Science

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Crash test dummies inventor dies.

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CNN.com reports that Samuel W. Alderson, the inventor of crash test dummies that are used to make cars, parachutes and other devices safer, has passed away at the age of 90 (2/11/2005). He grew up tinkering in his father's custom sheet-metal shop, worked on various military technology and by 1952 had formed Alderson Research Labs. The company made anthropomorphic dummies for use by the military and NASA in testing ejection seats and parachutes. The dummies were built to approximate the weight and density of humans and hold data-gathering instruments.

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Tsunami Uncovers Ancient City in India

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Yahoo! News report that archaeologists have begun underwater excavations of what is believed to be an ancient city and parts of a temple uncovered by the tsunami off the coast of a centuries-old pilgrimage town.

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Typing Style Can Be Password

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This Yahoo! News' short story says the way you type is as unique as your eye color or speech patterns and can be used instead of a password to protect your computer, researchers at Louisiana Tech and Penn State say.

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Less liver cancer in coffee drinkers...

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I saw this on KTLA 5's morning news yesterday, but I forgot to look for an online story to post on here.

CNN reports that hot cup of coffee may do more than just provide a tasty energy boost. It also may help prevent the most common type of liver cancer. A study of more than 90,000 Japanese found that people who drank coffee daily or nearly every day had half the liver cancer risk of those who never drank coffee.

Animal studies have suggested a protective association of coffee with liver cancer, so the research team led by Monami Inoue of the National Cancer Center in Tokyo analyzed a 10-year public health study to determine coffee use by people diagnosed with liver cancer and people who did not have cancer. They found the likely occurrence of liver cancer in people who never or almost never drank coffee was 547.2 cases per 100,000 people over 10 years. But for people who drank coffee daily the risk was 214.6 cases per 100,000, the researchers report in this week's issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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Origami as the Shape of Things to Come

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The New York Times (no registration needed) report that Dr. Demaine, an assistant professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the leading theoretician in the emerging field of origami mathematics, is holding is a hyperbolic parabaloid. It is a shape well known to mathematicians -- or something very close to that -- but he wants to be able to prove this conjecture, but difficullt to do.

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Do You Speak American?

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TheShadow (remove AQFL to e-mail) sent me an interesting PBS' documentary on how Americans, as seen and heard, through the way we speak. It was premiered on January 5th, 2005, but its Web site was still informative like:

  • Words that shouldn't be -- Spambot, cybercat, etc. Are we ruining the language?
  • From sea to shining sea -- Exactly how many varities are there of American English?
  • What speech do we like best? -- Language expreesses who we are, and who we want to be. It can also unite or divide us.
  • What lies ahead? -- Is TV making us sound alike? Will cars sound like men or women? What's ahead for American English?
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Flame retardants building up within us.

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Globetechnology's scary article says highest levels are found in babies as PBDEs emanate from carpets, furniture, to form dust balls. Those dust bunnies lurking under the bed may not be as innocuous as you think.

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NASA says 2005 could be warmest year recorded.

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CNN reports that a weak El Nino and human-made greenhouse gases could make 2005 the warmest year since records started being kept in the late 1800s. This was reported by NASA scientists said this week. While climate events like El Nino -- when warm water spreads over much of the tropical Pacific Ocean -- affect global temperatures, the increasing role of human-made pollutants plays a big part.

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Orbital Overload: Space Debris Crowds the Not-So-Friendly Skies

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SPACE.com says totally gone or near-dead spacecraft, spent motor casings and rocket stages, all the way down to pieces of solid propellant, insulation, paint flakes, and thousands of frozen bits of still-radioactive nuclear reactor coolant dribbling (from a number of aged Russian radar satellites) orbit around Earth. As of December 29, 2004, there were 9,233 objects large enough to be tracked and catalogued by the USSTRATCOM Space Surveillance Network. Of this total, there were 2,927 payloads along with 6,306 object classed as rocket bodies and debris. That's the statistics as listed in the January issue of The Orbital Debris Quarterly News, issued by the NASA Johnson Space Center Orbital Debris Program Office in Houston, Texas.

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'Broken-heart syndrome' has medical link.

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Both CNN (from Blue's News) and Yahoo! News report that a sudden shock, such as hearing news of a death in the family, can trigger a condition that appears to be a massive heart attack except that the victim suffers no lasting damage, a study reports today.

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Tsunami Earthquake Three Times Larger Than First Thought

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LiveScience report that a new analysis of the December earthquake that caused disastrous tsunami waves to strike Asia and Africa. The report finds it was three times more powerful than earlier measurements suggested. This would make it the second largest earthquake ever instrumentally recorded.

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Tree/Canopy-living ants glide to safety -- Rainforest dwellers steer themselves home during a fall.

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Mousey (remove AQFL to e-mail)'s engineer co-worker sent him and me this News @ Nature.com article (LiveScience's story with a 4 minutes streaming video) about Canopy/Tree-dwelling worker ants (Cephalotes atratus) in the tropical forests of the Americas have adopted a neat way of averting disaster should they fall from their perch. They glide to safety, steering towards their home trunk rather than plummeting to the ground, where they might never see their nest-mates again.

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Unfit and overweight OK by many, a survey suggests...

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MSNBC's article says Americans know exercise is good for their health. Yet many are overweight, out-of-shape couch potatoes -- and that seems to be just fine with a lot of them, suggests a new nationwide fitness survey.

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Why North Americans ain't got rhythm...

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This MSNBC article reports that North Americans are worse than babies when it comes to rhythm. A recently published study looked into why people in some parts of the world seem better at grasping offbeat rhythms compared to people in North America. The problem appears to be at least partly cultural. The study would seem complex to those not musically inclined. But here's the upshot:

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Left-handers have different view... Are you left handed or right handed?

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BBC News report that left-handed and right-handed people view the world differently, scientists have shown. Psychologists found they use opposite sides of their brains when looking at, and making sense of, an image.

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Worms, lobsters, and crabs cannot feel pain?

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Reuters and Yahoo! News report worms squirming on a fishhook feel no pain -- nor do lobsters and crabs cooked in boiling water, a scientific study funded by the Norwegian government has found. "The common earthworm has a very simple nervous system -- it can be cut in two and continue with its business," Professor Wenche Farstad, who chaired the panel that drew up the report, said Monday.

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Beagle 2 'should never have been built'

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New Scientist reports that Beagle 2, the British lander lost on Mars in 2003, should never have been built. That is the damning conclusion of the official investigation into the loss of the probe in a report that the UK government and the European Space Agency (ESA) attempted to hide. The probe was carried to Mars on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft and released towards the Red Planet in December 2003. It was never heard from again.

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Dyslexia slows drivers' reactions...

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New Scientist report that dyslexia can impair a driver's reactions as much as a moderate drinking session. That is the conclusion of a small study which compared how quickly dyslexic and non-dyslexic drivers react to traffic signs.

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Anniversary of Challenger explosion (1/28/1986)... Where were you back then?

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This /. poll reminds people that today is the anniversary from the Challenger's explosion from 1/28/1986. So sad. I was ten years old back in Pennsylvania, USA, if I remember correctly. I did not see this accident live on TV. I saw the recording on the local news. I wasn't crazy about space stuff back then compared to today, but yet it was sad. :( Columbia's accident is coming up very soon too. :(

So, where were you when it happened (e.g., wasn't born yet)?

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Ants Use Geometry to Navigate

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Discovery Channel News' article says ants use angled signposts, marked with scent, to find their way home or follow the path into the

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