Welcome to the ITBHU Chronicle, April 2010 Edition Chronicle Extra Section.
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Octopuses React to Predators and Prey on TV
@ Apr 11, 2010
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Researcher Renata Pronk catching and releasing the so-called gloomy octopus, which has a body length of about 10 inches (25 cm) and arms reaching about 31 inches (80 cm). Copyright Rob Harcourt.

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Susan Cosier

LiveScience Contributor

LiveScience.com  – Mon Mar 22, 9:03 am ET

Octopuses rely on visual cues to identify predators, prey and other marine creatures. Yet it has been difficult for researchers to study the animals' reactions to their natural environments, because the scientists can't control what might swim or crawl by an octopus - that is, until the advent of HDTV.

Researchers from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science found that by playing video on a liquid crystal high definition television for gloomy octopuses (Octopus tetricus), they could accurately see how the animals reacted to prey (a crab), a new object (a jar), and a potential predator (another octopus), responses usually only seen in the ocean. Observations reveal that that the individual octopuses have episodic personalities, according to details of the study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

"This new video playback technique is great news for researchers, because they can use it to study many different aspects of octopus behavior that can't otherwise be discerned using traditional techniques," lead author Renata Pronk, a marine biologist at Macquarie University in Australia, told LiveScience.

Video surveillance

Octopuses have very sophisticated eyesight, making everyday mirrors or videos, controllable tools that could help biologists see how the animals interact with their surroundings, ineffective in a lab. Essentially, the creatures know that the visuals aren't real.

New display technologies, however, make movies look more realistic, leading Pronk and her team to try HDTV. After some tinkering, they found that the octopuses reacted strongly to what they saw on the screen.

"This is the first time such a strong, appropriate response has been shown from a cephalopod to video," said Pronk. "The octopuses' reactions were the same as the way they react to these objects out in the ocean. For instance, when an octopus sees a crab out in the ocean, they generally try to sneak up or jet over to it and envelope it under their arms. This is how the octopuses reacted to the video crab."

The high-quality footage displayed with the latest and greatest technology led to the reactions, said Pronk. Seeing such significant responses, Pronk decided to explore whether the individuals had personalities by exposing them to videos over the course of a few days.

Personality episodes

If an octopus has a distinct personality, the researchers would expect to see the same behaviors from a certain individual consistently over time. Yet during the experiment, an octopus showed interest in the video one day, and seemingly became bored the next. Pronk uncovered that the octopuses have episodic personalities, meaning they display consistent traits over short periods of time, but longer-term, their behaviors changed completely.

"In short, they had what appear to be very short-lived personalities," she said.

Her discoveries, with the help of future experiments that use HDTV, could help marine biologists find out more about the behavior of octopuses and other cephalopods, like cuttlefish and squid.

"We can hopefully answer many more questions about cephalopod behavior using video playback," said Pronk. She would like to find out what it means when they change color, and if they can learn from each other. "This study raises even more questions about octopus personality," she said.


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Earth Hour Around the World (8:30 PM, Saturday March 27, 2010)
@ Apr 11, 2010
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Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating. Global landmarks such as the, Sydney Harbour Bridge, The CN Tower in Toronto, The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.

In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative.

Earth Hour 2010 takes place on Saturday 27 March at 8.30pm (local time) and is a global call to action to every individual, every business and every community throughout the world. It is a call to stand up, to take responsibility, to get involved and lead the way towards a sustainable future. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Europe to Asia to the Americas will stand in darkness. People across the world from all walks of life will turn off their lights and join together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet. So sign up now and let’s make 2010 the biggest Earth Hour yet!.

It’s Showtime! Show the world what can be done.

Earth Hour by WWF

Earth Hour is organized by WWF. With almost 5 million supporters and a global network in over 100 countries, it’s one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and build a future where people live in harmony with nature.

Earth Hour timeline

Turn back the clock on Earth Hour and discover why, how, where and when it all started.

Why get involved?

Put simply, because our future depends on it!

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Earth Hour has done a lot to raise awareness of climate change issues. But there’s more to it than switching off lights for one hour once a year. It’s all about giving people a voice on the future of our planet and working together to create a sustainable low carbon future for our planet.

The future can be bright

New economic modelling indicates the world has just five years to initiate a low carbon industrial revolution before runaway climate change becomes almost inevitable. But it can be done, and the long term benefits will be enormous.

So now's the time to take a stand and give world leaders the mandate they need to make the right climate deal.


Cities switch off for Earth Hour (New Delhi)


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(India Gate, New Delhi: top-lit; bottom-under darkness)

India observed the Earth Hour with 92 other countries between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm on Saturday.

As the clock struck 8:30 pm on Saturday, hundreds of Delhiites and people in other cities voluntarily switched off their lights for one hour to observe Earth Hour, a global climate awareness initiative.

Special: Earth Hour

The Earth Hour is a global initiative by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) that aims to send out the message on climate change and that policy makers should make it their foremost priority.

Text: Agencies

Image: In this combination of two images, the landmark India Gate is seen lit, top, and then in darkness as the lights are turned out for one hour to mark Earth Hour, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, March 27, 2010. (Photographs copyright AP)


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Plane Crash Kills Polish President: A Blow to Russia-Poland Relations
@ Apr 11, 2010
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By Simon Shuster / Moscow Saturday, Apr. 10, 2010

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A firefighter walking near some of the wreckage at the crash site where Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and some of the country's most prominent military and civilian leaders died Saturday April 10, 2010. APTN / AP

The president of Poland was killed in a plane crash on Saturday in western Russia, setting off a new cycle of grievances between Russia and Poland on a day that was supposed to serve the cause of reconciliation between them. President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and some of his top security officials were among the 96 people killed in the crash. As the fuselage of the Soviet-made Tupelov airplane (operated by a Polish airliner) still smoldered in forest near the city of Smolensk, the grim irony of their deaths became clear to the stunned Polish nation: Their president had been on his way to Russia to commemorate the massacre of tens of thousands of Poles, who had been executed on the order of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1940 in those same forests in the region of Smolensk. (Read a TIME story on Poland and Russia.)

Blame for the crash has fallen on the pilot, who reportedly ignored warnings from air traffic control and tried to land on Saturday morning in dense fog, snagging the tail of his plane on a tree about a mile from the airport. "The pilot was advised to fly to Moscow or Minsk because of heavy fog, but he still decided to land. No one should have been landing in that fog," an air traffic control official told Reuters, indicating that recklessness may be behind the tragedy. Russian law enforcement officials said they had opened an investigation, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called to express his condolences to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who reportedly wept upon hearing of the catastrophe on Saturday.

Kaczynski, who became Poland's president in 2005, had been a dogged critic of Putin and Russia's efforts to restore influence over the former Soviet Union. He sparred with the Kremlin over the bans Russia imposed on Polish food imports in recent years, calling them part of a strategy of political blackmail and manipulation. In 2006, he even proposed that the European Union impose sanctions on Russia for its economic bullying in Eastern Europe. His animosity had deep roots. In 1980, he spent nearly a year in prison for "anti-socialist" activities when the Moscow-backed communist government imposed martial law in Poland. After his release, he became a leader of the underground Solidarity movement that campaigned for democratic reform, helping to topple the communist regime.

One of the key initiatives of his career was to achieve greater openness and recognition from Russia about the massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet secret police in 1940. He insisted that the two countries could not build normal ties without achieving reconciliation over these crimes. On Wednesday, Putin made an unprecedented gesture of good will on this issue, becoming the first Russian leader ever to commemorate Stalin's mass executions of Poles alongside a Polish leader. Prime Minister Tusk had flown in to Smolensk that day for the ceremony in the village of Katyn, where most of the 22,000 political murders were carried out by Stalin's NKVD secret police, a forerunner to the KGB.

After the ceremony, which marked the 70th anniversary of the killings at Katyn, Putin gave a controversial explanation of why Stalin had ordered them. He said Stalin was seeking revenge for the death in 1920 of Red Army soldiers in Polish prisoner of war camps, where around 32,000 troops under Stailn's command who had been captured by the Poles died of hunger and disease. "It is my personal opinion that Stalin felt personally responsible for this tragedy, and carried out the executions [of Poles in 1940] out of a sense of revenge," Putin said at a press conference. He also disappointed many in Poland by failing to call the massacres a war crime or to pledge that the perpetrators' names, which are now sealed in Russia's secret archives, would finally be opened to the Poles.

But for most people in Poland and in Russia, Wednesday's ceremony with Tusk was still seen as a remarkable step forward in the process of reconciliation. President Kaczynski was due to arrive on Saturday for another ceremony along with a delegation of more than 80 Polish officials and relatives of the victims of the Katyn massacres. "I hope I get a visa," Kaczynski had joked when announcing the visit. As part of the ceremony, he was due to receive an urn of soil from the forests were the thousands of Polish officers had been executed with a bullet to the base of the neck.

The horrific irony of the crash that cut short this visit was not lost on officials in Russia, who expressed their shock and grief over the incident. "The soul can only shudder from the realization that Katyn has claimed more victims," said Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign affairs committee of Russia's parliament. Mourners in Warsaw had already begun to gather by the presidential palace on Saturday to lay flowers and light candles. The political impact of the crash will likely be felt in Poland for years to come.

Under the constitution, new presidential elections will have to be held, and replacements will also need to be found for the chief of Poland's military and the deputy minister of foreign affairs, as well as scores of other officials who were on that flight. How the tragedy will effect relations between Poland and Russia will depend a lot on how Russia handles the investigation of the crash alongside Polish authorities. For his part, Putin is traveling to Smolensk on Saturday to help oversee the inquiry and meet with Tusk, who has also said he is coming to the scene of the crash. But whatever the investigators find among the wreckage, Poles will now have yet another tragic reason to mourn their countrymen in the forests around Katyn.


Poland Map and Geography of Poland


Poland is situated in Central Europe. At 312,685 sq km, Poland is the world’s 69th largest country. A clear and detailed map of Poland along with basic geographic facts is listed below.

Poland is home to several distinct geographic regions, partly corresponding to the provincial groups.

Poland’s capital Warsaw has a population of 2.2 million. Major cities beside the capital Warsaw include Gdansk, Krakow and Wroclaw. Poland shares its border with Belarus, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

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Poland map

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Poland flag


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Lion Vs. Big Yellow Ball
@ Apr 11, 2010
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LION VS Big Yellow Ball = Lion Wins! Watch our goofy lioness Nikita take on her new yellow boomer ball! Enrichment is an important part of our cats lives at the sanctuary they will never be free and wild, so we have to keep their minds stimulated with new toys and enrichment, ensuring the best quality life in captivity.

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76 CRPF men killed by Naxals in Chhattisgarh
@ Apr 11, 2010
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Press Trust of India, Tuesday April 6, 2010, Raipur


In the country's worst Maoist attack ever, at least 75 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and a state police personnel were killed in an ambush on Tuesday, in the thick Mukrana forests of Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district. The dead include a Deputy and an Assistant Commandant of the CRPF, and a head constable of the district police. (Watch: We won't be deterred by Naxal attack: Raman Singh)

The CRPF party, returning after a three-day anti-Maoist operation, were taking a break at around 6 am after travelling all night, when they were ambushed by up to 1,000 Maoists positioned on neighbouring hill top. The Naxals - aware of the CRPF movement - executed their attack with fierce precision, giving the jawans no chance to react. They blew up an anti-landmine vehicle and then began firing indiscriminately. The shocked and exhausted jawans weren't able to follow standard operating procedures like checking the road for landmines, and were massacred within minutes. The Naxals also managed to loot all the weapons that the CRPF team had.

Home Secretary G K Pillai admitted that "there was some failure" and that "we shouldn't have lost so many lives." "Initial reports suggest that the Naxals used pressure bombs," Pillai said, adding, "One rescue helicopter too came under Naxal fire, but we have managed to bring back seven personnel injured in the attack."

Pillai also said: "Our resolve against the Naxals strengthened further. We will give them a firmer reply. But as of now, there is no need to use air power against the Naxals."

Expressing shock over the brutal attack, Home Minister P Chidambaram too said something must have gone "drastically wrong." "The casualty is very high and I am deeply shocked at the loss of lives....This shows the savage nature of CPI (Maoist) and the brutality and the savagery they are capable of," he said. (Watch: Something went very wrong: Chidambaram)

Chidambaram also briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the phone, ahead of a meeting at the latter's 7 Race Course Road residence. The chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force also attended. (Watch: Govt. must stop Operation Green Hunt: Naxal sympathiser)

CRPF Special Director General Vijay Raman, who is also the Commander of the Anti-Naxal Task Force, is on way to the forest area. Additional reinforcements have already been sent and search operations are on in the area. Helicopters have been pressed into service to evacuate the injured and bring back the bodies, Chhattisgarh Director General of Police Viswa Ranjan said.

The attack comes two days after Maoists triggered a landmine blast in Orissa's Koraput district, killing 11 security personnel of the elite anti-Naxal Special Operations Group. (Read: Chronology of major Naxal attacks)

On February 15, 24 personnel of Eastern Frontier Rifles were killed in a Maoist attack on their camp in West Bengal's West Midnapore district.

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Topics- Business & Economy
Health Care Bill Signed by Obama
@ Apr 10, 2010
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March 23, 2010 12:01 PM

Posted by Stephanie Condon

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Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET

President Obama today signed his comprehensive health care overhaul legislation into law, marking the most significant legislative accomplishment of his presidency to date.

"Today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America. Today," Mr. Obama said from the East Room of the White House. "The bill I'm signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for."

Mr. Obama hailed "a new season in America" in which "all of the overheated rhetoric over reform will finally confront the reality of reform.'' The legislation, Mr. Obama said, enshrines into law the "core principle" that everyone should have some health care security.

After more than year of passionate debate, partisan politics and substantive policy discussions, Mr. Obama saw through his top domestic priority, even as it weighed down the Democratic party politically. The House of Representatives on Sunday passed the health care reform package initially passed by the Senate, but only by a slim margin of 219 to 212, demonstrating the potential damage the bill could do to Democrats from moderate districts.

A CBS News poll released Monday night showed that most voters, questioned in the days before the House vote, said the passage of the legislation would be an accomplishment for Mr. Obama. Nearly half of Americans, however, said they did not support the legislation, and only 20 percent said they expected to benefit from the bill. Meanwhile, 57 percent said congressional Democrats were trying to pass the bill for "mostly political reasons."

In the wake of the president's victory, however, his allies were exuberant.

Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden strided into the East Room to the raucous cheers of an audience of about 600 people, including health care advocates, doctors, nurses, Americans with health care challenges, members of Congress, administration officials and members of the cabinet.

"Fired Up! Ready to Go!" the crowd chanted, reviving the president's campaign cheer.

"Mr. President, you've done what generations -- not just ordinary but what great men and women -- have attempted to do. Republicans as well as Democrats," Biden said, before Mr. Obama signed the bill. "The clarity of purpose, your perseverance -- these are the reasons why we are assembled in the room together."

After signing the bill, Mr. Obama went to the Department of Interior, to thank even more of his supporters.

"We wanted to do this twice because there are so many people we have to thank," he said.

Seeking Political Support for the Bill

Mr. Obama acknowledged in the East Room today that some lawmakers have "taken their lumps" for defending the health care legislation, to which someone in the crowd yelled, "Yes, we did!" The allusion to Mr. Obama's campaign slogan "Yes, we can" prompted laughter from the audience.

The president praised congressional leadership for seeing the legislation through, calling Nancy Pelosi "one of the best speakers the House of Representatives has ever had," spurring the crowd to cheer "Nancy, Nancy!" Mr. Obama also called Harry Reid "one of the best majority leaders the Senate has ever had."

The president does not intend to give up his efforts to boost support for the legislation. On Thursday, he will travel to Iowa City, Iowa as part of a campaign to sell the bill's benefits to citizens and small businesses.

The opposition, however, also plans on continuing the fight. Republican lawmakers are already calling for the repeal of the bill and some state attorneys general are suing the federal government over the provision in the legislation mandating that all Americans acquire insurance. House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a statement today the GOP will "stand on principle" and fight to repeal the legislation.

"This is a somber day for the American people," Boehner said. "By signing this bill, President Obama is abandoning our founding principle that government governs best when it governs closest to the people. Americans have never felt more disconnected from their government than they do today."

CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, has framed the passage of the legislation in a historical context, conjuring up the political will of Abraham Lincoln and calling the measure "the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare."

Today, Mr. Obama said he was signing the bill on behalf of his mother who died of cancer at a relatively young age, on behalf of those who are struggling in the current health care system and on behalf of lawmakers in the past who fought for reform like former Presidents Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton, and former First Lady and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

To mark the legislation's significance, Democratic congressional leaders joined Mr. Obama at the signing table, as did figures representing the fight for health care reform. Those individuals included Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late health care champion Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.); 11-year-old Marcelas Owens, a spokesperson for health care reform whose uninsured mother died of a treatable illness at the age of 27; Connie Anderson, whose sister is battling Leukemia without health insurance; and Ryan Smith, a small business owner struggling with the rising costs of providing insurance for his five employees.

What Happens Now

The bill creates sweeping changes to the nation's health care system. Under the health care bill, most Americans are now required to have health insurance. The government will help people pay for it by expanding Medicaid and giving out subsidies and tax credits. It will expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured and create a system of state-based exchanges where individuals and small businesses could pool together to negotiate for better insurance prices.

The bill will create new taxes to pay for the plan, such as an excise tax on high-priced insurance benefits and a tax on unearned income for wealthy Americans. It will also institute strict new insurance regulations, such as prohibiting insurers from discriminating against customers with pre-existing conditions.

Read the Text (PDF): Complete Senate Bill | Reconciliation Measure

Mr. Obama acknowledged most of the significant reforms will take years to put in place.

"We need to implement them responsibly," he said. "We need to get this right."

He noted, however, the reforms that will go into effect this year, such as the tax credits for small businesses to provide insurance to their employees, the closure of the Medicare "doughnut hole" gap in prescription drug coverage, and some insurance regulations such as prohibiting insurance companies from dropping customers once they become sick.

While this significant piece of legislation is now signed into law, the health care debate is not yet over. The Senate this week will debate a reconciliation bill meant to amend certain parts of the health care legislation. The reconciliation bill was already approved by the House and only requires 51 votes in the Senate.

Reid said he hopes to pass the bill by Saturday. Democrats in the Senate will have to get past hundreds of proposed amendments from Republicans in order to pass it.

"These are improvements I'm confident they will make swiftly," Mr. Obama said, prompting loud cheers from the legislators in the room.


Summary of What's in the Bill


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Topics- PC, Internet & Information Technology
How to make your electronics batteries last longer
@ Apr 10, 2010
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By Lori Bongiorno

Posted Tue Mar 2, 2010 12:39pm PST


Taking good care of your electronics batteries can pay off. The financial rewards of longer lasting batteries are obvious: You won't be forced to render a perfectly good gadget obsolete before its time or have to shell out money for a replacement battery.

It's also better for the planet since disposing of electronic waste is a growing problem.  

Experts say there are plenty of easy things you can do to prolong the life of electronics batteries. They also dispel some common myths. 

Here is general advice from Dell, Nokia, and Apple that can be applied to other brands:

* Avoid extreme heat. It's the single-most important thing you can do to protect your battery. For example, don't leave your laptop in the car on a really hot day, says a Dell spokesperson. If you must leave electronics in the car, then don't leave them on the dashboard. Also don't close them up in the trunk or glove compartment -- the coolest place is probably under a seat. Apple recommends that you remove your iPod or iPhone from any extra case if it gets hot while you charge it.

* Take precautions in cold weather. Bring your battery up to room temperature before turning it on if it's been exposed to very cold temperatures, recommends a Dell spokesperson.

* You don't need to totally discharge your battery periodically to make it last longer. That was true of older batteries, but not for today's lithium-based models. In some systems, it does help with how accurately the battery reports how much energy it has left, says a Dell spokesperson. Apple suggests that you go through at least one charge cycle per month for laptops, iPhones, and iPods. (It's also no longer necessary to charge your battery for an extra long time for the first charge, says Petri Vuori of Nokia.)

* Unplug your cell phone from the charger when the battery is fully charged. This saves energy and protects the battery, according to Vouri. Don't forget to unplug the charger from the wall. There's absolutely no difference between car and wall chargers, according to Vuori. The only potential problem with car charging is if you leave your cell phone in the car on a hot day (as noted above).

* Leave your battery in your laptop. Some websites recommend taking your battery out of your laptop when you're using it as a desktop computer so that your battery doesn't get worn out. That's not such a good idea, according to a Dell spokesperson, because your battery is more likely to be damaged if you take it out. Besides, he says, it's not necessary since the microprocessor inside the battery manages the charge automatically. So the battery will stop charging on its own when it's fully charged. 

 Looking for ways to extend the life of your battery between charges? Change your settings, turn off anything you don't use, switch your cell phone off when you're in low coverage areas, update your software, and follow the specific tips from Dell, Nokia, and Apple.

 Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and Amazon.com.


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Tricks to Keep Your Device's Battery Going and Going
@ Apr 10, 2010
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Andy Chen/ The New York Times


Published: March 10, 2010

If you’re a recent convert to smartphones, you’re probably still discovering all the amazing things that your new BlackBerry, Android phone or iPhone can do. But one thing you most likely found out right away: the more you do, the shorter your phone’s battery lasts.

While a standard cellphone’s charge can easily go three days or more, many smartphone owners are dismayed to learn that their new mobile toy requires charging every 24 hours, or even more often. It was great that I could use one device — my iPhone — to check my calendar and respond to multiple incoming calls during January’s Consumer Electronics Show, but I paid the price when its battery died at 2 p.m.

The answer was not to desperately search for an electrical outlet to recharge the phone (though I’ve done that) or to consider giving up the phone (done that, too), but rather to figure out a strategy to reduce energy consumption while still having it available for essential tasks. Whether you’re using a laptop or a smartphone, the devices can be tweaked to get the most out of its lithium-ion batteries.

Reconsider Your Network

All things being equal, the C.D.M.A. mobile standard used by Verizon uses more power than a G.S.M. network, principally used by AT&T and T-Mobile. If battery life is critical, you might want to consider G.S.M. as long as its coverage meets your needs.

Dim It

The brighter your screen, the more juice you’re using. If you’re in a dimly lit room, turn down your LCD screen’s brightness. If your device has an autodimming feature that detects the light in a room, use it. Similarly, if you use your smartphone or laptop to play music, lower the volume.

If you have a BlackBerry, the company’s holster will automatically turn off the screen when you insert the phone.

Stop Searching

It is great that you can use Bluetooth technology to connect your smartphone to a headset, or use Wi-Fi to speed up the downloading of e-mail messages. But when you’re not using that headset or not near a Wi-Fi hot spot, turn off those features on the phone or laptop.

The reason is that portable devices will continue to look for Wi-Fi or a Bluetooth headset, using power.

Similarly, put your phone to sleep when it is in standby. On an iPhone, you do so through the “Settings” icon. On a BlackBerry, use the “Manage Connections” icon.

Skip a Generation

Your smartphone is also continually looking for a cellphone signal. If you’re in a weak signal area, your phone must work even harder to find one, decreasing battery life. If you know that there is no coverage in your area, turn off your portable device’s mobile capabilities.

If your G.S.M. 3G network is not available or the signal is weak, the battery will drain faster looking for one. Consider turning off the phone’s 3G network or using the slower EDGE network instead. It will make Web access slower but won’t affect phone call quality.

Check Mail Manually

Mobile smartphones can check for e-mail messages and instant messages automatically. Or they can be set to “push” notifications as soon as they arrive in your server’s mailbox.

Both strategies can be power hogs. To increase your battery life, turn off push and increase the interval between when the phone checks for new messages. Or better, set up your phone to check for messages manually.

Turn Off Everything

The simplest way to cut power to a minimum is to put your smartphone into “airplane mode.” You turn your BlackBerry or iPhone into a music player and personal organizer, and you won’t be able to receive e-mail messages or make or receive phone calls, but you will stretch your battery.

“In airplane mode and running just the alarm clock, your iPhone battery will last up to a week,” said Kyle Wiens, co-founder of ifixit.com, an online iPhone and Mac laptop repair company.

Disable the Animations

The hotter your laptop feels, the more battery power it is using. And one of the biggest users of power is Flash animation, the technology behind many online videos and animated ads. To improve battery life, disable Flash when not using wall power. BashFlash and ClicktoFlash for Macs and Flashblock for PC are programs that will automatically restrict Flash.

Get an App to Aid You

There are a number of applications that can help monitor battery life and shut off various functions that cut down on a mobile device’s effective power.

Battery Go and myBatteryLife tell iPhone owners how much charge they have left and how that power translates into minutes of talk time, music, video and Web surfing.

NB BattStat alerts BlackBerry owners to the amount of battery charge remaining, as well as the battery’s temperature. (Hot batteries lose power more quickly.) The device can be set to vibrate or sound when a predetermined low battery level is reached.

Radio Saver will monitor your BlackBerry’s mobile coverage and shut off the device’s mobile circuitry when you are out of range of a cellular signal.

Best BatterySaver allows owners of mobile phones using the Symbian operating system (including models from Nokia and Sony Ericsson) to create battery-saving profiles. For example, certain features can be automatically turned on when the phone is connected to a wall plug, or Bluetooth can be automatically disconnected when the battery charge drops below a certain level.

For laptops, programs like Battery Health Monitor (Mac) and Laptop Battery Power Monitor (PC) keep track of battery charge and estimate how many more times you’ll be able to recharge your battery.

Realize the End Will Come

The older generation of nickel cadmium batteries suffered from memory issues; if you didn’t fully charge and discharge one, it would hold a progressively smaller amount of juice.

Today’s lithium-ion batteries don’t suffer from memory loss, so it is safe to top off a battery.

Lithium-ion batteries cannot be overcharged; a device’s circuitry cuts off the power when they are full. However, manufacturers still recommend that a laptop not be continually connected to power once the battery is at its capacity. If a laptop won’t be used for several months, it should be stored with the battery in a 50 percent charge state.

All batteries can be fully charged and discharged for a fixed number of cycles; lithium ion batteries typically last between 300 and 500 cycles. Information on the number of cycles can be obtained at manufacturers’ Web sites, or at batteryuniversity.com.

No matter how well you husband your battery’s resources, there comes a time when you’ll need to send your battery to its final resting place.

Like most things nearing the end of their life, your battery will stay awake less and sleep more. “If your battery lasts only an hour after you’ve charged it,” said Anthony Magnabosco, owner of Milliamp.com, a battery replacement company, “you know its time is up.”


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iPad launched by Apple, Inc
@ Apr 10, 2010
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Updated April 6, 2010

The iPad is Apple's anxiously awaited entry into the tablet computer market. More than 300,000 were sold when the device went on sale on April 3, 2010.


Steven P. Jobs has positioned the iPad as a device that sits between the laptop and the smart phone, and which does certain things better than both of them, like browsing the Web, reading e-books and playing video.

It also puts Apple on a direct collision course with Amazon. Mr. Jobs credited Amazon with pioneering the category with the Kindle, but said "we are going to stand on their shoulders and go a little bit farther."

There was enormous anticipation leading up to the iPad's formal, onstage unveiling in January 2010. It was common knowledge that media companies hope the device will finally lead to a viable way for them to charge for news, books and other material.

The iPad's features and specifications, once the stuff of Internet myth, have come into sharp focus: The half-inch thick, 1.5-pound device features a 9.7-inch multi-touch screen and is powered by a customized Apple microchip, which it has dubbed A4. The iPad has the same operating system as the iPhone and access to its 140,000 applications.

"The Apple iPad is basically a gigantic iPod Touch," wrote David Pogue, the New York Times technology reviewer. "The simple act of making the multitouch screen bigger changes the whole experience." He said, "Driving simulators fill more of your field of view, closer to a windshield than a keyhole."

Mr. Pogue thought technophiles would be unimpressed: "The bottom line is that you can get a laptop for much less money — with a full keyboard, DVD drive, U.S.B. jacks, camera-card slot, camera, the works. Besides: If you've already got a laptop and a smartphone, who's going to carry around a third machine?"

The price of the device starts at $499 for the most basic model, with a Wi-Fi wireless connection. More expensive models with more memory and with 3G wireless access will cost $629 to $829 depending on storage size.

Because Apple is attempting to popularize a new kind of computing device, acceptance among consumers was expected to be slower than with previous Apple devices. Critics assume that some buyers are waiting for future versions of the iPad to appear, perhaps with a camera or other new features.

In addition to a camera, the iPad lacks the ability to make phone calls and does not work with the ubiquitous Flash software that runs many Web sites.

Apple is selling accessories, like a stand and a keyboard.

On its first day on sale, iPad users downloaded more than one million applications from the company's App Store and more than 250,000 electronic books from its iBookstore.

A new wave of apps is expected in response to the iPad.

The stakes are high. Having an app accepted for a highly coveted Apple product means reaching a passionate group of consumers, one that has demonstrated a willingness to spend over and over again on applications for mobile devices like the iPhone and iPod Touch. The potential revenue is huge; the apps market for those two devices alone is already worth a billion dollars a year in sales.


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Topics- Science & Technology
A Supersonic Jump, From 23 Miles in the Air
@ Apr 11, 2010
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Published: March 15, 2010

Ordinarily, Felix Baumgartner would not need a lot of practice in the science of falling.


TUNNEL VISION Felix Baumgartner on a dry run in a wind tunnel in Perris, Calif., for the jump he plans to make from a balloon in the stratosphere.

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He has jumped off two of the tallest buildings in the world, as well as the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro (a 95-foot leap for which he claimed a low-altitude record for parachuting). He has sky-dived across the English Channel. He once plunged into the black void of a 623-foot-deep cave, which he formerly considered the most difficult jump of his career.

But now Fearless Felix, as his fans call him, has something more difficult on the agenda: jumping from a helium balloon in the stratosphere at least 120,000 feet above Earth. Within about half a minute, he figures, he would be going 690 miles per hour and become the first skydiver to break the speed of sound. After a free fall lasting five and a half minutes, his parachute would open and land him about 23 miles below the balloon.

At least, that’s the plan, although no one really knows what the shock wave will do to his body as it exceeds the speed of sound. The jump, expected sometime this year, would break one of the most venerable aerospace records. For half a century, no one has surpassed (one person died trying) the altitude record set by Joe Kittinger as part of an Air Force program called Project Excelsior.

In 1960, Mr. Kittinger, then a 32-year-old Air Force pilot, jumped from a balloon 102,800 feet above the New Mexico desert. Today, at 81, Mr. Kittinger is a retired colonel and part of the Red Bull Stratos team working on Mr. Baumgartner’s jump, which is being financed by the energy-drink company.

“For 50 years,” Mr. Kittinger said, “I’ve gotten phone calls from all over the world, people wanting to break my record — one a month, sometimes two a month. But I stayed away from them because they didn’t have any idea what the challenge was. What attracted me to Red Bull was their methodological approach to safety and to providing scientific benefits.”

More than three dozen veterans of NASA, the Air Force and the aerospace industry have been working for three years to plan the jump, build a balloon and pressurized capsule, and customize an astronaut’s suit for Mr. Baumgartner. Besides aiming at records, they’re doing physiological research and developing procedures for future astronauts to survive a loss of cabin pressure or an emergency bailout in the stratosphere.

One of the chief concerns has been to avoid the problem that almost killed Mr. Kittinger during Project Excelsior. He was supposed to be stabilized during his fall by a small drogue parachute, but on one training jump in 1959 it did not open because the cord got tangled around his neck.

As a result, Mr. Kittinger’s body went into a spin that reached 120 revolutions per minute as he plummeted more than 60,000 feet. He blacked out and regained consciousness only after his reserve parachute opened automatically about a mile above the ground. When he came to, he later wrote, he first assumed he must have died, but then he spotted the parachute’s canopy above him and made a sudden realization: “I am impossibly, wonderfully alive.”

Mr. Baumgartner hopes to remain stable and conscious throughout his longer fall without relying on a drogue parachute. He plans to avoid spinning by adjusting the angle of his body and keeping his arms at his side.

This stabilizing technique would ordinarily be fairly easy for an expert like Mr. Baumgartner, 41, a former paratrooper in the Austrian Special Forces and a veteran of more than 2,500 jumps from planes, cliffs and assorted landmarks. But to survive the stratosphere’s near vacuum and frigid temperatures, he will need a sealed helmet and a pressurized suit.

Would he be able to do midair maneuvers in such a bulky contraption? To find out, Mr. Baumgartner and his team recently went to a wind tunnel in Perris, Calif., near Los Angeles, and put the suit through its paces.

Team members suited up Mr. Baumgartner, turned on the oxygen in his helmet and attached a pack to his chest containing equipment to record his vital signs, track his position using GPS satellites and heat his helmet’s visor to keep it from fogging.

By the time the suit was inflated to its full pressure of three pounds per square inch, he looked like a robotic version of the Incredible Hulk. As he walked stiffly into the wind tunnel, it was easy to see why astronauts lack a certain grace.

But once Mr. Baumgartner was inside, held aloft by air blowing upward at 130 miles per hour, he looked comfortable enough, much to the relief of the engineers. By adjusting his arms and legs, he could shoot up in the tunnel or bring himself down. Most important, with his body angled at 45 degrees to the ground, he could maintain the desired arrowlike stance: head first, arms and legs pointing backward in a V shape called the delta position.

“It was difficult, but it worked,” Mr. Baumgartner said after emerging from the tunnel. “Now I’m confident I can handle the suit in regular free fall as long as we’re not breaking the speed of sound. But as soon as it goes from subsonic to transonic to supersonic, we don’t know what to expect.”

Plenty of planes have broken the sound barrier, but transonic humans are a mystery, said Art Thompson, the technical project director for the Red Bull Stratos mission, and a former Northrop engineer who worked on the B-2 stealth bomber.

“You can run a lot of models, but with the human body you’re not dealing with a hard surface or a ballistic shape,” Mr. Thompson said. “You’ve got this rounded bulbous helmet, and the shoulders and the feet sticking out, and everything starts to happen at different times. Parts of your body may be going supersonic while others aren’t, causing flutter waves pulling back and forth among the surfaces.”

Could such waves harm the body? Could they create disastrous turbulence?

“We just don’t know what will happen to Felix and the suit when he goes supersonic,” said another Stratos engineer, Mike Todd, who worked on high-altitude suits for the Air Force’s spy-plane pilots with the renowned Skunk Works research division of Lockheed. “Felix could slip right through it, but if half the suit’s supersonic and the other half isn’t, there could be turbulence that knocks him out of control.”

Such risks are one reason why Mr. Kittinger’s record has stood for half a century. Air Force and NASA officials have become understandably reluctant to explain potential mishaps to Congressional committees. (To debate the risks and benefits of this project, go to nytimes.com/tierneylab.)

But private adventurers have more freedom to take their own risks. The Stratos medical director, Dr. Jonathan Clark, who formerly oversaw the health of space shuttle crews at NASA, says that the spirit of this project reminds him of stories from the first days of the space age.

“This is really risky stuff, putting someone up there in that extreme environment and breaking the sound barrier,” Dr. Clark said. “It’s going to be a major technical feat. It’s like early NASA, this heady feeling that we don’t know what we’re up against but we’re going to do everything we can to overcome it.”


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Moon's Water Comes in Three Flavors, Scientists Say
@ Apr 10, 2010
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 SPACE.com Staff

space.com – Mon Mar 22, 6:15 pm ET

Since the surprise discovery last year of trace amounts of water on the moon, scientists have been redefining their concept of Earth's rocky neighbor. Now researchers say the water on the moon comes in three different flavors.


File NASA photo of the Moon. A US radar launched into space aboard an Indian spacecraft has detected craters filled with ice on the moon's north pole, NASA scientists said Monday.

Until recently the moon was thought to be bone dry. But measurements in the last year from the Mini-SAR and Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3 or "M-cubed") instruments on India's Chandrayaan-1 moon probe and from NASA's recent LCROSS mission have proved that wrong.

Mini-SAR found 40 craters, each containing frozen water at least 6.6 feet (2 meters) deep on the lunar surface – which adds up to 600 million tons of lunar ice stuff altogether. LCROSS slammed into the moon on Oct. 9, 2009 and found evidence of water in another crater.

"So far we've found three types of moon water," said Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. "We have Mini-SAR's thick lenses of nearly pure crater ice, LCROSS's fluffy mix of ice crystals and dirt, and M-cube's thin layer that comes and goes all across the surface of the moon."

LCROSS struck moon water in a cold, permanently dark crater at the lunar south pole. Since then, the science team has been thoroughly mining the data collected from the intentional moon crash.

"It looks as though at least two different layers of our crater soil contain water, and they represent two different time epochs," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator. "The first layer, ejected in the first 2 seconds from the crater after impact, contains water and hydroxyl bound up in the minerals, and even tiny pieces of pure ice mixed in. This layer is a thin film and may be relatively 'fresh,' perhaps recently replenished."

This brand of moon water resembles the water M3 discovered last year in scant but widespread amounts, bound to the rocks and dust in the very top millimeters of lunar soil, scientists say. But the second layer is different.

"It contains even more water ice plus a treasure chest of other compounds we weren't even looking for," he says. "So far the tally includes sulfur dioxide (SO2), methanol (CH3OH), and the curious organic molecule diacetylene (H2C4). This layer seems to extend below at least 0.5 meters and is probably older than the ice we're finding on the surface."

The researchers don't yet know why some craters contain loads of pure ice while others are dominated by an ice-soil mixture. It's probably a sign that the moon water comes from more than one source.

"Some of the water may be made right there on the moon," Spudis said. "Protons in the solar wind can make small amounts of water continuously on the lunar surface by interacting with metal oxides in the rocks. But some of the water is probably deposited on the moon from other places in the solar system."

These findings are completely rewriting the book on the moon. [Moon Gallery]

"It's a different world up there," says Spudis, "and we've barely scratched the surface. Who knows what discoveries lie ahead?"


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Atom smasher will help reveal 'the beginning'
@ Apr 10, 2010
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FILE - In this March 22, 2007 file photo, the magnet core of the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet (CMS, Compact Muon Solenoid) is shown in Geneva, Switzerland. The world's largest atom smasher set a record for high-energy collisions on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 by crashing proton beams into each other at three times more force than ever before. In a milestone in the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider's ambitious bid to reveal details about theoretical particles and microforces, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, collided the beams and took measurements at a combined energy level of 7 trillion electron volts. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini, File)



GENEVA — The world's largest atom smasher threw together minuscule particles racing at unheard of speeds in conditions simulating those just after the Big Bang — a success that kick-started a mega-billion dollar experiment that could one day explain how the universe began.

Scientists cheered Tuesday's historic crash of two proton beams, producing three times more force than researchers had created before and marking a milestone for the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider.

"This is a huge step toward unraveling Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1 — what happened in the beginning," physicist Michio Kaku told The Associated Press.

"This is a Genesis machine. It'll help to recreate the most glorious event in the history of the universe."

Tuesday's smashup transforms the 15-year-old collider from an engineering project in test phase to the world's largest ongoing experiment, experts say. The crash that occurred on a subatomic scale is more about shaping our understanding of how the universe was created than immediate improvements to technology in our daily lives.

The power produced will ramp up even more in the future as scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, watch for elusive particles that have been more theorized than seen on Earth.

The consequences of finding those mysterious particles could "affect our conception of who we are in the universe," said Kaku, co-founder of string field theory and author of the book "Physics of the Impossible."

Physicists, usually prone to caution and nuance, tripped over themselves in superlatives praising the importance of the Large Hadron Collider and the significance of its generating regular science experiments.

"This is the Jurassic Park for particle physicists," said Phil Schewe, a spokesman for the American Institute of Physics. He called the collider a time machine. "Some of the particles they are making now or are about to make haven't been around for 14 billion years."

The first step in simulating the moments after the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago was to produce a tiny bang. The most potent force on the tiny atomic level that man has ever created came Tuesday.

Two beams of protons were sent hurtling in opposite directions toward each other in a 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel below the Swiss-French border — the coldest place in the universe at slightly above absolute zero. CERN used powerful superconducting magnets to force the two beams to cross; two of the protons collided, producing 7 trillion electron volts.

It's bizarrely both a record high and a small amount of energy.

It's a record on the atom-by-atom basis that physicists use to measure pure energy, Schewe said. By comparison, burning an atom of wood or any other chemical reaction on an atom scale produces one electron volt. Splitting a single uranium atom in a nuclear reaction produces 1 million electron volts. This produces — on an atom-by-atom scale — 7 million times more power than a single atom in a nuclear reaction, Schewe said.

The reason this is safe has to do with the amount of particles in the collider. Tuesday's success involved just two protons making energy, instead of pounds of uranium, Schewe said.

Kaku, a professor at City College of New York, described the amount of energy produced as less than the total energy made by two mosquitoes crashing.

The successful collision was viewed by scientists watching monitors, who cheered the results.

"That's it! They've had a collision," said Oliver Buchmueller of Imperial College in London.

Across the world at the California Institute of Technology in Los Angeles, researchers and students watched reports from Switzerland.

"It marks the beginning of a new era of exploration in a new range of energy," said physics professor Harvey Newman.

"Experiments are collecting their first physics data — historic moment here!" a scientist tweeted on CERN's official Twitter account.

"Nature does it all the time with cosmic rays (and with higher energy), but this is the first time this is done in Laboratory!" said another tweet.

Now the beams will become stronger, more densely packed with hundreds of billions of protons, and run daily for two years to give scientists many more chances to find elusive particles. Even then, the particles are so tiny that relatively few protons will collide at each point where the beams cross in front of cathedral-sized detectors.

The data generated is expected to reveal even more about the unanswered questions of particle physics, such as the existence of antimatter and the search for the Higgs boson, a hypothetical particle — often called the God particle — that scientists theorize gives mass to other particles and thus to other objects and creatures in the universe.

The collider also may help scientists see dark matter, the strange stuff that makes up more of the universe than normal matter but has not been seen on Earth.

Those particles are the missing piece from a "jigsaw puzzle with thousands of pieces" that explain the physics of the universe, Kaku said. It could help in the elusive theory that explains everything.

"In the past, every time we unraveled a force (of physics) it changed human history," Kaku said. "Now we're talking about all forces."

He compared it to events such as the Industrial Revolution, the electric and the nuclear age. Such events followed breakthroughs made by Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.

It won't happen immediately, maybe centuries down the line, but it could answer questions about the Big Bang, alternate universes and whether time travel is possible, Kaku said.

"It would change people's philosophy," he said.

The atmosphere at CERN was tense considering the collider's launch with great fanfare on Sept. 10, 2008. Nine days after its inauguration, the project was sidetracked when a badly soldered electrical splice overheated, causing extensive damage to the massive magnets and other parts of the collider some 300 feet (100 meters) below the ground.

It cost $40 million to repair and improve the machine. Since its restart in November 2009, the collider has performed almost flawlessly and given scientists valuable data. It quickly eclipsed the next largest accelerator — the Tevatron at Fermilab near Chicago.

Future experiments will follow over the objections of some who fear they could eventually imperil Earth by creating micro black holes — subatomic versions of collapsed stars whose gravity is so strong they can suck in planets and other stars.

CERN and many scientists dismiss any threat to Earth or people, saying that any such holes would be so weak that they would vanish almost instantly. In the universe, where black holes collide, this is nothing, Kaku said.

"From Nature's point of view, she laughs and says 'this is a peashooter'," Kaku said.

Bivek Sharma, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, said the images of the first crashed proton beams were beautiful.

"It's taken us 25 years to build," he said. "This is what it's for. Finally the baby is delivered. Now it has to grow."

Associated Press Science Writer Seth Borenstein reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Geneva and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Solar Airplane Completes Maiden Voyage
@ Apr 10, 2010
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  By Jason Paur  April 7, 2010  |    12:49 pm  | 

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Solar Impulse, a prototype of an airplane designed to fly around the world using only solar power, made its first real flight today. As the sun shone down on the Swiss countryside an aircraft powered by 12,000 solar cells flew for 87 minutes to an altitude of nearly 4,000 feet.

Solar Impulse program founder Bertrand Piccard called the inaugural flight a crucial step toward fulfilling his goal of circumnavigating the globe in such an unusual aircraft. In a statement from the Solar Impulse team, Piccard said he was relieved to have the first flight completed after seven years of hard work.

“This first mission was the most risky phase of the entire project,” Piccard said.  “Eighty-seven minutes of intense emotion after seven years of research, testing and perseverance. Never has an airplane as large and light ever flown before!”

The aircraft, known by its identifier HB-SIA, has a wingspan of a jumbo jet yet weighs the same as an average sedan. It made a “flea hop,” as the team called it, back in December when it lifted about three feet off the runway and flew less than a quarter mile. Today’s flight demonstrates that the airplane can not only fly, it can do so for an extended period at altitudes high enough for basic flight testing.

”This first flight was for me a very intense moment,” test pilot Markus Scherdel said after emerging from the solar airplane’s podlike cockpit.

During the flight, HB-SIA lifted off at just under 30 mph and a relatively short takeoff run. The four 10-horsepower electric motors are expected to deliver enough power for a cruise speed of around 40 to 45 mph. No, Solar Impulse won’t set any speed records.

Scherdel said the first flight was a familiarization flight for he and the team.

“The execution of these various maneuvers (turns, simulating the approach phase) was designed to get a feel for the aircraft and verify it’s controllable,” Scherdel said. Despite the plane’s immense size and light weight, the team found the plane met their expectations.

The wingspan of HB-SIA is 208 feet, that’s about 10 feet more than Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. But the airplane only weighs 3,500 pounds loaded for flight, about 499,000 pounds less than the 787.

After more flight testing with the sun powering HB-SIA, the Solar Impulse team hopes to perform night testing later this year. During those flights, the team will examine the viability of the schedule they plan to use for the around-the-world flight. The plan is to climb to higher altitudes during the day, and trade that altitude for airspeed, supplemented with battery power, to continue flying during the night. They expect to fly 36-hour shifts.

Piccard says the many years of work paid off today, but the work is only beginning.

“We still have a long way to go until the night flights and an even longer way before flying round the world, but today, thanks to the extraordinary work of an entire team, an essential step towards achieving our vision has been taken,” Piccard said in the statement from the team.

The around-the-world flight is scheduled to take place in 2012 with an updated version of HB-SIA. The flight will take place in several stages with pilots alternating regularly and a team on the ground keeping a careful eye on weather for the delicate aircraft.

Photos: Solar Impulse


HB-SIA slowly flies over the Swiss countryside.


HB-SIA lifts off from the airport in Payerne, Switzerland.


Closeup of the cockpit of HB-SIA is shown during flight.


Solar panels are visible on top of HB-SIA’s 208-foot wing.


HB-SIA lines up for final approach before landing.


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Topics-Art, Literature, Politics. Life Style, etc.
US and Russia sign historic nuclear treaty
@ Apr 10, 2010
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April 8, 2010

Deborah Haynes, Defence Editor, in Prague

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The United States and Russia signed a historic treaty today to shrink stockpiles of nuclear weapons in a new show of co-operation designed to halt the spread of atomic bombs, particularly to Iran.

President Obama, who attended the signing ceremony in Prague with President Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, said “ramped up” negotiations were expected in the coming days over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and that they were expected to produce another set of tough sanctions against the Islamist regime.

The two leaders also indicated a willingness to work together to overcome Russian fears about a US plan to build a missile defence shield in Europe – a key obstacle in talks on disarmament. Mr Medvedev suggested that Moscow could help Washington to provide a global anti-missile defence.

Adding to a sense that relations have been “reset”, the former Cold War foes said they wanted to strengthen ties in other areas, such as trade and investment, and build on a friendship that has flourished between Mr Medvedev and Mr Obama.

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“Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and non-proliferation and for US-Russia relations,” the American leader said, speaking in a hall in Prague Castle, where the ceremony was held.

A year ago, Mr Obama gave a speech inside the same castle, setting out his vision for a world without nuclear weapons. “This is a long-term goal, one that may not even be achieved in my lifetime.

"But I believed then as I do now that the pursuit of that goal will move us further beyond the Cold War, strengthen the global non-proliferation regime and make the United States and the world safer.”

The Russian President, standing at a podium next to Mr Obama, was similarly upbeat, marking a dramatic turnaround in Russia-US relations over the past 12 months when the two leaders launched negotiations on the treaty, following several years of deteriorating links under President Bush. In that time, the two men have spoken 15 times on the telephone.

“I believe that this signature will open a new page for cooperation between our two countries,” Mr Medvedev said.

Smiling and at moments chuckling in an overt show of friendship, the pair signed the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), which is seen as the first concrete foreign policy achievement by Mr Obama since he took office.

The agreement requires Moscow and Washington – holders of more than 90 per cent of the world's nuclear weapons – to slash their respective arsenals by about a third and reduce launchers by a half within seven years.

The pact, which was already delayed because of difficulties in negotiations, could yet be undermined if either side fails to ratify the text, though the United States and Russia appeared confident of ratification this year.

They also looked forward to starting work on another treaty that goes even further in cutting both countries’ nuclear arsenals.

Amid tight security, Mr Medvedev, who arrived in Prague yesterday, held closed-door talks with Mr Obama, who landed this morning, before the signing ceremony. The talks covered sanctions for Iran as well as other issues, including the uprising in Kyrgyzstan, where both powers have military bases.

Mr Medvedev outlined the sort of sanctions he would accept for Iran, avoiding anything that would cause a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Out of the question was a total embargo on deliveries of refined oil products, according to Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, who declined to give further details.

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Mr Obama is pushing for a fourth round of sanctions for Tehran, which the West believes is intent upon becoming the world's next nuclear power. Iran insists its nuclear ambition is for civilian energy needs.

“We are going to start seeing some ramped up negotiations taking place in New York in the coming weeks and my expectation is that we are going to be able to secure strong, tough sanctions on Iran this spring,” the US President said.

He believed that the US-Russia pact helped to increase pressure on Iran by strengthening ties between Moscow and Washington and demonstrating to the world that the two powers were serious about keeping to their commitments to disarm under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Mr Obama will again advocate a tougher stance against the Iranian regime at a two-day summit of 47 world leaders that he is due to host in Washington next week. That meeting will focus on stopping the illicit trade in nuclear material and the need for stronger measures to protect vulnerable stockpiles.

It has been a busy few days for the American President on the nuclear front, coming on the back of a successful domestic battle over healthcare reform. The political achievements have given his Administration a new sense of confidence 15 months after he took office.

On Tuesday, Mr Obama unveiled a revamped nuclear strategy that for the first time declared the US would never use the bomb against a non-nuclear state provided it complied with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – a caveat that leaves Iran and North Korea still vulnerable to attack.

In a shift that is also reflected in the latest treaty with Moscow, the new policy focuses on the spread of atomic weapons in regions such as the Middle East and South-East Asia or to terrorists rather than outdated fears of a nuclear conflict with Russia.

The new threat underlines the need to cut inflated Russian and US stockpiles of nuclear weapons, which no longer serve any purpose other than to add to the risk of dangerous material falling into the wrong hands.

The new US-Russia pact, which replaces the 1991 Start agreement that expired in December last year, reduces both sides' stockpile of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 from a previous cap of 2,200.

Washington and Moscow must also cut the number of launchers, nuclear-armed missiles and heavy bombers in a step that will require vigorous verification procedures.

The treaty, which lasts for ten years and could be extended, still needs to be ratified by the US Congress and the Russian Duma. Mr Obama appears confident that US ratification will happen this year.

One lingering headache is Russian concern over US missile defences, an issue that has strained relations for years, even though Mr Obama scrapped a plan by his predecessor to base interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

Russia viewed the system as a threat to its national security, rejecting American assurances that it was aimed at rogue states such as Iran.

It threatened to block the nuclear treaty last month after objecting to revised US plans that would involve elements of the shield being based in Bulgaria and Romania.

Analysts, however, said that Moscow was merely signalling that this issue must not be overlooked in future US-Russia disarmament pacts, which are expected to follow the latest treaty.

In a day of symbolic significance, Mr Obama and Mr Medvedev signed the agreement in the richly adorned Spanish Hall of Prague Castle, the official residence of the Czech President.

The men then had a formal lunch before the Russian leader was due to fly home to Moscow, while Mr Obama – in a sensitive balancing act – is due to host a dinner for leaders of 11 Central and Eastern European nations that had ties with the former Soviet Union.

They will be seeking assurance over concerns about slipping support from Washington as it courts closer ties with Moscow.

Sealing the pact will go some way to silence critics of Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year in part for his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.


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Topics-Health & Life Sciences
Disease Cause Is Pinpointed With Genome
@ Apr 10, 2010
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Published: March 10, 2010

Two research teams have independently decoded the entire genome of patients to find the exact genetic cause of their diseases. The approach may offer a new start in the so far disappointing effort to identify the genetic roots of major killers like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.


Dr. James R. Lupski, a medical geneticist with a nerve disease, had his whole genome decoded.


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In the decade since the first full genetic code of a human was sequenced for some $500 million, less than a dozen genomes had been decoded, all of healthy people.

Geneticists said the new research showed it was now possible to sequence the entire genome of a patient at reasonable cost and with sufficient accuracy to be of practical use to medical researchers. One subject’s genome cost just $50,000 to decode.

“We are finally about to turn the corner, and I suspect that in the next few years human genetics will finally begin to systematically deliver clinically meaningful findings,” said David B. Goldstein, a Duke University geneticist who has criticized the current approach to identifying genetic causes of common diseases.

Besides identifying disease genes, one team, in Seattle, was able to make the first direct estimate of the number of mutations, or changes in DNA, that are passed on from parent to child. They calculate that of the three billion units in the human genome, 60 per generation are changed by random mutation — considerably less than previously thought.

The three diseases analyzed in the two reports, published online Wednesday, are caused by single, rare mutations in a gene.

In one case, Richard A. Gibbs of the Baylor College of Medicine sequenced the whole genome of his colleague Dr. James R. Lupski, a prominent medical geneticist who has a nerve disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy.

In the second, Leroy Hood and David J. Galas of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle have decoded the genomes of two children with two rare genetic diseases, and their parents.

More common diseases, like cancer, are thought to be caused by mutations in several genes, and finding the causes was the principal goal of the $3 billion human genome project. To that end, medical geneticists have invested heavily over the last eight years in an alluring shortcut.

But the shortcut was based on a premise that is turning out to be incorrect. Scientists thought the mutations that caused common diseases would themselves be common. So they first identified the common mutations in the human population in a $100 million project called the HapMap. Then they compared patients’ genomes with those of healthy genomes. The comparisons relied on ingenious devices called SNP chips, which scan just a tiny portion of the genome. (SNP, pronounced “snip,” stands for single nucleotide polymorphism.) These projects, called genome-wide association studies, each cost around $10 million or more.

The results of this costly international exercise have been disappointing. About 2,000 sites on the human genome have been statistically linked with various diseases, but in many cases the sites are not inside working genes, suggesting there may be some conceptual flaw in the statistics. And in most diseases the culprit DNA was linked to only a small portion of all the cases of the disease. It seemed that natural selection has weeded out any disease-causing mutation before it becomes common.

The finding implies that common diseases, surprisingly, are caused by rare, not common, mutations. In the last few months, researchers have begun to conclude that a new approach is needed, one based on decoding the entire genome of patients.

The new reports, though involving only single-gene diseases, suggest that the whole-genome approach can be developed into a way of exploring the roots of the common multigene diseases.

“We need a way of assessing rare variants better than the genomewide association studies can do, and whole-genome sequencing is the only way to do that,” Dr. Lupski said.

With 10 genomes of healthy humans sequenced, Dr. Gibbs, a specialist in DNA sequencing, decided it was time to decode the genome of someone with a genetic disease and asked his colleague Dr. Lupski to volunteer.

Mutations in any of 39 genes can cause Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a disease that impairs nerves to the hands and feet and causes muscle weakness.

Fifty thousand dollars later, Dr. Lupski turned out to have mutations in an obscure gene called SH3TC2. The copy of the gene he inherited from his father is mutated in one place, and the copy from his mother in a second.

Both his parents had one good copy of the gene in addition to the mutated one. A single good copy can generate enough, or nearly enough, of the gene’s product for the nerves to work properly. Dr. Lupski’s mother was free of the disease and his father had only mild symptoms.

In the genetic lottery that is human procreation, two of their eight children inherited good copies of SH3TC2 from each parent; two inherited the mother’s mutation but the father’s good copy and are free of the disease; and four siblings including Dr. Lupski inherited mutated copies from both parents. These four all have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. The results are reported in The New England Journal of Medicine.

In Seattle, Dr. Hood and Dr. Galas have also applied whole-genome sequencing to disease. They analyzed the genome of a family of four, in which the two children each have two single-gene diseases, called Miller syndrome and ciliary dyskinesia. With four related genomes available, the researchers could identify the causative genes. They also improved the accuracy of the sequencing because DNA changes that did not obey Mendel’s rules of inheritance could be classed as errors in the decoding process.

The Seattle team believes whole-genome sequencing can be applied to the study of the common multigene diseases and plans to sequence more than 100 genomes next year, starting with multigenerational families.

The family whose genomes they report in Science were sequenced by a company with a new DNA sequencing method, Complete Genomics of Mountain View, Calif., at a cost of $25,000 each. Clifford Reid, the chief executive, said that the company was scaling up to sequence 500 genomes a month and that for large projects the price per genome would soon drop below $10,000. “We are on our way to the $5,000 genome,” he said.

Dr. Reid said the HapMap and genomewide association studies were not a mistake but “the best we could do at the time.” But they have not yet revolutionized medicine, “which we are on the verge of doing,” he said.

Dr. Goldstein, of Duke University, said the whole-genome sequencing approach that was now possible should allow rapid progress. “I think we are finally headed where we have long wanted to go,” he said.


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Abbott's heart valve device proves safe, effective
@ Apr 10, 2010
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* Mitral valve device proves safe and effective

* Study compares Abbott device with open heart surgery

* 9.6 pct of MitraClip patients had major heart problems

* 57 pct of surgery group had major problems (Adds safety details, comment from researcher and company)

By Debra Sherman and Bill Berkrot

ATLANTA, March 14 (Reuters) - An experimental, minimally invasive technique to repair the most common type of heart valve problem proved to be far safer and nearly as effective as open heart surgery, meeting the primary goals of a pivotal study, researchers said on Sunday.


MitraClip Device (Abbott Laboratories)

Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) is hoping to use the data to win U.S. approval for the mitral valve repair device. Its MitraClip has been available in Europe for about 18 months.

In the first large trial of its kind, researchers compared the Abbott device -- delivered to the heart via a catheter through a blood vessel in the leg -- against open heart surgery to treat mitral regurgitation, or MR.

The primary safety goal of the study compared the number of major adverse events -- a composite of 12, including major stroke, re-operation of mitral valve, urgent cardiovascular surgery, heart attack, kidney failure, major bleeding, and death -- at 30 days.

Among patients who received the MitraClip, 9.6 percent suffered major adverse events compared with 57 percent in the surgery group, a difference considered to be highly statistically significant. In the surgery group, 42 of the 55 adverse events were major bleeding, researchers said.

Dr. Ted Feldman, director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at NorthShore University Health System in suburban Chicago and one of the studies lead investigators, called it one of the best safety results he had ever seen in a heart procedure.

There were no deaths, heart attacks or major strokes among the clip patients in the study.

MR, which affects more than 8 million people in the United States and Europe, is marked by a faulty mitral valve that does not close tightly enough, allowing blood to flow backward in the heart.

It is a debilitating condition in which the heart's ability to function deteriorates over time, and can lead to serious heart problems or and death.

Analysts believe the device could win U.S. approval next year and become a $1 billion a year product for Abbott.

Effectiveness was measured by the lack of need for surgery for valve dysfunction at one year. Moderate to severe MR in patients with initial successful treatment and death were also measures of efficacy at one year.

The device proved effective in 72.4 percent of patients compared with 87.8 percent in the surgery group, falling within pre-specified parameters of non-inferiority, researchers said.

"This is a stunning difference in safety for an acceptable trade-off in efficacy for many patients," said Feldman, who presented the data at the American College of Cardiology scientific meeting in Atlanta.

Under the trial's design, the MitraClip was meant to show superiority to surgery on safety but only non-inferiority on effectiveness.


"If a patient does not have success with the (device), he can still have surgery. The real take-home message from this is that this procedure gives patients another option," Feldman said, adding that the clip procedure could especially benefit eldery patients unable or unwilling to endure surgery.

At one year, patients with significant MR who received the MitraClip, demonstrated improvements in heart function, quality of life, and normal physical activity.

The repair device, which Abbott added to its portfolio with its acquisition of Evalve Inc last year, works by clipping together the leaflets of the mitral valve, one of four valves in the heart.

The Abbott-sponsored trial, dubbed EVEREST II, randomized 279 patients with moderate-to-severe or severe MR into two groups with 184 receiving the MitraClip and 95 undergoing surgery, the current standard of care.

Patients who received the device also demonstrated a reduction in severity of MR, an improvement in heart function and symptoms, as well as an improvement in physical and mental quality of life.

The average hospital stay for a surgery patient is about three times that for the device procedure and recovery times are much shorter, Feldman said.

John Capek, executive vice president of medical devices for Abbott, said he believed these results would accelerate adoption of the technology in Europe, where the company plans to add marketing resources.

If approved in the United States, Abbott would have exclusivity in the market for a couple of years at least, he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Revenue contribution from MitraClip, he said, would be "several hundred million" dollars over the next 3 to 5 years, a forecast he characterized as "conservative." (Reporting by Debra Sherman and Bill Berkrot; editing by Paul Simao and Ted Kerr)


Additional link

Abbott press release


Mitral Regurgitation - Mild, Moderate Or Severe?




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The world's only immortal animal
@ Apr 10, 2010
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By Bryan Nelson, Mother Nature Network

Posted Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:57am PDT



(Photo: Peter Schuchert)

The turritopsis nutricula species of jellyfish may be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth.

Since it is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again, there may be no natural limit to its life span. Scientists say the hydrozoan jellyfish is the only known animal that can repeatedly turn back the hands of time and revert to its polyp state (its first stage of life).

The key lies in a process called transdifferentiation, where one type of cell is transformed into another type of cell. Some animals can undergo limited transdifferentiation and regenerate organs, such as salamanders, which can regrow limbs. Turritopsi nutricula, on the other hand, can regenerate its entire body over and over again. Researchers are studying the jellyfish to discover how it is able to reverse its aging process.

Because they are able to bypass death, the number of individuals is spiking. They're now found in oceans around the globe rather than just in their native Caribbean waters.  "We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion," says Dr. Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute.

Bryan Nelson is a regular contributor to Mother Nature Network, where a version of this post originally appeared.


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