University of Reading researcher Mark Gasson has become the first human known to be infected by a computer virus.
The virus, infecting a chip implanted in Gasson’s hand, passed into a laboratory computer.
From there, the infection could have spread into other computer chips found in building access cards.
All this was intentional, in an experiment to see how simple radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips like those used for tracking animals can host and spread technological diseases.
The research shows that as implantable bionic devices such as pacemakers get more sophisticated in the years ahead, their security and the safety of the patients whose lives depend on them will become increasingly important, said Gasson.
”We should start to think of these devices as miniature computers,” Gasson said.
And just like everyday computers, they can get sick.
Down with disease Gasson had a relatively simple chip implanted in the top of his left hand near his thumb last year.
It emits a signal that is read by external sensors, allowing him access to the Reading laboratory and for his cell phone to operate.
He and his colleagues created a malicious code for the chip. When the lab’s sensors read the code, the code inserted itself into the building computer database that governs who has access to the premises.
“The virus replicates itself through the database and potentially could copy itself onto the access cards that people use,” Gasson said.
Archive for the ‘End of the World Update’ Category
A court has allowed a group of protesters dressed as zombies to continue with a lawsuit against police who arrested them for disorderly conduct.
The appeal court overturned a previous finding that the group had correctly been arrested over a 2006 protest in a shopping centre.
The group had been wearing makeup designed to make them look like and extra in a horror flick, with white faces, fake blood and black circles round their eyes.
They then proceeded to stagger round the shops, urging consumers to “get your brains here”.
They also carried audio equipment, which police described as “simulated weapons of mass destruction”, even though they were mobile phones.
The European Union has shown its righteous wrath by stripping Greece of its vote at a crucial meeting next month, the worst humiliation ever suffered by an EU member state.
The council of EU finance ministers said Athens must comply with austerity demands by March 16 or lose control over its own tax and spend policies altogether. It if fails to do so, the EU will itself impose cuts under the draconian Article 126.9 of the Lisbon Treaty in what would amount to economic suzerainty.
While the symbolic move to suspend Greece of its voting rights at one meeting makes no practical difference, it marks a constitutional watershed and represents a crushing loss of sovereignty.
“We certainly won’t let them off the hook,” said Austria’s finance minister, Josef Proll, echoing views shared by colleagues in Northern Europe.
Some German officials have called for Greece to be denied a vote in all EU matter until it emerges from “receivership”.
Children in the German capital Berlin are to be exempt from strict laws on noise pollution.
An amendment to the city’s law now makes it “fundamentally and socially tolerable” for members of the younger generation to make a racket.
Berlin has become the first of Germany’s 16 federal states to adopt such legislation. But all Berliners – children included – must continue to respect the official quiet time at night and all day Sunday.
Until now, only church bells, emergency sirens, snow ploughs and tractors have fallen outside the stringent rules on excessive noise in Germany.
Some day-care facilities have even been forced to close after local residents have gone to court in search of a quiet life.
Now Berlin’s local government, the senate, has passed a law giving children the right to be noisy, the first law of its kind in Germany.
The French flag will be hoisted at every school in France and the national anthem sung by students at least once a year as part of government efforts to instill in citizens a sense of pride in being French, Prime Minister François Fillon announced Tuesday.
Language training and instruction on gender equality are foreseen for newly arrived immigrants, while new citizens will attend a solemn ceremony and sign a pact listing the duties that go with being French once a law is adjusted to make that possible.
Many of the measures are more symbolic than concrete, but all are the fruit of an often noisy government-sponsored countrywide debate on the French identity that on occasion plunged into racial slurs, often directed at France’s estimated five million Muslims.
The debates in 350 locations around the country aimed at bolstering France’s national identity in a globalized world and in an increasingly diverse nation that is proud by nature but afraid of losing its bearings.
France has long fought to preserve its language, but while previous governments focused on protecting French from the onslaught of English, the current government wants newly arrived immigrants to be able to communicate.
It’s a scene out of the Bible.
Not a lion lying down with a lamb, but three powerful cheetahs becoming friends with a baby impala antelope.
They met in Kenya’s Masai Mara, a world-famous game preserve known for its habitat of big cats, like these adult male cheetahs.
Photographer Michel Denis-Huot was on safari last October when he snapped these amazing shots in a grassy savanna.
“These three brothers have been living together since they left their mother at about 18 months old,” he said. “On the morning we saw them, they seemed not to be hungry, walking quickly but stopping sometimes to play together.”
The preferred diet of cheetahs begins with small antelope. But these cats weren’t hungry because they normally hunt in the daytime, either in the early morning or late afternoon.
A mass rescue was continuing yesterday for more than 2,000 endangered sea turtles that were shocked into a coma by freezing weather in Florida.
Temperatures may be rising after the rare cold weather but scores of turtles are still being found unconscious on beaches and in lagoons.
A phenomenon known as “cold stun” sets in when water temperatures drop below 50F (10C) because the turtles cannot regulate their metabolism.
More than 750 were taken to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, at the Nasa Kennedy Space Centre. “We’ve seen cold-stun events before but never on this scale. This is ten times the normal magnitude,” said Terry Norton, the director and veterinary surgeon at the Georgia Sea Turtle Centre in Jekyll Island.
They may look like winter’s answer to crop circles, but these mysterious snow rolls are in fact a rare natural phenomenon usually found only in the world’s most remote and frozen regions.
Also known as snowrollers, snow bales and snow doughnuts, they form mostly in unusual conditions created by a precise combination of snow, ice, wind, temperature and moisture on the prairies of North America.
But this week’s frozen weather has allowed the snow cylinders to make a freak appearance in the UK.
Ron Trevett, 55, and his wife Aileen, 54, readers of The Daily Telegraph, were stunned when they stumbled across the mysterious formations as they walked their dogs in a field near their home in Yeovil, Somerset.
“We saw them from a distance on the ridge of the field, and we thought some kids had been playing up there and making giant snowballs,” said Mr Trevett.
“But when we got up there we saw there were no footprints and there were hundreds of them – too many for children to have done it. We realised it must have been the wind.”
The Queen is to hand oSver a substantial part of her public duties to Prince William to help him prepare for the day when he becomes King, according to a confidential document obtained by The Mail on Sunday.
ecret papers reveal that plans to ease the strain on the 83-year-old monarch and her 88-year-old husband, Prince Philip, are at an advanced stage.
The disclosures come despite months of denials from the Palace that the Queen was planning to step back from her official work in favour of her 27-year-old grandson.
The information is contained in a briefing note written by Chancellor Alistair Darling’s Treasury officials about new financial arrangements for Prince Charles and his sons.
Key paragraphs, disclosing the reason for the changes, are blacked out. But this newspaper has obtained an uncensored version of the document which confirms that the Queen is grooming William as a ‘Shadow King’.
Baloo the bear, Leo the Lion and Shere Khan the tiger have the most unusual and unlikely friendship between them.
Rescued eight years ago during a police drugs raid in Atlanta, Georgia, the three friends were only cubs at the time and barely two months old. They had been kept as status symbol pets by the drug barons.
Delivered to the Noah’s Ark animal rescue centre in Locust Grove, Georgia, the decision was made to keep the youngsters together.
“We could have separated them, but since they came as a kind of family, the zoo decided to keep them together,” said Diane Smith, assistant director of the Noah’s Ark zoo.
“To our knowledge, this is the only place where you’ll find this combination of animals together, they are our BLT, (bear, lion and tiger).
Dear Kellogg: Leggo my Eggo!
Kellogg Co. says there will be a nationwide shortage of its popular Eggo frozen waffles until next summer because of interruptions in production at two of the four plants that make them.
The company’s Atlanta plant was shut down for an undisclosed period by a September storm that dumped historic amounts of rain in the area.
Meanwhile, several production lines at its largest bakery in Rossville, Tenn. are closed indefinitely for repairs, company spokeswoman Kris Charles said in an e-mail.
It will take until the middle of 2010 before shelves around the country are stocked at pre-shutdown levels, Charles said. Already customers are noticing near-empty Eggo shelves on the freezer aisle at many grocery stores.
The apparent bottom line in a paper published in the South African Journal of Science is that South Africa’s gold industry is on final deathwatch, despite claims of massive existing below-ground reserves. Chris Hartnady, research and technical director of Cape Town earth sciences consultancy Umvoto Africa, has found that South Africa’s Witwatersrand goldfields are around 95% exhausted, and anticipates that production rates should fall permanently below 100 tonnes a year within the coming decade.
Gold production from the Witwatersrand, the biggest known gold field in the world, peaked at around 1,000 tonnes in 1970 and has declined ever since. Hartnady says that while initially (1970-1975) the decline was “quite precipitous”, it has been interrupted by only short periods of slight trend reversal (1982-1984 and 1992-1993).
Leon Esterhuizen, a London-based specialist analyst at RBC Capital Markets, has reacted to the research by saying that “South African gold is dying — this is not new news”, but adds “that it may be dying faster than we currently believe is novel”. On the levels of reserves, Hartnady finds that the South African “residual gold reserve” after production through 2007 is only 2 948 tonnes, a little less than three times the 1970 production figure, and much less than 10% of the officially cited reserve.
The country’s gold reserves are less than half of the current United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimate of 6 000 tonnes, and the country is not first, but fourth in world rankings, after Australia (5,000 tonnes), Peru (3,500 tonnes) and Russia (3,000 tonnes), Hartnady’s research shows. The USGS currently cites South Africa’s gold reserves at around 6,000 tonnes, while SA claims a 36,000 tonnes reserve base figure (or about 40% of the global total). Hartnady’s findings are based on Chamber of Mines figures and mathematical modeling pioneered by the distinguished American geologist M. King Hubbert.
The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.
The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves. The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation’s latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.
In particular they question the prediction in the last World Economic Outlook, believed to be repeated again this year, that oil production can be raised from its current level of 83m barrels a day to 105m barrels. External critics have frequently argued that this cannot be substantiated by firm evidence and say the world has already passed its peak in oil production.
Now the “peak oil” theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. “The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year,” said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. “The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today’s number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.
Thousands of Icelanders lined up at McDonald’s restaurants to order their last Big Macs before the U.S. fast-food chain abandons the crisis-hit island at midnight Saturday due to soaring costs.
The world’s largest fast-food company said earlier this week that all three of its restaurants in Iceland, operated by franchisee Jon Ogmundsson, would shut down October 31.
The outlets have been packed since the announcement, with lines at one restaurant on the east side of the city backing up out the door and onto the street. At lunchtime Friday the outlet’s parking lot was full and staff inside were working furiously to keep up with the soaring demand.
“It’s my last chance for a while to have a real Big Mac,” Siggi, a 28-year old salesman waiting in line, told Reuters. “With the economy as it is, I won’t be traveling abroad any time soon,” he added. “It’s not that I’m a big fan of McDonald’s, but a Big Mac now and then adds to variety.”
Valery Yarynich glances nervously over his shoulder. Clad in a brown leather jacket, the 72-year-old former Soviet colonel is hunkered in the back of the dimly lit Iron Gate restaurant in Washington, DC. It’s March 2009—the Berlin Wall came down two decades ago—but the lean and fit Yarynich is as jumpy as an informant dodging the KGB.
He begins to whisper, quietly but firmly. “The Perimeter system is very, very nice,” he says. “We remove unique responsibility from high politicians and the military.” He looks around again. Yarynich is talking about Russia’s doomsday machine. That’s right, an actual doomsday device—a real, functioning version of the ultimate weapon, always presumed to exist only as a fantasy of apocalypse-obsessed science fiction writers and paranoid über-hawks. The thing that historian Lewis Mumford called “the central symbol of this scientifically organized nightmare of mass extermination.”
Turns out Yarynich, a 30-year veteran of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces and Soviet General Staff, helped build one. The point of the system, he explains, was to guarantee an automatic Soviet response to an American nuclear strike. Even if the US crippled the USSR with a surprise attack, the Soviets could still hit back. It wouldn’t matter if the US blew up the Kremlin, took out the defense ministry, severed the communications network, and killed everyone with stars on their shoulders. Ground-based sensors would detect that a devastating blow had been struck and a counterattack would be launched.
The technical name was Perimeter, but some called it Mertvaya Ruka, or Dead Hand. It was built 25 years ago and remained a closely guarded secret. With the demise of the USSR, word of the system did leak out, but few people seemed to notice. In fact, though Yarynich and a former Minuteman launch officer named Bruce Blair have been writing about Perimeter since 1993 in numerous books and newspaper articles, its existence has not penetrated the public mind or the corridors of power. The Russians still won’t discuss it, and Americans at the highest levels—including former top officials at the State Department and White House—say they’ve never heard of it.
When I recently told former CIA director James Woolsey that the USSR had built a doomsday device, his eyes grew cold. “I hope to God the Soviets were more sensible than that.” They weren’t.
Within 24 hours of the leak of the Afghanistan assessment to The Washington Post, General Stanley McChrystal’s team fired its second shot across the bow of the Obama administration. According to McClatchy, military officers close to General McChrystal said he is prepared to resign if he isn’t given sufficient resources (read “troops”) to implement a change of direction in Afghanistan
Adding to the frustration, according to officials in Kabul and Washington, are White House and Pentagon directives made over the last six weeks that Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, not submit his request for as many as 45,000 additional troops because the administration isn’t ready for it.
In the last two weeks, top administration leaders have suggested that more American troops will be sent to Afghanistan, and then called that suggestion “premature.” Earlier this month, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “time is not on our side”; on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged the public “to take a deep breath.”
In Kabul, some members of McChrystal’s staff said they don’t understand why Obama called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” but still hasn’t given them the resources they need to turn things around quickly. Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he’d stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy.
“Yes, he’ll be a good soldier, but he will only go so far,” a senior official in Kabul said. “He’ll hold his ground. He’s not going to bend to political pressure.”
The biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history lies at anchor east of Singapore. Never before photographed, it is bigger than the U.S. and British navies combined but has no crew, no cargo and no destination – and is why your Christmas stocking may be on the light side this year
The tropical waters that lap the jungle shores of southern Malaysia could not be described as a paradisical shimmering turquoise. They are more of a dark, soupy green. They also carry a suspicious smell. Not that this is of any concern to the lone Indian face that has just peeped anxiously down at me from the rusting deck of a towering container ship; he is more disturbed by the fact that I may be a pirate, which, right now, on top of everything else, is the last thing he needs.
His appearance, in a peaked cap and uniform, seems rather odd; an officer without a crew. But there is something slightly odder about the vast distance between my jolly boat and his lofty position, which I can’t immediately put my finger on.
Then I have it – his 750ft-long merchant vessel is standing absurdly high in the water. The low waves don’t even bother the lowest mark on its Plimsoll line. It’s the same with all the ships parked here, and there are a lot of them. Close to 500.
My ramshackle wooden fishing boat has floated perilously close to this giant sheet of steel. But the face is clearly more scared of me than I am of him. He shoos me away and scurries back into the vastness of his ship. His footsteps leave an echo behind them.
Navigating a precarious course around the hull of this Panama-registered hulk, I reach its bow and notice something else extraordinary. It is tied side by side to a container ship of almost the same size. The mighty sister ship sits empty, high in the water again, with apparently only the sailor and a few lengths of rope for company.
Here, on a sleepy stretch of shoreline at the far end of Asia, is surely the biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history. Their numbers are equivalent to the entire British and American navies combined; their tonnage is far greater. Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers – all should be steaming fully laden between China, Britain, Europe and the US, stocking camera shops, PC Worlds and Argos depots ahead of the retail pandemonium of 2009. But their water has been stolen.
They are a powerful and tangible representation of the hurricanes that have been wrought by the global economic crisis; an iron curtain drawn along the coastline of the southern edge of Malaysia’s rural Johor state, 50 miles east of Singapore harbour.
For centuries, mariners have dreamed of an Arctic shortcut that would allow them to speed trade between Asia and the West.
And Friday, German merchant ships traversed the fabled Northeast Passage, aided by the retreat of Arctic ice that scientists have linked to global warming.
The route from South Korea along Russia’s Arctic coast to Siberia was avoided in years past because of its heavy ice floes. But scientists have reported that the Arctic Ocean ice cap has been shrinking to unprecedented levels, because of global warming, opening up many passages that were once ice-choked.
The German-owned ships are heading for Rotterdam in the Netherlands with 3,500 tons of construction parts. A shipping executive says the voyage marks the first time a Western shipping company successfully traversed the route.
Global warming is a lot like Elvis – you can’t escape it, so you might as well embrace it!
With the development of killer drones, it seems like everyone is worrying about killer robots. Now, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we need to start worrying about lying, cheating robots as well.
In an experiment run at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne, France, robots that were designed to cooperate in searching out a beneficial resource and avoiding a poisonous one learned to lie to each other in an attempt to hoard the resource.
Picture a robo-Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The experiment involved 1,000 robots divided into 10 different groups. Each robot had a sensor, a blue light, and its own 264-bit binary code “genome” that governed how it reacted to different stimuli.
The first generation robots were programmed to turn the light on when they found the good resource, helping the other robots in the group find it. The robots got higher marks for finding and sitting on the good resource, and negative points for hanging around the poisoned resource. The 200 highest-scoring genomes were then randomly “mated” and mutated to produce a new generation of programming.
Within nine generations, the robots became excellent at finding the positive resource, and communicating with each other to direct other robots to the good resource. However, there was a catch. A limited amount of access to the good resource meant that not every robot could benefit when it was found, and overcrowding could drive away the robot that originally found it.
After 500 generations, 60 percent of the robots had evolved to keep their light off when they found the good resource, hogging it all for themselves. Even more telling, a third of the robots evolved to actually look for the liars by developing an aversion to the light; the exact opposite of their original programming!
This week’s solar eclipse has Indian astrologers predicting violence and turmoil across the world, AFP reported.
In Hindu mythology, the two demons Rahu and Ketu are said to “swallow” the sun during eclipses. It takes the life-giving life and causes food to become inedile and water undrinkable, AFP reported.
Mothers-to-be are told to stay inside so their baby doesn’t develop birth defects and some are worried a major world catastrophe will take place.
Raj Kumar Sharma, a Mumbai astrologer, told AFP, “some sort of attack by (Kashmiri separatists) Jaish-e-Mohammad or Al Qaeda on Indian soil” and a devastating natural disaster in Southeast Asia.
It could be a combination of 19th-century mechanics, 21st-century technology — and a 20th-century horror movie.
A Maryland company under contract to the Pentagon is working on a steam-powered robot that would fuel itself by gobbling up whatever organic material it can find — grass, wood, old furniture, even dead bodies.
Robotic Technology Inc.’s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot — that’s right, “EATR” — “can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable,” reads the company’s Web site.
That “biomass” and “other organically-based energy sources” wouldn’t necessarily be limited to plant material — animal and human corpses contain plenty of energy, and they’d be plentiful in a war zone.
An ambitious director might look at Mitch Halligan’s property and see an instant B-movie classic: “Invasion of the Grasshoppers.”
The place is overrun with the greasy little bugs. With each step you take on his property, the squirmy inch-long grasshoppers jump for cover in every direction.
Those that don’t crunch under foot perch themselves atop tall grass stalks, crawl up pant legs or munch through gardens. Across the road isn’t much better. Grasshoppers blanketed the neighbors’ entryway a few days ago and forced them to come in through the back door.
“I’d call this the closest that I’ve seen to a plague in a long time,” Halligan said.
It was an idea born out of curiosity in the physics lab, but now a new type of ‘laser’ for generating ultra-high frequency sound waves instead of light has taken a major step towards becoming a unique and highly useful 21st century technology.
Microwave Scientists at The University of Nottingham, in collaboration with colleagues in the Ukraine, have produced a new type of acoustic laser device called a Saser. It’s a sonic equivalent to the laser and produces an intense beam of uniform sound waves on a nano scale.
The new device could have significant and useful applications in the worlds of computing, imaging, and even anti-terrorist security screening. Where a ‘laser’,(Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation), uses packets of electromagnetic vibrations called ‘photons’, the ‘Saser’ uses sound waves composed of sonic vibrations called ‘phonons’.
In a laser, the photon beam is produced by stimulating electrons with an external power source so they release energy when they collide with other photons in a highly reflective optical cavity. This produces a coherent and controllable shining beam of laser light in which all the photons have the same frequency and rate of oscillation. From supermarket scanners to DVD players, surgery, manufacturing and the defence industry, the application of laser technology is widespread.
The Saser mimics this technology but using sound, to produce a sonic beam of ‘phonons’ which travels, not through an optical cavity like a laser, but through a tiny manmade structure called a ‘superlattice’. This is made out of around 50 super-thin sheets of two alternating semiconductor materials, Gallium Arsenide and Aluminium Arsenide, each layer just a few atoms thick. When stimulated by a power source (a light beam), the phonons multiply, bouncing back and forth between the layers of the lattice, until they escape out of the structure in the form of an ultra-high frequency phonon beam.
A prolonged lull in solar activity has astrophysicists glued to their telescopes waiting to see what the sun will do next—and how Earth’s climate might respond.
The sun is the least active it’s been in decades and the dimmest in a hundred years. The lull is causing some scientists to recall the Little Ice Age, an unusual cold spell in Europe and North America, which lasted from about 1300 to 1850.
The coldest period of the Little Ice Age, between 1645 and 1715, has been linked to a deep dip in solar storms known as the Maunder Minimum.
During that time, access to Greenland was largely cut off by ice, and canals in Holland routinely froze solid. Glaciers in the Alps engulfed whole villages, and sea ice increased so much that no open water flowed around Iceland in the year 1695.
The Egyptian government began slaughtering pigs today as a preventative measure to stop the spread of the swine flu, reports the AP. Over 300,000 pigs will be killed immediately despite no reported cases of the pandemic in the country.
The state news agency MENA reported to AFP yesterday about the passage of the measure in lower parliament:
”The People’s Assembly urged the government to immediately start culling pigs and not to relocate pig-breeding farms away from residential areas for fear of the spread of swine flu,” MENA said.
Egypt’s 80-million population consists mainly of Muslims, whose religion forbids them from eating pork, as well as an estimated six to 10 percent Christian Copts who may eat pig meat.
Six banks have failed the preliminary stress test, Bloomberg says. They’re now appealing.
The government wants these banks to raise capital by converting preferred stock to common stock, which would stave off the need for additional capital injections. This makes sense, but debtholders should be forced to do the same thing.
At least six of the 19 largest U.S. banks require additional capital, according to preliminary results of government stress tests, people briefed on the matter said. While some of the lenders may need extra cash injections from the government, most of the capital is likely to come from converting preferred shares to common equity, the people said.
The Federal Reserve is now hearing appeals from banks, including Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., that regulators have determined need more of a cushion against losses, they added. By pushing conversions, rather than federal assistance, the government would allow banks to shore themselves up without the political taint that has soured both Wall Street and Congress on the bailouts. The risk is that, along with diluting existing shareholders, the government action won’t seem strong enough.
Hope y’all were short the financials!
The strangest monument in America looms over a barren knoll in northeastern Georgia. Five massive slabs of polished granite rise out of the earth in a star pattern. The rocks are each 16 feet tall, with four of them weighing more than 20 tons apiece. Together they support a 25,000-pound capstone. Approaching the edifice, it’s hard not to think immediately of England’s Stonehenge or possibly the ominous monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Built in 1980, these pale gray rocks are quietly awaiting the end of the world as we know it.
Called the Georgia Guidestones, the monument is a mystery—nobody knows exactly who commissioned it or why. The only clues to its origin are on a nearby plaque on the ground—which gives the dimensions and explains a series of intricate notches and holes that correspond to the movements of the sun and stars—and the “guides” themselves, directives carved into the rocks. These instructions appear in eight languages ranging from English to Swahili and reflect a peculiar New Age ideology. Some are vaguely eugenic (guide reproduction wisely—improving fitness and diversity); others prescribe standard-issue hippie mysticism (prize truth—beauty—love—seeking harmony with the infinite).
What’s most widely agreed upon—based on the evidence available—is that the Guidestones are meant to instruct the dazed survivors of some impending apocalypse as they attempt to reconstitute civilization. Not everyone is comfortable with this notion. A few days before I visited, the stones had been splattered with polyurethane and spray-painted with graffiti, including slogans like “Death to the new world order.” This defacement was the first serious act of vandalism in the Guidestones’ history, but it was hardly the first objection to their existence. In fact, for more than three decades this uncanny structure in the heart of the Bible Belt has been generating responses that range from enchantment to horror. Supporters (notable among them Yoko Ono) have praised the messages as a stirring call to rational thinking, akin to Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason. Opponents have attacked them as the Ten Commandments of the Antichrist.
In a development that realizes a scenario out of a science fiction movie, scientists have developed technology enabling a robot to be controlled by thought power.
A user wears a helmet that detects changes in blood flow and brain waves in different parts of his or her brain and converts them into radio signals that are transmitted to the bipedal humanoid robot, operating its limbs and making it speak.
The technology was developed by a team of scientists from Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, Honda Motor Co. and others.
In experiments using Honda’s Asimo robot, test participants were able to move the robot’s limbs and make it speak just by imagining those actions, with a success rate of 90 percent.
Similar research is being done in the United States and European countries, but the success rate there reportedly is between 60 percent and 70 percent.
So far, the Japanese team has only been able to have the robot raise its arms and legs and utter a few words in response to controllers’ thoughts. There is a delay of about seven seconds between the detection of changes in a test participant’s brain and corresponding reactions by the robot. The brain wave reader weighs about 300 kilograms and is as large as a chest.
Robots are gaining on us humans. Thanks to exponential increases in computer power — which is roughly doubling every two years — robots are getting smarter, more capable, more like flesh-and-blood people.
Matching human skills and intelligence, however, is an enormously difficult — perhaps impossible — challenge. Nevertheless, robots guided by their own computer “brains” now can pick up and peel bananas, land jumbo jets, steer cars through city traffic, search human DNA for cancer genes, play soccer or the violin, find earthquake victims or explore craters on Mars.
At a “Robobusiness” conference in Boston last week, companies demonstrated a robot firefighter, gardener, receptionist, tour guide and security guard. You name it, a high-tech wizard somewhere is trying to make a robot do it.
A Japanese housekeeping robot can move chairs, sweep the floor, load a tray of dirty dishes in a dishwasher and put dirty clothes in a washing machine.
Intel, the worldwide computer-chip maker, headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., has developed a self-controlled mobile robot called Herb, the Home Exploring Robotic Butler. Herb can recognize faces and carry out generalized commands such as “please clean this mess,” according to Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer.
Is Europe headed for a new Middle Ages? On the basis of some disquieting signs, I should say it is indeed. Politically, it seems to be in the midst of a process of further disintegration.
Ten years ago, in The Rise and Decline of the State, the Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld was among the first to suggest the world was headed towards a new Middle Ages. The European Middle Ages are characterized by international political instability and endless wars. A modicum of spiritual and ecclesiastical control was exerted by the Pope in Rome, while the German Emperor could sometimes wield political pressure to restore order. Fundamentally however, disorder prevailed. The impending collapse of the nation state.
Now look around you, what do you see? Some of Europe’s major nation states are governed by men who are little more than clowns. Take Gordon Brown, for instance. Is it possible to find a more laughable figure than him? Heading a bankrupt, pauperized nation where all residual wealth is concentrated in and around London, Brown still has the gall to lecture the rest of the world on how to run an economy. Even Italian premier Berlusconi, regarded by many Anglo-Saxons as a frivolous imitation of his famous predecessor whose last name started with an M, looks more serious after somehow rising to the occasion during the recent earthquake disaster. As for French president Sarkozy, the odour of boyish amorous adventurism and lack of focus still surrounds him and makes it difficult to regard him as a serious statesman. With the possible exception of Mrs. Merkel the German Chancellor, most other European leaders are pathetic mediocrities who do not even manage to produce a benevolent smile on any observer’s face.
PAKISTAN could collapse within months, one of the more influential counter-insurgency voices in Washington says.
The warning comes as the US scrambles to redeploy its military forces and diplomats in an attempt to stem rising violence and anarchy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We have to face the fact that if Pakistan collapses it will dwarf anything we have seen so far in whatever we’re calling the war on terror now,” said David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House.
“You just can’t say that you’re not going to worry about al-Qaeda taking control of Pakistan and its nukes,” he said.
A stopped clock is accurate twice a day. Sooner or later, so will this one…
Helicopters began evacuating foreign leaders Saturday after anti-government protests forced the postponement of a major Asian summit in Thailand, Agence France-Presse reporters and police said.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo boarded a civilian helicopter which landed on the roof of the luxury beach resort hotel in the city of Pattaya where the meeting was being held, an AFP correspondent said.
Arroyo’s Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said by phone that the President was “very safe and very OK.”
Remonde said Ms Arroyo and the other leaders were never in danger. “The protesters were not rowdy.”
Remonde confirmed that Ms Arroyo was flown out of the convention center of the Royal Cliff Grand & Spa Hotel, venue of the summit, toward the airport in Pattaya.
Australian astronomers have been studying an intergalactic assassin poised to wipe out life on Earth. Maybe.
Observations indicate that cosmological curiosity WR104 may be a killer – and we might be the victim. The pretty pinwheel that makes the system so distinctive is now know to be a combination of two stars – a blue star orbiting the Wolf-Rayet 104.
Note that the “Wolf-Rayet” name is the astronomical equivalent of a beeping red LCD countdown reading “0:01″ – it’s a swollen star getting ready for final supernova detonation.
At the moment its fusion reactions are blasting its own photosphere off into space, where the blue companion orbits and illuminates the material, creating a seriously impressive spiral over twice the size of our solar system. We have a perfect view of this pinwheel pattern, since the spiral is at right angles to us, in the same way a man being held at gunpoint has a perfect view of the little hole the bullets come out of.
And the gun is over twenty-five times the size of the sun. When a binary system collapses into a black hole, which astronomers call ‘coalescence’ (a euphemism which makes ‘heated debate’ a valid description of World War II), it can release a gigantic burst of gamma rays.
Gamma rays are the ultimate high energy electromagnetic radiation, and while the burst lasts less than two minutes it can contain more energy than the entire mass of the sun converted into energy by E = m c^2. You’ll notice that the mass of the sun and the speed of light, c, are extremely large numbers.
A laboratory robot called Adam has been hailed as the first machine in history to have discovered new scientific knowledge independently of its human creators.
Adam formed a hypothesis on the genetics of bakers’ yeast and carried out experiments to test its predictions, without intervention from its makers at Aberystwyth University.
The result was a series of “simple but useful” discoveries, confirmed by human scientists, about the gene coding for yeast enzymes. The research is published in the journal Science.
Russia has become the first major country to call for a partial restoration of the Gold Standard to uphold discipline in the world financial system.
Arkady Dvorkevich, the Kremlin’s chief economic adviser, said Russia would favour the inclusion of gold bullion in the basket-weighting of a new world currency based on Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund. Chinese and Russian leaders both plan to open debate on an SDR-based reserve currency as an alternative to the US dollar at the G20 summit in London this week, although the world may not yet be ready for such a radical proposal.
Mr Dvorkevich said it was “logical” that the new currency should include the rouble and the yuan, adding that “we could also think about more effective use of gold in this system”.
The Gold Standard was the anchor of world finance in the 19th Century but began breaking down during the First World War as governments engaged in unprecedented spending. It collapsed in the 1930s when the British Empire, the US, and France all abandoned their parities. It was revived as part of fixed dollar system until US inflation caused by the Vietnam War and “Great Society” social spending forced President Richard Nixon to close the gold window in 1971.
IT IS midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out.
Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power. A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation’s infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event – a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.
It sounds ridiculous. Surely the sun couldn’t create so profound a disaster on Earth. Yet an extraordinary report funded by NASA and issued by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in January this year claims it could do just that.
Over the last few decades, western civilisations have busily sown the seeds of their own destruction. Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.
China’s central bank on Monday proposed replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency with a new global system controlled by the International Monetary Fund.
In an essay posted on the People’s Bank of China’s website, Zhou Xiaochuan, the central bank’s governor, said the goal would be to create a reserve currency “that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies”.
Analysts said the proposal was an indication of Beijing’s fears that actions being taken to save the domestic US economy would have a negative impact on China. “This is a clear sign that China, as the largest holder of US dollar financial assets, is concerned about the potential inflationary risk of the US Federal Reserve printing money,” said Qu Hongbin, chief China economist for HSBC.
Olexander Pavlenko, a young computer programmer, is one of tens of thousands of Ukrainians who cannot get their money out of the bank.
He stood in line in Kiev at Nadra Bank and Ukrprombank, two big troubled banks, planning to withdraw more than $10,000 (€7,950, £7,125). But like many others, he was told the cash was not available.
“I stood in line a couple times with other bank clients who were protesting, crying and screaming. But the bank told me: ‘Sorry, we simply don’t have the money now and can’t help you.’”
With about nine banks now under the central bank’s special control, Ukrainians are increasingly worried.
Even those with their money in apparently solid banks, including those controlled by west European banking groups, are concerned because the central bank has banned the early redemption of term deposits, the most popular form of saving in Ukraine.
European leaders Sunday rejected a Hungarian plea for a $240 billion bailout of struggling eastern European countries, as divisions continued to fester over how to prevent economic ills from spreading across the continent.
Germany, Europe’s largest economy, led opposition to the Hungarian proposal. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a broad, regional rescue plan was ill-conceived, though she did not offer specific alternatives.
Breaking news: something’s happening to the internet, right now. We’re just not quite sure what. Interoute, the internet networks company, reports that three of the four internet sub-cables that run from Asia to North America have been damaged. These carry more than 75 per cent of traffic between the Middle East, Europe and America. It’s hard to gather what this actually means – is it that the internet is down or (more likely) significantly slower than usual between the Middle East and America? (If you’re reading this, let’s face it, the internet has not shut down altogether) But, according to the company, there is a domino effect taking place.
The credit crisis is spilling over into the grain industry as international buyers find themselves unable to come up with payment, forcing sellers to shoulder often substantial losses.
Before cargoes can be loaded at port, buyers typically must produce proof they are good for the money. But more deals are falling through as sellers decide they don’t trust the financial institution named in the buyer’s letter of credit, analysts said.
“There’s all kinds of stuff stacked up on docks right now that can’t be shipped because people can’t get letters of credit,” said Bill Gary, president of Commodity Information Systems in Oklahoma City. “The problem is not demand, and it’s not supply because we have plenty of supply. It’s finding anyone who can come up with the credit to buy.”
The doomsday script was never used by the British Broadcasting Corp., but decades later the message remains haunting. “This is the wartime broadcasting service,” the announcement begins. “This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons.” The decades-old statement continues: Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. The announcer promises to bring further information as soon as possible and tells listeners to stay tuned. A draft of the message was released by the National Archives on Friday, along with letters between government bureaucrats and BBC executives offering a rare glimpse at a Cold War secret plan to deal with a nuclear attack. “This is chilling to read,” said Mark Dunton, a contemporary history specialist at the National Archives.
There are some who think that the new particle accelerator built outside of Geneva in Switzerland might create tiny black holes — which could grow big enough to suck up the Earth. Balderdash, say physicists.
The video looks a bit like a scene from a low-budget sci-fi horror film. A tiny hole slowly begins sucking in bits of the Earth in Switzerland with mountains, lakes and cities quickly falling into the growing gap. And it just keeps on growing — and growing. By the end of the 38 second movie, the entire planet has been swallowed up — and all that’s left is a shimmering ring in the inky blackness of outer space.
Absurd, perhaps. But a brief look around Internet blogs, and especially YouTube, makes it clear that there are a number of people out there who believe it is a very real possibility. The gigantic particle accelerator just now being completed outside Geneva at the European Organization for Nuclear Research — known as CERN — is set to be switched on soon. And some are concerned that, once the research facility begins bashing subatomic particles together at 99.999991 percent of the speed of light, dangerous black holes could be created and spread out of control.
The fear has spread fast and far in cyberspace. In addition, a scientist at the University of Tübingen, Dr. Otto E. Rössler, has lent a certain amount of academic weight to the skepticism. So much so that a group of German physicists has now published an open letter carrying assurances that the particle accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), is in fact safe.
“There is no way that the LHC will produce black holes capable of swallowing up the Earth,” reads the letter from the Committee for Elementary Particle Physics (KET), a group of leading quantum physicists in Germany. “This claim is based on extremely well tested theories of physics and on observations of the cosmos.”
The head of KET, Dr. Peter Mättig, a particle physicist with the University of Wuppertal, concedes that disaster theories have not made much headway in the general public. “I don’t think there are many who believe it,” he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “But it is notable how often we have been asked about the problem. And we especially want to refute those, like Dr. Rössler, who try to use science to back up their claims.”
A chimp in Japan escaped the sweltering confines of his cage, and a zookeeper with a tranquilizer gun proved no match for this feisty animal. The zookeeper can be seen peeking his head and rifle over the ledge of the roof on which the chimp was resting before quickly crouching down, sensing the chimp had noticed him. The chimp pounced on the ledge, grabbing the barrel of the zookeeper’s tranquilizer gun and snatching it away, leaving the poor human defenseless.
Human pride took a hit 11 years ago when IBM’s Big Blue computer beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov. Now it’s poker players’ turn to be humiliated by a machine.
A computer system called Polaris outperformed some of the world’s top players last weekend at a human-vs.-machine competition in Las Vegas.
The score was computer 3, humans 2, with one draw.
If you think it should be easier for a computer to win at poker than at the highly intellectual game of chess, think again. The human element makes poker a much more complex challenge.
Summertime — a time for sunny days, beach weekends and of course, leisurely reflections on the end of the world and the monster asteroids that could smack into us. The centennial anniversary of the last big impact, the 1908 Tunguska blast that rocked Siberia, falls Monday, June 30, bringing with it a reminder of the very slight chance that a hunk of space rock out there might have Earth’s number.
The Tunguska “event” leveled nearly 800 square miles of swampy woodland in Siberia, traveling from the northwest to deliver a 5-megaton blast seen by hundreds of witnesses, including one who created a postage stamp of the explosion. A space rock about 50 yards long had zoomed into the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded in mid-air.
“People were knocked off their feet hundreds of miles away,” writes astronomer Phil Plait in his upcoming book Death from the Skies! These are the Ways the World Will End. Years later, a scientific expedition to the remote region found trees knocked sideways in straight lines radiating 15 miles away from the blast.
It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.
The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic – and worrying – examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.
“From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water,” said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.
If it happens, it raises the prospect of the Arctic nations being able to exploit the valuable oil and mineral deposits below these a bed which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above.
The nine remaining members of a Russian doomsday cult holed up underground for months awaiting the end of the world abandoned it Friday after authorities removed two rotting corpses from their cave.
An above-ground kitchen used by the doomsday cult in the Penza region during the summer.
The nine were the last of a group of 35 men, women and children that had dug into a hillside near the Volga region town of Penza in November and threatened to blow themselves up with gas canisters if authorities tried to remove them.
The elaborate structure — complete with sleeping rooms, a makeshift kitchen and religious altars — suffered a series of partial cave-ins earlier this year caused by melting snows. The cave-ins prompted most of the group, including self-declared prophet Pyotr Kuznetsov, to leave.
The last nine inhabitants emerged Friday after the bodies of two women who died in the cave were removed, a local police officer said. He did not give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Defense analysts for the British intelligence service MI6 believe China is preparing for the “eventuality of a nuclear war.” The conclusion follows evidence that Beijing has built secretly a major naval base deep inside caverns which even sophisticated satellites cannot penetrate, says a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
In an unusual development, the analysts have provided details to the specialist defense periodical, Jane’s Intelligence Review, which published satellite images of the base location which is hidden beneath millions of tons of rock on the South China Sea island of Hainan.
The MI6 analysts have confirmed the submarine base hewn out of the rock will contain up to 20 of the latest C94 Jin-Class submarines, each capable of firing anti-satellite missiles and nuclear tipped rockets.
Knocking out the satellites would leave Taiwan, Japan and other countries around the Pacific Rim effectively without a key warning system. An attack also would disrupt vital communications between U.S. battle squadrons in the region and Washington.
It may have seemed like just another improbable scene from a Hollywood sci-fi flick – Tom Cruise battling against an army of robotic spiders intent on hunting him down.
But the storyline from Minority Report may not be quite as far fetched as it sounds.
British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and snakes that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives.
Prototypes could be on the front line by the end of the year, scuttling into potential danger areas such as booby-trapped buildings or enemy hideouts to relay images back to troops safely positioned nearby.
Soldiers will carry the robots into combat and use a small tracked vehicle to transport them closer to their targets.
A male orangutan, clinging precariously to overhanging branches, flails the water with a pole, trying desperately to spear a passing fish.
It is the first time one has been seen using a tool to hunt.
The extraordinary image, a world exclusive, was taken in Borneo on the island of Kaja, where apes are rehabilitated into the wild after being rescued from zoos, private homes or even butchers’ shops.
“Orang hutan” means “forest man” in one of Indonesia’s many languages and our long-armed cousins do indeed show a remarkable ability to mimic our behaviour.
It’s only a matter of time before they turn on US!
Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Sam’s Club warehouse division said on Wednesday it is limiting sales of several types of rice, the latest sign that fears of a rice shortage are rippling around the world.
Sam’s Club, the No. 2 U.S. warehouse club operator, said it is limiting sales of Jasmine, Basmati and long grain white rice “due to recent supply and demand trends.”
U.S. rice futures hitting an all-time high Wednesday on worries about supply shortages.
The situation has sparked food riots in several African countries, Indonesia, and Haiti. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that higher food prices could hurt global growth and security.
Rice prices have risen 68 percent since the start of 2008.
Trade bans on rice have been put in place by India, the world’s second largest exporter in 2007, and Vietnam, the third biggest, in hopes of cooling domestic prices. Rice is a staple in most of Asia.
More fighting in Iraq. Somalia in chaos. People in this country can’t afford their mortgages and in some places now they can’t even afford rice.
None of this nor the rest of the grimness on the front page today will matter a bit, though, if two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii turn out to be right. They think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.
Scientists say that is very unlikely — though they have done some checking just to make sure.
The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.
Members of a doomsday cult who have shut themselves up in caves beneath a Russian hillside to await the end of the world shot at police to drive them away, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Around 30 people, including some children, have barricaded themselves into the caves dug out of a hill in the Penza region of central Russia. They say the world will end on May 28.
The Kommersant newspaper quoted a policeman as saying the shots were fired after he had tried to help cave dwellers who said melt water had dislodged earth in the caves and they were afraid of being buried alive.
Earth could be in for a neighborhood dispute with a death star, according to an Australian astronomer.
A spectacular rotating pinwheel system just down the astronomical road from Earth — 8,000 light years away — includes an unstable Wolf-Rayet star that could explode.
Eight years ago, WR104 was discovered in the constellation Sagittarius by Sydney University astronomer Peter Tuthill.
A Wolf-Rayet star is the last step on the way to a supernova — the explosion of a star at the end of its life.
Images from the Mauna Kea in Hawaii telescope show that every eight months the two stars at the centre of the pinwheel orbit each other, leaving a trail of hot gas, carbon and dust.
“Viewed from Earth, the rotating tail appears to be laid out on the sky in an almost perfect spiral,” Tuthill said. “It could only appear like that if we are looking nearly exactly down on the axis of the binary system.”
The world is sleepwalking into an international robot arms race, an expert will warn today.
The Foster-Miller Armed TALON Robot, used by the US army
US forces recently deployed remote-controlled robots equipped with automatic weapons in Iraq
Prof Noel Sharkey fears increased research by countries including America, Russia, China and Israel will lead to the use of battlefield robots that can decide when to kill within 10 years.
He will also predict that it is only a matter of time before robots become a standard terrorist weapon, replacing suicide bombers.
Prof Sharkey, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science, will outline his concerns in a speech at a conference in Whitehall, London, on the ethics of unmanned military systems organised by the Royal United Services Institute, a respected defence think tank.
Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile — the list goes on and on.
No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA’s GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.
Meteorologist Anthony Watts compiled the results of all the sources. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C — a value large enough to erase nearly all the global warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year time. For all sources, it’s the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.
Scientist have nailed down how and when the Earth will cease to exist.
The sun will slowly expand into a red giant, pushing the Earth farther out into space, but not far enough.
Our home planet will be snagged by the sun’s outer atmosphere, gradually plunging to its doom inside the fiery stellar furnace.
“The drag caused by this low-density gas is enough to cause the Earth to drift inwards, and finally to be captured and vaporized by the sun,” explains astronomer Robert Smith of the University of Sussex in southern England.
A SAVAGE fish that eats everything it comes across, including people, has been hooked by a British fisherman — sparking fears of a deadly invasion.
The giant snakehead, originating from South-East Asia, has a mouth crammed with teeth.
It’s deadly in the water, but it can also “crawl” on land and survive out of water for up to four days.
The discovery of the fish in Linconshire, northern England, has caused widespread panic amongst conservationists and anglers.
When scientists found out that chimps had better memories than students, there were unkind comments about the calibre of the human competition they faced.
But now an ape has gone one better, trouncing British memory champion Ben Pridmore.
Ayumu, a seven-year-old male brought up in captivity in Japan, did three times as well as Mr Pridmore at a computer game which involved remembering the position of numbers on a screen.
And that’s no mean feat – the 30-year-old accountant from Derby is capable of memorising the order of a shuffled pack of cards in under 30 seconds.
Japanese scientists have created a genetically modified mouse that is not afraid of cats.
Researchers at Tokyo University managed to turn off the receptors in a mouse’s brain that react to the scent of its main predator.
They wanted to prove that fear is genetically programmed and not, as is commonly believed, the product of experience.
Instead of scurrying away or playing dead, the GM rodents were able to carry on as usual when coming face-to-face with a cat.
As if the idea of having one robot to serve you wasn’t unusual enough, Honda says its humanoids are now ready to work in pairs — and they can even serve drinks.
At a demonstration Tuesday at its Tokyo headquarters, automaker Honda Motor Co. showed off two of the child-sized Asimo robots serving tea and performing other tasks in coordination with one another.
The bubble-headed robots seemed to pick their steps carefully as they made their way around the room, picking up and putting down drink trays and pushing around a refreshments cart.
An already relentless melting of the Arctic greatly accelerated this summer, a warning sign that some scientists worry could mean global warming has passed an ominous tipping point. One even speculated that summer sea ice would be gone in five years.
Greenland’s ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer’s end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by The Associated Press.
“The Arctic is screaming,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government’s snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colo.
Unmanned aircraft are showing up in the skies more often and today the US Army awarded $14.4 million to Carnegie Mellon to build a remote-controlled unmanned tank.
A certain amount of the award will go toward significantly improving the Crusher, a 6.5-ton unmanned support vehicle Carnegie engineers developed in 2006 in conjunction with DARPA. Since its introduction, the Crusher has demonstrated unparalleled toughness and mobility during extensive field trials in extremely rugged terrain, according to Carnegie Mellon.
The next generation Autonomous Platform Demonstrator (APD) ill make use of the latest suspension, vehicle frame, and hybrid-electric drive technologies to improve upon its predecessor’s performance. Enhanced mobility capabilities will push the envelope for autonomous and semi-autonomous operation, the engineers said. The engineers will develop a comprehensive control architecture that makes use of hardware and software components as well.
Forget about the threat that mankind poses to the Earth: our activities may be shortening the life of the universe too.
The startling claim is made by a pair of American cosmologists investigating the consequences for the cosmos of quantum theory, the most successful theory we have. Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.
But there is an odd feature of the theory that philosophers and scientists still argue about. In a nutshell, the theory suggests that we change things simply by looking at them and theorists have puzzled over the implications for years.
Many a mother has said, with a sigh, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?”
The answer, for cockroaches at least, may well be yes. Researchers using robotic roaches were able to persuade real cockroaches to do things that their instincts told them were not the best idea.
This experiment in bug peer pressure combined entomology, robotics and the study of ways that complex and even intelligent patterns can arise from simple behavior. Animal behavior research shows that swarms working together can prosper where individuals might fail, and robotics researchers have been experimenting with simple robots that, together, act a little like a swarm.
“We decided to join the two approaches,” said José Halloy, a biology researcher at the Free University of Brussels and lead author of a paper describing the research in today’s issue of the journal Science.
Yellowstone National Park is rising. Its central region, called the Yellowstone caldera, has been moving upward since mid-2004 at a rate of up to three inches (seven centimeters) a year—more than three times faster than has ever been measured.
The surface is inflating like a bellows due to an infusion of magma about 6 miles (10 kilometers) underground, according to a new study published in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Science.
The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.
100,000 years into the future, sexual selection will mean that two distinct breeds of human will have developed.
The alarming prediction comes from evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry from the London School of Economics, who says that the human race will have reached its physical peak by the year 3000.
We can’t say we haven’t been warned!
The gun, which was fully loaded, did not fire as it normally should have,” he said. “It appears as though the gun, which is computerised, jammed before there was some sort of explosion, and then it opened fire uncontrollably, killing and injuring the soldiers.”
Wooly mammoths, giant sloths, saber-toothed cats, and dozens of other species of megafauna may have become extinct when a disintegrating comet or asteroid exploded over North America with the force of millions of hydrogen bombs, according to research by an international team of scientists.
The blast, which the researchers believe occurred 12,900 years ago, may have also doomed a mysterious early human culture, known as Clovis people, while triggering a planetwide cool-down that wiped out the plant species that sustained many outsize Ice Age beasts, according to research published online yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
An Erie cancer researcher has found a way to burn salt water, a novel invention that is being touted by one chemist as the “most remarkable” water science discovery in a century.
John Kanzius happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he developed to treat cancer. He discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies, it would burn.
The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.
Rustum Roy, a Penn State University chemist, has held demonstrations at his State College lab to confirm his own observations.
The radio frequencies act to weaken the bonds between the elements that make up salt water, releasing the hydrogen, Roy said. Once ignited, the hydrogen will burn as long as it is exposed to the frequencies, he said.
Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will be killed off by 2050 — and the entire population gone from Alaska — because of thinning sea ice from global warming in the Arctic, government scientists forecast Friday.
Only in the northern Canadian Arctic islands and the west coast of Greenland are any of the world’s 16,000 polar bears expected to survive through the end of the century, said the U.S. Geological Survey, which is the scientific arm of the Interior Department.
In one of the most turbulent weeks in the financial markets this year, there have been not only tears but also laughter as black humour have helped some of the world’s biggest banks and institutions come to terms with the prospect of huge losses.
Another dealer announced in a cheeky e-mail the creation of a new structured product: a Constant Obligation Leveraged Originated Structured Oscillating Money Bridged Asset Guarantee, or COLOStOMyBAG. One trader noted on the product – a parody of the increasingly bizarre acronyms that have become commonplace in the world of structured finance – “It’s basically full of shit.”
The European Commission is to investigate credit ratings agencies amid growing dismay over their slow response to the subprime mortgage crisis.
Officials in Brussels, and many other critics, believe the ratings agencies failed to act quickly enough to warn investors about the risks of investing in securities backed by US subprime mortgages – the sector whose troubles triggered the recent global market volatility.
In the US, Barney Frank, Democrat chairman of the House financial services committee, said he planned to hold hearings on the agencies’ performance next month. He said the agencies had “not done a good job” in the current crisis.
Banks first warned about a potential crisis in subprime last year. But it was only this spring that S&P and Moody’s started downgrading the ratings of mortgage-backed securities on a significant scale
Worm composting could be doing more harm than good to the environment, a leading researcher claimed today.
Composting Association research director Jim Frederickson said: “Worms produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases. Recent research done by German scientists has found that worms produced a third of nitrous oxide gases when used for composting.”
The ‘wiggly ones’ naturally produce nitrous oxide gases when they are put into the process of composting.
Worms can be used for home grown composting or commercial composting and are typically red worms. They are used to recycle food scraps and other organic material into valuable soil worm compost, otherwise known as vermicompost. This compost can then be used to grow plants.
“We have concentrated on getting waste out of landfill and into worm composting systems but they can actually produce more greenhouse gases than landfill sites produce,” Frederickson said.
Scientists will outline dramatic evidence this week that suggests a comet exploded over the Earth nearly 13,000 years ago, creating a hail of fireballs that set fire to most of the northern hemisphere.
Primitive Stone Age cultures were destroyed and populations of mammoths and other large land animals, such as the mastodon, were wiped out. The blast also caused a major bout of climatic cooling that lasted 1,000 years and seriously disrupted the development of the early human civilisations that were emerging in Europe and Asia.
‘This comet set off a shock wave that changed Earth profoundly,’ said Arizona geophysicist Allen West. ‘It was about 2km-3km in diameter and broke up just before impact, setting off a series of explosions, each the equivalent of an atomic bomb blast. The result would have been hell on Earth. Most of the northern hemisphere would have been left on fire.’
An Arctic seal found in a Fort Lauderdale canal – far from its habitat near the North Pole – died Tuesday, a day after it was captured.
The bearded seal was thin and dehydrated, though it was not immediately known what killed the animal. Dr. Christopher Dold, a staff veterinarian at SeaWorld, said the park would examine it Tuesday to try to learn more.
However, Dold said it may never be known why the animal came so far south.
The Canadian Coast Guard sent another icebreaker to help break up the ice that has trapped sealing vessels off Newfoundland and Labrador for much of the past five days. The coast guard said the additional icebreaker was dispatched from Halifax to help break up the ice field that trapped 100 vessels trying to return home after the end of the seal hunt on April 13.
The international panel of scientists predicts the global average temperature could increase by 2 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 and that sea levels could rise by up to 2 feet.
Scientists have even speculated that a slight increase in Earth’s rotation rate could result, along with other changes. Glaciers, already receding, will disappear. Epic floods will hit some areas while intense drought will strike others. Humans will face widespread water shortages. Famine and disease will increase. Earth’s landscape will transform radically, with a quarter of plants and animals at risk of extinction.
The first witness in a lawsuit Wednesday between two neighbors was a real ass. Buddy the donkey walked to the bench and stared at the jury, the picture of a gentle, well-mannered creature and not the loud, aggressive animal he had been accused of being.
The donkey was at the center of a dispute between oilman John Cantrell and attorney Gregory Shamoun that began after Cantrell complained about a storage shed Shamoun was building in his backyard in Dallas.
A BBC team has entered a remote region of Russia normally closed to foreigners that produces almost half the world’s supply of palladium – a precious metal vital for making catalytic converters. But, as the BBC’s Richard Galpin reports, it is accused of being the world’s largest producer of acid rain.
It took more than two months for the Russian authorities to grant us permission to travel to the secretive Siberian city of Norilsk.
A deadly virus that kills horses is poised to arrive in Britain as a result of climate change, scientists warned.
African horse sickness, which is spread by the Culicoides midge, kills 90 per cent of horses that catch it. The disease causes bleeding, breathing difficulties, colic and death within four hours of catching the virus.
The Government-funded Institute for Animal Health (IAH) described the virus as “probably the worst horse disease on the planet”.
Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice, wrote Robert Frost. But whatever is to be our fate, it is now overdue.
After analysing the eradication of millions of ancient species, scientists have found that a mass extinction is due any moment now.
Their research has shown that every 62 million years – plus or minus 3m years – creatures are wiped from the planet’s surface in massive numbers.
And given that the last great extinction occurred 65m years ago, when dinosaurs and thousands of other creatures abruptly disappeared, the study suggests humanity faces a fairly pressing danger. Even worse, scientists have no idea about its source.
Nearly two in three Germans believe a speed limit should be introduced on the car-loving nation’s notoriously fast autobahns, according to a new poll.
The European Union’s environment commissioner Stavros Dimas and environmental activists in Germany have said speeding on the autobahn wastes energy and called for a speed limit. German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee has rejected the idea.
The poll for ZDF television published on Friday showed 54 percent of Germans favor a speed limit of 130 kph (80 mph) while another 10 percent would like a limit below that level. Some 35 percent said they did not want any speed limit.