when your friends ask where you got that desk, well, you know the answer. (Original post)

4. Use exercises to ward off RSI

You can do a lot to prevent stress and pain in your hands working at a computer all day, but you’ll almost inevitably have bad days full of overly long hours, and, over the long haul, risk sidling yourself with repetitive strain injury (RSI). Percussionist David Kuckhermann knows a thing or two about repetitive wrist and forearm strain, as does RSI expert Sherry Smith, and they both recommend and demonstrate a few simple exercises that can ward off and heal the effects of working your hands into knots. (Original post)

3. Fine-tune your desk spacing

Are you the type that busts out the tape measure whenever you’re putting anything up on the wall? For setting up your workspace with proper distances and heights between yourself and your computer tools, ergonomic goods firm Ergotron offers an ergonomic workspace planner that, once you enter your height, gives up the details on suggested seat heights, monitor heights and distances, and keyboard shelves. If you’re thinking about working in a standing desk, they’ve got measurements for that, too. (Original post)

2. Use software enforcers

It’s great that you’re dedicated to pushing out this project on time, but unless your deadline’s right this hour and you need every second, you should be stepping back occasionally to give your wrists, eyes, and arms a rest—and maybe even read something off-screen, while you’re at it. If mental reminders aren’t enough, apps like AntiRSI and Timeout for Macs, and Workrave for Windows and Linux, force you, in differing levels of subtlety, to take a break and physically remove your hands from the keyboard every so often. (Original posts: AntiRSI, WorkRave, Time Out)

1. Go easy on your eyes

Eye strain is particularly bad news for those who write (code, copy, or anything else) or assemble things on a computer all day—it hits you right in what feels like your brain, and makes concentration terribly hard. Two simple solutions are to turn on ClearType and increase your monitor refresh rate in Windows systems, or install a serious protection scheme like EyeDefender. Reader’s Digest suggests other easy eye fixes, like keeping your monitor slightly below eye level to bring less glare into your retinas. And simply using a darker desktop theme is often a nice first step toward reducing the amount of time you feel like you’re staring into a flashlight with words written on it.

November 23, 2009

Heating A New Home

Filed under: NGC — Tags: , , , — techobuzz @ 8:17 am

The Earth’s population keeps growing, but unfortunately for us, Earth itself is staying the same size. Seems like it might be a problem someday, doesn’t it?
A possible future solution? Move to Mars!
There’s no life on Mars today mainly because it’s far too cold. To make it habitable, we’d have to warm it up.
But how?
Read at: NGC

November 16, 2009

Facts about 12-21-12 – December 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — techobuzz @ 2:57 am

Earth’s magnetic reversal won’t kill you. Yes, That’s what a well-established Earth and Planetary scientist told when asked him what we could do to prepare for Earth’s next Magnetic Reversal (i.e. magnetic north becomes magnetic south) as if it were daylights savings time.

First, some context. According to some people’s interpretation of the Mayan calendar, the world will end on December 21, 2012, with just four shopping days left before Christmas. Some of those people think that the Doom includes an impossibly instant magnetic pole reversal which will add to the mayhem of said Doomsday.

Anyway, back to the scientist. He continued:
Read more on http://news.discovery.com/earth/earths-magnetic-reversal-wont-kill-you.html

FIND H1N1 VACCINE THROUGH GOOGLE

Filed under: H1N1, Health Care — Tags: , , , , — techobuzz @ 2:50 am

Google has provided a web service which makes you search Flu vaccine available near your place. Currently this service is available only for United States. Soon will be available for other countires.
You can find more information on Flu shots at http://maps.google.com/maps/mpl?moduleurl=http://maps.google.com/mapfiles/mapplets/flushot/flushot.xml

August 8, 2009

Rooks Prove They’re as Clever as Fabled Crow

Filed under: Birds, Crows, Rooks — Tags: , — techobuzz @ 4:13 pm

From the goose that laid the golden egg to the race between the tortoise and the hare, Aesop’s fables are known for teaching moral lessons rather than literally being true. But a new study says at least one such tale might really have happened.
It’s the fable about a thirsty crow. The bird comes across a pitcher with the water level too low for him to reach. The crow raises the water level by dropping stones into the pitcher. (Moral: Little by little does the trick, or in other retellings, necessity is the mother of invention.)
Now, scientists report that some relatives of crows called rooks used the same stone-dropping strategy to get at a floating worm. Results of experiments with three birds were published online Thursday by the journal Current Biology.
Rooks, like crows, had already been shown to use tools in previous experiments.

Christopher Bird of Cambridge University and a colleague exposed the rooks to a 6-inch-tall clear plastic tube containing water, with a worm on its surface. The birds used the stone-dropping trick spontaneously and appeared to estimate how many stones they would need. They learned quickly that larger stones work better.
In an accompanying commentary, Alex Taylor and Russell Gray of the University of Auckland in New Zealand noted that in an earlier experiment, the same birds had dropped a single stone into a tube to get food released at the bottom. So maybe they were just following that strategy again when they saw the tube in the new experiment, the scientists suggested.
But Bird’s paper argued there’s more to it: The rooks dropped multiple stones rather than just one before reaching for the worm, and they reached for it at the top of the tube rather than checking the bottom.
The researchers also said Aesop’s crow might have actually been a rook, since both kinds of birds were called crows in the past.

Check for these news at
http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/08/06/crow-water-stones.html

July 30, 2009

Toxic Pollen, Nectar Could Sting Bees

Filed under: Bees — Tags: , — techobuzz @ 7:26 pm

Selenium, a potent toxin, is showing up in alarming concentrations in the pollen and nectar of two plants common in California’s Central Valley, according to a new study.
If the element is finding its way into bee populations, it could affect the region’s multi-billion dollar agricultural industry, as well as the nation’s food supply.
The rocks, soil and groundwater of California’s San Joaquin Valley contain some of the highest natural levels of selenium found anywhere — in some places up to 14 parts per million.
Some plant species take advantage of these conditions, including Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) and Desert Prince’s Plume (Stanleya pinnata), which build selenium into their tissues as a defense mechanism against predators.
However, the plants rely on bee pollination for reproduction, which is why Kristen Hladun and John Trumble of the University of California, Riverside were surprised to find that nectar and pollen collected from plants grown in a laboratory contained between 108 and nearly 2,000 parts per million of selenium — many times the lethal level for most insects.

Jellyfish May Affect Climate by Stirring Oceans

Filed under: Fish, JellyFish — Tags: , — techobuzz @ 7:24 pm

Jellyfish pulsating through oceans could actually influence Earth’s climate.

A small, fist-sized jellyfish pulsating through the water seems like an unlikely candidate to alter Earth’s climate.
But its motion, combined with all the swimming creatures in the sea, could stir things up enough to do exactly that, according to a new study.
Scientists have wondered for over a century whether the agitations of fish, whales, plankton and jellyfish across the planet can affect ocean currents. But teasing their effect out from the powerful influences of the wind and tides has proven difficult.
Kakani Katija and John Dabiri of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have found a clue in Jellyfish Lake, a quiet salt lake in the South Pacific archipelago of Palau.
Swarms of stingless jellies migrate through the still waters there each day, providing researchers with a perfect opportunity to watch them up close as they swim.
By adding dye to the water, the researchers uncovered a surprise: jellyfish move water in two ways. Their bell-shaped heads push small swirling smoke rings out behind them, as expected, but they also drag a cone of water with them wherever they go. When moving vertically, they even manage to tow denser water toward the surface.
“We were expecting to see the vortex rings, but not the conical structure,” Katija said. “Their body shape allows them to mix water efficiently.”

July 18, 2009

Climate targets for ships deferred

Filed under: Global Warming — Tags: , , , — techobuzz @ 8:08 pm

Nations agree to cut some pollutants but not carbon dioxide.

This week’s meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the London-based UN body that governs global shipping industry treaties, failed to set controls on greenhouse-gas emissions. But environmental groups have welcomed steps agreed to control other forms of pollution from ocean-going ships bound for North America.

The proposal from Canada and the United States would control oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and sulphur (SOx), and particulate matter within a 320-kilometre boundary zone around the continent. If they’re formally adopted by the IMO, the restrictions could lead to the phasing out of ships that emit NOx by 2020, as older vessels are retired. The required cuts to SOx and particulate matter would come from a steady shift to using low-sulphur fuels.

According to the Clean Air Task Force, a US non-profit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts, ocean-going ships are responsible for 10% of total global sulphur dioxide emissions. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that switching to low-sulphur fuels could save nearly 10,000 lives on North American shores in 2020 because of reductions in particulate matter alone.

Even ships that are registered in countries not party to the IMO agreement would have to comply with the pollutant controls so that they can enter Canadian and US ports. That could create a global market for low-sulphur fuels and other emissions-controls technologies.

Carbon failure

David Marshall of the Clean Air Task Force, welcomes the move to establish this large “emission control area”. He believes the IMO is likely to formally adopt the proposal at the next meeting of its Marine Environment Protection Committee in 2010. But at this week’s meeting, the IMO “delegates seem to be at loggerheads” over greenhouse-gas emissions controls, says Marshall, who attended as an observer. International shipping was responsible for about 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2008 — a little higher than Germany, the sixth largest emmitter in the world.

Countries such as China and Saudi Arabia agreed to discuss only the technical formulas that could eventually benchmark future shipping emissions through an IMO treaty; talk of binding agreements to control greenhouse-gas emissions were quashed. These nations argue that restrictions on emissions will have serious economic consequences for developing nations. Discussions on kerbing the industry’s emissions may now take place in Copenhagen in December, when countries will meet to discuss a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on combating climate change.

Future agreement?

The failure to agree on carbon cuts has drawn criticism from environmental groups. “It’s absolutely necessary in our view to get emissions reductions from the shipping sector,” says Marshall. “[This IMO meeting] didn’t really resolve anything.”

But the shipping industry says that current difficulties do not mean there will be no agreement in the future.

“The fact that the IMO cannot come to such agreement this year doesn’t mean in any way that it’s somehow hopeless,” says Bryan Wood-Thomas, vice-president for environmental policy at the World Shipping Council, a trade group that represents about 90% of the cargo-container shipping industry. “Quite to the contrary, I think it will arrive at an agreement in the next year and a half,” he says — once countries assess whether the results of the Copenhagen meeting change the context of the IMO’s climate negotiations. Wood-Thomas says that the shipping sector on the whole supports an IMO agreement on greenhouse-gas emissions controls, even if the industry is not in consensus over how to do it — whether by cap-and-trade or other mechanisms.

The European Commission has signalled its intent to impose regulations on the shipping sector if the IMO doesn’t do so. European Union member nations and the European Parliament have floated 2013 as their target year for having shipping emissions controls in place. That leaves some time for further IMO negotiations, says Mark Major, the European Commission’s director general for the environment. But “it’s not looking very promising [that the IMO] will come to agreed rules in the near future,” Major says, after observing the week’s discussions.

July 17, 2009

Climate Changes May be Slower Than Expected

Filed under: Global Warming — Tags: , , — techobuzz @ 8:45 pm

The nightmare global warming scenario which provided the plot for a Hollywood blockbuster — the Atlantic Ocean current that keeps Europe warm shuts down and triggers rapid climate change — has long worried scientists.
But a study published Thursday in the journal Science found it may not occur as quickly as previously feared.
There is evidence that this current has shut down with some regularity in the past — and sometimes quite rapidly — in response to large influxes of fresh water from melting glaciers.
However, it appears as though the current rate of glacial melt is occurring at a more gradual pace which will “give ecosystems more time to adjust to new conditions,” said study co-author Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at Oregon State University.
“Our data still show that current is slowing, and may decline by 30 percent by the end of this century,” Clark said.

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