UCLA researchers obtain 3D images of ancient bacteria

Using a specialized form of microscopy, paleobiologists at UCLA have been able to create three-dimensional images of Precambrian-era bacteria trapped inside rocks, without damaging the rocks or the specimens, for the first time. The fossil cyanobacteria are contained in rocks from Kazakhstan and are estimated to be between 650 to 850 million years old. J. William Schopf and colleagues used techniques called confocal laser scanning microscopy and Raman spectroscopy to create the 3D images. The microscopic technique causes the fossils’ cell walls to fluoresce, making details more vivid. The spectropic technique allows the researchers to determine the chemical makeup of the fossils. Schopf said the same techniques could allow scientists to test rocks from Mars, for example, for signs of ancient organic life. Also known as blue-green algae, ancient cyanobacteria were photosynthetic and are believed to have radically changed ancient earth’s atmosphere by adding oxygen to it. Sometime during the Precambrian era, some cyanobacteria took up residence in other organisms in a symbiotic relationship. We call those organisms plants and their symbiotes, chloroplasts. Cradle of Life : The Discovery of Earth’s Earliest Fossils

Oops, they did it again …

Know-nothing functionaries in the Bush Administration have once again told the folks at NASA what is and is not “acceptable” science, proving again that the Bushites want to co-opt all arms of government to march to the tune of their master. It seems a young pencil pusher, George Deutsch, directed a NASA scientist to always use the word “theory” when mentioning the Big Bang in a middle school presentation. That in itself is not bad, but according to yesterday’s The New York Times, Deutsch went on to demonstrate he doesn’t know science from a stale bagel. The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.” It continued: “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.” Now, it takes either a lot of ...

Not science or tech, but strangely compelling

I came across a site today, BetOnIraq.com, which at face value, is very intriguing. The site offers to exchange dollars for Iraqi dinar, ostensibly to bolster the fledgling democracy of Iraq. There is the possibility that dinar will actually be worth something someday, so picking up 100,000 dinar for just $155 could be a lucrative investment (well, more like a wager). Or the 100,000 dinar could end up being just worthless pieces of pretty paper. A closer look set off some caveat emptor warnings in my brain. Before you rush to buy a fat wad of dinar online, you need to be aware of some red flags on this site, and on similar sites listed below. The order page is not secured or encrypted. While the site does not accept credit cards, the order page does ask for your name, address, e-mail and phone. Without encryption, that information could be intercepted by a third party, or the site’s database could be hacked. Also, the site offers no advice about the privacy of your contact information, although the operators do say By making a purchase you acknowledge that you are not on a watch list, a terrorist, associated with a terrorist ...

Open access to internet endangered

We read articles about the governments of other nations — China comes to mind — restricting their citizens from easy and open access to the internet, and cluck about how much better we have it here. Yet our access to the ‘net may be threatened as well, not by the government but by the corporations that own the “pipes.” According to The Nation, the telephone and cable giants are discussing (in house) ways for them to corral most of the bandwidth on the internet, leaving little guys like me and you to make do with what’s left. In addition, according to the article, the corporate bigwigs are also planning a megadatabase of internet traffic, vestiges of which already exist. To succeed in this nefarious plot to co-opt one of the last remaining avenues of free and open expression, the telecom companies will have to convince Congress to adjust existing telecom laws in their favor. Watchdog groups have already begun to muster opposition, and small-time operators like your local internet service providers will likely join in the fray. I would encourage anyone reading this post to read the Nation article, then to contact your own congressmen and women to urge them ...

And while we’re at it …

how do they name the planets, anyway? The nomenclature of astronomical bodies has long been associated with Greek and Roman mythology. The Greeks named the wandering objects in the sky, planetes or wanderers, and identified them with their gods, Hermes, Aphrodite, Ares, Zeus and Cronus. The Romans, ever the inventive sort, renamed them after their own corresponding gods, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. When Uranus was discovered in 1781, the decision was made to stick with Greek and Roman gods. Neptune followed in 1846, and Pluto in 1930. (For a nice human-interest story about the naming of Pluto, check out this interview with the woman who suggested its name when she was 12.) As more objects and features on celestial objects have been discovered, the International Astronomical Union decided to expand the nomenclature to include characters from other world mythologies. My personal favorites are Uranus’ moons, named after the fairies and sprites of British folk stories, including ones that Shakespeare used in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.. Since Uranus has so many moons — 27 at last count — the IAU expanded the source names to include all the characters from A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Check this wikipedia entry for ...

New “girls” on the block

German astronomers have confirmed the size of the object orbiting the sun outside Pluto’s orbit, estimating its size to be about 3000 km (1860 mi) across. They are now debating whether to call the object, informally known as Xena and formally catalogued as object 2003 UB313, a planet or something else. For the record, Xena, which was discovered last year, is about 700 km (440 mi) wider than Pluto, the puniest planet in our solar system, and about 370 km (230 mi) smaller than the Moon. So, as planets go, Xena is not much to speak of. Astronomers of late have tended to classify objects like Pluto and Xena as planetesimals, inhabitants of the Kuiper Belt, a cloudlike band of relatively small chunks of rock, ice and dust encircling the solar system. Complicating matters is that both Pluto and Xena have moons, as do all the planets save Venus and Mercury. Pluto’s moon, Charon, is large enough for the two to be called a binary planet system. (The size of Xena’s satellite, named (naturally) Gabrielle*, has yet to be measured.) Another complication is that Pluto has been considered a planet since its discovery in 1930. Xena and Gabrielle’s mutual orbital ...

Bush promotes value of science

Politics is certainly a strange profession, when it can allow a single person to hold so many conflicting ideas at once. On the one hand, Pres. George W. Bush favors the teaching of intelligent design (ID) in science classes, as an “alternative” to the more widely accepted theory of evolution. He squelches discussion of global warming by a NASA scientist. On the other hand, Bush, in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, proposes a new commitment to science education in the U.S. The president proposed that the country undertake what he called the American Competitiveness Initiative, to ensure the country’s technological and scientific preeminence globally. As summarized by seedmagazine.com: The Initiative will double federal funding for specific physical science research programs over the next 10 years, make permanent a research and development tax credit for the private sector, and bring 30,000 professionals into high school math and science classrooms. As part of his plan, Bush proposes to train 70,000 new instructors to teach advanced-placement math and science classes, as well as provide early help to students who underperform in math. For a teacher, this proposal is a wonderful idea. It’s no secret that there is a shortage of ...

BBC map shows spread of bird flu 1

In a previous blog entry, I expressed doubt about how serious the spread of Asian bird flu might turn to be. Is it really the beginning of a pandemic, or are we just too jumpy nowadays? I may have to eat my words. The BBC has created an excellent interactive map showing the location and number of infected birds and humans over the past two years. From a few cases in Indochina, the disease has spread, though not exactly like wildfire, into northern Iraq, Turkey and Croatia. True to form, the BBC has done a terrific job covering the spread of bird flu in the Beeb’s usual calm, thorough approach. Well worth a visit.

Erosion of a different kind

Offered without further comment … From FoxNews today: A new provision tucked into the Patriot Act bill now before Congress would allow authorities to haul demonstrators at any “special event of national significance” away to jail on felony charges if they are caught breaching a security perimeter. From the U.S. Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Cindy Sheehan‘s account of her arrest and expulsion from the State of the Union address on Jan. 31: What Really Happened …. UPDATE (2/2): Charges against Sheehan have been dropped and the Capitol Police chief admitted his officers were overzealous.

Money talks, they say 1

Some critics call the WWW the “worldwide waste of time,” but researchers at the distinguished Max Planck Institute have used a curious little internet game to deduce how a pandemic might spread worldwide. Seeking a means to track how humans might spread a contagious disease, Dirk Brockmann and Lars Hufnagel analyzed the travel routes of U.S. and Canadian paper currency featured on the website, Where’s George?. Since money travels with humans, Brockmann and Hufnagel could use the “behavior” of the bills as virtual radio tags to simulate the likely movements of infected travelers. Here’s an excerpt from their Nature abstract: Like viruses, money is transported by people from place to place. Surprisingly, the scientist found that the human movements follow what are known as universal scaling laws. They developed a mathematical theory which describes the observed movements of travellers amazingly well over distances from just a few kilometres to a few thousand. The study represents a major breakthrough for the mathematical modelling of the spread of epidemics (Nature, 26 January 2006). Click here for the full press release from the Institute. Extrapolating from their conclusions, it seems unlikely that Asian bird flu will present much of a threat globally until ...

It’s the economy, stupid! 2

Here’s some cheery news. According to this report, the U.S. debt just topped $8.19 trillion, somewhat over the current U.S. debt ceiling. Technically, that means the U.S. is in default, at leat until it raises its own debt ceiling. To put this whopper of a number in perspective, that $8.19 trillion works out to just over $27,480 for each citizen of the U.S.A. Or, if you had a stack of 8.19 trillion, 1-cm thick CD jewel cases, they would stretch 81.9 million km (51.2 million miles) into space — about halfway to the sun! Incredible.

White House squelches global warming expert

For yet another example of the Bush administration’s war on science, take a look the Sunday New York Times today. It seems that James Hansen, a NASA climate scientist, has been talking a little bit too much about global warming. The White House wants him to cool it. The party line apparently is that global warming is a myth, despite disturbing evidence that the average sea level globally has been steadily rising, indicating polar ice cap meltdown. (See this BBC article about rising sea levels for details.)The Daily Kos has a great commentary on the NYT article by DarkSyde, who seems to have an inside track on the allegations. For many more details about global warming, check these resources at Amazon.com:DVD: Global warming: The Signs and the Science Boiling Point: How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists and Activists Are Fueling the Climate Crisis–And What We Can Do to Avert Disaster
Facebook Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com